Looking Back: The 2007 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. OJ Mayo: After a somewhat curious recruitment and an infamous one-year stint at USC that helped drive that program into the ground and banish Tim Floyd to UTEP, Mayo went pro and was the third pick in the 2008 draft. He hasn’t quite lived up to the almost-unfair hype he had as a high-schooler, but Mayo has proven to be a solid pro, averaging 16.4 points in his five-year career.

2. Kevin Love: Love spurned his hometown Oregon program to go play for UCLA, leaving school after one season to enter the NBA Draft. He went fifth in 2008, and has become arguably the best power forward in the NBA. He’s a two-time all-star that has led the league in rebounding and won a three-point contest at the all-star game. He was injured for much of last season, but averaged 26.0 points in 2011-2012 and 15.2 boards in 2010-2011.

3. Eric Gordon: Gordon, like Mayo, had an interesting recruitment, as he backed off of a commitment to Illinois to attend in-state Indiana. He was off to a terrific start with the Hoosiers as a freshman, but Kelvin Sampson’s issues reared their ugly head and ruined the season. Gordon went pro and was the seventh pick in 2008. He spent three seasons with the Clippers before signing with New Orleans, averaging 18.0 points for his career.

4. Michael Beasley: Beasley followed Dalonte Hill from the DC area to Kansas State, where he had a phenomenal freshman season, averaging 26.2 points and 12.4 boards. He was the second pick in the 2008 draft, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment in the NBA. He’s averaged 14.1 points in five season, but his career has been littered with off-the-court issues, everything from weed to booze to driving violations to a sexual assault allegation to this mess with his former AAU coach and agent.

5. Derrick Rose: Questionable SAT score aside, Rose had a great freshman season at Memphis, leading the team to within a couple of missed free throws of a national title. He’s one of the best players in the NBA when healthy, but missed last year recovering form an ACL injury.

5. Kyle Singler: The highest-ranked player in the Class of 2007 that wasn’t one-and-done, Singler had a great four-year career at Duke that included the 2010 national title. Singler ended up getting picked early in the second round by the Pistons, and while he spent 2011-2012 in Spain, Singler started 74 of the 82 games this past season in Detroit.

7. Jerryd Bayless: Bayless spent one season averaging 19.7 points for a mediocre Arizona team before going pro. He was the 11th pick in the 2008 draft, and has played for four organizations in the NBA. He was a key playmaker off the bench this past season for a Memphis team that made the conference finals.

8. Donte Greene: Greene spent one year at Syracuse before heading off to the NBA. He was the 28th pick and headed to Sacramento, but never quite lived up to his potential. After spending four years in the NBA, Greene spent time in Puerto Rico this past season before getting scooped up by Memphis.

9. J.J. Hickson: Hickson left NC State after his freshman season and was the 19th pick in the 2008 draft. He spent three years making a name for himself in Cleveland before heading to Sacramento. This past season, he averaged a double-double for Portland.

9. Patrick Patterson: Patterson helped Kentucky bridge the Billy Gillispie gap, as he provided Kentucky with a veteran presence as a junior before heading off to the NBA. He was the 14th pick, going to the Rockets, and has averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 boards as a part-time starter with Houston and Sacramento.

11. Nick Calathes: Calathes left Florida after two seasons in Gainesville, and while he was the 45th pick of the draft, he left school to play in Greece. After three successful years with Panathiakos, Calathes spent last year in Russia.

12. Kosta Koufas: Koufos was Greg Oden’s replacement at Ohio State for one season before heading off to the NBA, where he was the 23rd pick in 2008. Koufos has never averaged double-figures in the league, but he actually started 81 games for Denver last season.

13. Austin Freeman: Freeman had a great four-year career at Georgetown, but he went undrafted in 2011. He’s gotten a taste of the NBA in summer leagues and training camps, but he’s spent the past two seasons playing in places like Italy and Israel.

14. Anthony Randolph: Randolph spent one season at LSU, averaging 15.6 points and 8.5 boards, before heading off to the NBA. He was the 14th pick in 2008, and while he’s bounced around four different NBA franchises, he’s yet to really find a good fit. His career average is 7.6 points.

15. DeAndre Jordan: After one unmemorable year at Texas A&M, Jordan went in the second round of the NBA Draft. He’s actually been able to latch on with the Clippers, and while he’s turned into a competent NBA player, he still isn’t much more than a dunker. But he’s a really, really good dunker.

16. Blake Griffin: Griffin had a good freshman season but came back as a sophomore and turned into the National Player of the Year. He’s battled injuries as a pro, but he’s one of the best young power forwards in the NBA.

17. James Harden: Harden spent two years at Arizona State and looked like he was getting ready to be a part of a three-headed monster with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, but he left last summer, heading to Houston in a trade because OKC couldn’t afford all three players and Serge Ibaka. He averaged 25.8 points last season.

18. Gani Lawal: Lawal spent three seasons at Georgia Tech before heading to the NBA, where he was a second round pick of the Pheonix Suns. He only saw action in one game before tearing his ACL, and he hasn’t made it back to the NBA since.

19. Nolan Smith: Smith went from being Greg Paulus’ backup to stealing his starting job as a sophomore to a national champ as a junior and a Jimmer away from being the National Player of the Year as a senior. He was the 21st pick in 2011 to Portland, but has averaged just 3.3 points in his two seasons.

20. Jonny Flynn: Flynn had two really good seasons with Syracuse before heading to the NBA, where he was the sixth pick in the 2009 draft. He averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists as a rookie, but lost his job when Ricky Rubio finally arrived in the states. Flynn played the 2012-2013 season in Australia.

93. Trevor Mbakwe; UR: Julian Gamble: Gamble and Mbakwe just finished their college careers in the 2012-2013 season. That’s wild.

OTHER NOTABLE NAMES

  • 21. Cole Aldrich
  • 23. E’Twuan Moore
  • 24. Taylor King
  • 33. James Anderson
  • 34. Kalin Lucas
  • 35. Austin Daye
  • 40. DeJuan Blair
  • 43. James Johnson
  • 46. Chandler Parsons
  • 52. Bill Walker
  • 54. Evan Turner
  • 58. Jeff Teague
  • 62. Robbie Hummel
  • 65. Marcus Morris
  • 85. Isaiah Thomas
  • 86. Jon Leuer
  • 93. Markieff Morris
  • UR: Jacob Pullen
  • UR: Robert Sacre

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.