Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keeping talent home a tough sell for new Big East trio

CLEVELAND – Not surprisingly, one can easily make multiple all-star teams with a list of players from the New York/New Jersey area over the past few seasons.

Kemba Walker, Samardo Samuels, Lance Stephenson, Sylven Landesberg, Kyrie Irving – the list goes on and on.

However, in what has become something of a disturbing trend – for metro-area basketball junkies, at least – none of those players ended up at a New York or New Jersey college.

“The game is national and global for these guys,” said Dave Telep, National Recruiting Director for “Getting on a plane is nothing to kids in that area. [It’s a] tough area to recruit because everyone views it as open and neutral.”

With St. John’s, Seton Hall and Rutgers each hiring new head coaches -- Steve Lavin, Kevin Willard and Mike Rice, respectively -- in the offseason, though, it is a trend that will have to turn around in order for the three metro-area schools to be successful.

“That’s the most important thing we’re trying to do,” said Shaheen Holloway, the associate head coach at Seton Hall. “If you look at all the good teams, they keep their players home. Plus, I think we have the best players around, between New York, New Jersey. And I think keeping players home every year can be good because the area is that good with players. Plus, if you keep kids home, other players see that and want to come.”

St. John’s assistant coach Tony Chiles said it is imperative for successful teams to keep the top talent in the region at home.

“If you’re not solid at home in major cities, it makes it tough to maintain your program,” Chiles said.

Part of the problem facing these three programs is the lack of success they have experienced over the past several seasons. St. John’s has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2002 and has not won a regular-season conference championship since 1992. Seton Hall has made only three NCAA Tournament appearances since 1994, while Rutgers has won just 22 Big East games total in the past six seasons.

Talented kids with national recruitments and reputations would rather go elsewhere and have a chance to compete for conference and national championships than potentially suffer through mediocrity at one of the local schools.

“National is the new local in that area. Too many schools like fishing in those waters,” Telep said. "[The] hard part for a new coach is you need [in-state kids] to win, but they want to see it first.”

Chiles said the schools have to change the state of mind of the local prospects in the area.

“Of course we want to keep the best players in the area home,” he said. “We want to show them that they can do all the same things here that they can do in other places, with their families and friends at every home game.”

Holloway is the perfect example of a top prospect deciding to stay home rather than go away to school. The former Seton Hall point guard was the MVP of the 1996 McDonald’s All-American game and one of the top backcourt players in the country.

While he did have a national recruitment, Holloway ultimately decided that staying in New Jersey was the best place for him.

“Keeping kids home will be good for the state, and the kids,” he said. “They get a chance to play at a high level and still have their friends and family watch them play. That’s why I stayed home and played. The support was great from family and friends. It’s the best of both worlds.

“Plus it can help them after they’re done playing. Look at me: if I did not stay home, there’s a good chance I would not be coaching at Seton Hall. Just one of the many reasons to stay home.”

One school that has already made an impact in the area with the new staff is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were able to convince St. Benedict’s (N.J.) forward Gilvydas Biruta to stay when former coach Fred Hill was forced to resign in April, and then also picked up St. Benedict’s (N.J.) product Mike Poole, a 6-foot-6 swingman originally from Queens.

“I think it certainly helps,” Rutgers assistant coach Jimmy Martelli said when asked how the signings will be a step in the right direction. “[Poole] is a terrific kid with big upside and is well-liked and knows a ton of players who all want to play with him, we hope. Gilvydas will be big in people wanting to play with him, as well.”

Martelli said it is going to be very important for the new Scarlet Knights’ staff to make inroads with local prospects right off the bat.

“I think perception, really,” Martelli said. “[We] need to keep them here, at least to start our regime, [to] show we are loyal and want them, but again they have to be good enough and luckily, there are enough in N.Y., N.J. We need to get those kids and not just because they are talented, but there is usually a certain toughness and swagger about them we want.”

With the New Jersey Playaz, an AAU powerhouse based in Paterson, N.J., filled with five or six high-major prospects for the class of 2011, and a multitude of other talented uncommitted players in the area, the new staffs will need to have an immediate impact with the local players.

Myles Davis, a 6-foot-1 guard from St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) who runs with the Playaz, is already seeing a difference in his recruitment as a result of the coaching changes.

“I’m considering Seton Hall and Rutgers, mostly Rutgers ever since they got a new coaching staff,” Davis said. “They gave a better presentation, and it seemed interesting. They’re not in my top schools, but they made a better presentation than the old [staff].”

Other players said the coaching changes would not have much of an effect on their recruitment.

Highly-touted New Egypt (N.J.) center Desmond Hubert said he hasn’t heard from any of the new staffs, while new St. Anthony (N.J.) guard Myles Mack said the impact wouldn’t be noticeable.

Kyle Anderson Sr., the father of Kyle Anderson, one of the top prospects in the class of 2012, said he has a good relationship with each of the three programs, but what matters will be how hard each school works.

“I think all three have very good leaders and so it will come down to who outworks who,” Anderson Sr. said. “We really have not spoke on that, as far as staying close to home or going away.”

