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.

Vanderbilt lands five-star forward Simi Shittu

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Vanderbilt continues to build a monster recruiting class under head coach Bryce Drew as five-star 2018 forward Simi Shittu pledged to the Commodores on Wednesday.

The second five-star commitment for Vanderbilt in the Class of 2018, Shittu joins top point guard prospect Darius Garland to form one of the best freshman combinations in the country for next season. The Commodores also have a top-150 forward in Aaron Nesmith.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Shittu is coming off of a monster summer in which he became a major problem and top-ten recruit. The No. 8 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, Shittu is a huge get and an instant starter for Vanderbilt next season.

By landing prospects like Garland and Shittu, Drew is also becoming a major player in a short amount of time as a high-major coach. Always a noted recruiter at the mid-major level at Valparaiso, now Vanderbilt is seeing Drew’s hiring workout as he’s bringing top talent to the program.

If Drew can continue to recruit like this then Vanderbilt could be in position to be in the top half of the SEC as the league has seen some of its rebuilds go poorly over the last few years.

Kansas still without freshman Billy Preston

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Kansas freshman Billy Preston has yet to make his debut for the Jayhawks and it appears he’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.

Head coach Bill Self met with media earlier this week to discuss the Preston situation, saying that nothing has changed about his status quite yet. Preston was previously suspended for violating a team rule when he missed the game against Tennessee State. Before Preston was set to debut against Kentucky in the Champions Classic he was also withheld from the contest after the revelation that Preston had been in a single-vehicle accident the previous weekend.

“I have actually been out, until I just pulled back in, so as of this morning, there was no movement. The last time you guys asked me was Friday and so you don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, so there is nothing new on that situation,” Self said.

“Sure, I’m worried,” Self also added. “I’m concerned and I do think that it can work itself, based on what I’ve been told. I also think that it obviously hadn’t happened yet.”

It’s uncertain when the next step in any of this will play out but Self doesn’t appear to be too concerned over it. Kansas has won without Preston so far but they could definitely use his size, scoring punch and overall depth to a team that isn’t very deep right now.

A matchup nightmare, Preston could help the Jayhawk offense while also giving Udoka Azubuike additional help on the glass and protecting the rim.

(H/t: Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star)

Brian Bowen not allowed to play at Louisville

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Louisville announced on Wednesday that freshman wing Brian Bowen will not be allowed to play at the school. The former McDonald’s All-American will be allowed to remain on scholarship but he can’t participate in any team activities.

Bowen was tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an adidas company executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents.

Bowen hired attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case and seek reinstatement as Setchen had experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami.

With this case, Bowen was not allowed back at Louisville as the school has fired head coach Rick Pitino and most of his previous staff. Athletic Director Tom Jurich also lost his job, so the Cardinals are definitely cleaning house and trying to detach themselves from anyone involved.

It will be interesting to see what Bowen opts to do in light of this news. He’s talented enough that other schools could want him, if he’s eligible, but he’s also a former five-star prospect who could have pro aspirations. But since Bowen won’t be playing this season, he also hasn’t had a chance to spotlight his game to potential pro suitors.

 

President Trump fires back at LaVar Ball on Twitter

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The never-ending war of words between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball escalated to another level on Wednesday morning.

Starting his early-morning tweets with some messages aimed at Ball, President Trump continued to double down on his insistence that he helped play a role in the safe return of three UCLA players arrested in China for shoplifting. LiAngelo Ball, LaVar’s middle son, was one of the three players involved in the international incident as fellow Bruins Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were also arrested. The trio returned to the United States last week after UCLA left China without them following a win over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

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LaVar has drawn the ire of President Trump for downplaying the President’s role in the return of the UCLA trio as Ball maintains that others had more to do with the release. All three UCLA players publicly thanked President Trump and the United States government during their return press conference on Nov. 15. The three players remain suspended indefinitely from all activities with the men’s basketball team.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, LaVar was critical of Trump’s role in the whole ordeal while also questioning why the President would spend so much time bothering for a thank you from the father of one of those arrested.

No. 22 Baylor comes from 12 down to beat Creighton

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It was another rough night for the Scott Drew Can’t Coach crowd.

No. 22 Baylor got 15 points apiece from Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston and closed the game on a 37-19 run as they knocked off Creighton, 65-59, in the title game of the Hall Of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

King McClure led the way for the Bears with 19 points, picking up the pieces for Manu Lecomte, who struggled to deal with the defense of Khyri Thomas.

Creighton jumped out to a 33-24 lead at the break and extended it to 40-28 with 18 minutes left in the game, but that’s when Baylor turned the game around. A couple of tweaks to the way that they played their zone coupled with the Bluejays missing some shots that they were capable of making led to the comeback. Instead of simply writing another ‘See, I told you Scott Drew can coach’ column, I figured it would make more sense to show exactly what I mean when I say that.

Creighton had a smart, simple game-plan offensively on Tuesday night. Get the ball into the paint, whether it was via dribble penetration or finding one of their big guys near the foul line or at the short corner, and then find a shooter on the perimeter, a cutter going to the rim or, simply, score from 8-10 feet out. That’s the best way to beat a zone, especially a zone that has the amount of length and athleticism that Baylor’s does. Notice in the clip below how extended Baylor’s guards are and, as a result, the space it creates:

Once Baylor got down by 12, their game-plan changed. Instead of extending, their defense became more compact. What is usually something of a 1-1-3 zone turned into more of a 2-3, with the focus seemingly being cutting off penetration. Baylor dared Creighton to let Ronnie Harrell be the guy that beat them, and it worked. The result was that the open threes dried up, and the jumpers that Creighton shot in down the stretch were much more contested than the looks they were getting earlier in the game:

That’s coaching right there.

Game-planning is a part of coaching. Player development is, too, as is recruiting. But making in-game adjustments like that, figuring out how a team is beating you, devising a way to stop them from doing that and getting your players to execute those adjustments is arguably the most important part of being a coach.

Here’s another example of what I mean.

Khyri Thomas might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball, and I don’t say that lightly. He essentially eliminated Manu Lecomte from the game. He is to point guards what Darrelle Revis was to No. 1 receivers. Whoever he is guarding is on Khyri Island.

Lecomte is typically Baylor’s closer, but Drew ran actions that allowed Lecomte to be a facilitator and a decoy, taking Khyri out of the play and taking advantage of matchups he thought his guys could win. That involved running a double-high ball-screen, which confused Harrell and Martin Krampelj defensively a couple of times, and resulted in a high-low action between Maston and Lual-Acuil on a number of possessions down the stretch.

But then there was also this set he drew up, using McClure as the ball-handler in that double-high ball-screen and while putting Lecomte in the same side corner. McClure refused the ball-screen, drove straight at the gap where Thomas was not going to help off Lecomte and got a bucket out of it:

That’s coaching!

And I’m not trying to say McDermott got out-coached here. His game-plan worked. Drew’s adjustment turned out to be just a bit better.

But Creighton also has players that can make the tough shots that they were forced into in the second half. If two more of them go down – if the Bluejays shoot 37.5 percent from the floor instead of 34.4 percent, if they go 7-for-30 from three instead of 5-for-30 – then they probably win this game.

Sometimes that’s how basketball works.

It’s why you always hear coaches refer to it as a ‘make or miss game’.

The larger takeaway from this game should be this: Both Baylor and Creighton are good teams. Both landed good non-conference wins during this event. Both are likely headed to the NCAA tournament.

And both took part in a fun, tactical battle between head coaches on Tuesday night that one of them had to lose.