This week has been full of events ranging from my final class of 2011 rankings to high-profile commitments to big-time performances to much rumor mill chatter. Players being lost in their recruitment and underclassmen making names for themselves are just a few things that happened in a very eventful week in the world of college basketball recruiting.
What We Learned
Murphy Heads to Duke a Year Early. Former class of 2012 top-15 prospect small forward Alex Murphy (#34) decided to join the Blue Devils a year early (to see why, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below) as he has already passed the necessary courses to graduate and has been in high school for four years. There was speculation since he first committed to Duke that he would reclassify to the class of 2011 and the fact that he never denied it just added to the conjecture. The scouting report on Murphy is that he has a very nice shooting stroke from both the perimeter and mid-range game and is a superb slasher who finishes well around the basket. Given his length and athleticism, he is also versatile and will be able to play either forward position for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. However, he needs to add strength to his frame and become a better rebounder, but there have been rumors that he will redshirt so if true he will have another year to develop both of those attributes.
Kevin Ware is a Knight… I think. Shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to Central Florida Monday joining an impressive class including center Michael Chandler, small forward Rod Days and power forwards Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson. However, we don’t know whether Ware still wants to be a Knight. Since he already signed a letter of intent with Tennessee (which they released him from after Bruce Pearl was fired), NCAA rules prohibit him from signing another one in the same year with UCF, so Ware is free to do whatever he wants. The first thing that raised eyebrows about his future college choice was the fact that he was announced as “undecided” in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic over the weekend (although his stepfather later said he filled out the forms before he committed and didn’t feel like changing it). The next thing that made people question his commitment was when a Louisville website reported that Ware told them his recruitment to UCF wasn’t a done deal and that he was “absolutely” still considering Louisville (see the “What They’re Saying” section for Ware’s quotes on this). Also, he reportedly told fans at the Derby Classic while signing autographs that he was still considering the Cardinals. The excuse for all of this that has been picking up steam lately is that Ware was simply afraid of potential backlash from Louisville fans at the event, which is plausible since Ware tweeted he was afraid of a backlash before he left for it. We still don’t know what is going on with him but hopefully by next week we will have a clearer picture of his college choice.
What You Missed
ESPN’s Forde on Selby and one-and-done rule. Pat Forde wrote a great article on how former Kansas guard Josh Selby’s collegiate career exposes the glaring flaws of the one-and-done rule and how it undermines higher education. The article talks about how Selby only went to college because of the NBA’s age requirement and that his stock was not helped by attending Kansas. Forde also argues that it was a waste of time for everyone involved since Selby didn’t want to be at KU and he won’t even finish up his classes this semester. For all sides included, this situation just didn’t work out and could have been avoided if the one-and-done rule was removed in favor of something else.
Future Spartans Light Up King James Shooting Stars Classic. Power forwards Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello (#44) both dominated at the King James Shooting Stars Classic this past weekend by displaying superb offensive games and a variety of ways to score. Both big men showed the ability to knock down three-pointers and mid-range jumpers while also scoring in the paint with their back to the basket. Kaminski and Costello ran the floor well and Costello exhibited an impressive skill set in the low post where he used spin moves, hook shots and up-and-under moves to get his shot off. These two look like they will play well together when they go to Michigan State since both can play the high or low post and pass the ball well. Look out for this duo in a few years when they head to East Lansing because they will form one of the best frontcourts in the Big Ten when they are upperclassmen.
From Syracuse to Stardom: DaJuan Coleman. Syracuse masters student Jon Doss did a great feature video on one of the best big men in the class of 2012, DaJuan Coleman (#2), and his life growing up in a rough part of New York and how it influenced his game. The video also gets into some recruiting rumor mill chatter when it discusses how many college coaches want Coleman to transfer high schools out of Syracuse to get him away from Jim Boeheim‘s back yard, who many believe is the favorite for his services (including his AAU coach). Coleman is such a valued commodity because he has the strength and body that is ready for the collegiate level right now and enjoys various post moves he uses to score around the basket including a hook shot and up-and-under move. He also displayed an ability to drive from the high post to the bucket at the Nike EYBL and has been much better running the floor lately. Coleman also has good footwork but he needs to keep improving his conditioning so he can play hard and run the court for the entire game. He said at the EYBL event that he currently doesn’t have a list and he doesn’t have a timetable yet for his decision.
The Final Class of 2011 Rankings
It’s been a long journey for the class of 2011 prospects but the final class of 2011 rankings is finally here. Being able to watch all of these prospects, including some who didn’t quite make this list, was a pleasure since there are so many elite players in tis year’s class. Take a look below to see who the big movers were, which prospects are new to our rankings and most importantly, who we chose as our number one prospect in the class of 2011.
