Seven Sweet Scoops: A Viewer’s Guide to the McDonald’s All-American Game

Posted by Sean Moran on April 2nd, 2014

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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.

Tonight the top high school players in the country gather to participate in the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American game held at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Twenty-four of the top ranked high school seniors will provide the college basketball world with a glimpse of what can be expected from the next touted class of youngsters on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET. The high school class of 2014 might not have the star power similar to last year in a game that featured the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, but there are still several good storylines and match-ups to keep an eye on during tonight’s contest.

1. Chicago Natives At Home

There are three McDonald’s All-Americans from Chicago this year, including two of the top five players in the country. Five-star center Jahlil Okafor and five-star power forward Cliff Alexander will suit up for the East and West squads, respectively. The two played together on the AAU circuit this past summer and faced off in high school action several times over the last three years. Okafor is considered the No. 1 player in the country and is headed to Duke next year, while Alexander is ranked No. 5 and has committed to Kansas. Alexander put together a monster senior campaign, but it was Okafor who won the Illinois state title. Okafor and Alexander excel with different styles although they are both low post scorers. The 6’11” Okafor has the more refined post game and is almost impossible to stop in a one-on-one situation while Alexander is a DeAndre Jordan clone who looks to dunk and block everything in sight. While these two might not match up in tonight’s game, you can be certain that they will both have the hometown crowd on their feet. To go along with the Windy City twin towers, there is also diminutive 5’9” point guard Tyler Ulis (#29). The four-star prospect is headed to Kentucky and will be the quickest player on the court. The floor general is great at beating his man off the dribble and creating easy shots for his teammates. Ulis will suit up on the East squad along with Okafor, while Alexander will play for the West.

2. Where Will Myles Turner Go?

There is only one prospect in the game that remains uncommitted and he is 7’0” center Myles Turner, who is also the No. 2 ranked recruit in the country. This time last year the Texas native wasn’t even considered a top 100 player, but after a meteoric rise last summer he is now the hottest commodity in high school. Turner just recently took an official visit to Texas after previously visiting Ohio State, Duke, Oklahoma State and Kansas. He has also taken unofficial visits to SMU and Texas A&M, and is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kentucky. It’s been a whirlwind journey for Turner, who plans to sit down with his advisers and family after the Jordan Brand Classic to discuss his choice of suitors.

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Who’s Got Next? Charles Matthews Goes With Kentucky and Rhode Island Nabs Their Point Guard

Posted by Sean Moran on March 3rd, 2014

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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.

Kentucky Lands First 2015 Recruit

The 2014 recruiting class marked the first time that John Calipari did not come away with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country during his tenure at Kentucky. While he still ended up with the No. 2 class, Kentucky has their sights squarely set on landing the No. 1 class in 2015. They got their first commitment this past week when five-star shooting guard Charles Matthews announced his intentions to play for the Wildcats. The 6’5 guard is currently the No. 15 player and No. 4 shooting guard in the junior class and is the next Chicago native to make the journey down to Lexington.

The 6’5” guard missed the first month of his junior season at St. Rita’s (IL) High due to an ankle injury, but is now back to full strength. Matthews proved his status as a five-star player over the summer on the Nike AAU circuit. Playing against older competition Matthews always had a large contingent of colleges watching him including Duke, Illinois, Kansas, and Michigan State. He averaged almost 13 points a game while playing for the Meanstreets AAU program and scored from all areas of the court but was especially effective from mid-range. With long arms and good height for his position, Matthews can also elevate with the best of them making his jump shot unblockable. While he proved his elite status on the summer circuit, he also developed a strong chemistry with his squad’s point guard. That point guard just happens to be four-star point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, No. 6 PG) who committed to the Wildcats in the fall.

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Who’s Got Next? Point Guards Jalen Brunson and Tyler Ulis Square Off

Posted by Sean Moran on January 28th, 2014

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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 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.

The Match-Up: Tyler Ulis vs.  Jalen Brunson

The top two point guards in the state of Illinois faced off against each other Saturday night in a much anticipated match-up of contrasting styles. Four-star senior point guard Tyler Ulis of Marian Catholic (IL) has a game built on speed and quickness and is currently rated as the No. 6 point guard in the class of 2014 and No. 29 overall. His opponent, four-star junior guard Jalen Brunson, is ranked as the No. 2 point guard and No. 29 overall in the class of 2015 and has a game built on smarts and a feathery jump shot.

