Nba’s Upcoming Age-limit Decision Huge For Recruiting, College Game
Brick Oettinger, ACC Sports Journal
March 14, 2005 The last two weeks constituted another time span in which there were no new commitments to ACC schools and only a couple nationally. Consequently, let’s begin this column by examining a possible change at the NBA level that would have an enormous impact on the collegiate recruitment of truly elite high school seniors. We’re referring to widespread reports that in the current negotiations between NBA owners and the NBA Players Association about a future collective bargaining agreement, a plan is on the table (and apparently supported by both parties, though for different reasons!) that would require a player to be either 20 years old or to have played a minimum of two years of college (including junior college) basketball in order to be eligible for entry into the NBA draft. This concept might be combined with an extension of rookie contracts to five years, accompanied by a three to five percent yearly salary increase.
While management particularly is concerned about immature players (especially off the court), the players union is disturbed that because owners find it cheaper to fill the last couple of spots on the roster with rookies than with veteran players, the result is that more and more veterans are being forced out of the league. Since such a significant decision for an age limit would fly in the face of 31 years of NBA precedent, it no doubt would be challenged via one or more lawsuits, which conceivably could delay its implementation for a year or two, even if it ultimately gains legal validation.
Hence, it remains extremely unlikely that such a dramatic policy change would affect the high school Class of 2005 (current seniors). It could, however, impact the talent-laden Class of 2006 (juniors), should an agreement between management and the players be reached this summer. While it’s unlikely that any November ACC signees or remaining senior targets will enter this year’s NBA draft (none projects as an immediate lottery pick), a plethora of prime potential ACC recruits from that loaded high school Class of 2006 might be impacted by such an age limitation.
Should an agreement be reached shortly and an entry age limit applied to next year’s NBA draft but not to this year’s, we would expect perhaps a dozen high school seniors to enter their names into the 2005 draft, not hire an agent and explore their status in the five and a half weeks between May 14 (a player must enter his name into the draft by that date) and June 21. That’s the last day you can withdraw your name from the draft and (minus an agent) maintain amateur status. The 2005 NBA draft is set for June 28.
The high school seniors we view as most likely to at least test the waters for entry into this year’s draft are (with their college choice in parentheses) 6-11 South Kent (CT) Prep BF/C Andray Blatche (unsigned but with Syracuse and perhaps Wake Forest at the top of his list), 6-1 Snellville (GA) South Gwinnett WG/PG Louis Williams (Georgia), 6-7 Houston (TX) Gulf Shores Academy WF Gerald Green (Oklahoma State), 6-3 Jackson (MS) Lanier WG/PG Monta Ellis (Mississippi State), 6-7 Seattle (WA) Prep WG/WF Martell Webster (Washington), 6-7 Durham (NC) Mt. Zion Christian WF Brandon Rush (unsigned but considering Oklahoma, UNLV, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Illinois, Arkansas and Florida State), 6-8 Laurinburg (NC) Prep WF Shawne Williams (Memphis), 6-8 Flossmoor (IL) Homewood-Flossmoor BF/WF Julian Wright (Kansas), 6-9 Los Angeles (CA) Westchester BF Amir Johnson (Louisville) and perhaps 6-8 DeLand (FL) High WF Keith Brumbaugh (unsigned but down to either Florida or FSU). Note that NBA scouting director Marty Blake said recently that he expects 26 European players and five or six from the USA high school ranks to actually enter the 2005 draft.
Despite an occasional report to the contrary, we definitely don’t anticipate that either 6-10 Duke BF/C signee Josh McRoberts of Carmel (IN) High, 6-9 UNC BF recruit Tyler Hansbrough of Poplar Bluff (MO) High or any other ACC-bound prospect from the prep Class of 2005 will enter this year’s NBA draft. Frankly, in our opinion, every single high school senior this year would be better prepared to succeed in the NBA by playing a couple (or more) years of top-level college ball.
Now, as for the super high school junior crop, we wouldn’t dare try to argue that 7-0 Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence North C Greg Oden won’t be ready for the NBA in 2006. He’s already the most dominant force in high school hoops and clearly ahead (at the same stage) of 6-11 current rookie starter (for the Orlando Magic) Dwight Howard, who was the first pick in the 2004 NBA draft after we ranked him the top prospect in that year’s senior class. Oden, incidentally, has visited the Arkansas campus with 6-2 high school and Spiece Indy Heat PG buddy Mike Conley (see below), and Wake Forest and Indiana also are hot on Greg’s trail. But rest assured that virtually every other high Division I program in the nation will seek to get involved if it appears that the high school Class of 2006 will not be able to directly enter that year’s NBA draft.
