Patterson, Lucas top unsigned '07 prospects

The early signing period for men's college basketball is over, and the results are in: Only eight ESPN 150 prospects in the Class of 2007 remain unsigned. With 95 percent of the top high school players making an early decision, what's left for the late signing period in the spring?

The top two unsigned players are 6-foot-8 power forward Patrick Patterson (Huntington, W.Va.), No. 13 in the ESPN 150, and 5-10 point guard Jai Lucas (Bellaire, Texas), No. 19. These two players made a number of official visits in the fall but did not feel comfortable making an early decision.

After them, 6-11 center Anthony McClain, No. 51, is being heavily recruited but did not make an early decision, and 6-4 guard Quinton Watkins (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), No. 117, is available after de-committing from a verbal commitment to USC.

We thought for a long time there were going to be two players in our top 15 from the same high school that would be unsigned, but several weeks ago O.J. Mayo, who also plays at Huntington, signed with USC, leaving teammate Patterson to go through his senior season alone without a future school.

Patterson has visited Kentucky, Florida, Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest officially. Many thought Patterson would make an early decision, but he has decided to hold off any commitments. Patterson is coveted by the schools he has visited because he is a throwback player and a great kid. He plays hard, is physical, can defend and rebound and is an aggressive post player.

Jai Lucas is the son of John Lucas, and he also made his recruiting trips in the fall. He visited Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Lucas would be a great get for any of the above schools because of his talent, pedigree and tremendous leadership skills. Not only is his dad a former NBA player and a coach who has been involved in skill development with his son for many years, but his brother John was on the Final Four team at Oklahoma State. Jai Lucas has a pure point-guard mentality. He knows how to run a team, get everyone involved and is a winner. Whatever coach lands this young man is going to get an excellent basketball player.

McClain, who might have some academic issues to resolve before he can sign, has Georgetown, Tennessee, Wake Forest, UConn, Florida and Rutgers in hot pursuit. This high-major prospect has good overall skills. He can run, rebound and is a very good shot-blocker. In addition, he has a low-post game with a soft touch around the rim.

Watkins, a west-coast kid who had originally committed to Tim Floyd and USC, has recently de-committed with the signing of other players to that school. Watkins is a much-improved player who now can stroke the 3-point shot and is explosive to the rim. Now that Watkins is available in the spring, his recruiting will explode, because he is one of the top wing players available for those programs that did not get what they needed.

With most of the ESPN 150 players committed, and Patterson, Lucas and McClain the only players available among the top 60 seniors, college coaches will be working hard over the winter to secure one the remaining gems. If you see Patterson, Lucas or McClain play this year in high school, look up in the stands and you may see Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Billy Donovan (Florida), Tubby Smith (Kentucky), Skip Prosser (Wake Forest), Gary Williams (Maryland), John Thompson III (Georgetown), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) or John Beilein (West Virginia) on any given night. Each coach knows how special those three kids are and how much of an impact they could make on their programs.

Bob Gibbons contributed to this story.

John Carroll spent nine years as an NBA coach, including seven with the Boston Celtics. Before joining the NBA, Carroll spent six years as head coach at Duquesne and seven years as an assistant at Seton Hall.