Jalen Brunson and Tyler Ulis went head to head on Saturday night – photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Jalen, the son of former NBA journeyman Rick Brunson picked up the win, leading the way with 32 points on 9-of-15 shooting. After a 12-point fourth quarter, Brunson’s Stevenson (IL) team took a 55-38 lead into the final quarter. Despite the deficit, the 5’9” Ulis and future Kentucky guard came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the final stanza in a comeback that fell just short. Both point guards had strong games, but it was the younger Brunson who was more efficient and came away with the win.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Big Cliff and HoopHall Action, Djuan Piper Update, and More

Posted by Sean Moran on January 24th, 2014

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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. Big Cliff Dominates HoopHall Classic

Cliff Alexander, a five-star power forward and future Kansas Jayhawk, put on a dominant display against Montverde (FL), the #1 prep team in the country, this past Monday at the HoopHall Classic. Prior to his senior season, the 6’8” manchild was rated as the No. 5 recruit in the class of 2014, but after his three-month run at Curie (IL) High it might be time to talk about Alexander as the top player in his class. In a comeback win, Alexander scored 30 points and added 13 rebounds and five blocked shots to raise his season averages to 27 points, 17 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots per game. Throughout the second half Alexander ran the floor and threw down several vicious dunks that energized his teammates. Montverde did not have any one with Alexander’s size, but they did have Ben Simmons, a top 10 junior, to try his hand a few times. Just like in December when Alexander dominated five-star juniors Stephen Zimmerman (#3 – 2015) and Chase Jeter (#19 – 2015), Simmons was no match for him. Next year Alexander is expected to contribute right away in Lawrence, especially if freshman center Joel Embiid enters the draft, as expected. It will be harder for Big Cliff to physically dominate his opponents at the next level, but his athleticism, raw power, and shot-blocking acumen will help him adapt very quickly and offset the expected Jayhawks’ departures.

2. Calipari Watches Rashad Vaughn

Despite already having a four-man class in 2014, including four-star shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 – 2014), John Calipari is making a late push for five-star shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. The No. 13 ranked player and No. 2 shooting guard in the country is the one of the few impact players left on the board in the class. After Calipari attended one of Vaughn’s practices at Findlay Prep (NV) in the fall, Vaughn started to list the Wildcats as one of the main schools in his recruitment. Calipari was also in attendance in Springfield, Massachusetts, for Vaughn’s first game back from injury, and is pushing for an official visit. So far Vaughn has taken official visits to Iowa State and UNLV and has one scheduled for UNC on February 15. He also has Kansas in his top five, but doesn’t have any plans to set up a visit, per Evan Daniels of Scout.com. Fred Hoiberg has been recruiting Vaughn the longest out of all the aforementioned schools and UNLV has the home-court advantage with Vaughn’s high school transfer. Roy Williams is desperate for a shooting guard based on the team’s current outside shooting deficiencies and Calipari wants to add Vaughn and/or Myles Turner (#2 – 2014) to his #2 recruiting class. This recruitment won’t reach Andrew Wiggins levels in the spring, but it will certainly heat up over the next few months.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Malachi Richardson to Syracuse, Diamond Stone’s High Profile Visitors, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on December 13th, 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. Malachi Richardson Announces for Syracuse

With 97 of the top 100 prospects in the class of 2014 already committed to colleges, the majority of ongoing recruiting speculation has turned to this year’s junior class. Two five-star prospects from the class of 2015 are currently committed in forwards Ben Simmons (#8 overall, LSU) and Mickey Mitchell (#16 overall, Ohio State). Today Malachi Richardson became the third five-star recruit to make his announcement as he chose to stay on the East Coast and play at Syracuse. The 6’6” Richardson is rated as the No. 17 prospect in the class of 2015 and the No. 3 small forward. He made his college selection this afternoon from Trenton Catholic (NJ) High School and chose the Orange from a list of six schools that also included Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Rutgers, and Villanova. He most recently took an unofficial visit to Syracuse and watched its victory over Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. With that commitment, Richardson joins four-star forward Tyler Lydon (#94 overall – 2015) in Jim Boeheim’s 2015 recruiting class. Richardson is a lethal scorer with a sweet stroke from the outside and will cause a lot of problems in the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense with his 6’10.5” wing span.