Others from the current high school junior class who already are seriously mulling a jump straight to the play-for-pay ranks include 6-9, 300-pound Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick BF/C Derrick Caracter (mentioned below), 6-10 Portsmouth (VA) Norcom C/BF Vernon “The Big Ticket” Macklin (whom we wrote about last issue) and rangy 6-9 Nashville (TN) Brentwood Academy lefty BF Brandan Wright, who’s also referred to later in this column.
Interestingly, an NBA-imposed age limitation almost certainly would work to the advantage of the college “haves,” i.e., the elite schools that traditionally have divided among themselves the most ballyhooed prepsters. Thus, the rich would get still richer, and it would become less likely than ever that a school that’s not a member of either the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-10 would win the NCAA championship.
CROMWELL PICKS USC
OVER ACC PROGRAMS
As for the recent national commitments mentioned above, 6-9, 215-pound Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy senior BF/C RouSean Cromwell (ranked No. 144 in the winter edition of the Prep Stars Recruiter’s Handbook and at PrepStars.com) chose Southern California after officially visiting the Trojans on March 5-6. Formerly at Memphis (TN) Fairley before transferring last fall to IMG, rebounder/rejector Cromwell also considered Clemson (where he visited several weeks ago), Georgia Tech, Alabama-Birmingham, Tennessee, Florida State, Arkansas, Stanford and Oklahoma. Remember that at USC, Tim Floyd (a successful college coach but fired by the NBA’s Chicago Bulls) is taking over a program that slid badly in recent years under Henry Bibby, who was dismissed during the 2004-05 season.
Southern California recently lost a fall 2004 signee when 6-8 Alexandria (VA) Hayfield senior BF Mike Freeman (top 300) requested a release from his November national letter of intent after meeting on Feb. 28 with Floyd. Freeman’s father Michael told the Washington Post: “We just didn’t get a warm and fuzzy (feeling) from the coach. You know how you can feel something is not right here? He (Floyd) came down and he was talking about other kids he looked at in the (D.C.) area, and it seemed to me he wasn’t pleased by anybody.” Mike hopes to play in the ACC and is looking hard at Virginia, Louisville and South Florida, among others. In effect, Cromwell became a replacement for Freeman at Southern Cal.
The other national commitment of note within the past two weeks came from 6-0, 160-pound junior PG Doug Wiggins (top 150), an East Hartford (CT) High quickster who selected St. John’s over strong interest from Boston College and Providence, plus varying levels of involvement but no scholarship offers from Clemson (former WG/PG starter Will Solomon also attended East Hartford), Connecticut, DePaul, George Washington, Vanderbilt and others. Although Wiggins needs more strength for college, he averaged 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds per game this season.
FINISHING UP WELL
In recent issues, we’ve provided updated information on the senior seasons of an assortment of ACC fall signees. Immediately below are additional updates on a dozen individuals who either have signed a national letter of intent with or announced a commitment to a league school.
Casaan Breeden (No. 117), a slender 6-7 WF/BF at Bennettsville (SC) Marlboro County who inked with Florida State, was named prep player of the year in the Palmetto State, but his team was edged 54-51 by Gaffney High in the state Class 4A title game. In that contest Breeden, who wound up with 15 points, got his fourth foul in the third quarter and fouled out with a couple of minutes remaining, shortly after tying the game at 49. Gaffney’s Indians, led by big man Phillip Buckson (15 points), became the first Class 4A team in South Carolina to win three consecutive state basketball championships.
Ben McCauley (No. 98), a 6-8, 225-pound BF at Herminie (PA) Yough who’s headed in the fall to N.C. State, wound up with 21 points (his lowest total in the past 17 games) and 13 rebounds as his team was thumped 69-42 by defending champion Coraopolis Moon on Feb. 25 in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Class 3A championship game. This game was watched by Wolfpack assistant coach Larry Harris.
“Every step a player goes up in his career, he has to get stronger,” Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game. “We just really like (McCauley’s) versatility. We think he’s going to be an excellent player for us. He’ll get bigger and stronger. But the four (big forward) position in our system is a really skilled player. We think he can be that.”
Note that in Yough’s previous three postseason wins this year, McCauley averaged 37.3 points per game, and in the state (PIAA) playoff game that followed the loss to Moon, Ben scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as his team rallied to nip Grove City by a 45-44 count.
N.C. State’s most highly regarded fall recruit, 6-8 left-handed combination forward Brandon Costner (No. 34 and a McDonald’s All-American) from West Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep, continued his fine play in leading his team to the title game of the Non-Public, North Jersey A tournament. In the semifinals, Roselle Catholic put up a good fight but eventually succumbed 50-45. At this writing, perennial power Seton Hall Prep has a 26-1 record and is ranked No. 9 in the nation by USA Today.
