Recruiting is a never-ending process, with the carousel never seeming to stop because of the need for talent that can help programs either remain on top or build towards reaching that point. Kentucky’s one school where annual recruiting classes have taken on even greater importance, as John Calipari’s ability to land the nation’s best prospects means that the majority of those players may spend no more than a year in Lexington before becoming millionaires.
With six McDonald’s All-Americans on this season’s team, which sits atop the Associated Press’ preseason poll, the 2014 recruiting class is an important one due to the possibility (some would use the word “likelihood”) of multiple players being lottery picks next June. Thursday afternoon the Wildcats received their third verbal commitment in the 2014 class, with Moss Point, Miss. shooting guard Devin Booker picking the Wildcats over programs such as Missouri, Michigan and Michigan State.
Booker, an elite perimeter shooter who’s a consensus Top 50 prospect, is the son of former Missouri great Melvin Booker. This past weekend the Tigers honored the 1993-94 team that won the Big 8, with the elder Booker winning Big 8 Player of the Year honors that season. The hope amongst the Missouri faithful was that the weekend would help sway the younger Booker, who was on an unofficial visit for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Booker joins point guard Tyler Ulis and versatile center Karl Towns in Kentucky’s 2014 class, and there’s a chance the number could grow to four by the end of the evening with wing James Blackmon Jr. announcing his decision tonight. Blackmon, who was originally an Indiana commit, de-committed from Indiana in August. Both the Hoosiers and Wildcats are in the running for his services.
With talented players such as forward Julius Randle and guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison and James Young on the current roster, Kentucky’s lineup in 2014 could look far different than it will this season. But the program is used to such change, and with that being the case the 2014 crop will have the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time.
Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.
According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.
The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.
That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.
Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.
“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”
Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.
It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.
Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.
The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.
Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.
The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.
Kentucky fans have unique ways of making their annual Big Blue Madness event the most chaotic tip-off event of the season. While Big Blue Nation is waiting in line for tickets to this year’s festivities in Tent City, one couple decided to go the extra mile.
After securing the first spot in line for tickets, Ray Branham and Vicki Harvey opted to get married. According to a post from Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio, the couple had already been talking about tying the knot, but decided to make the move once they had the top spot in line. As you can see by the wedding video, it was a very Kentucky-themed ceremony as the duo got married in front of friends and other Kentucky fans.
I can’t say I’m surprised two Kentucky fans decided to get married in line for something like Big Blue Madness and this (unplanned) wedding gives this year’s event something unique that we will always remember.
On the day that college basketball practice is to start, Penn State head coach Pat Chambers announced that his roster would be changing.
Joe Hampton, a 6-foot-8, 290 pound power forward from Maryland, will be leaving the program.
“Joe has made the decision to leave the program based on personal reasons,” Chambers said. “We wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.”
Hampton was a three-star prospect that missed his senior season at Oak Hill Academy with torn ACL, but he reportedly enrolled at Penn State in May, before the rest of the Nittany Lion recruit class.
Tom Izzo landed his second commitment in the Class of 2017 as big man Xavier Tillman announced that he will be attending Michigan State.
A 6-foot-7, 235 pound power forward, Tillman is a physical-if-undersized player that is rated as a three-star prospect. He’s not a one-and-done player, but he’s should be a good program guy for the Spartans.
“Tillman is another big and strong interior presence for Michigan State,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “What separates Tillman from a lot of big men his size is his passing ability. Tillman is an intelligent player on the offensive end and he rebounds his area well.”
Tillman joins Jaren Jackson, his AAU teammate for Speice Indy Heat, in Michigan State’s recruiting class.
He picked Michigan State over Purdue and Marquette.