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Published by The HOOP SCOOP, Inc., P.O. Box 37122, Louisville, KY 40233
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   Editor & Publisher Clark Francis     All rights reserved - Copyright 2004

HOT RECRUITING INFORMATION FOR JANUARY 2004

Friday, January 30, 2004 and Saturday, January 31, 2004

Yesterday 6'2 Antonio Kellogg from Oakland (McClymonds) CA verbally committed to the University of Connecticut and this is big for the Huskies, because Kellogg, who currently is ranked #125 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, arguably is best point guard still available in either the high school or prep school ranks.  Kellogg also is one of the fastest rising players in the senior class nationally.  If you will recall, Kellogg was not ranked among the top 225 players in the Class of 2004 prior to the start of the summer, but finished ranked #7 at the point guard position and #41 overall last summer at the NIKE All-American Camp and was the best player on the West Coast who was still available.  Kellogg also appears to be the perfect complement in this recruiting class to 6'2 A.J. Price from Amityville (H.S.) NY, who is ranked #13 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP and is expected to be the heir apparent to Taliek Brown at point guard next year.  As a matter of fact, just like Price, Kellogg is interchangeable at both the one and the two spots.  In other words, we're talking about somebody with the speed and quickness, handling and passing skills, and court savvy necesssary to play point guard and the outside shooting and scorer's mentality necessary to also be very effective at the wing guard spot.  Kellogg also is a terrific athletic, good defender, and has an excellent understanding of the game, plus he's already qualified academically.  The addition of Kellogg moves Connecticut's recruiting class, which also includes Price and 6'8 Rudy Gay from Severn (Archbishop Spalding) MD, up to #16 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  However, even more important it appears that the Huskies already have a replacement for Brown, who will graduate after this season, and 6'10 Jr Emeka Okafor, 6'2 Jr Ben Gordon, and 6'10 Frosh Charlie Villanueva, all of whom could potentially enter their names into the NBA Draft this spring.  Remember, the Huskies also have 6'8 Ed Nelson, who transferred from Georgia Tech to Connecticut last spring, sitting out this season.  And, if Nelson counted with Connecticut's recruiting class, the Huskies would be ranked #5 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  Connecticut beat schools like Oklahoma, Kansas, St. Joseph's, Washington, and Louisville for Kellogg's services.  And this too is important, because it appears that Louisville is trying to hedge their bets in case 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY enters his name into the NBA Draft this spring.  We also understand that 6'7 Luther Boyd from Iowa Western (JC) IA, who verbally committed yesterday to Lamar, is having second thoughts and, as a result, now has plans to make official visits to Lamar, Loyola-Chicago, and Wisconsin-Green Bay.  And Boyd is not the only player at Iowa Western (JC) IA who is still available.  As a matter of fact, another one of Lamar's prime targets appears to be Boyd's teammate - 6'2 Kris Collins from Iowa Western (JC) IA, who is back in junior college for another year after a brief stint a year ago at Minnesota.  However, the competition for Collins is intense, because he also has schools like St. Bonaventure, New Mexico, Clemson, and Baylor on his list.   Siena, Canisius, and Campbell are in the hunt for 6'3 Wade Dunston from Iowa Western (JC) IA, but he has the talent to get recruited by schools at a higher level.  Valparaiso, North Dakota State, Drake, and Maine are among those involved with 6'8 Matt O'Connor from Iowa Western (JC) IA and 6'7 Chris Temple from Iowa Western (JC) IA is getting the most interest from Missouri-Kansas City and East Tennessee State.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

6'9 Jerome Habel from Washington (Marriott Charter School) DC told us when we saw him at Slam Dunk to the Beach in Lewes, DE in late December that the three schools showing the most interest in him were Cincinnati, Florida State, and Providence.  So it comes as no surprise that the Seminoles have won the recruiting battle for this athletic power forward who is currently ranked #42 on our list of the Top 5th Year Players and was one of the fastest rising recruitable players in the nation.  Sure, Habel needs to get bigger and stronger physically, but every time we see him play, dating to back to last summer at the NIKE Peach Jam to more recently at Slam Dunk to the Beach, Habel just got better and better.  In other words, we're talking about a warrior inside, plus he also uses his athleticism and skills to beat you from mid-range and on the perimeter.  If Habel were still a high school senior, he wouldn't be ranked among our top 100 nationally right now, but he has an unlimited upside and potential.  So, as things stand now, the addition of Habel moves the Seminoles' recruiting class, which also includes 6'3 Isaiah Swann from Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA and 6'3 Jason Rich from Orlando (Dr. Phillips) FL, into a tie at #17, along with Marquette, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  And, if they also get 6'6 Cornelius Ingram from Hawthorne (H.S.) FL, who is expected to pick either Florida or Florida State and hopes to play both football and basketball in college, then their recruiting class would move up up to #16 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  But the real icing on the cake would be if Leonard Hamilton and his staff could steal another inside player, like 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, 6'11 Sani Ibrahim from Gulf Coast (JC) FL, or 6'10 Aaron Pettway from Hutchinson (JC) KS.  Should this happen, we not only would be talking about back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes, but there would be not doubt about the fact that Florida State has arrived as one of the perennial powers in college basketball.  We also have confirmed that Lamar has landed 6'7 Luther Boyd from Iowa Western (JC) IA and this is the icing on the cake for the Cardinals, because Boyd, who was ranked as an Honorable Mention Junior College All-American last fall by NBADraft.net, is a good old-fashioned 6'7, 240 lbs banger inside. "Boyd has the big body that coaches love for the low post and he has the capability to score and control the backboards," says Hoops Oasis, which is a Illinois and Missouri-based high school and junior college web site.  "He will also step out and shoot the face-up jumper."  Boyd, who played his senior year of high school at Chicago Heights (Bloom) IL, after transferring from Hoffman Estates (Conant) IL, was also recruited by schools like Texas Christian, Houston, Saint Louis, Illinois-Chicago, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Loyola-Illinois, Marshall.  The addition of Boyd moves Lamar's recruiting class, which also includes 6'7 Thomas Fairley from Redlands (JC) OK, 6'4 Chuck Foster from Austin (Lyndon B. Johnson) TX, 6'6 Durand Murray from Stone Mountain (Redan) GA, and 6'2 Jeremy Long from Eastern Arizona (JC) AZ, up to #37 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  We also have confirmed via our West Coast Editor Dinos Trigonis that 6'3 Wesley Washington, who signed with Minnesota a year ago, but was denied admission into school last spring, has finally surfaced at Yapavai (JC) AZ, where he will practice with the team the remainder of the season and be eligible to play either in junior college or at a four-year Division I school next year, depending upon whether he can get his academic situation in order during the next seven months.  Either way, it appears that he will have three years of eligibility to play at the Division I level, because this year will count as his red-shirt year.  We also still think that 6'5 Gabriel Pruitt from Los Angeles (Westchester) CA, who is one of the fastest rising players in senior class nationally, will not end up at USC, which is the school that he signed with during the Fall Signing Period.  Instead, we are guessing that Pruitt will not qualify academically and will go the prep school route, which means that, just like Washington, his recruitment may start all over.  Our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson tells us that 6'9 Soph Keith Clark, who is ranked #18 nationally in the sophomore class by the HOOP SCOOP, was dismissed recently from the Midwest City (H.S.) OK team and, as a result, has transferred to Oklahoma City (Putnam City) OK.  And this is important, because Putnam City already has the best junior in the state in 6'2 Jr C.J. Henry.  We also have confirmed that 6'9 Soph Chris Roquemore, who is ranked #26 nationally in the sophomore class, has transferred from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX to Alvin (Livingston Christian) TX, and his former teammate 6'7 Jr Rashad Woods from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX, who is ranked #78 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, may not be too far behind.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It comes as no surprise that we've gotten a lot of feedback with regards to our Rankings of the Top Coaches in the Game Today, which we published two days ago exclusively in the Members Section, and it is very interesting.  Several fans think Washington State's Dick Bennett is ranked too high at #11 on our list of the Top Head Coaches in the Game Today, but his peers will tell us that Bennett is as good as there is in terms of X's and O's and in his first year as head coach of the Cougars, Bennett has already won more games than the previous regime won all last season (currently Washington State is 8-9 and last year they finished only 7-20).  A Kentucky fan accuses us of being anti-Kentucky, because nobody on the Wildcats' coaching staff is ranked among the Top 70 Assistant Coaches.  And, after the Kentucky landed 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, who is ranked #18 nationally and is the second highest ranked 2-guard nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, yesterday and 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, who is one of the fastest rising players in the senior class nationally, as well as a legitimate top 30 player in the class, earlier this week, a you can bet that Wildcats assistant coach Scott Rigot will not only make the list, but he will move up dramatically next time we update these rankings.  Remember, Kentucky now has the #9-ranked recruiting class on our list the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004 and they might not be done yet, as they still appear to be among the leaders for 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA and 68 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY.  Another Kentucky fan, who apparently agrees with several letters that appeared earlier this week in the Louisville Courier-Journal from overjealous Kentucky fans who want to get rid of Tubby Smith, accuses us of being too pro-Smith and too pro-Kentucky.  However, we have to respectfully disagree.  As a matter of fact, if Kentucky had beaten Louisville this year, Smith would have been ranked #2 on the our ahead of Louisville's Rick Pitino.  Yes, it's that close!  A Florida State fan wants to know why only one of Leonard Hamilton's assistant coaches (Stan Jones) made our list of the Top 70 Assistant Coaches?  And we think he makes a great point.  However, we're not sure who to bump in order to get Mike Jaskulski and Tony Sheals onto the list.  Instead, we suspect that they will just move up dramatically, just like Connecticut's Clive Vaughan and Tom Moore did this year, a year or two from now, as the Seminoles continue to emerge as one of the powerhouse teams in college basketball.  Other astute observers have wanted to know why Providence assistant coach Steve DeMeo wasn't ranked any higher than #32 on our list of the Top 70 Assistant Coaches, why Ohio State head coach Jim O'Brien has fallen off the list of the Top Head Coaches in the Game Today, and why Nebraska's Scott Spinelli didn't make the list of the Top 70 Assistiant Coaches.  We think Spinelli, who was ranked #12 on the list of Top 40 Assistant Coaches Who Aren't In One of the Top 10 Division I Conferences a year ago when he was at Loyola-Illinois, is one of the rising stars in the business.  But this is only the first year Spinelli has been an assistant coach at the high Division I level and, as a result, thought it would be good to give Spinelli a year or two to pay his dues, while, at the same time,giving some other guys the recognition that they so richly deserve.  There is no doubt that O'Brien is a great coach, but what you've done lately means a lot (currently the Buckeyes are 1-4 in the Big-10 and 9-9 overall this season) when compiling a list of the Top Head Coaches in the Game Today.  However, if the Buckeyes get 6'6 Malik Hairston from Detroit (Renaissance) MI this spring and turn things around next season, you can bet that O'Brien will be right back up where he belongs in future.  As a matter of fact, it wouldn't surprise us if O'Brien takes the spot of Rick Majerus, who was hospitalized with heart problems last night and will resign at the end of the current season, when we update this list next season.  DeMeo is the guy who recruited all those guys, like Abdul Mills, Ryan Gomes, Sheiku Kabba, and Donnie McGrath, that most people missed on to Providence.  Speaking of Gomes, it's too bad that Andy Katz of ESPN didn't have a better source on just how good Gomes was in high school.  We're talking about a guy who just missed being ranked among our top 100 seniors nationally, but never got the respect he deserved, despite being a 20-point/rebound a game guy, because he was a 6'7 undersized power forward and Wayne Simone, who runs the Connecticut Select AAU program, kept trying to pass Gomes off as being a wing forward.   Somebody else wants to know how I could omit Kevin Keatts from Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA from our list of the Top 25 High School/Prep School Coaches?  "He has the #1 ranked team in the country this year and is a proven prep school coach from his time before when he was at Hargrave.  He has six players that have committed early going to:  Florida State, Arkansas, USC, Dayton, Xavier, and Louisville.  His career record at Hargrave, not including this year's 14-1 start, is 47-4.  Not to mention 100% of his kids have qualified."  Do you get the idea that ranking coaches is a lot harder than ranking players?  However, I will stand by our current rankings, especially in light of our track record when it comes to the ranking of the top assistant coaches recent years.  Looking back to to 1999, we had Virginia's Bobby Gonzalez and Duke's Quin Synder ranked as the top two assistant coaches in the game and within a year they had head coaching jobs at Manhattan and Missouri.  Two years ago, three of our top five assistant coaches - Arizona's Jay John, Kansas' Neil Dougherty, and Connecticut's Dave Leitao - got head coaching jobs at Oregon State, Texas Christian, and DePaul, all of which are schools in big-time conference.  And last spring three of our top four-ranked assistant coaches - Ohio State's Paul Biancardi, Louisville's Mick Cronin, and Michigan State's Brian Gregory - got head coaching jobs at Wright State, Murray State, and Dayton, where they each now have their team ranked either first or second in their respective league standings.  But I am interested in what you think.  Who is ranked too high?   Who is ranked too low?  And who are we missing on our different lists of the top coaches in the game?  Please email me at hoopscooponline@msn.com or call me at 1-502-500-4667.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

After Joe Crawford's father said last week that his son probably not decide between Kentucky and Michigan until the end of the high school season and due to the fact 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA verbally committed to the University of Kentucky over the weekend, it was a major surprise when our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson told us late last night that 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI had also verbally committed to the Wildcats.  In other words, Kentucky has reloaded at both guards positions, as they currently have Patrick Sparks, who transferred from Western Kentucky to Kentucky last spring, sitting out this season and Crawford, Rondo, 6'3 Ramel Bradley from Bradenton (Pendleton School) FL and 6'4 Adam Williams from St. Albans (H.S.) WV all listed as a part of their current recruiting class.  However, they have yet to shore up their immediate inside needs.  Sure, 6'6 Chuck Hayes, who might just be the best undersized power forward in college basketball, will be back for another season and 7'1 Frosh Lukasz Obrzut is showing signs that he might develop into more than just a role player, but the Wildcats still need another quality inside player, like 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA or 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, in order to avoid being very similar to this season's team, which has dramatically overachieved with an undersized wing forward in Erik Daniels at center, Hayes at power forward, and a bunch of guards in the line-up.  As a matter of fact, University of Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith once again should be one of the early leading candidates for National Coach-of-the-Year honors, along with St. Joseph's Phil Martelli, Stanford's Mike Montgomery, Air Force's Joe Scott, Texas Tech's Bob Knight, Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, Wake Forest's Skip Prosser, Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings, and South Carolina's Dave Odom.  And making the story even more interesting is the fact that it appears the Wildcats are still in the hunt with Morris and Palacios, which means Kentucky may fill their immediate needs now and sort out the rest later.  Remember, NCAA rules state that a Division I school can only sign eight players over a two-year period (five one-year and three the next).  But as things stand now, Kentucky has nine players - Sparks, Crawford, Bradley, Rondo, Williams, Obrzut, Shagari Alleyne, Sheray Thomas, and Bobby Perry - who are expected to count toward their current two-year scholarship limit.  The most obvious move to get around the five-eight rule would be get Williams to go the prep school route, but there also appears to be a possibility that Sparks might be willing to walk-on next year and, as a result, free up yet another scholarship.  There is always the possibility that for the second time since the five-and-eight rule was implemented in the spring of 2000, the NCAA could give Division I schools an additional scholarship over the current two-year period.  Or they could throw out the five-and-eight rule altogether.  However, even this would not solve Kentucky's 13-player scholarship limit problem.  If you will recall, the Wildcats currently have four seniors in Cliff Hawkins, Gerald Fitch, Antwain Barbour, and Erik Daniels; two juniors in Josh Carrier and Chuck Hayes, three sophomores in Kelenna Azubuike, Bernard Cote, and Brandon Stockton, and four freshmen in Lukasz Obrzut, Shagari Alleyne, Sheray Thomas, and Bobby Perry.  So with 13 players already on scholarship this year, Kentucky was able to finesse the scholarship limit this year by getting Stockton to enroll in school and sit out as a walk-on.  And with Crawford, Bradley, Rondo, and Williams already counting as part of the current recruiting class, Kentucky already appears to have the same problem next year.  So, if they hit the jackpot and get either Morris or Palacios, Kentucky would have to get Sparks to walk-on another year and get Williams to go to prep school.  Usually these things have a way of working out, but signing six players and letting it work itself out later has been known to backfire.  The best example is when UNLV finished with the #5-ranked recruiting class, which included 6'10 Chris Adams from San Francisco (JC) CA, 5'10 Jerel Blassinghame from L.A. City (JC) CA, 6'8 Romel Beck from L.A. City (JC) CA, 6'6 Andy Hannan from Minneapolis Community (JC) MN, 6'3 John Winston from Richmond (Salesian) CA, and 6'2 Michael Umeh from Sugar Land (Hightower) TX, last spring.  But when it came time for them to all enroll in school, Adams, who not only was the best player in the class, but also was a consensus top five junior college player a year ago, suddenly became the odd-man-out and, instead, had to go to Fresno State at the last minute.  The problem stemmed from the fact that all six players in the Runnin' Rebels recruiting clas made it academically, but Adams was the last one do so.  And this could actually happen with Kentucky, if the Wildcats get a commitment from Morris or Palacios and Williams doesn't want to walk-on or go to prep school.  Remember, Williams signed a binding National Letter-of-Intent last fall, which means he's guaranteed a scholarship at Kentucky for one-year.  If Kentucky also gets Morris, he and Crawford would ultimiately be the two best players in the program and, as a result, Rondo still could end up being the odd-man-out.  And, if this happens, and 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, as expected to, enters his name into the NBA Draft this spring and Louisville once again needs a point guard, maybe the Wildcats would be willing to trade Rondo to the Cardinals for a player to be named later.  However, the smart money is on Williams attending prep school at Fork Union (Military) VA.  Remember, Smith's such good friends with Fork Union head coach Fletcher Arritt that he trusted him to coach his youngest son, Brian Smith, this season.  The only other news that Johnson has to pass along involves 6'6 Keena Young from South Plains (JC) TX, who originally was part of the package with 6'10 Kendrick Perkins from Beaumont (Ozen) TX to Memphis.  However, when Perkins entered his name into the NBA Draft last spring, Young decided to go the junior college route for a year and, as a result, still has three years of college eligibility remaining due to the fact that he was academically qualified when he graduated from high school.  This moves Texas Tech's recruiting class into a tie at #69, along with Washington State and Wagner, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  And this precedes Texas Tech's great head start on the future.  Remember, the Red Raiders already have early verbal commitments from 6'8 Justin Wilkerson from Greenville (H.S.) TX, 6'10 Kendrick Johnson from Morton (H.S.) TX, and 6'3 Calvin Johnson from Morton (H.S.) TX, which explains why their recruiting class is ranked #5 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2005.