Another McDonald’s All-American headed to the ACC, 6-10 Duke C/BF signee Eric Boateng (No. 20) from Middletown (DE) St. Andrew’s, finished with 20 points (just six in the first half), 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots in a 74-60 loss to Caravel Academy on March 4 in the second round of the Delaware High School Boys Basketball Tournament. For the most part, the winners’ strategy of denying the ball to Boateng was quite successful. In his previous game (a first-round triumph over Concord High), Eric amassed 38 points and 18 boards. Down the road, London native Boateng could develop into a worthy successor to current Blue Devil post star Shelden Williams.
“There isn’t a coach in the country on any level, high school or college, that wouldn’t love to have that kid (Boateng) in their program,” St. Andrew’s coach Bob Rue recently told the Wilmington News Journal. “And I don’t just mean as a player, but as a person, because he’s the best kid I know in every way.”
Although junior Greg Oden is the state of Indiana’s premier prospect,
and above-mentioned Duke recruit Josh McRoberts and
6-11 Washington (IN) High senior C/BF Luke Zeller (Notre Dame recruit) are the Hoosier State’s 2005 McDonald’s All-Americans, it appears that the Indiana Mr. Basketball award this year might instead go to either 6-0 Richmond (IN) High senior PG Dominic James (Marquette) or possibly 5-11 Indianapolis (IN) Arlington senior PG Deonta Vaughn (committed to Indiana). Statistically, James leads the state with 31.1 points per game, while adding 7.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.9 steals.
By comparison, McRoberts has averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 boards. His high games this season are 39 points and 17 rebounds, he’s scored at least 30 points twice and 20 or more points five times, and his low point total was four versus Terre Haute (IN) North on Feb. 18. James’ high games are 49 points and 12 rebounds, he’s scored at least 40 on three occasions and 30 nine times, and he’s led his team in scoring every game, with a low of 18 against Vaughn’s powerful (23-1) Arlington aggregation.
Of course, when it comes to overall value and contribution on the court, stats (such as invaluable Raymond Felton’s 11 points per game average for North Carolina) sometimes can be quite misleading. Our postseason national rankings for the prep Class of 2005 will have McRoberts in the top 10, James in the top 30 and Vaughn in the top 65.
Praise continues to roll in for another Duke signee, 6-7 combo forward Jamal Boykin (top 30) of 24-5 Los Angeles (CA) Fairfax. In a rare subpar performance, he was held to nine points and fouled out in his team’s 69-58 loss to Los Angeles Westchester in the City Section Championship Division final on March 5. This was the fourth consecutive loss in the city final for Fairfax, which still is alive in its quest to repeat as the Division I state champion. In the city championship semifinal, Boykin tallied 29 points in an exciting 80-78 victory over Los Angeles Fremont, and his current averages this season are 22.3 points and 12 rebounds per game.
“I look at (Boykin) for inspiration. He’s made me a better person, a better coach, a better dad,” Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani recently told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s just unbelievable. This kid will make any journey the most enjoyable journey a coach can have.”
Fairfax also features a highly promising sophomore, 6-7 WF Chace Stanback, who shows potential of being a national top-50 prospect in his class. Stanback happens to be the son of Harry Stanback, a fine defensive lineman at North Carolina in the late 1970s. Chace already has been offered a scholarship by Arizona, among others, and he (like Kitani) is effusive in his praise of teammate Boykin.
“He’s the best leader I’ve ever seen,” Stanback said. “He’s always working hard and won’t let anyone slack off. He’s all about business, and I respect that.”
While Boykin narrowly missed selection to the McDonald’s All-American Game, 6-5 UNC WG/WF signee Danny Green (see last issue) of Manhasset (NY) St. Mary’s advanced his stock this season as much as or more than any other senior and wound up earning a berth in that prestigious game. Paced by a sensational campaign from Green, St. Mary’s has a 24-0 record and is ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today. Most recently, Danny racked up 31 points as his team defeated Smithtown (NY) St. Anthony’s 67-56 in the Nassau-Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Association championship game. Next up for St. Mary’s at press time was the Class 2A state tournament semifinals.
One of the other two UNC recruits named to the McDonald’s game, 6-9 Tyler Hansbrough (mentioned above), had 25 points (to exceed 2,400 for his career), 14 rebounds and five blocks to lead 26-4 Poplar Bluff (MO) High to a 72-50 win on March 5 over Webster Groves (MO) High in the Class 5 state quarterfinals. Poplar Bluff, the defending state champion, has won 13 consecutive games by double-figure margins and met Kansas City (MO) Rockhurst in the semis. Lurking in the other bracket were both 28-0 St. Louis Vashon (ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today) and 28-1 Springfield (MO) Kickapoo, which defeated Poplar Bluff earlier this season.
