With another passing week, there is plenty of recruiting news including standout performances at AAU events, commitments and de-commitments, and the latest news on where high-profile prospects are likely to go to college. However, the biggest revelation by far in this past week was a recruiting scandal at a mid-major D1 school that has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game but somehow managed to land two elite prospects. Read on to see how a young man from Chicago, a head coach at a mid-major basketball program and a high-profile former felon created the biggest recruiting scandal in the past few years.
What We Learned
Kevin Ware’s Recruitment and Central Florida’s Recruiting Scandal. After class of 2011 shooting guard Kevin Ware committed to the Knights two weeks ago, he backed out of the agreement Thursday when he learned of Kenneth Caldwell’s background, a Chicago man with a substantial criminal record and apparent ties to a prominent sports agency. Ware claims that Caldwell repeatedly called him to encourage him to attend Central Florida, traveled to meet with his family and even set up conversations between Ware, himself and head coach Donnie Jones and Jones’ staff – contact which is prohibited by the NCAA. Caldwell formally denied recruiting players for UCF and claimed he was simply impressed by UCF… a school that has never won an NCAA Tournament game.
When Ware and his family were asked about what coaches said their relationship with Caldwell was, they said the coaches claimed they had no direct affiliation with him but that they had known him for a year. This left the Ware family wondering exactly who Caldwell was and how he tied in with UCF. On his LinkedIn page, Caldwell claimed to be a recruiter of potential NBA players for ASM Sports, which the company later confirmed. What was even more frightening about Caldwell’s background were his two felony convictions in 1991 and again in 1998. He also owes the IRS close to $250,000. After looking at his history and claims, Caldwell could fairly be labeled as a “runner,” someone who acts as a middle man to deliver players to universities and agents.
How current UCF commit Michael Chandler Ties In. Caldwell’s ties to the UCF program started a few years ago when a high school student whom he refers to as his “son” committed to the Knights. Then, two more players whom Caldwell likes to call his “nephews” also chose UCF for their collegiate careers, including one of the best class of 2011 centers in the country, Michael Chandler. Before becoming a Knight, Chandler had previously committed to Louisville and Xavier before he shocked many people by settling on Central Florida. Chandler’s high school coach said he’d never even heard of Central Florida before Chandler committed there. However, Chandler’s uncle said the prospect chose UCF on its merits. In Pat Forde’s column this week analyzing the odd recruitment, he said a source with knowledge of the situation claimed that Caldwell bragged about having inside information of where Chandler would be attending college well before he made his decision public.
More Ties With “Runner” Ken Caldwell include Enes Kanter and Braeden Anderson. The Caldwell web of players continues to grow and reaches out all the way to Kentucky power forward Enes Kanter, according to ESPN. The link between Kanter and Caldwell starts with Caldwell’s relationship with former Louisville forward Brandon Bender, who, according to multiple SEC coaches, reached out to them claiming he could deliver Kanter. This is where the shady side of things picks up again since Caldwell and multiple other sources (including DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell) have said that Caldwell and Bender have worked together whereas Bender claims to have no knowledge of who Caldwell is. One thing that Bender will confirm, though, is the fact that he attended the Kentucky Derby Festival to see recent Kansas-commit Braeden Anderson. Anderson says he doesn’t know Bender that well but a source says he stayed with an associate of Caldwell’s and Bender’s during the Derby Festival and Bender even coached Anderson’s AAU team last year. Obviously, this whole situation is very suspicious with all of these contradictory statements and an NCAA investigation is likely to pursue this story to its fullest extent.
What You Missed
Potential Basketball Recruit Model Changes. On the lighter side of things, the NCAA blogged about changing its recruiting model and the plans by various conferences with respect to contacting recruits, evaluating recruits and more. One recruiting model which was championed and developed by the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC and Big East and mimics the women’s model allows coaches to return to the stands for a couple of weekends in April during AAU events and would change if the SAT or ACT fell on either of those weekends. A contrary plan developed by the SEC wouldn’t allow an April evaluation period at all and instead would convert the spring evaluation period to a contact-only period. However, the two plans agreed on some aspects, including starting the recruiting process on April 15 of a prospect’s junior year rather than July 1 so that off-campus contact and official visits would be permitted earlier. A Big East coach I spoke with obviously favored the first plan since he said that coaches don’t get enough evaluation time as it is and they desperately need more. Neither of these two plans are extraordinary since many of these ideas have been considered before but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the plan backed by the big five conferences to gain momentum going forward.
