Looking Back: The 2000 Recruiting Class

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Next week, the first session of July’s live recruiting period will begin, and high school hoopers around the country will take their talents to tournaments across the country, looking to impress coaches enough to earn a spot on a team at some level.

Those that are good enough will be playing for a scholarship. The best of the best will have a spot in all of the top 100 recruiting rankings on the line.

Over the course of this week, we will be looking back at the RSCI — a composite index for top 100 lists — to reinforce a point: recruiting rankings are not a guarantee. Top ten recruits flame out and unranked players make the NBA. The only thing that is a given is that hard work will be talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Keep that in mind while tracking where a kid is ranked and who is recruiting him.

We’ll be looking at the Class of 1999-2008, the last 10 classes that have finished the five years they are allowed to use their four seasons of eligibility.

To read through the rest of our Looking Back posts, click here.

The Top 20 

1. Zach Randolph: The Marion, Ind. native played just one season at Michigan State, averaging 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest on a team that reached the Final Four. From there it was off to the NBA, where “Z-Bo” made stops in Portland, New York and Los Angeles (Clippers) before finding a home in Memphis. For his career, Randolph is averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

2. Eddie Griffin: Like Randolph, the Philadelphia native spent just once season in college before moving to the next level. In his one season at Seton Hall Griffin averaged 17.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, winning Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Griffin was picked seventh overall by Minnesota in the 2001 NBA Draft, but sadly he struggled in regards to pairing his skills with the maturity needed to prosper. Griffin died in 2007 when his car collided with a freight train in Houston.

3. Darius Miles: Miles was the highest rated player in the 2000 class to go straight to the NBA, where he was picked by the Clippers in the first round. Miles’ pro career was (despite a few flashes) for the most part nondescript, as he averaged 10.1 points per game. Miles also held roles in two movies, “Perfect Score” and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.”

4. Gerald Wallace: Wallace averaged 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in his lone season at Alabama, and he’s put together a solid NBA career that’s still ongoing (he was part of the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn). Wallace is averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 12 seasons as a pro, playing for five different franchises.

5. Marcus Taylor: The Lansing native arrived at Michigan State with a great amount of fanfare, and as a sophomore he averaged 16.8 points and 5.3 assists per game. Taylor would then leave school for the NBA (second round pick of the Timberwolves in 2002), and he spent seven seasons playing in various leagues around the world.

6. DeShawn Stevenson: Like Miles, Stevenson went straight from high school to the NBA. Unlike Miles, Stevenson is still in the NBA. Through 13 seasons the Fresno native has averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, playing for six different teams (winning a title with the Mavericks in 2011).

7. Chris Duhon: As a freshman at Duke, Duhon proved to be a valuable player for a team that won the national title. Duhon is one of two members of the Class of 2000 Top 10 to spend four years in college, and he averaged 8.8 points and 5.7 assists per game as a Blue Devil. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2004 (second round), Duhon has played for four different franchises as a pro and was recently waived by the Lakers.

8. Mario Austin: Austin played three seasons at Mississippi State, averaging 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest for the Bulldogs. Like Duhon, Austin was a second round pick of the Bulls (in 2003) but he never played a minute in the NBA. He spent this past season playing for Al Kuwait SC in Kuwait.

9. Jared Jeffries: The Bloomington (Ind.) North product stayed home to play college basketball, playing two seasons at Indiana and helping to lead the Hoosiers to the 2002 national title game. Picked 11th overall by the Wizards in the 2002 NBA Draft, Jeffries has played 11 seasons in the NBA for four different teams (two stints with the Knicks).

10. Taliek Brown: Taliek joins Chris Duhon as the lone members of the Top 10 to spend four seasons in college, and like Duhon the point guard won a national title (2004). After running the show at UConn and becoming the school’s all-time leader in assists, Brown (7.8 ppg, 5.4 apg) went undrafted and most recently played for the Moncton Miracle of the National Basketball League (Canada). Brown took classes at UConn during the spring semester, as he’s working to complete his undergraduate studies.

11. Andre Brown: The Chicago native played four years at DePaul, averaging 10.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a Blue Demon. Brown’s professional career has featured many stops, with his most recent action coming with the Jeonju KCC Egis of the Korean Basketball League (10.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

12. Omar Cook: Along with Taliek Brown and Andre Barrett, Cook made up the triumvirate of NYC point guards who were expected to place their names alongside the likes of Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith. Cook left school after just one season (15.3 ppg, 8.7 apg), and was selected in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft by Orlando. He has since played in multiple leagues across the world, most recently playing for Caja Laboral in the Spanish League.

13. Jerome Harper: Harper’s issues off the court proved to be problematic, as his scholarship offer to Cincinnati was rescinded when the 6-5 guard was arrested on the day he was named a McDonald’s All-American. After two years at Indian Hills CC, Harper signed with Iowa State but was ineligible to play. In 2008 Harper had to turn himself in to Columbia, S.C. law enforcement to face charges regarding a murder committed in 1999. Harper most recently ran afoul of the law in March, when he was charged with attempted murder.