Still another Tar Heel recruit (though not a McDonald’s All-American), 6-5 Arlington (VA) Bishop O’Connell senior WG Marcus Ginyard (top 35), led all scorers with 24 points (13 in the fourth quarter) as his strong (28-3) team topped Fairfax (VA) Paul VI 66-50 on March 5 to win the Virginia Independent Schools Division I championship. Ginyard hit 12 of 13 free throws in that game, but the tournament MVP award went to his 6-7 senior teammate, BF Dave Neal (top 250), a strong insider who contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds in the title tilt. Neal reportedly is in the process of deciding on a college from among Maryland (no offer yet), Providence, St. Bonaventure and Georgetown.
Bishop O’Connell, which will play in the Alhambra Invitational Catholic Tournament on March 17-19 in Maryland, lost 65-54 to 27-1 Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha Catholic (which also will play in the Alhambra event) in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game. The Stags of DeMatha, who feature 6-5 Virginia swing recruit Mamadi “Mo” Diane (top 150) and several talented underclassmen, then destroyed Washington (DC) Cardozo 84-58 in the city title game. DeMatha is ranked No. 6 nationally by USA Today.
Returning briefly to Ginyard, he was chosen to play April 1 in the Commonwealth Classic, a postseason all-star game that will be played in Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth’s Alltel Pavilion at the Siegel Center. Among the other prep seniors scheduled to participate are Diane, above-mentioned Andray Blatche, 6-10 Black Mountain (NC) Owen C/BF David Weaver (signed with Wake Forest), 6-7 Shannon (MS) High WG/WF Courtney Fells (N.C. State), 6-6 Greensboro (NC) Dudley BF Kevin Swinton (Wake Forest), 6-0 Miami (FL) Calusa Prep PG/WG Denis Clemente (Miami), 6-8 St. George (VA) Blue Ridge School BF/C Laurynas Mikalauskas (Virginia), 6-8 Valdosta (GA) Lowndes BF Terrance Vinson (Virginia Tech), 6-3 Winchendon (MA) School fifth-year WG Tyree Evans (Cincinnati), 6-6 Wolfeboro (NH) Brewster Academy BF/WF Jeff Adrien (Connecticut) and 5-10 Chester (SC) High PG Devan Downey (Cincinnati).
Swinton, along with 6-6, 235-pound junior teammate William Graves (a top-75 prospect committed to North Carolina), posted big numbers in leading 28-3 Dudley into the state Class 3A championship game on March 12 versus Shelby (NC) Crest. Among Swinton’s stellar performances were 22 points and 18 rebounds in a 71-54 second-round win over East Chapel Hill (Graves added 19 points), and 24 points and 12 rebounds as Four Oaks (NC) South Johnston fell 72-67 in the East Regional semifinals. In the latter game Graves, a skilled wing forward who has played extremely well in the playoffs, contributed 20 points and 13 boards.
While Graves’ reputation definitely is on the rise, the top-ranked junior prospect in the state of North Carolina is 6-8 BF/WF Jamie Skeen (top 35), who paced 30-1 Huntersville (NC) North Mecklenburg into the Class 4A (large-school) championship game against once-beaten Fayetteville (NC) Westover. Skeen, who recently gave Wake Forest an early commitment, accumulated 35 points (13-15 from the field!), six rebounds and five rejects as North Mecklenburg ran past Winston-Salem North Forsyth 89-65 in the West Regional semifinals. Skeen reminds us a lot of UNC senior Jawad Williams.
TAR HEELS JOIN RACE
FOR SPRING SENIORS
Given the NBA attractiveness of ace North Carolina insiders Sean May and Marvin
Williams, it wasn’t shocking when coach Roy Williams recently offered scholarships
to a pair of well-regarded prep senior big men. The targets in question are
7-1 (at least), 230-pound C Jared Carter (who’ll enter the top 200) of
Georgetown (KY) Scott County and
6-8, 220-pound BF/WF Uche Echefu (top 75) of 22-3 Rockville (MD) Montrose Christian.
In the past couple of weeks, Carter also has received scholarship offers from Illinois, Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and they (plus UNC) make up four members of his revised top-five list, joined by Boston College. The Eagles received an official fall visit and sought to land a commitment, but Carter elected to hold off on a decision until the spring. This season he’s averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks per game for 23-3 Scott County, which was ranked No. 2 in the state entering the playoffs, and his national reputation obviously has skyrocketed.
While he needs more strength and better post moves, Carter runs well, shoots smoothly and has good hands. His current plan is to visit the four finalists he hasn’t yet looked at once his season is over, and then to reach a decision. One report has Duke interested in Jared, and others such as Western Kentucky and Nebraska have offered him a scholarship, so it’s not inconceivable that his final college list could change during the next few weeks. UNC (which soon will get a visit from Carter) has indicated that if both May and Marvin Williams stick around for next season, Carter likely would be redshirted. Interestingly, Jared’s family has lived in various locations around the nation, including North Carolina (which he enjoyed) and Las Vegas, and he hasn’t grown up as a big Kentucky fan, unlike many in the Bluegrass State.
