Seven Sweet Scoops: Reid Travis Announcing Today, Kentucky’s Top Class & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 8th, 2013

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Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. 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 rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. PF Reid Travis Set to Chose From 3 Schools

Continuing the trend of commitments, four-star power forward Reid Travis is set to make his announcement today at 3:30 PM CST. Travis is a 6’7”, 240-pound power forward from De La Salle (MN) High School who is currently ranked as the No. 7 power forward in the class of 2014 and No. 40 prospect overall. He is set to choose between his hometown Gophers, Duke and Stanford. Coming out of his junior season, Travis was ranked No. 95 in his class but impressed college coaches and scouts throughout the spring and summer in AAU games and camp tournaments. Playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers Nike AAU team alongside Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Travis averaged 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. In today’s day and age, Travis is the rare power forward that likes to work inside-out. Physically, he is one of the strongest players in the class of 2014 and uses his strength down low to overpower opponents for layups or short jump hooks. When not in the post, he also has a nice shooting touch out to 15 feet. When it comes time to choose a college, Travis has three strong options:

  • Minnesota – The hometown school first started recruiting Travis under former head coach Tubby Smith. When Richard Pitino took over the job, Travis became his top priority and the most likely of the Minnesota Big Three (along with Jones and shooting guard Rashad Vaughn) to stay in Minnesota.
  • Duke – Coach K started to recruit Travis after watching him during his scintillating performance at the Nike Peach Jam tournament in July. Last week the Blue Devils lost out on power forward Kevon Looney (#14 overall, #2 PF – 2014), but would love to add the Minnesota duo of Travis and Jones.
  • Stanford – Travis took an official visit to Stanford on October 18 and is attracted to the academics offered by the university. With a commitment, Travis would be the Cardinal’s third Top 100 recruit in 2014 and perhaps the most important.

2. Kentucky Back on Top

North Carolina had claimed the top spot in the 2014 recruiting rankings for quite some time with earlier commitments of five-star point guard Joel Berry (#21 overall, #3 PG), five-star small forward Justin Jackson (#9 overall, #3 SF) and four-star small forward Theo Pinson (#27 overall, #10 SF). With its most recent commitment from Trey Lyles (#8 overall, #1 PF), Kentucky made its way past UNC into the number one spot in the rankings, the spot they’ve held since 2009 when John Calipari first brought in stars John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The Wildcats now have two fivestar players in Lyles and center Karl Towns (#11 overall, #4 C) and two four-star guys in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG) and shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall, #5). All four players are not considered explosive athletes and in turn are not a lock to become one-and-done like most of Calipari’s previous top recruits. What this means is that this talented class could stay in school for a bit longer than normal and could replicate the success of UNC’s top-ranked class in 2006 which eventually won a championship in 2009.

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College Basketball is Far More Than a Four-Year Mission

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 15th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The lengths parents will go to control and obsess over their children’s youth sports development are legion. The process begins as far back as grade school when children with exceptional athletic talents are weaned off other athletic exploits and forced to devote hours upon hours to the sport their parents have identified as the one most likely to offer an expedient (and financially permissive) path through college, and for the best of the best, all the way to a professional career. Recent NBA draftee Shabazz Muhammad’s infamous age-change is the latest example, but there are countless other cases involving kids whose participation in youth athletics becomes more about the potential awards down the line – college scholarships, professional fame, shoe contracts, and the like – than the pure, blissful, unbridled joy typically inhering childhood athletic competition. Try the recent Wall Street Journal profile of 15-year old New Yorker Jerron Love, a supremely talented prospect with hyper-controlling parents who went as far as to start posting YouTube clips of their son at 11-years old titled, “Jerron Love 11 Year Old Basketball Phenom.” There’s also, more famously, the curious case of Demetrius Walker, chronicled in George Dohrmann’s tremendous book Play Their Hearts Out, which details the rise and fall of  a 12-year-old hoops phenom deemed the absolute surest of “sure thing” prospects before said sureness ever reached a high school basketball court.  Now more than ever, elite sports at the youth level are becoming a more career-oriented endeavor, replacing athletic enjoyment with long-term professional thinking. This shift in thinking has, naturally, gripped youth basketball at disturbingly young ages.

One of the biggest recruiting busts in recent memory, Walker is a popularized example of today's warped youth basketball culture (Getty).

One of the biggest recruiting busts in recent memory, Walker is a popularized example of today’s warped youth basketball culture (Getty).

It has reached the point where, for some prospects, a typical, uninterrupted, seamless progression through middle school is less important than preparing oneself in the most opportunistic way for the recruiting evaluation cycle. How do I know? A recent article in The Star-Ledger provided the newest detail to a culture of elite youth basketball that has officially become a professionally motivated enterprise, wherein some of the country’s most highly touted recruits are repeating grades in middle school to maximize exposure to college coaches and better position themselves to leverage a crucial evaluation window to their greatest possible benefit. All four of New Jersey’s most highly rated prospects in the 2014 and 2015 classes repeated grades, and other big-name talents – including 2013 stars Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Noah Vonleh (Indiana), Wayne Selden (Kansas), and lottery pick Nerlens Noel – have made the same choice. This is not a new practice. ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep, cited in writer Mathew Stanmyre’s article, states, “The genie is out of the bottle. It’s no longer a trend – it’s an accepted practice within high school basketball.” The thinking behind the move is simple: artificially place oneself in a younger age group so as to grant oneself the physical and skill advantages that come with facing a lesser level of competition. That’s the basic idea, but there are a few dynamics at work here, all of which go into making this practice not only a smart and efficient way to elevate one’s relative prep hoops standing, but a wise early career move.

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Calipari Continues To Creatively Separate Himself As the Nation’s Top Recruiter

Posted by EJacoby on June 12th, 2012

At this point, it’s impossible to argue for anybody other than John Calipari as the top recruiter in college basketball. Since Coach Cal joined the Big Blue Nation as Kentucky‘s head coach in 2009, he’s brought in the top recruiting class to Lexington every single season. Next year and depending on whom you ask, the Wildcats once again rank as the #1 or #2 class (behind UCLA). So how does he do it — what makes Calipari such a dominant figure in the recruiting game? It helps to coach at one of the premier hoops schools in the country, but it’s also the specific tactics that Calipari uses which helps make him the single best recruiter in the country. Instead of relaxing to enjoy his first National Championship this summer, Calipari will coach the Dominican Republic national team as it attempts to qualify for the July Summer Olympics in London, which in the process also gives him a chance to scout and recruit a top US prospect with Dominican lineage for the class of 2015 (Karl Towns). “We sit down and just say, `How can we keep separating,’” says Calipari, and he simply never stops working on more creative ways to push the envelope as a recruiter.

Coach Cal has the entire Big Blue Nation smiling with his recent success both on and off the court (AP Photo)

Coaching a potential Olympic team isn’t the only busy endeavor of Cal’s summer plans. He’ll also host the John Calipari Fantasy Basketball Experience in Rupp Arena that will allow participants to practice and play on the Wildcats’ home floor during several sessions – all for the convenient cost of $7,500. Proceeds go to his personal charity, the Calipari Family Foundation, which ‘invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities across the country.’ How many other coaches at top schools are willing and able to devote this much planning and effort for off-court community causes? It’s all part of the grand scheme to keep distinguishing himself as the most dedicated recruiting figure in the country.

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