High-SchoolBoys-Basketball: ESPNHS Basketball

Quick Shots: Jabari Parker graces SI

May, 16, 2012
The last time Sports Illustrated featured a high school basketball underclassman on its cover, it was a 17-year-old prodigy from Ohio named LeBron James. Now you can add Simeon (Chicago) star Jabari Parker to that exclusive club, as the junior will grace the front of SI's May 21 issue.

Parker was the Gatorade National Player of the Year this season, and he's ranked No. 1 in the class of 2013 by ESPN. Most scouts believe he's a sure thing to become an All-Star in the NBA, and SI even touts him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James." The smooth, 6-foot-8 forward has led Simeon to three consecutive state championships, and he's spending his summer playing with the elite Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.

This is a huge moment for Parker. Lots of players are ranked No. 1 at one point or another, but few reach a level where Sports Illustrated feels the need to put them on the cover. Parker will now have a ton of pressure placed upon him during his senior season, especially since he hasn't committed yet. His college decision is likely to become a huge national media story until he signs his letter of intent, and that kind of intense spotlight can have a negative effect on some players. After all, since LeBron in 2002, the only other high school baller on the cover of SI has been Sebastian Telfair (March 8, 2004), who never quite lived up to the hype.

But as the SI story points out, Parker is a humble, faith-driven kid who seems to have his head on straight. It's up to him whether he becomes the next Sebastian Telfair or the next LeBron James.

MCI drops post-grads

Maine Central Institute (Pittsfield, Maine) will drop its post-graduate basketball team, according to The Portland Press Herald. Last week, MCI’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the team beginning July 1.

Post-graduate teams traditionally exist to allow student-athletes an extra year after high school to raise their academic marks in order to meet NCAA athletic eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and to further develop their basketball skills after their regular high school eligibility has expired. The school’s post-graduate team produced more than 130 Division I players and 10 who eventually played in the NBA, but MCI Athletic Director Earl Anderson told the newspaper, “the post-graduate basketball program no longer fit into the vision for MCI’s future.”

The school opened in 1866 and the student body is made up of both boarding and local students. According to the school's website, tuition for boarding students for the 2012-13 school year is $40,850.

In year’s past, prominent MCI post-graduates -- including future NBA players Erick Barkley and Caron Butler -- came under NCAA scrutiny in regards to who paid part of their tuition.

Last season, MCI’s post-graduate team went 10-17 while competing in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference after winning the NEPSAC's Class AAA title in 2011. During a 10-year period in the 1990s under former coach Max Good, MCI went 275-30, won five NEPSAC titles and managed a 79-game winning streak. Good developed nine of MCI’s 10 NBA players including Barkley, Butler, DerMarr Johnson and Brad Miller.

It's not clear at this time if MCI will compete only as a regular high school team in the Maine Principals' Association division of interscholastic activities.

More on post-grad front

The news about MCI dropping its post-graduate team came on the heels of The Winchendon School (Winchendon, Mass.) also leaving the NEPSAC's Class AAA ranks. The Winchendon School is looking to move down to Class C.

Despite the NEPSAC’s Class AAA ranks losing two members once considered flagship programs, the news shouldn’t be considered any sign of the demise of post-graduate basketball at prep schools in New England.

The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors recently implemented new eligibility requirements that will take effect in 2016 and those requirements will be tougher than ever for freshman eligibility. That will continue to make prep schools a desirable option for student-athletes looking to improve their academic marks.

Under the new NCAA academic standards, potential scholarship players must complete their required 16 core courses before their four years of high school are complete. That is likely to lead to an increased number of student-athletes leaving to a prep school prior to the completion of their senior season of high school in order to increase their chances of qualifying under the new guidelines.

NYC AAU figure passes

Ernie Lorch, the founder of the New York Riverside Church AAU program whose legacy was tarnished amid charges of sex abuse, died on May 13, according to the New York Daily News.

Lorch, who reportedly suffered from dementia and diabetes, was 80.

Lorch, a Manhattan-based lawyer, founded the Riverside Church program in 1961 as an avenue to help underprivileged New York City kids. Erick Barkley of Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) was one of the kids he helped and the NCAA ruled Lorch paid $3,150 of Erick Barkley’s tuition at Maine Central Institute for the 1997-98 school year in violation of its rules. During the NCAA’s investigation of Barkley’s eligibility for St. John's University, Lorch admitted to financially assisting many student-athletes over the years.

During the Riverside Church’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, the flagship program won countless national tournaments and produced future NBA players such as Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Malik Sealy, Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and 1989 Mr. Basketball USA Kenny Anderson. The 1996 unit that included Barkley, Artest and Elton Brand, was honored in July 2007 by the Grassroots Basketball Association of America as the best Nike-sponsored AAU team ever.

Over the last decade, Lorch’s legacy as an AAU pioneer was tainted by accusations of sex abuse. Because the incident was said to have occurred in the late 1970’s, New York’s statue of limitations laws prevented him from ever being charged. Massachusetts’ statue of limitations laws are different, and Lorch was indicted in that state but never extradited to stand trial on those charges because of his dementia.

Former dropout signs with D1 school

When a 6-foot-8 junior college transfer signs with a Big Sky conference school, it usually isn’t big news. When that player was a highly-regarded prospect in high school who dropped out of school before his senior season and is a main subject of a critically acclaimed book, however, it’s noteworthy.

Aaron Moore, who was a freshman standout at Dominguez (Compton, Calif.) in 2005-06, signed with Portland State for the 2012-13 school year after a standout season at San Bernardino (Calif.) Junior College.

Moore’s youth career and turbulent high school career was chronicled in George Dohrmann’s “Play Their Hearts Out.” Dohrmann, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a writer for Sports Illustrated, followed the triumphs and tragedies of a Southern California AAU team over a period of eight years. Based on the content in the book, it looked like Moore was going to be the most tragic figure among the players on the team and now he has a new chapter.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Quick Shots: Aaron Gordon out indefinitely

May, 2, 2012
Aaron Gordon, a 6-foot-8 forward from Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) and a third team ESPNHS All-American this past season, will be off the AAU circuit indefinitely because of a broken bone in his foot.

On April 24, Gordon told KOB, a television station in New Mexico, that he has a slight fracture in his toe. On May 1, his mother Shelly Davis Gordon told ESPNHS a recent MRI confirmed what the family already knew about the fracture.