Echefu, a native of Nigeria who wields lots of athleticism and rapidly improving skills, now has scholarship offers from Michigan and Florida State (the two schools he has officially visited), plus Kentucky, Duke, UNC, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Texas, with all of them reportedly remaining under consideration. Coaches from the Tar Heels and the Terrapins watched Uche in action in early March. Important to Echefu in his collegiate choice are a strong business program, a high graduation rate and an on-court emphasis on fundamentals and skills.
A number of other uncommitted high school seniors also are eyeballing ACC schools, and updates are provided below on nine of these prospects, plus another who is playing for a Division III college. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Gerard Anderson (top 300), a 6-6, 200-pound senior WF/WG who transferred last fall to Los Angeles (CA) Verbum Dei from Carson (CA) High, is a promising prospect, but his academic credentials reportedly are very shaky. He apparently lacks some core curriculum courses and only recently took the SAT for the first time. While at Carson, he took a number of non-core courses, so now he has a lot to make up, and prep school (perhaps South Kent in Connecticut) or junior college are possibilities for 2005-06. Nevertheless, he apparently is making enough progress in the classroom that some good Division I programs, including Virginia Tech, FSU and Houston, are talking to him about official campus visits this spring. Stay tuned.
Above-mentioned Keith Brumbaugh (top 15), a lanky 6-8 senior WF/BF at DeLand (FL) High, in our opinion should be a McDonald’s All-American. (See last issue.) He isn’t, of course, and this may impact his upcoming decision on whether to enter this year’s NBA draft or matriculate in the fall to either Florida or FSU, his two finalists. Southpaw Brumbaugh had hoped to follow in the footsteps of 2004 McDonald’s All-American J.R. Smith, a 6-6 UNC wing signee who played so well in major postseason all-star games (including McDonald’s) that he became a first-round draft choice and now is starting at times for the New Orleans Hornets. The senior season of Brumbaugh was quite productive, as he averaged 30.3 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals and 2.5 blocks per game for 16-10 DeLand, and he finished with 2,299 career points. Now he’ll have to use the Michael Jordan Classic (formerly the Jordan Capital Classic held in the D.C. area) on April 16 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden as a showcase for his talents versus strong competition.
In some recent issues, we’ve discussed 6-8 Dallas (TX) Lincoln senior BF/WF Gary Flowers (top 150), an aggressive, athletic inside operator who reportedly posted a 1,060 SAT score this winter. Despite the SAT score, Flowers has had difficulty in the classroom on core courses, and his recruiting status took a huge recent hit when he was ruled academically ineligible on Feb. 25 and thus cannot play in the state playoffs. Also ineligible for the 2004 playoffs (when Lincoln reached the Class 4A state final), Flowers averaged a team-high 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. Florida State is the ACC school that has been involved with Gary, but we doubt the Seminoles and others will be able to continue to recruit him as a prospect who’ll be in college this fall, since he seems quite likely to be bound for a prep school in 2005-06 as a fifth-year student. Again, stay tuned.
Speaking of FSU, you may recall Jerome Habel, a mobile 6-9, 208-pound left-handed BF from suburban Washington (DC) who verbally committed to Florida State in January 2004 but didn’t score high enough on the SAT (he took it twice) to qualify for college freshman eligibility. A family friend with whom Habel has resided at times, Jerome Vinson, keeps in touch with FSU assistant coach Tony Sheals, and Vinson recently stated that 19-year-old Habel “still plans to go to Florida State. Everyone (at Florida State) is still waiting for him.” Habel’s mother, however, apparently disagrees, as she believes he’ll remain at Division III St. Mary’s in Maryland (where he enrolled in January) “for the duration,” and Jerome himself told writer Joshua Cooley that, “I’ll be looked at (by the NBA) no matter where I am. I’m tired of switching places. I’m too old for that now.”
Reported academic and personal problems have resulted in Habel attending five different schools in the past five years, and he wound up at rural St. Mary’s through his friendship with Dan Engelstad, a sophomore shooting guard who teamed with Jerome in 2002-03 as a senior at Bethesda (MD) Walt Whitman. Habel actually began the current academic year at Palm Beach (FL) Community College and played in the team’s first four or five games last fall, averaging approximately 10 points per game before exiting in December for “undisclosed reasons,” likely meaning problems in his relationship with coach Steve Bernath. In his first six games at St. Mary’s, Habel averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while playing unselfishly with lesser talents. Once again, stay tuned.