Monday, January 26, 2004

The fact that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino announced earlier today that he is taking an indefinite leave of absence for health reasons, does not influence our Rankings of the Top Head Coaches in College Basketball, which was has been published exclusively in the Members Section of the HOOP SCOOP.  However, we do find that there were some other changes in our rankings when compared to a year ago, as University of Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith moves up to #3, behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Pitino and ahead of Texas Tech's Bob Knight, Arizona's Lute Olson, North Carolina's Roy Williams, Cincinnati's Bob Huggins, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, Maryland's Gary Williams, and Michigan State's Tom Izzo, all of whom were ranked among the top 10 coaches in college basketball a year ago by the HOOP SCOOP.  The next major changes are the addition to the list of Dick Bennett, who came out of retirement last spring to coach Washington State, at #11 and the dramatic rise of Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who finally is getting the respect he deserves after winning the NCAA Championship in the spring of 2003, at #12.  Rounding out our List of the Top 35 Head Coaches in the College Game Today in order are Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton, Florida's Billy Donovan, Utah's Rick Majerus, Stanford's Mike Montgomery, Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson, Purdue's Gene Keady, Wake Forest's Skip Prosser, Texas' Rick Barnes, Marquette's Tom Crean, Gonzaga's Mark Few, Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Memphis' John Calipari, Indiana's Mike Davis, N.C. State's Herb Sendek, St. Joseph's Phil Martelli, UCLA's Ben Howland, Holy Cross' Ralph Willard, Creighton Dana Altman, Temple's John Chaney, South Carolina's Dave Odom, California's Ben Braun, and UNLV's Charlie Spoonhour.  And just missing making this list are Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, who, instead, head our list of the Top 40 Head Coaches Who are in the Middle of Their Career, but have the Potential to Move Onto Our List of the Top 35 Head Coaches in the Game Today.  We also have a list of the Top 30 Up-And Coming Head Coaches (must have been a head coach five-years or less at the Division I level), which is headed by Manhattan's Bobby Gonzalez, Arkansas' Stan Heath,and Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon; the Top 70 Assistant Coaches, which is headed by Villanova's Fred Hill, Florida's Anthony Grant, and Kansas' Norm Roberts; the Top 40 Assistant Coaches Who Aren't in One of the Top 10 Division I Conferences, which is headed by Lamar's Steve Roccaforte, College of Charleston's Pat Skerry, and Illinois State's Steve Forbes; the Ranking of the Top 20 Top Guys Who Are In an Adminstrative Position, Like Director of Basketball Operations, Administrative Assistant, or Video Coordinator, which is headed by Indiana's Dusty May, St. John's Alex Evans, and Iowa State's Darryl Sharp; the Ranking of the Top Five Coaches Who May Be Back Sooner Than Later, which is headed by former St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis former North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty, and former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin; and the Ranking of the Top High School and/or Prep School Coaches Nationally, which is headed by Bob Hurley, Sr of Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, Jere Quinn of Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, and Steve Smith of Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Victoria Sun, who is the beat writer who covers the University of Kentucky basketball for the Cincinnati Post, has the scoop on 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, who verbally committed to the Wildcats earlier today.  And this is very significant for a number of reasons.  First, Rondo is one of the fastest rising players in the senior class nationally, as is evident by the fact that Rondo is currently ranked #102 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, but will move up into the 30-40 range nationally next time we up-date our rankings after stepping in and doing a marvelous job of running the show for the #1-ranked high school team in the nation.  As a matter of fact, Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith will tell you that Rondo has been his team's Most Valuable Player, which is saying a lot when one remembers that Oak Hill also has 6'9 Josh Smith, who is projected as a high first round draft pick, if he enters his name into the NBA Draft this spring; 6'9 Brian Johnson, who is ranked #30 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP and is bound for Louisville; 6'7 DayShaun Wright, who is ranked #46 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP and is bound for Syracuse; and 6'4 Jr.K.C. Rivers, who is ranked #40 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP.  Second, the verbal commitment by Rondo means that the Wildcats are out of scholarships, according the five-and eight rule, whereby, Division I schools are limited to signing only eight players over a two year period.  If you will recall, the Wildcats signed Shagari Alleyne, Sheray Thomas, Bobby Perry, and Lukasz Obrzut a year ago; added Patrick Sparks, who transferred from Western Kentucky to Kentucky last spring; and signed 6'4 Adam Williams from St. Albans (H.S.) WV and 6'3 Ramel Bradley from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL during the Fall Signing Period.  It is possible that the NCAA may pass legislation this spring that allow Division I schools to sign nine players, instead of eight, over a two-year period and/or Williams might decide to go the prep school route.  So we'd be surprised if the Wildcats don't continue to recruit 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA and 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY.  Remember, Kentucky needs to sign another inside player and right now Morris' final two schools appear to be Kentucky and Georgia Tech and Palacios' top five are Louisville, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Texas, and Baylor. Third, despite the quotes from 6'3 Joe Crawford's father several days ago saying that Kentucky's recent scholarship offer to Rondo won't have any effect on Crawford's decision, Rondo's verbal commitment to the Wildcats should all but assure that Crawford will go to the University of Michigan.  In other words, we find it hard to believe that Kentucky would take another guard when they already will have three excellent guards (Sparks, Bradley, and Rondo) in the program and need to land another inside player, like Morris or Palacios, who can step in and make an immediate impact next season.  Fourth, Rondo also had been attracting interest from schools like Illinois, Georgia, USC, Florida, Arkansas, and Boston College, but, when it was all said and done, most people thought Rondo would end up at Louisville, if 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY decides to by-pass college and enters his name into the NBA Draft this spring.  At least that was the case until the Wildcats recently jumped into the mix.  And this is important, because it puts Kentucky one up on the scoreboard in terms of keeping up with Louisville and Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino.   Remember, Louisville has beaten Kentucky each of the last two years and currently the Cardinals' recruiting class, which includes Telfair, 6'7 Donta Smith from Southeastern Illinois (JC) IL, 6'9 Brian Johnson from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, 6'5 Lorenzo Wade from Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA, and 6'10 Terrance Farley from Louisville (Pleasure Ridge Park) KY, is tied at #1, along with Indiana, Texas, and Arkansas, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   Fifth, the verbal commitment by Rondo to the Wildcats moves Kentucky's recruiting class into a tie at #20, along with Arizona, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   And, if Kentucky also lands Palacios or Morris, their recruiting class would move into a tie at #9, along with UCLA, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   Not only would this put the Wildcats exactly where they want to be a year from now with respect to remaining near the top of the tough Southeastern Conference for years to come, but it would also make it very difficult for Kentucky fans to make the case that the current regime can't recruit the top players in the nation.   

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Chris Monter of CollegeBasketballNews reported yesterday on his web site that 6'7 Jr Joe Krabbenhoft from Sioux Falls (Roosevelt) SD was supposed to make an early verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin today.  So we assume that this did indeed happen on Krabbenhoft's unofficial visit during the Wisconsin-Illinois game earlier today in Madison, WI.  Monter calls Krabbenhoft "the best player from that state since former NBA Rookie-of-the-Year and University of Florida star Mike Miller."  And after discovering Krabbenhoft last June at the Rumble in the Bronx while playing for the Howard Pulley club team, we rank Krabbenhoft #54 nationally in the junior class.   We're talking about a deceptively athletic tough hardnosed white kid who can beat you with his outside shooting and is big, strong, and tough enough to creat match-up problems for wing players at the next level.  In other words, Krabbenhoft is ideally suited to step in and complement 7'0 Brian Butch, who is red-shirting this year, and 6'11 Greg Steimsma from Randolph (H.S.) WI, who is ranked #50 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, on what promises to be one of the best front-lines in college basketball two years from now.   Krabbenhoft's verbal commitment moves Wisconsin's recruiting class into a tie at #12, along with Pittsburgh, Michigan, and Gonzaga, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2005, plus it means that 18 of the top 100-ranked juniors nationally by the HOOP SCOOP have already made early verbal commitments.  Actually the number of juniors ranked among our top 100 that are already verbally committed drops back down to 17, because it appears that 6'7 Jr Rashad Woods from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX, who is ranked #78 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, has changed his mind again about attending Baylor.  If you will recall, both Woods and 6'8 Soph Chris Roquemore from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX, who is ranked #26 nationally in the sophomore class by the HOOP SCOOP, made early verbal commitments to Baylor last fall, but then reneged on the Bears in mid-December.  However, less than a week later Woods reaffirmed his commitment to Baylor.  Obviously other schools are using the fact that Baylor may face potential NCAA violations as a means of sabotaging the incredible recruiting job that the Bears coaching staff has done to-date.  Remember, Baylor's current recruiting class, which already includes 6'11 Mamadou Diene from the Senegal, 6'0 Jihad Muhammed from San Jacinto (JC) TX, and 6'2 Aaron Bruce from Horsham, Australia, is ranked #14 on our list of Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  And, if 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY also picks Baylor in the spring, then their recruiting class would move up to #5, behind Indiana, Texas, Louisville, and Arkansas, all of which are currently tied at #1 on our list of Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  However, even more important, Baylor could have a class that includes the top ranked player at Babacar Sy Basketball Camp in the Senegal in July, the #1-ranked junior college point guard by the Sporting News Pre-Season Yearbook, the guy who scored 25 points against the United States team in the World Junior Championship in Greece in July, and the #27-ranked senior in the nation by the HOOP SCOOP, if they get Palacios.  And, if that weren't enough, 6'6 Tim Bush transferred from LSU to Baylor last fall and it sitting out this year.  So our guess is that when the dust has settled Woods will reaffirm his commitment to Baylor.   However, we're not so sure about Roquemore.  As a matter of fact, we've heard rumors that Roquemore transferring to Stockbridge (Community Christian) GA.  And, if that happens, we're not sure that Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang will have the same influence that he has now.  Remember, Tang previously was the head coach at Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX and, as a result, already has successfully gotten both Roquemore and Woods to attend this private school in Houston, TX.  Our Mississippi Editor Lavel Johnson tells us that North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was in town on Tuesday night to watch 6'3 Jr Monta Ellis from Jackson (Lanier) MS when his team played Jackson (Provine) MS at Jackson State University.  And this is the second time we know of this season that Williams has seen Ellis play (Williams also saw Ellis at the KMOX Shootout in December in St. Louis, MO).  So it would appear that Ellis is a prime recruiting target for the Tar Heels, especially now that 6'2 Jr Louis Williams from Snellville (South Gwinette) GA is already a done deal for the University of Georgia.  But getting Ellis out of Jackson, MS might be easier said than done, because Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi State also have made Ellis a priority.  Our Our Editor Chris Johnson tells us that the University of Washington has landed 6'9 Zach Johnson from Sacramento (Natomas) CA, who was ranked #16 in the senior class in the state by the HOOP SCOOP prior to when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee nine months ago and tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in December.  This 6'9, 250 lbs power forward also is expected to have surgery on both knees within the next four months and, as a result, will likely red-shirt his freshman year a year from now.  However, if Johnson is able to fully recover and stay healthy, he could turn out to be an excellent catch down the road for the Huskies.  Thus, explains why Washington's recruiting class, which also includes 6'5 Joel Smith from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, has moved into a tie at #117, along with Kansas State, Illinois State, Fordham, San Francisco, and Hofstra, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004

Friday, January 23, 2004

One of the many areas where the HOOP SCOOP is way ahead of its competition is knowing about and ranking players in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades.  And, if you don't believe it, just check out our rankings of the top players in the Class of 2008, Class of 2009, Class of 2010, and Class of 2011.  All this important, because we'll get a chance to see many of these players competiting against one another at the adidas Junior Phenom Camp, which will be held August 6th-8th at Alliant University in San Diego, CA.  Not only will this "invitation only camp" be the first camp of its kind for this age group, but it will include the top 80 junior high school players in each class and will be modeled after the prestigious Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck NJ, NIKE All-American Camp in Indianapolis, IN, the adidas All-American Camp in Atlanta, GA.  Obviously the carrot that camp director Joe Keller will use to get the elite players to attend will be opportunity to test their game against other top players in their age group throughout the weekend.  However, the camp will also offer a variety of mandatory classes on academics and life skills which will better prepare each player for success in high school, college, and life.  And passing on these words of wisdom will be some of the top coaches in the game and elite skills instructors.  The facilities are second to none, as Alliant University has six new wood floors under one roof, and the camp will culminate with championship and All-Star Games on the final day.  If you would like to nominate a player, you can email adidasjrcamp@aol.com (include your phone number for easy follow-up).  Other events that we've added to our list of Dates/Future Events, include the Ohio State Finals and Michigan State Finals, both of which will be held March 25th-27th at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI and the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, OH; the adidas All-American Camp in Atlanta, GA, July 7th-11th; the USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival in Colorado Springs, CO, June 23rd-27th; and the FIBA Americas World Championship (19-Under) Qualifty Tournament in Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 28th-August 1st.  Twice we've already mentioned the new adidas All-American Camp, which will be going head-to-head this summer against both the NIKE All-American Camp and the Reebok ABCD Camp.  And while this good news for adidas, it is too bad for people in our business, because suddenly providing accurate coverage of the superstars oriented camps not only became that much more difficult, but it also means that all three camps will be that much more watered down in terms of showcasing the top talent in the nation.  And this comes right on the heels of adidas' plans to also have an AAU-like tournament in San Diego, CA, which will be held directly opposite of the Reebok Big Time Tournament and The Main Event, both of which will be held in Las Vegas, NV, July 22nd-26th.  All this has come about due to the fact that Sonny Vaccaro has left adidas to run the grass roots basketball program at Reebok and adidas has retained a lot of Vaccaro's old people in an attempt to keep a major piece of the pie.  In other words, the shoe company war just became that more intense and, thus explains why it is more important than ever for these three shoe companies to get an early start on identifying and recruiting the top young players in the nation into their programs.  During the last several years it appeared that NIKE was the big winner in terms of landing the top players in the Class of 2005 and Class of 2006, thanks primarily to the efforts of George Raveling and Don Crenshaw, who did a tremendous job of getting most of the top players in these two classes into NIKE programs at an early age.  However, with the inaugural adidas Junior Phenom Camp in San Diego, CA scheduled for early August, the balance of power at the middle school level will likely tip into adidas' favor. 

