Thursday, August 21, 2008

Full-Court Press, August 18-22

Although we had put the daily Full-Court Press updates on hiatus for several months, we had to break it back out for what was an unexpectedly eventful week in the world of college basketball.

Stepheson to USC: Former North Carolina forward Alex Stepheson has announced his decision to transfer to USC, choosing the Trojans over Arizona State and UCLA. Furthermore, Stepheson and his family are trying to obtain a waiver from the NCAA, which would allow Stepheson to play immediately for USC instead of sitting out the mandatory one-year penalty for transfers. Stepheson left the Tar Heels after last season to be closer to his father, who is suffering from undisclosed health issues. He averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.

Cook Denied Sixth Year: Former Pittsburgh wing Mike Cook has been denied a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. He had requested a medical redshirt after tearing his ACL on Dec. 20, but was turned down two times previously by the NCAA. A player cannot receive a medical redshirt if he played in more than 30 percent of his team's games. Pittsburgh played in 37 games -- but NCAA Tournament games don't count, while just one conference tournament games counts. Cook played in only 11 games, but the Panthers played in just 32 games in the eyes of the NCAA. Cook averaged 10.5 points per game two seasons ago.

Caracter Leaving Louisville For NAIA: Former Louisville forward Derrick Caracter and his saga with the Cardinals could soon be over. Multiple reports indicate that Caracter has decided to play in the NAIA, which would allow him to compete immediately instead of sitting out the one-year transfer penalty he would suffer should he go to another Division-I school. The top school on Caracter's list is Oklahoma City, although he has not made an official decision yet. "Are we recruiting him? Yes,” Oklahoma City coach Tommy Wade told Jeff Goodman of “Is he at Oklahoma City? No. Has he decided to come to Oklahoma City? No. Not today." He is expected to decide in the next couple of days. Caracter was dismissed from the Cardinals, but he said he was going to try and become eligible in 2009-2010.

Virginia Loses One, Gets One Back: Virginia head coach Dave Leitao announced Monday that Laurynas Mikalauskas will not be returning to the Cavaliers for his final season, saying "Laurynas has not lived up to those standards" to be on the team. On the other hand, Leitao also announced that center Tunji Soroye will be back for a fifth year after the NCAA granted him another season of eligibility. Soroye played in just two games last season due to knee and back injuries.

Johnson to Southern Miss: As first reported by Sporting News Today, former USC point guard Angelo Johnson has decided to transfer to Southern Miss. Johnson left the Trojans in July after head coach Tim Floyd told him that he could not guarantee Johnson a starting spot. "I thought that being a freshman and playing behind the number three overall pick, I should have the spot handed to me," Johnson told Jeff Goodman of "I felt like I earned it already." Johnson, who chose the Golden Eagles over Kentucky, Seton Hall and Cincinnati, averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists per game last season.

Texas Recruit Doesn't Qualify: Rick Barnes' seach for an heir apparent to the departed D.J. Augustin now has one fewer candidate, as J'Covan Brown did not meet required academic standards and will not be eligible to play this fall. Barnes and Brown hope that he will able to play in the spring. "We do expect J'Covan to earn admission to the University of Texas and join our basketball program at some point," Barnes said in a statement. Brown was expected to provide depth at the point guard position, backing up converted shooting guard A.J. Abrams and sophomore Dogus Balbay.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lawrence Headed to St. John's

It looks like the attempt by St. John’s to keep the top New York City players at home for college is working – Omari Lawrence is headed to Queens.

“I chose St. John’s because it’s close to home,” Lawrence said Wednesday afternoon after a brief meeting with head coach Norm Roberts to announce his commitment. “It’s a great environment for me and my family. And I like Norm, he’s a good coach.”

Lawrence had planned to make a visit to Louisville soon, and said he was going to announce his college decision after checking out the campus. However, his brother made a couple of phone calls and told Lawrence that he did not want him visiting Louisville.

“We cancelled the trip to Louisville and I just wanted to get [my college decision] over with,” Lawrence said.

The 6-foot-4 Lawrence, who hails from Bronx, N.Y., cannot officially sign a letter-of-intent until November. He will play for South Kent Prep (Conn.) next season after leaving St. Raymond’s (N.Y.) following an altercation between teammate and close friend Kevin Parrom and head coach Oliver Antigua. Parrom will also play for South Kent next season.

Lawrence projects himself as a combo guard with the ability to play multiple perimeter positions.

“I think I’m going to do well,” Lawrence said. “I’m a hard-worker. I just want to do the best I can to help us win ball games.”

