Wall, Teague and Meeks top list of game's biggest landscape-changers
Where will John Wall land? It's down to Duke, Kentucky and Miami
If Jeff Teague returns, Wake Forest could be among the ACC elite
Jodie Meeks could bring Kentucky an SEC title if he returns to Lexington
Eight potential first-round picks have already kept their names out of the NBA draft, the latest being Kentucky's Patrick Patterson, and it's only May 12. Just two of Scout.com's top 20 recruits have yet to pick a school, and one of them, New Yorker Lance Stephenson, seems to be a player few teams actually want. The one coach who's been rumored for an NBA job, Louisville's Rick Pitino, has vowed he's staying put. Much of the college basketball landscape for 2009-10 has come into focus at a surprisingly early date.
The power to alter the upcoming season now lies largely in the hands of three players -- we'll call them the landscape-changers -- and here's where they stand:
1. John Wall, uncommitted HS senior point guard, Word of God Academy, Raleigh, N.C.
The past two college hoops offseasons have been defined by the strange doings of point guards in North Carolina: Last year it was Ty Lawson, who pulled out of the draft after a small legal dust-up, and went on to lead the Tar Heels to a national title. This year it's Wall, a high-schooler who had his own run-in with the law (a breaking-and-entering charge) and who has fan bases from at least three schools hanging on his every word, due to the fact that he's a Derrick Rose-level game-changer.
Wall's camp has yet to do any official shrinking of a list that's seven schools deep (Baylor, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Miami, Memphis, N.C. State), but his advisor and former AAU coach, Brian Clifton, told SI.com on Monday that it would be "accurate" to assume that the race was now between Duke, Kentucky and Miami. Wall, who's the nation's No. 1 point guard prospect and could be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, would give the Blue Devils the point guard they sorely need, since neither Nolan Smith, Elliott Williams or Jon Scheyer are perfectly suited for the position. The Wildcats, although they already took a commitment from five-star point guard Eric Bledsoe, could become a title contender with a starting lineup that includes Wall, Jodie Meeks, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, would be an NCAA tournament team and put themselves on the map as a destination for future, elite recruits if Wall goes on to be the program's signature alum.
Clifton, who met with Wall and his mother on Monday night, gave some insight into the schools' respective situations, with the most interesting comments being about Kentucky, which has publicly been considered the front-runner since John Calipari jumped from Memphis on March 31. Wall has confirmed that he's still considering the Wildcats after they accepted Bledsoe's commitment, but, Clifton said, "The knee-jerk reaction, and justifiably so, would be to take a minute of pause to look further into it. Because I can't imagine, to get a player like Eric Bledsoe, that [Kentucky] would tell him, we're going to recruit over you immediately and not play you very much as a freshman.
"There had to be some assurances made to him about being able to share the ball, that would inspire him to commit despite the possibility of John still coming there. ... So we have to revisit that situation and make sure it's going to be great to have two of the top four point guards on the roster at once."
By revisiting it, Clifton said hopes to talk to Calipari as well as Bledsoe's camp, to see what their expectations are for next season at Kentucky. (Bledsoe has been quoted as saying that he and Wall can coexist on the court, and that, "I'm going to play my position either if [Wall does go to UK] or he don't.") Said Clifton, "It's definitely not a deal-breaker, but I'd be remiss in my duty as a guy that's helping John and his family if we don't explore it fully."
It has been speculated that Duke is Clifton's preferred destination for Wall, in part because of rumors that Clifton hopes to become Wall's agent next season, and Duke would be the place where he'd be best insulated from outside suitors. Clifton denied this to SI.com last month -- "I'll be in John's life in some capacity, but it won't be as his agent," he said -- but Clifton does, definitely, like Duke.
He cited the fact that the Blue Devils had a clear opening at the point-guard spot as a benefit, and said that, of the teams Wall was considering, Duke had the best chance of competing for a national title next season, a fact that he felt should not be taken lightly.
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