By Brick Oettinger
January 24, 2006
The best high school basketball players in America remain fascinated with the idea of playing in the ACC. Of the nation's top 100 seniors, according to our PrepStars.com rankings, 25 have signed or committed to play in the conference. That compares to 18 for the Big East, 11 each for the Big Ten and Pac-10, 10 for the Big 12, nine for the SEC, etc.
It's still far too early to declare a similar trend for the Class of 2007, but thus far the ACC again is faring well. Already -- nine months before these prospects have their first opportunity to sign national letters of intent! -- league schools have pledges from four of the top 50 and six of the top 75 juniors in the nation, and they remain strongly in the running for many more, including the players on our list.
Kevin Love (No. 3), a powerful and highly skilled 6-9, 250-pound BF/C at Lake Oswego (OR) High near Portland, has identified Duke, UNC and UCLA (unofficial visit) as his three frontrunners, with a second tier consisting of Arizona, Kansas, Ohio State, Washington and perhaps Oregon. He and fundamentally impeccable 6-8 Medford (OR) South Medford junior WF/BF Kyle Singler (No. 9) have expressed interest in attending the same college, with Singler's list headed by Duke (at least prior to Taylor King's recent commitment), Kansas and UCLA, followed by UNC, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.
Both the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils would love to complete their recruitment of the Class of 2007 with these two talented Oregonians. Remember that Love's father, Stan, played for Oregon and then for nine years in the NBA. The father of Singler (who's also an excellent football quarterback) was a gridder at Oregon State, and Kyle also has uncles who played either football or basketball at Texas, Oregon and Stanford. Stay tuned.
Gani Lawal (No. 7), a blue-chip 6-9, 205-pound BF/C at 15-2 Norcross (GA) High, is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and three rejects per game thus far this season. He indicated recently that he has a top three of Georgia Tech, Kentucky and hard-charging Wake Forest, while UNC is a fourth option. His Norcross teammate and friend, 6-4 senior WG Jodie Meeks (No. 94), signed in November with the Wildcats, while the Ramblin' Wreck is very close to home and thus may have the inside track for this elite prospect.
Derrick Rose (No. 10), a top-of-the-line 6-2 PG at Chicago (IL) Simeon, is being courted ardently by co-leaders Illinois and UNC, plus Virginia, Memphis, Arizona, Marquette, DePaul, Louisville and Kansas. His recruiting is being handled primarily by his three brothers, with Reggie (a former college player and the all-time career points leader at Chicago's Hubbard High) serving as a spokesman for the family. Derrick combines lightning quickness with excellent court intelligence.
Julian Vaughn (No. 23), a 6-9, 235-pound BF/C at Reston (VA) South Lakes, spent the Jan. 7-8 weekend watching the UNC-N.C. State game in Chapel Hill and the Wake Forest-Duke affair in Winston-Salem on unofficial visits. This was not the first trip to either UNC or Wake Forest for the strong, sweet-shooting lefty, who also has taken unofficial trips to Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke and N.C. State. All of them except the Tar Heels and Blue Devils have offered him a scholarship. While many other schools (such as Kansas) also are quite interested in Vaughn, we'll be surprised if he doesn't wind up in the ACC. This season he's averaging 21 points, 11 boards and eight blocks per game.
Alex Tyus (No. 31), a high-flying 6-8, 210-pound fourth-year junior WF/BF who transferred last fall to Cincinnati (OH) Harmony Community Christian from Florissant (MO) Hazelwood Central, impressed observers (including PrepStars.com correspondent Eric Bossi) at the MLK Dream Classic with his tremendous athleticism. As noted last issue, he lists Kansas (recent unofficial visit), Illinois (ditto), Arizona, Texas and Washington as his top five, with Miami, Missouri, UNC (no offer), Syracuse and Tennessee also involved.
