The RTC Interview Series: Talking Recruiting with Dave Telep and Jeff BorzelloPosted by WCarey on August 7th, 2013
Rush the Court: With the summer recruiting window now closed, who are some of the top performers in the Class of 2014 and what makes those players so special?
Dave Telep: To be honest with you, I have not had time to really process all of that yet. But I think when you are talking about 2014, you have to include Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, IL/Whitney Young), Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN/Apple Valley), Cliff Alexander (Chicago, IL/Curie), Myles Turner (Euless, TX/Trinity), and Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, TX/Prime Prep Academy) – in some order. I think with this class, whoever ends up being number one right now will be challenged and pushed throughout the year by the rest of the guys. I think we learned a lot in the month of July, but I do not think we have one guy who is ripping away from the rest of the pack to a point where he cannot be caught.
Jahlil Okafor is the complete package at the post position. His ability to catch the ball and position himself near the basket is outstanding. Cliff Alexander probably had the best summer – start-to-finish – of any big guy in the country. He is a large human being who is relentless and loves to rebound. Tyus Jones is the ultimate game manager. Skip Prosser used to say about Chris Paul, “I hand him the ball at the start of the game and at the end of the game, he hands it back over in good shape.” To me, Tyus Jones is that same kind of player. Emmanuel Mudiay plays the game like he is on skates. He reminds me of John Wall a little bit with his approach. They are different players, but they are both scoring point guards, with good size, scoring ability, and really want to just rip it and go. With Myles Turner, I am not sure two years from now we will look at this class and Myles Turner will not be the best prospect. When you stack up all these guys in-terms of long term potential, I am not sure that there is anyone who is like Myles Turner.
Jeff Borzello: The three weeks in July were great for helping to establish the rankings because you were able to take into account head-to-head matchups and things like that. Jahlil Okafor is just so skilled. There are not many guys his size that are able to do the things that he does. He passes so well, he can play in the high post, and he can play in the low post. When you look at his AAU teammate Cliff Alexander, the guy is just a physical specimen. He is stronger than most players he goes against. He might be the most productive big man in high school basketball. He might not be the best prospect, but he is so productive because he is so big. Myles Turner is probably the biggest riser of the past two months or so. He is a seven-footer who can shoot threes, run the floor, he is a great shot blocker, and might be the best interior defender in the country. It is kind of fun to compare the elite point guards – Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay – just because they are so different. Tyus Jones is more of the cerebral/runs-the-team winner. He is a really good passer and keeps things under control. Emmanuel Mudiay, on the other hand, is a legitimate possible future NBA All-Star. He is that talented. His ceiling is extremely high, he is stronger than most guys he goes against, he can get in the lane at will, and he is a much improved jump shooter. The elite guys in the country do a lot of different things. This year, they are not too similar in their skill sets.
RTC: Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have long made known their intentions to play college basketball at the same school. This is definitely a unique situation given the fact that Okafor and Jones are from different states, are not related, and are two of the top players in the Class of 2014. What are your thoughts on this rare situation and is there any possibility that this package might get broken up?
Telep: Most of the time when two guys tell you they are going to school together, you are just waiting for the ceiling to fall in. You do not necessarily believe that things are going to work out the way they let everyone believe it will. However, the dynamics of this relationship is very special. You have two guys who already won a gold medal together at the 2012 FIBA U-17 World Championship and roomed together during the games in Lithuania. They have spent a lot of time together. One is the best point guard and the other is the best post player in the class, so you can understand why they would want to go to school together if they are already friends. It almost makes too much sense. Now, there are colleges as we speak that are trying to rip and pull this package away – as they should – because they do not think they can get both guys. Just to give you the reality of the situation – Minnesota is on Jones’ list, but it is not on Okafor’s list and Illinois is on Okafor’s list, but it is not on Jones’ list. On the other hand, you have a group of other schools (Duke, Kentucky, Baylor, Ohio State, etc.) that are actively going after both players. One official visit is already scheduled at Baylor and I strongly believe another one will be set for Duke. I would imagine a lot more will come out about both guys’ recruitment over the next few weeks, so we will have a better idea of where things are at with it.
