Ten final thoughts as the summer recruiting season draws to a close
North Carolina, Florida, Kansas came out swimmingly on the early recruiting front
Andrew Wiggins and Noah Vonleh will be the top recruits of 2013 if they reclassify
California recruit Elliott Pitts announced that he would join Sean Miller at Arizona
The newest NCAA summer recruiting model was the cause for some very long weeks for Division I coaching staffs in July.
Instead of having two "on the road for 10 days" periods sandwiched around a "five days off the road" period in July, coaches were allotted three four-day periods over the final three weeks of the month to do their in-person evaluations.
That change in evaluation opportunities just about coincided with the June 15 implementation of guidelines permitting "unlimited electronic communication" (calls and text messages) to players who have completed their sophomore seasons.
Toss that in with legislation allowing coaches to spend two hours per week with their players in the gym in the summer and it's understandable why a lot of coaches gave all the appearances of having number fingers from texting, cauliflower ears (thank you, cell phones) and bleary eyes (after at least a couple of early-morning flights per week).
A lot of coaches felt it was a tradeoff -- the change in the July evaluation structure now allows for the opportunity for in-person evaluations of prospects during April tournaments.
*Early recruiting winners: Most have North Carolina and Florida as the early "leaders" in college hoops' "Arms race."
Roy Williams has commitments from 6-foot-8 Isaiah Hicks (Oxford, N.C.; Webb) and 6-foot Nate Britt (who transferred from Washington D.C.'s Gonzaga Prep to Oak Hill Academy). Billy Donovan landed the two best prospects in the 2013 Florida class when guard Kasey Hill of Montverde Academy and 6-9 Chris Walker of Bonifay Holmes County committed to the Gators.
I'd throw Kansas -- guard Conner Frankamp (Wichita North) and swingman Brennan Greene (Tifton, Ga.; Tift County) -- into that run for No. 1 (in those neat-to-follow but ultimately meaningless recruiting ratings).
But the program that could end up signing the best 2013 class is -- shockingly enough -- the one that resides in Lexington.
Julius Randle (Plano, Texas; Prestonwood Christian) and James Young (Troy, Mich.; Troy), along with Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Richmond, Texas; Travis), are believed to be strongly considering -- if not flat out favoring -- Kentucky.
Then, again, so is Andrew Wiggins (Huntington, W. Va.; Huntington Prep).
If, somehow, any four of the aforementioned players, or all five, are in Kentucky uniforms for the 2013-14 season ... ah, one's mind wobbles just trying to envision that scenario.
*Who ended the summer travel team and camp circuit as the best prospects in the Class of 2013?
That can't be declared with relative certainty until it's determined exactly which players are members of the soon-to-be senior class.
Andrew Wiggins and Noah Vonleh (New Hampton, N.H.; New Hampton Prep) were long-since anointed as two of the elite prospects in the Class of 2014.
The speculation among many recruiters that each could "reclassify", bypassing what would be their junior years and becoming "seniors" so that they could get onto a college campus a year from now and -- we'll go on the limb and assume -- be NBA draft-eligible in 2014.
After watching Wiggins work out and play with the World Team (he's a Canadian citizen by way of Toronto) during the Nike Hoop Summit in early April, I left Portland with a pretty strong hunch that he was the best high school player in the world.
That hunch was solidified after watching him play for the CIA Bounce squad during the Memorial Weekend session of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and during the LeBron James Skills Academy in early July.
His performances in Charlottesville, Va., in June (for the NBA Players Association Camp), Las Vegas in July (for the LeBron James event and adidas Super 64) and Southern California in August (at the adidas Nations) cemented my evaluation of Vonleh -- he's the No. 2 prospect in 2014 and top five in 2013 if he's graduating in the spring.
If Wiggins and Vonleh stay put -- and somehow I don't see that happening -- my top five in 2013 are (in this order) Julius Randle; James Young; Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif.; Mitty); Andrew Harrison; and Jabari Parker (Chicago Simeon).
*More on 2014: If Wiggins and Vonleh (or one or the other) are taking their senior class pictures as you read this, here is how my 2014 ratings would shape up going into December:
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago Whitney Young) and Apple Valley High's Tyus Jones would go 1-2, followed by Emmanuel Mudiay (Arlington, Texas; Grace Prep), Kevon Looney (Milwaukee Hamilton) and Cliff Alexander (Chicago Curie).
*Is the "decommitment" season soon to be upon us in earnest? One of my favorite observations about "commitment" when it comes to high school athletes, came from Roy Williams.
"To some guys," the North Carolina coach said, "a 'commitment' is more like a 'reservation'."