Walter Hodge (top 200), a quick 6-0 senior PG at Melbourne (FL) Florida Air Academy, on March 7 narrowed his list of finalists to three schools Florida, Auburn and Kansas by eliminating FSU, Purdue, New Mexico and South Florida from consideration. He’ll officially visit all three favorites, but the only date set is March 18 to Auburn. Hodge, who’s averaging 29 points per game this season while leading Florida Air Academy into the state tournament semifinals in its classification, is being recruited as a pure point guard by the Jayhawks and as a combination guard by the Gators and the Plainsmen.
Theryn Hudson (top 300), a 6-9, 223-pound senior BF/C at Lavergne (TN) High, appears to be leaning strongly toward South Carolina, where he’ll definitely visit officially after his season is over. His team recently captured the district championship to remain alive in state tournament play, and he’s averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game. Hudson, who’s impressed with coach Dave Odom’s work with star center Tim Duncan when at Wake Forest, also is getting some attention from Tennessee and Virginia Tech, but Xavier (whose staff watched Theryn play four times this season) opted to withdraw from contention. A strong student with a reported 3.5 GPA, Hudson is a bit of a project but shows enough potential to have scholarship offers from Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, Murray State and Southern Methodist, in addition to the Gamecocks.
We’ve written a couple of times previously about 6-6 Washington (DC) Gonzaga senior WF Paul Johnson (top 250), a strong student/athlete (3.8 GPA, 1,090 SAT) who hoped to earn scholarship offers from ACC and Big East schools through his play this season. At this point, that hasn’t happened, even though Johnson was fairly impressive at the post-Christmas GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational in North Carolina and averaged 18 points and seven caroms per contest prior to suffering an early January groin injury that required surgery. He’s hearing from San Francisco (he’ll visit officially), Drexel, LaSalle, Colgate, Pennsylvania (the alma mater of his father, Henry) and other Ivy League schools.
Lefty Chris Lowe (top 300), a hard-driving 6-0 senior PG/WG at Mount Vernon (NY) High, expects to visit Virginia Tech, St. John’s, St. Joseph’s and West Virginia this spring, assuming he improves his SAT score enough to qualify academically. Providence also is interested in Lowe, who averaged 11.1 points per game this season for a strong team. If he doesn’t do well enough on a standardized test, he’ll play this summer with the New York Panthers and attend a prep school in 2005-06 as a fifth-year student.
A senior we haven’t mentioned in prior issues is Quantez Robinson (unranked), a 6-1 combo guard at Laurinburg (NC) Prep whose recruiting stock has risen markedly this season. On Feb. 25 he was observed in action versus powerful Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military Academy by coaches from Virginia Tech and Xavier, while other schools courting Robinson include East Tennessee State, Butler and Bowling Green. We look forward to viewing him soon.
DeAndre Thomas (top 150), a burly but skilled 6-8, 270-pound senior C/BF at Chicago (IL) Westinghouse who has lost 30 pounds since last summer, recently was named the Chicago Sun-Times area player of the year over McDonald’s All-American Bobby Frasor (a 6-3 PG/WG at Chicago Brother Rice and UNC signee) and others. Thomas, an academic qualifier, led Westinghouse this season to its second straight city title game triumph over Chicago Simeon, while averaging 18.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. With sure hands, long arms, lots of desire and surprisingly quick feet as assets supplementing his strength, DeAndre is being widely recruited and plans to take four official visits this spring. The tri-leaders for his services are Kansas, Illinois and Georgetown, while Miami, Florida State and Seton Hall also remain in the chase.
While several ACC schools continue to recruit prep seniors, all (soon-to-be) 12 members are avidly pursuing high school underclassmen, particularly juniors. More than a dozen underclass prospects are identified below (again, alphabetically), with information provided on their recruitment and up-to-date college lists.
Our favorite “pure” point guard in the junior class, 5-11 D.J. Augustin (top 10) of 37-2 New Orleans (LA) Brother Martin, scored 28 points in a recent 112-75 trouncing of Slidell (LA) High in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Augustin claims to be wide open on colleges and will take his time in reaching a decision, but he has not hesitated to list North Carolina, Wake Forest, Louisiana State and Texas among his preliminary favorites.
Kimmani Barrett (top 100), a 6-6, 190-pound junior WF at 19-4 Paterson (NJ) Catholic, averaged 19.4 points and seven rebounds per game this season. A solid student (3.0 GPA) known for his athletic ability and versatility on the court, Barrett (who was born in Jamaica) places Georgia Tech at the apex of the colleges he’s considering, followed in no particular order by Seton Hall, Miami, Rutgers, Illinois and Georgetown. During the spring and summer, he plays for the Playaz Basketball Club.
Among the underclass prospects in Chapel Hill on March 3 for UNC’s 91-76 victory over Florida State was 6-7 Salem (VA) High sophomore BF Kenny Belton (top 50), whose father is the career leading scorer for Roanoke College. Also in attendance were the outstanding Merion Station (PA) Episcopal Academy junior duo of 6-4 WG Wayne Ellington and 6-5 WG/WF Gerald Henderson (both discussed below), along with their fathers.
