Chris Clarke

Kelly Kline (Under Armour)

CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Chris Clarke flips his commitment, Rutgers adds a wing

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Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Chris Clarke flips his commitment, Rutgers adds a wing to developing class and Western Kentucky picks up a steady performer.

Chris Clarke flips his commitment

This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often in basketball recruiting. On Thursday, Chris Clarke, a four-star Class of 2015 small forward, flipped his commitment from Tennessee to Virginia Tech in the wake of the NCAA investigation and concerns involving Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall.

Clarke is from Virginia and is opting to play closer to home, but it looks like that this sort of move was in the works for some time. The timing was just too convenient for Clarke to find a new school when the allegations just came to light against Southern Miss under the reign of Tyndall. Clarke isn’t signed to any Letter of Intent, so this is perfectly legal, but the public doesn’t often hear about other schools trying to speak to — or even actively recruit — kids who are committed.

The Virginia Beach native is the No. 59 prospect in the 2015 class, according to Rivals, and at 6-foot-6, his activity makes a huge difference on the floor and should mean a lot for the way Buzz Williams like to play ball. Clarke had already taken an official visit to Virginia Tech in late September, so he was familiar with the program, and decided that staying closer to home and playing for Buzz Williams was the better option.

Rutgers lands a wing

Rutgers and head coach Eddie Jordan needed quantity over quality when they recruited the 2014 class. But the Scarlet Knights have used the 2015 class to focus on some better prospects with more time to observe and form relationships with the class over time. Four-star guard Corey Sanders was a quality grab for Jordan and now Sanders has a running mate in 6-foot-6 three-star wing Kejuan Johnson.

Sanders and Johnson give Jordan two quality athletes for Big Ten play and both are physical enough to hang in the league. Jordan had to turn over that roster quickly and he’s done all that he can to put new players are seniors Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack this season. But next season, those two guys are gone and Sanders and Johnson will help replace those two players.

It’s going to be tough to replace two very good players, but that’s what Jordan has to do in order to rebuild this program. Rutgers still needs a lot more talent to compete for postseason bids, but this is a start.

Western Kentucky lands a solid guard

Quietly doing a nice job on the recruiting trail the last few years has been Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers continued this stretch this week with the commitment of three-star guard Marlon Hunter. The 6-foot-2 Hunter ran with the Arkansas Wings in the EYBL and showed flashes of promise while averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals per game on 47 percent shooting.

If Hunter can improve his perimeter shot, he can be a versatile, all-around guard for Western Kentucky, and as it is, he could crack the rotation early because he can be an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

Combined with three-star point guard Chris McNeal and this is a nice backcourt tandem for Western Kentucky in this class. The Hilltoppers have had their fair share of good guards over the years and they’re hoping that McNeal and Hunter can be the next tandem.

CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: UCF lands a unique center, Tennessee’s impact wing, Saint Louis gets rising center

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Chris Clarke (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Central Florida lands a unique center, Tennessee gets an impact wing and Saint Louis grabs a rising center.

Central Florida lands a unique center

After a poor first season in the American that saw them go 13-18 and 4-14 in the league, head coach Donnie Jones needed an influx of talent at UCF.

This week, Jones picked up a unique three-star center to join a solid four-man class in 2015. Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-5 center pledged to the Knights earlier this week and his massive size means UCF can throw a different defensive look out on the floor for a few minutes a game.

Due to his massive size, Fall doesn’t move the best from end to end, but he does present a major vertical threat as a rim defender. Just ask defenders who faced E1T1 in the EYBL when Fall was under the rim: he makes it challenging down there because you don’t see that kind of size very often.

Putting Fall under the basket in a zone for a few minutes of game should help the defense, especially holding a lead and slowing the game down.

Fall joins three-star prospect Chad Brown, sharpshooter Chance McSpadden and JuCo transfer Tanksley Efianayi in UCF’s 2015 class and they should get some wins in the American if everything goes right.

Tennessee gets an impact wing and a winner

Donnie Tyndall hasn’t gotten people fired up about his landing some three-star prospects in the 2015 class — and they’re good players who should contribute — but landing four-star wing Chris Clarke is a great grab for Tennessee. The Volunteers beat UConn, Creighton and Virginia Tech for one of the highest motored players in the 2015 class.