“He has a fracture at the base of his toe that he played on for several months,” Shelly said. “We really won’t know if it will heal with time or if it has to be repaired until later this week after a CT scan. Right now, it’s unclear how long he’ll be out.”

The No. 3 prospect in the ESPN 60, Gordon averaged 22.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 blocks for the CIF Division II state champs in 2011-12 and was the first junior in 12 years to be named state player of the year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Hatch plans return to court

Austin Hatch, a Canterbury (Fort Wayne, Ind.) junior who survived a plane crash last summer, says he still plans to play for the Michigan Wolverines in 2013.

Hatch's tragic story made national news in June, when a plane piloted by his father crashed while trying to make an emergency landing. Hatch's father and stepmother died in the accident, and Hatch suffered near-fatal injuries to his brain, lungs and ribs. Hatch had committed to Michigan just two weeks earlier, and Wolverines coach John Beilein will honor the scholarship.

Incredibly, it was the second plane crash Hatch has survived; in 2003, he lost his biological mother, a sister and a brother in a similar accident, which he and his father survived. Hatch is now out of the hospital, and though he hasn't played basketball and remains unsure if he'll ever regain his form, he says he's fully committed to playing for Michigan in 2013. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-6 forward hit 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Don't call it a comeback

After sitting out the 2011-12 season, center Dakari Johnson of Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) is having an excellent spring so far playing for E1T1 Elite.

One of the country's few true elite pivot players is in excellent shape and has led E1T1 to a 8-1 record through two sessions of the Nike EYBL. Through nine games, Johnson is averaging 16.7 points and 8.6 rebounds, which is second to Julius Randle (9.4) of the Team Texas Titians among all EYBL participants.

The New York City native was the ESPNHS National Freshman of the Year in 2010-11 at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.Y.) before sitting out his sophomore season because of transfer rules.

Other talented prospects who college coaches and fans are eager to catch on the circuit because they missed all or portions of the 2011-12 season with injury include forward Thomas Hamilton Jr. of Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.), the No. 42 prospect in the ESPN 60, and guard Bronson Koenig of Aquinas (La Crosse, Wis.).

Sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. of Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) will likely miss the entire summer after tearing his ACL in early February.

Ennis the menace

Some questioned Tyler Ennis' selection as Gatorade State Player of the Year in New Jersey over Kyle Anderson, but the junior guard is silencing many of his critics with his play at the Nike EYBL. The 6-foot-2 Ontario native and St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) standout has paced CIA Bounce to a 9-0 mark at the prestigious event.

Ennis tallied a game-high 20 points to spur Bounce to a 69-55 win over the NJ Playaz during the second session in Hampton, Va. He went 8-of-15 from the field and added six boards in the victory. Ennis added 12 points and six dimes in a win over Mokan Elite and flirted with a triple double as Bounce routed The Family by 27.

David Auguste and Mike Grimala contributed to this report.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

Ballers dish on goals for AAU

April, 26, 2012
This time last year Rodney Purvis, a senior shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was intent on using the AAU season to improve his all-around game.

“I wanted to get better in every aspect of my game,” said Purvis, an N.C. State signee. “That was what I was focused on.”

A year later, Purvis has won a state title, was named North Carolina’s Mr. Basketball, made the McDonald’s All-American Game and won MVP of the Jordan Brand All-American Game.

He even won the ESPNHS Fans’ Choice Player of the Year award.

“Hard work pays off,” Purvis said. “Younger guys have to go into AAU with goals. That’s the key.”

We caught up with a handful of underclassmen and had them dish on their goals for the AAU season.

Julius Randle
High School: Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas), 2013, PF
AAU Team: Team Texas Titans
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Gain a better understanding of the game and to learn to read defenses better. Right now I’m still learning when and how to attack the defense. They end up loading up on me. So I want to increase my basketball IQ.”

Tyus Jones
High School: Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), 2014, PG
AAU Team: Howard Pulley Panthers
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Become a more vocal leader and a better rebounder and a better defender.”

Isaiah Lewis
High School: Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG
AAU Team: NY Metro Hawks
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Be a top 50 player. I’ve been improving my game since my freshman year and I’m gonna show everyone this summer.”

Jahlil Okafor
High School: Whitney Young (Chicago), 2014, C
AAU Team: Mac Irvin Fire
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Be a better defender. I want to be able to be able to defend out of my area and become more of a shot blocker. I have most of the offense down, but I’m really concentrating on my defense to be more of a threat.”

Wayne Selden
High School: Tilton (N.H.), 2014, SG
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Improve my overall game and polish all of my skills. Coming off of an injury that had me out for almost three months I feel like I have a lot to gain this AAU season. I want to take my offensive and defensive game to another level.”

Brannen Greene
High School: Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG
AAU Team: Florida Rams
Committed to: Kansas
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Gain more exposure and play against the best competition. I want to become the best player that I can be. I already know where I’m going to school so I’m just working hard to get better and play in the Elite 24, McDonald’s and Jordan Brand.”

Austin Nichols
High School: Briarcrest (Eads, Tenn.), 2013, PF
AAU Team: M33M
My goal for the AAU season is to …
“Have fun knowing that this is my last year. I also want to play to the best of my ability.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN

Quick Shots: Six start strong in EYBL

April, 24, 2012
After the first session of the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League last weekend, only six teams left Minneapolis, Minn., with unblemished records. Houston Hoops, Oakland Soldiers (Calif.), CIA Bounce (Can.), E1T1 (Fla.), California Supreme and Albany City Rocks (N.Y.) all went 4-0, and will head to Hampton, Va., this weekend for session two.

“To come out 4-0 is big time,” CIA Bounce coach Mike George said. “Guys picked up right where they left off. Our goal for this year is just to take it one game and one play at a time.”

Rams Run Vegas
The Florida Rams took home the adidas VIP Exclusive Run 17U title in Las Vegas on April 22 with a 77-64 win over the Garner Road Bulldogs (N.C.). Kasey Hill, a point guard at Montverde (Montverde, Fla.), was named MVP after dropping 16 points and dishing out eight assists in the win. Chris Walker, a forward at Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Brannen Greene, a shooting guard at Mary Persons (Forsyth, Ga.), added 17 points for the Rams.

