It’s the first day of the spring signing period, and we saw a few of the top remaining undecided high school seniors choose a cap (or jersey) and commit to a college today. Two of them were surprises only insofar as they’re big-time recruits who decided to attend mid-major schools, but it was Kentucky that made the most noise today. This info came mostly from the ESPN-U broadcast, so we’re showing each player’s overall rating in the ESPNU-100 Class of 2010 in parentheses:
The biggest verbal of the day was no surprise, since the buzz about it had long preceded the actual announcement. Point guard Brandon Knight (4), a 6’5 lightning bolt who can score as well as he leads, pulled out a blue cap and committed to play for John Calipari at Kentucky. He joins Enes Kanter (25) and Stacey Poole (51) in a Wildcat class for next year that might not yet be complete. The bill of Knight’s UK baseball cap already had a major curve to it, confirming what everyone already knew — this decision was made a long time ago. Later in the day, the top prospect in the class of 2011, 6’7 small forward Michael Gilchrist also verballed to Kentucky, further ensuring that there will be virtually no hangover after the honeymoon season of Wall/Cousins/Patterson/Bledsoe.
In a class top-heavy with excellent point guards, two mid-majors scored fine floor-leaders this afternoon. 6’1 PG Ray McCallum (17) decided to stay home and play for his father at Detroit, and 6’5 SG Trey Zeigler (33) — sporting the greatest full windsor knot we’ve ever seen, with apologies to ESPN-U workhorse Lowell Galindo — continued the father-son trend in the state of Michigan by donning a Central Michigan cap. Zeigler’s father Ernie is the coach for the Chippewas. Zeigler specifically cited Butler’s run to the championship game this past season as one of the reasons he was comfortable in playing for a mid-major program. There’s no question that the chance to play for their respective fathers was an incentive for these gentlemen to commit where they did, but it will be an interesting thing to watch over the next couple of years as to whether or not other top-flight recruits pull the trigger on staying close to home at other mid-major schools, especially if another small program can equal or even surpass Butler’s achievements from 2009-2010.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, we should note here that Gordon Hayward has decided to submit his name for consideration in this year’s NBA Draft, but he won’t be hiring an agent anytime soon. Butler supporters — and there are definitely legions more, after this past season — will be sweating out Hayward’s decision-making process this summer; the Bulldogs will lose Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes to graduation, which is substantial. Hayward’s departure would make a trip to Houston next April all but impossible. If he comes back, though, that means the Hayward/Shelvin Mack/Matt Howard/Ronald Nored nucleus would all be returning, and we’re confident that coach Brad Stevens can groom players to fill the spaces left by Veasley and Jukes. Butler has no commitments within the top 100, but we doubt Stevens is sweating.
Marquette took a step in replacing the graduated Lazar Hayward today by signing 6’6 SF/PF Jae Crowder, the junior college player of the year. Crowder averaged almost 19 PPG and led Howard College (TX) to the juco title this year. This one had been known for some time, but Marquette coach Buzz Williams made the official announcement today.
Despite Kentucky’s recruiting haul today, as it pertains to the class of 2010, the top rating still belongs to Ohio State. They’re extremely excited about getting 6’8 PF Jared Sullinger (2) on campus (as well they should be), in addition to 6’8 SF Deshaun Thomas (12), 6’4 SG Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (80), and 6’4 SG Jordan Sibert (82). North Carolina isn’t far behind, with Roy Williams bringing in the top-ranked player in the class in 6’8 SF Harrison Barnes (1), 6’6 SG Reggie Bullock (18), and 6’4 PG Kendall Marshall (22). With Kentucky rumored to be leading for at least two other players within the top 30, and eight players in the top 100 still undecided, the matter of who has the best recruiting class could be altered as soon as this Saturday at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, where more players are expected to announce their college intentions.