Williams was actually referring, in large part, to the seemingly gazillions of high school football players who, annually, "commit" to programs only to "decommit" and "commit" to other coaches -- and, ultimately, sign national letters of intent in early February.
The most significant and recent addition to the decommitment club became Trey Lyles when the 6-8 forward from Indianapolis Tech -- who had "committed" to Indiana coach Tom Crean as a freshman -- let it be known that he was "opening up" his recruiting.
His coach at Tech (Jason Delaney) told Evan Daniels of Scout.com that Lyles "loves IU. If he had to pick right now it would be IU. He committed to so early and he wants to compare it to something."
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Lyles sign a letter of intent with Crean in November 2013, though John Calipari and Kentucky could end up being in play.
*Aussie stars on the horizon: Australia had produced some U.S. collegiate standouts -- and NBA players -- of note, among those center Andrew Bogut and Patrick Mills.
Each was lightly recruited by American college coaches before becoming well-known players at the NCAA level. That isn't going to be the case with Dante Exum and Ben Simmons.
The 6-5 Exum and 6-8 Simmons got plenty of NBA looks during early July's FIBA 17-Under Championships in Lithuania (where the Australians loss in the gold medal final to the U.S.), as well as during the adidas Nations in Southern California.
And dozens of college coaches were also duly impressed while watching the duo and their Team Australia teammates during the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas.
Exum (a point guard whose father, Cecil Exum, played with the likes of Michael Jordan during his 1981-84 career with North Carolina), turned 17 on July 13 and is scheduled to graduate in 2014. Simmons, a left-hander with remarkable perimeter skills, turned 16 on July 20 and is a member of the Class of 2015.
Drop them on the rosters of U.S. high schools and they would be locks to be McDonald's All-American in 2014 and '15, respectively.
*No academic gambles here: Three players in Nevada are among the best "student-athletes" in the Class of 2013 -- with an unusual emphasis on "student".
Guards Marcus and Malcolm Allen of Las Vegas Centennial are the sons of Stanford and Vanderbilt graduates and their weighted grade point averages (because of the heavy load of AP courses they've attacked) are well above 4.0. Programs from a lot of conferences -- including the Ivy League -- are as enamored with their on-court skills as they are their transcripts.
The same could be said of 6-7 Hunter Myers (who attends Douglas in Minden, just outside of Reno).
Myers will sign a letter of intent with a school with just as much an eye to its engineering program as he will toward its basketball program's record.
"I've never looked at a transcript that is impressive as his is," said one coach.
*No letdown in Tucson: Sean Miller's teams have made just one NCAA tournament appearance during his first three seasons as Arizona's head coach. The days of the Wildcats being part of NIT brackets in March are likely to be put on hold for a long while, though.
Miller was known as one of the better recruiters in his profession while he was at Xavier and that reputation has only grown in Tucson. Six-five Elliott Pitts (Concord, Calif.; De La Salle) went into the spring as one of the nation's most under-valued prospects, but came into August with scholarship offers from the likes of Cal, Gonzaga, Washington, Virginia and Georgetown.
He announced earlier this week that he plans to join Miller in Tucson a year from now.
*Butler loading up for move to A-10: If you're wondering how well Brad Stevens' program will hold up during its transition from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 Conference, rest assured: In 6-8 Noah Berry (St. Louis DeSmet) and 6-7 Andrew Chrabascz (Ashburnham, Mass.; Cushing Academy), Bulldogs' faithful will be getting as good a pair of 2013 forwards as will be picked up by a "non-BCS conference" program.
Yes, I used every effort possible to avoid using that "mid-major" tag.
*Loaded with 2013 signees: No one cranked out Division I talent for the Class of 2012 like Findlay Prep did last season.
Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Dominic Artis (Oregon), Anthony Bennett (UNLV), Winston Shepard (San Diego State), Matt Willms (UTEP) and Amedeo Della Valle (Ohio State) were major elements in Mike Peck's team's 29-1 season.
West Virginia's Huntington Prep and Montverde Academy of Florida could have rosters that could challenge the one Peck had at his disposal last season.
Along with returnees in Andrew Wiggins and another highly recruited Canadian import, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, coach Rob Fulford was expected to add two of the top post prospects in the Class of 2013 to his roster in 6-9 Dominic Woodson (Austin, Texas) and 6-9 Moses Kingsley (New Albany, Miss.).
Montverde Academy (in its second season under former St. Patricks' coach Kevin Boyle) has added transfer big men 6-10 Dakari Johnson (who was ineligible last season after moving with Boyle to Florida) and 6-8 Devin Williams (Cincinnati Withrow) to go with as good a backcourt as exists on the high school level.