Thursday, November 18, 2010
St. John's big class tops Big East
By Dave Telep
Here's a team-by-team breakdown of the Big East's 2011 recruiting classes after the early signing period.
Attrition hits the Red Storm like a tidal wave following the season, as coach Steve Lavin loses nine seniors. The heavy losses demand a retooling of the roster, and with eight signees, including six in the ESPNU 100, mission accomplished. Lavin's group is so deep and talented that he's signed four ESPNU 100 small forwards alone. The Red Storm have firepower in D'Angelo Harrison (Missouri City, Texas/Dulles), athleticism with Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/SVSM) and swagger in Maurice Harkless (South Kent, Conn./South Kent). Mix in late-blooming Andre Iguodala-clone Dom Pointer (Winston Salem, N.C./Quality Education), and this group is built for transition and the running game.
It's no secret the Cardinals didn't have the perfect offseason. On top of their off-the-court turmoils, their in-state rivals in Lexington turned up the heat by signing the nation's best class. For those reasons, we applaud Louisville's recruiting effort, because this class addressed needs and silenced Rick Pitino's second guessers. Wayne Blackshear (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park) and Chane Behanan (Bowling Green, Ky./Bowling Green) are the big prizes. Mix in crafty lefty center Zach Price (Jeffersontown, Ky./Jeffersontown), and you've got five signees, three in the ESPNU 100.
This is one of the healthiest programs in America, and its recruiting lends credence to the claim. Syracuse seems to have little trouble attracting quality big men these days, as Rakeem Christmas (Philadelphia, Pa./Academy of New Church) enlists to share the paint with freshman Fab Melo. Michael Carter-Williams (Barrington, R.I./St. Andrews) and Trevor Cooney (Hockessin, Del./Sanford School) make it quite the trio for Jim Boeheim. Mike Krzyzewski isn't the only coach feeling energized after sitting on the Team USA bench since 2008.
If Mike Rice were a candidate for political office, this would be a good time to jump on his bandwagon. Like Lavin, he had a chance to sell playing time. Unlike Lavin, he did most of his damage from the geographical area of his campus. For years, Scarlet Knights fans yearned for a recruiting class representative of the area, and Rice delivered. Forget the rankings -- PF Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y./CJEOTO Academy) and PG Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J./St. Anthony) are consensus ESPNU 100 talents. The single most important aspect of this class is that it answered just about every question posed to Rice the day he got the job, including the most important one: Will in-state talent stay home?
The Hoyas made two statements with this three-man class. John Thompson III added beef up front and toughness on the perimeter. It's no secret the Class of 2011 lacks size, but the Hoyas scored shot-blocker Mikael Hopkins (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) and space-eater Tyler Adams (Brandon, Miss./Brandon). The underrated recruit of the trio is Jabril Trawick (Philadelphia, Pa./Abington Friends). If we're correct about Trawick, he'll be a rugged wing who won't back down in the rough and tumble Big East.
Mick Cronin went on the record calling this the best group he's signed early during his tenure at Cincinnati. The primary reason for his excitement are the backcourt additions. Shaquille Thomas (Montclair, N.J./Nia Prep), the cousin of Tim Thomas, is an adept slasher. The last time Cronin went into Rice High School in New York, he snagged Kenny Satterfield. While Jermaine Sanders is no Satterfield, he is a guy who can score. Cronin also beat the buzzer with Jeremiah Davis (Huntington, W.Va./Huntington Prep) and plucked a tough guy who is an Indiana native.
What's a Villanova recruiting class without a point guard? Tyrone Johnson (Rockville, Md./Montrose Christian) made his bones at last year's NBPA Camp and was Jay Wright's top choice of lead guards inside Villanova's geographical recruiting comfort zone. Johnson has the tools to be both a scorer and defender for Wright. However, this class hinges on the play of center Markus Kennedy (Philadelphia, Pa./Brewster Academy).
The final entry from the Big East to sneak into ESPN's Top 25 classes did so on the strength of its primary backcourt addition: Jabarie Hinds (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon). The rest of the class is diverse, and there's even a sleeper. Can Pat Forsythe (Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick Senior) sneak up and be the surprise of the league in terms of big men additions? Stay tuned.
There is only one important question to ask of any Pittsburgh recruiting class: Are the guys tough enough to play for Jamie Dixon and keep the tradition of overachieving alive? With this group, once again the answer is yes. Combo forward Jaylen Bond (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth Whitemarsh) is explosive. Guard John Johnson (Burlington, N.J./Life Center) plays with a chip on his shoulder and is wired exactly the way Dixon prefers his guards. Durrand Johnson (Wolfeboro, N.H./Brewster) thinks big and scores the same way.
Much like Rice and Lavin, Oliver Purnell needed to lay the groundwork in his area. The new coach enlisted a pair of a Chicago-area recruits in small forward Jamie Crockett (Crete, Ill./Crete Monee) and guard Macari Brooks (University Park, Ill./Rich South). The two best players in the class should be Shane Larkin (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips), the son of Cincinnati Reds great Barry Larkin, and Braeden Anderson (Calgary, Canada/Wilbraham & Monson).
Buzz Williams went east for a point guard and west for a small forward. Derrick Wilson (Anchorage, Ark./Hotchkiss School) is cut from the Truck Bryant school of point guards. Forward Juan Anderson (Castro Valley, Calif./Castro Valley) is a slender athlete with plenty of upside and an innate ability to share the basketball.
Mike Brey didn't have a lot of scholarships to work with, and in the end, he found an Irish Catholic wing who could throw a baseball 90 mph and gave him a basketball scholarship. Pat Connaughton (Arlington, Mass./St. John's Prep) snuck into the ESPNU 100 on the strength of a strong closing month of the summer.
The difference in grade between the Irish and the Huskies, despite each signing one player, is intent. UConn beat the bushes and got involved in a number of high-profile recruiting battles only to come up short. Jim Calhoun coveted many of the best guards in the country but Huskies didn't close. We expect them to be ready to pounce on available players this spring and anyone who evolves as a late-blooming senior.
Keno Davis' squad reached into Texas for Kyan Anderson (Crowley, Texas/North Crowley), a point guard who trades size for intangibles. Markus Crider (Wayne, Ohio/Wayne) gives the Friars another small forward option.
The Pirates added depth to their backcourt in the form of Aaron Cosby (Northfield, Mass./Mount Hermon) and Freddie Wilson (New Haven, Conn./Hillhouse). The mystery man of the class is Haralds Karlis, a 6-5 wing out of Latvia whom we've yet to see.
Stan Heath has the biggest incoming frontcourt in the Big East. In Jordan Omogbehin (Cheasapeake, Va./Shores Christian) and Andre Jackson (Baytown, Texas/Lee JC), the coach signed nearly 600 pounds worth of center prospects. Jackson is the smaller of the pair at 6-10, and Omogbehin is 7-2.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.