Derrick Caracter (top five), an exceedingly skilled though overweight 6-9, 301-pound junior BF/C at Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick, still has Stanford at the top of his college list (although the NBA could beckon), but add Duke to those schools that reportedly have offered him a scholarship. Others who’ve offered and are getting serious consideration include UNC, Miami, Florida State and St. John’s, while Kentucky, Villanova, Georgetown and many more high Division I schools are seeking to enter the picture with Derrick.
Mike Conley (top 20), a big-time 6-2 junior PG who’s Greg Oden’s teammate at 20-2 Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence North and also on the Spiece Indy Heat traveling team, was tired and thus decided not to attend the Ohio State-Illinois game in Columbus on March 6, when the Buckeyes shattered the Illini’s perfect record this season. Conley (and Oden?) did, however, watch the thriller on television, and Mike’s post-game comments indicated a lot of respect for OSU coach Thad Matta. Conley, whose father of the same name was an outstanding Olympic track star in the long jump and triple jump, is a left-hander who’s averaging 12 points and seven assists per game for a team ranked No. 19 in the nation by USA Today. He continues to call Wake Forest (where he’s made two unofficial visits) the leader by a narrow margin, but Ohio State, Illinois and UNC round out his top four, and Conley recently said he can have a different favorite every day. Also, remember that Conley, 6-4 Dayton (OH) Dunbar junior WG Daequan Cook (also on the Spiece Indy Heat) and conceivably Oden (should he not be allowed to go directly from high school into the NBA) could end up attending the same college!
William “Duke” Crews (top 150), a cloud-piercing 6-7, 230-pound junior BF at Hampton (VA) Bethel, averaged 18 points and nearly 14 rebounds per game this season for a 22-4 team that was eliminated from the playoffs by Portsmouth (VA) Norcom, led by 6-10 blue-chip junior C/BF Vernon Macklin (mentioned above). A tremendous leaper and exciting dunker who excels in transition, Crews is working hard to upgrade his perimeter tools. He’s particularly interested in playing for an ACC or Big East school, and colleges exhibiting serious interest in him include Georgetown, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier.
Javaris Crittenton (top 75), a 6-4 junior PG at Atlanta (GA) Southwest Atlanta Christian, has scholarship offers from and interest in Florida State, Wake Forest, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He also especially likes three schools, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and North Carolina, that haven’t extended firm scholarship offers. Additionally, Mississippi State is hot on Crittenton’s trail. Since we first viewed him when he was a freshman, our concern has been that he makes too many bad decisions and is often out of control. Now, we’ll give him some credit for trying consciously to address those problem areas. Let’s see how he performs this spring and summer for the Atlanta Celtics.
DURANT LOOKING AT
FIVE LEAGUE TEAMS
Steve Smith, the highly regarded head coach at famed Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy (34-2 this season), drove two of his current stars and the father of one of them to Chapel Hill on March 6 to watch the UNC-Duke classic. Making the trip were above-mentioned 6-8 junior WF Kevin Durant (top 10), 6-0 junior PG Tywon Lawson (top 30) and Lawson’s father. Smith later said all parties obviously enjoyed their trip.
Interestingly, on April 6, the first day college coaches can be on the road that month, UNC coach Roy Williams is scheduled to be at Oak Hill. Note that it’s far from definite that Durant (who’s just 16 years old!) and Lawson (discussed below) will end up attending the same college, but that’s certainly a possibility. Durant is mulling over Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest, UNC, Duke, Texas, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky and Connecticut, and he wants to reduce the field in half to five schools after his spring break. Speculation has it that the Tar Heels, Cardinals, Longhorns and two others probably will receive the official visits from Kevin.
Previously mentioned Wayne Ellington (top 10), a superb 6-4 junior WG at Merion Station (PA) Episcopal Academy, traveled to both Durham and Chapel Hill on March 3 with his father, teammate Gerald Henderson (see below) and Henderson’s father (who played 13 years in the NBA) to watch the first half of the Duke-Miami game and all of the UNC-Florida State game. These were unofficial visits, and Ellington reportedly is virtually certain to officially tour the UNC and Wake Forest campuses later this spring, prior to making a college decision by early summer. Wayne, who hopes to get a chance to match up against above-mentioned Daequan Cook, also lists Villanova, Connecticut, Kansas, Arizona and N.C. State as possible destinations. Ellington and Henderson will play again this spring and summer for the Playaz Basketball Club.