New coaching staffs always face issues when taking over a major-conference program, although developing relationships with coaches and players in the area might be the biggest one.

In New York and New Jersey, though, those sorts of relationships matter more when it comes to being successful. As demonstrated by the lack of success over the past decade from St. John’s, Seton Hall and Rutgers, keeping players at home could be the difference between running a program with constant winning tradition or constant coaching turnover.

“[We’re] really just trying to change the mindset, and we are working to get local talent to see our vision,” Chiles said. 

Note: This article was originally published at NBE Basketball Report.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wiltjer not ready to narrow list

A report Wednesday morning stated that five-star prospect Kyle Wiltjer had trimmed his list to Gonzaga, California, Oregon and Kansas.

However, the 6-foot-9 forward denied the report.

“Not true,” Wiltjer told me Wednesday afternoon from the Double Pump Best of the Summer Classic in California. “Won’t start narrowing down schools until after this tourney.”

He said he is considering Washington, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Connecticut, Kentucky, Wake Forest and Texas, in addition to the aforementioned four of Gonzaga, Cal, Oregon and Kansas.

“Everyone’s equal at this point,” Wiltjer said.

The Jesuit (Ore.) product said he would wait until he narrows his list to plan visits and make a timeline for his decision. He added that style of play, the coaching staff and incoming recruiting class are going to be the major factors when he narrows his list.

The knock on Wiltjer had been that he spent too much time on the perimeter and was not strong enough to go inside and utilize his size more effectively.

This summer, though, Wiltjer has been more aggressive around the basket, posting up and absorbing contact. As a result, his stock has risen after performances at the King City Classic and NIKE Peach Jam, as well as with the U-18 Canadian National Team.

“I feel it has,” he said. “I’ve definitely tried to show everyone all aspects of my game this summer. No one could really stop me down there so I kept going to it.

“I can still play both [inside and outside], just allowed people to see that I’m capable of playing down there.”

He envisions himself as an inside-outside power forward in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Kevin Durant and other face-up power forwards.

Playing for the Oakland Soldiers, arguably the most talented AAU team in the country, Wiltjer has had a chance to play with an assortment of high-major perimeter players. It enables him to take advantage of single-coverage on the low block, and makes it easier to score.

“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of great guards so I did what our team needed to win.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Florida offers three out-of-state prospects

It is common knowledge that Florida has a national recruiting reputation, and this week is clearly proof.

In the past couple of days, the Gators extended offers to Dorian-Finney Smith, from I.C. Norcom (Va.); Nick Faust, out of Baltimore City College (Md.); and Maurice Harkless, a Queens native at South Kent Prep (Conn.).

All three have expanded their recruiting scope in a major way since the spring, and Florida head coach Billy Donovan is just the latest to jump in the mix.

Finney-Smith, a 6-foot-6 forward, already had the Gators in his final six. The offer helps their chances, he told me Tuesday afternoon.

When looking at the rest of his list – which includes Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest and Old Dominion – it would appear that Florida seems out of place. Finney-Smith has a special connection to the Gators, though.

 “Vernon Macklin,” he said in late May, referring to the Gators’ junior big man. “[He’s] my brother’s best friend; I knew him my whole life.”

Faust has been picking up offers left and right lately, getting ones from Kansas, Villanova and Tennessee last week, and then the Gators this week.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard said he will strongly consider Florida, despite not knowing too much about the Gators at this point.

“But I am interested,” he said.

Faust, who doesn’t have a timeline for visits or a decision yet, also lists Maryland, Penn State, Massachusetts, Clemson, Virginia, Providence, Marquette, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, South Florida and Florida State.

Harkless’ advisor, Nate Blue, confirmed the Gators offering the 6-foot-8 forward.

"I think it's a real good program and school," Harkless said. "Picking up this offer was big."

He also said the location wouldn't be much of a factor.

"I haven't even thought about that part yet, but I'm looking for quality schools that will fit me and Florida is a great school," Harkless said.

Since decommitting from Connecticut earlier this summer, his recruitment has really picked up.

“He’s a top ten kid,” Blue said. “And people are still hesitant, but he’s out outplayed all the top players he’s faced.”

Harkless holds offers from St. John’s, Arizona, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Xavier, Maryland, South Florida, Miami (Fl.), Oregon and DePaul, in addition to Florida and UConn.

With only Brad Beal committed for 2011, the Gators still have three scholarships to hand out. Will any of these three out-of-staters head south to Gainesville?

Carson refutes report, has no leader

After decommitting from Oregon State right before the spring AAU season, Jahii Carson has seen his recruitment skyrocket to new levels.

The 5-foot-10 Mesa (Ariz.) point guard has been outstanding for the Compton Magic in AAU tournaments during the spring and summer, and has also impressed at various camps.

With new interest comes increased media coverage, though, and Carson now has to refute incorrect rumors. A report earlier in the week stated that Carson had named UCLA as his leader.

Carson, however, denies it.

“[It’s] not all the way true,” he told me on Tuesday. “I have no leader. I’m still wide-open, but I like UCLA a lot.”

Carson said simply mentioning the Bruins first led some to believe he had named them as his frontrunner.

