Thursday, May 22, 2008
Updated: May 26, 11:07 AM ET
Breaking down the Big Ten classes
By Antonio Williams
Last year, the Indiana Hoosiers were dead last in the Big Ten standings and finished with an overall record of 6-25, but help is on the way. According to Scouts Inc., the Hoosiers have the No. 1 recruiting class in the Big Ten thanks in large part to the additions of ESPNU 100 players Christian Watford and Maurice Creek.
Right on the Hoosiers' heels in the recruitment process was Minnesota, followed by Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue.
Illinois signees: four
After having only one prep player in his 2008 recruiting class, coach Bruce Weber has a very talented group heading to Champaign in the fall, including three ESPNU 100 players. This group is highlighted by the super-talented 6-foot-3 SG D.J. Richardson (Peoria, Ill./Findlay College Prep). He has very good quickness, can get to the rim -- almost at will -- and can connect on 3-pointers with ease. Fellow shooting guards 6-3 Brandon Paul (Gurnee, Ill./Warren Township) and 6-4 Joseph Bertrand (Sterling, Ill./Sterling) will bolster the Illini backcourt. Both knock down shots from the perimeter, but Paul can slash to the rim, while Bertrand defends and rebounds from his position very well. Illinois also brought in 6-8 PF Tyler Griffey (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette), who will make a living as a pick-and-pop big man.
Indiana signees: six
Indiana coach Tom Crean has a very young group and aimed to increase the talent level of his team. He has accomplished this task through his six-player recruiting class led by ESPNU 100 players 6-8 SF Christian Watford (Birmingham, Ala./Shades Valley) and 6-5 SG Maurice Creek (Temple Hills, Md./Hargrave Military Academy). Watford has the versatility to score from almost anywhere on the floor. He can use his quickness and ballhandling skills to get to the bucket with ease as well as using his midrange pull-up jumper. Creek gives the Hoosiers another option on the perimeter, but he has to alleviate his tendency to settle for long jumpers. He does excel as an on-ball defender. Hometown product 6-0 PG Jordan Hulls (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South) will be a nice complement to Creek in the backcourt because he looks to involve his teammates by using his impressive passing skills and leadership qualities. Crean also addressed his big men by adding C Bawa Muniru (Durham, N.C./Mount Zion), Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland) and Derek Elston (Tipton, Ind./ Tipton). All three are physical, have good size and strength and are willing to bang in the paint. The 6-11 Muniru blocks shots at a high rate, and Elston can hit jumpers.
Iowa signees: four
The Hawkeyes have to continue to add to their talent base, and will need this recruiting group to contribute rather quickly. Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa/Bishop Heelan) uses his 6-9 frame to create space for scoring and rebounding. Even though this center is not a great athlete, he uses his basketball smarts and effort to be effective. Cougill also passes very well for his size. Devon Archie, a juco transfer, will give the Hawkeyes even more help in the paint. In the backcourt, 6-1 PG Cully Payne (Burlington, Ill./Schaumburg) and 6-5 SG Eric May (Dubuque, Iowa/Wahlert Catholic) play with incredible energy and great effort. Payne is a good leader who has range that extends well beyond the 3-point line, and he knows how to run a team. May uses his strength to wear down opponents and can hit jumpers with ease.
Michigan signees: four
The Wolverines will return virtually everyone of note to an NCAA tournament team, led by G DeShawn Sims and F Manny Harris. Darius Morris (Los Angeles/Windward School) gives Michigan a lead guard that can absolutely lock up opposing points by using his size, length and lateral quickness. The 6-4 point also has decent passing skills and vision. Matt Vogrich (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest), 6-4 SG, can knock down 3s with ease, shooting from well beyond the 3-point stripe. Blake McLimans (Hamburg, N.Y./Worchester Academy) will fit John Beilein's prototype as a tall (6-10) power forward that can shoot from the perimeter. 6-8 PF Jordan Morgan (Detroit/Detroit Jesuit) gives the Wolverines an inside presence who will throw his body around to score and rebound in the paint.
Michigan State commits: two
The Spartans lost three players in Goran Suton, Travis Walton and Marquise Gray that contributed mightily to their NCAA title game run this past season. But fortunately for the Spartans, they return Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas and a healthy Raymar Morgan. Michigan State will look to its recruiting class to help ease the loss in the paint. Both 2009 recruits rank as ESPNU 100 players and should help the Spartans. 6-9 C Derrick Nix (Detroit/Pershing) gives the Spartans a physical space-eater that uses his strength and big body in the paint to score and rebound. However, he has to continue to improve his conditioning. 6-10 C Garrick Sherman (Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) can score with ease by using his back-to-the-basket moves. He will also connect on jumpers free-throw line extended, if he plays in the high post.
