A healthy Peter Jok is huge for Iowa. The junior wing scored 20 points last night as the Hawkeyes pasted Marquette to give the Big Ten a 4-3 lead over the Big East in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Before the season began, we detailed Jok’s importance to the team’s success, but an injury sustained in the Hawkeyes’ first game of the season put him on the shelf. Sophomore Dom Uhl and freshman Brady Ellingson combined for 38 points on 14-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds in Jok’s absence, but in only 28 minutes of action this season, Jok has accounted for 28 points himself. Nevertheless, Uhl and Ellingson’s production is an encouraging sign for Iowa’s depth, which was a significant question mark entering the season.
Rutgers may have found itself a leader. The Scarlet Knights lost a heartbreaker to St. John’s on Thursday when Bishop Daniels’ game-winning three-pointer left his hand just after the clock hit all zeros. But the silver lining in the loss was the continued emergence of freshman Corey Sanders, who played at least 30 minutes for the second straight game and is averaging 4.5 APG on the season. On Rutgers’ last possession yesterday, head coach Eddie Jordan trusted Sanders to call and run the final play that was very close to producing a buzzer-beating victory. Even if Rutgers struggles mightily again this season, Sanders is quickly looking like a key building block for the program’s future.
The early signing period ended on Wednesday, and Wisconsin and Rutgers were the two Big Ten programs that failed to land any signees. Every other conference team signed at least one player, and all but Purdue signed two. Rutgers lost its lone commitment — three-star point guard Kwe Parker — in early November when he decided to reopen his recruitment. Wisconsin whiffed on two of its bigger targets, top-100 point guards Xavier Simpson and JaQuori McLaughlin, down the stretch. Neither team has enough space for a large incoming class, but Bo Ryan and Eddie Jordan have work to do before the next signing period in April.
Purdue’s backcourt is proving itself. We touched on the Boilermakers’ need for additional backcourt help before the season started, and so far it has delivered. In the team’s first three games, forwards Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan, A.J. Hammons and Vince Edwards made a combined total of 41 field goals — the backcourt or Edwards (a wing who does a little of everything) assisted on 20 of those. Meanwhile, incumbent guards Rapheal Davis, Kendall Stephens, Dakota Mathias and freshman Ryan Cline are averaging a combined 40 points per game and are shooting 48 percent from behind the arc. The biggest open question was with UT-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill, who was brought in to be the starting point guard. So far he boasts an 11-to-4 assist-turnover ratio with seven steals, yet another reason why Purdue has won three games by an average of 34.7 points per game.
Illinois’ freshmen are surviving trial by fire. With Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Leron Black (who returned to action after missing one game) and Tracy Abrams all sustaining various injuries since the start of the school year, Illinois has needed some mileage from its freshmen, D.J. Williams, Aaron Jordan and Jalen Coleman-Lands. While not perfect to this point, the trio has been productive. Williams started the first two games and only totaled four points, but he had zero turnovers and just one foul. Jordan has averaged 8.0 points per game with an 8-to-1 assist-turnover ratio. Coleman-Lands ranks third on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and has averaged 24.3 minutes of action off the bench. He also leads the team in steals (five), three-pointers (nine) and three-point percentage (56 percent). All of this hasn’t been enough to get Illinois more than a single win against North Dakota State, but the experience that the youngsters are getting will be invaluable when conference play starts in January.
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 recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The much anticipated college decision date has been set for center Jahlil Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones. On Friday at 3:00 PM CT the two friends and five-star recruits will choose between Duke, Kansas, and Baylor. Okafor is currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 and Jones is currently ranked No. 4 overall. A package deal has long been rumored for these two players over the past two years and appears set to come to fruition on Friday. Okafor will make his announcement at Whitney Young (IL) High School in Chicago while Jones will simultaneously announce at Apple Valley (MN) High School. Kansas and Duke are the two favorites in this recruiting race as both Bill Self and Coach K have tried their hardest to sell the duo on their schools. First the two coaches will go head to head Tuesday night in the Champions Classic at the United Center and then they both will square off again for the services of Okafor and Jones. While the winner of Tuesday’s night game will get the short term praise, the winner of Friday’s recruiting battle will position themselves quite nicely for another title run in 2015.
