Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
7/31/2006 02:14:00 PM
Fresh Players On The Recruiting Scene
Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie has broken into the rich talent of Houston this offseason.
When at least three of the top 10 players in the Class of 2007 may be headed to programs that missed the last NCAA tournament, one can tell that change is afoot in the recruiting world. The powerhouses are still throwing their weight around this summer -- UCLA landed Kevin Love, Texas grabbed Gary Johnson and Florida got Alex Tyus -- but a few new heavies are poaching some of the nation's most coveted prospects. With the summer-tournament season about to come to a close, let's take a look at four "freshly hot" teams on the scene:
4. Texas A&M
Had this highly subjective list been drafted one week ago, the Aggies would not have been included. What changed? On Thursday, coach Billy Gillispie landed the biggest recruit of his tenure in College Station, 6-foot-10 center/forward DeAndre Jordan out of Bellaire, Texas, near Houston. This is important not only because Jordan is a massive dude who happens to be the No. 2-rated center in the entire Class of '07. It means that A&M has a succession plan after star forward Joseph Jones (probably) turns pro after this season. It marks Gillispie's first big move into the rich Houston recruiting market that has been dominated of late by Texas and Arizona; the Aggies' talented young guards (Dominique Kirk and Josh Carter) hail from Dallas, and while Jones played his AAU in Houston, he had committed before Gillispie arrived. Biggest of all, this is Texas A&M beating out the likes of Indiana, Texas, LSU and Florida for a blue-chip recruit. Not a bad score heading into a season in which the Aggies could be a top-10 team.
The Trojans can't be "officially" considered hot yet ... not until O.J. Mayo confirms his reportedly behind-closed-doors commitment to play for USC, and the rumors die down about Reebok lord Sonny Vaccaro's attempts to get Mayo and buddy Bill Walker into the NBA without them ever playing a game of college ball. The mere chatter that coach Tim Floyd has landed Mayo, however, has the Trojans on the verge of being hot; he's the No. 1 player in the Class of '07 and the likely No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. If you're a guard with aspirations of leading the Pac-10 in scoring, you probably don't want to team up with Mayo ... but otherwise, why not? The kid is good enough, with the right supporting cast, to make a Final Four run in his one season.
2. Kansas State
In the span of four and a half months, the Wildcats went from being irrelevant on the recruiting trail to landing a respectable recruiting class for '06 and a potential blockbuster haul in '07. That's the Bob Huggins Factor at work. In late June, K-State landed ex-Oak Hill power forward Michael Beasley, the No. 5 overall prospect in the Class of '07, after convincing him to de-commit from Charlotte by hiring away 49ers assistant Dalonte Hill. The next big score is rumored to be small forward Bill Walker, the sidekick of Mayo and also the No. 8 overall prospect in '07. Why the rumors? Well, Huggins has been after Walker, who played last season at Cincinnati's North College Hill high school, since the coach's days with the Bearcats. Walker is fond of both Huggins and Beasley; and best of all, according to the Cincy Enquirer, Walker is using Huggins' lawyer, Richard Katz, to fight his eligibility case with the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Hmmm.
Need I remind you how bad the Boilers were last year? Just three Big Ten wins (against 13 losses) was all they could muster due to injuries and a roster that was very light on major-conference talent. And now, out of the depths, comes coach Matt Painter with a recruiting class that ranks -- no joke -- among the best in the nation. In 25 days this summer, the Boilers secured commitments from a quartet of four-star prospects, all of whom are in the top 80 of Scout.com's Class of '07 rankings. Power forward JaJuan Johnson came first, on June 27. Then, three teammates from the Indiana AAU powerhouse SYF Players made their decisions in July -- shooting guard E'Twaun Moore on the 14th, small forward Robbie Hummel on the 17th, and small forward Scott Martin on the 21st. The Boilers are ahead of Indiana in the Hoosier State recruiting wars -- and they’re well on their way out of the Big Ten basement.
On the flip side, who do you think is the coldest school right now? I'd vote for Oregon, which has two of the nation's top five recruits for '07 in its backyard (Love, of Lake Oswego, and Kyle Singler, of Medford), and didn't even make it in either player's top five. It's not as if that state produces players of Love and Singler's ilk on a yearly basis. For Ernie Kent and the Ducks, missing out on both of them is a major disappointment.
They let me run an experiment in March, and by most indications, it turned out well: The creatively named Tourney Blog spanned one month and more than 100 posts, from the Big East tournament in New York to the Final Four in Indianapolis; its pool roster was 324 strong and its readership was well over 1 million. On the night of the final game, a few Florida fans in the RCA Dome stands heckled me to the tune of, "Hey! SI.com! Blog This!" Not exactly praise, but recognition ... and that, I guess, is half the battle.
Due to the aforementioned circumstances -- as well as the fact that SI.com has, over the past five months, hatched an army of blogs -- I'm starting earlier this season. Like, July 31 earlier. So I welcome you back on board, hoops fans, and while I can't promise the same post-intensity as I had during the tournament (multiple times daily), I will do my best to help fill the void 'til November.