Clarke helped lead EYBL member Boo Williams to a lot of success and wins this past grassroots season and his effort on the defensive end is contagious to others on the floor. CBT‘s Rob Dauster made mention of Clarke comparing effort-wise to a player Tyndall helped put in the NBA in his former Morehead State star Kenneth Faried. They’re different positions, like Rob mentions, but it’s the same kind of hustle plays that separates them from their peers.

Getting a player like Clarke is a recruiting win because players want to play with high-energy guys who making winning plays like Clarke. This is a really nice win for Donnie Tyndall.

The Volunteers now own commitments from Clarke, the No. 59 player in the 2015 class, three-star 6-foot-4 shooting guard Shembari Phillips and three-star wing forward Admiral Schofield.

Saint Louis lands a rising center

Matt Neufeld had a strong July live evaluation period and garnered high-major scholarship offers from all over the country. The 6-foot-10 Neufeld is doing a postgrad year and grabbed scholarship offers from Saint Louis, St. Mary’s, Colorado and Clemson.

After narrowing his focus to the Billikens and St. Mary’s, Neufeld received a call from Duke, according to Scout.com‘s Evan Daniels, but ultimately chose Saint Louis because of his strong relationship with the coaching staff.

Landing the three-star center is a nice grab for the Billikens, who need some big bodies to compete with some strong incoming forwards at other A-10 programs like VCU.

Tennessee beats out UConn, Virginia Tech for key four-star recruit

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Tennessee landed a commitment from four-star wing Chris Clarke on Thursday afternoon.

Clarke, who stands 6-foot-6, is ranked as the No. 71 overall recruit in the Class of 2015 according to Scout.com, and while he’s not a program-changing talent, this is a key pickup for new Vols head coach Donnie Tyndall.

Since Tyndall took over for Cuonzo Martin, he’s done an excellent job and bringing players into the program in the form of transfers, JuCo kids and late commits. What he needs now is an infusion of talent capable of turning Tennessee into a top 25 team.

Clarke is that kind of a player. The teams that Tyndall beat out for this commitment? Reigning national champ UConn and Virginia Tech, which is an in-state school for Clarke and coached by Buzz Williams. Creighton was also in the mix as well.

Clarke is the prototype Donnie Tyndall recruit. You may not find a player in the country that plays harder or is more competitive than he is. Remember, when Tyndall was at Morehead State, he sent Kenneth Faried to the NBA. I’m not saying Clarke is going to be the next Faried — he’s smaller and more of a wing than Faried was — but he plays with than same motor, that same edge. As he adds a jump shot and becomes a better ball-handler, he’ll be a very good player for this system in the SEC.

July Live Period Week Two Superlatives

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The second July Live Period came to an end on Sunday. Scott Phillips and I were in Georgia for the Under Armour Finals and the Nike Peach Jam. Here are our awards from the week:

MORE: Week one superlatives

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

  • Ben Simmons: With his performance at Peach Jam, Simmons proved he’s the No. 1 player in the 2015 class. He passes well with both hands, attacks the rim with either hand and has great handles. He also defends laterally pretty well and rebounds and pushes tempo. If his perimeter jumper improves, look out. (SP)
  • Isaiah Briscoe: Simmons is the best prospect in the Class of 2015, but Briscoe was the best player this week. He averaged 22.4 points — second best at Peach Jam only to Allonzo Trier — and 3.8 assists while leading the Playaz to a title. (RD)

BEST PROSPECT:

  • Jayson Tatum: This is currently a tough category to fill, since I saw so many elite 2015 and 2016 prospects this week, but with Tatum’s skill level and size, it’s easy to see why some have him at No. 1 in 2016. While Josh Jackson and Malik Monk were up-and-down this week and Harry Giles is still recovering from his knee injury, Tatum kept on chugging along and putting up great numbers. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I think I actually agree with Scott here, but in the interest of differing opinions I’ll go with Simmons. The 6-foot-8 forward certified himself as the best player in the class in North Augusta. (RD)

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT:

  • Quinndary Weatherspoon: A borderline top 100 recruit, the 6-foot-5 Weatherspoon put on a pair of scoring displays at Peach Jam. He can be a bit inconsistent, but any high-major program that needs perimeter firepower should be tracking this kid.
  • Levan Alston: The 2015 guard from Team Final is tough on both ends of the floor and a fiery competitor. Coming in just outside of Rivals top 100, I’ve seen a lot of guards ranked ahead of him that I wouldn’t take over him.