“Probably because I said UCLA first before all schools, and then I talked about their tradition,” he said.

In addition to UCLA, Carson also lists Arizona, North Carolina, Arizona State, UNLV, Washington, Alabama, Butler, USC, Oregon State and Oregon.

“Right now, they’re all tied.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spurlock chooses UCF

Ask many people in the college basketball world, and they will tell you that it is only a matter of time before Central Florida is a perennial contender in Conference-USA.

New head coach Donnie Jones and the Knights took another step towards that goal on Saturday, as Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock chose UCF as his next destination.

Spurlock, who averaged 2.4 points in 13 appearances last season, picked the Knights over Notre Dame, Providence, South Florida, George Washington and others.

“I loved the area and the coaching staff was great, too, and I will be able to play the wing,” said Spurlock, a top-100 recruit out of high school who left the Cavaliers after his freshman year. “I think I can help them on the wing position and really add some talent and more depth to the team.”

Spurlock was unhappy with his role at Virginia, where he was expected to be more of a power forward as opposed to playing on the perimeter, where he is more comfortable. The up-tempo style UCF plays, as well as Spurlock’s relationship with Jones and the coaching staff, were the biggest factors in his decision. 

Being in Orlando for the next four years certainly was not a drawback for Spurlock.

“I loved the campus!” he said. “The weather helps too.”

After Spurlock sits out next season, he will join a deep and talented roster that includes double-figure scorer Isaac Sosa, double-double threat Keith Clanton, former Oregon transfer Josh Crittle, diminutive passer A.J. Rompza, incoming freshmen Isaiah Sykes and Jarvis Davis and, of course, Marcus Jordan, who Spurlock knows from playing on camp teams together.

The 6-foot-8 Virginia native is looking forward to his new opportunity.

 “UVA was a good chapter in my life but UCF will be a better one."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spurlock nearing decision

Tristan Spurlock came into his freshman season as a consensus top-100 recruit, choosing Virginia over numerous other high-major basketball powers. For a team that was returning just two-double figure scorers, it seemed clear that Spurlock would come in and make an immediate impact because of his scoring ability.

Instead, he appeared in just 13 games, averaging 4.6 minutes and 2.4 points in those contests. Moreover, he played a total of only 24 minutes in ACC games.

“The funny thing is everybody else, including me, thought the same thing,” Spurlock told me Friday afternoon. “Honestly, I feel like I didn’t get a chance to show all my talents at UVA. As a team, we struggled with scoring and I am a big-time scorer so I couldn’t understand why I didn’t play more, either.”

Not wanting to wait and see if he would get more playing time next season, Spurlock decided in late March to leave the Cavaliers and find a new school.

He said that an announcement on his next destination should be coming soon, and he is looking at schools in the Big East and Conference-USA.

“I’m looking for an up-tempo school where I can really use my size on the wing to take advantage of smaller players,” the 6-foot-8 swingman said.

When Spurlock originally chose Virginia, he also held offers from Clemson, Louisville, Georgetown, Villanova, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Florida State and Maryland.

Spurlock, who played for Word of Life Christian Academy in Springfield, Va. after going to Montrose Christian (Md.), insisted that location would not be a factor in his decision.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, if you can play basketball, they will find you anywhere. I mean, Paul George went to Fresno State and he was a lottery pick.”

One of the main reasons for Spurlock’s transfer was the fact he saw himself playing the wing while others pegged him as a power forward because of his height.

“[I’m] polishing my wing skills at 6-8,” he said. “I am a true wing and I wanna make sure I show everyone that. I’ve been playing in the [Washington D.C.] Kenner [Summer] League and I had some good games so I’m just working on polishing everything.”

Spurlock holds no hard feelings towards head coach Tony Bennett and Virginia, saying that he learned a lot during his stint with the Cavaliers.

With that said, Spurlock is determined to show that he can make an impact at the college level by working tirelessly on his game this summer.

“Me and my dad work out everyday around 5:35 until about 7:30,” he said. “Working on everything from 3-point shots to off-the-dribble pull-ups, and I’m also working out with [renowned strength and conditioning coach] Alan Stein while I’m home for the summer; he really knows his stuff.

 “With all my work that I’m putting in now and with all the work I’ll be putting in at my next school, there will be no doubts about playing time.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Niang takes step forward after reclassifying

An ongoing joke on the high school basketball and AAU circuit is the constant reclassification of players from New England – but Georges Niang does not see the big deal.

“For me, I was young for my grade,” the 2012 prospect from Tilton (N.H.) said. “I didn’t really know what would happen with basketball, but I got a lot better. I matured on and off the court. If you can take an extra year to get better, why not use it?”

Niang, who repeated his first high school year, has certainly used it to his advantage.

The 6-foot-7 forward has become one of the biggest sleepers in the region, impressing scouts and viewers on nearly every big stage. He scored 22 points at the National Prep Showcase against Bridgton Academy (R.I.) in November, dropped 31 points against Brimmer and May (Mass.) at the BABC Prep Classic and went for 25 points and eight rebounds vs. the Georgia Stars in the U-16 finals at the Peach Jam last week.