Who’s Number One?
Davis Takes Over Top Spot. Out of all the spots in the rankings, this one was the most difficult to decide. On one hand, you have Austin Rivers (#2 – Duke) who sat at the top of the rankings all year and has only gotten better. On the other hand, you have the magnificent story of Anthony Davis (#1 – Kentucky) who has enjoyed a meteoric rise after growing eight inches in one year and transforming from a guard into a power forward. Both players will have great college careers and NBA futures, but only one can claim the title as the best player in the class of 2011. We gave that honor to Anthony Davis, although it was a very tough decision since he has unlimited potential and an unmatched versatility at 6’10” with the skills of both a big man and a guard. He is a tremendous shot blocker and rebounder and has the quickness and athleticism to guard smaller players on the perimeter. Davis also excels in transition and has the ability to score either facing or with his back to the basket.
Rivers Still a Great Prospect, Though. Although he fell out of the top spot, Rivers is still a great prospect who is easily the best scorer in the class of 2011 (although Bradley Beal (#5 – Florida) is a prolific scorer as well). With his outstanding three-point range, spectacular mid-range game and excellent slashing abilities where he is one of the best finishers around the basket, he is nearly unstoppable among his peers. He also has a deadly jab step which creates space on the perimeter and has great ball-handling skills when he’s driving to the basket. However, one of Rivers’ most attractive qualities goes beyond his skill set; it’s his confidence that separates him from a lot of other players. He is not afraid to do anything in the game of basketball which is one reason why he’s so clutch.
There were quite a few prospects that jumped a considerable number of spots including Khem Birch (Pittsburgh) from #14 to #8, Quinn Cook (Duke) from #23 to #16, Otto Porter (Georgetown) from #40 to #27, Sir’Dominic Pointer (St. John’s) from #46 to #30, Adjehi Baru (Charleston) from #44 to #35 and Marshall Plumlee (Duke) from unranked to #40. However, the prospect who has improved the most out of all these players is small forward Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech). Finney-Smith is a long, versatile and athletic forward who has a good face-up game and is a solid offensive rebounder and shotblocker for his position. He is also a great slasher and gets to the basket consistently and is one of the better ballhandlers at the small forward position. To see why the other guys moved up, check out their evaluations.
Rick Pitino Loses One Recruit, Maybe Two. Negus Webster-Chan de-committed from Louisville this week and Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford said on his behalf that Webster-Chan plans on taking all five official visits and will decide where he will attend college next spring. He originally chose the Cardinals over Baylor, Clemson, Kentucky and Marquette among others last December (see the “What They’re Saying” section to read why he left the Louisville) and is a huge loss to Pitino’s class of 2012. With the departure of Tim Fuller to Missouri, Louisville is now struggling to hold on to Rodney Purvis (#9) too since Fuller was the middleman between the two. While he didn’t de-commit or set up any visits to other schools, he also failed to re-affirm his commitment which has caused much speculation around the recruiting world about whether he will open his recruitment back up. Purvis is the best guard in the class of 2012 and committed to Louisville last December over Duke, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, North Carolina and Xavier.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
Ka’Darryl Bell, Undecided, Point Guard – Bell is a pure point guard who displayed his quickness and high basketball IQ at the Spring Showdown this past weekend. He is a good ball-handler who is excellent at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates whether it’s through directing the offense or slashing into the lane and finding the open man. Butler, Drake, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio have been involved in his recruitment with Iowa and Ohio already offering him. Expect him to get some more high-major offers if he continues to play this well throughout the summer.
Torian Graham, Undecided, Shooting Guard – Graham displayed his prolific scoring skills at the King James Shooting Stars Classic as he used his outstanding athleticism to consistently get by his defender and to get into the lane. Once he got into the paint, he finished around the rim extremely well whether it was through contact or around it. He also exhibited a tremendous mid-range game where he knocked down pull-up jumpers off the dribble. Graham listed Duke, Kentucky, Miami, North Carolina and North Carolina State as his favorite schools with offers from Miami and North Carolina State.
Devonta Pollard, Undecided, Small Forward – Pollard also dominated at the King James Shooting Stars Classic and displayed the ability to do many different things. He handled the ball well, made impressive passes and constantly blocked shots and scored in a plethora of ways. Pollard scored from the perimeter, mid-range game and from the low-post with both his back to the basket and while facing the basket. He listed no frontrunners in his recruitment but said he has offers from Alabama, Georgetown, Kentucky, LSU, Marquette, Mississippi and Mississippi State.