2. Top Center in 2015 Receives Hall of Fame Visitors

Two Hall of Fame coaches made their way out to Milwaukee over the past week to check in on 6’10” Diamond Stone, the top center in the class of 2015, and the No. 2 prospect overall. Last Friday, Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel started their Midwestern recruiting trip by watching Stone and his Dominican (WI) High School team defeat St. Thomas More in a game where Stone finished with 23 points. Four days later, Roy Williams and assistant coach Steve Robinson made a quick trip to Wisconsin and watched Stone’s 24-point performance in a blowout win against Prairie (WI) High. Both rivals have made Stone their number one big man target in the class of 2015; however, it might be hard to get the five-star center out of his home state. Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Wisconsin’s ‘Bo Ryan have also recruited Stone hard during his early high school tenure. Marquette sits right in his back yard and had Stone on campus for its version of Midnight Madness this fall. He was also high school teammates with freshman point guard Duane Wilson. UNC currently has Wisconsin native J.P. Tokoto in its starting lineup, but the last time both UNC and Duke went after a Wisconsin kid they both lost out to Bo Ryan in the recruitment of freshman guard Bronson Koenig. Expect Stone to receive a lot more visits from Coach K and Roy while Buzz and Bo Ryan try to keep the talented big man in Wisconsin.

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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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SEC M5: 11.07.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 7th, 2013

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  1. After securing a commitment from power forward Trey Lyles, Kentucky now has the number one ranked 2014 recruiting class – seemingly an annual tradition at this point. With six of 247Sports top 10 players still undecided, that ranking is by no means locked in, but regardless, the Wildcats will reload again. Even if Kentucky does not land the biggest names like Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander (and the rumors are that it won’t), this is still an amazing recruiting class. Kentucky fans should take a look at the players they are adding next season as a net positive. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are two players that are likely to stick around for two or three years rather than leave for the NBA after one season. Those are the type of players who help sustain championship-level teams as the elite prospects roll through on their one-year stopovers. The 2012 National Championship team needed senior Darius Miller as well as sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. The one-and-done players are awfully nice, but having some 4-star recruits stick around an extra year or two also benefits the team in the long run.
  2. Speaking of Kentucky and highly touted recruits, Ken Pomeroy examined how many first round picks this Kentucky is likely to have next June. He looked back in the Draft Express archives and examined where players were picked and then compared it to their projected draft position before the season. The conclusion was that Kentucky is most likely to have either four or five first round picks this season. Something to keep in mind is that what we think of players now is often not what we think of them at the end of the season. Last January nobody would have thought Alex Poythress would be back for his sophomore season, and Nerlens Noel was the runaway choice to be picked first overall. Things can change drastically over the course of a season. Perhaps Andrew Harrison wants to stay in school with his brother who is not ready for the NBA yet. James Young could decide he wants to wait a year and get picked higher. No matter what happens, projections suggesting up to seven Kentucky players could go in the first round should be taken with a grain of salt. Too much can change between now and June to know anything for certain.
  3. When Missouri coach Frank Haith sits for his five-game NCAA suspension related to the Miami/Nevin Shapiro scandal, Tim Fuller will take over the Tigers’ head coaching duties. Fuller came to the Tigers with Haith and has been the associate head coach the last two years. This move is a bit of a surprise, considering assistant coach Dave Leitao has some experience as a head coach at the D-I level. Still, Fuller has been rumored to be a prime head coaching candidate the last couple of summers, and he deserves a chance to prove himself too. Missouri has a fairly easy opening five games (Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb, IUPUI), but not having the head coach in place creates a leadership void. Haith feels as though Fuller is up to the task, and it is a good bet that when Haith returns on Thanksgiving to face Northwestern, the Tigers will already be 5-0. The two things to watch for with Fuller: managing the rotation of players, especially with a young and unpolished frontcourt; and how he coaches at the end of games. Haith struggles himself at the end of close games, perhaps Fuller can prove himself capable in avoiding that same issue.
  4. Buried within the Tim Fuller news was the announcement that two Missouri big men might not play the season opener on Friday night. Forward Tony Criswell has been suspended for the first game of the season, while fellow big man Keanau Post hasn’t practiced all week with a bad ankle. Criswell is the only returning interior player for the Tigers this season, so they need him to play as much as possible. While Haith said he expected Criswell to be back for the team’s second game, that is not a given. When a team has as much roster turnover as Missouri does, they need as much time to play together as possible. Post was a solid scorer at the JuCo level and Missouri desperately needs someone who can score inside this season. Until these two inside players are able to return to the lineup, look for Mizzou to use its four-guard lineup quite often to spread the floor and overcome the size disadvantage.
  5. Billy Donovan isn’t sure what to expect in the early part of this season because he’s missing so much of his team. Donovan questions the team’s top 10 ranking to start the season, pointing out that the team pollsters voted on is not the team he currently has available. With three key players suspended, one sick with mononucleosis, and five-star point guard Chris Walker struggling with test scores, the Gators are missing a starting lineup that could beat Auburn by 15. Donovan is right, his team is going to hit some really rough patches early. Their non-conference schedule is tough, and they could suffer a few losses that probably would not have occurred if the team was at full strength. Playing Wisconsin on Tuesday will be especially challenging without all their athletes around to negate the Badgers more deliberate pace. Hopefully by the time Florida plays UConn on December 2, the team will be more intact. Like Devon Walker says in the article, eventually they will get most of their players back and have time to come together. Perhaps a slow start removes an opportunity for a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but a fully healthy Florida roster in March has no ceiling.
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Seven Sweet Scoops: Big Blue Madness, Visits for Top 10 Recruits, & Georgetown vs. Indiana…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 18th, 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. Big Blue Madness