Minnesota signees: four
With only two seniors on the roster last season, the Gophers continue to add talent to their already good team. Coach Tubby Smith has made it a priority to keep in-state talent at home, and he passed that test with flying colors thanks to this class, led by two ESPNU 100 players from the state and a juco transfer from the state. PF Royce White (Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins) has the versatility and athleticism to play as a combo-forward. He has enough strength to score in the paint and can connect on jumpers, though he needs to continue to work in that area. The other ESPNU 100 player, 6-6 SF Rodney Williams (New Hope, Minn./Robbinsdale Cooper), has elite athleticism and leaping ability, which makes him a terror in the open court. He also needs to work on his ball skills for play on the perimeter. Juco transfer and Minnesota native 6-8 PF Trevor Mbakwe gives the Gophers another rebounder and an athletic, physical threat in the paint. 6-1 PG Justin Cobbs (Torrance, Calif./Bishop Montgomery) has the athleticism and quickness to get into the paint at will. Cobbs needs to continue to improve his decision-making as a lead guard.
Northwestern commits: two
The Wildcats continue to add to the talent base in their program, which is fresh off a very successful season which culminated in an NIT berth. The Wildcats do a good job of getting players that fit their intricate offensive attack predicated on spacing, ball movement as well as player movement. With two of their top three scorers back, the Wildcats should have the basis for another successful season. SG Alex Marcotullio (Warren, Mich./De La Salle Collegiate) leads this recruiting class. He can flat-out stroke it from the perimeter, easily connecting on 3s with range that extends well beyond the 3-point line. His shooting makes him a great fit for the Northwestern offensive system. 6-5 SG Drew Crawford (Naperville, Ill./Naperville Central) has good size for the perimeter and will become even more of a scoring threat with improved ballhandling skills.
Ohio State signees: zero
The Buckeyes have a very young team and return practically every notable player with the exception of B.J. Mullens. However, Ohio State fans should not fret. Coach Thad Matta has an incredible collection of talent coming in 2010, headlined by 6-8 PF Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) the top player in the current ESPNU Super 60. With no recruits, we are giving this class an imcomplete grade.
Penn State signees: four
The Nittany Lions, fresh off an NIT postseason championship run, will look to their recruits to help replace a huge scoring void left by the departure of two of their top three scorers, Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle. Penn State will rely on 6-5 SF Jermaine Marshall (Lewisberry, Pa./Red Land) to provide scoring punch from the perimeter. He can easily get to the paint using his quickness as well as his nice midrange pull-up jumper. 6-2 PG Tim Frazier (Houston/Strake Jesuit College Prep) has very good quickness and can get to the rim almost at will. He has excellent vision and passing skills. The Nittany Lions also are bringing in 6-9 PF Sasa Borovnjak (Fletcher, N.C./Veritas Christian Academy) and 6-6 SF Bill Edwards (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown). Borovnjak can play in the post using his good back-to-the-basket game or step away and hit the 15-foot jumper. Edwards has a very mature offensive game and he looks to involve others, post up smaller defenders or get to the paint off the dribble.
Purdue signees: five
With only one senior that made measurable on-court contributions departing from the team, Purdue will have a very dangerous squad led by Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore. With this much returning talent, the Boilermakers will look to their very good recruits to contribute to, but not carry, the program. Purdue adds depth with 6-5 SG D.J. Byrd (Crawfordsville, Ind./North Montgomery), who will use his shooting prowess to stretch defenses and can play off Moore for chances to stroke the jumper. His high level of effort and toughness will also endear him to coach Matt Painter very soon. 6-10 C Sandi Marcius (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere) has a tremendous amount of athleticism to complement his size. He also has a very good amount of room for development and does a great job of scoring in the paint. 6-9 PF Jeff Robinson (Indianapolis/Lawrence North) can take drop-off passes and finish above the rim, but he has to remain actively engaged in games. He also has to continue to add strength and keep playing hard in games. 6-5 SF Kelsey Barlow (Indianapolis/Cathedral) has very good athleticism and quickness, which allows him to get to the rim with ease as well as to defend very well. 6-8 PF Patrick Bade (Indianapolis/Franklin Central) has the ability to score in the paint with jump hooks using his right or left hand. He can also connect on jumpers from the perimeter, giving him very good versatility that the Boilers can use on the front line.
Wisconsin signees: two
The Badgers do a very god job of getting players that fit their basketball philosophy. 6-7 Mike Bruesewitz (Mendota Heights, Minn./Henry Sibley) plays a tough, physical brand of hoops, which makes him a great fit for Wisconsin. He has excellent passing skills and can hit midrange jumpers resulting from pick-and-pop plays. SG Diamond Taylor (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) has the ability to play both guard spots and uses his midrange pull-up jumper to score. He also has enough quickness to get to the rim and plays very good pressure defense.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.