The few D-1 college basketball programs in states such Wyoming, the Dakotas or Montana have to make friends with their travel agents and step outside the boundaries of their respective home turf to recruit. In that regard, Wyoming and South Dakota both netted verbal commitments from recruits who will be travelling north from Colorado as 2013 recruiting class verbal commitments.
Wyoming landed a pledge from 6-8 forward Alan Herndon of Widefield (Colo.), and fellow 6-8 forward Austin Sparks of Fairview (Colo.) made his call for South Dakota. In both cases, the schools where Herndon and Sparks have landed are burgeoning pipelines from Colorado, as Sparks will join a fellow Colorado player in Terrell Brown on the roster at South Dakota, and three players from south of Wyoming’s border line their roster.
There are a dearth of true D-1 talents in states like Wyoming and South Dakota, and they have to produce a clear recruiting strategy to fill in the gaps. Both Sparks and Herndon are athletic but relatively undeveloped at this point. A redshirt could be in either player’s future, but they each possess a skill set that is easier to find in a more populated state.
There is no shortage of success stories from smaller or lesser-known mid-major and below programs lately, and those with the most winning track records appear to have clear strategies on the recruiting trail. It is no doubt an uphill battle programs from states with small populations, but creative thinking and strategy can help overcome the inherent difficulties.
Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.
The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.
According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.
And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.
It was profitable, too.
Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.
Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.
Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.
That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.
Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.
Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.
The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.
Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.
This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.
Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.
The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.
With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.