Counting down the 10 biggest developments of spring recruiting
Terrence Jones, who spurned Washington for Kentucky, dominates the list
An ugly spring for Pac-10, UConn, Louisville, who all struggled in recruiting
Despite the NBA rumors, Calipari's Recruiting Domination Tour continued
The final bit of news from college basketball's late signing period came out of Portland, Ore., on Wednesday night, when five-star forward Terrence Jones stunningly signed a financial aid agreement to play for Kentucky -- despite the fact that he "committed" to Washington in a press conference 20 days earlier. In the world of recruiting, the definition of commitment is always being adjusted to include more gray area.
The absurd conclusion of Jones' saga left Washington fans irate, Kentucky fans rejoicing, and me wondering: Am I supposed to feel sympathy for the kid because he Tweeted, late Wednesday, "yeah most hated player n 2010 goes 2 me," or disgust over how he dragged this out to the final hours before the May 19 deadline?
However you feel, it's undeniable that Jones' decision was among the most important developments of spring recruiting. On SI.com's countdown of the most meaningful events that happened between April 14 and May 19, Jones makes multiple appearances:
10. At least Jones taught future wafflers a lesson: Don't let the spectacle of a college commitment be more important than the college decision itself.
Five-star prospects feel compelled to make a production out of their commitments. In the Class of 2010 alone, Harrison Barnes informed North Carolina over Skype (and on national television), Brandon Knight chose Kentucky live on ESPNU, and Josh Selby committed to Kansas during a stoppage in play of the Jordan Brand Classic. Jones agreed to participate -- along with two college-bound teammates -- in an April 30 press conference at his Portland, Ore., high school that was webcast live to an audience of around 25,000. He wore a suit to the festivities, and he had all of his suitors' hats lined up on a table.
There was a slight problem: Jones hadn't actually made up his mind. So he winged it, bought some time by talking about each team, and then picked up a Washington hat after nearly grabbing one with Kansas' logo (which he said he mistook for a Kentucky hat). Huskies fans celebrated -- only to find out that, after speaking to Kentucky coach John Calipari on the phone, Jones wasn't so sure about Washington after all. While Jones was certainly entitled to take his time, he created the most awkward recruiting-limbo situation of recent memory -- especially for the folks in his camp who had established a relationship with Washington -- and made himself one of Husky fans' most reviled college hoopsters.
9. Jones' change of plans means the Pac-10 doesn't have a single top-20 recruit for 2010.
The Pac-10 is in the midst of a talent drought. The best player committed to one of the conference's teams is UCLA-bound Josh Smith, a 300-pounder who's ranked 23rd overall by Rivals, but still needs plenty of bodywork to be college-ready. There are no first-round locks from the Pac-10 in this year's NBA draft, as only ex-Washington star Quincy Pondexter is in contention for a guaranteed contract. There aren't any first-round locks from the Pac-10 in the 2011 draft, either; UCLA's Malcolm Lee, Washington's Abdul Gaddy and Washington State's Klay Thompson will all be under consideration, but not one of them is a sure thing. The league needs a large-scale infusion of future pros to get back to national prominence. Jones would've been a start.
8. On the subject of down-cycles, this was an ugly spring for UConn and Louisville.
Both Big East teams were national powers in '08-09 and had players taken in the first round of the last NBA draft (the Huskies' Hasheem Thabeet at No. 3, and the Cards' Terrence Williams at 11 and Earl Clark at 14) -- but neither could reload with any likely first-rounders in the spring. Uncertainty over coach Jim Calhoun's contract and potential NCAA violations from the Nate Miles saga hampered UConn's efforts to lure in big-time 2010 targets such as point guards Brandon Knight and Cory Joseph, swingman Doron Lamb and power forward C.J. Leslie, all of whom went elsewhere.
Louisville, meanwhile, lacks a marquee player in its 2010 class and missed on its top 2011 target, Indianapolis point guard Marquis Teague. The Teague decision was painful on multiple levels: his father played for Rick Pitino at Boston University; Pitino hired one of Teague's high school assistants, Shabaka Lands, as part of the recruiting effort; and yet they still lost out in the battle to archrival Kentucky. The Cardinals have five-star shooting guard Wayne Blackshear committed for 2011, but they had long hoped to create a killer backcourt combo with him and Teague.
7. Sidney Lowe may have saved his job at N.C. State with a strong recruiting Class of 2010.
Lowe doesn't have much to show for his four seasons in Raleigh: zero trips to the NCAA tournament, two trips to the NIT and a 20-44 record in the ACC, with his best finish a tie for ninth place. That's a recipe for getting fired ... unless you're bringing in elite recruits to join stellar forward Tracy Smith (16.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg in '09-10). After beating Kentucky in April for homegrown, five-star power forward C.J. Leslie, the 'Pack now have one of the ACC's most promising frontlines -- and in fellow headliner Ryan Harrow, they have perhaps the most underrated point guard in the entire class. Lowe should get a chance to guide this crew to an NCAA tournament. If he can't get them there, well .... you know what'll happen.
6. Texas solved its point guard problem. Or at least appears to have solved it.
The Longhorns weren't lacking in guards last year (Dogus Balbay, Avery Bradley, J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas were all part of the rotation); they just didn't have anyone who could effectively run the point in their random-ball-screen offense. As a result, one of the nation's deepest and most talented teams fell apart, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Cory Joseph, the Ontario (via Nevada's Findlay Prep) point guard who signed with Texas in late April, is a smooth, scoring point man who should help solve that problem. One imagines coach Rick Barnes will settle on a decent backcourt pairing of Joseph and either Brown or the healed Varez Ward -- and with another Canadian, Tristan Thompson, joining a frontcourt that already includes Jordan Hamilton and Gary Johnson, Texas will be a sleeper team for 2010-11.
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