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Since the arrival of John Calipari at Kentucky, Big Blue Madness has been the event to visit as a recruit. Last year it was current Kentucky freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, and Marcus Lee that showed up in Lexington and this year it will be a new batch of fresh faces. Attendees expected at Rupp Arena include some of the biggest names from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes, including one of UK’s 2014 commitments in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG). Ulis and Big Blue Nation will do their best to impress senior small forward Stanley Johnson, power forward Trey Lyles, and shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. Johnson is the top small forward in the country; however he still has a ways to go with his decision. Right now the big fish for Kentucky are Lyles and Blackmon, both of whom committed to Indiana early in their high school careers and later de-committed after their junior years. Lyles is a 6’9” power forward who is ranked seventh in the country and is the most fundamentally sound post player in the senior class. Blackmon stands at 6’3” (#56 overall, #10 SG) and is one of the best long distance shooters in the class. Kentucky is thought to be the leader for both of the Indiana natives.

2. Stanley Johnson – Making the Rounds

As noted above, Stanley Johnson is taking his official visit to Kentucky for its Midnight Madness this Friday. Johnson is currently the top rated small forward in the country and No. 6 overall. The California native also took an official visit to Arizona last week for their Red-Blue game and watched former AAU teammate and soon to be freshman sensation Aaron Gordon win the team slam dunk contest. The other three schools still in contention for Johnson’s services are Oregon, Florida, and USC. While schools such as Arizona, Kentucky, and Florida are used to getting top 10 recruits, a commitment for the Trojans or Ducks would represent a landmark victory for either of those programs. Johnson is a bulldozer in the open court and considered one of the strongest perimeter players in high school. With his strength and improved ball-handling ability, he can get to the rim at will. Along with his skill set, he is also a winner. In 2012 he won a Nike AAU championship with the Oakland Soldiers and followed that up by leading Mater Dei to a California state championship. All five schools will take their best shot at landing Johnson over the next few months.

3. Myles Turner Off to See Columbus

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Kentucky’s Unusual Position: How to Build a #1 Class After Recent Misses

Posted by nvr1983 on October 10th, 2013

While Jayhawk fans celebrated Kelly Oubre’s commitment to Kansas on Tuesday, the announcement left Kentucky and its fans in a situation they are not accustomed to — one in which they are left wondering which recruits are still available. It also comes as the third consecutive major commitment — Andrew Wiggins and Emmanuel Mudiay were the other two — that Kentucky has missed out on, which is a highly unusual development in the Calipari era. Now this is not to say that the Big Blue Nation should go into panic mode and their first glimpses of Julius Randle and the Harrison twins next week will certainly help to alleviate any pending anxiety. Still, for the first time since John Calipari rolled into Lexington in 2009, Kentucky is now in danger of not having the top recruiting class in the country.