Despite being somewhat undersized, Niang is always productive. He has a variety of low-post moves around the basket and is underrated athletically. Furthermore, he has an effective face-up game that makes him difficult to guard.

Mid-majors from across the country have taken notice, as he holds offers from Florida Atlantic, Hofstra and New Hampshire, with interest from Siena, Drexel, Northeastern, Holy Cross, Monmouth, Fairfield, Boston College and Notre Dame.

“I’m looking for a place with good academics, where I can be successful,” Niang said. “Somewhere I can make a difference and step right on the court. It has to be the right fit, the right place.”

The fact that only two high-major schools are showing him interest right now underscores just how underrated Niang is on a national level.

“Everybody has their opinion,” he said. “The whole national thing, it’s who you know rather than how good you are. But it keeps me humble.”

Unlike many players who are looking to get to the highest level demonstrating interest, whether they can make an impact or not, Niang does not seem like a prospect who is going to reach out of his league, both literally and figuratively.

“I’m aiming for as high as I can go, and also the best fit,” he said. “If the highest I can go is the Atlantic-10, I’ll go there. I’m want to play where I can play, and get a good education.”

With more performances like he has had over the past several months, Niang is likely to see more interest from high-major colleges in the region and around the nation.

Not surprisingly, he even feels like his stock went up at the Peach Jam, where he played with a loaded BABC team in front of a slew of big-name college coaches.

“I do think it did,” Niang said. “I showed colleges I can play. To me, it’s the best tournament in America. You see everybody there.”

Photo Credit: New England Recruiting Report

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thompson III, Hoyas ready to move on

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Only a few months have passed since Georgetown’s shocking first-round loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament, but John Thompson III seems to have put it in his rear-view mirror.

“I haven’t thought about it,” the Hoyas’ head coach said, jokingly. “I mean, of course I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think it’s good to dwell on anything. I think we’re ready to move on.”

After a disastrous 2008-2009 season in which Georgetown went 6-14 in its last 20 games, the Hoyas bounced back a year ago, going 23-11 and earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The upset loss in the Big Dance notwithstanding, the Hoyas are hoping to continue their winning ways this season, losing just one starter from a team that came two points away from winning the Big East Tournament Championship.

“With the group we have coming back, they’ve been through a lot of successes and disappointing losses,” Thompson III said. “I don’t think that loss [to Ohio] is going to have an impact, but we want to go further in the tournament.”

Of course, the aforementioned lone starter not returning is Greg Monroe, a versatile 6-foot-11 center who left the Hoyas after his sophomore season.

Monroe, who averaged 16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season, garnered first-team all-Big East and third-team All-American honors, and was also a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

Thompson III knows the enormous void that Monroe is leaving behind.

“You don’t lose the No. 7 pick in the Draft and not miss him,” he said. “It’s going to be a group effort [to replace him]. There’s not any one person that can step in.”

From a production standpoint, the scoring load will likely fall to the perimeter players, led by seniors Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, and junior Jason Clark. All three averaged in double-figures last season, with Wright and Clark starting every game and Freeman starting 32 games.

“We have a veteran, experienced group,” Thompson III said. “We’re going to be led by the backcourt, which is as experienced as any group in the country.”

Freeman struggled in the postseason, shooting just 43 percent from the field and 19 percent from three-point range in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, after hitting better than 52 percent and 44 percent, respectively, during the season.

Wright, who Thompson III called the team’s leader, has improved his scoring, rebound and assist numbers every season at Georgetown, while Clark is a three-point shooter and the team’s best defender.

Outside of those three, former Florida State transfer Julian Vaughn also returns after starting every game a season ago. 6-foot-11 junior center Henry Sims has played sparingly in two seasons with the Hoyas, but he might be the man to replace Monroe.

“Our team will be much different,” Thompson III said. “In many ways, it will be deeper, with the incoming freshmen and the sophomore group.”

The sophomores – Hollis Thompson, Jerelle Benimon and Vee Sanford – will need to increase their consistency after providing sporadic production a season ago.

Either Benimon or Thompson, both 6-foot-7 forwards, could find himself in the starting lineup.

 “All three of them: Jerelle, Hollis and Vee, even though he didn’t play as much, have a year under their belt,” Thompson III said. “All three will be leaned upon.”

The freshmen class is one of the best in the Big East, headlined by 6-foot-8 forward Nate Lubick and 6-foot point guard Markel Starks. Raw big man Moses Abraham and 6-foot-5 scoring wing Aaron Bowen round out the class.

All four are expected to see significant minutes during their first year at Georgetown.

“They got to campus last week,” Thompson III said. “With the group of four, depending on how they progress, they’ll all have to jump in.”

Although the Hoyas only lose Monroe from last season, his versatility and all-around talents were perfect for Georgetown’s offensive system. No single player can emulate Monroe’s role in the offense, but Thompson III does not foresee a noticeable change in how the Hoyas play.

“We’re not going to do things a lot differently,” he said. “We’re still going to share the ball and guard at the defensive end.”

Georgetown will have more options than last season, when just seven players logged double-figure minutes and four players averaged more than 33 minutes per game. Perhaps the Hoyas’ late-season swoon, in which they lost four of their final six regular-season games, could be attributed to tired legs.