Kyle Anderson Chooses PG, Has Most Potential in Class of 2012. Kyle Anderson (#22), easily the most versatile player in the class of 2012, has long been undecided on which position he will play in college — point guard or power forward. However, he recently made the decision that he will only play the point and that he will cut his list down to only schools that will let him play it. Anderson is such a unique prospect since he is 6’8 and one of the best passers in his class. He also has tremendous court vision and is a very intelligent player who consistently makes the smart play. Now that we know he won’t play underneath, we aren’t worried about his back-to-the-basket game. However, his shooting is still a concern and if he wants to be the complete package he will need to improve his consistency from both beyond the arc and in the mid-range. Anderson is considering Arizona, Georgetown, Seton Hall, UCLA and Villanova but has not set a specific commitment date.
Stars Learn the Power of Twitter. Indy Star’s Kyle Neddenriep wrote an interesting article on how closely college basketball recruits are connected with fans from various schools and the responsibility that comes with the recognition through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Access to high school recruits has heavily increased in the last few years as a result of these media platforms. However, athletes need to be more responsible with all of this attention since as sophomore Basil Smotherman (Purdue) says, “Once you put it out there you can’t get it back.” Prospects are not alone in their accountability since, as an example, coaches like Southport (IN) High School head man Wes Peek, who has held a seminar on how Twitter can help promote yourself, tweets to hundreds of fellow coaches.
St. John’s Adds to Tremendous Recruiting Class. Although the Red Storm already have the #3 recruiting class in 2011, they were able to improve on it yet again as junior college standout God’s Gift Achiuwa officially signed his letter of intent Thursday (he also considered Cincinnati and Washington). He is St. John’s ninth signee and only center commit and will balance out a perimeter-oriented class that includes four small forwards and three shooting guards. Achiuwa also adds experience to this young St. John’s team and will fit into Steve Lavin’s system so well since he runs the floor well and has all the physical abilities you would want for a big man with his size, speed and athleticism.
Updated Class of 2012 Prospect Rankings
Big Movers. With the high school season ending and the first few AAU events wrapping up, we decided to update our class of 2012 rankings and put together a chart of the big movers and why they impressed us.
|Perry Ellis||#10||10||Ellis simply dominated at the end of his high school basketball season as he helped guide his high school to a third straight state championship and 44-game winning streak. He was also recognized by MaxPreps for the Junior All American 1st team, ESPN Rise for the All-American First Team and USA Today for the All-USA 2nd team, all in the past week.|
|Marcus Paige||#16||9||He had a very nice stroke at the Nike EYBL as he made the majority of his three-pointers and nearly every mid-range jumper he took at the top of the key. His passing was even better as he displayed excellent court vision and anticipation and seemed to know exactly where and when his teammates would be open. He also played smart and used dribble-penetration consistently and effectively.|
|Jarnell Stokes||#17||9||After an impressive showing at the Nike EYBL two weekends ago, Stokes again played well at the Real Deal in the Rock. The most impressive aspect of Stokes’ improved play was the fact that he went up against two top 10 prospects in Grant Jerrett (#8) and Kaleb Tarczewski (#6) and was able to beat the two elite big men in two completely different ways. Against Jerrett, he went right after him in the low post and used his strength to control the paint and get up easy shots. Against Tarczewski, he used his perimeter skills to create shots in the mid-range and even hit the three-ball.|
|Alex Poythress||#25||5||He did a variety of things very well at the Nike EYBL such as blocking shots, running the floor, finishing, playing defense, and shooting. He also displayed good ball-handling skills as well as a nice spin move which got him some open looks in the lane where he converted. Poythress did an excellent job using his length too whether it was through changing opponents’ shots, shooting over defenders, or being able to pass in difficult situations.|
|Torian Graham||#30||8||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.|
|Braxton Ogbueze||#37||5||Ogbueze put his full arsenal on display at the Nike EYBL as he showed good ball-handling skills, good shooting, and the ability to get to the bucket consistently. He also showed good range and had a nice spin move he used to get into the lane. Ogbueze had a nice floater and mid-range jumper he constantly used after he got by his initial defender as well.|
|Matt Costello||#36||8||Matt Costello dominated at the King James Shooting Stars Classic this past weekend by displaying a superb offensive game and a variety of ways to score. He also showed the ability to knock down three-pointers and mid-range jumpers while scoring in the paint with their back to the basket. Costello ran the floor well too and 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.|
|Devonta Pollard||#40||10||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 numerous 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.|
Brand New Class of 2012 Class Rankings
Old Faces, New Places. Our new Class of 2012 class rankings is out and although North Carolina is in our current top ten for the class of 2011 class rankings, three of the other four teams are traditional powerhouses including Indiana who tops the early list. The Hoosiers have three top 50 prospects (tied for the most) in point guard Kevin Ferrell (#18), power forward Hanner Perea (#23) and small forward Jeremy Hollowell (#39) and have a very versatile class with a prospect at every position — shooting guard Ron Patterson and center Peter Jurkin round out the class. However, even with this great class, Villanova is right behind the Hoosiers as they are the other school with three top 50 prospects between center Daniel Ochefu (#21), small forward Savon Goodman (#28) and point guard Ryan Arcidiacono (#29). North Carolina, Michigan State and Florida finish off the top five but expect the usual names like Kentucky and Duke to jump back in as the year progresses.
