Who’s Got Next? Brunson, Ahmad & Davis Shun Home State Big Ten Schools in Class of 2015

Posted by Sean Moran on September 23rd, 2014


Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitment of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Over the past two weeks four highly rated high school seniors from the Midwest have committed to their colleges. Despite calling the states of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota home, however, only one of the four elite players decided to stay at home and play in the Big Ten. Could this exodus spell trouble down the road for one of the premier power conferences in the land?

Jay Wright Lands Top Point Guard in Class of 2015

The point guard position is fairly weak in the Class of 2015, but Villanova recently locked up five-star prospect Jalen Brunson, who is considered the No. 1 point guard in the class and No. 16 player overall. The lefty from the northern Chicago suburbs is the son of former Temple star and NBA journeyman Rick Brunson, and chose the Wildcats over the in-state Illini. The 6’2” point guard plays for one of the top high schools in Illinois as well as for the Mac Irvin Fire, which is known for suiting up Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and Cliff Alexander in recent years. During the Nike EYBL, Brunson averaged 17.2 points and 6.9 assists per game.

Brunson plays the game with an old school flair. While definitely not an elite run-and-jump athlete, he is a master at running the offense, using the pick-and-roll, and knocking down jump shots from all parts of the floor. He uses his strong upper body to get by defenders and has NBA range on his three-point shot — which he displayed during the Nike Global Challenge in August. Off the pick-and-roll, Brunson can calmly knock down a three or get into the lane for a soft teardrop floater. He is a smart passer and gets the ball to teammates in a position to score and knows how to feed the post. This past winter, Brunson led his team to the Illinois state semifinals just one year after leading them to the state finals as a sophomore. In 2013 Brunson’s team came up short against a senior Jabari Parker’s Simeon powerhouse. Last year Brunson scored a remarkable 56 points in a losing effort against Jahlil Okafor’s state champs at Whitney Young. With his strong junior season, Brunson racked up a host of awards and also outplayed Kentucky’s freshman point guard Tyler Ulis in a notable head-to-head battle.

With Brunson’s decision to attend Villanova, the Wildcats locked up their third commitment in the class of 2015 and currently have the No. 14 ranked class in the country. In addition to Brunson, the Wildcats will bring in four-star shooting guard Dante Divincenzo and three-star forward Tim Delaney. When these three set foot on Villanova’s campus next fall they will join an experienced team that will be led by point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who just averaged close to 10 points and 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore, and shooting guard Josh Hart, who was just named to the Big East All-Rookie team. The decision by Brunson to head east is a huge coup for Jay Wright. With Brunson’s basketball background and his style of play, there is no doubt that he will make an immediate impact for the current top program in the Big East.

Esa Ahmad Picks West Virginia

West Virginia has struggled on the recruiting trail as of late and as a result the Mountaineers have missed the NCAA Tournament two years running. The commitment of Esa Ahmad, a 6’8” combo forward from Ohio, will provide Bob Huggins with a necessary talent infusion. Ahmad is a tough, hard-nosed player who is a four-star prospect and currently rated as the No. 49 player in the country. Not only did West Virginia land a top 50 guy with this commitment, but it  also beat out Ohio State for one of the Buckeye State’s best players.

Ahmad is strong enough to guard power forwards on the defensive end, but he has the skills and athletic ability to play outside of the paint on both ends of the court. During the AAU season, Ahmad averaged 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on the Nike EYBL circuit. While not a great shooter from the outside (25 percent from three), Ahmad is aggressive when attacking the rim and is an extremely consistent player in terms of production. With his commitment, West Virginia has a total of three players locked up in the 2015 class which also features three-star point guard James Bolden and three-star center Levi Cook. The talent level in Morgantown has been down lately, but Ahmad’s commitment should give Huggins some hope for the school’s future in the Big 12.

Texas Longhorns Hook Eric Davis From Michigan

Rick Barnes roped his first recruit in the class of 2015 when 6’3” shooting guard Eric Davis announced his intention to play at Texas. Davis is currently ranked No. 45 overall by Scout.com and the No. 12 shooting guard in the country, and spurned in-state suitors Michigan and Michigan State with his announcement. The sweet-shooting Davis has been on the national radar for a while now, and recently finished a busy summer playing in the Nike EYBL, the NBPA Top 100 camp, the Nike Global Challenge, and the USA U-17 tryouts in Colorado Springs. He averaged 17.4 points per game during the AAU season while scoring in double figures in 16 out of 17 games. In his three-day tryout for the USA team, Davis displayed his feathery shooting touch and was one of the top outside shooters in attendance. Texas sold Davis on the fact that he could play either guard position and help the Longhorns with their outside shooting (under 33 percent from the three-point line last year). Davis will potentially team with Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor in the backcourt, providing outside shooting help and the ability to play either guard position.

Jarvis Johnson Becomes Pitino’s First Home-Grown Commitment

When three-star point guard Jarvis Johnson committed to Minnesota, he became the first home-grown talent to sign with the Gophers. In 2014, the Gopher State featured a statistical outlier with four players ranked within Scout’s Top 100 and the “Big Three” featuring three McDonald’s All-Americans in Duke point guard Tyus Jones, UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, and Stanford power forward Reid Travis. While Pitino was not able to make a splash with any of the state’s top players last year, he was able to land Johnson this time around.

While Johnson did not have the strongest summer (actually falling out of the Top 100), he does possess high-level athleticism and an ability to finish at the rim that most point guards just don’t have. After catching the attention of college coaches as Jones’ back-up in the 2013 Peach Jam, big things were expected of him in last year’s AAU circuit. He failed to deliver, averaging just 6.2 points per game and going 32.3 percent from the floor, but in the July Peach Jam he increased his scoring to 11.2 points per game, including a 20-point performance in his last game of the tournament.

The talent surplus in Minnesota could have jump-started Pitino’s tenure at Minnesota, but this year’s commitment of Johnson will hopefully steer more of the state’s top players to the lone in-state D-I school. Next year, 6’6” Amir Coffey is the state’s prized possession, as the Minnetonka native is currently rated No. 35 in the Class of 2016. If Pitino can use Johnson’s commitment as a springboard for locking in the top existing talent in Minnesota, the Gophers might be playing for more than just a NIT championship in the near future.

Sean Moran (79 Posts)

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