With so many talented upperclassmen ready to step in, fatigue should not be a problem this season.

“We’ll have more depth and we’ll be more experienced,” Thompson III said. “I think, with our flexibility, we can play big or small, whichever gives us the best chance to win.”

Not surprisingly, Thompson III is optimistic about the upcoming season – he feels Georgetown has the pieces to be a better team than a year ago.

“That’s the plan,” he said. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Burrell adds new interest

If you search recruiting websites and scouting services, you might not see too much of Trahson Burrell. However, that has not stopped colleges from recruiting the 6-foot-6 New York native now at St. Thomas More (Conn.).

Burrell impressed us at the National Prep Showcase in November, and then again with Rich Soil on the AAU circuit. Apparently, colleges are noticing his athleticism and versatility as well.

Back in May, Burrell told me he had offers from Providence, St. John’s and UNLV, with interest from Syracuse, West Virginia and Penn State.

On Tuesday, Burrell said via text that UTEP, Iowa State and Rhode Island are now on his list as well.

He will head to Orlando tomorrow for the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals, and hopes to pick up even more interest. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Coleman's stock rising

Onlookers who watched Howard Pulley play at the Peach Jam last week likely saw a recurring scene over and over: Joe Coleman driving to his right and finishing at the rim.

Coleman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Hopkins (Minn.), finished fourth in scoring average in South Carolina, averaging 21.6 points and scoring 32 points in a game on two separate occasions.

“I hope it would have [raised my stock] but if it didn’t, I’ll just work that much harder so people notice,” he said.

It seems that a few schools did have an eye on Coleman, though, as he picked up offers from Seton Hall and Iowa State since then. Northeastern and Colorado also began showing interest. Prior to the event, he had offers from Minnesota, Santa Clara and Colorado State, with interest from Texas A&M and USC.

Coleman plans to take a trip to Iowa State in early August.

“I don’t know much about them so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

Faust picks up three more offers

Although Anthony Davis is getting most of the publicity as a player who came out of nowhere to become a potential McDonald’s All-American, a player who might join him in that game is Nick Faust.

Faust, a 6-foot-4 guard from Baltimore City College (Md.), is a big-time scorer with athleticism. After more impressive performances during the first half of the July live period, he is picking up offers.

Earlier Monday, Kansas offered him.

“It felt good,” Faust said. “[It was a] good look.”

Villanova and Tennessee also offered him in the past couple of days, joining a long list that includes Maryland, Penn State, Massachusetts, Clemson, Virginia, Providence, Marquette, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, South Florida and Florida State.

Faust said he is wide-open and has no plans for visits yet.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Braeden Anderson has a favorite

One of the more surprising players we saw during the school season was Braeden Anderson, a 6-foot-8 forward from Christian Faith Academy (N.C.).

The Canadian native will head to American Heritage (Fla.) next season for academic reasons, but his basketball prowess has led to an impressive school list.

For now, Anderson said he is hearing from Arkansas, East Carolina, Florida, VCU, Miami (Fl.), Richmond, Oregon State, Florida State, UNLV, Providence, Missouri, Texas-Arlington, North Carolina State, UC-Riverside, Detroit, Auburn, Montana, Montana State and Boston College.

 “I want to go high-major,” Anderson said. “I’ve made it pretty clear that Miami is No. 1 right now. They’re 30 minutes away from my house and we have a great relationship.”

The Hurricanes, along with Texas-Arlington, VCU and Detroit, have offered Anderson.

He plans on taking official visits once he takes his SAT.

“I want to make a decision going into the school basketball season,” Anderson said.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Caldwell commits to Georgia

Kentavious Caldwell is hands-down one of the best offensive players in the country, and he decided to Saturday to take those talents to Georgia in 2011.

Caldwell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Greenville High School (Ga.), confirmed the news in a text message.

He chose the Bulldogs over offers from Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bowers not committing to Maryland

There were rumors swirling around on Friday that Nicolet (Wisc.) forward Cinmeon Bowers had committed to Maryland.

“Someone hacked my Facebook,” Bowers said.

He did say that the Terrapins did offer him in the past couple of days, though. That adds to an impressive list that also includes Miami (Fl.), Michigan, Minnesota, Marquette, LSU, Texas, Xavier and Cincinnati.

“I’m interested in all schools, but I still haven’t made my mind up about where I want to go,” Bowers said.

NIKE EYBL Peach Jam, Day Four

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – The final day of the Elite Youth Basketball League/NIKE Peach Jam featured just four games, but two champions were crowned and one game was televised on ESPNU.

In the opening game of the day, one U-17 semifinal, the St. Louis Eagles knocked off Team Final behind 28 points from Brad Beal. Mike Gilchrist led Team Final with 26 points. In the other semifinal, Team Takeover overcame an early deficit to defeat Spiece Indy Heat by 15. Julian DeBose had a surprising 18 points and 14 rebounds, and held Marquis Teague to nine points on 3-for-12 shooting.

