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Chain reactions (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday May 10, 2006 1:10PM; Updated: Wednesday May 10, 2006 3:49PM
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Former Oklahoma recruit Scottie Reynolds (left) Darrell Arthur (right), who ended up signing with Kansas, were both free agents this spring.
Former Oklahoma recruit Scottie Reynolds (left) Darrell Arthur (right), who ended up signing with Kansas, were both free agents this spring.
Robert Beck/SI

Schools impacted: Oklahoma, Indiana, VCU, UAB, Marquette, Purdue, Kansas, Baylor, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Arizona, Villanova, Michigan, SMU, UConn ...

Nov. 9, 2005: On the first day of the early signing period, Sampson rakes in a fivesome -- including three Scout.com hot 100 prospects -- that comprises his best recruiting class at Oklahoma: Damion James (No. 19), Scottie Reynolds (No. 33), Keith Clark (No. 78), Jeremy Mayfield and Tony Crocker. "That class," says Telep, "was top-five in the country." Uncharacteristically for Sampson, who has a reputation of reliance on juco talent, none of the five is from the JC ranks. Sampson says his Class of 2006 "has a chance to compete for a national championship one day."

Reverberations: Sampson -- whose rep later took a hit after the admission he and his staff made 550 impermissible phone calls to recruits between 2000 and 2004 -- had the best class in the Big 12, and he did it by stealing the state of Texas' second-ranked player, James, away from myriad in-state schools.

Feb. 15: With the ax soon to fall in Bloomington, Hoosiers coach Mike Davis makes a pre-emptive strike and tells players he will be stepping down at season's end.

Reverberations: IU guard Robert Vaden -- the team's top long-distance threat -- opts to leave the school, and eventually follows Davis to UAB. Recruit Darrell Arthur, the No. 1-ranked player in Texas and the No. 9 overall prospect in the Class of 2006, removes the Davis-less Hoosiers as the front-runner for his services.

Kelvin Sampson came from outside the
Kelvin Sampson came from outside the "Indiana family" to take over the Hoosiers.
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March 29: In a surprising move, Sampson, whose Sooners were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is hired to replace Davis.

Reverberations: Sampson's stellar recruiting class is in limbo now that his 12-year tenure at OU is over -- and all of the prospects' runners-up start licking their chops.

April 10 and May 2: With his ex-recruits wavering on his ex-school, Sampson works on re-stocking Indiana -- by returning to the juco-mining ways that characterized his team-building efforts at former gigs at Montana Tech, Washington State and OU. Commitment No. 1 is Mike White, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Lee College in Texas whose play -- which Sampson described as "hard-nosed and aggressive" -- has earned him the moniker "King Kong." White could replace Marco Killingsworth in a (Mike) White-(D.J.) White front line. OU's second commitment is Lance Stemler, a 6-8 juco power forward of a different mold -- a shooter who connected on more than 40 percent of his 3s last year as the leading scorer for Southwestern Illinois College.

Reverberations: Purdue is foiled by its in-state rival, as Mike White's only other recruiting visit was to West Lafayette. Marquette is hit even harder: The Golden Eagles have prided themselves on plucking underrated recruits out of Illinois and Indiana (Dwyane Wade and Dominic James) and were set to land Stemler -- a quality replacement for the sweet-shooting Steve Novak -- before being robbed by the Hoosiers at the last minute.

The Sooners moved quickly to hire Jeff Capel, one of the youngest head coaches in D-I.
The Sooners moved quickly to hire Jeff Capel, one of the youngest head coaches in D-I.

April 11: Jeff Capel, the 31-year-old former Duke guard, leaves Virginia Commonwealth to become Sampson's replacement at Oklahoma. "I really feel this is a place ... where you can win the whole thing," Capel says at his first press conference.

Reverberations: OU's class of '06 signees don't seem to share Capel's level of confidence, and waver on their commitments ...

April 17: Tyrus Thomas, the LSU forward who leapt from nobody to NBA lottery prospect during his redshirt freshman season, declares for the Draft following the Tigers' run to the Final Four. Tangential to this Sampson Chain, you say? Keep reading ...

Reverberations: Arthur, the ex-Hoosiers recruit, takes notice of the vacancy at the four-spot in Baton Rouge, and allows LSU to make a late jump into his recruiting process, which has already spanned eight months and also involved, at some point, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas and UConn. Accompanying Arthur on his unofficial visit to LSU over the weekend of April 29 is none other than Reynolds, the former Oklahoma signee who's now looking like a free agent.

May 3: Capel, unable to convince James, Reynolds and Mayfield to stick with the Sooners, grants the trio their official releases from their '05 letters of intent. "Naturally, it would have been our preference that all of the signees stay with OU, and we exerted considerable energy toward that end," Capel says.

Reverberations: Now, it's a free-for-all. Reynolds is entertaining offers from a list of five (Illinois, Villanova, LSU, Michigan and Wake Forest); James is looking at Arizona, Texas (presumably to fill the spot vacated by P.J. Tucker) and Texas A&M; and Mayfield is still undecided. For Oklahoma, Telep says, "It's a pretty devastating blow; but then again, losing your head coach is pretty bad, too. It's a tough blow all around."

Darrell Arthur waited until the last minute before spurning LSU and Baylor to sign with Kansas.
Darrell Arthur waited until the last minute before spurning LSU and Baylor to sign with Kansas.
Robert Beck/SI

May 9: In a press conference at his grandmother's house in Dallas, Arthur ends a recruiting process that dragged out for nine months by selecting neither LSU nor home-state favorite Baylor, but Kansas, which has been stockpiling McDonald's All-Americans (five in its past two classes) like nobody's business. Arthur had been secretive about his plans, not deciding until the 11th hour. "I told my mom [this morning], 'I had a dream about Kansas, that's probably where I'm going to go,'" Arthur told Scout.com.

Reverberations: "Getting Arthur is enormous," Telep says. "He's one of the few guys [in the '06 class] who can be an instant-impact player." Baylor, like Charlotte with Beasley, is crushed about missing out on Arthur, who said just a day earlier he was leaning toward the Bears. LSU missed out on a chance to replace Thomas with a top-flight talent. Arthur was the final top-10 recruit left on the board leading up to the May 17 deadline for the spring signing period, so the remaining recruiting drama is left to the ex-Sooner signees.

The State of Things to Come: How many programs' fortunes were altered? Indiana has a more stable coaching situation, but is making a brief move toward juco talent. As its former commitments scatter about the country, Oklahoma loses out on a grand opportunity to transform a major recruiting class into a Final Four team. Kansas now has another blue-chipper for whom it needs to find PT. LSU flirted with becoming a "national" team rather than one stocked with in-state stars. And two big-time players -- James and Reynolds -- are still at large, waiting to be snatched up in the next week. Plenty of movement, and no shortage of drama.