Class of 2012 still making moves
UConn made the biggest move in getting Andre Drummond to commit in 2011
UCLA, N.C. State, Kentucky, Houston, Providence have since landed big recruits
Among them: Kyle Anderson, Rodney Purvis, Archie Goodwin, Donrad Knowles
Since the summer evaluation period closed on July 31, no team pulled off a bigger recruiting coup than Connecticut. The defending national champs convinced the No. 1-ranked center in the Class of 2012, Andre Drummond, to not only commit to the Huskies but reclassify to the Class of 2011. And despite having no available scholarships due to NCAA-imposed penalties, the school managed to free up a full ride for him by getting redshirt freshman Michael Bradley, who spent most of his youth in a Tennessee orphanage, to "volunteer" to give up his scholarship for one season. UConn's maneuvering was at once deft and diabolical, and Drummond will be a key part of its bid for a repeat national championship.
But what of his former brethren from the Class of 2012? They've been making moves of their own -- moves whose impact won't be felt for a year at the college level, but are worthy of consideration before our focus shifts to previewing the season at hand. What follows is our review of the five biggest post-summer developments on the recruiting trail.
The Bruins have long been a California program, and they stayed that way even when coach Ben Howland arrived from Pittsburgh in 2003 with his bruising brand of basketball: Of the 34 scholarship players who arrived in Westwood from 2003-11, either by recruitment or transfer, 25 were from California. Four more were from the West Coast (Oregon, Washington and Arizona). Howland's entire impressive lineage of UCLA-to-NBA guards came from California, too.
But the state's Class of 2010 talent pool was exceptionally light -- it only included one, top-40 player in the Recruiting Service Consensus Index (RSCI) in Bruins commitment Tyler Lamb, at 39 -- and Howland and his staff didn't gain footholds into the much stronger 2011 and 2012 classes. Arizona coach Sean Miller swooped in to grab four of the top six California-grown prospects (Josiah Turner, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Gabe York) from those classes, positioning the Wildcats to be the league's dominant program. Howland, who's three years removed from his last Final Four trip, desperately needed to respond to the threat of an Arizona juggernaut -- and he went all the way across the country for reinforcements.
The Bruins hiring of assistant coach Korey McCray, the former CEO of the Atlanta Celtics, perhaps' adidas best AAU program, helped net them four-star small forward Jordan Adams in June, and has put them in the running for two Georgia big men, Tony Parker and Shaq Goodwin. While UCLA did land one California point guard, Dominic Artis, its biggest prize to date came from the previously untapped market of New Jersey, in the form of 6-foot-8 point forward Kyle Anderson, the No. 4 overall prospect in the Class of 2012. The do-it-all playmaker picked the Bruins after they waged a fierce recruiting battle with Seton Hall, St. John's, Florida and Georgetown. "The irony of that," said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, "is that some UCLA people were worried Steve Lavin would steal recruits from Southern California for St. John's."
UCLA's focus has now shifted to Las Vegas, the home of the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2012, wing scorer Shabazz Muhammad. He's the crown jewel of the adidas AAU conglomerate, and has been rumored to be leaning toward the Bruins, but is unlikely to make a decision until the spring. If he picks UCLA, it would almost certainly own 2012's No. 1 class -- a stunning climb out of a two-year recruiting rut.
|Destinations of top California prospects|
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|Class of 2011|
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In May we looked at the chain reaction, starting all the way back with John Pelphrey's firing from Arkansas, that led to Raleigh, N.C., five-star shooting guard Rodney Purvis being a free-agent recruit. Last week, new Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried landed Purvis, a prolific scorer, as the centerpiece of their Class of 2012. While Rivals.com's Meyer says Purvis was a must-get recruit -- "When you have someone who's right in Raleigh, and Duke and Carolina aren't in on him, you have to get it done" -- the majority of elite players, of late, have tended to leave their home states:
Of the RSCI's top 20 from the Class of 2011, just five stayed home: Adonis Thomas (Memphis), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), P.J. Hairston (North Carolina), Tony Wroten (Washington) and Cody Zeller (Indiana).
Of the RSCI's top 20 from the Class of 2010, just six stayed home: Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Perry Jones (Baylor), Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), C.J. Leslie (N.C. State), Joe Jackson (Memphis) and Patric Young (Florida).
Gottfried may not be done in the state of North Carolina, either: He's still in pursuit of 6-6 Durham wing T.J. Warren, who ranks No. 24 in the RSCI and recently took Kentucky off his short list.
Will 2012 be the first year in John Calipari's tenure that the Wildcats don't bring in a blockbuster class? Not if they get a commitment from Muhammad, who plans to visit Lexington for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 14. But at the moment, UK has just one 2012 pledge, which came on Sept. 21 from Archie Goodwin, an Arkansas combo guard who ranks 10th in the RSCI -- and it was just eliminated from the hunt for the No. 3 overall prospect, Mitch McGary, a Michigan-born big man who could've slid into Anthony Davis' spot in the lineup after his inevitable one-and-done jump to the NBA. The Wildcats remain involved with a number of big men in the 8-20 RSCI range, including Anthony Bennett (Ontario, Can.), DaJuan Coleman (Dewitt, N.Y.) and Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn.)
A new entry in the UK recruiting picture is Gary Harris, a Fishers, Ind., two-guard who ranks 15th in the RSCI and had been expected to land in the Big Ten, either at Indiana, Michigan State or Purdue. Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels says Harris' interest in the Wildcats is serious -- "They're getting in late on [Harris], but Kentucky is a school that has always intrigued him" -- and a '12-13 backcourt featuring Goodwin, Harris and N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow would be formidable. But for fans who've become accustomed to landing a John Wall/Brandon Knight/Marquis Teague/Anthony Davis-level star every year, it may be a slight letdown.
The best mid-major/non-BCS class in the country -- and it's not even close -- belongs to Houston coach James Dickey. In early September, his Cougars secured commitments from two of greater Houston's best prospects: 6-7 small forward Danuel House, the No. 26 player in the RSCI, and 6-9 forward Danrad "Chicken" Knowles, the No. 63 player in the RSCI and perhaps the No. 1 recruiting name of the past decade. (Louisville fans had launched an impassioned "Bring Chicken to the Bucket" campaign online, but it was to no avail.) Dickey continued his All-Name team quest on Sept. 28 by adding emerging 6-10 big man Valentine Izundu, a three-star prospect with strong shot-blocking skills.
No other C-USA teams can match the recruiting force that is Josh Pastner at Memphis, but Houston is setting itself up to be a contender in the league if it continues to capitalize on local talent. "Houston did a great job of focusing on its hometown and building relationships," Scout.com's Daniels said. "If you keep a couple of Houston guys home every year, you could have a pretty good team -- and House is a difference-maker who has a legitimate shot of making the McDonald's [All-American] Game."
My colleague Andy Glockner did a fine job writing about the buzz new coach Ed Cooley is creating around the Providence program by bringing in two of New England's best perimeter players, homegrown wing Ricardo Ledo (No. 15 RSCI) and New London, Conn., point guard Kris Dunn (No. 21 RSCI). In the past, the Friars had capitalized on under-the-radar recruits, such as Ryan Gomes and Marshon Brooks; now Cooley is bringing in much-hyped stars of the AAU circuit.
Ledo is a lethal scorer with an NBA future if he keeps his head on straight; evaluators rave about his skills but caution that he's already bounced between five high schools and had difficulty being a model teammate. If he makes it to Providence and is eligible to play, he and Dunn are likely to form one of the Big East's must-see backcourts.