Walker won the highly-anticipated individual matchup with North Carolina bound forward Isaiah Hicks of J.F Webb (Oxford, N.C.) by beating him on the glass, creating space in the paint and making an impact the entire contest. Hicks finished with eight points in the championship game. Anton Gill, a junior shooting guard at Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.), led Garner Road with 17 points.

The Florida Rams also captured the 16U title with a 64-56 victory over Indiana Elite. MVP Lance Tejada of Miramar (Miramar, Fla.) finished with 16 points. The victors also got a 17-point performance from 6-foot-4 Adonys Henriquez of Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.).

Edwards Shines in 15s
One of the players who made the biggest impression on scouts and college coaches last weekend in Vegas was Hyron Edwards of Central (East Chicago, Ind.). He led the Indiana Elite to a 86-76 victory over Dream Vision (Calif.) in the adidas VIP Exclusive Run 15U title game. The 5-foot-10 freshman impressed with his feel for the game, ability as a passer and knack for making the correct play after driving the lane. Edwards, who reportedly holds offers from Indiana and Purdue, finished with a game-high 30 points.

Leading the way for Dream Vision with 22 points was 6-foot-2 freshman Stephen Thompson Jr. of Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.). He's the son of former NBA player, Syracuse star, and Crenshaw (Los Angeles) standout Stephen Thompson, who Slam Magazine named one of the 50 best dunkers of all-time in 1999. Son doesn't quite have the bounce of his father, but his shooting stroke is much more promising.

Another freshman (2015) who impressed was Tyler Dorsey, a 6-foot-4 combo guard at Ribet Academy (Los Angeles). Dorsey played up with Belmont Shore (Calif.) in the 17U Invitational Division at the Pangos Spring Spectacular. Belmont Shore was one of the favorites to capture the 17U title, but they were beaten by Play Hard Play Smart Elite (Calif.) in the semifinals, 84-78. That team went on to defeat the Danny Granger D1 Ambassadors Elite (N.M.) in the championship game, 94-76.

Dorsey told ESPNHS he'll likely head to another school for his sophomore season. His coach at Ribet Academy last season, William Middlebrooks, is now the coach at Cathedral (Los Angeles).

Harrell Leads U.S. to Win
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points and snatched 12 rebounds to lead the U.S. All-Stars past the Capital All-Stars 105-93 in the Capital Classic April 21 at T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.).

Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) swingman Justin Anderson scored 17 points for the Capital All-Stars.

“It was a great honor for me to win MVP in that game,” Harrell said. “There was a lot of talent in that game, but I had a lot of fun just playing. It was a great honor to even have been in the game.”

Next year Bob Geoghan, founder of the Capital Classic, will hold the long-running all-star game for the 40th consecutive year.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Purvis' Perspective: The perfect ending

April, 19, 2012
Rodney PurvisScott Kurtz/ESPNHSESPNHS Student Blogger: Rodney Purvis
Rodney Purvis | Senior | Shooting Guard | Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.)

Purvis Blog 1 | Purvis Blog 2 | Purvis Blog 3 | Purvis Blog 4 | Purvis Blog 5 | Purvis Blog 6 | Purvis Blog 7 | ESPNHS - North Carolina

Rodney Purvis is the No. 5 shooting guard in the ESPNU 100. A senior at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), Purvis ended one of the hottest recruitments of the summer in late September by picking North Carolina State. He's agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access to his life and chronicle his thoughts in a monthly blog.

Hey what’s going on everybody, it’s your boy Rodney Purvis back with another blog. I know it’s been a long time since my last blog but things have been pretty busy lately.

I just got back from the Jordan Brand Classic last weekend and that was a great time just getting the chance to hang out with all my bros like Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad. I’ve known them for a long time now and we all knew that this would be the last time we’d all be together for a while so we just bugged out and had a good time all week.

We got a chance to tour the ESPNU studio in Charlotte and that was real cool too. I met Jimmy Dykes and Dino Gaudio and both of them are really knowledgeable and gave us some great advice.

Of course we got a chance to see Shabazz and Nerlens (Noel) commit. That was my first time being in a studio and watching someone commit so that was different. I know both of them are gonna do big things at UCLA and Kentucky.

It was a blessing to be able to win co-MVP of the (Jordan Brand Classic). That’s what I wanted coming in to the game because my mom bought so many tickets and my family had a big section so I wanted to give them a good show.

It was the perfect way to end my high school career, I just wish we could’ve won the game!

But I had a great time down there in Charlotte all week.

Of course by now everyone knows that my bro C.J. Leslie is gonna be back with the Pack next year. That’s obviously big for us and I’m just glad because we’re really close. I’ve known him forever.

We made it pretty far this season, but I know that we’ll be able to go even further next season. Coach (Mark) Gottfried didn’t recruit any of those players on that team last year and to get them all to buy in to what he was doing was really impressive to me. I’ve already bought in and I know everyone else feels the same way too.

The sky is the limit for us.

I’m still hoping we can get another guy or two. I’m talking to Amile Jefferson and even Tony Parker, even though we’re late in the game.

You never know what those guys are gonna do though. I don’t crowd them. I give them their space and let them make their own decision.

But I always tell them that I’ll support wherever they go. I do feel pretty strongly about our chances with Amile though.

I also want to say something to younger group that’s coming up behind me: Don’t worry about rankings. Don’t pay attention to them at all. Good or bad. That won’t make or break you. That’s just someone’s opinion and it honestly doesn’t even matter. College coaches aren’t worried about that stuff. They just want good players. So work on your game and don’t worry about stuff like that.

Now that the season’s over I’m just trying to develop stronger discipline headed into college. I’m focusing on my books and my training. I get up at 5 a.m. every day and train. I want to be as prepared as possible for my first year.

OK guys I’m gonna head out now, but I appreciate you guys checking out my blog.

Take care.

Don't forget to follow Rodney Purvis on Twitter: @RPurvis_5

JBC Notebook: Shabazz finishes strong

April, 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn’t really dawn on Shabazz Muhammad until he walked into Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday, but when he thought about the fact that this was the last time he’d get the chance to lace 'em up as a high schooler, he could think of only one thing.

“It was important for me to finish strong,” said Muhammad, a UCLA-bound swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “This was the last time to go out and showcase what you can do with all of your friends, so it was important to finish strong and have fun.”