James "J.J." Hickson (No. 37), a 6-8, 230-pound BF who transferred last fall to Marietta (GA) Wheeler from Atlanta (GA) Southwest Atlanta Christian, is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per contest for a 12-1 team ranked No. 10 nationally by USA Today. He already has more than 15 scholarship offers from high Division I programs. Among the colleges he particularly likes are UNC (no offer), Wake Forest, Duke (no offer), Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Connecticut, Texas, Syracuse, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Marquette, South Carolina, UCLA, Arizona, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Aggressive Mike Holmes (No. 50), a 6-7, 215-pound BF/WF at Bishopville (SC) Lee Central, missed the first five games of this season because of academic shortcomings, but after he regained his eligibility, his team won eight of its next 10 games, with Holmes averaging 19 points. While playing for the South Carolina Ravens, he showed at the Nike Peach Jam last summer that he's a national-quality prospect. Thus far, South Carolina is recruiting him especially hard, with UNC, N.C. State, Florida, Wake Forest, Georgia and Tennessee also involved, although it's not certain which of these schools (if any?) actually have offered him a scholarship.
Of all the players on the 12 men's teams that participated in the GSK Holiday Invitational (including several ACC signees plus 6-0 Chris Wright, who has committed to N.C. State), none has more potential than 7-1, 225-pound Montverde (FL) Academy junior C Solomon Alibi (top 50), who hails from Nigeria. Alibi, who arrived in the USA in June 2005 and is playing only his third year of organized basketball, doesn't start for Montverde and played less than half the time in Raleigh, where Montverde coach Kevin Sutton obviously wasn't happy when Solomon threw an elbow (but made no contact) during a rebound skirmish.
The nearly complete benching of Alibi from that point on in the tournament semifinals wound up costing Montverde at least one sure win and perhaps a second (in the final), as well. Other than super 7-1 Indianapolis (N) Lawrence North senior C Greg Oden (No. 1 and an Ohio State signee), Alibi possesses more promise of becoming a dominant inside defender than anyone currently playing high school basketball in the USA! The lanky run/jump athlete appears to have his shoulders at rim level when he leaps from a moving start to block a shot or corral a rebound, and he gallops from end to end like a long-striding Olympic sprinter.
Sure, his offense is presently rudimentary (though his turnaround jump shot isn't bad within 10 feet), and he certainly could use more weight and strength beyond the 15 pounds he's gained since he arrived in Florida. And if you just look at his current statistics (six points and five rebounds per game), you have no idea what he's capable of contributing.
Regardless, he already has a long and rapidly growing list of suitors, particularly from the ACC and the SEC. The three schools that reportedly are courting him most diligently are Florida State, Virginia and St. Joseph's. Remember his name (pronounced Ah-LEE-bee), because he could be something special down the road.
Above-mentioned N.C. State commitment Chris Wright (top 50), a fleet and sturdy 6-0 junior PG at Washington (DC) St. John's College High, has continued his often-superb play since the conclusion of the GSK Holiday Invitational (see last issue), where he was named Most Outstanding Player of the eight-team tournament. Wright, who turned down Villanova, Wake Forest and a plethora of others in selecting the Wolfpack, racked up a game-high 35 points during a recent eight-point loss by St. John's to unbeaten and nationally third-ranked (by USA Today) Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha Catholic. In the second half alone, he connected on six three-pointers in just seven tries! Pack fans have to be smiling.
Michigan State out-dueled Georgia to gain a Jan. 19 commitment from high-scoring (30 points per game this season) 6-3, 190-pound Norcross (GA) Meadowcreek WG Chris Allen (top 100). Among the many others in the chase for Allen, who also is averaging 6.5 rebounds and six assists per game, were Clemson, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Florida, Miami, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn and Arizona. At the Reebok ABCD camp last summer, Allen performed adequately, though he's not a great athlete, and he forces some bad shots.
Devin Ebanks (top 100), a wiry, long-armed 6-8 WF at Brooklyn (NY) Bishop Loughlin who played well in the Underclass All-Star Game at the 2005 Reebok ABCD Camp, was watched recently by coaches from Louisville, St. John's, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and New Mexico. He also has been contacted by Connecticut, Villanova, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Wake Forest and others.
Aaron Gilstrap (top 100), a 6-3, 175-pound WG at Marietta (GA) High who is averaging 24 points per game for a 10-4 team, has unofficially visited Georgia and South Carolina (Jan. 8 for the Gamecocks' game with Tennessee). He also has been eyeballed this season by coaches from N.C. State (his present favorite), Miami and Auburn, who round out his top five. Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek needs to see Gilstrap in action before a scholarship might be offered.