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, NJ is one of the premier events of the entire year, but once again I feel like I can do more damage if I attend in the National Prep School Invitational, which will be held at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI on the weekend of February 6th-8th, because many of the top 5th Year and Prep School Players in the nation will be in attendance, including 6'7 Dorell Wright from South Kent (Prep) CT, 6'5 Robert Vaden from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME, 6'10 Jermaine Bell from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'3 Ramel Bradley from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL, 6'10 Longar Longar from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'6 Cheyenne Moore from South Kent (Prep) CT, 6'2 Vincent Banks from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'6 8th Grader Michael Beasley from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL, 6'6 Rahshon Clark from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME, 6'4 Jesus Verdejo from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'6 C.J. Anderson from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'9 Cornelio Guibunda from Stanford (King & Low-Heywood Thomas) CT, 6'7 Soph Rob Thomas from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, 6'5 Joel Smith from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, 6'5 Joe McCray from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'8 Richard Dorsey from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'2 Khalif Ford from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME, 6'2 Robert McKiver from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'2 Danny Morrissey from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL, 6'7 Stuard Baldonado from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'0 Maureece Rice from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'9 Jr Vernon Goodridge from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'1 Jamuel Warren from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'7 Tavon Nelson from South Kent (Prep) CT, 6'3 Kelvin Davis from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, 6'7 Michael Binns from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, 6'7 Jr Khalil Hartwell from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'3 Rashad Bilal from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL, 6'6 Will Harris from Troy (Redemption) NY, 6'2 Marcus Hammond from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, 6'7 Mantas Griskenas from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'11 Kellen Lee from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'2 Kojo Mensah from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 5'11 Joe Miles from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, 6'9 Maurice Shaw from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME, 6'9 Josh Jackson from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'8 Frantz Dorsainvil from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'8 Sam Dolan from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, 6'1 Jack McClinton from South Kent (Prep) CT, 6'0 Cedrick Middleton from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, 6'5 Ben Farmer from Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT, 6'8 Louis Graham from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'10 Cassin Diggs from North Bridgton (Academy) MD, 6'4 Donovan Morris from Winchendon (School) MA, 6'7 Chad Ferguson from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'6 Marcus Green from Philadelphia (Christian) PA, 6'9 Shawn James from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'3 Marvin Kilgore from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'3 Paul Cumnins from South Kent (Prep) CT, 6'5 Chris Fuller from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'0 Cameron Tyler from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'1 Deion James from Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH, 6'3 Jay Hight from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) NH, 6'6 Lamar Barrett from Barrington (St. Andrews) RI, 6'3 Jamal Dart from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA, 6'3 Michael Kach from Winchendon (School) MA, 5'8 Omar Johnson from Pittsfield (Maine Central Institute) ME, 6'9 Charles Bronson from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'3 Kris Clark from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'8 Jermaine Johnson from Winchendon (School) MA, 5'11 Dominique White from Winchendon (School) MA, 5'10 Eric Howard from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 6'4 Stephon Jackson from Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA, 6'4 Nick Mattone from Barrington (St. Andrews) RI, 6'7 Doug McLaughlin-Williams from Winchendon (School) MA, 5'9 Quincy Marshall from Pittsfield (Maine Central Institute) ME, and 7'3 Jermaine Middleton from South Kent (Prep) CT.  The first game will tip-off on Friday, February 6th, with Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA versus Philadelphia (Christian) PA at 1:30 PM, followed by Bradenton (IMG Academy-A) FL versus Laurinburg (Prep) NC at 3:00 PM, Bradenton (IMG Academy-B) FL versus Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH at 4:45 PM, South Kent (Prep) CT versus Northfield (Northfield-Mt. Herman) MA at 6:30 PM, North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME versus Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA at 6:30 PM, and Philadelphia (Christian) PA versus Troy (Redemption) NY at 9:45 PM.  Saturday's action will begin with Philadelphia (Lutheran) PA versus Troy (Redemption) NY at 9:00 AM, followed by Bradenton (IMG Academy-A) FL versus North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME at 10:45 AM, Wolfeboro (Brewster Academy) NH versus Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT at 12:30 PM, Winchendon (School) MA versus Bradenton (IMG Academy-B) FL at 2:15 PM, Barrington (St. Andrews) RI versus Northfield (Northfield-Mt. Herman) MA at 3:45 PM, Pittsfield (Maine Central Institute) ME versus Laurinburg (Institute) NC at 5:30 PM, Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA versus South Kent (Prep) CT at 7:15 PM, and Pawtuckett (Saint Raphael) RI versus New Bedford (H.S.) MA at 8:45 PM.  Then, on Sunday, February 8th, it will be Pittsfield (Maine Central Institute) ME versus Northfield (Northfield-Mt. Herman) MA at 9:00 AM, Bradenton (IMG Academy-A) FL versus Oakdale (St. Thomas More) CT at 10:45 AM, Barrington (St. Andrews) RI versus Stanford (King & Low-Heywood Thomas) CT at 12:15 PM, Winchendon (School) MA versus Laurinburg (Prep) NC at 1:45 PM, Bradenton (IMG Academy-B) FL versus Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA at 3:30 PM, and South Kent (Prep) CT versus Troy (Redemption) NY at 5:00 PM.  However, this does not mean that will plan to forget about the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, NJ, because our Philadelphia/Eastern Pennsylvania/South Jersey Editor Allen Rubin will be there to cover it from start-to-finish.  Speaking of the Prime Time Shootout, we previewed this event in this section on Tuesday, January 13th, but it appears there have been a number of changes to the schedule on Saturday, February 8th.  First, Burlington (City) NJ will replace Horsham (Hatboro-Horsham) NJ in the first game of the day against Rochester (McQuaid Jesuit) NY at 10:00 AM.  Second, Amityville (H.S.) NY will replace Mt. Vernon in the third game of the day against Syracuse (Christian Brothers) NY at 1:00 PM.  Third, the game with Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA versus Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA has been moved to 4:30 PM and the game with Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD versus Philadelphia (Simon Gratz) PA, which is taking the place of Philadelphia (Penn Charter) PA, has been moved to 2:30 PM.  Fourth, Mt. Vernon will be taking the place of Prentiss (H.S.) MS and New York (Rice) NY has been flip-flopped with Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY in order to get at New York (Rice) NY versus Mt. Vernon (H.S.) NY match-up at 6:00 PM and the big match-up with Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY and 6'0 Sebastian Telfair versus Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA and 6'11 Dwight Howard at 8:00 PM.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Up until a week ago the University of Kentucky had never shown much interest in 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, who is ranked #102 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, but will move up dramatically next time we update our national rankings after stepping in and doing a great job of running the show for the #1-ranked high school team in the nation this winter.  Previously we thought that Rondo would wait to see what is going to happen with 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY.   Remember, Rondo wanted to go to Louisville, but took Telfair instead of Rondo last fall.  However, if Telfair decides to by-pass college and enter his name into the NBA Draft this spring, you can bet the Cardinals will make a strong push for Rondo, who also is considering Illinois, Georgia, USC, and Maryland.  But all that could change if a scholarship offer by the Wildcats is forthcoming sometime in the near future.  And that could put the Wildcats coaching staff into an interesting predicament, because Kentucky also is the co-favorite, along with Georgia Tech, for 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA, who is ranked #16 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, and the co-favorite, along with Michigan, for 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, who is ranked #18 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP.  Also remember that Kentucky needs to sign at least one inside player who can step in and make an immediate impact next year and that the Wildcats only have one or two scholarships available, depending upon whether 6'4 Adam Williams from St. Albans (H.S.) WA is willing to pay his own way or decides to go to prep school next year.  In other words, if the Wildcats got a verbal commitment from Rondo and later also got Crawford, they would have three excellent guards in Rondo, Crawford, and 6'3 Ramel Bradley from Bradenton (IMG Academy) FL and nobody with any size in this recruiting class.  Rondo is the 6th best senior, behind 6'11 Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, 6'6 Malik Hairston from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA, 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, and 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, who is still available, but it's our guess that the Wildcats would prefer not to have to make a decision regarding whether to take Rondo until they know what Morris and Crawford are going to do.  Remember, they already have Bradley in the fold and Patrick Sparks, who transferred from Western Kentucky last spring and is sitting out this year, is waiting in the wings for next year.  Speaking of transfers, did you know that 6'7 Mario Boggan is transferring from Florida to St. Bonaventure, 6'0 Brandon Cotton is transferring from Michigan State, 6'0 Quinton Day is transferring from Southern Cal to Missouri-Kansas City, and 6'4 Tim Blackwell is transferring from Creighton to Missouri-Kansas City?  And, in each case, we think the new school got a major steal.  If  you will recall, Boggan was an undersized power forward when he was at Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA and Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA, but he played so hard and was such a good blue collar player inside that we ranked him #6 among 5th Year Players in the Class of 2002.  Cotton, who is best described as a scoring point guard, was named to the McDonald's All-American Team and was ranked #20 nationally in the senior class in our Final Rankings of the Top Players in the Class of 2003.  Day and Blackwell also were both ranked in the 200-300 range in our Final Rankings of the Top Players in the Class of 2003, which means they both should be immediate impact players when they become eligible at the semester break a year from now.  We don't count transfers when ranking recruiting class, but, if we did, St. Bonaventure's recruiting class, which also includes 6'6 Charles Burch from Marion (Tabor Academy) MA, 6'5 Willie Morse from State College (H.S.) PA, and 6'1 Isaiah Carson from Springfield (South) OH, would move into a tie at #33, along with Georgia Tech and Iowa, and, Missouri-Kansas City's recruiting class, which also includes 5'11 Mose Howard from Iowa Western (JC) IA, 6'8 Brian Gettinger from Overland Park (Shawnee Mission South) KS, and 6'9 Jeremiah Hartsock from Bartlesville (H.S.) OK, would move into a tie at #40, along with Wright State and College of Charleston, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  Detroit only has one player in the fold from the fall signing period in 6'7 Ethan Shaw from Iowa Western (JC) IA, but,if we counted Cotton with Detroit's recruiting class, it would move into a tie at #64, along with Villanova and Tennessee, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004, plus the Titans would have a guy who has the potential to be the best player in the Horizon League in a couple of years.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

For the second year in a row the best player at the Flyin' To the Hoop International Holiday Basketball Invitational in Vandalia, OH was 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, who had 26 points 16 rebounds, and five assists, as he led his team to a 72-55 win against Reserve (Christian) LA in the championship game of the Flyin To the Hoop Bracket.  Palacios also had a tournament record 43 points and nine rebounds in a 70-67 overtime win against West Chester (Lakota East) OH in the semi-finals.  Palacios is currently the 5th highest ranked senior in the nation, behind 6'11 Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, 6'6 Malik Hairston from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA, and 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, who is still available and, as a result, our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson got the latest list of schools for Palacios, which includes Kentucky, Baylor, Texas, Louisville, and Pittsburgh.  Palacios also told Johnson that North Carolina and Indiana are trying to get involved and that the NBA also is a possibility.  And Palacios makes no secret of the fact that his goal in college will be to get to the NBA as soon as possible in order to help mother, who still lives in Columbia, find a better life.  In other words, Palacios is looking for the best opportunity to step in and play immediately, which is one of two big reasons why Johnson still thinks Baylor is the team to beat.  Remember, Baylor head coach Scott Drew is the coach who first discovered Palacios, plus he helped open the door for him to come to the United States.  Also putting up big numbers in the championship game of the Flyin To the Hoop Bracket was 5'10 Soph Demond Carter from Reserve (Christian) LA, but it had to take 28 shots for him to score 25 points.  Carter also finished with five assists, but Johnson still thinks Carter is more of 2-guard than a point guard at only 5'10.  But that hasn't stopped schools like Ohio State, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Georgia Tech from showing a lot of early interest.  Cincinnati (St. Xavier) OH beat Lakewood (St. Edwards) OH, 61-46, in the Buckeye Bracket, thanks primarily to the efforts of 6'2 Jr Johnny Wolf, who led St. Xavier with 15 points.  The best player and leading scorer with 18 points for St. Edwards was 5'10 Trent Morgan.  Providence-bound 6'0 JuJuan Robinson scored 22 points, as he led Pickens (Prince Avenue Prep) SC to a 61-50 win against Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON in the Top Gun Bracket.  The biggest surprise in the tournament was 6'3 Soph James Dews from West Chester (Lakota East) OH, who had 32 points versus Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY and had 35 points and hit 11-15 field goals and 4-5 3-pointers in a consolation upset against Champlain St. Lambert) QU.  So Johnson talked to Lakota East head coach Wally Vickers after the game and found out that the early favorites for Dews are Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Xavier, and Notre Dame.  However, despite Dews' lights out performance, some Cincinnati scouting services still believe that Dews is no better than the third best guard in the class in the Cincinnati area behind 6'2 Soph Keith White from Cincinnati (Winton Woods) OH and 6'3 Soph Adrian Graves from Cincinnati (Hughes) OH.  In sharp contrast, Johnson has Dews ranked #4 in the state's loaded sophomore class.  The knock on Dews is that he can't create his own shot, but Johnon thinks there are a lot of guys in college who don't can shoot the ball as well as Dews does right now.  And Dews continues to improve his ability to create off the dribble.  Dews also did an excellent job defensively against 6'1 Pierre-Marie Alfidor-Cespedes from Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) ON, who was one of the two major busts of the entire tournament.  The other major bust was UC-Santa Barbara-bound 6'9 Chris Moore from Lakewood (St. Edward) OH, who, after scoring 16 points against Zanesville (H.S.) OH in the opening round, was limited to only six points against Cincinnati (St.Xavier) OH, which had nobody taller than 6'6, in the Buckeye Bracket Championship Game.  Two other players that Johnson was especially impressed with were 6'6 Everett Spencer from Richmond (New Creations) IN and 6'5 Justin Orr from Cincinnati (La Salle) OH.  And Johnson thinks Spencer is an absolute steal for Wright State head coach Paul Biancardi.  We're talking about a guy who scored 26.5 ppg and was his team's leading rebounder in two games.  Spencer also has the ability to play the one, two, and three spots, but Johnson thinks he may project as a point guard at Wright State, because he's got the court vision, savvy, and ball handing and passing skills necessary to run the show at the next level.  And the fact that Spencer has grown to 6'6, after being a 5'9 9th grader, has a 7'1 wing span, and an unlimited upside make the story even more intriguing.  Orr, who is the nephew of Seton Hall head coach Louis Orr, had spectacular game, as he hit 10-11field goals and finished with 29 points in a 88-74 win against Reserve (Christian) LA.  Speaking of Orr, did you know that he recently verbally committed to Miami-OH?  Neither did anybody else until Johnson talked with Orr after the game.  And this isn't the only verbal commitment that Johnson found out about over the weekend, as it also appears that 6'1 Drake Aronhalt from Zanesville (H.S.) OH, who is ranked #79 in the state by the HOOP SCOOP, is bound for Navy.  In addition to Palacios, Wolf, and Robinson, who were named the MVP's in the Flyin' to the Hoop, Buckeye, and Top Gun brackets, Dews, Spencer, Orr, Carter, and 6'5 Negus McKenna from Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) QU were also named to the All-Tournament Team.  Johnson's list of the top 25 players in the tournament based on performance in order are Palacios, Dews, Spencer, Robinson, Orr, McKenna, Carter, 6'11 Aleks Maric from Burlington (Life Center) NJ, 7'0 Seth Gorney from Vandalia (Butler) OH, 6'1 Isaiah Carson from Springfield (South) OH, 6'7 Josh Dollard from Pickens (Prince Avenue) SC, 6'3 Jr Marlon Brumfield from Reserve (Christian) LA, 6'0 Jr Ronnie Williams from Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON, 6'1 Drake Aronhalt from Zanesville (H.S.) OH, 6'4  Sherman Diaz from Burlington (Life Center) NJ, 6'2 Jr Johnny Wolf from Cincinnati (St. Xavier) OH, 5'10 Trent Morgan from Lakewood (St. Edwards) OH, 6'7 Davone Allen from Pickens (Prince Avenue) SC, 6'5 Jr Maurice Joseph from Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) QU, 6'5 Frosh Billy Allen from Hamilton (H.S.) OH, 6'0 Soph Josh Dow from Fairborn (H.S.) OH, 6'7 Brendan Heaney from Clayton (Northmont) OH, 6'6 8th Grader Martez Walker from Reserve (Christian) LA, 6'6 Brian Busch from Beavercreek (H.S.) OH, 6'4 Eric Pollitz from Ottawa (Ottawa-Glandorf) OH, and 6'5 Tim Pollitz from Ottawa (Ottawa-Glandorf) OH.

Saturday, January 17, 2004, Sunday, January 18, 2004, & Monday, January 19, 2004

Originally it appeared that Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt would not be a candidate for the St. John's job, but now we're starting to hear that his staying put may not be as etched in stone as most people originally thought.  Remember, there is more margin for error at St. John's than there is at Georgia Tech in the short term and in the long term it really doesn't matter, because Hewitt is one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the business.  However, if Hewitt were to leave, Indiana University head coach Mike Davis would be a natural candidate for the job.  Sure, Davis has a great recruiting class at Indiana with 6'9 D.J. White from Tuscaloosa (Hillcrest) AL, 6'9 Josh Smith from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, 6'5 Robert Vaden from North Bridgton (Bridgton Academy) ME, 6'7 James Hardy from Ft. Wayne (Elmhurst) IN, and 6'3 A.J. Ratliff from Indianapolis (North Central) IN all already in the fold, but there is no guarantee that Smith will be there (most people think he will enter his name into the NBA Draft next spring) plus Davis has had a rough 8-6 start this season and he already is able to recruit like crazy in the Deep South.  And obviously, if Davis to be some chance succeed Hewitt at Georgia Tech, that would open the door for Iowa head coach Steve Alford to return to Indiana and for Creighton head coach Dana Altman to go to Iowa, all of which also would be natural fits.  Or how about Manhattan head coach Bobby Gonzalez to Georgia Tech?  Remember, Manhattan, which is now 11-3 on the season and has six consecutive wins, is once again one of the hottest mid-major programs in the nation.  Or things could fall right and Gonzalez could get the St. John's job or the Massachusetts job, if Steve Lappas, who is currently 5-10 overall and 0-4 in the Atlantic-10, doesn't survive as the head coach of the Minutemen.  Memphis assistant coaches Derek Kellogg and Tony Barbee both also have been mentioned as potential candidates for the Massachusetts job, due to the fact that the Massachusetts fan base yearns for a return to the John Calipari days when the program not only achieved national prominence, but advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1996.  And, if either Kellogg or Barbee gets the job, don't be surprised if right off the bat 6'1 Jamual Warren from Fitchburg (Notre Dame) MA and 6'11 Jermaine Bell from Fitchburgh (Notre Dame) MA both commit to the Minutemen.  Otherwise, our guess is that Warren will either end up at Fordham or at Cincinnati as part of a potential package, along with Bell.  We also would not be surprised if former St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis was in line for the Massachusetts job (Jarvis is originally from Boston, MA), but the perfect fit for Jarvis would be Georgetown, if Hoyas head coach Craig Esherick, who currently is 10-3 on the season, but only 1-3 in the Big East, get the ax.    Remember, Jarvis'  Northeast elitist attitude didn't work very well at St. John's, but should be tailor made for Washington, DC, which is a political town, plus Jarvis has plenty of connections to former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, including the fact that Jarvis was Patrick Ewing's high school coach.  Or do you think Thompson's son, John Thompson III, who is the head coach at Princeton, is ready for the Georgetown job?  We also have heard Jarvis' name mentioned as a possible replacement for Perry Clark at Miami-FL, but currently the Hurricanes are 12-5 overall  and 2-1 in the Big East, so Clark appears to be safe right now.  And so does Virginia head coach Pete Gillen, who got a big win yesterday against Florida State to hault a 0-3 start against N.C. State, Duke, and Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  However, Gillen is not out of the woods yet, because the word on the street is that he could be in trouble, if he doesn't make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years and, despite a 11-4 record, Virginia still has to play North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland, and Clemson twice, plus the Cavaliers will have to face N.C. State and Georgia Tech at home and Duke and Florida State on the road.  And, if Virginia were to have a coaching change at the end of the season, it would not be a surprise to see South Carolina head coach Dave Odom, who is now 16-2 on the season, or George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga, whose team was the pre-season favorite and currently is battling UNC-Wilmington,Virginia Commonwealth, and Old Dominion for the first in the Colonial Athletic Association, be in line for the job.  Ohio State put another nail into the coffin of Minnesota head caoch Dan Monson over the weekend and, as a result, it appears to be only a matter of time before the Golden Gophers exercise the $1.2 million buy-out.  Other programs where the head coach appears to be in trouble include Texas A&M (7-6), Siena (5-10); Dartmouth (3-10), Loyola-Maryland (1-15), and Southern Miss (9-6), although the heat may be off of James Green, at least for a while, because the Golden Eagles recently upset both Marquette and Memphis.  