Muhammad had a ball leading the West past the East 99-95. He scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds en route to claiming the West’s MVP trophy.

Rodney Purvis Jordan Game MVP
Kelly KlineN.C. State-bound guard Rodney Purvis scored a game-high 22 points to earn co-MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Rodney Purvis, a shooting guard at Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), was named MVP for the East after scoring 22 points in the loss.

“We all had a lot of fun this week, but it was definitely important to go out with a strong performance,” Purvis said. “You want to set the tone for what you’re gonna do next season. Since I was playing in front of my hometown fans from NC State, I wanted to put on a good show.”

Noel’s Influx Of Followers
So much for the myth that once you commit to a college, you lose Twitter followers due to the fans of the schools you didn’t pick clicking the “unfollow” button.

When Nerlens Noel, a center at Tilton (Tilton, N.H.), announced Wednesday night on ESPNU that he was going to Kentucky, his Twitter-follower numbers skyrocketed from 23,000 to 38,000 that very night.

As of Saturday, he was up to 44,000 and counting.

“That’s the power of Big Blue Nation,” said Noel, who suited up for the East. “I knew they would have my back. That’s a major reason that I picked Kentucky. You can’t find better fans anywhere else on the planet.”

Parker Ready To Decide
Looks like we’re finally going to find out where Tony Parker is headed for college.

Parker, who is considering Duke, Ohio State, Georgia, UCLA, Georgetown, Kansas and Memphis, said he’ll make his decision late next week at his school.

“I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but next week is the week,” said Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) who suited up for the East. “I’m just ready to get it over with. It’s been a long process, and I’m ready for it to be over. I’m still weighing things out, but I gave myself 'til next week. That’s when it’s happening.”

Bennett For Three
On April 7, after Team USA battled back from an 18-point deficit, World Select forward Anthony Bennett buried a 3-pointer, which was deep by NBA standards, to thwart any chance of a USA win. World Select went on to win 84-75 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

At practice for the Jordan Brand Classic, Bennett, a senior forward at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), re-enacted the big shot during water breaks, taunting the eight All-Americans who had suited up for Team USA.

“It was a pretty good shot, huh?” Bennett said. “That thing was pretty!”

None of the other players agreed. Go figure.

Harrell Leads East
Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) forward Montrezl Harrell scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the East past the West 84-82 in the Jordan Brand Regional game.

Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) forward Montay Brandon led the West with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC Notebook: UNC recruits ready to go

April, 13, 2012
Jordan Brand Classic shoesUNC fans will be out in full force Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C., for the Jordan Brand Classic to watch future Tar Heels J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.P. Tokoto signed with North Carolina for the tradition, Roy Williams and to win a national title, but another big reason Tokoto was excited about being a Tar Heel was to have the chance to learn from swingman Harrison Barnes.

That won’t happen now.

Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson all declared for the NBA draft recently, and for Tokoto that meant just one thing.

“We’re gonna have to be ready to step right in and produce,” said Tokoto, a bouncy forward at Menomonee Falls (Wis.). “We’ve still got plenty of talent, but I think we may get called on a little earlier than most people thought we would.”

Brice Johnson feels the same way, and he said he’s ready for whatever the staff needs him to do.

Johnson and Tokoto are teaming up this weekend at Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) for the East. Another UNC commit, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa) point guard Marcus Paige, was supposed to play in the game, but he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and couldn’t travel. Dwyer (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) forward Joel James rounds out the Heels’ 2012 class.

“We’re all gonna need to be ready sooner,” said Johnson, a forward at Edisto (Cordova, S.C.). “That’s fine with me, though. Bring it on. I’m ready. I’ve just gotta gain weight.”

He’s contemplated giving up track, because the little weight he does gain ends up falling right off with training. But when you’re the reigning state champion in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, it’s hard to walk away.

“I’m about 210 now, but I’m gonna get it up,” Johnson said. “I eat a large pizza and a half of another large in one sitting, so I’m going hard at it. Either way we’re gonna be ready. All of us. I don’t want fans to drop their standards. We will show people next year. We’re gonna be a force.”

Starting Lineups

The probable starters for the West are Rasheed Sulaimon, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. The probable starters for the East are Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Rodney Purvis, Nerlens Noel and Tony Parker. Both lineups are as of Friday and could change by game time.

2K Challenge Owned by Wildcats

Last year, Anthony Davis took home the Jordan Brand Classic NBA 2K Challenge. Davis went on to win the Wooden National Player of the Year Award and be named NCAA Most Outstanding Player after leading Kentucky to the national title.

This year, Noel kept the Kentucky tradition alive when he and the Miami Heat took out Tokoto and the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime.

“It’s just the Kentucky swag already coming on me,” said Noel, who announced for Kentucky Wednesday night on ESPNU. “All we do is win, no matter what. What can I tell ya?”

Courting Parker

Once Muhammad announced that he would take his talents to UCLA next season, he made it clear what his first order of business would be with the Bruins.

“I’ve got to get Tony [Parker] to come along with me and Kyle [Anderson],” said Muhammad, a swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). “I think we can get him. He’d just bring a lot to the team next year. I think with him in the class we’d be set.”

Anderson, who was the first to commit to the Bruins, will team up with Parker, a forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), on the East against Muhammad at the Jordan Brand Classic this weekend. But if he has it his way, this will be the last organized game that the three are divided.

“We’ve got to get Tony,” said Anderson, a point guard at St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.). “I think with me and now Shabazz coming at him, it’s even more appealing to him. We’ve been on him all week here. I think we’ll be able to get it done.”

Sulaimon is on Point

With West point guard Paige out, Sulaimon will have to step in and run the point.

“I’m very comfortable running the point,” said Sulaimon, a shooting guard at Strake Jesuit (Houston). “I’m willing to do whatever I’ve got to do in order for my team to get this win. That’s all I’m worried about. This will only continue to help me develop.”

Sulaimon, a Duke signee, said that the Blue Devils’ coaching staff has talked to him about running the point at times next season.

“I’ve talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski about it and they want me to be ready to play some point next season,” Sulaimon said. “I’m fine with that. I’ve always trained to be versatile in the backcourt and even though I’m a scorer first I know the importance of setting my teammates up. I’ll be ready to roll.”