Matt Gwynne (top 200), a 6-8, 227-pound junior BF at 24-8 Raleigh (NC) Ravenscroft who averaged 19.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game this season, is an excellent shooter who hopes to play in the ACC. He already has scholarship offers from Clemson, Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington and William & Mary, while Georgia Tech and UNC also have watched him this year, and coaches from Illinois and Florida State telephoned Matt on the first day they could call juniors under NCAA rules. Gwynne has taken unofficial visits to UNC (Oct. 15 for Late Night with Roy Williams), Wake Forest twice, Clemson, Tennessee, Davidson and East Carolina. This spring and summer, he’ll play for the Charlotte Royals 17-under AAU team.
Above-mentioned Gerald Henderson (top 20), a blue-chip 6-5, 195-pound junior WG/WF who’s Wayne Ellington’s teammate at 24-3 Merion Station (PA) Episcopal Academy and on the Playaz Basketball Club, has taken unofficial visits to Duke (the team to beat?), UNC, Wake Forest and N.C. State. Villanova, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame also are in the hunt for Gerald, who claims he’s not close to making a college decision. At one point Henderson was one of the nation’s premier prospects as a golfer, but he elected to focus on hoops instead. An academically oriented individual, Henderson impressed us the last two summers and has continued to work hard to improve his ball-handling and three-point marksmanship. He already had the same sweet mid-range pull-up that his father brandished for the Philadelphia 76ers and others in the NBA.
Mike Jones (top 100), a 6-7 junior WF/BF at Hopkins (SC) Lower Richland, was present in Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum on March 1 for the Tigers’ exciting 66-64 win over Virginia Tech. He was joined at the game by another prime Palmetto State underclassman, 6-10, 245-pound junior C Tyronne McNeal (top 100) of Clover (SC) High. Among the many schools besides Clemson demonstrating interest in Jones are South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami, Maryland, DePaul, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Connecticut and Georgetown. Southpaw McNeal, who has gained 20 pounds and considerable strength this season, already has scholarship offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Florida State and Tennessee, as coaches from all four watched him in games. Tyronne, who will take the SAT in April for the first time, averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks this season while leading Clover far into the state playoffs.
Marcus Lawrence (top 125), a 6-0, 165-pound junior PG who averaged 15 points and eight assists per game for state champion Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman, officially visited Virginia Tech on March 4-6 and unofficially looked at Oregon State last summer. He also is being recruited diligently by Arkansas, California, hometown UNLV and (very recently) Washington. Lawrence is a solid floor leader who makes good decisions, shoots accurately from the perimeter and has plenty of athleticism.
Above-mentioned 6-0 Oak Hill Academy PG Tywon Lawson (top 30) is (like teammate and friend Kevin Durant) a native of Maryland. A swift playmaker with a low release point on his jump shot, Lawson had a very good season overall and ended up by gaining the MVP award at the recent Champions Classic in North Carolina. There he amassed 13 points and eight assists in the semifinals, and 32 points plus seven assists as Oak Hill walloped Centereach (NY) Our Savior 99-53 in the title game. His college list contains Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, UNC (is its reported scholarship offer firm?), Maryland and N.C. State, as he definitely intends to play for an ACC school. Tywon’s father, George, called their trip to Chapel Hill for the UNC-Duke thriller “spectacular.”
Potential superstar Greg Oden (No. 1), an above-mentioned 7-0 junior C who’s Mike Conley’s teammate at 20-2 Indianapolis Lawrence North and on the Spiece Indy Heat spring/summer team, recently had 12 points, seven rebounds and an incredible 18 blocks in a 60-45 victory over previously unbeaten Indianapolis Arlington in the Class 4A Sectional 10 semifinals. Overall, this low post intimidator is averaging nearly 21 points per game, plus 10 rebounds and four rejects. If he has a college list, it likely consists of Wake Forest, Indiana and perhaps Arkansas (he visited with Conley), with many others watching closely.
Jon Scheyer (top 20), a sharp-shooting 6-4 junior WG at Northbrook (IL) Glenbrook North, reduced the field to Illinois, Duke, Arizona and Wisconsin in late December but insists there is no leader. This year he averaged 25 points per game at the same high school attended by former Duke starter and current assistant coach Chris Collins. Somewhat more athletic and stronger than he was previously, Jon has unofficially visited Illinois several times and the Blue Devils on Feb. 20 for their hard-fought triumph over Wake Forest. In Cameron Indoor Stadium, he sat with former Duke point guards Chris Duhon (now starting for the Chicago Bulls) and still-recovering Jay Williams. About his trip to Duke, Scheyer later said he had a great time and was particularly impressed by the Blue Devils’ fan support and “unmatched” tradition.
Brick Oettinger, the basketball recruiting analyst for the ACC Area Sports Journal, has covered the recruiting scene for more than 28 years. His work appears exclusively in/on the Sports Journal, the Prep Stars Recruiter’s Handbook, PrepStars.com and ACCSports.com.
Get more of Brick’s rankings and analysis on PrepStars.com!