14. Alton Ford: Ford played one season at Houston, where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. Selected in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft by the Suns, Ford played three seasons in the NBA before playing overseas and most recently (2011) in the D-League.

15. Andre Barrett: Barrett (15.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) may not have been drafted after playing four seasons at Seton Hall, but he left the school as one of the greatest point guards in school history. Despite being undrafted Barrett fought his way into the NBA, ultimately playing for five different teams from 2004-07 and for the L.A. Clippers in 2008. Barrett most recently played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League.

16. Darius Rice: The nephew of Jerry Rice put together a solid four-year career at Miami, where he averaged 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a Hurricane. His best performance: dropping 43 on UConn as a junior in a stunning comeback victory. Rice went undrafted in 2004, and has since played in a number of countries with the hope of one day landing in the NBA. He most recently played for the Texas Legends of the D-League.

17. Abdou Diame: Diame went from Oak Hill Academy to Auburn, where he played two seasons before finishing up at Jacksonville State (career averages: 5.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Diame, a native of Senegal, is currently a member of Steve Smith’s coaching staff at Oak Hill.

18. Imari Sawyer: Sawyer joined fellow Chicago native Andre Brown at DePaul, with the 6-2 guard averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 assists per game in two seasons. Suspensions and off-court issues cut his college career short, and one of the best prep guards to come out of the Windy City never lived up to the praise he received in high school.

19. Cedrick Banks: The 6-3 guard from Chicago ended up playing four years at UIC, where he averaged 17.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Banks wasn’t drafted out of UIC, and he most recently played for Liège Basket in Belgium.

20. Rolando Howell: Howell played four seasons at South Carolina, averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a Gamecock. Howell played for the Dacin Tigers in Taiwan this past season, posting averages of 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS 

  • 23. Chris Wilcox
  • 32. Rickey Paulding
  • 34. Mike Sweetney
  • 47. Caron Butler
  • 53. Romain Sato
  • 56. A.J. Moye
  • 63. Kyle Cuffe
  • 69. Luke Ridnour
  • 85. Scott Merritt
  • 98. Marcus Melvin
  • UR: Gerald Fitch
  • UR: Jameer Nelson
  • UR: Dwyane Wade

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Four-star forward commits to Ohio State

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Ohio State is on the board with regards to the 2018 recruiting class, as Chris Holtmann’s program received a much-needed verbal commitment from four-star forward Jaedon LeDee. The 6-foot-9 Houston native announced his decision via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

In receiving a verbal commitment from LeDee, Ohio State beat out California, Houston, Iowa State, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA. The Buckeyes hosted LeDee for his official visit the weekend of September 9, which coincided with the football team’s matchup with Oklahoma. Originally scheduled to visit Cal this past weekend, LeDee instead visited Texas A&M.

With LeDee’s commitment to Ohio State, visits to LSU (September 30) and UCLA (October 6) are likely off the board.

Currently attending the Kincaid School, LeDee played for the Texas PRO grassroots program on the adidas Uprising circuit this summer. The four-star prospect will likely be a combo forward for Ohio State, playing either the three or the four depending on the matchup.

With Jae’Sean Tate beginning his senior season and Keita Bates-Diop being a redshirt junior, Ohio State had a need to address in the front court. In landing a verbal pledge from Jaedon LeDee, the Buckeyes have done just that.

Among the front court players who will have eligibility remaining beyond the 2017-18 season are Bates-Diop, current sophomores Micah Potter and Andre Wesson, and freshmen Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young.

The Pac-12 is foolish for scheduling Arizona-UCLA once during the regular season

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Last month, I wrote about one of the more troubling trends in college basketball: Teams steering away from playing the games that fans are going to care about the most.

It was the result of Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing stating publicly that he was “not thinking about Maryland” after the rivalry between the DMV’s two most well-known programs went by the wayside.

Ewing isn’t the only coach that is culpable here. Kansas and Missouri don’t play. Kansas and Wichita State don’t play, either. Duke and Maryland don’t play. Ohio State doesn’t play Cincinnati, Xavier or Dayton. It goes on and on.

But the blame can no longer only be given to the coaches that schedule to protect themselves and/or their program.

The conferences deserve some criticism as well. Take, for instance, the Pac-12, who released their schedule recently after deciding that Arizona, a contender for the preseason No. 1 team in the country, should only play UCLA and USC, the only two teams that have a realistic chance of upending the Wildcats for the Pac-12 crown, once apiece.

Not only that, but the games will be played in Tucson, an incredible advantage for Sean Miller’s club as they pursue the league’s regular season title.

Look, I get it. There are 12 teams in the league and there is an 18-game schedule. Each team in the league is going to play four of their 11 league foes just once. It’s simple math. But the answer should never, ever be to schedule the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once.

The reasoning is simple: Arizona and UCLA are the two biggest brands in the league. When they play it will draw more interest than when any other two teams in the conference play, and that’s something the conference should be trying to capitalize on. It takes a lot to convince anyone on the east coast to stay up to watch a Pac-12 basketball game. I cover this sport for a living and I have a hard time making it all the way through a 10 p.m. ET tip. When a two-year old is going to be screaming at me to make breakfast at 6:30 a.m., do I really want to stay up to watch Arizona blow out Washington or UCLA to beat up on Cal?