Highlight of the Practice

East point guard Anderson threw swingman Tokoto an alley-oop and Tokoto caught it and did a 360 dunk. The gym went into a brief frenzy.

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC stars reveal their No. 2 schools

April, 13, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brandon Ashley is finally ready to reveal a few universal secrets about the recruiting process, secrets that are so exclusive he can only tell you at the end of his senior season.

“Hey, I mean, this is the last event of the year and, either way, I’m headed to Arizona. Why not?" said Ashley, who will suit up for the West in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

That’s why his cunning grin said it all when he was posed with the first question: Do recruits really have a list of five to seven schools that they’re considering?

“To be honest, no,” Ashley said with a laugh. “That’s just something we put out there to keep it exciting. We put it out there in the media to build that suspense, but in our minds it’s like, 'I’m not going there.' It’s usually just two schools in the end.”

Rodney Purvis concurred.

He said that after a while, players get tired of the “same old boring questions that media guys ask” and decide to spice things up and make it fun.

“I would go on Twitter sometimes and say something like, 'It’s time to get away from my family and grow up,' and people would panic and say I was headed to UConn,” said Purvis, who will suit up for the East on Saturday. “I know for a fact that most of us do things like that, but Brandon’s right, it typically comes down to just two schools in the end.”

The operative questions are: Who came in second? And how close did it really come between the final two?

“Whoa, man, that’s some heavy stuff right there,” said Rasheed Sulaimon, who will suit up for the West. “That’s top-secret info right there. You sure you wanna know that?”

Oh indeed we do.

We caught up with a handful of Jordan Brand All-Americans and had them reveal which school they almost signed with.

Brandon Ashley
Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), F
Signed to: Arizona

The school that came in second for me was …
“Oregon. I just had a great relationship with them and I just loved everything about that school. That said, I can honestly say that they weren’t anywhere close to Arizona for me. I don’t care what I said during the recruiting process. When I went on my visit to Arizona it was over.”

Rodney Purvis
Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), SG
Signed to: NC State

The school that came in second for me was …
“UConn. I gotta keep it real, it was super close. When I came back home from visiting there I said, 'I’m going to UConn.' Then I talked to my mom and she said to wait it out a little longer. The more I thought about it I knew that it was NC State. They were just in my heart. Coach [Mark] Gottfried did a great job recruiting me and every time I would shoot around at State it felt right. I remember when I was at UConn after we played pickup, I went back to the gym alone just to shoot around to see what feeling I got and it wasn’t the same. I didn’t sense that it was the right place for me.”

Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG
Signed to: Duke

The school that came in second for me was …
“North Carolina. I know I may lose cool points with my Duke fam for this one, but we’re keepin' it real tonight. Of the two schools, North Carolina recruited me first. I grew up a Duke fan, but at the same time when those letters come in you just get excited about who’s on you. North Carolina was leading for me. Then Duke came in and the separation was when I talked to Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. We just got close really quick and built a strong relationship. I guess you could say Duke stole me away from North Carolina.”

Kelly Kline/ESPNHSKyle Anderson said that if UCLA didn't exist he'd be a Seton Hall Pirate.
Kyle Anderson
St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.), G/F
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“Seton Hall. I’ve never told anyone this, but this is crazy. Exactly a week before I chose UCLA I had decided that I was going to Seton Hall. It was a done deal. Then I had another talk with my family the next day and I felt like it was UCLA. If UCLA didn’t exist I’d be at Seton Hall, no question. I just couldn’t turn down [UCLA], the tradition, the weather, the beach, all the pros that play there in the summer. Plus I’m cool with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, just everything about it. And I mean, c’mon, it’s L.A.!”

Shabazz Muhammad
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF
Signed to: UCLA

The school that came in second for me was …
“I’m not just making this up either, but I promise you it could’ve gone either way between Duke and Kentucky. I promise. It was so tough saying 'thanks but no thanks' to those schools. With Duke, they needed a scorer and I knew if I added myself to that team it would really be successful with the guys they had coming back. Then with Kentucky, you’ve got Archie [Goodwin], Alex [Poythress] and Nerlens [Noel] coming in, and if I joined them I know we could’ve done big things. I’m telling you it was just crazy tough. UCLA was just the best fit for me in the end.”

Archie Goodwin
Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.), SG
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Kansas. I love coach Bill Self and I loved Kansas. The school was great, the fans were great and they did a great job recruiting me, but, honestly, there wasn’t anything they could’ve done to get me. I had been saying since the ninth grade that I wanted to play for Coach [John] Calipari. I tried to give everyone a chance, but I never got the same feeling I did with Coach Cal.”

Alex Poythress
Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), SF
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Vanderbilt. It was so close. They were recruiting me for the longest and I honestly had the best feel for that school. But in the end I just had to go with my gut feeling. But it was close.”

J.P. Tokoto
Menomonee Falls (Menomonee Falls, Wis.), SF
Signed to: North Carolina

The school that came in second for me was …
“Wisconsin. It was home and it felt right, but once I visited North Carolina and talked to the players and guys that were coming in, it was a no-brainer.”

Nerlens Noel
Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.), C
Signed to: Kentucky

The school that came in second for me was …
“Georgetown. My mom really liked them a lot. She was sold on them. She loved how family-oriented they were and, like I said in my blog, my mom’s opinion was what mattered most to me. We had to sit down and talk and I had to really get her to take a longer look at Kentucky. Then when she did she started to like them a lot, too. But it was pretty close, man. It was pretty close.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

JBC stars dish on their favorite Jordans

April, 12, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Back in February, when Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) forward Tony Parker learned that he’d be suiting up for the East in the 2012 Jordan Brand Classic at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte (7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN), he was most excited about the fact that he’d get the chance to meet Michael Jordan.

“I’ve got to thank him for all these hot shoes he makes that have given me all this game,” Parker said with a laugh. “I wonder what Jordans we’re gonna hoop in. That’s important, you know.”

Indeed it is.

After all, Spike Lee, er Mars Blackmon, has been saying it in Air Jordan commercials since the early 1990s: "It's gotta be the shoes."

That begs the question: Which Jordans are the best to ball in?

We caught up with the Jordan Brand All-Americans to get the low down.