Up next was the U-16 championship between BABC and Georgia Stars. With Goodluck Okonoboh out with a sprained ankle, BABC did not look their usual self, but still kept it close. They had a chance in the final seconds, but L’Quan Arnum’s three-pointer bounced out and Rene Castro’s desperation shot at the buzzer fell short, giving the Georgia Stars a 59-57 victory. Marcus Hunt led the Stars with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Georges Niang had 25 points and eight boards for BABC.

The final game of the day was the EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam, and was televised on tape delay on ESPNU. It was a relatively evenly-matched game from the start, but the balance of Team Takeover started making the difference in the second half. Beal tried his best to keep the St. Louis Eagles in the game, but he was not enough. Takeover emerged victorious, 70-62. James Robinson led Takeover with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Michael Gbinije had 19 points. Beal had 26 points for the Eagles.


Rakeem Christmas, Team Final: Christmas continues to slide down the class of 2011 rankings. His physical tools and potential are outstanding, but he has yet to show he can consistently produce offensively. On the defensive end, he is one of the best shot-blockers in the country, and he is an effective rebounder at both ends of the floor. However, once he gets the ball with his back to the basket, Christmas struggles to score. He has limited post moves, and can’t face-up against defenders.

Aaron Brown, Team Final: Brown had not had a very good week going into the semifinals, but he turned that around against the St. Louis Eagles. He went for 17 points and five rebounds, with most of his baskets coming off of well-timed cuts to the basket leading to lay-ups. The 6-foot-4 lefty from Penn Wood (Pa.) is a strong player who can get to the basket and finish. However, he still is unable to consistently knock down jump shots. Once he can do that, Brown will be an effective Big East player at West Virginia.

Julian DeBose, Team Takeover: DeBose was one of the most surprising players I saw all day on Thursday. He impacted the game at both ends of the floor, guarding top-five guards Marquis Teague and Brad Beal in back-to-back games, making life difficult for both players. DeBose is long and athletic, using both attributes to be a very good rebounder for his size. He was active on the offensive glass and was also excellent in transition.

Darion Atkins, Team Takeover: Atkins made his biggest impact on Thursday at the defensive end of the floor. Despite standing only 6-foot-8 and 215 lbs., Atkins was able to hold his own down on the low block against Spiece’s A.J. Hammons. He was effective at denying entry passes to Hammons and also demonstrated the ability to block shots and get rebounds. Atkins hit a baseline jumper and also was able to finish in transition. Once he gains some weight and develops post moves, look out.

Antonio Wilson, Spiece Indy Heat: Although Wilson might not be the most talented forward on the court, he has a non-stop motor and never gives up on plays. He is very active on the offensive glass, creating second chances for himself and teammates. He constantly keeps the ball alive, chasing down loose balls or using his athleticism to get tip-ins and baskets. Wilson is aggressive in the paint at both ends of the court, and projects as a good mid-level guy.


A.J. Hammons, Spiece Indy Heat: Hammons has certainly improved since the last time we saw him, as he is developing into a solid big man prospect. His footwork has gotten better and his hands are good enough at this point. He had a nice dropstep move against Mikael Hopkins and also played well defensively against the Team Takeover big man. On the negative side, he lacks athleticism and needs to improve his lift. Furthermore, he has to be more aggressive once he gets the ball.

Georges Niang, BABC 16s: We have watched Niang before, and while he has always impressed us with his effort and energy, we didn’t think the Tilton (N.H.) product could be a high-major player until now. The kid is simply productive when it comes to scoring and rebounding the basketball. Niang plays hard at all times, outworking opposing big men and using his toughness and physicality to get baskets inside. He can finish with both hands, and also has nice post options and spin moves.  He is more athletic than most give him credit; he can block shots and play above the rim.

Marcus Hunt, Georgia Stars 16s: Although the Stars didn’t have as many stars (no pun intended) as some of the other U-16 teams, they have a host of players who can make an impact as mid-major-plus guys. Hunt is one of them, and he was outstanding in the title game. The 6-foot-5 North Clayton (Ga.) wing is a versatile offensive player, capable of shooting three-pointers from the perimeter or running the floor and finishing in transition. Hunt also has a mid-range jumper and can score when driving to the basket.

Recruiting Notes:

- Darion Atkins said he has offers from George Washington, George Mason, Wake Forest, Maryland, VCU and Pennsylvania, with interest from Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Xavier. The 6-foot-8 Landon (Md.) forward plans on visiting Syracuse in the next week, and also wants to take a second trip to Wake Forest. Atkins said his top three at this point would be Wake Forest, Georgetown and Florida State.

- James Robinson’s stock is sure to rise after an outstanding week at the Peach Jam. Right now, though, he is hearing the most from Maryland, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

- Nic Moore had an excellent week shooting the three-point shot, and he could make an excellent guard at the mid-major level. Spiece Indy Heat coach Jared Quarles said Moore has offers from IPFW, Northwestern, Bowling Green and Indiana State, with interest from Michigan and Indiana.

- Elmhurst (Ind.) forward Antonio Wilson holds offers from IPFW, Indiana State and Eastern Michigan, according to Quarles. Illinois State is showing interest.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Randle to trim list Tuesday

Chasson Randle, one of the highest-ranked point guards in the class, could be getting closer to making a decision.