Wildcats Reel in Lyles
As noted in the most recent Seven Sweet Scoops, Kentucky now has the number one ranked recruiting class in 2014 with the addition of five-star power forward Trey Lyles. On November 5, the No. 1 power forward in the country and No. 9 recruit overall chose the Wildcats over their in-state rival, Louisville. Lyles is a native of Indianapolis and like many recent talented Indiana prospects, he de-committed from his original college choice. Before Lyles played a game at Indianapolis (IN) Tech, he had committed to play for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers at the start of his freshman season. Two years later, prior to beginning his junior year, Lyles decided to re-open his recruitment and received early interest from numerous schools. Kentucky was the presumed leader from the start and Calipari closed the power forward with his pitch about getting players to the NBA. Lyles has been a top 10 player in his class from the time he entered high school and is now the fourth player to sign with Kentucky in the class of 2014. The first member to sign with Kentucky was center Karl Towns Jr. (#11 overall, #4 C) who will now have another low post counterpart in Lyles. In AAU play, Lyles was hampered by injuries early but still averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on the competitive Nike EYBL circuit. He is a true post player and is very effective when he catches the ball in the post. He uses a mixture of good footwork and a soft touch when going against the defense and can score after one or two post dribbles or with an over-the-shoulder hook shot. He is also comfortable facing up for turnaround jumpers. With power forward Julius Randle on the one-and-done route; Lyles will have an opportunity to provide the Wildcats with another strong low post presence next season.
Illinois head coach John Groce has done it again, as he picked up another recruit from the city of Chicago on Tuesday.D.J. Williams, a 6’7″ junior from Simeon High School, verbally committed to the Illini, making him the third Simeon player to commit there in the last year — Groce already has freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate on board this season. Simeon is the alma mater of Derrick Rose and Nick Anderson, just to name a few. They are a power in the city of Chicago hoops scene on a yearly basis, and with another Windy City prep superstar named Cliff Alexander potentially also getting ready to put on an Illinois hat when he announces his college decision on November 15, Groce is looking at turning the Illini into a future national powerhouse.
Michigan has a lot coming back from what ended up being a phenomenal season last year, but someone is going to have to step in and try to replicate the production that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. provided on the perimeter. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton has gotten more publicity, but fellow freshman Zak Irvin has contributed some of what Hardaway did last season in Michigan’s two scrimmages. To wit, Irvin has gone 4-of-7 from deep in these two scrimmages. With veterans Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary garnering more attention from other teams’ scouting reports when taking on the Maize and Blue, Irvin will provide a huge lift if he can knock down outside shots at that kind of level as teams pay attention to his more highly publicized teammates.
Mo Walker has spent the better part of three seasons playing behind players like Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams at Minnesota, but after he slimmed down by 60 pounds in the offseason, he’s shown a commitment to stepping in and picking up some of the slack left behind by these graduated starters. Walker led the team in points and rebounds in the Gophers’ 101-67 win over Concordia on Monday night, tallying 17/13 in the victory. Minnesota’s biggest 2013-14 question mark has to be what kind of production Richard Pitino will get down low, and Walker seems to be off to an outstanding start in providing some answers for a team that is predicted to finish in the bottom half of the league.
Yogi Ferrell only averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists per game last year, but he provided a steady hand in leading a team that spent essentially the whole season in the top five nationally. With Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls all now gone, this is now Ferrell’s team and he’s taken this added leadership role to heart, doing things like diagramming game-winning plays in practice scrimmages to show his development. Ferrell is arguably the most important player in the league this season — with expectations ramped up because of the Hoosiers’ two-year renaissance, all momentum will be lost if the team drops off this season. With eight freshman on the roster, it goes without saying that Ferrell and Will Sheehey have to do more than just produce on the court for Indiana to stay near the top of the B1g standings.
With Minnesota losing three starters and its head coach from last year’s team, the Gophers need to plug some new pieces to fit new coach Richard Pitino’s up-tempo system. It’s looking like one of these pieces is going to be JuCo transfer Deandre Mathieu. Mathieu has impressed to the point where the Gophers are considering penciling him into the lineup with two other guards, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. Playing with a three-guard lineup will allow Minnesota to play at a much faster tempo, with the 5’9″ Mathieu pushing Andre Hollins to play off the ball and essentially taking on the role of a scorer. In the team’s two scrimmages, Mathieu averaged 10 points, eight assists, and two steals per game, which if duplicated once the games start for real, would put him in the running for Big Ten Newcomer of the Year.