St. John’s has been in the news recently as a result of two new assistant coach hires – Kimani Young, who was the director of the New Heights AAU program, and Oswald Cross, who coached Lawrence with the New York Panthers. However, Lawrence said that the addition of Cross and Young did not have an affect on his recruitment.

“Not at all,” said Lawrence, who is close friends with Justin Burrell, currently a junior on the Red Storm. “Before they went to St. John’s, I had interest there. I’ve been visiting the campus since my sophomore year.”

Lawrence has not played in several weeks after he underwent surgery in July to repair a torn ligament in his shoulder. However, he is rehabbing three times per week and expects to return in early October.

With his recruitment and college decision out of the way, Lawrence is looking forward to enjoying his final year of high school.

“It definitely eases the pressure,” he said. “I can now focus on school and basketball. I want to win the National Prep Championship.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008


As things tend to be during the summer, posts have slowed down lately here at March Madness All Season. That will change very soon, though.

I recently finished my "Roster Project," which consists of dozens and dozens of pages of spreadsheets detailing every team from the "Big Six" conferences. I also took twenty of the top "non-BCS" teams and did the same for them. It really helps one get prepared for the upcoming season, as it lists every player coming into or leaving a program, as well as every returning player. It provides stats, height/weight, position -- everything I need to get ready for the season. It seems tedious and took a long time, but now that it's done, I can start looking ahead at 2008-2009.

As a result, expect a conference-by-conference glance at the upcoming season in the coming days. It will start tomorrow with the ACC. After that is done, I will also get back to posting recruiting stories that I will be writing for NBE Basketball Report. There's less than 90 days until the season starts...start the countdown.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hoop Group Elite Camp Recap

As the “live” recruiting season for college coaches came to a close at the end of July, there was still one event to attend: the Hoop Group Elite Camp in Ewing, New Jersey.

Coaches from a variety of levels gathered at The College of New Jersey from July 28-31 to watch and scout upwards of 125 players, most of which came from Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. It was more of a camp environment, as the teams had stations and drills to participate in, as well as practices with the teams they were placed on. Furthermore, the players stayed in the dorms at TCNJ, and ate meals in the dining hall.

Although some of the top players who were expected to come were at tournaments in other locales across the country, there was still plenty of talent on-hand to watch.


Aaric Murray (6-foot-10): Murray is quickly developing into one of the best, and most-wanted, big men in the country. He is very athletic at both ends of the floor, crashing the offensive glass and finishing at one end, and blocking shots at the other. He goes up strong offensively and can finish aggressively. He also has a developing face-up and mid-range game to keep defenders honest. He is hungry for the ball and is very solid rebounding the ball. Murray has a strong body and can dominate the paint.

Coaches such as Fred Hill Jr, Bob Huggins and Jamie Dixon were all front and center watching Murray on Wednesday.

School List: Temple, LaSalle, Villanova, St. Joseph’s, West Virginia, St. John’s, Kentucky, Rutgers, Connecticut, Marquette, Indiana, Pittsburgh, among others

Devon Saddler (6-foot-2): The first thing one notices about Aberdeen (MD) product is his body: he is very strong and has broad shoulders. The 6′2 guard is a difficult match-up because of his strength and build. He has a good handle and can get into the lane against defenders. Furthermore, he can finish around the rim against shot-blockers. He is not afraid to shoot the ball from behind the arc, and has solid range. He runs the floor well, and made several nice passes in transition. A very strong July has new mid-majors entering his recruiting picture nearly every day.

School List: Central Florida, DePaul, TCU, Providence, Quinnipiac, Towson, and Drexel

Erique Gumbs (6-foot-8): Going up against Murray, one might assume that Gumbs was at a disadvantage – not so fast. Gumbs more than held his own against the more heralded Murray, blocking shots on the defensive end and finishing strong around the rim offensively. He is very long and is a very good defender and rebounder. Although he does not run the floor that well, he is athletic and can sky for loose balls and finishes. Gumbs doesn’t get great position offensively in the post, but he can get the ball and turn to the basket. Once he gets the ball down low, though, he is difficult to defend. However, his teammates had a very tough time entering the ball to Gumbs in position for him to score.

School List: George Mason, Providence and Towson are his current leaders and Pittsburgh, Penn State, George Washington, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Delaware, Delaware State, Temple and Penn are others showing various degrees of interest.