Shabazz Muhammad

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), SF

Signed to: UCLA

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d have to say the 9’s because I hooped in them all year and they’re really comfortable.”

Archie Goodwin

Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.), SG

Signed to: Kentucky

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d definitely have to say that the Concord 11’s are the best shoes to hoop in. They’re light and those colors really set it off. They’re just really comfortable and I honestly like all the Jordans, but if I had to pick one those are the pair I’d say.”

Tony Parker

Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), PF


The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“Definitely the 12’s for sure. They are just really comfortable shoes and they give great ankle support. I love playing in those.”

Rasheed Sulaimon

Strake Jesuit (Houston), SG

Signed to: Duke

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“Probably the 11’s. I’ve got every color of that shoe that ever came out. Love them because they’re light and they give great support. It’s a very stylish shoe too. It just raises the bar when you’re rocking the 11’s.”

Rodney Purvis

Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), SG

Signed to: NC State

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d have to say the Cool Greys. They have the best grip and they just feel good. They’re just swaggy.”

Isaiah Austin

Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas), C

Signed to: Baylor

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I personally prefer the 11’s because they’re light weight and they’ve got good grip. Plus they’ve got a really smooth look.”

Danuel House

Hightower (Sugar Land, Texas), SF

Signed to: Houston

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I’d say the Retro-13’s because it’s got great ankle support and it’s stylish.”

Alex Poythress

Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.), SF

Signed to: Kentucky

The best Jordans to hoop in are ...

“I like the 10’s because they’re really comfortable and sturdy. Plus they’ve got good ankle support, which is important because I have ankle problems.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Noel welcomes lofty expectations at UK

April, 11, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The second Nerlens Noel spun around and showed the letters “UK” meticulously cut into the back of his head live on ESPNU Wednesday night, the lofty expectations were all over cyberspace before he could step out of the studio.

Noel picked the Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse.

“I know my Twitter is nuts right now,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.). “That’s just how Kentucky’s fans are, or should I say that’s how our fans are. I love it all.”

Even the inevitable expectation of a back-to-back title run?

On April 2, Kentucky held on to beat Kansas 67-59 and claim its first national title in 14 years. The last team to claim back-to-back titles was Florida in 2006 and 2007.

“I hope that Kentucky fans are expecting us to go back-to-back because that’s what I expect,” said Noel. “It’s championship or bust there, and I’m OK with that.”

Noel knows that most expect him to have an Anthony Davis-like impact as a freshman.

It’s relative.

Davis, a freshman who led Kentucky in the title game with six points, 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and three steals, was the top-ranked player in 2011. Noel is the top-ranked player in 2012. They’re both 6-foot-10 centers that have the innate ability to spike shots like volleyballs and make even the most gifted slashers think twice before coming into the lane.

But is it fair to compare a high school senior to the Wooden Player of the Year and the national title game’s Most Outstanding Player?

“He’s got the same abilities,” said Archie Goodwin, a senior shooting guard at Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark.) who will join Noel at Kentucky next season. “I feel like Nerlens could have a year just like Anthony so I’m excited to have him. With Nerlens in the lineup I’m OK with those expectations from fans.”

Alex Poythress concurred.

He said that having a player on the backline protecting the basket changes the complexion of the game “on a lot of different levels.”

“You can’t play the way you normally would with him down there and that’s great for us next year,” said Poythress, a senior swingman at Northeast (Clarksville, Tenn.) who will join Goodwin and Noel at Kentucky next season. “With Nerlens on board now I think my expectations may be even higher than the fans.”

Ditto for Noel.

“We’re competitors so of course we want to win it all,” Noel said. “That’s why I came here; I plan to win a national title so I’m good with our fans expecting it. They should. I know I do.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Nerlens' Notebook: Pre-decision thoughts

April, 10, 2012
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Since then, heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, have scrambled to get him on campus next season. He recently narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s good, everybody. Like I promised, I’m back to check in with you guys and get a few thoughts out before I make my big decision.

It’s my birthday today, so I’m back home to celebrate with my family but also to sit down with them and talk about these schools and come up with a decision.

Before I get into that, I know everyone was talking about the game we lost the other night against the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit.

We were all feeling pretty down after the loss. It was tough. I thought we competed a lot better in the second half because coach [Kevin Boyle] made some good adjustments. He wanted us to pick it up defensively and we definitely did.

They missed their first 12 shots and that allowed us to get back in it, but they made some big shots in the end and got the win.

The locker room was a little quiet at first, but we had good leaders that spoke up and made us all feel a little better. Like Mitch [McGary], he just talked about how we were a family and that we were all brothers and that we played our hearts out. It made a lot of us feel better.

OK, so back to the announcement. Like I said, tonight we’re gonna have a group discussion and write things out and see where we’re most comfortable and what the best decision will be. The rumors about me already being committed are just crazy.

Anyone who knows me knows my mom, Dorcina, has to sign off on any decision and that she will play a major part in any decision. So tonight is when I’ll talk to her about it all.

Any “recruiting guy” who says he has some news from a “source” is funny, too, because the source would have to be me or my mom and they’re not talking to her and I don’t talk to anyone. Like I always say, only believe what you read here.

This is such a tough decision, though. I look at Syracuse and I love the way that the coaches say they’ll use me in their offense. I really like the family atmosphere there and I feel really comfortable there. Syracuse has been on me the longest of all three schools and that is big for me.

Then you’ve got Georgetown, and I really just like everything about them. When I went down there with my mom, it really opened my eyes to what they were all about. I have to factor in what a school like that can do for me, even away from being a basketball player. It’s just a great school and they have a history of developing big men. Georgetown is definitely a great option for me.

Then there’s Kentucky.

Of course they’re coming off the national championship, but I’d look more at how I’d be able to fit in and how I’d be used there. I’d factor in what my role would be offensively, like Anthony Davis with a lot of lobs and catching it at the high post and things like that. Defensively, I think it’ll take care of itself.

So as you all can see, this thing won’t be easy. Of course, me and Shabazz (Muhammad) will be deciding at the same time and I talked to him about that at the Hoop Summit, but we didn’t talk about schools at all. We never have.

I read the story where all the players gave predictions on where me and Shabazz would go. That was pretty funny. Man, they were sleeping pretty hard on the other schools, but everyone’s entitled to his own opinion.