Brian Gregory Loses Out on Bobby Parks, Jr.’s Bizarre Recruitment. Class of 2011 shooting guard Bobby Parks, Jr.de-committed from the Yellow Jackets Friday in what new Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory is calling the “most bizarre recruiting situation that I have ever seen.” Since learning of ex-Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt’s firing, Parks Jr. hasn’t been in contact with Gregory except for his father’s e-mails, described by Gregory as “very sporadic” and “very one-sided.” The other problem in communication is that Parks Jr. and his family are currently living in the Philippines. To see why Parks Jr. de-committed, check out what his dad had to say in the “What They’re Saying” section below. The reason he is such a valued recruit is because he has a very nice shooting stroke with good range extending beyond the three-point line and he has the ability to penetrate the lane off the dribble. However, he needs to improve his defensive presence if he wants to succeed at the high-major level.
Your Seven-Day All-Americans
Chris Thomas, Undecided, Point Guard – Thomas excelled at the Jayhawk Invitational and showed how much of a prolific scorer he can be. He consistently hit three-pointers well behind the arc from various spots on the floor and was able to drive and hit the mid-range pull-up jumper as well. The class of 2013 combo guard also showed he could score in bunches when he came up with 15 points in less than three minutes of action. Thomas exemplified great explosiveness and power when he drove to the basket and finished around the rim. He did a great job getting to the basket and was able to dish the ball off to a big man when he couldn’t make a play. However, he needs to improve on his consistency as he didn’t always produce at the level he is capable of. Thomas is currently considering Arizona, home state Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky and Memphis. This is purely speculation, but based on how much he enjoys playing in front of his family and in his home state I wouldn’t be surprised if Colorado is in the lead.
Archie Goodwin, Undecided, Shooting Guard – Goodwin displayed terrific size and strength and excellent scoring abilities at the Nike EYBL in Dallas this weekend. He got to the basket seemingly at will and powered through defenders enabling him to finish through contact. He also exhibited improved ball-handling skills and was a respectable shooter both behind the arc and in the mid-range but that’s a definite area he can improve on. Goodwin, a junior, can get better as passing as well to take his level to the next level. Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina and Ole Miss are currently the schools standing out above the others in his recruitment.
Shabazz Muhammad, Undecided, Small Forward– Muhammad was the clear superstar at the Jayhawk Invitational and won the MVP award this weekend as he scored at least 30 points in all three of his games in many different ways. He posted up defenders, knocked down jumpers from behind the arc and in the mid-range from all over the court and got to the basket at will whenever he slashed into the lane. He also rebounded the ball and ran the floor extremely well. However, what made Muhammad stand out the most was his defense, something at which he has the potential to excel on every possession. If he can consistently be a lockdown defender he has the potential to be the best player in the class of 2012. To see what schools and coaches he has been talking to, check out the “What They’re Saying” section below.
Jaylen Bond, Undecided, Power Forward – Bond has heavily improved over the last year and has developed into a nice power forward who excels with his face to the basket. He stretched defenses by hitting three-pointers and showed the ability to get to the basket consistently. He displayed nice athleticism as well as solid ball-handling skills that allow him to finish through or around contact at the rim. Bond has only been getting looks mostly from Pennsylvania schools and has LaSalle, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and West Virginia in his top four. He de-committed from Pittsburgh last year and will be spending a year at prep school during the next school year.