Friday, January 16, 2004

Up until now the recruiting job that first year Georgia head coach Dennis Felton and his staff has done has been solid at best.  If you will recall, their first recruiting class last spring, which was tied at #126, along with Ball State, Northern Iowa, Pennsylvania, and North Texas, in our Final Ranking of the Top Recruiting Classes for the Class of 2003 included 6'8 Corey Gibbs form Stone Mountain (Redan) GA, 6'2 Levi Stukes from Randalllstown (H.S.) MD, 6'8 Marcus Sikes from Middleburg (Notre Dame) VA, and 6'8 Steve Newton from Orlando (The First) FL.  And now their current class, which includes 6'3 Channing Toney from Snellville (Brookwood) GA, and 6'1 Sundiati Gaines from Briarwood (Archbishop Molloy) NY, both of whom are ranked among our top 100 seniors nationally, is tied at #99, along with Northeastern and Miami-FL, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   However, now it looks like the Bulldogs have hit a homerun.  No, they did not come out of nowhere and beat Georgia Tech and Kentucky for 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA.  But getting a pair of early verbal commitments from 6'2 Jr Louis Williams from Snellville (South Gwinnette) GA and 6'4 Jr Michael Mercer from Snellville (South Gwinnette) GA is just as huge.  Remember, Williams, who is ranked #3 nationally in the junior by the HOOP SCOOP and is as naturally talented as any junior in the nation, is capable of putting up incredible numbers and has a prototypical NBA-like game.  Mercer, who is ranked #99 nationally in the junior class, also was terrific when we saw him in December at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, FL and, as a result, has to move up dramatically in our rankings.  Mercer isn't a pure point guard yet, but he has really improved his ball handling and passing skills dramatically, plus he's a big time athlete, excellent outside shooter, and good rebounder for his size.  In other words, we're talking about a legitimate top 40 junior nationally and, as a result, it should come as no surprise that suddenly Georgia's recruiting class has jumped into the lead, ahead of Duke, Clemson, and Wake Forest, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2005.  The early verbal commitment by Williams also is very significant for a number of other reasons.  First, Williams is the superstar around which Felton can build the program.  Second, getting Williams firmly establishes that Felton and his staff can get the great ones in their own backyard.  Third, the Bulldogs beat some heavy hitters, like North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, and Wake Forest.  Fourth, Williams is the highest ranked player nationally, as well as the only junior ranked among our top 10 nationally to have already made an early verbal commitment.  Previously Syracuse-bound 6'2 Tiki Mayben from Troy (H.S.) NY, who is ranked #14 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, was the highest ranked junior nationally to have made an early verbal commitment.  Other top 25 juniors who have already made verbal commitments include 6'9 Jr Josh McRoberts from Carmel (H.S.) IN to Duke, 6'2 Jr Greg Paulus from Syracuse (Christian Brothers) NY to Duke, 6'5 Jr Marcus Ginyward from Arlington (Bishop O'Connell) VA to North Carolina, 6'6 Jr Shane Clark from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'7 Jr Kevin Swinton from Greensboro (Dudley) NC to Wake Forest, and 6'3 Jr Eric Devendorf from Bay City (H.S.) MI.  And when we dig a little deeper, we also find 7'0 Jr Clarence Holloway from Chicago (Harlan) IL to Louisville, 6'8 Jr Julius Powell from Newton (Conover) NC to Clemson, 6'8 Jr Mike Davis from Brooklyn (Xavier) NY to Pittsburgh, 6'9 Jr Joey Cameron from Lees (H.S.) AL to Clemson, 6'2 Jr Jarrett Smith from Westland (John Glenn) MI to Michigan, 5'10 Jr A.J. Abrams from Austin (McNeil) TX to Texas, 6'8 Jr Justin Wilkerson from Greenville (H.S.) TX to Texas Tech, and 6'7 Jr Rashad Woods from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX to Baylor, which means that 17 of our top 100 ranked juniors nationally have already made early verbal commitments.  And our guess is that a number of others won't be too far behind.  So let's start at the top.  Arizona is believed to be the early favorite for 6'6 Martell Webster from Seattle (Prep) WA, because former Wildcats point guard Jason Terry is his cousin.  But UCLA, North Carolina, and Oklahoma also appear to be high on Webster's list.  The official party line is that 6'6 Jr Tasmin Mitchell from Denham Springs (H.S.) LA is not the lock that a lot of people think he is for LSU, but anybody who believes that also may want to buy some swamp land from Tigers assistant coach Butch Pierre.  Remember, Pierre is Mitchell's Godfather and, as a result, it's more of a question of when than if Mitchell will pick LSU.  However, schools like Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wake Forest do still get mentioned by Mitchell.  Iowa was once believed to be a near lock for 6'11 Jr Luke Zeller from Washington (H.S.) IN, but now he appears to be wide open, as schools like Purdue, Kansas, Illinois, Marquette, N.C. State, Michigan, Missouri, Stanford, Notre Dame, Xavier, Butler, and Michigan State also are in the hunt.  The list for 6'7 Jr Julian Wright from Flossmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL includes Illinois, DePaul, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, Purdue, and N.C. State.  When Florida State got 6'2 Jason Rich from Orlando (Dr. Phillips) FL last fall, that put the Seminoles in the driver's seat to beat schools like Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn, and Indiana for 6'8 Keith Brumbaugh from Deland (H.S.) FL.  St. John's was originally thought to be the team to beat for 6'8 Tyrell Biggs from Ramsey (Don Bosco) NJ, but Kansas, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Villanova, Ga Tech, Maryland, Ohio State, Georgetown, and Virginia promise to make this one interesting. Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, Mississippi State and Arkansas should all be mentioned for 6'3 Jr Monta Ellis from Jackson (Lanier) MS and we suspect it's only a matter of time before 6'8 Jr Richard Hendrix from Athens (H.S.) AL picks Alabama.   Missouri is still the team you have to beat for 6'9 Jr Tyler Hansborough from Poplar Bluff (H.S.) MO, but Duke, Florida, Arizona, Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina also must be mentioned.  Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, North Carolina, Louisville, Memphis, UCLA, Michigan, and Kansas are all in the hunt for 6'6 Jr Tyler Smith from Pulaski (Giles County) TN.  Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisville, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal are the leaders for 6'6 Jr Brandon Rush from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC.  The list for 5'10 Jr Andre McGee from Moreno Valley (Canyon Springs) CA includes Arizona State, Maryland, Notre Dame, Kansas, North Carolina, and Florida.  Kentucky is the heavy favorite for Harvey due to the Tayshaun Prince-connection to Compton (Dominguez) CA, but USC, Miami-FL, Kansas, Louisville, and Washington also are showing a lot of interest.  The latest list for 6'9 Jr Theo Davis from Bayside (Cardozo) NY includes Connecticut, Syracuse, Texas, Louisville, Arizona, UCLA, Pittsburgh Seton Hall, Duke, Florida, Memphis, St. John's, and Georgetown.  Showing the most interest in 6'7 Jr Jamal Boykin from Los Angeles (Fairfax) CA are Georgia Tech, Louisville, Arizona, Pepperdine, UCLA, USC, and Duke.  The list for 6'8 Jr Brandon Costner from West Orange (Seton Hall Prep) NJ includes Seton Hall, Villanova, Georgia Tech, Connnecticut, Kanas, Florida, UCLA, North Carolina, Marquette, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Georgetown have all been mentioned.  The leaders for 6'11 Jr Eric Boateng from Middletown (St. Andrews) DE are Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, N.C. State, UCLA, Villanova, Wake Forest, Georgetown, and Boston College. 