Well, I’ve definitely got some celebrating to do and some discussing to do with my family, so I’m gonna head out now, everyone. Definitely check out the decision (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPNU) -- and again, I have 100 percent not made any decision yet because I really don’t know.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

I'll holler at y'all later.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Players predict where Muhammad, Noel will go

April, 9, 2012

Shabazz Muhammad knows that, on the surface, it seems glamorous to have the option of picking between heavyweights like Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, UNLV and Kansas.

Still, he’s quick to point out the flip side.

“The stress,” said Muhammad, a senior swingman at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 100. “It definitely isn’t as fun as people think. It’s all you think about. It’s a tough decision.”

Nerlens Noel can attest to that.

As the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, Noel said it only makes it harder “when you really can’t go wrong wherever you decide to go.”

Both Noel and Muhammad will make their decisions live on Recruiting Nation's Signing Day Special Show at 7:30 p.m. ET April 11 on ESPNU.

“People don’t understand how tough this is,” said Noel, a senior center at Tilton (N.H.) who will choose between Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse. “It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. Everyone thinks they know where we’re going.”

Especially their peers.

We caught up with a bunch of players from around the country and had them weigh in on where they think the top two seniors in the country will land.

Matt Jones
DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas), 2013, SG
Committed to: Duke
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. I played with him last weekend at a tournament and you should’ve seen him watching Louisville play against Kentucky. It was like he could envision himself there.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Duke. He sees that he could come in and have the same impact that Austin Rivers did.”

Jabari Parker
Simeon (Chicago), 2013, SF
Noel’s headed to …
“Boston College. [Laughs] Just kidding, Georgetown.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UC Santa Barbara. [Laughs] Just kidding, UCLA.”

Mitch McGary
Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), 2012, F
Signed to: Michigan
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. Great recruiting class coming in and they just won the national title so that’s got to appeal to him.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. Same reasons as Nerlens.”

Isaiah Lewis
Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), 2013, SG
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s a one-and-done type and that’s where you go for that.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. I think he and Kyle Anderson are gonna do work.”

Rasheed Sulaimon
Strake Jesuit (Houston), 2012, SG
Signed to: Duke
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s the second coming of Anthony Davis. He’s tall with very long arms that he uses to impact the game on the defensive end and rebound.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Duke. I really believe that Shabazz is gonna join me next year because he’s a competitor and wants to win. Coach K is the ultimate competitor and does great with guards like Shabazz. I believe we can do a lot of damage right away.”

Rodney Purvis
Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), 2012, SG
Signed to: N.C. State
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. That’s just my gut.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. That’s just my gut feeling on him too.”

L.J. Rose
Westbury Christian (Houston), 2012, PG
Signed to: Baylor
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’s gonna be compared to Anthony Davis and have that type of impact.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. They’re just coming off a national title run and Rupp Arena will definitely be rocking next year with him there.”

Chris Walker
Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), 2013, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He saw what Coach Cal did for Anthony Davis and he’ll feel like he can do the same for him. He’ll be one-and-done just like him.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. It’s the perfect fit with it being close to home and then he’ll have a great guard like Kyle Anderson there with him.”

Kris Jenkins
Gonzaga College (Washington, D.C.), 2013, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Georgetown. That’s where all the big men go to develop.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He thinks Coach Cal can help him reach his goal of the NBA faster.”

Brannen Greene
Mary Persons (Monroe, Ga.), 2013, SG
Committed to: Kansas
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He sees the impact that Anthony Davis had this year and probably wants to do the same.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“Kentucky. I think he wants to be one-and-done and he sees Kentucky as the perfect school for that.”

Wayne Selden
Tilton (N.H.), 2014, SG
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’d fit right in and replace Anthony Davis.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. I think he and Kyle Anderson would be a force in the Pac-12.”

Jahlil Okafor
Whitney Young (Chicago), 2014, F
Noel’s headed to …
“Kentucky. He’ll replace Anthony Davis.”
Muhammad’s headed to …
“UCLA. He’ll team up with Kyle Anderson.”

Jason Jordan is the basketball editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at jason.x.jordan.-ND@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayESPN.

Recruit X: Coaches will say anything

April, 5, 2012
Ever wonder what it’s like to be an elite high school basketball player? To be the object of affection for the country’s top-tier college programs? To be bombarded after games by autograph seekers and to grant interviews several times a week to recruiting analysts who are dying to know what school you’re leaning toward?

What is that world really like?

ESPNHS has summoned the help of a highly rated recruit and granted him anonymity in order to bring you a raw and real account of just what goes on in their lives that doesn’t make the press clippings.

As told to Jason Jordan.

Hey, what’s going on everybody, I’m back! Ha-ha.

Of course I hear about all my haters, but like I always say I’m writing about what I’ve been through. No one makes up anything for me. This is just the truth from me. That’s it.

I know a lot of reporters ask me in interviews what coaches say to try and get me to come to their schools, and I usually say the normal stuff that we say like “They just tell me how I can fit into their system” or “They just talk about how much they’d love to have me.”

But when reporters ask me if any coaches promise me anything or dis other schools, I always say no. The truth is most coaches make promises and most coaches dis other schools, in their own ways.

I honestly think that every coach recruiting me has told me that I can come in and start, except for maybe one or two and those schools just mask it by saying “You can come in and probably play right away.”

I had a coach ask me one time how many minutes I would want to play and what offense I would want to run and then said he could make it happen. They will do and say anything to get us.

Fans don’t like to believe stuff like that about their school, but trust me I’ve got lots of schools on me and every coach pretty much makes promises.

The other thing they do is straight dis other coaches.

Any coach who says he doesn’t do that is lying.

Coaches tell me all the time “Oh he cheats, you don’t want to go there” or “They’re being investigated right now, it’s just not out yet” or “When they get you there it’s total opposite of what they tell you during the recruitment.”

At this point, I just think it’s a common thing for coaches to hate on each other. Like, it’s what they do, almost as normal as recruiting you in the first place.

I don’t really care that coaches dis other schools that are recruiting me. At first I thought that was kind of crazy and I wasn’t feelin’ it but now I know it’s just part of the game.

Coaches aren’t who they show you on TV. They’re way different on a personal level.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got this go-round everybody.

Thanks for reading. You, too, haters!