Borzello: With package deals, it always seems like kids talk about them and it never ends up happening. It is usually one thing or another — some different circumstances here and there — and it always ends up falling apart. This one, however, has remained together throughout the process. They keep saying that they are going to play together. There are schools that are trying to rip this package apart, as they might want one player and not the other. It does seem like though that whoever gets one guy is going to get the other and that will probably end up being the best recruiting class in the country, as both Jones and Okafor are phenomenal players.
RTC: Jahlil Okafor’s AAU coach, Mike Irvin of Mac Irvin Fire, told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that he believes Okafor and Jones will end up at Duke. What should an outsider make of Irvin’s belief and do you believe his assertion will come to fruition?
Telep: First, this is not some revelation. Second, I believe Jahlil and Jahlil’s father are going to be the ones who will speak and provide the more definite answers in that situation. When you look at all the schools who are recruiting both players and what they have in common, I think it is reasonable to say that Duke is the clubhouse leader at the moment. I never really saw that as a revelation, it is not like he said they were for sure “going” to Duke. However, it is completely plausible that both Jones and Okafor end up going to Duke.
Borzello: The general consensus or feeling is that Duke is the leader for both. I do not think it is any sort of done deal yet. There are other teams still very much involved, but I feel he would definitely have an idea of how Duke’s recruitment of Okafor is going. He has also probably talked to some people who are fairly knowledgeable about how Tyus Jones’ recruitment is going. I would not take this as a 100% guarantee that both guys are going to Duke, but I think it just adds to the general consensus that Duke is the leader for both guys right now.
RTC: Who is a player in the Class of 2014 who helped his stock most dramatically this summer?
Telep: Great question. I actually thought there were a lot of guys who really, really helped their stock. I do not think we had a summer where a single guy really captivated the limelight, but there were several guys who kept popping up. The elite guy I was impressed with was Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, CA/Mater Dei). I did not think he would finish up as a Top 10 guy when I saw him as a freshman, but he will end up in the Top 10. He has reshaped his body, his athleticism has exploded, and he has become a guy you can count on to win with. I thought he had just a phenomenal summer. I thought Kelly Oubre (Richmond, TX/Bush) was another player who really raised his game. Last year, he was just a shooter and he has now turned into a scorer. When you look at the point guard position, he may be 5’9”, but Tyler Ulis (Chicago Heights, IL/Marian Catholic) is a handful to deal with it. He is a player who saw his stock go straight through the roof. Angel Delgado (Troy, NY/Redemption Christian Academy) is another player who really helped himself. You do not just mess around and have the kind of summer he had rebounding the basketball. Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre, Tyler Ulis, and Angel Delgado – those are four guys who I thought had really, really quality summers.
Borzello: Since April, Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, FL/Arlington Country Day) is up there as that guy. Before April, he was generally seen as more of a mid-major guy. Not many people had really seen him play and not many people really had him considered as a top prospect. During the spring and summer, he became possibly a five-star prospect. I think he is one of the 20 best players in the country. He committed to Florida at the end of June. After committing, a lot of guys might be lackadaisical on the court because they know they are committed and do not have to prove anything to anybody, but Francis went out and showed the same confidence and same skill that he had previously shown. He is very fun to watch. In fact, he is among my most entertaining players to watch in the Class of 2014.
RTC: Additionally, if you had to name one player from the Class of 2014 who is a bit under-the-radar, who would that player be?
Telep: I have always been fond of Kameron Chatman (Long Beach, CA/Poly) as an under-the-radar type player. I think right now, he is physically behind his peer group. When he gets to school and finds the weight room, he is a guy who can develop into a very good college player and possibly an even better professional player down the road.
Borzello: Riley LaChance (Brookfield, WI/Central) is my under-the-radar guy. I saw him play in Milwaukee in the first of the three periods and right away, he impressed me. I had never heard of him or seen him play before, but he was a guy who was being looked at by a variety of mid-major programs. Bigger schools are getting involved now. He is a guy who would be better off excelling at the mid-major level than go somewhere he is not going to play a ton of minutes. He can probably go in right away at the mid-major level and average 12 or 13 points a game. He is that type of player.
RTC: Moving to the Class of 2015, who are some players in that class that people should keep an eye on?
