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Louisville lands recruit over Providence, proves college hoops hierarchy exists

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Providence recruited Donovan Mitchell, a talented lead guard in the Class of 2015, as well as any program can recruit a player.

For two years, the coaching staff stalked him, building a relationship and watching his games and doing all the little things that it takes to convince a kid to come to your college to play basketball for you. They didn’t stop recruiting him when a broken wrist kept him out the summer after his sophomore season and their interest didn’t fluctuate when Mitchell’s ranking on the major recruiting websites remained in the borderline top 100 range. They were, many believed, the favorites to land his services.

This summer, the Friars were court side for every game that Mitchell played during the July live period, with at least one assistant and, often times, head coach Ed Cooley getting a front row look as Mitchell’s stock began to soar. From Philly to Springfield to Atlanta to Vegas, the Friars trailed Mitchell as he put together sterling performance after sterling performance, collecting scholarship offer after scholarship offer.

When it was all said and done, Mitchell had gone from a borderline top 100 recruit to a borderline five-star recruit; from a kid that was a target for the high-major programs in the northeast to someone that was being targeted by heavily by one of the nation’s best basketball programs, Louisville.

MORE: Donovan Mitchell’s recruitment blows up

He played his best basketball in front of the right people at the right time, and it was all over for Providence before they even knew what hit them. Last Thursday, less than a month from the time he received an offer from the Cardinals, Mitchell committed during a visit to the campus. He never even took an official visit to Providence.

That’s the kind of miss of the recruiting trail that is going to sting, but it’s also one that schools like Providence know all too well. The best programs are going to get the best players, and often times it doesn’t matter how good a relationship with a coaching staff is or how much effort one program has put into a kid’s recruitment.

They want to play for the best programs in the country, which is why Mitchell’s recruitment is a textbook example of why granting the Power 5 conferences the autonomy to play their athletes a stipend isn’t going to significantly change the power structure in college basketball. I wrote about that very point extensively here.

RELATED: What does Power 5 autonomy mean for college hoops?

Louisville won the 2013 national title a year after playing in the 2012 Final Four. The school will make the jump from the American to the ACC this season, putting itself in what is likely the nation’s premier basketball conference. He’ll play every meaningful game in his career on national television, and there will be a lot of meaningful games during the years that he spends on campus. He’ll compete for league championships and national titles. He’ll play in front of 22,090 fans every time the Cardinals take the court at the KFC Yum! Center.

That said, Providence isn’t a bad program. Cooley has done a terrific job rebooting that program despite the fact that arguably the three best recruits that he’s brought to campus in his tenure — Ricky Ledo, Kris Dunn and Brandon Austin — have done next to nothing in a Friar uniform. He’s got a very good 2014 recruiting class entering the program this season and his 2015 class is off to a good start. In Cooley’s third season, the Friars made the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade, and sent their star guard to the NBA.

They’re peaking right now. Outside of Villanova — maybe — I’d say there is an argument to be made that Providence has the brightest future of any program in the Big East.

But none of that changes the fact that Providence isn’t Louisville.

And this is without Louisville having the ability to pay for full cost of attendance scholarships or to fly family members of their players to NCAA tournament or all of those things that the Power 5 conference schools are going to be able to provide with the new autonomy ruling.

So if Providence loses a kid it prioritized for two years to Louisville, who recruited him for a month. What is really going to change when the rules change?

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.