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year's Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Calipari is All Smiles About This Year’s Group. What About Next Year? (AP)

Of course, Kentucky will be getting its share of incoming stars, but it probably will not be the type of ridiculous haul that Wildcat fans have enjoyed over the past four seasons. Calipari already has received commitments from 7’1″ Karl Towns, Jr., a top-10 recruit according to nearly every major recruiting service, and Tyler Ulis, a strong point guard prospect despite his 5’9″, 150-pound frame. The Wildcats are still in the running for eight more five-star recruits in the class of 2014 — big men Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Trey Lyles, and perimeter prospects Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker and James Blackmon, Jr. — but a closer look suggests that their prospects of landing each are less promising than they might first appear.

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Prepare for a “different” type of Kentucky point guard

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 16th, 2013

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

Elite point guard play has been a hallmark of John Calipari’s Kentucky teams. The Wildcats typically pluck one of the nation’s best floor generals from any given recruiting class, drill them in the arts of the dribble-drive offense, their draft stock soaring all the while, then – with Calipari’s customary backing – encourage them to enter the NBA draft, where a first-round selection awaits. From John Wall to Brandon Knight to Tyreke Evans to Marquis Teague, Kentucky under Calipari has become the most desirable landing spot in the country for highly-touted high school point guards looking for the quickest and most seamless path to the NBA. In fact, dating back to 2007-’08, when Memphis rode Derrick Rose’s face-melting talents to the brink of a national championship, Calipari has started a new point guard every season (a salient statistic pointed out late last week by The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy). The run of truly elite point men ended in 2012-13 with Ryan Harrow, whose inability to handle the big stage, and general lack of talent and athleticism, was evident from the start.

There should be little expectation for a regression in point guard play when Ulis (likely) takes over in 2014 (AP Photo).

There should be little expectation for a regression in point guard play when Ulis (likely) takes over in 2014 (AP Photo).

But the streak of alternating point guards continued all the same, as it will in 2013-14, when top-ranked Andrew Harrison, one member of Kentucky’s insane 2013 recruiting class featuring six McDonald’s All-Americans and three players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions, according to ESPN, will take over. Once Harrison leaves (probably after one season), Kentucky will have to brace itself for the likelihood – gasp! – of a point guard keeping his starting spot for more than one season. That was one of the implications of Marian Catholic (IL) guard Tyler Ulis, a consensus top-40 player in 2014, committing to Kentucky Friday. Ulis is not like the star UK point guards of recent vintage – long, physical, equal parts scoring prowess and distributive intuition. The 5’8’’, 150-pound guard is a point guard in the traditional mold – more a shot creator (NBC’s Rob Dauster, apparently impressed with Ulis at an AAU event, nicknamed Ulis “Tyler the Creator”) than a shot maker. Ulis’s stock soared this summer on the AAU circuit after a series of brilliant performances against elite competition, including a 22-point, 17-assist effort at the EYBL Peach Jam in a highly anticipated match-up between his team, Meanstreets, and the Howard Pulley squad led by Tyus Jones, the No. 1-ranked point guard in 2014, who is expected to commit Duke (and has reiterated his belief that he and Jahlil Okafor, the top-ranked overall player in 2014, are a “package deal”).