Marshall Moses (top 100), a 6-7, 225-pound BF who transferred this past fall to Kernersville (NC) Glenn from Aiken (SC) High, has been suspended indefinitely and thus didn't dress out Jan. 16 when Glenn lost 78-53 to Durham (NC) Mt. Zion Christian in the Play-by-Play Classic. With Moses (who's still another southpaw and possesses strong inside moves) and 6-6 junior teammate Eric Wallace (No. 46), Glenn is pretty good, but without either, the team falls off in a hurry. Wallace, a superb athlete who must upgrade his dribbling and jump shot consistency, is being recruited at least to some degree by UNC, Clemson, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Florida, Arizona, Connecticut, Baylor and Xavier.
Tyrel Reed (top 100), a 6-3, 175-pound PG at Burlington (KS) High, has been compared by some to former Kansas and current Chicago Bulls ace Kirk Hinrich. Currently averaging 24 points, 7.5 rebounds, six assists and 4.5 steals per game, Reed is coached in high school by his father Stacy, who has worked at the Kansas basketball camp. Tyrel has the Jayhawks and UNC (whose coaches watched him several times last summer) at the top of his college list, with Virginia, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Kansas State, UNLV, Tennessee and Iowa also quite interested.
MORE TOP UNDERCLASSMEN CONTEMPLATING ACC
Andrew Beinert (top 200), a 6-2, 160-pound PG/WG at Mineola (NY) Chaminade, hasn't received much national attention yet, but he's been offered scholarships by St. John's, Boston University, Hofstra, Davidson, Fairfield and Stony Brook. N.C. State and South Carolina also like him a great deal, but they haven't yet made offers.
Keegan Bell (top 200), a 6-0, 190-pound PG at Madison (AL) Bob Jones High near Huntsville, didn't especially impress us during the summers of 2004 and 2005, but he's having a big season, averaging 25 points and 12 assists per game while shooting 45 percent on three-pointers (he already has 90!) for a 12-10 team. Among those expressing some degree of interest are Wake Forest (assistant Jeff Battle played at Marshall for and is close friends with Jones coach Dan Bell, Keegan's father), UNC and Georgia.
Malcolm Delaney (top 150), a quick 6-3 WG/PG at Towson (MD) Catholic, claims scholarship offers from Maryland, Clemson and Georgia, while Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech are among the others that also are recruiting him seriously. Thus far this season, he's averaging 19 points, four assists and five rebounds per game versus strong Baltimore area competition.
Tyree Graham (top 150), a talented 6-2 WG/PG who stood out for Durham (NC) Southern in the late December GSK Holiday Invitational and made the all-tournament team, has since transferred in town to Durham's Mount Zion Christian Academy, where he's playing now. It's quite possible that he'll wind up prepping an extra year and thus become a member of the Class of 2008. Meanwhile, a variety of mid- to high Division I colleges will continue to monitor his progress, which will require ball-handling improvement to complete the transition to point guard.
James Harden (top 200), a left-handed 6-5, 200-pound WG/WF at 14-1 Lakewood (CA) Artesia, is being pursued avidly by Washington State and Southern Cal, while others such as Connecticut, Georgia Tech (he's a serious student) and Texas also are interested. Athletic Harden has become a pretty good three-point shooter, and he showed promise when we observed him at the 2005 Pangos Camp in the Golden State.
Ryan Harp (top 200), a 6-4, 185-pound WG at Abilene (TX) Cooper, has a 3.8 GPA and expects to officially visit Stanford, Northwestern, N.C. State and perhaps Florida State and UNLV after his current season is over. Thus far this season, he's averaging 23.5 points, nine rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals per game for 12-9 Cooper. Other schools in the chase for Harp include Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, TCU, Nebraska, William & Mary, Rice, Texas A&M, Wichita State, Valparaiso, Indiana State and Missouri State.