Cody Zeller, Indiana, Power Forward – Zeller recorded 16 points and nine rebounds at the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic on his way to winning MVP honors and a 126-122 win for his team. He shot 7-11 from the field and did the little things such as taking charges and hustling after loose balls. The Indiana Mr. Basketball winner also ran the floor well and knocked down mid-range jumpers which ended up being the difference in the game. Look for Zeller to be an immediate contributor for the Hoosiers next year and to do a variety of things for them from rebounding to scoring to playing good defense.
Devontae Watson, Undecided, Center – Watson showed a lot of upside in his performance at the King James Shooting Stars Classic as he is very raw with a lot of physical gifts. He has phenomenal athleticism and length which allows him to be a great shot-blocker in the paint and has the ability to alter shots even if he isn’t able to block the shot. He also runs the floor well but he has a very undeveloped offensive game which is what he needs to focus on improving during the summer. Although he is a Pittsburgh product, he has been getting a lot of interest from Philadelphia schools and has offers from Temple and St. Josephs.
Cliff Alexander, Center, Freshman – Alexander dominated the interior at the Spring Showdown, particularly on defense where he rebounded the ball very well and showed tremendous shot-blocking abilities. He has great hands and finishes through contact with authority due to his strength. He also has great length and displayed offensive potential with a hook shot over his left shoulder. Alexander listed Kentucky as his favorite with interest in Connecticut and Florida and said he has heard from Illinois.
Jahlil Okafor, Center, Freshman – Okafor established himself as one of the premier big men in the class of 2014 in the Spring Showdown as he showed various back-to-the-basket scoring moves in the paint as well as good touch around the basket. He also has good hands and footwork which are essential for a big man and displayed good athleticism which will certainly help him as he goes up against more skilled big men. DePaul, Illinois and Michigan State are the schools currently involved with Okafor with Illinois being the presumed favorite since they are the hometown team.
Jabari Parker, Power Forward, Sophomore – Parker impressed at the King James Shooting Stars Classic between his improved physique and defensive presence. He has emerged as one the premier prospects in the class of 2013 due to not only his improved athleticism and conditioning but his outstanding perimeter and interior defense as well. He did a very good job blocking shots and crashing the boards as well as finishing around the rim. Parker also showed the ability to score in a variety of ways whether it was post moves or cutting to the rim. He said his top five right now is Duke, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan and Washington with the Huskies being the favorite since his father is a close friend to head coach Lorenzo Romar and his brother is a candidate to be an assistant coach for the Huskies. Parker visited Washington last weekend.
Milos Kostic, Power Forward, Sophomore – Kostic is a power forward who likes to play facing the basket and stretching the defense with his shooting skills. He has nice touch on his perimeter jump shots and has a variety of offensive moves to create space whether it’s his pump fakes or jab steps. Although he doesn’t impress you with athleticism or physicality, the Northwestern-commit exhibited an impressive offensive skill set with a European-style game at the Spring Showdown.
What They’re Saying
- Negus Webster-Chan on his de-commitment from Louisville: “I just didn’t feel comfortable with all of the changes at Louisville. I had a great relationship with Coach Mark Lieberman and with his new role I just didn’t feel like it was best for me. I appreciate all of the Louisville fans that have showed their support for me and hope they understand.”
Alex Murphy (#34) on going to Duke a year early: “It was a difficult decision, but I felt it was best for me. It’s a great opportunity.”
Kevin Ware’s stepfather, Wesley Junior, on his son’s situation: “I’m not sure what the [heck] is going on right now… I’m hearing a whole bunch of different stuff. I haven’t talked to Kevin, but he is still going to UCF. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no change. When he gets back from Louisville, we’ll see what’s going on.”
L.J. Rose (#19) on who he’s considering and what he’s looking for: “I don’t have a favorite but I’m considering everyone who’s offered me. Texas and UCLA are showing me the most interest, though. [I’m looking at colleges’] coaching staff [and] playing style. Mainly trust in the coaching staff.”
Archie Goodwin (#18) on being a role model for kids: “I’ve always liked kids and I guess that’s because I’m from such a big family. I want to be a role model, someone they can look up to, someone who’s a positive image who will lead them in the right direction.”
Gary Harris (#12) on his scholarship offers: “I have scholarship offers from Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Louisville, Michigan State, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State to name a few.”
Jarnell Stokes (#26) on his favorite schools: “Schools I’ve shown much interest in are Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Duke, UConn, Florida and Ole Miss.”
Kyle Anderson (#22) on location and his future college: “It’s likely that I’ll stay close to home.”