“I will be cutting my list down to seven Tuesday,” Randle said. “But there are three schools who for sure are in and they are Illinois, Stanford and Purdue.”

Reports indicated that those three schools were his favorites, but Randle denied that, saying that they are the three coming at him the hardest.

Other schools that the 6-foot-2 Rock Island (Ill.) product is considering for his final list include Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Georgetown, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Iowa and Wake Forest.

“The interest level of the school and staff,” Randle said when asked what would be the major factors in his decision. “The opportunity to play, and winning tradition.”

He said he would wait until he trims his list to plan any visits. 

Harkless still considering UConn

Connecticut is back in the mix for former Husky commit Maurice Harkless.

After removing UConn from his list earlier this month, Harkless and the Huskies have reconciled their relationship.

“Very much alive,” said Nate Blue, Harkless’ mentor. “Great talks, great talks. We’ll be up there in August.

“They understood where they went wrong and we understand their situation a lot better.”

Harkless, a 6-foot-8 forward who will play at South Kent (Conn.) next season, is also considering Arizona, Memphis, St. John’s, Georgetown, Miami (Fl.), South Florida, Rutgers, Xavier, Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse, Temple, Pittsburgh, Providence and Cincinnati.

NIKE EYBL Peach Jam, Day Three

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – If Tuesday was the day when the stars came out, with big-time performances from Mike Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Marquis Teague and Brad Beal, Wednesday was the time to showcase some lesser-known talents from the class of 2012. There were only four sessions of U-17 games, with four sessions of U-16 contests. The playoffs also kicked off during the night session for each age group, with Team Takeover, BABC, St. Louis Eagles and Spiece – the group winners – advancing to play Metro Hawks, Team Final, Oakland Soldiers and Boo Williams, the runners-up in each group. In U-16, group winners Team Takeover, Georgia Stars, BABC and Memphis YOMCA squared off. With the night session featuring all playoff games, the semifinals in U-17 and finals in U-16 are set for tomorrow. Thursday will see Team Takeover take on Team Final and the St. Louis Eagles face Spiece in U-17 action, while BABC and Georgia Stars battle for the U-16 title.

To read the rest of this article, check out the NBE Basketball Report.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

NIKE EYBL Peach Jam, Day Two

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – The finals of the inaugural NIKE Elite Youth Basketball League at the NIKE Peach Jam continued on Tuesday, as the 24 teams battled to finish in the top two spots in each group, which are the only places to advance. By the end of the day, only two teams – Team Takeover DC and the Oakland Soldiers – were undefeated, but plenty of clubs were still in contention for a playoff berth. Surprisingly, the regular-season champs, the NJ Playaz, were only 2-2 through two days and are unlikely to advance. Howard Pulley and Each One Teach One, also pool winners, are both 1-3. The heated competition to finish in the top two led to a great day two of action.

There are evals of players such as Mikael Hopkins, Amir Williams, Kyle Anderson, Anthony Davis, George Fant, AJ Hammons, Jevon Thomas and more along with recruiting updates from Trey Burke, who lists a top three, Jarnell Stokes, James Robinson, Justin Anderson, Jerami Grant, Kevin Johnson, who has two leaders, and many, many more from Day Two of the Nike EYBL championship pool play.

To read the rest of this article, check out the NBE Basketball Report.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NIKE EYBL Peach Jam, Day One

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Annually, the best event of the summer is the NIKE Peach Jam – a collection of 24 of the best NIKE-sponsored AAU teams in one spot. This year, it took on added importance, as it was the culmination of a four-event tournament that spanned three months and four cities. The top 20 teams from the Elite Youth Basketball League in Hampton, Va., Houston and Los Angeles joined four wildcard teams and headed to the Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, S.C. In other words, the best event got even better. Throw in a U-16 division with 16 of the best teams in the country, and the Peach Jam continued to stand above the rest.

Below is our look at some of the opening day standouts and some detailed recruiting lists and updates from many top players of note, which included a pair of future Big East players (Michael Carter-Williams and Tyrone Johnson) going for at least 40 points in one of their two contests and Joe Coleman of Howard Pulley racking up the points and giving NBE his latest recruiting update.

To read the rest of this article, check out the NBE Basketball Report.

Monday, July 12, 2010

King City Classic Recap

CLEVELAND – After a fairly lackluster experience at the LeBron James Skills Academy – aside from the hype of having James there, of course – the 75 or so players from that camp traveled about 40 minutes north to Cleveland State University for two days of tournament-style games. The players, broken into eight teams, competed in two games each before entering the playoffs. It was far easier to evaluate the prospects in the game-setting than it was in the drills and the controlled scrimmages. Here’s a look at some of the top guys on day one of the classic.

For scouting reports on 25 of the top players at the King City Classic, as well as 25 recruiting updates from players, check out the NBE Basketball Report.

Part A

Part B

Part C

Part D

Friday, July 9, 2010

Former UConn commit rules out Huskies

As recently as one month ago, Maurice Harkless was fully committed to Connecticut.