NON-TOP 150 SLEEPER:

  • Braxton Beverly: A 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., Beverly was terrific at Peach Jam. He finished third in the tournament in assists while protecting the ball and showing he could his a three-pointer with time and space. He’s tough, too. I saw him fight through a sprained ankle to beat Mac Irvin Fire with three driving buckets in the final five minutes. (RD)
  • Jalen Poyser: The CIA Bounce 6-foot-4 Class of 2015 guard surpassed his EYBL high scoring mark twice at Peach Jam and had multiple productive outings in the event. Multiple college coaches were intrigued by Poyser’s ability to attack and he has a natural smoothness about him. (SP)

RELATED: Peach Jam takeaways: ScottRob | UAA Finals takeaways

LEFT ME WANTING MORE:

  • Josh Jackson: It’s not that I wanted more out of Jackson’s talent, of which he has plenty, but I wanted to see the elite 2016 wing take better shots and use his passing more to set up teammates. The 6-foot-6 Jackson was benched during one game at the UAA Finals with five minutes left in a one-point game and that should never happen to an elite player. (SP)
  • DeAndre Ayton: Ayton is believed by some to be the best prospect is all of high school basketball, but the 6-foot-11 big man from the Class of 2017 is nothing more than a prospect at this point. He’s got terrific physical tools but the rest of his game still needs polishing. The good news? He’s got plenty of time. (RD)

BEST LEAD GUARD:

  • Jawun Evans: Since I already went with Briscoe as the Player of the Week, I’m going to mix it up at the lead guard spot, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows this site that I am picking Evans as the best lead guard from this week. The 5-foot-11 Texas native is, for my money, the best pure point guard in the Class of 2015, and he played that was in Atlanta for the UAA Finals. (RD)
  • Donovan Mitchell: There are better point guard prospects in the 2015 class, but nobody had a better week than Donovan Mitchell. Whether it was the elementary school day campers at Suwanee Sports Academy or national championship-winning head coaches, they all went nuts over Mitchell’s play this week. (SP)

BEST OFF-GUARD:

  • Malik Monk: The 40-point performance at Peach Jam was epic and once Monk gets more strength, he’ll be able to put up performances like this with more consistency. Sometimes Monk hunts highlights too often, and while the 2016 class is talented, I don’t see how Monk isn’t a top-5 player at this current juncture. (SP)
  • Allonzo Trier: Trier was the leading scorer at Peach Jam, averaging more than 30 points in the give games that he played, including the 42 that he put up while handing Briscoe and the Playaz their only loss of the event. Trier’s had a great spring and summer while shooting up the national rankings. (RD)

BEST WING FORWARD:

  • Jayson Tatum: The game just comes easy to Tatum. Although the 6-foot-8 wing was a man among boys playing in the 16U ranks at Peach Jam, you can still see he has all the necessary tools to be a star. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I see Simmons playing a role similar to that of Royce White at the collegiate level, which would make him more of a point forward than a wing forward. (RD)

BEST SHOOTER:

  • D.J. Hogg: There aren’t many great shooters in this class but Hogg can fill it up when he gets hot and he has a shooter’s mentality with good size at 6-foot-7. Once he gets in better shape, Hogg’s shot will be more consistent because right now. (SP)
  • Camron Justice: Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was front and center while tracking his his commitment. The No. 136 recruit in the Class of 2015 shot very well throughout Peach Jam. (RD)

BEST LOW POST BIG:

  • Tyler Davis: Again, not the best prospect I saw as a low post player, but Davis was the most productive big man I saw last week. The 6-foot-10 Davis is impossible to move off the block, owns a good set of hands and has improving footwork and counter moves in the post. He’s right on the cusp of elite status. (SP)
  • Diamond Stone: Davis was easily the best low-post big man at Peach Jam, and Stone was just as impressive at the UAA Finals. He’s getting into a habit where he is settling too much for perimeter shots, but some of that is a result of Stone trying to prove that he has expanded his game. He’s known for his ability to score on the block already. (RD)

BEST DEFENDER:

  • KeVaughn Allen: Allen was one of the biggest stock-risers in Georgia this week, averaging 19.0 points in eight Peach Jam games. The Florida-commit showed off an improved three-point stroke, but where he was most impressive was on the defensive side of the ball. He will thrive in Gainesville. (RD)
  • Chris Clarke: I would take Chris Clarke on my team in any game. The Class of 2015 wing plays hard, defends on the perimeter, hustles after every loose ball and generally lifts the energy of the teammates on the floor with him. He’s just the kind of player that makes winning plays. (SP)