The Pac-12 should do everything they can to ensure that Arizona and UCLA play twice every season.

That is even more true this year. Arizona might be the best team in the country and they might have the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster in Deandre Ayton. UCLA is a top 15 team that just so happens to have Liangelo Ball, the worst of the three Ball brothers and potentially the last one to matriculate through the college ranks. The seemingly inevitable LaVar Ball blow-up is something we all will be watching patiently to see.

Should I mention the simmering hatred between Sean Miller and Steve Alford as they continually compete for the best prospects on the west coast?

And that’s before you factor in that USC is the second-best team in the league, and anyone that UCLA plays twice, USC will also play twice.

I’ll be sure to watch a number of Oregon games this season, and I think that Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado all have the pieces to sneak up on some people this year. I’ll be sure to check in on them a couple times as well.

But the games that I’ll have circled on my calendar, the games I’ll be excited about watching, are between Arizona, UCLA and USC.

By scheduling the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools just once during the regular season, the Pac-12 cost themselves a third of that inventory.

That doesn’t seems like the smartest way to run a business conference.

But hey, if conference realignment and the development of conference-only networks taught us anything, it’s that major college athletics are all about competitive balance over those advertising dollars.

Vanderbilt lands commitment from Aaron Nesmith

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Vanderbilt landed their first commitment in the Class of 2018 with four-star wing Aaron Nesmith.

Nesmith is a native of South Carolina, and the Commodores beat out South Carolina for his services. At 6-foot-6, Nesmith is the kind of defensive presence and athlete that Vandy will need to replace Jeff Roberson, who will be graduating this season.

This is a critical class for Bryce Drew, who is squarely in the mix for five-star guards Darius Garland and Romeo Langford. Nesmith isn’t on that level, but he will be a nice piece for Vandy for four years.

Svi Mykhailiuk drops 20 pounds, makes weird Kansas roster even weirder

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Kansas is a weird team this season.

They’re talented, they’re probably going to win the Big 12 again and I fully expect them to be in the national title picture come March, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re … weird.

25 percent of their scholarship players are transfers sitting out the year. That doesn’t include Sam Cunliffe, who won’t be eligible until December. So that’s unusual, as is the fact that Bill Self, a coach that had steadfastly remained dedicated to playing two big men together despite the gradual shift to small-ball, has three big men on his roster in total.

One of those three is Mitch Lightfoot, which means that there are just two big men on the roster that a potential Final Four team should feel comfortable having as a major part of their rotation. That would be sophomore Udoka Azubuike and freshman Billy Preston.

That makes it seem pretty clear that the Jayhawks will be going with another small-ball look, just as they did last season, right? But they don’t really have a piece to replace Josh Jackson, who was a perfect fit as a college four in a small-ball lineup. He was a natural wing that was athletic enough to block shots and tough enough to battle bigs on the glass.

So who plays that role this season?

Some thought it could be Svi Mykhailiuk, the 20-year old Ukranian senior, but he’s never really been that guy. Oh, and he just so happened to lose 20 pounds this offseason.

“I’m trying to stay light-weight this year, so it’s going to help me a lot,” Mykhailiuk told the Kansas City Star. “I feel like I’m faster with the light weight. I’m more athletic. It just helps me overall in the game.”

Which means … what, exactly?

Losing 20 pounds isn’t exactly going to help a player that has some question marks about his toughness and physicality battle with college fours in the paint. Does it mean he’ll be playing more on the wing? If so, who plays at the four? Will LaGerald Vick — all six feet, five inches and 175 pounds — be playing in the Josh Jackson role?

Or is Self going to use Preston as his new Perry Ellis, hoping that this five-star freshman becomes what his last five-star four-man — Carlton Bragg — never could?

My guess is that it will likely end up being all of the above, depending on matchups.

But it doesn’t make the Jayhawks’ weird roster any clearer.

Four-star forward commits to Wake Forest

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Danny Manning added another four-star recruit to his 2018 recruiting class.

Isaiah Mucius, a 6-foot-7 forward, committed to Wake Forest on Monday evening, giving the Demon Deacons another top-rated prospect alongside top-25 prospect Jaylen Hoard in 2018.

“I’d like to thank my family and my friends for having my back throughout all the tough times and good times,” Mucius said in a social media post. “I’d like to thank all the college coaches that recruited me through this process and believed in me and my talents.

“I’ll be attending Wake Forest University.”

Mucius, a consensus top-100 recruit, visited Wake Forest, which he visited this past weekend, over Xavier, which he visited earlier this month. The Brewster Academy product also had offers from the likes of Connecticut, Minnesota and LSU, among others.

Manning’s 2018 class now includes Mucius, three-star guard Sharone White and Hoard, a 6-foot-8 four-star forward who committed to the Demon Deacons last month.

“I am trying to win an NCAA Championship,” Mucius told Scout.com, “and I think having Jaylen (Hoard) on the wing with me, and we are trying to help get a point guard, and I think we can win a championship.”