Telep: This class is looking fun at the top. You have to start with Malik Newman (Jackson, MS/Callaway), who already led the U-16 team to the FIBA World Championship and he also demonstrated his ability to really score at the Peach Jam. Unlike other guys from that region – Monta Ellis and Louis Williams to name two – who really struggled in making the transition from scoring guard to the point, I think Newman is actually making that transition right now. Not everyone sees it that way, but with great players around him, I think he has a chance to be a really successful point guard right now. Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas, NV/Bishop Gorman), Derrick Jones (Radnor, PA/Archbishop John Carroll), and Tyler Dorsey (Bellflower, CA/St. John Bosco) are guys who also had really strong summers and put themselves in good position on the national landscape. Ben Simmons (Montverde, FL/Montverde Academy) is an Australian kid who did not play AAU this summer. He is a guy who when the ball goes up and the season starts, he will be a difference maker. A guy who came out of nowhere in the Class of 2015 to have a really big summer was Doral Moore (Locust Grove, GA/Luella). At 6’11”, he really caught people’s eyes as a prospect. He is not a player yet, but he has emerged as a big-time prospect.
Borzello: 2015 is loaded at the top with quality big men. Malik Newman, a combo guard, is number one right now though. Newman probably entered the summer as the top player in the class and his play backed that up – had a 40-point game at the Peach Jam and teamed up with Mudiay on the AAU circuit during the second and third periods. There are a lot of good big men in this class, but I think Newman really distinguished himself as the best player in the class. He can really score and is virtually impossible to stop when he gets going. But after him, it is a lot of big men. Stephen Zimmerman, Ben Simmons, Ivan Rabb (Oakland, CA/Bishop O’Dowd), Diamond Stone (Milwaukee, WI/Dominican), and Cheick Diallo (Centereach, NY/Our Savior New American) are right up there at the top of the class. Of all those big men, I would probably take Zimmerman first just because he can do so many things – he can score, block shots, run the floor, and play defense. He was a bit up and down this summer because his AAU team did not really get him the ball enough, but he is a guy with a lot of potential who is only going to get better.
RTC: Revisiting the star-studded Class of 2013, do you believe players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Jabari Parker have the talent to ensure that their production matches the hype?
Telep: I think those guys have the talent to match their hype. We are coming off one of the weakest NBA Drafts in recent memory, so these guys are entering the college ranks that are not flushed with great talent. They are entering college with significant reputations. Not all the guys are going to have the same type of year, but when you talk about the top five or six guys in the class, they all have significant star power.
Borzello: I think so. To me, Andrew Wiggins is a “once in a decade” type of talent. He is probably the best high school player I have seen since I started covering recruiting in 2009. He has the ability to step right in and be the best player in college basketball. That does not mean he is going to average 25 points a game, but he could definitely get 16 points and seven rebounds a night. The same thing goes for Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, and Jabari Parker – these guys are going to be productive, they will be able to produce immediately in college. They are not ranked where they are solely based on potential.
RTC: Who is a player from the Class of 2013 that might be under-the-radar a bit (does not figure to be a one-and-done), but you believe will make a significant impact at the collegiate level?
Telep: I have to go with Nigel Williams-Goss at Washington. He is custom made to walk into a program, be the starting point guard, and by the end of the year, have the pulse of the team as its leader. Not many freshmen are able to do that, but Williams-Goss is certainly equipped. I will say right now that either Nigel Williams-Goss or Aaron Gordon will be the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Williams-Goss’ play will surprise a lot of people. He is one of the most intangible-laced guys that I have seen. He oozes intangibles and that is a tremendous thing to have at the point guard position. You want him to be the leader of your team. You want him to have the ball in his hands at crunch times and he wants the ball. I think he is going to be a special player.
Borzello: I think that E.C. Matthews will make a major impact at Rhode Island. He has impressed the coaching staff in summer workouts, and his combination of size, athleticism and ability to play both guard positions will be a huge asset for the Rams. Also, I expect Zena Edosomwan to absolutely dominate the Ivy League for Harvard. He’s simply too strong and physical for his opponents.
RTC: With Kentucky bringing in another great recruiting haul this season (Randle, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, James Young, and Marcus Lee), how do you think John Calipari will be able to mesh those guys in with returning players such as Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein?