Calvin Newell (6-foot-1): A strong point guard from Pennsylvania, Newell constantly showed the ability to get to the basket and finish around the rim. He has a nice build and is more muscular and stronger than other point guards. He is also very quick, and is difficult to stay in front of. He is a physical defender and can push opponents off the ball just by bodying them up. He is a very good passer who has solid vision, both in the half court and on the break. However, he had a tendency to make lazy entry passes at times.

School List: Newell indicated that Siena and Seton Hall were his top two and others of interest included Robert Morris, Miami (Fl.), St. Francis (Pa.), Quinnipiac and Providence.

Raynor Moquete (6-foot-2): Heading into the game I saw Moquete in, I was informed by several people that he was somewhat inconsistent and rarely performed to his peak. Afterwards, it was obvious they were wrong – on this day, at least. Moquete absolutely put on a show. He was knocking down shots from everywhere on the court: three-pointers in a half court setting; deep pull-up jumpers in transition; fade aways from the corner; mid-range jump shots; tough shots in the lane; finishes around the basket. He also plays solid defense, and can handle and pass the ball.

School List: Davidson, Virginia Commonwealth, Pittsburgh, NJIT, Princeton, Fordham, Florida International, Manhattan

Adam Johnson (6-foot-6): On the opening play of the game, Johnson was beat on a backdoor pass. However, after that, I’m not sure Johnson made another mistake. He is extremely athletic and can really finish around the rim. He takes it to the basket strong and can get shots off even with contact. He is a match-up problem due to his skill set, versatility and 6-6 size. He has a good pull-up jumper and is scrappy on the glass. He hustles and plays solid defense.

School List: Texas A&M, Florida State (favorite) North Carolina St., South Alabama

Isaiah Philmore (6-foot-7): Clearly one of the more talented players at the camp, Philmore does everything well but did not really dominate as much as he could have. Offensively, he has a versatile game, showing the ability to score in a variety of ways. He can post-up defenders, as well as take them off the dribble and finish around the rim. Philmore also had a nice mid-range game and has a decent stroke. In general, he is a major match-up problem for defenders. Defensively, he is a good shot-blocker that changes shots with his athleticism. He can rebound at both ends very well, and can also handle the ball and pass. He runs the floor well, is unselfish and hustles for loose balls.

School List: Virginia Tech, Virginia, South Florida, Providence, Massachusetts, George Washington, Michigan, Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Auburn, Kansas State, Central Florida

Brandon Romain (6-foot-2): The lefty guard is very impressive going to the basket, and is nearly impossible to keep out of the paint. He can finish in a variety of ways, including reverse lay-ups and leaners in the lane. He also can shoot the ball from the perimeter, not allowing defenders to sag off of him. Romain has a decent handle and can pass the ball well. On the other hand, he is not effective with his right hand and goes to his left most of the time. He over dribbles at times and forces shots when he gets into the lane. In fact, he was something of a ball-hog early in the game.

School List: Rhode Island, Central Florida, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, South Florida (favorite)


Dave Coley (6-foot-2): After seeing Coley play several times with the Juice All-Stars, his AAU team, and then seeing him at the Elite Camp, one thing is clear: Coley might be one of the most versatile players in New York City. With Juice, he plays forward and can even bang inside. At the camp, however, he was strictly a point guard – and a very good one at that. He is very strong and quick, and is very difficult to stop going to the basket. He has decent range, but is clearly better when taking defenders off the dribble. He leads the break very well, and his athleticism allows him to corral rebounds at one end, go coast-to-coast quickly, and finish strong. He is also a good defender who picks up steals. One negative, though, is the fact he is always talking (i.e. complaining) to the referees.

School List: Hofstra, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence, Lehigh

Anthony Mayo (6-foot-7): Despite having only one school showing real interest right now (Mount St. Mary’s), Mayo should expect the offers to pile in sooner rather than later. He is an outstanding rebounder at both ends of the floor, and really controlled the glass. He is only 6-7, but plays like a player a few inches taller. He is athletic and long, and can grab boards over most opponents. Offensively, he is still developing but he showed the ability to finish around the rim. He runs the floor well, but needs to work on his hands.


Isaiah Morton (5-foot-8): Forget his height – Morton can flat-out play. He is extremely quick and has a very fast handle that is tough for defenders to keep up with. He has great vision to find the open man, and is a very good passer. He is shifty with his dribble and is difficult to contain on the perimeter and in the lane. He is not afraid to drive to the basket and can finish against bigger defenders. Morton is also a decent albeit inconsistent three-point shooter, and can pull-up for mid-range jumpers. He has a surprisingly strong-looking body and does not back down despite being undersized.

School List: Maryland, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Villanova, Saint Joseph’s