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Remember the name 6'6 Jr Calvin "C.J." Miles from Dallas (Skyline) TX.  Currently he is unranked on our list of the top 240 juniors nationally, but he will be, because we're probably talking about the fastest rising junior in the nation.  Our Texas Editor Wes Grandstaff also think Miles, who is the leading scorer in the Dallas area with 30.1 ppg, is a legitimate top 15 junior nationally, as well as somebody who should be a lock for the McDonald's All-American team a year from now.  "We're talking about somebody who can play the one, two, three, and four spots," says Grandstaff.  "Miles is incredibly long and extremely athletic, which explains why he's averaging a double-double in terms of points and rebounds.  But he also is a great outside shooter and terrific passer (6.0 apg), so he'll probably play a lot at the two and the one for me on Team Texas next summer."  In other words, Grandstaff thinks that Miles is right up there with all the other great players he's had in his program in recent years, like LSU's Bracey Wright, SMU's Bryan Hopkins, 6'11 LaMarcus Aldridge from Dallas (Seogoville) TX, and 6'1 Jason Horton from Cedar Hill (H.S.) TX, but Miles' versatility, understanding of the game, incredible upside, and ability to play both inside and outside make him more comparable to Larry Johnson.   As a matter of fact, Miles, who already is getting a lot of interet from schools like Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Arizona, and Baylor, promises to be the best player Dallas (Skyline) TX has produced since Johnson and it's not out of the realm of possibility that he someday could be as good.  And that's a pretty strong statement when one remembers that Johnson was the only player in history to take home high school, junior college, and college player-of-the-year honors.  Grandstaff also tells us that Baylor appears to be the team to beat for 6'6 Rell Porter from Pittsburg (H.S.) TX, who made an early verbal commitment to Stephen F. Austin, but later changed his mind and, as a result, is now back on the board.  However, it appears the Bears have Porter on hold until they see what happens with 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, who is currently being recruited by schools like Louisville, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Texas, Florida State, and Baylor, and 6'0 Brandon Cotton, who is transferring from Michigan State.  Currently Detroit, Clemson, and Baylor appear to be the favorites for Cotton, but St. Joseph's also is making a push.  If Baylor gets Cotton as a transfer, he wouldn't count with the Bears' current recruiting class, which already is ranked #14 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004 and includes 6'11 Mamadou Diene from Senegal, 6'0 Jihad Muhammed from San Jacinto (JC) TX, and 6'2 Aaron Bruce from Horsham, Australia.   Remember, it is the editorial policy not to include transfers when ranking recruiting classes.  However, if Baylor hits the jackpot and adds Palacios to the current group, then their recruiting class would move up to #5, behind Indiana, Texas, Louisville, and Arkansas, all of which are currently tied at #1 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   However, if Baylor, instead, gets Porter, their class would move up to #10 behind UCLA and ahead of Duke on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.   Grandstaff also tells us that early favorites for 6'9 Soph Darrell Arthur from Dallas (South Oak Cliff) TX, who is ranked #10 nationally in the sophomore class by the HOOP SCOOP and is expected to provide Team Texas with one of the best one-two punches, along with Miles, on the NIKE circuit next summer, are Arizona, Georgia Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma.  Roy Schmidt of the Illinois Bulls-eye Report still thinks Kansas is the heavy favorite for 6'7 Jr Julian Wright from Flossmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL, who is ranked #5 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, but he also notes that Illinois, DePaul, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, Purdue, and N.C. State are high on his list.  Schmidt also tells us that Stanford's #1 recruiting priority for 6'3 Jr Bobby Frasor from Chicago (Brother Rice) IL, who is ranked #38 nationally in the junior class and was the best player on that great Illinois Wolves 16-Under team.  However, Marquette, Notre Dame, DePaul, Georgia Tech, Illinois, N.C. State, and Northwestern also must be mentioned for Frasor.  Schmidt also believes that the early favorites for 6'5 Soph Jonathan Scheyer from Northbrook (Glenbrook North) IL, who, according to Schmidt, has emerged as one of the top three players this winter in the state regardless of class, along with Wright and 6'6 Shaun Livingston from Peoria (Central) IL, are Illinois, California, Marquette, Duke, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State.  Our New York City Editor Ron Naclerio provides us with a long list of schools for 6'9 Jr Theo Davis from Bayside (Cardozo) NY, which includes Connecticut, Syracuse, Texas, Louisville, Arizona, UCLA, Pittsburgh Seton Hall, Duke, Florida, Memphis, St. John's, and Georgetown.  Naclerio also has an early list for 6'7 Jr Antonio Pena from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, which includes Pittsburgh, Villanova, St. John's, Seton Hall, N.C. State, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgetown, and he tells us that 6'3 Jr Nayang Boateng from Brookyn (Lincoln) NY is being recruited for basketball by Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia.  However, Boateng is not only a great wide receiver on the gridiron, but some people are starting to talk about this guy being the best football player ever to come out of New York City.  So, despite the fact, Boateng wants to play basketball, his future obviously is in football.   Naclerio also tells us that Sam Albano of Redmen.com will be launching the Tom Crotty Memorial Hope Through Hoops High School Extravaganza, which will be held on Saturday, January 31st, at St. John's University in Jamaica, NY.  Crotty, who played at Marist College, was the only four-year Division I basketball player who was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.  The first game will tip-off with Flushing (Holy Cross) NY versus Brooklyn (Bishop Ford) NY at Noon, followed by Middle Village (Christ the King) NY versus Oyster Bay (St. Dominic) NY at 1:45 PM, Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ versus Monmouth (Regional) NJ at 3:30 PM, Manhasset (St. Mary's) NY versus Ramsey (Don Bosco) NJ at 5:45 PM, Amityville (H.S.) NY versus New York (Rice) Ny at 7:00 PM, and Bronx (St. Raymond's) NY versus Mt. Vernon (H.S.) NY at 8:45 PM. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson tells us that the dates have been set for the NBA Players Association Camp, which will be held June18th-23rd, in Richmond, VA and once again we expect this to be one of the premier events of the entire year for several reasons.  First, this camp does not go head-to-head with either the NIKE All-American Camp in Indianapolis, IN or the Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, NJ and, as a result, an overwhelming numebr of the top players in the nation are expected to be in attendance.  Second, Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports once again will be inviting the players and he did an outstanding job of getting an overabundance of talent to attend this event a year ago.  Third, the camp is limited to about 110 players, which means that most of the players in camp can play (in recent years about half of the players at both the NIKE Camp and the ABCD Camp weren't good enough to legitimately be invited to a superstar oriented camp).  Johnson also catches us up on several verbal commitments that happened recently, as 6'8 Cyrus Tate from Floosmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL has committed to Northern Illinois, 6'8 Landon Adler from Monroe (Adams Central) IN has committed to Army, and 6'7 Jamal Anderson from Little Rock (Parkview) AR has decided to attend Arkansas to play football.  However, Anderson, who is ranked #366 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, is also good enough to be a solid role player in basketball and, if he were to count towards the Razorbacks' recruiting class in basketball, he would move their recruiting class into sole possession of the #1 spot on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  Currently we have Arkansas' recruiting class, which also includes 6'9 Al Jefferson from Prentiss (H.S.) MS, 6'5 Dontell Jefferson from Atlanta Metro (JC) GA, 6'11 Steve Hill from Bronson (H.S.) MO, 6'7 Charles Thomas from Jackson (Callaway) MS, 6'10 Darian Townes from Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA, 6'7  Marcus Monk from Lapento (East Poinsette) AR, who also is verbally committed for football, but plans to play both sports, tied for #1, along with Indiana, Texas, and Louisville in race that is too close to call on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  Adler, who had 41 points and hit 4-6 3-pointers in a game recently, appears to be a major steal for the Cadets, because he's grown eight inches in the last three years and, as result, is a true perimeter player, despite his 6'8 size.  Tate teams with 6'8 Jr Julius Wright, who is the #1-ranked junior in the state of Illinois, to form one of the best one-two punches in the state.  And while Wright does most of his damage on the perimeter for both Homewood-Flossmoor and the Illinois Warriors, Tate, who is a lefty-post player, takes care of business inside.  Tate, who is ranked #284 nationally in the senior class, also provides the perfect complement to 6'6 Frank Claire from Chicago (Leo) IL, 6'4 Zach Pancratz from Schaumburg (H.S.) IL, and 6'8 Craig Reichel from Schaumburg (H.S.) IL, all of whom signed with the Huskies during the Fall Signing Period, and, as a result, their recruiting class moves into a tie, along with Rice, at #73 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  Johnson also tells us that he doesn't believe the rumor about UCLA suddenly becoming one of the favorites again for 6'6 Malik Hairston from Detroit (Renaissance) MI.   "I'm not even sure they're the flavor of the day," says Johnson, who mentions that Oklahoma also has recently been added to a list that now also includes Ohio State, Michigan, and Kansas. "When it is all said and done, I think Hairston will stay close to home.  So the smart money is on the Buckeyes and the Wolverines."   Johnson also does not confirm the recently theory about why 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI put his decision on hold during the Fall Signing Period and waited to sign in the spring.  Apparently there are those who think that Crawford is waiting to see if Michigan's Daniel Horton enters his name into the NBA Draft in the spring before making a final decision.  If Horton goes pro, then Crawford goes to Michigan.  If Horton doesn't go pro, then Crawford goes to Kentucky.  But, as Johnson sees it, there are several problems with this theory.  First, Crawford isn't ready to even think about going pro.  Second, if Horton were to leave, Crawford, who is a terrific 2-guard, isn't ready to step in and run the show next year for the Wolverines, even though they are probably telling Crawford that they'll let him develop into a point guard down the road in order to help his chances of making in the NBA someday.  Third, Johnson thinks that both Hairston and Crawford still genuinely don't know what they want to and, as result, anybody who is predicting whether Crawford will pick Kentucky or Michigan and which one of the above mentioned schools that Hairston will pick is simply guessing.  One thing does appear to be likely and that is that Crawford and Hairston won't go to the same school, even though they kids close friends and talk every day  (their parents don't get along).   So, if Hairston opts for Michigan, then that would tip the balance into Kentucky's favor for Crawford.  We also talked with our Philadelphia/Eastern Pennsylvania/South Jersey Editor Allen Rubin earlier today and he has an early list of schools for 6'5 Soph Gerald Henderson from Merion Station (Episcopal Academy) PA, 6'4 Soph Wayne Ellington from Merion Station (Episcopal Academy) PA, and 6'7 Soph Dan Geriot from Springfield (H.S.) PA.  Henderson likes Virginia, Villanova, North Carolina, Duke, La Salle, and Virginia Commonwealth, which is where his father, former Philadelphia 76ers star Gerald Henderson, Sr, attended college.  Ellington's early list includes Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Villanova, St. Joseph's, Temple, Pennsylvania, La Salle, Arizona, and Notre Dame.  Geriot mentioned Villanova, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph's, Pennsylvania, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Notre Dame.  Rubin did not talk with 7'0 Soph Brian Zoubeck from Haddonfield (H.S.) NJ, but it is widely believed that Duke is the team to beat.  And making the story even more intereting is the fact that the Blue Devils already have an early verbal commitment from 6'9 Jr Josh McRoberts from Carmel (H.S.) IN, who is similar to Zoubeck in a lot of ways and is in the class ahead of him.  However, that hasn't stopped the Blue Devils from getting pretty much anybody they've wanted in recent years. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Once again the Prime Time Shootout, which will be held in Trenton, NJ, February 5th-8th, promises to be one of the premier events of the entire winter, as this year's field features six teams - #1-ranked Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, #2-ranked Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, #7-ranked Mount Vernon (H.S.) NY, #15-ranked Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA, #18-ranked New York (Rice) NY, and #19-ranked Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA - that were ranked among the top 25 by Chris Lawlor in today's USA Today Super 25 Rankings.  It also features two other teams - Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA and Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY - that were ranked among the top 10 teams in the East, plus the field should have 22 potential future McDonald's All-American's in 6'11 Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, 6'9 Josh Smith from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, 6'9 Al Jefferson from Prentiss (H.S.) MS, 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, 6'5 J.R. Smith from Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ, 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, 5'11 Sean Singletary from Philadelphia (Penn Charter) PA, 5'11 Kyle Lowry from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'2 Jr Greg Paulus from Syracuse (Christian Brothers) NY, 6'6 Churchill Odia from Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD, 6'9 Brian Johnson from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, 6'2 Russell Robinson from New York (Rice) NY, 6'7 Jr Brandon Rush from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'6 Jr Shane Clark from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'5 Jr Marcus Ginyard from Arlington (Bishop O'Connell) VA, 6'9 Soph Derrick Caracter from Scotch Plains (H.S.) NJ, 6'7 Soph Jonathan Mitchell from Mount Vernon (H.S.) NY, 6'8 Soph Curtis Kelley from New York (Rice) NY, 6'7 Soph Tracy Smith from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'7 Frosh Taylor King from Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA, 5'10 Frosh Corey Fisher from Elizabeth (St. Patrick's) NJ, and 6'1 Frosh Mike Colburn from Mount Vernon (H.S.) NY.  However, we may need to adjust that 21, if Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY doesn't participate due to the serious car accident the team was involved in on Wednesday, December 31st.  Other top players that those in attendance should expect to see include 6'6 Roy Bright, from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'7 Alex Galindo from Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ, 6'3 Keith Benjamin from Mount Vernon (H.S.) NY, 6'3 Tasheed Carr from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'9 Mohammed Tangara from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'4 Albert Weber from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'6 Glen Dandridge from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'7 DeSean White from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'8 Rob Kurz from Philadelphia (Penn Charter) PA, 6'0 Courtney Nelson from Bloomfield (Tech) NJ, 6'2 Cedric Jackson from Columbus (North Burlington) NJ, 6'11 Tunju Soreye from Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD, 6'1 Albert Fisher from Pennsauken (H.S.) NJ, 6'8 Ben Nwachukwu from Richland (St. Augustine) NJ, 6'6 Dexter Gray from Mt. Vernon (H.S.) NY, 6'7 Arturo Dubois from New York (Rice) NY, 6'5 Charles Burch from Marion (Tabor Academy) MA, 6'4 Fred Stanback from Arlington (Bishop O'Connell) VA, 6'8 Robbie Simpson from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'10 Shawn Taggart from Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, 6'2 Da'Shawn Dwight from Bloomfield (Tech) NJ, 6'4 Bilai Benn from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'4 Will Scott from Blairstown (Blair Academy) NJ, 6'2 Marcus Williams from Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, 6'2 Lamar Alston from Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, 6'2 Otis Campbell from Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, 6'0 Shawn McCurdy from Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, 6'6 Brian Beckford from Middle Village (Christ the King) NY, 6'1 Eugene Lawrence from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, 6'7 Chris Alvarez from Blairstown (Blair Academy) NJ, 6'0 Tristan Blackwood from Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON, 6'3 Khalif Gant from Marion (Tabor Academy) MA, 6'5 Jr Ryan Ayers from Ft. Washington (Germantown Academy) PA, 6'7 Jr Antonio Pena from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, 6'9 Jr Frank Tchuisi from Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ, 6'2 Jr Anthony Farmer from Richland (St. Augustine) NJ, 6'4 Jr Paul Harris from Niagara Falls (H.S.) NY, 6'7 Jr Brian Grimes from Ft. Washington (Germantown Academy) PA, 6'10 Jr Franklin Jones from Niagara Falls (H.S.) NY, 6'8 Jr Uche Uchefu from Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD, 6'2 Jr K.J. Matsui from Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD, 5'10 Jr Robert Garrison from Niagara Falls (H.S.) NY, 5'8 Jr Derrick Mercer from Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ, 6'4 Soph Javaris Crittenton from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, 5'11 Soph Eugene Harvey from Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ, 6'3 Soph Christian Thompson from Camden (H.S.) NJ, 5'10 Soph Taishi Ito from Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD, 6'7 Soph Jerrell Williams from Paterson (Catholic) NJ, 6'7 Soph Terrell Williams from Paterson (Catholic) NJ, and 6'4 Soph Kimanni Barrett from Paterson (Catholic) NJ.  The first day of action will tip-off on Thursday, February 5th, at South Brunswick High School in South Brunswick, NJ with South Brunswick (H.S.) NJ versus Bulington (City) NJ at 4:30 PM, followed by Blairstown (Blair Academy) NJ versus Paterson (Catholic) NJ at 6:00 PM, Elizabeth (St. Patrick) NJ versus Cranford (H.S.) NJ at 7:30 PM, and Newark (St. Benedict's) NJ versus Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON at 9:00 PM.  Then, the venue will switch to the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ on Friday, February 6th, with Princeton (The Hun School) NJ versus Willington (H.S.) NJ at 4:30 PM, a Girls Game at 6:00 PM, Camden (H.S.) NJ versus Scotch Plains (H.S.) NJ at 7:30 PM, and Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA versus Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA at 9:00 PM.  On Saturday, February 7th, it will be Horsham (Hatboro-Horsham) PA versus Rochester (McQuaid Jesuit) NY at 10:00 AM, followed by Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY versus Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC at Noon, Syracuse (Christian Brothers) NY versus Mt. Vernon (H.S.) NY at 1:30 PM, Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA versus Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA at 3:00 PM, Rockville (Montrose Christian) MD versus Philadelphia (Penn Charter) PA at 4:30 PM, Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY versus Prentiss (H.S.) MS at 6:00 PM, and Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA versus New York (Rice) NY at 7:30 PM.  On Sunday, February 8th, it will be New Brunswick (St. Peter's) NJ versus Cape May Court House (Middle Township) NJ at 10:00 AM, Richland (St. Augustine) NJ versus Middle Village (Christ the King) NY at 11:30 AM, Ft. Washington (Germantown Academy) PA versus Marion (Tabor Academy) MA at 1:00 PM, Elizabeth (St. Patrick) NJ versus Arlington (Bishop O'Connell) VA at 2:30 PM, Niagara Falls (H.S.) NY versus Jersey City (St. Anthony) NJ at 4:00 PM, Camden (H.S.) NJ versus Bloomfield (Tech) NJ at 5:30 PM, at Girls Game at 7:00 PM, and Columbus (North Burlington) NJ versus Pennsauken (H.S.) NJ at 8:30 PM.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Originally we thought 6'10 Soph Michael Thompson, who is transferring from Duke, would return home and enroll at DePaul.  Instead, schools like Notre Dame, Texas, and UCLA emerged as the favorites.  But now things have changed again and it looks like we were at least half right the first time, as the word we're getting is that Thompson is going to transfer to Northwestern.  And, assuming that our source on this is correct, this would be huge for the Wildcats, because we're talking about an 6'10 athletic shot blocking center who was ranked #55 nationally in our final rankings of Class of 2002 and will have two-and-a-half years of eligibility remaining beginning next December.  We also had heard that Thompson wanted to go someplace where he could step in and make an immediate impact and, at Northwestern, he not only will be able to do that, but he also promises to be the franchise player upon which they can build the program around.  As a matter of fact, Thompson picking the Wildcats is so huge that it should be enough to ensure Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody's job for another four or five years.  Remember, Carmody is second to none as a coach, but has yet to sign a player of Thompson's caliber in almost four years at the helm of the Wildcats.  Getting a player like Thompson should give the Wildcats something big to sell, as they go after all of those good juniors in Chicago, IL, like 6'0 Jr Bryan Mullins from   Downers Grove (South) IL, 6'3 Jr Bobby Fraser from Chicago (Brother Rice) IL, 6'7 Mike Davis from Chicago (Gordon Tech) IL, and 6'3 Jr Sean Odzic from Skokie (Niles West) IL.  We also understand that 6'8 Soph Nick DeWitz is going to transfer from Iowa and, he too, will have two-and-a-half years of eligibility remaining.  And the smart money might be on Florida State, because the Seminoles finished second the first time around and Leonard Hamilton is second to none as a recruiter.  Speaking of Florida State, we also have confirmed that 6'10 Diego Romero, who already has missed 15 games this year due to a question about his amateurism, has had his eligibility restored.  However, it's our guess that he will red-shirt the rest of the this season and, as a result, have two years to play beginning next year.  Obviously this big, because Romero was one of the top junior college centers in the nation a year ago and is a very important piece to the puzzle, as Hamilton and his staff get ready to mount a serious challenge to Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Maryland as one of the powerhouse teams in the always tough Atlantic Coast Conference a year from now.  Remember, Florida State had the #2-ranked recruiting class in the nation a year ago when they landed Romero, 6'5 Vakeaton Wafer from Cleveland (Heritage Christian) TX, 6'10 Diego Romero from Lon Morris (JC) TX, and 6'7Antonio Griffin from Scottsdale (JC) AZ and they already have 6'3 Isaiah Swann from Chatham (Hargrave Military) VA and 6'2 Jason Rich from Orlando (Dr. Phillips) FL in the fold in their current recruiting class.  And, assuming that our information is accurate about DeWitz transferring from Iowa, it will be interesting to see if he plays in tomorrow night's game against at Minnesota.  Speaking of this game, it is a must win for both teams.  Currently Iowa is 8-4, but they have lost four of their last six games, after starting out 6-0.  Minnesota is 8-5, but the natives are more than just restless after recent losses against Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Penn State.  And it doesn't promise to get any easier as the Golden Gophers have yet to play road games at Ohio State, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa and home games against Iowa and Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, and Ohio State.  In other words, our spectulation over a month ago about Minnesota head coach Dan Monson not having much job security and former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin being the leading candidate to become the next head coach at Minnesota was right on the money.  We've also heard Lavin's name in connection with the St. John's job, but our New York City Editor Ron Naclerio thinks it's easier to tell us who is not going to get the job, as former North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty and Memphis head coach John Calipari both are no longer in the running and former New York Knicks star Mark Jackson and former St. John's All-American Chris Mullin don't want the St. John's job.  Naclerio also tells us that a number of NBA scouts have told him that 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, who has scored 55 points against Brooklyn (Lafayette) NY, 46 points against Brooklyn (New Utrecht) NY, 37 points against North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, and 27 points against Louisville (Pleasure Ridge Park) KY all within the last 10 days, is now being projected as a low lottery pick (in eight-to-13 range) in the NBA Draft next spring.  And, if Naclerio is correct, then there should be little doubt about whether Telffair will by-pass college and enter his name into the NBA Draft.  Remember, Naclerio has told us all along that Telfair wants to become the first point guard to make the jump straight from high school to the NBA and the determining factor would probably be whether Telfair can get drafted in the first round.   Should this happen, it also will be interesting to see if Louisville turns the heat back up on 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA.   Remember, Rondo has wanted to go to Louisville all along, but the Cardinals have held him off in an attempt to get Telfair. 

Saturday, January 10, 2004, and Sunday, January 11, 2004

The highlight of the day yesterday was watching 6'5 Arron Afflalo and 6'6 Chris Berry, who combined for 52 points and 20 rebounds, as they led Compton (Centennial) CA to an easy 75-53 victory against Los Angeles (Crenshaw) CA in third game of the day at the Reebok California Hoops Challenge at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Compton, CA.  Afflalo, who is bound for UCLA and is the top-ranked senior in the Los Angeles area by the HOOP SCOOP, did most of his damage from beyond the arc, as he hit 6-10 3-pointers en route to 27 points.  Berry, who finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, took care of business inside, as he hit 8-14 field goals and 9-12 free throws.  However, no matter how well or how hard Berry plays, he never seems to get the respect he deserves, because he's an undersized power forward and he's probably never going to shoot it well enough to develop into a wing forward at the next level.  Thus, explains why his list only includes schools like Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, Long Beach State, Portland, and Colorado State.  But we think he is better than just a low-to-mid major player, plus we think he has a tremendous upside.  Did you know that this is only his second year of playing varsity basketball and his older brother, Gary Berry, who played at Los Angeles (Crenshaw) CA and at Pepperdine University, grew two inches after he graduated from high school?  In other words, we're talking about a big time athlete and a real warrior who is often is impossible to stop at this level around the basket.  Berry does need to get physically bigger and stronger, but that should come in time, once he starts working in a weight program at the college level.  Complementing Afflalo and Berry were three of the top young players in Southern Califorinia - 6'6 Soph Jervaughn Johnson, who had 12 points, nine rebounds, and four steals, 6'1 Frosh Jesse Woodard, who had five points, four assists, and four steals, and 6'3 Soph Tyre Thompson, who had six points, four rebounds, and three assists.  The match-up between Woodard and 5'11 Jr Brian McTear from Los Angeles (Crenshaw) CA, who led his team with 13 points and two assists, was especially interesting, because McTear is quicker, more explosive, and shoots it a lot more than Woodard.  However, we still like Woodard, who is only just a freshman,a lot better, because he has the court savvy and ball handling and passing skills to develop into a great point guard.  Long Beach (Poly) CA didn't have 6'4 Curtis Allen, who was out due to a suspension) and 5'11 Richard Han, who was out with an ankle injury, but that still didn't stop them pulling off a 64-62 upset against Compton (Dominguez) CA, as 6'6 Chris Fields and 6'8 Marcus Lewis combined for 40 points, 16-26 field goals, and 20 rebounds.  We also were impressed with Fields' play on the perimeter, as he hit 3-5 field goals and had three assists, which leads us to believe that he would be a heck of steal of somebody at the mid-major level.  But, believe it or not, nobody is recruiting Fields.  Lewis, who is already signed with Portland, was a force inside with 18 points, 8-12 field goals, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots.  They also did a good job of shutting down 6'7 Lamar Roberson, who only had five field goals (2-5), five points, and four rebounds, and 6'5 Jr Bryan Harvey, who hit only 2-13 field goals and 0-5 3-pointers en route to a 10-point/seven-rebound.   But even that doesn't describe how poorly Harvey played, as he never seemed to get into the flow of the game.  Instead, 6'2 Jr Michael Boyd, who 15 points, 4-7 3-pointers and four steals, and 6'4 Marcus Malone, who had 10 points, 2-5 3-pointers, and three steals, made all the big shots down the stretch and, as a result, kept Poly in the game.  Los Angeles (Fairfax) CA came back from a 32-28 half-time deficit to edge out Oceanside (El Camino) CA, 58-57, in the final game of the evening, but when we left at half-time it was ugly.  Not only was 6'5 Josh Shipp 2-9 from the field, but 6'7 Jamal Boykin, who had eight points and four rebounds in the first half, was spending most of his time away from the basket, instead of doing what he does best, which is posting up and using his body and aggressiveness to dominant inside.  Instead, the guy who deserves all the accolades was 6'4 Justin Armstrong from Oceanside (El Camino) CA.  Not only did Armstrong hit 8-9 field goals and had 17 points, but he was the reason why El Camino was up 32-28 at half-time.  Armstrong is more of a slasher than an outside shooter, but he more than compensated for the lack of productivity produced inside by San Diego-bound 6'7 Gyno Pomare and Arizona State-bound 6'10 Craig Austin, who combined for only eight points and four rebounds in the first half, and lack of outside fire power provided by 6'0 Brad Alkazin and 6'3 James Daniels, who combined for only five points, five rebounds, and three assists in the first half.  Earlier in the day Torrance (Bishop Montgomery) CA knocked of Fresno (Washington Union) CA, 62-57, and Reseda (Cleveland) CA beat Los Angeles (Price) CA, 75-68, in overtime.  However, 6'6 Nick Young, who had 18 of his 25 points in the first half, was amazingly silent in the second half until he hit an an 18-footer with a minute left in the game, a spin move and bank shot with two seconds left to send the game into overtime, and a big basket in the overtime.  The best player for Price was 6'5 Schuyler McKay, who finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, four steals, and seven turnovers.  The two big guns for Washington Union were 6'4 Dwight O'Neil and 6'3 Soph Trevon Willis, who combined for 41 of their team's 57 points.  But the difference in the game proved to be Bishop Montgomery's undersized backcourt, which featured 5'10 Jr Auston Autry and 5'9 Ryan Howard.  Not only did they provide the spark their team needed down the stretch, but they combined for 30 points and hit 7-16 3-pointers. 