Nerlens' Notebook: Decision day set

April, 4, 2012
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Since then, heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, have scrambled to get him on campus next season. He recently narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

Hey, what’s up, everybody. Of course it’s me, Nerlens. Sorry I haven’t written in my blog in a couple weeks. Things have been pretty crazy.

I just got back from New Orleans playing in the All-American Championships and had a ball. The game was fun, of course, just playing with all my boys, but we had even more fun hanging out in the city.

I checked out Bourbon Street and, man, that was just crazy! No other word for that.

I’ve never taken that many pictures in my life. Ever.

I literally got stopped hundreds of times and took dozens and dozens of pictures. The fans were showing me so much love out there, and I definitely have to say that most of the fans were from Kentucky.

Now, of course that had a lot to do with the fact that they were playing there, but I’m always just shocked at how dedicated Kentucky fans are. One man asked me if I wanted to take his wife home with me, ha ha. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Nah, I’m good,” but that’s just how insane the fans were down there. Great atmosphere.

OK, so by now I assume most of you guys know that I cut my list to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse a few weeks back. I just thought it was time to get it down to the schools that I was really looking at the hardest.

Kentucky had the big win Monday night and I had a good time watching that game. I was really liking how Anthony Davis continued to be effective even without scoring the ball. I know how it feels to not be able to get it going on the offensive end at times, and that makes you just want to go even harder defensively. I loved that he got Most Outstanding Player, too.

Just seeing him have all the success that he’s had this year definitely makes me think a lot about what I could be doing there. That’s really appealing to me.

His IQ on the court is crazy. I talked to him a lot while I was down there and he told me all about how much better he’d gotten since he got there. He told me that I’d have to be ready when I got there because it was going to be a lot of hard work.

I’d definitely say it makes me think about Kentucky more, and with them winning with all of those freshmen was very attractive. Just seeing that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you can win a national title.

I talked to (Kentucky assistant) coach Orlando (Antigua) after they won and he was really happy, of course. He said that all he could think about was me being a part of something like that next season.

I wouldn’t say that all of that stuff gives Kentucky an advantage, though. It’s just something I think about a lot.

With Syracuse, they’ve been on me the longest of the three schools on my list. That factors in heavy with me. That’s big for me. With Georgetown, I would've been crazy not to really give them a look with all the history they’ve had with big men and the development that I could get there.

This is going to be a hard decision, y’all.

I’ve decided to announce my decision a week from today on ESPN, so I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between now and then. And I’ve heard the rumors about me making a decision already. That’s not true. Rumors are rumors, what can you do, but just know that I'm far from a decision no matter what you hear.

Like I always say, don’t believe things you don’t read from me right here in my blog. I definitely haven’t made up my mind yet.

Me and Shabazz Muhammad are deciding at the same time on ESPN, so that should be pretty cool. It’s definitely just a coincidence, because me and Shabazz have never even talked about schools or anything like that.

I would love to play with him in college, though, but we’ve never talked about that and he’s got to do what’s best for him like I’ve got to do what’s best for me.

I will say that one of the biggest factors in my decision will be who will be there on the team when I get there because my No. 1 goal is to win a national title.

OK, everybody, I’ve got to run off to class now, but I’m planning to do another blog next week before I decide so check back for that. And I’m going to have something cool planned for how I announce on TV so definitely check that out, too.

Now if only I could figure out which school that’s going to be …

OK, thanks again for reading, everyone. I’m out.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Notebook: Ridley bounces back; McD's misses

April, 3, 2012
Cameron Ridley, a center at Bush (Fort Bend, Texas), was upset after not getting the ball during the West’s 106-102 win over the East in the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 28, but when Ridley suited up for the West in the All-American Championship in New Orleans Sunday, his teammates must’ve got the memo that Ridley was the best low-post option.

Ridley pumped in 16 points and was named MVP for the West, but that wasn’t enough to stop Omar Calhoun and the East. Calhoun, a shooting guard at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), scored a tournament record 26 points to lead the East to an 84-72 win over the West at Lakefront Arena.

In the second game, Braxton Ogbueze, a point guard at United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.), sank two free throws with nine seconds left to give the South an 86-85 win over the North. Joel James, a forward at Dywer (West Palm Beach, Fla.), was named MVP for the South, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while Glenn Robinson, a forward at Lake Central (Schererville Ind.), took home MVP honors for the North with 16 points.

No McDonald’s, No Sweat

Winston Shepard doesn’t mind admitting that he feels he should’ve been named to the McDonald’s All-American Game along with his Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) teammates Anthony Bennett and Brandon Ashley.

“I definitely felt like I should’ve been there,” said Shepard, a San Diego State signee who is ranked No. 53 in the ESPNU 100. “But you can’t control what other people decide. After watching the game, I don’t mind that I wasn’t a part of that.”

Shepard had a great consolation, helping the Pilots claim their third ESPNHS National High School Invitational title in four years on March 31 with an 86-83 come-from-behind win over Montverde (Montverde, Fla.).

Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) forward Justin Anderson wasn’t as committal as Shepard on his thoughts about not making McDonald’s, but Anderson’s coach Stu Vetter certainly was.

“The people who picked the players for McDonald’s got it wrong,” Vetter said. “That’s just the truth. Justin is one of the best players in the country and he should’ve been in that game. Period.”

We're Talking About Practice

It's no secret among long-time media scribes that the McDonald's All-American practices are often more meaningful than the game. The game is for friends, family and fans; practice is is for evaluation.

In practices, Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) felt he and fellow point guard Tyler Lewis of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) could do more damage playing together to create mismatches and openings for teammates. In the game, those East teammates never saw he floor together and Lewis struggled. No individual played less than Lewis, who went 1-of-7 from the field in 12 minutes.

Another player whose practice performances didn't translate over to the game was Marcus Smart of Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas). He went hard in practice and displayed the ability to defend on the wing and create offense at three different positions. For the victorious West, Smart struggled in the game. He failed to make a field goal to go with five assists and three turnovers.

Most keen practice observers would have loved to see Smart on the team opposite of Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.). He challenged Muhammad in practice, which lifted the intensity level two notches higher than the one the East displayed. Naturally, Muhammad quickly set the tone in the game, scoring nine consecutive points to give the West an early 11-2 lead in its eventual four-point victory.