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Morning Five: 09.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 16th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA has taken a lot of criticism, but we have to give them credit for coming to their senses and granting Kerwin Okoro a hardship waiver after transferring from Iowa State to Rutgers. The NCAA has managed to make plenty of highly questionable decisions over the years, but Okoro’s struck a chord due to callousness of it. We have questioned the NCAA’s at times over the top willingness to grant family hardship waivers to players who had some distant relative who was sick or a father who lost or quit a job as a coach. In the case of Okoro, the NCAA denied his request to transfer to be closer to his family after his father and brother died within a span of three months presumably because they were already dead (I know stupid). In the end, the NCAA corrected itself so Okoro will get what he deserved in the first place.
  2. Before we start to sound like NCAA homers, we should point out that we don’t agree with their decision to ban college coaches from attending practices at schools that are not underneath a governing body. The decision appears to target two schools–Findlay Prep and Huntington Prep–that produce an abundance of Division I talent so we suspect that coaches will be after the NCAA to reverse this. We can certainly understand the NCAA’s desire to cut down on diploma mills (not calling either of these programs that), but we are not sure what this accomplishes. The coaches will still be able to watch the recruits in games. This just makes it more difficult for recruits to catch the attention of a coach and slows down the process of recruitment. We also are not sure why they singled out these two schools as the ruling opens up a huge can of worms. Our best guess is that this ruling will get amended very quickly.
  3. Although they missed out on Emmanuel Mudiay, Kentucky got a nice consolation prize in Tyler Ulis, a four-star point guard, who committed to Kentucky on Friday night. With Andrew Harrison a likely one-and-done player it was essential that Kentucky get a point guard to replace him and after missing out on Mudiay it appeared that they were essentially down to Ulis or Tyus Jones, who is believed to be a Duke lean at this point. Kentucky beat out Michigan State and Iowa for Ulis’ services. The one catch with Ulis is his size, or lack thereof, as he measures just 5’9″ and around 150 pounds. We would never doubt John Calipari’s eye for talent (or at least his ability to recruit it), but this will certainly be something to watch for when Ulis presumably comes in as Wildcats starting point guard in 2014.
  4. It turns out that there is one more elite point guard in the class of 2014 who is still up for grabs after Louisville commit JaQuan Lyle backed out of his verbal commitment. Lyle is the second top point guard prospect to decommit from Louisville since July as he is following Quentin Snider, who backed out of his commitment from Louisville to commit to Illinois. It appears that the primary reason for Lyle’s decision was concern over playing time in a crowded Cardinal backcourt. We are a bit surprised that a player who is a top-25 overall recruit would be that worried about getting playing time on a team that admittedly has plenty of talent, but is not loaded with first round talent. Although Lyle has listed several teams, Kansas is the clear leader if they are willing to extend Lyle a scholarship.
  5. On Friday we mentioned the very real possibility that Syracuse and Georgetown would restart their rivalry even after they moved to different conferences. We hoped that they would serve as an example for other schools that had abandoned rivalries due to conference realignment. Based on a recent radio interview with Mike Krzyzewski it appears that it is unlikely that Duke will resume playing Maryland anytime soon. In between criticizing conference realignment, Krzyzewski essentially said he did not think that the two schools would play unless they were paired against each other in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (this is your chance, ESPN). We understand the logistical challenges of  scheduling non-conference opponents with the increasing size of conference schedules, but there are certain match-ups that we think should happen on a not infrequent basis and this is definitely one of them.
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John Calipari’s Recruiting Prowess is All-Encompassing

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 12th, 2013

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

Recruiting has never been as simple as John Calipari makes it look. Winning national championships, plucking the annual Rivals Top 150 of its very best talent, sending them off to the NBA Draft, and  grinning with every lottery selection. It is a self-sustaining cycle, and it has long since worked. That’s the part that makes sense. Most coaches don’t have the luxury of bringing in six McDonald’s All Americans to an iconic, tradition-laden program – so they use scouting acumen, and developmental prognostication, to find the best players the best teams have neglected (or temporarily dismissed) and scoop them up before engaging in a recruiting battle they can’t possibly win. Most high-major programs offer their own uniquely attractive features, true–even non-bluebloods offer variously amenities and benefits many top high schoolers find appealing. But generally, their job is more difficult than John Calipari’s. At this point, Calipari’s program basically recruits itself (Calipari is a terrific recruiter on his own merits, and he’s been in battles for top players with other big-name programs before, but there are a number of factors – program, coaching history, track record of NBA preparation – that give him a leg up on competitors). Most other coaches need to do a lot more heavy lifting before landing the players they sign.

From national championships to alumni games, Calipari has no rival on the recruiting trail (Getty Images)

From national championships to alumni games, Calipari has no rival on the recruiting trail (Getty Images)

Not only does he boast those obvious advantages, Calipari has a few recruiting tricks up his sleeve that he can pull out at a moment’s notice. There was the famous Jay-Z incident, in which the hip-hop mogul visited Kentucky’s locker room after the Wildcats advanced to the 2011 Final Four, not to mention his backstage access to Hov’s Barclays Center-opening concert. Or the controversial “greatest day in the history of the program” remark, which referred to Kentucky’s landmark five first-round selections in the 2010 draft, a statement representative of Calipari’s desire to – above winning championships, even – turn the high schoolers he recruits into wealthy professional basketball players using one year of Kentucky-based tutelage as their developmental pathway (in lieu of the impossible solution: the abolition of the NBA’s 19-year-old age limit). And then, my personal favorite: Calipari apologizing to recruits in June 2012 because “I’m spending the majority of my time answering questions from NBA teams about my six guys.” The subtle brilliance of that tweet is everlasting; sorry, five-star high school hoops stars of the world, but I’m busy talking to NBA scouts.Your questions will have to wait. It’s perfect.

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