Kaleb Tarczewski, Undecided, Center – The big seven-footer dominated at the Providence Jam Fest this weekend by developing better footwork and working for position more effectively in the low post. He displayed nice hook shots over both shoulders as well as quick and powerful moves in getting to the rim. Tarczewski was stronger in the paint as well since he was practically immovable whereas he struggled against Jarnell Stokes a couple of weekends ago. However, the most impressive part of his performance was the he played through an obvious injury that he suffered in the first day of event, something that really shows his passion for the game. He is currently a junior and is considering Boston College, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina among others.
Jaren Sina, Point Guard, Sophomore – The future Crimson Tide floor general was impressive at the Providence Jam Fest as he led his team to a title while only having six players. He showed the ability to score and pass as he was able to get into the lane while kicking the ball out to an open teammate. He also created scoring opportunities for his teammates off the dribble. Sina’s most impressive skill at the Jam Fest was perhaps his finishing ability around the bucket, where he could make acrobatic finishes or power through contact.
Malcolm Hill, Shooting Guard, Sophomore – Hill displayed great physical abilities and a great mindset at the Jayhawk Invitational between his aggressiveness and quickness. He also exhibited physicality and explosiveness in getting to the basket and finished through contact around the rim. His mid-range game and three-point shooting was good as well which keeps the defense honest, not allowing them to play off of him. Hill is currently considering Michigan, Missouri, Purdue and St. Louis.
Jabari Bird, Small Forward, Sophomore – Bird is an explosive athlete who plays well in both transition and the half-court game. He both hit three-pointers and mid-range jumpers and got to the basket consistently too. He did a good job in all phases in the game and although he wasn’t extraordinary in any one part of the game he was solid all around. However, he needs to improve his defense, particularly his lateral quickness, so he can stay in front of his opponents better and keep them out of the lane. Bird currently has offers from Ariaon and California with interest from Louisville, Marquette, Providence, Texas, Washington and Washington State.
Stephen Domingo, Small Forward, Sophomore – Domingo was the MVP in the 16-and-under division at the Jayhawk Invitational and displayed a very nice shooting stroke. He played well all around the perimeter and was able to create separation to provide himself with some scoring opportunities. However, he needs to become a better slasher so he is more balanced offensively and can score in multiple ways. Domingo has offers from California, Memphis, San Diego, San Diego State and San Francisco and has heavy interest from much of the Pac-12.
Video of the Week
What They’re Saying
Junior Shabazz Muhammad (#3) on who he’s been talking to: “I’ve been talking to a lot of coaches: Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, UCLA, some other schools.” On Kansas’ chances: “They are really realistic. This is my second year coming down here. It’s really fun. I’ve talked to a lot of players — Elijah (Johnson), Tyshawn (Taylor), the (Morris) twins. Bill Self is a great coach. I could see myself being here.”
Junior Gary Harris (#12) on how playing football helps him in basketball: “I would just say taking hits. In basketball, I get bumped going to the rim, taking hard falls. I’m used to it. I’m used to the physical contact because I play football.”
Junior L.J. Rose (#20) on what Kentucky and Kansas have been telling him: “Kentucky is saying just come and play and what freedom to do what you want to do and Kansas is just saying win a national championship.”
Bobby Parks, Sr. on his son’s de-commitment: “He was recruited by [ex-Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt] and built a relationship with him. Hewitt has also seen him play and thought he would fit into the system. The reason we wanted the release is so he could open his recruitment again, which means he would get a chance to build a relationship with the new coach.”
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon on what type of guys he recruits: “I look at where they’ve come from and their development to where they are now. We want guys that want to be better. We want guys that want to improve and will work hard.”
Sophomore stud Chris Thomas on his favorite school: “Arizona has a pretty big lead… I really like them, I like the people there… coach Miller is a great guy. Everything that’s at Arizona I like.”
Junior Perry Ellis (#10) on what he’s looking for in a college: “Just being comfortable and having a playing style I’d like to play in.”
A Look Ahead
Last year’s EYBL champion and current leader in the standings Team Takeover (10-0) will play in the Southern Invitational this weekend in Hampton, Virginia. Team Takeover has been very impressive since they have no guys rated in the top 50 yet they haven’t lost a game to teams with up to three top rated players. Coach Keith Stevens has managed to teach his kids team defense and an overall team style of play in a league that thrives on great individual performances. This group is a great bunch to watch.