Friday, January 9, 2004

In terms of raw talent and the potential, do you know who has the best basketball program in the state of North Carolina?  Is it Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, N.C. State, UNC-Charlotte, Laurinburg (Institute) NC, or Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC?  The correct answer might just be Durham (Mt. Zion Christian) NC, which features nine players - 6'7 Jr Brandon Rush, 6'6 Roy Bright, 6'3 Tasheed Carr, 6'9 Mohammed Tangara, 6'4 Albert Weber, 6'6 Glen Dandridge, 6'7 Soph Tracy Smith, 6'8 Robbie Simpson, and 6'10 Shawn Taggart - who either have already signed with schools at the high Division I level or will be recruited by schools at the Division I.  And not too far behind is Laurinburg (Institute) NC, which has eight players - 6'11 Longar Longar, 6'3 Vincent Banks, 6'6 C.J. Anderson, 6'8 Richard Dorsey, 6'5 Joe McCray, 6'8 Chad Ferguson, 6'5 Chris Fuller, and 6'2 Kris Clark - who are ranked on our list of the Top 100 5th Year Players.  Ironically, 15 of these 17 players are originally from someplace other than North Carolina/South Carolina and you can find out where each player is originally from, as well as which two are the exceptions to the rule by clicking on North Carolina/South Carolina Report.  Speaking of this report, which has been updated by our North Carolina/South Carolina editor Brian Clifton, we finally published it earlier today and it includes his list of the top 30 players regardless of class and position, which can be found in the All North Carolina/South Carolina Teams, and some interesting commentary and analysis.  However, what college coaches really want are names and you can get his ranking in order of the top 12 5th Year Players, 110 Seniors, 75 Juniors, 25 Sophomores, 52 Freshmen, five 8th Graders, and five 7th Graders by clicking on Clifton Ranks 'Em:  The Top High School Players in the North Carolina/South Carolina.  We also have recently updated our state-by-state and area reports from Tennessee, Mississippi, Philadelphia/Eastern Pennsylvania/South Jersey, and Ohio, which means getting our area correspondents and editors to provide us with updated reports from New England, New York, Washington, DC, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, California, and Canada will be one of the primary things on our agenda during the next several months.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

We have confirmed via Art Alverez, who is the coach of the Miami Tropics, that 6'2 Jorge Lebron from Lake Suzy (Florida Prep Academy) FL has verbally committed to Hofstra.  Alverez also tells us that Lebron, who is a point guard that makes great decisions, shoots it well from beyond the arc (40% this season), and is averageing 30.6 ppg this season, is an absolute steal for a school at Hofstra's level.  "He could have gone higher," says Alverez.  "But we liked Carlos Rivera's situation at Hofstra (Rivera is playing so well that he has been named the Rookie-of-the-Week three consecutive weeks in the Colonial Athletic Association)."  Not only are Lebron and Rivera close friends, but they grew up together in Puerto Rico.  The addition of Lebron moves Hofstra's recruiting class into a tie at #115, along with Kansas State, Illinois State, Fordham, and San Francisco, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004, but, even more important, it gives the Flying Dutchmen two players in this recruiting class who should be able to step in make an immediate impact next year.  Remember, Uter was ranked #9 among power forwards in the junior college ranks by the Sporting News Pre-Season Yearbook and is the equivalent of a top 100 senior in high school and Lebron will be ranked in the 100-200 range nationally in the senior class next time we update our rankings of the top players nationally in the Class of 2004.  And, when we update our rankings of the top players in the Class of 2005, look for 6'10 Jr Jordan Wilkes from Los Angeles (Loyola) CA, who is currently ranked #69 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, to move up dramatically.  We saw Wilkes play last night and he not only led his team to an impressive 72-57 win against North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, but he also had 19 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks.   However, what impressed us the most was the fact that Wilkes was surpringly fluid, mobile, and agile for somebody his size, as well as extremely skilled around the basket.  Obviously his coordination and athleticism finally appear to be catching up to his body and this is extremely important, because if Wilkes continues to improve at the same pace he's improved during the last six months and he gets biggers and stronger, the sky's the limit.  We talking about the best prospect in the junior class in Southern California, as well as potentially one of the top five or 10 players in the junior class nationally.  As a matter of fact, we're tempted to tell you that Wilkes is the #1 junior in the state right now.  Sure, 6'4 Jr Bryan Harvey from Compton (Dominguez) CA, 6'7 Jr Jamal Boykin from Los Angeles (Fairfax) CA, 6'6 Jr Marcus Johnson from Los Angeles (Westchester) CA, and 5'10 Jr Andre McGee from Moreno Valley (Canyon Springs) CA are currently better players, but they also all have some question marks.  Harvey needs to improve his consistency and shot selection.  Boykin needs to grow another inch or two to make it at the highest level.  Johnson still needs to play harder and become more consistent.  McGee needs to grow and/or improve his decision making and develop into more of a pure point guard.   In other words, all of these guys deserve to be ranked in the 15-30 range nationally in the Class of 2005, but none of have taken their game to the next level and, as a result, make a strong case for being ranked among the very elite players in the class.  At least not yet!  And, as long as we're talking about the top juniors in the state, next on the list is 6'6 Kyle Spain from Newark (Memorial) CA, who is ranked #42 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP and is considering schools like Kansas, California, Arizona, Arizona State, Miami-FL, Oklahoma State, and Oregon State.  However, we think California is a lot closer to getting this one done than most people realize.  Remember, Spain's high school teammate - 6'9 Devon Hardin from Newark (Memorial) CA - signed with the Golden Bears last fall.  We also wouldn't be surprised if California beat out schools like Oregon State, Oregon State, Pepperdine, and St. Mary's for 5'11 Jr Trae Clark from Newark (Memorial) CA, who is ranked #194 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, and we suspect it's only a matter of time before Miami-FL wins the race for 6'6 Jr Terrance Williams from Seattle (Rainier Beach) WA.  If you will recall, Hurricanes assistant coach Kurtis Townsend landed Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart, both from Seattle (Rainier Beach) WA, a year ago when he was an assistant coach at USC and now has 6'10 Chester Giles from Seattle (Rainier Beach) WA in the fold at Miami-FL, as part of their current recruiting class.  However, Miami-FL will still have competition from schools like Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington for Williams' services.  The early list for 6'3 Danny Williams from Los Angeles (Fremont) CA, who is an amazing athlete, as is evident by the fact that he won the city high jump championship, includes Oregon State, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, and Pepperdine.  However, prep school is probably first in his future.  The early list for 6'4 Soph Marques Johnson from Ft. Wayne (Snider) IN, who is ranked #39 nationally in the sophomore class by the HOOP SCOOP, but who could be a lot higher, if he develops passes more and shoots less (we're talking about a somebody with the ball handling and passing skills and understanding of the game to develop into a pure point guard at 6'4), includes Michigan, Louisville, Arizona, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, and UCLA.  Our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson tells us that Illinois has gotten an early commitment from 6'3 Jr Jamar Smith from Peoria (Richwoods) IL, who is ranked #19 in the state by Roy Schmidt in Illinois Bulls-eye Report.  And this comes right on the heels of the early verbal commitment that the Fighting Illini got two days ago from 6'8 Jr David Palmer from Antioch (H.S.) TN.  While neither player is ranked among our top 100 juniors nationally, they both have the talent and potential to develop into good players down the road.  In other words, with seven players - 6'0 Soph Dee Brown, 6'3 Soph Deron Williams, 6'10 Soph James Augustine, 6'3 Frosh Richard McBride, 6'7 Frosh Brian Randle, 6'9 Frosh Aaron Spears, and 6'9 Frosh Warren Carter - already in the program and an excellent player in 6'9 Shaun Pruitt from Aurora (West Aurora) IL already inked in their current recruiting class, it appears that head coach Bruce Weber and his staff are doing the same thing the University of Kentucky did three or four years ago.  Remember, at the time the Wildcats were well stocked with good young players, like Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Marvin Stone, Marquis Estill, and Jules Camara, and added quality depth with guys like Chuck Hayes, Erik Daniels, and Gerald Fitch, who developed into excellent players as time went on. 

Wednesday,  January 7, 2004

We finally caught up with our Mississippi Editor Lavel Johnson and he tells us that last week Jackson (Lanier) MS beat Jackson (Provine) MS, 60-55, to win the Jackson Pepsi Holiday Tournament at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS before a crowd of 6,500 people and that 6'4 Jr Monta Ellis from Jackson (Lanier) MS, who scored averaged 39.7 ppg in three games, was named the tournament MVP.  Ellis had 24 points and 6'8 Charles Rhodes had 10 points and 15 rebounds in the championship game.  Provine, which had a one point lead with four minutes left (at that point Lanier went on a 10-0 run to ice the game) had a 28-point effort from 6'0 Charlie White, who also did a good job of setting the table for 6'0 Derrick Smith, who chipped in with 18 points, all of which came off 3-pointers.  There was no love lost in the semi-finals game between Jackson (Lanier) MS and Jackson (Callaway) MS, because 6'7 Charles Thomas and 6'5 Bobby Clark both transferred from Callaway to Lanier a year ago and then returned to Callaway this year.  However, the game failed to live up to the billing, as Clark was suspended and, as a result, didn't play and, with all the focus directed exclusively on Thomas, who was double and triple teamed, he was limited to only 10 shots, scored only seven points and fouled out with 4:47 left in the game.  And Rhodes wasn't much better for Lanier, as six of his 11 points came after Thojmas had fouled out of the game.  However, while Rhodes and Thomas were negating one another, Ellis stepped up with 19 points in the third quarter, 33 points in second half, and 45 points for the game.  Normally Ellis has never seen a shot he didn't like, be in this game he took a lot of good mid-range shots and floaters in the lane, instead of just jacking up a bunch of 3-pointers.  Johnson also tells us that Ellis, who is ranked #8 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP, has Alabama, Texas, and North Carolina at the top of his list, but we suspect that schools like Mississippi State and Arkansas will turn up the heat.  As a matter of fact, Mississippi State assistant coaches Robert Kirby and Phil Cummingham and Arkansas head coach Stan Heath were both in the house for the semi-finals game on Monday, December 29th, as Lanier beat Callaway, 71-56.  The leading scorer for Callaway was 6'4 Jr Roderick Hanford, who scored all 11 of his team's points in the first quarter en route to 27 points for game.  Speaking of Hanford, he's currently not ranked on Johnson's list of the top juniors in Mississippi, but he will be, because he has nice range on his jumper and a good post game.  Jackson (Provine) MS avenged an earlier loss to Jackson (Jim Hill) MS, 86-49, in the other semi-finals game, thanks to the efforts of Smith and 6'5 Derrick Thomas, who combined for 40 points.  Jim Hill was led by 6'2 Stanford Speech, who had 14 points and is a prime target for Jackson State.  We know that Jackson State also is trying to sneak into the backdoor with White, who didn't sign with Mississippi State during the Fall Signing Period and has already been to a number of their games this year.   Johnson also tells us that 6'9 Al Jefferson from Prentiss (H.S.) MS has played extremely well this year.  As a matter of fact, he has yet to score less than 30 points in a game this year.  And this just perpetuates the speculation that Jefferson will by-pass college and enter his name into the NBA Draft in June.   However, he is still at least paying lip service to honoring his commitment to Arkansas and attending college for a year or two.  Johnson also is looking forward to the Battle of the Border Basketball Challenge, which will be held in Jackson, MS on Monday, January 19th, and will feature three games with teams from Mississippi versus teams for Louisiana.  Things will tip-off at Noon with Kenner (Bonnabel) LA versus Jackson (Provine) MS, followed by Baton Rouge (University Lab) LA versus Jackson (Callaway) MS at 2:00 PM and Jackson (Lanier) MS versus Denham Springs (H.S.) LA at 4:00 PM.  There also will be two other Battle of the Border Basketball Challenges on the same day.  The one in Greenville, SC, which matches teams from Georgia versus teams from South Carolina, begins with Powder Springs (Mceachern (H.S.) GA versus Lancaster (H.S.) SC at Noon, followed by Chamblee (H.S.) GA versus St. Matthews (Calhoun County) SC at 2:00 PM, (Mt. Vernon (Montgomery County) GA versus Greenville (Carolina) SC at 4:00 PM, Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA versus Bennettsville (Marlboro County) SC at 6:00 PM, and Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA versus Greenville (Wade Hampton) SC at 8:00 PM.  The one in Little Rock, AR, which matches teams from Tennessee versus teams from Arkansas, begins with Little Rock (Mills) AR versus Memphis (Bartlett) TN at Noon, followed by Altheimer (H.S.) AR versus Memphis (Mitchell) TN at 2:00 PM, LePanto (East Poinsett) AR versus Memphis (Booker T. Washington) TN at 4:00 PM, North Little Rock (H.S.) AR versus Memphis (Raleigh-Epypt) TN at 6:00 PM, and Little Rock (Parkview) AR versus Memphis (East) TN at 8:00 PM.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Did you know that LSU received an early verbal commitment from 6'9 Kentrell Gransberry from San Jacinto (JC) TX in late December?  Neither did we until earlier today when we found out that this 6'9, 260 lbs. athlete, who is the freshman center for the #1-ranked junior college team in the nation, picked the Tigers.  Obviously Gransberry will be a great complement inside two years from now to 6'8 Frosh Brandon Bass and 6'8 Glen Davis from Baton Rouge (University Lab) LA, who will be ranked #10 nationally in the senior class when we update our national rankings for the Class of 2004 later this month.  Gransberry is strong, athletic, runs the court like a deer, is mean and tough in the post, and scores in the paint.  He also is averaging 9.5 ppg and 14.8 rpg, plus he is hitting 67.6% of his shots from the field.  In other words, we're talking about one of the top freshmen in the junior college ranks, as well as a major steal for the LSU.  The addition of Gransberry also moves the Tigers' recruiting class into a tie at #5, along with Syracuse, North Carolina, Villanova, and Michigan State, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2005.  And their class likely will move up to #1, ahead of Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, and Texas Tech, because we believe it's only a matter of time before LSU also gets an early verbal commitment from 6'6 Jr Tasmin Mitchell from Denham Springs (H.S.) LA, who is the #2-ranked junior in the nation.  Remember, Mitchell's godfather is LSU assistant coach Butch Pierre and Pierre is second to none as a recruiter.  And all this would be coming on the heels of LSU's recruiting class from last year, which was ranked #6 in our Final Ranking of the Top Recruiting Classes for the Class of 2003 and included Bass, 6'7 Regis Koundjia from Laurinburg (Institute) NC, 5'10 Taurean Minor from Houston (Washington) TX, 6'8 Ross Neltner from Ft. Thomas (Highlands) KY, and 6'7 Darrell Lazare from Baton Rouge (Woodlawn) LA, and their current recruiting class, which is tied for #30, along with Virginia Tech and St. John's, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004 and includes Davis, 6'7 Spencer Ford from Dixie (JC) UT and 6'6 Garrett Temple from Baton Rouge (University Lab) LA.  We also have confirmed that the University of Illinois has received an early verbal commitment from 6'8 Jr David Palmer from Antioch (H.S.) TN and this comes as a major surprise to our Tennessee Editor Andre Whitehead, who has Palmer ranked no higher than #38 in the state based on his lack of skills and immaturity.  However, after watching Palmer in the spring and summer at places like the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions and the NIKE All-American Camp, our Ohio Editor Chris Johnson, who first tipped us off about this, and I have always liked Palmer's size, athleticism, and upside.  Only time will tell whether this turns out to be a good catch or not, but this does give the Fighting Illini a head start on next year, as well as another inside player who down the road may be able to complement 6'9 Shaun Pruitt from Aurora (West Aurora) IL, who is the only recruit in Illinois' current recruiting class.   Our West Coast Editor Dinos Trigonis informs us that 6'6 Zach Woolridge from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, who hit the big 3-pointer to tie the game with only 21.5 seconds left on Saturday against Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY in the Pangos Dream Classic, has verbally committed to Princeton.  Obviously this keeps Princeton's strong West Coast connection alive, as Woolridge is following in the footsteps of 6'9 Harrison Schaen from Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA and 6'7 Brian Elbogen from San Ramon (California) CA, both of whom were part of Princeton's recruiting class a year ago, and 6'3 Matt Sargeant from Huntington Beach (Ocean View) CA, who already is a part of their current recruiting class.  The addition of Woolridge, who is an excellent athlete, a good outside shooter, and somebody who has recently improved dramatically, could also put the Tigers in the driver's seat to get 6'5 Jr Ed White from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, who has schools like Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Pennsylvania, Yale, Northwestern, and California on his early list.  Speaking of the recruiting for the top juniors in Southern California, Trigonis also has the scoop about the early recruitment of 6'5 Jr Bryan Harvey from Compton (Dominguez) CA, 6'7 Jr Jamal Boykin from Los Angeles (Fairfax) CA, 6'6 Jr Marcus Johnson from Los Angeles (Westchester) CA, 6'9 Jr Amir Johnson from Los Angeles (Westchester) CA, 6'7 Jr Rashad Austin from Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA, 6'9 Jr Jordan Wilkes from Los Angeles (Loyola) CA, 6'10 Jr Brett Hoerner from Fullerton (H.S.) CA.  Kentucky is the heavy favorite for Harvey due to the Tayshaun Prince-connection to Compton (Dominguez) CA, but USC, Miami-FL, Kansas, Louisville, and Washington also are showing a lot of interest.  Boykin told us last week that he likes Georgia Tech, Louisville, Arizona, and Pepperdine, but Trigonis also notes that UCLA, USC, and Duke are in the hunt.   Marcus Johnson, who also is rumored to be interested in transferring to Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA next year, likes Syracuse, Kansas, UCLA, USC, and Arizona.  Amir Johnson is attracting the most interest from UCLA, Miami-FL, and Louisville.  The early list for Austin includes Arizona, UCLA, USC, Arizona State, and Washington.   Wilkes likes Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, and Stanford.  USC, UCLA, Arizona, Pepperdine, California, Wyoming, and Oregon State are the schools showing the most interest in Hoerner.  We also talked with our Georgia Editor Linzy Davis early today and he tells us that Rashaad Carruth is alive and well at Indian Hills (JC) IA.  Carruth, who is averaging 16.4 ppg and was named to the All-Tournament Team with a 24-point effort over the weekend in the Physical Therapy Specialist Clinics Classic in West Plains, MO  appears have matured and cleaned up his act and, as a result, schools like Florida State, Clemson, Iowa State, and Miami-FL are showing interest in him again. 

