Cousins could join the Memphis family; Favors proves to be best
DeMarcus Cousins may go to a Conference USA school, but it won't be UAB
Power forward Derrick Favors is the top player in this year's senior class
The many reasons why Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) is nation's No. 1 team
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- What we learned while watching 14 games over three days in the Birthplace of Basketball:
DeMarcus Cousins may go to a Conference USA school, but it won't be UAB. Last February the Birmingham, Ala., native gave a verbal commitment to Blazers' coach Mike Davis, but never signed a National Letter of Intent in November. When UAB denied Cousins' request to include a clause in his National Letter of Intent that would permit him to be released if Davis departed for another job, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Cousins chose not to sign and re-opened his recruitment. Now says he is done with UAB. Asked if he noticed Memphis coach John Calipari in the stands during his double-double (17 points, 19 rebounds) performance against Lincoln (Coney Island, N.Y.), the versatile Cousins said: "Oh, I did. As of now, Memphis and I have the best relationship." Adding to the intrigue, Cousins said he speaks with Memphis signee Xavier Henry "almost everyday." Washington, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, N.C. State and Kansas State have all been in touch, as well.
Derrick Favors is the top player in this year's senior class. Lance Stephenson, John Wall, Cousins and Henry have made their cases, but the NBA-ready Favors has put up the numbers on the court and carried himself well off it. "He's the best out there," said Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) coach Steve Smith. "He has the best skills and the best character. Some might not take non-game aspects into account, but I do."
Hotchkiss (Lakeville, Conn.) will soon send two guards to major Division I programs. Junior Jason Morris, a highly-skilled athlete still working on his shot and defense, hails from Augusta, Ga., and is getting attention from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Duke and others. Word has it that Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt is hot for Morris. Hewitt was in the stands before tip-off of Morris's 10 a.m. game Saturday. More impressive may be sophomore Derrick Wilson, who is a physically-imposing tailback on the football team. A military brat from Alaska, Wilson is a hoop head first, according to basketball coach Fred Benjamin. Virginia, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Xavier have offered already.
American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) guard Kenny Boynton thought he was going to Duke until his visit to Florida last fall. A 10-minute "chance" meeting with Tim Tebow impressed Boynton on campus and so did the atmosphere in Gainesville, but the surrounding players meant just as much. The bouncy guard who has a sharpshooter's range will be the perfect complement to the Gators' current backcourt. Grouped with sophomore Nick Calathes, a workaholic, and freshman Erving Walker, an assassin from three, Billy Donovan will have SEC rivals wishing Boynton went to Duke. "If you're up six with a few minutes left in the second half, would you feel safe with your lead?" said one SEC assistant coach.
If you want to see great guard play the next two winters, get to the D.C. area. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) junior Josh Selby has committed to Tennessee. Gonzaga College Prep (Washington, D.C.) point man Tyler Thornton has committed to Duke. Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.) point Kendall Marshall is bound for Chapel Hill. Just outside the league at Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) is a future JTIII disciple Markel Starks. To listen to DeMatha coach Mike Jones explain it, each has his own style. Selby can jump with anybody and has the body control to slip through crevices in the lane. Thornton is the ultimate competitor; Marshall is the consummate lead guard seeking to distribute first. For Selby, who committed in September, the competition will be tough Wednesday when the Stags play at Gonzaga. "The crowd will be sold out before the freshman game three hours prior to our tip and the student sections will be chanting against each other," Jones said. "It's everything you'd want from a high school game."
St. Mark's School (Southborough, Mass.) forwards Erik Murphy (Florida) and Nate Lubick (Georgetown) rightfully get plenty of attention in the New England area, but they're not the only locals on the national map. Central Catholic (Lawrence, Mass.) forward Carson Desrosiers drew attention from colleges at 6:30 a.m. workouts last fall. At 6-9, the junior, who led the Raiders to a Division I state title last season, has a nice base, but could be a force as he adds upper body strength. The shooting touch has been evident since hitting a trio of threes in his first game as a freshman. That outside touch was on display again Saturday. Eighteen scholarship offers are on the table, and UNC has been in to look.
The biggest misnomer along the trail these days belongs to Oklahoma-bound Keith "Tiny" Gallon. On Saturday the 6-9, 306-pound Humble, Texas, product filled it up from behind the three-point line with 6-of-9 against Derrick Favors and South Atlanta (Ga.). Asked afterward if his outside shooting would complement Blake Griffin's inside game next season, Gallon made clear that he does not expect to see Griffin in Norman next season. "Oh, that man gone," Gallon said.
Jim Calhoun's recruits are already being hardened to the Big East's physical play. UConn signees Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Alex Oriakhi, both of whom committed to UConn as sophomores at Winchendon (Mass.), now play at the Tilton (N.H.) School, but they've been making their way to Storrs, Conn., for stays with current Huskies. Coombs-McDaniel, who went for 33 points on 10-of-19 shooting in Tilton's 98-79 win over Hotchkiss, said he usually rooms with center Hasheem Thabeet and thinks the veteran is always preparing him for conference play. "He's always hitting us," he said. Knocking the 6-9, 245-pound Oriakhi may be more challenging for Thabeet. "I watch those games and I just want to absorb everything," Oriakhi said.
Bob Hurley has new toys to play with, and none of them are guard-sized. Hurley, the St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) coach who recently retired from his position at the city's recreation department, has four Division I-level big men now and a faceless rotation of guards. Playing for the first time, transfer Devon Collier, who could not play until Monday due to transfer rules in New Jersey that forces newcomers to sit 30 days, showed why ACC and Big East schools are after him. Collier, a long, lean lefty who has been working on his ball handling, went for 19 points and 10 rebounds in his debut. "He is the best basketball player on that team right now,' said one scout. "That's including [Villanova signee] Dominic Cheek."
Mater Dei is not only the nation's No. 1 team, but it's the most efficient, too. Starting a lineup of five Division I signees, the Monarchs ran Whitney Young (Chicago) off the court in the second half of an 85-61 win. USC-bound point guard Gary Franklin adds athleticism to the group, but UNC recruits David and Travis Wear, as well as Stanford commit Andy Brown, showed that they can get up and down the court. The Monarchs collected 26 assists on 35 baskets Monday.