Telep: I do not know how he is going to do it. It will be the biggest story in college basketball – maybe in the last couple years. The spotlight is definitely going to be on Kentucky and if I am John Calipari, I am putting it on those kids. The talent is there, without question, but if those kids are not able to make it work, it will have adverse effects on them in the green room next year. If those kids cannot make it work, it will not change a single thing about John Calipari, so if I am John Calipari, I am laying it all at their feet and telling them to figure it out, figure out how to make this work. Then you would hope sooner or later, those guys are going to realize the long-term implications of working together towards a common goal.
Borzello: If it were any other coach, I would say it is going to be nearly impossible, but John Calipari has done it before with the John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins class and the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis class. This group is going to need a leader, though. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a born leader and that meshed well with veteran guys like Darius Miller. Last season’s team never figured out the leadership roles and that was a factor that led to the team missing the NCAA Tournament. This year’s team is probably going to be the preseason number one with the worst case being number two or three. They are going to need someone to step up in that leadership role. Will it be one of the Harrison twins? Will it be Willie Cauley-Stein? That is something this team is going to need to figure out early in the season.
RTC: Kansas is another program that had a great recruiting haul – including top overall prospect Andrew Wiggins – with the Class of 2013. How do you think Bill Self will be able to integrate that group with his returning Jayhawks?
Telep: I expect Bill Self to let Andrew Wiggins have the ball in his hands and give him freedom to create. They implored Ben McLemore to be aggressive, and I think the staff will do the same thing with Wiggins. I expect them to run the offense through Wiggins and let him have the ball in his hands. He needs that because his personality is not that of a take-over, drop the hammer guy. Self spent a year trying to get McLemore to do that and from day one, that is going to be his theme with Andrew Wiggins. I expect some other Kansas freshmen to have an impact on the team as well. Wayne Selden is a heck of a basketball player. He can handle the ball, he can score, and you can expect him to physically try to impose himself. Mentally and psychologically, Selden does not seem like a freshman. I think Joel Embiid is the guy to watch in this class. He is a prospect right now, as opposed to the producer, but he has the chance to be a standout. How long is it going to take him to come around? Will it be one year or two? I know a lot of people feel like I do and know that it is going to happen, but we have to let him evolve at his own pace. Conner Frankamp is another guy who can help the team. He is a player who is way ahead of schedule of where Kansas thought he would be when they signed him. Those guys, however, are going to have to fight for minutes with the older players who are ahead of them right now. They are going to have to prove themselves in practice in October to get the minutes.
Borzello: Before Andrew Wiggins committed, Kansas was probably in the mix to be a Top 20 team. Now that Wiggins is in the fold, you have to look at the team as a Final Four contender just because Wiggins is so good. Wiggins is not a guy who is going to come in and complain because he is not getting touches here and there, so there will not be any problems there. He is the type of player who will play where Bill Self needs him to be. Joel Embiid is a guy who is going to be an NBA player, but he is probably going to need more than a year. This works out for Kansas because they brought in Tarik Black from Memphis who can give the team 20 minutes a game and allow for Embiid to evolve at a better pace. I think the guys they have in there will be fine with their roles and there will not be a problem with Naadir Tharpe playing the point for 25 minutes a game with Wayne Selden at the two-guard spot. All the guys Kansas has on its roster will know their roles and be ready to accept them.
RTC: Looking into the crystal ball, who do you think will be the top three players taken next June in the 2014 NBA Draft?
Telep: I know one will be Andrew Wiggins. This is a really tough question because you really do not want to forget about Marcus Smart. I am not sure if I can definitively answer this question. There are other candidates – Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid are candidates, but they need to develop their résumés to get that done. Marcus Smart is going to have his say in all of this because next year when the time comes around, all these freshmen are still going to have question marks and all the questions about Marcus Smart will already be answered.
Borzello: I will go with Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, and Marcus Smart. Marcus Smart’s ability to win and the intangibles he brings to the table will be very attractive to NBA scouts. Julius Randle and Jabari Parker may have him beat in-terms of talent, but I think Smart’s total makeup will make it hard for teams to pass on him.