“He’s sticking with UConn, and I can see him curling off screens in Storrs,” a source said at the time.

Then, on June 21, Harkless decided to decommit – but was still heavily considering the Huskies.

“We believe the investigation [into NCAA allegations] is bogus, so that had no bearing,” said Nate Blue, an advisor to Harkless, on June 22. “He just wanted to open up some options.”

Now, the former Husky commit has completely eliminated the Big East school from his recruitment.

“When there are too many issues, I don’t know how to pick one,” Blue said Friday afternoon. “Look at this roster: Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel, Niels Giffey, Roscoe Smith, Maurice Harkless – and they’re still trying to bring in another guard. None of those guys can play the four spot. Not one of them. So that’s like, eight guys on the roster who play the 1, 2 or 3.”

Blue also said that Connecticut’s switch from being a team led by big men who can block shots and rebound to a perimeter-oriented group was a key factor.

“I don’t think they have really improved enough to scare anyone,” he said. “I think they’re going ‘small’ and I’m not into small ball. They switched their style of play by switching their roster to a guard roster. We signed up for old UConn, not new. They turned into Villanova. He’s too talented to be Shane Clark.”

Another reason for Harkless eliminating the Huskies, according to Blue, was the uncertainty surrounding head coach Jim Calhoun’s future, despite the contract extension.

“Calhoun’s contract is retro[active], which means he’s got three years with Harkless,” he said. “So if coach leaves after two years, we are stuck with no idea who’s in charge, which leads to transfers. I just don’t see that roster making it to the NCAA Tournament.

“Those are some of the issues. But the list of problems is very long.”

Harkless, a 6-foot-8 forward from Queens who will play at South Kent Prep (Conn.) next season, has heard from Memphis, St. John’s, Maryland, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Arizona, Temple, Cincinnati, Xavier, Syracuse, Louisville and others since decommitting.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Davis pulls trigger for Seton Hall (updated)

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard looks to have nailed down his second 2011 verbal commitment in as many weeks on Wednesday, as Lakewood (N.J.) rising senior Jarrod Davis told me he committed to the Pirates on Wednesday night.

“At 10:30 exactly, I made the call and spoke to [assistant] coach [Dan] McHale,” Davis said this morning. “Him and Coach Willard were both recruiting [me].”

A source close to the situation and the Seton Hall program indicated that the Pirate staff wanted to further evaluate Davis during this first 10-day live evaluation period in July with plans to watch him next at the Peach Jam in North Augusta (SC). The NJ Playaz will compete for the championship of the inaugural Nike Elite Youth Basketball League at this year’s Peach Jam.

“I’m going to make [my commitment to Seton Hall] official after, or at the Peach Jam,” Davis said on Thursday afternoon. “But I’m still fully committed.”

Davis recently visited the Seton Hall campus and got a better feel for the program, coaches and situation there. Even with the NCAA ‘live’ recruiting period getting underway, Davis knew he had found his home.

“It just felt the most comfortable and I have a great relationship with the coaching staff,” Davis said Wednesday night. “I loved it on my visit. It felt like home and it’s close to home so my family and friends can come watch me.”

Davis had originally trimmed his list to Seton Hall, Tennessee and Georgia Tech last month, but then completely reopened his recruitment heading into the live period.

“There were no finalists,” he said. “After thinking it over, and after my visit, I was just sold and knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

With Davis currently in Reading, Pa., participating in the Hoop Group Elite Camp and the SHU staff on the road at various events across the country, the commitment has caught a few people by surprise and caused plenty of confusion as several local newspapers also ran the story after contacting Davis.

The question was raised early this morning from one source close to the Seton Hall program, who said the commitment was not finalized by both parties. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Davis “did not commit.”

Yet another source said Davis had been informed that it was not an official commitment and Seton Hall wanted further evaluation of him on the AAU circuit in July.

Davis’ AAU coach, Jimmy Salmons of the NJ Playaz, also was unable to confirm or deny a commitment has been finalized.

“I’m hearing the same things you are: that he committed,” Salmons told NBE on Thursday morning. “They’re really interested in him, but his name never came up when I’ve talked to them. Now, I’m not here to dispel anything, but I’d like to confirm it too.”

In Davis’ mind, official commitment or not, the process is over and it is a relief to him.

“I’m just happy the process is over and I found where I’m going,” he said Wednesday night. “I wanna thank all the great programs that recruited me and my family, and friends for being behind me. Most important, I want to thank my high school coach, Randy Holmes; he has been there for me through this whole process and, through the tough times, he has stayed by my side. And the whole PBC family, my teammates, athletic director and the people of Lakewood, my family for being there for me, and my dad — he travels with me and raised me well — and I’m thankful for all.”

The 6-foot-6 forward is excited to play right away and be an immediate contributor for Seton Hall if the commitment holds up.

“I think I can be good and make a big impact quick,” Davis said. “I know I still have a lot to work on and will get better over time.”

When Davis makes his commitment official, he will join Northfield Mount Hermon guard Aaron Cosby in the SHU class of 2011. Cosby, a native of Kentucky who is prepping in Massachusetts, committed near the end of June after a visit to Seton Hall.