Monday, January 5, 2004

The next major event on our agenda is the Reebok California Hoops Challenge, which will be held on Saturday, January 10th, at Cal State Dominguez Hills, CA and, once again, we will get to see many of the top players in Southern California.  The first game will tip-off at 1:30 PM with Los Angeles (Price) CA with 6'6 Jr Matthew Palmer, 6'8 Soph Teron Sutton, 6'2 Darren Morrison, and 6'5 Scheyer McKay versus Reseda (Cleveland) CA with 6'6 Nick Young; followed by Torrance Bishop (Montgomery) CA with 5'10 Jr Austin Autry, 5'9 Ryan Howard, and 6'3 Brian Hodges versus Fresno (Washington Union) CA with 6'3 Dwight O'Neil and 6'2 Soph Travon Willis at 3:00 PM; Compton (Centennial) CA with 6'5 Arron Afflalo, 6'6 Chris Berry, 6'5 Soph Jervaughn Johnson, and 5'11 Frosh Jessie Woodard versus Los Angeles (Crenshaw) CA with 5'11 Jr Brian McTear and 6'4 Sone Finister at 4:30 PM; Compton (Dominguez) CA with 6'4 Jr Bryan Harvey, 6'7 Lamar Roberson, 5'10 Derek Wright and 6'4 Marcus Malone versus Long Beach (Poly) CA with 6'4 Curtis Allen, 6'7 Marcus Lewis, and 6'5 Chris Fields at 6:00 PM; Los Angeles (Fairfax) CA with 6'5 Josh Shipp, 6'7 Jr Jamal Boykin, 6'3 Soph Jaron Shipp, and 6'5 Frosh Chace Stanback versus Oceanside (El Camino) CA with 6'8 Gyno Pomare, 6'8 Craig Austin, and 6'4 Justin Armstrong at 7:30 PM.  We also are looking forward to attending the Flyin To The Hoop in Vandalia, OH, which will be held Saturday, January 17th, Sunday, January 18th, and Monday, January 19th, in Vandalia, OH.  The first game will tip-off Saturday morning with Zanesville (H.S.) OH versus Lakewood (St. Edwards) OH at 10:30 AM, followed by Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON versus Richmond (New Creations Christian) IN at 12:30 PM, Burlington (Life Center) NJ versus Pickens (Prince Avenue) SC at 2:30 PM, Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY versus West Chester (Lakota East) OH at 4:30 PM, Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) ON versus Reserve (Christian) LA at 6:30 PM, and Cincinnati (St. Xavier) OH versus Vandalia (Butler) OH at 8:30 PM.  Sunday's action will begin with the loser of the game between Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON-Richmond (New Creations Christian) IN versus loser of the game between Burlington (Life Center) NJ-Pickens (Prince Avenue) SC at 12:30 PM, followed by Cincinnati (La Salle) OH versus Reserve (Christian) LA at 2:30 PM, Hamilton (H.S.) OH versus Springfield (South) OH at 4:30 PM, the loser of the game between Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) ON-Reserve (Christian) LA versus the loser of the game between Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY-West Chester (Lakota East) OH at 6:30 PM, and the loser of the game between Zanesville (H.S.) OH-Lakewood (St. Edwards) OH versus the loser of the game between Cincinnati (St. Xavier) OH-Vandalia (Butler) OH at 8:30 PM.  The final day of action will begin on Monday morning with Fairborn (H.S.) OH versus Beavercreek (H.S.) OH at 11:00 AM, followed by the winner of the game between Toronto (Eastern School of Commerce) ON-Richmond (New Creations Christian) IN versus the winner of the game between Burlington (Life Center) NJ-Pickens (Prince Avenue) SC at 1:00 PM, Northmont (H.S.) OH versus Ottawa (Ottawa-Glandorf) OH at 3:00 PM, the winner of the game between Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) ON-Reserve (Christian) LA versus the winner of the game between Montreal (Champlain St. Lambert) ON-Reserve (Christian) LA at 5:00 PM, the winner of the game between Zanesville (H.S.) OH-Lakewood (St. Edwards) OH versus the winner of the game between Cincinnati (St. Xavier) OH-Vandalia (Butler) OH at 7:00 PM.  However, I only plan to be at Flyin to the Hoop on Saturday, because Roy Schmidt of the Illinois Bulls-eye Report has talked me into traveling to Chicago, IL to attend the North Park Shootout, which will held at North Park University in Chicago, IL, on Sunday, January 18th, and Monday, January 19th.  Schmidt tells us that the line-up of teams for Sunday's action will include Chicago (Northside) IL versus Chicago (Steinmetz) IL at Noon, Chicago (Kenwood) IL versus Chicago (Quigley) IL at 1:30 PM, Chicago (Manley) IL versus Chicago (Robeson) IL at 3:00 PM, Flossmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL versus Chicago (Westinghouse) IL at 4:30 PM, Skokie (Niles West) IL versus Chicago (Von Stuben) IL at 6:00 PM, and Olympia Fields (Rich Central) IL versus Chicago (Farragut) IL at 7:30 PM.  Then, on Monday, January 19th, the first game feature Chicago (Mather) IL versus Chicago (Dusable) IL at Noon, followed by Chicago (Corliss) IL versus Chicago (Curie) IL at 1:30 PM, Hillside (Proviso West) IL versus Chicago (Morgam Park) IL at 3:00 PM, South Holland (Thornwood) IL versus Chicago (Julian) IL at 4:30 PM.  Schmidt also tells us that the top players who will be in attendance include 6'7 Jr Julian Wright from Flossmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL, 6'4 Jamarcus Ellis from Chicago (Westinghouse) IL, 6'7 Ollie Bailey from Chicago (Farragut) IL, 6'1 Jr Jeremy Pargo from Chicago (Robeson) IL, 6'1 Jr Angel Santigo from Chicago (Von Stuben) IL, 6'3 Jr Sead Odzic from Skokie (Niles West) IL,6'6 Jr DeAndre Thomas from Chicago (Westinghouse) IL, 6'7 Cyrus Tate from Flossmoor (Homewood-Flossmoor) IL, 6'0 Jr Brandon Ewing from Chicago (Julian) IL, 6'3 Soph Kris Singletary from Chicago (Farragut) IL, 5'11 Jarryd Loyd from Skokie (Niles West) IL, 6'5 Demetrius Evans from Chicago (Von Stuben) IL, 6'5 Ryne Hamblet from Chicago (Von Stuben) IL, 6'5 Jr Jarvis Walker from Olympia Fields (Rich Central) IL, and 6'1 Jr  Brandon Long from Olympia Fields (Rich Central) IL.  We also plan to stay in Chicago, IL only on Sunday, because we can catch the big game between Aurora (West Aurora) IL versus Bartonville (Limestone) IL, as well as watch 6'6 Shaun Livingston from Peoria (Central) IL on Monday, January 19th in the River City Shootout in Peoria, IL.  Schmidt also tells us that the big story out of Illinois this winter has been the emergence of 6'5 Soph Jonathan Scheyer from Northbrook (Glenbrook North) IL, who recently had 30 points, four assists and three steals against South Holland (Thornwood) IL, 35 points against Chicago (Sullivan) IL, and 38 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists against Schaumburg (H.S.) IL, into one of the top three players in the state regardless of class, along with Livingston and Wright.  "Scheyer has tremendous poise and a great feel for the game," says Schmidt.  "He also gets everybody involved and has ability to take over game with his outside shooting and ability to beat most defenders to the hoop one-on-one."  Schmidt also believes that Scheyer is the best white player to come out of the state since Doug Collins, plus he tells us that people at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament were talking about Scheyer being the best sophomore to play in the tournament since Isiah Thomas.  Better than Mark Aguire, Glen Rivers, Juwan Howard, Hersey Hawkins, Marcus Liberty, Jamie Brandon, Ronnie Fields, and Levertis Robinson.  "I haven't seen all the top sophomores in the nation," says Schmidt.  "But in a normal year he'd have to be ranked among the top five or 10."  To find out more about Scheyer, as well as everything that happened during the holiday tournament season in the state of Illinois, we encourage you to purchage the Illinois Bulls-eye Report.  You can write do so by writing P.O. Box 488, Downers Grove, IL,  60515, calling 1-(630)-910-1829 or emailing Roy1Harv@aol.com. 

Sunday, January 4, 2004

The highlight of the day yesterday at the Pangos Dream Classic at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA was watching 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, who simply picked up where he left off a year ago at this event when he had 11-19 field goals, 6-9 3-pointers, 30 points, and two steals in what was the best individual performance that we saw all last winter.  Yesterday Telfair finished with 37 points, hit 13-23 field goals, 5-8 3-pointers, and 6-6 free throws, and had six assists, two turnovers, and two steals, but there was one individual performance this winter that we thought was better when we saw 6'8 Glen Davis from Baton Rouge (University Lab) LA finish with 35 points and 20 rebounds in the championship game at the City of Palms Classic.  And, despite being sidelined the last several weeks with a leg injury that occurred during the against 6'0 Darius Washington from Orlando (Edgewater) FL in mid-December, Telfair was at his best, as he made a number of incredible passes (if his teammates could finish, he easily would have had double-digit assists), hit some big 3-pointers, and did an amazing job of changing speeds and then beating his man off the dribble.  So obviously this is the Sebastian Telfair that we all know and love and, as a result, we'll have to seriously consider moving him back into our top five seniors when we update our national rankings later this month.  Remember, this is the guy we've been touting as one of the top players in his class since he was in 4th Grade.  Brooklyn Lincoln jumped out early, as Telfair scored seven of his team's first 14 points to make it 14-8, and, at one point late in the first half, Telfair had 23 of his team's first 36 points, plus he also had three assists.  By half-time Lincoln had taken a 48-28 lead, but things turned around quickly, as 6'5 Bryce Taylor from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA scored 13 straight points to start the second half and, by the end of the 3rd Quarter, Lincoln's lead had been cut from 20 points to only two, as Harvard-Westlake outscored Lincoln 28-10 in the 3rd Quarter.  From there Lincoln maintained a slight edge until 6'6 Zach Woolridge hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game with 21.5 seconds left, Lincoln missed on several opportunities in the final seconds, and the game went into overtime, where Lincoln finally prevailed, 85-82.  Taylor finished with 31 points, as he hit 10-24 field goals, 4-10 3-pointers, and had 15 rebounds, three assists, and three steals, while University of Oregon head coach Ernie Kent and assistant coach Scott Duncan both looked on in delight (Taylor signed with Ducks in the fall).  Also chipping in with 21 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks for Harvard-Westlake was 6'8 Evan Harris, who is one of the most unheralded players in Southern California and a legitimate steal for any mid-major program looking for somebody with size, athleticism, and grades.  We also were impressed with Westlake's 6'8 Soph Alex Stepheson, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, and impressed us with his athleticism, mobility, rebounding, and ability to score around the basket, and Woolridge, who finished with eight points and hit 2-5 3-pointers.  Complementing Telfair for Lincoln were 6'8 Jr Antonio Pena, who finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 10-13 field goals, and 6'1 Eugene Lawrence, who had 13 points, five assists, and three steals.  The other big game of the day, which featured Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA versus Compton (Dominguez) CA, turned out to be a major bust.  However, we don't want to take anything way from Dominquez, which jumped out to a 8-0 lead early and scored the first 12 points to set the tone second half.  But that still might not have mattered, if 6'11 Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, who is the #1-ranked senior in the nation by the HOOP SCOOP, had not been whistled for his second foul on a controversal over-the-back call and for his third foul at the defensive end of the court on the very next possession.  At that point the score was 8-2 and just like that the officials had determined the outcome of the game.  Howard didn't reappear until the start of the second half, but even though the score was 24-12, Southwest Atlanta Christian came out flat and was unable to take advantage of the opportunity.  By the time it got to be 55-39 mid-way through the 4th quarter, Howard had scored 20 points in the second half, which means at that point he had 22 of his team's 39 points and had played a little over half the game.  Dominguez, which won the game, 66-52, was led by 6'5 Bryan Harvey, who finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, and hit 7-17 field goals.  Also chipping in with 10 points apiece were 5'10 Derek Wright and 6'4 Marcus Malone.  Howard, who was 8-8 from the field and 8-12 from the foul line, led Southwest Atlanta Christian with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight blocked shots.  Also chipping in with 14 points and seven rebounds for Southwest Atlanta Christian was 6'5 Soph Javaris Crittenton, which means Howard and Crittenton accounted for 38 of their team's 52 points and 17 of their team's 38 rebounds.   However, Crittenton was only 5-20 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the arc, plus Crittenton and Howard both had six turnovers apiece, as Southwest Atlanta Christian had 28 turnovers for the game and hit only 35.3% field goals (18-51) for the game.  In other words, it was a tough night for Southwest Atlanta Christian, but Dominguez head coach Russell Otis also deserves a lot of credit, because they took Southwest Atlanta Christian out of their game and they did a great job defensively.  The most exciting game of the entire day turned out to be the nightcap between Woodland Hills (Taft) CA and Reseda (Cleveland) CA.  And the big hero for Taft was 6'2 Jordan Farmar, who made an incredible catch on an in-bounds play, drew the foul, and sank both free throws to win the game, 61-60.  But this still wasn't one of Farmar's best efforts, as he finished with 24 points, 7-18 field goals, 2-5 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six steals, and seven turnovers.  Instead, the best player in the game turned out to be USC-bound 6'6 Nick Young from Cleveland (Reseda) CA, who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and impressed everybody with his vast array of moves and ability to beat you outside with his 3-point shot and inside with his flare for the spectacular and incredible dunking ability.  Not only are we talking about one of the best athletes and fastest rising players in the nation, but Louis Johnson of the Long Beach Press-Telegram Young thinks Young could be the best senior/5th Year Player in the state.  "He also could be this year's version of Dorell Wright in terms of lack of notoriety, rise, and future impact, " says Johnson.  Riverside (Martin Luther King) CA beat Los Angeles (Price) CA in the first game of the day, thanks to the efforts of 6'5 Matt Thomas, who led King with 16 points, seven rebounds, and two steals, and 6'6 Deandre Robinson, who chipped in with 15 points.  The best player for Los Angeles (Price) CA was 6'6 Jr Matthew Palmer, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the best prospect in the game was 6'8 Soph Teron Sutton, who finished with eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks.  The King-Price game was followed by the much anticipated match-up between 7'0 Robert Swift from Bakersfield (H.S.) CA, who finished with only 14 points (4-11 field goals) and 6'11 Chester Giles from Seattle (Rainier Beach) WA, who finished only 11 points (3-4 field goals), but it turned out to be a total bust.  A big part of the problem was that neither player seemed to get into the flow of the game and they didn't get the ball very often in scoring position.  Rainier Beach did win the game, 45-42, but 6'6 Jr Terrance Williams, who hit 7-17 field goals and 3-10 3-pointers, and 6'3 Ryan Anderson, who hit 4-18 field goals and 4-14 3-pointer, never saw a shot they didn't like.  As a matter of  fact, they took a combined total of 35 shots to score only 29 points.  But even that doesn't describe just how ugly this game was, as Bakersfield hit only 14-47 field goals (29.8%) and 11-23 free throws (47.8%) and Rainier Beach hit only 16-53 field goals (30.2%) and only 7-28 3-pointers (25.0%).  In other words, it was kind of like a hockey game.  If you get enought shots on goal, you're going to score some points. 