ONE MORE GUY DESERVING OF ATTENTION:

  • Franklin Howard: Franklin Howard is already ranked and committed to Syracuse, but I was impressed by his recovery from a major knee injury that forced him to miss the high school season. Howard doubled his minutes during the Peach Jam from the EYBL and looked pretty good despite shooting the ball poorly. (SP)
  • Alterique Gilbert: A 5-foot-9 PG, Gilbert is No. 92 in the Class of 2016 on Rivals. He’s a quick, shifty point guard that can get to the rim and finish in traffic. He also doesn’t appear to get rattled by big moments or big plays. He averaged 18.2 points in the event. (RD)

Peach Jam Saturday Recap: Rabb, Zimmerman go big, Chris Clarke goes hard, Lawson bros advance

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NORTH AUGUSTA, SC — Tournament play is underway at the Nike Peach Jam and that meant for some intense games on Saturday as the quarterfinals began and teams tried to stay alive for Sunday.

Lawson brothers come up big in quarterfinals: Team Penny was facing a major test when they had to face Ben Simmons and E1T1 in the quarterfinals of the 17U bracket on Saturday night.

But the Lawson brothers, K.J. and Dedric, came prepared.

The brothers each scored 23 points as Team Penny pulled away in the second half of a 93-76 win. Dedric, a 6-foot-8 Class of 2016 forward, was particularly impressive. His 23 points seemed rather quiet, but he owned the glass with 16 rebounds and also did all of that damage on 10-for-16 shooting in only 23 minutes of play.

K.J., a Memphis commit and Class of 2015 wing forward, was a less efficient 8-for-20 from the field, but also added 13 rebounds and the entire Team Penny team did a nice job of clogging the middle and slowing down the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, Ben Simmons.

Simmons, an LSU commit, logged 24 points and 10 rebounds, but most of those points came either at the free-throw line or in garbage time.

With the Lawson brothers’ father, Keelon, being hired as an assistant at Memphis just this week, it is very likely both brothers eventually end up at Memphis. K.J. is already committed and Dedric is thought to be choosing between the Tigers and Kentucky, with Memphis having a big family advantage.

Chris Clarke, the warrior: There aren’t many players in the 2015 class that play as hard as Boo Williams 6-foot-6 wing Chris Clarke. The hard-playing wing doesn’t have the prettiest offensive game, but he’ll defend his tail off, make a ton of hustle plays and hit the glass hard.

Clarke was an absolute terror in a morning pool play win over Spiece and he was simply everywhere on the floor. The four-star prospect registered 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting (2-for-2 3PT), nine rebounds and seven assists. It isn’t just filling up the box score that is impressive about Clarke, it is the intensity at which he plays. His level of play elevates teammates and he’s a big reason why Boo Williams is still alive entering Sunday’s final four at Peach Jam.

UConn offered Clarke on Saturday and it will be interesting to see if other blueblood programs inquire about Clarke in the coming weeks.

Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman come up big: The Oakland Soldiers were facing a potential elimination from Peach Jam on Saturday until their two five-star big men, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman, made big plays and carried them to victory.

While each of them only scored 14 points, the duo’s savvy and toughness on the inside helped will the Soldiers to victory.

With Team Final throwing a small lineup on the floor, Rabb had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks and altered numerous other shots with his length and athleticism. Although he missed some bunnies at the rim, the 6-foot-9 Rabb has such a good secondary jump, that he’s able to tip in his own misses rather frequently and it also doesn’t hurt that he’s comfortable with either hand on the offensive end.

Zimmerman, a 7-footer and fellow five-star Class of 2015 big man, also had 14 points, but made some big scoring plays in the post against the smaller lineup for some key crunch time baskets.

Two plays in particular stand out for Zimmerman. On one, he turned and faced a smaller opponent before realizing his mismatch and backing him down for an easy basket inside. On another, Rabb had picked up his dribble and Zimmerman gave him an out by sealing his man on the block. Rabb found Zimmerman with the entry feed and an easy bucket ensued.

Rabb and Zimmerman didn’t have the gaudiest of stat lines on Saturday in the win, but their high IQ plays down the stretch helped lead the Soldiers to victory and the final eight of the Peach Jam.