Same ol’, same ol’ on the recruiting trail for John Calipari, even with a national title in tow. You know the drill: land the player everyone in the game would give their left… eye for, then mess around and drop in a few other blue-chip dudes to carry his water. Ho-hum, yawn, back to bed.
Once Nerlens Noel gave his verbal notice of intent to join the Wildcats next season, much of the pressure was off for Coach Cal. He can probably find another 17-year-old hoop genius, give him a come-hither look, and finish off that No. 1 recruiting class ranking the easy way. Or, he could do something a little different, and add some age and experience through the transfer ranks. John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader has a few thoughts on which players might be in the running for that final, coveted slot on the defending national championship squad:
Julius Mays: A 6-foot-2 guard from Marion, Ind., Mays is transferring after averaging 14 points last year at Wright State. He played two years previously at North Carolina State. He is graduating, so is eligible to play immediately.
Montrezl Harrell: The 6-foot-7 forward from Hargrave Military Academy was a top-100 recruit when he signed with Virginia Tech and Harrell has asked for his release.
Tony Trocha: The 6-10 forward from Colombia, who played at a Houston prep school, is reportedly attempting to reclassify and join the Class of 2012.
Torian Graham: The 6-4 guard from Raleigh, N.C., bounced around at four different high schools before landing at Christian Faith. He may attend prep school, pushing him back to a Class of 2013 recruit.
Amile Jefferson: For a while, there was a report each week the 6-foot-7 forward from Philadelphia was ready to announce his decision. It still hasn’t come.
You’ll notice that there’s little rhyme or reason to this list in terms of size, position, etc. With N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow eligible to run the point this season, Cal has a talented and self-assured floor general ready to guide the team. Calipari can probably grab any one of these players he wishes and find a way to make him fit into the offense, with that one major piece in place.
Jefferson is the player keeping everyone in suspense, and Calipari can afford to wait until that domino falls before he has to do anything else. Jefferson has said that he will announce his decision on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.