Saturday, January 3, 2004

Sometime within the last week while we were busy covering all the Holiday Tournaments is appears that Providence got a verbal commitment from 6'2 Robert McKiver from Winchendon (School) MA and UAB landed 6'8 Frank Holmes from Somerville (Fayette-Ware) TN.  And in both cases we think they have a major steal.  McKiver, who is still recovering from a bad sprain that occurred at that War on the Shore National Prep School Invitional in Milford, DE in November, is ranked #32 on our 5th list, which means that he is the equivalent of a top 100 senior nationally.  McKiver's commitment also means that Providence has landed a recruiting class, which is now ranked #25 on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004 and also includes 6'7 DeSean White from Philadelphia (Cardinal Dougherty) PA, 6'9 Randall Hanke from Pawling (Trinity-Pawling) NY, 6'9 Anthony Ivory from Washington (Marriott Charter) DC, and 6'0 Jajuan Robinson from Pickens (Prince Avenue Prep) SC.  White, McKiver, and Hanke, all three of whom have tremendous upside have the talent and potential to develop into excellent players in the Big East, also  appear to be the next in a long line of players like 6'4 Sr Abdul Mills, 6'3 Sr Sheiku Kabba, 6'7 Jr Ryan Gomes, 6'4 Soph Donnie McGrath, who were underrated when they were coming out of high school.  In other words, this is just an example of why we think Friars assistant coach Steve DeMeo is one of the most astute evaluators of talent, as well as one of the top assistant coaches in the game today.  As for McKiver, we're talking about an athletic slashing combo guard who is capable of putting up big numbers and has greatly matured this fall and winter while playing for Winchendon head coach Mike Byrnes.  Holmes, who is best described as blue collar athlete and a warrior around the basket, is a little undersized, but that didn't stop a lot of big time people from recruiting him.  However, in the end it appears that Blazers head coach Mike Anderson and assistant coach Scott Edgar were able to take advantage of their strong Memphis area connections dating back to their days at Arkansas.  And it is our guess that UAB's running and pressing style was one of the deciding factors in Holmes' decision.  Remember, that's the way the YOMCA Team, which also featured 6'8 Shawne Williams from Memphis (Hamilton) TN, 6'7 Corey Brewer from Portland (H.S.) TN, and 5'10 Andre Allen from Memphis (Booker T. Washington) TN, played when they won the 17-Under National AAU Championship in Orlando, FL in July.  Holmes joines 6'3 Paul Delaney from Chamblee (H.S.) GA and, as a result, UAB's recruiting class moves into a tie at #133, along with West Virginia, East Carolina, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida International, Penn State, Drexel, Georgia Southern, Siena, Southeast Missouri State, Stanford, IUPUI, Arizona State, Southern Illinois, Texas Christian, Holy Cross, Radford, Northern Arizona, Wichita State, Belmont, Quinnipiac, UT-San Antonio, and Jacksonville State, on our list of the Top Recruiting Classes To-Date for the Class of 2004.  But, even more important, UAB has landed a pair athletes who will be perfect for the way they want to play.  We also continue to track the top unsigned seniors in the nation and, as things stand now, eight of our top 100 seniors - 6'11 Dwight Howard from Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, 6'6 Malik Hairston from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, 7'0 Randolph Morris from Fairburn (Landmark Christian) GA, 6'3 Joe Crawford from Detroit (Renaissance) MI, 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY, 6'9 Andre Blatche from Syracuse (Henninger) NY, 6'8 Tyrus Thomas from Baton Rouge (McKinley) LA, and 6'8 Kevin Langford from Ft. Worth (North Crowley) TX - are still on the board.  But it is our guess that Howard, who is expected to be the #1 pick in the NBA Draft next June, will by-pass college and enter his name into the NBA Draft.  However, if Howard does go to college, it appears to be a three-horse among among Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia.  We still think Ohio State leads for Hairston, but it also won't be a major surprise if he stayed home and picked either Michigan or Michigan State.  Morris told us Slam Dunk to the Beach that the only two schools on his list are Georgia Tech and Kentucky.  Crawford's top two are Michigan State and Kentucky.  The Wildcats also are making a late push for Palacios, whose top four now appear to be Louisville, Pittsburgh, Texas, and Kentucky.  Speaking of Palacios, the word we get is that he was not injured in that tragic car accident that occurred three days ago in North Carolina.  We suspect that Blatche will go the prep school route, but regardless of whether he counts as part of this year's or next year's recruiting class, a number of schools, like Syracuse, Kansas, Connecticut, Texas, Michigan State, Florida, and Xavier, St. John's, West Virginia, Georgetown, are in the hunt.  The leaders for Thomas appear to be Virginia Tech, LSU, and LouisianaTech.  Langford is waiting for UCLA to offer, but schools like Texas Christian and Kentucky also have been mentioned.  We also have to mention 6'2 Rajon Rondo from Mouth of Wilson (Oak Hill) VA, who currently is ranked #102 nationally in the senior class, but whose value has risen dramatically this winter.  Did you know that Rondo was the MVP at the Iolani Prep Classic in Honolulu, HI?   Currently Rondo appears to be waiting to see whether 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, who signed with Louisville in the fall, decides to enter his name into the NBA Draft in June.  If Telfair does declare for the NBA Draft, then Louisville will probably offer Rondo.  However, if Telfair goes to Louisville, then schools like Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Clemson, and USC will battle it out for Rondo's services. 

Friday, January 2, 2004

It looks like Dinos Trigonis has once again hit the jackpot with the Pangos Dream Classic, which will be played tomorrow at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA.  Sure, the status of 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, who is regarded by some as the best high school player in nation and is ranked #9 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP, is in doubt due to a badly sprained ankle that has sidelined him the last several weeks.  Instead, Trigonis will be banking on Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA, which won the championship at Slam Dunk to the Beach just three days ago, and 6'11 Dwight Howard, who averaged 24.7 ppg, 22.0 rpg,and 7.0 bpg in three games at Slam Dunk to the Beach and is our choice as the #1-ranked high school player in the nation.  As a matter of fact, we're even willing to go so far as to proclaim Howard as one of the top five high school players in the last 10 years, along with Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.  And while most people think it's a foregone conclusion that Howard will enter is name into the NBA Draft and, as a result, by-pass college altogether next spring, we're not so sure.   Remember, Howard is not your stereotypical spoiled pampered premadonana superstar who often doesn't play hard and thinks he's destined for stardom.  Instead, Howard is a nice humble well spoken kid with excellent grades who presents himself extremely well off the court and consistently goes to war and almost always is a force to be reckoned with on the court.  In other words, Howard has the advantage of coming from a two parent home where stability and getting an education are the order of the day and, as a result, it should come as no surprise that Howard and his parents continue to give lip service to the possibility that he might go to college and, as a result, schools like Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia are still recruiting him.  Instead, the popular consensus is that Howard will be the #1 pick in the NBA Draft and, in our opinion, it's a no-brainer that you take Howard over Connecticut's Emeka Okafor, if they both decide to come out.  So Howard, who also led the Atlanta Celtics to the championship at the adidas Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas, NV and was named the MVP at both the NBA Players Association Camp and the adidas ABCD Camp last summer, is exactly what the doctor ordered as Trigonis attempts to draw the local basketball fans in a city that loves a star.  But, unfortunately, I'm not sure that the average basketball fan and even some people in our business have figured out just how good Howard is yet.  However, we have and I've even gone so far as to say that those in the business who can't figure out that Howard is the best player in the nation either haven't seen him lately or need to get into another line of work, because they don't have a clue.  No, Howard is not the next LaBron James, but he might be the next best thing, plus he is a tremendous role model, both on and off the court.  We also are hoping that 6'0 Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, who is ranked as the #1 player in the senior class natoinally by some and #9 by us, will be recovered enough to play tomorrow (the word is thathe is) and, if he is, this year's event could be even better than last year.   If you will recall, a year ago Telfair and 6'5 Arron Afflalo from Compton (Centennial) CA turned in brilliant performances, but Lebron James didn't play all that well, although his team did beat Santa Ana (Mater Dei) CA and was the #1-ranked high school team the rest of the season.  This year's event begins tomorrow afternoon with Los Angeles (Price) CA versus Riverside (King) CA at 2:30 PM, followed by Seattle (Rainier Beach) WA versus Bakersfield (H.S.) CA at 4:00 PM, Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY versus North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA at 5:30 PM, Compton (Dominguez) CA versus Atlanta (Southwest Atlanta Christian) GA at 7:00 PM, and Woodland Hills (Taft) CA versus Reseda (Cleveland) CA at 8:30 PM.  In addition to Howard and Telfair, the Pangos Dream Classic also will feature 7'0 Robert Swift from Bakerfield (H.S.) CA, 6'2 Jordan Farmar from Woodland Hills (Taft) CA, 6'4 Bryce Taylor from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, 6'10 Chester Giles from Seattle (Rainier Beach) CA, 6'5 Nick Young from Reseda (Cleveland) CA, 6'4 Matthew Thomas from Riverside (King) CA, 6'7 Lamar Roberson from Compton (Dominguez) CA, 6'5 Jr Brian Harvey from Compton (Dominguez) CA, 6'6 Jr Antonio Pena from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, 6'5 Jr Terrance Williams from Seattle (Rainier Beach) CA, 6'7 Jr Titus Shelton from Bakersfield (H.S.) CA, 6'3 Jr Davon Lloyd from Compton (Dominguez) CA, 6'4 Jr Ed White from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, 6'6 Soph Javaris Crittenton from Brooklyn (Lincoln) NY, 6'8 Soph Alex Stepheson from North Hollywood (Harvard-Westlake) CA, 6'7 Soph Terron Sutton from Los Angeles (Price) CA, 6'6 Frosh Pierce Brooks from Woodland Hills (Taft) CA, and 6'5 Frosh Tim Shelton from Bakersfield (H.S.) CA. 

Thursday, January 1, 2004

We first saw 7'2 Jr Kevin Mormin from Centereach (Our Savior New American) NY at the Charlie Weber Invitational Tournament in College Park, MD, shortly after he arrived in this country last fall.   We also got to see Mormin play in the War on the Shore National Prep School Inviational in Milford, DE in November and this past week at Slam Dunk to the Beach in Lewes, DE and each time we saw dramatic improvement, as his confidence level and skills improved.  Mormin had soft hands, a nice touch, good athleticism, surprisingly mobilty, and an unlimited upside.  He did need to get bigger and stronger, but he was one of the most intriuging players in the junior class nationally due to his size, skills, and potential.  We're writing about Mormin in the past tense, because yesterday Mormin was tragically killed around 4:30 PM in a car accident while traveling with the Our Savior New American team from Slam Dunk to the Beach to Charlotte, NC, where his team is scheduled to play in the Dell Curry Shootout this weekend.  Eight other players on the Our Savior New American team were also injured in the accident.  Obviously the thoughts and prayers of the entire basketball world are with Mormin, his family, and the surveyors, who include 6'8 Juan Diego Palacios, who is ranked #27 nationally in the senior class by the HOOP SCOOP.  

Our Tennessee Correspondent Andre Whitehead was at the 21st Annual Arby's Classic Basketball Tournament, which concluded last night in Bristol, TN, and he tells us that this was easily the best field this tournament has had since he started covering high school basketball in Tennessee for the HOOP SCOOP three years ago.  "The place was packed, the atmosphere was incredible, and most of the games were close," says Whitehead.  So is fitting that the championship game, which was a well-played well coached two-point game with numerous lead changes and tremendous intensity, was one of the best high school game that Whitehead has ever seen.  And making the story even more interesting is the fact that Memphis (White Station) TN had beaten Cleveland (Bradley-Central) TN twice in the state finals in the last two years.  However, this time Bradley Central prevailed 60-55, thanks to the efforts of 62 Justin Hare, 6'4 Jr  Wes Suiter, 6'3 Cori Pugh, and 6'2 Kellan Pickel.  Suiter was the leading scorer with 18 points, plus he got all the big rebounds down the stretch.  Hare, who originally verbally committed to Belmont, but has since reneged and, as a result, is now being recruited by schools like UT-Chattanooga and Stanford, had 17 points.  Pugh chipped in with 12 points and Pickel, who was one of the best great pure shooters in the tournament, finished with eight points.  Memphis (White Station) TN was led by 6'1 Courtney Pigram, who finished with 16 points in the championship game, but had a  30-point game earlier in the tournament.  Currently we have Pigram ranked #36 in the senior class in Tennessee, but Whitehead tells us that Pigram is good enough to be ranked among the top dozen next time we update our Tennesee rankings and, as result, he is one of the fastest rising players in the state  "Pigram is a great 3-point shooter, outstanding defender, and very athletic at the 2-guard spot." says Whitehead.  "His only drawback is his lack of size, which means he'd be a steal at the mid-to-low Division I level."  Pigram was complement by 5'11 Riley Ervin and 6'8 Taylor Schall.  Ervin, who is a lefty point guard with unbelievable quickness and the ability to hit the three, had 16 points against Bradley-Central and, as a result, it is easy to see why schools like Columbia, Harvard, and Tennessee Tech are showing a lot of interest.   Schall, who finished with 10 points, is also a great student, as is evident by the fact he's already committed to Yale.  And Whitehead thinks this is a perfect fit, because Schall is a solid post guy who can step out and hit the 12-footer, plus he has good hands, an excellent understanding of the game, and is fundamentally sound in the post.  Colegio Bautista De Caguas, which is a team from Puerto Rico, beat Pulaski (Giles County) TN in the 3rd Place Game, thanks to the efforts of 7'3 Peter John Ramos, who finished with 26 points and impressed everybody with his great hands, good mobility, and surprising athleticism for somebody 7'3.  Ramos also was surprisingly consistent, as he had other games where he scored 17 points, 27 points, and 22 points, plus he had double-digit rebounds in every game and hit 12-13 field goals in his 27-point performance against Statesboro (H.S.) GA.  Colegio Bautista De Caguas had 6'0 Christian Casanova to run the show and 7'0 Jr Ricardo Sanchez, who has good perimeter skills, can run the court, and shoots it pretty well for somebody his size, to complement Ramos both inside and outside.  The best player for Pulaski (Giles County) TN was 6'6 Jr Tyler Smith, who is ranked #11 nationally in the junior class by the HOOP SCOOP.  Smith, who finished with 32 points in the 3rd Place game, also reinforced why schools like Tennessee, UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, and Georgia Tech are recruiting him.  The MVP of the Arby Classic was 6'1 Sundiata Gaines from Briarwood (Archbishop Molloy) NY.  Not only did Gaines score 32 points in his team's win against Riverdale (H.S.) GA in the 5th Place Game, but he also had a 45-point game, plus he broke David Harrison's all-time tournament scoring record with 147 points in four games.  The All-Tournament Team included Gaines, Hare, Pugh, Suiter, Pickel, Ramos, Sanchez, Casanova, Smith, Pigram, Ervin, Schall, 6'6 Jr J.P. Prince from Memphis (White Station) TN, 6'4 Shay Shannon from Pulaski (Giles County) TN, 6'4 Vincent Falzone from Briarwood (Archbishop Molloy) NY, 6'4 Hughie Durham from Columbia (Irmo) SC, 6'1 Sean Hightower from Riverdale (H.S.) GA, 6'0 Jerome Odem from Johnson City (Science Hill) TN, 6'0 Matt Buchanan from Bristol (Tennessee) TN, 6'0 Jr Courtnei Houston from Stateboro (H.S.) GA, 6'3 Ronnell Wooten from Statesboro (H.S.) GA, 5'10 Doug Hardy from Anchorage (Bartlett) AK 6'2 Jr Mario Chalmers from Anchorage (Bartlett) AK.  Speaking of Chalmers, Whitehead tells us that UCLA and Wake Forest were both in the house to watch him play and with good reason, because we're talking about a great 3-point shooter who creates off the dribble, has an excellent body, and is potentially the best player to come out of Alaska since Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer.  Not making the all-tournament, but also deserving special mention is 6'7 Frosh Gani Lawal from Riverdale (H.S.) GA, who is ranked #76 nationally in the freshman class by the HOOP SCOOP.  We're talking about a guy who can step out to the foul line, is very long and athletic, and extremely skilled for a freshman.

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