Walter Hill (top 200), a 6-5, 205-pound WG/WF at Gainesville (GA) East Hall, is averaging 21 points per game for a 13-0 team, and he's also an all-state wide receiver in football. He plans to focus in the future on hoops, and coaches from Georgia Tech (Paul Hewitt), Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were present on Jan. 6 to watch him in action versus Wesleyan School. Hewitt earlier had seen Hill, who has improved his conditioning by losing 15 pounds, score 30 points against a Southwest Atlanta Christian team that features 6-4 Yellow Jackets fall PG signee Javaris Crittenton (No. 19). Alabama has offered Walter a scholarship, and other high Division I programs are sure to follow suit.
The Marshville (NC) Forest Hills duo of 6-4 WG/WF Dorenzo Hudson (top 250) and 6-6 BF J.T. Thompson (top 250) both were in Athens on Jan. 7 to view the Georgia-Florida game won by the Gators. Hudson and Thompson are getting attention from Virginia Tech, South Carolina, East Carolina and many mid-major programs, while the former also is hearing from Clemson and (to a lesser extent) N.C. State.
Hard-driving Austin Kelly (top 200), a 6-3, 185-pound WG at Austell (GA) South Cobb, has been getting the job done on the court despite a recently sprained ankle. Also an outstanding football quarterback/receiver, he has unofficially visited South Carolina, while Georgia, Georgia State (offer), Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Massachusetts (offer) and Mississippi also are in touch.
Jay Dee Luster (top 150), a 5-9, 165-pound PG at 12-2 San Diego (CA) Hoover, is averaging 22 points, 9.5 assists and 6.7 (!) steals per game this season. While he hasn't particularly impressed us at various venues during the past two summers, he's obviously playing very well this season. He has received scholarship offers from Washington State, New Mexico, Creighton and UTEP. Among the others showing interest in this wispy left-hander are Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Arizona State and Florida.
Tony Neysmith (top 150), a 6-5, 190-pound PG/WG who's a teammate of Gani Lawal and Jodie Meeks at strong Norcross (GA) High, is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 assists per game. A solid student with a 3.1 GPA, Neysmith is being wooed by Virginia Tech, Tennessee, FSU, Georgia, Notre Dame and South Carolina, though he claims to be open on college possibilities. Of that group, only the Vols haven't yet watched him play this season.
Patrick Patterson (top 150), a physical 6-8, 225-pound BF at 7-0 Huntington (WV) High, has narrowed his list to seven: Wake Forest, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and West Virginia. This solid student-athlete is averaging 14 points and 15 rebounds per contest.
Last issue we discussed 6-6, 200-pound Washington (NJ) Westwood Regional WF/BF Corey Raji (top 150), whose 300-pound older brother B.J. starts at defensive tackle for Boston College's football team. This season Corey is averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds per game, and he's now received scholarship offers from BC (unofficial visit), Maryland (Midnight Madness in mid-October), Virginia, Miami, Seton Hall, St. John's (Nov. 3 unofficial visit), Penn State and a few others. The Terrapins and Cavaliers were among the most recent to offer this extremely athletic rebounding machine, who's working hard to improve his jump shot and ball-handling.
Nick Sidorakis (top 200), a 6-4, 170-pound WG at Tulsa (OK) Jenks, is averaging 15 points, five assists and five rebounds per game for a 7-1 team. He lists a top six of Virginia, Oklahoma (he visited unofficially when the Sooners hosted Alabama), Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Wichita State and New Mexico, while West Virginia, Florida and perhaps others also are seeking to enter the picture.
William Spencer (top 200), an under-publicized 6-1, 165-pound PG/WG at Baton Rouge (LA) Glen Oaks, combines a 3.5 GPA with a 27 points per game average this season. Among the many colleges in touch with him are hometown Louisiana State (the team to beat?), Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami, Southern Cal and UNLV.
Jesse Woodard (top 150), a swift 6-0, 180-pound PG at Compton (CA) Centennial, returned to practice on Jan. 17 after missing the first half of the season with a foot stress fracture. Even while hampered by the injury, he played well enough last spring and summer (making the All-Star Game at the Adidas Superstar Camp) to earn serious interest from an array of high Division I programs. Southern Cal (unofficial visit) is the apparent leader at this juncture, with Iowa State and Virginia Tech also among his top three. Many others, including Syracuse, Florida, Oregon, Washington and Iowa, also are carefully monitoring the progress of Woodard, who's still another left-hander.