An interesting recruiting development hit on Friday as Josh Gershon of Scout.com reported that four-star center Jayce Johnson is reclassifying to the Class of 2015 and looking to join a program at semester break.
The 7-foot native of California is down to Cal, Colorado and Utah and Johnson is on an official visit to Utah this weekend after transferring to a charter school this week. As Gershon notes, only Cal has a scholarship to offer Johnson this season, but the family is willing to pay a semester at the other programs if it’s the right fit. Johnson would like to redshirt and train with his future college while playing against more mature players.
But if Johnson is persuaded not to redshirt, he could be an intriguing big man off the bench later in the season for a couple of teams looking to make a postseason appearance. As the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson is a talented prospect and he isn’t afraid to score with either hand. With some time to fill out, Johnson can turn into a talented Pac-12 player down the road.
Another prospect in the Class of 2016 has narrowed down his recruiting focus, with 6-foot-8 power forward Dontay Bassett announcing Friday morning that he’s trimmed his list to five schools. Bassett, a native of Oakland who attends Oldsmar Christian School in Florida, is now considering Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and Oregon State.
Bassett announced the news by way of his Twitter account, stating that there was no particular order to his list.
Bassett is scheduled to officially visit Oregon State this weekend, with Wayne Tinkle’s program getting the forward’s first visit. The Beavers have a mixture of underclassmen and veterans in their current front court rotation, and that includes three seniors in Jarmal Reid, Olaf Schaftenaar and Daniel Gomis.
Fellow Pac-12 program Colorado also has multiple upperclassmen in its front court rotation, including seniors Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott. But unlike Oregon State, Colorado did not bring in a freshman front court player in its 2015 recruiting class and they’ve yet to land on in the 2016 class.
Arkansas, which is lacking in front court depth this season, suffered a blow when former 2015 signee Ted Kapita wasn’t cleared academically and eventually landed with the Las Vegas Dealers semipro franchise. The Razorbacks have just one scholarship underclassman in their front court in redshirt freshman Trey Thompson. Florida also has a need for front court depth, but they’ve got some young players in USF transfer John Egbunu and freshmen Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes.
As for Nebraska, the Huskers have a young front court with sophomore Jacob Hammond being their most experienced option at present time. Head coach Tim Miles also has a trio of freshmen in Jack McVeigh, Ed Morrow and Michael Jacobson competing for minutes in this year’s rotation.
Colorado picked up a commitment in the Class of 2016 on Monday night as three-star shooting guard Bryce Peters pledged to the Buffaloes.
The 6-foot-4 native of California picked Colorado over his other finalists of Wyoming and UNLV. Peters took an official visit to Colorado this weekend and was evidently impressed enough to decide his basketball future. The Buffaloes landing Peters comes right on the heels of the program parting ways with former 2016 guard commit Cameron Satterwhite late last week.
A developed scorer with a good pull-up game, Peters should fit in off-the-ball in head coach Tad Boyle’s offense. An athletic wing, Peters has a good motor and is also solid on the defensive end of the floor. Peters joins three-star Michigan native Deleon Brown in Colorado’s Class of 2016.
While Colorado, Kent State, Penn State and SMU were all guaranteed two home games apiece as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic ahead of the semifinals December 22 at the Orleans Arena, the matchups for the semifinals had yet to be announced. That announcement came Friday, with SMU set to take on Kent State in the first game and Colorado playing Penn State in the nightcap.
The third place and championship games will be played the following night.
Of the four teams SMU will enter the 2015-16 season with the highest expectations, with head coach Larry Brown returning a good portion of his rotation from a season ago led by point guard Nic Moore and power forward Markus Kennedy. The Mustangs made their first NCAA tournament appearance in more than two decades last season, winning the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles as well.
Colorado returns four starts from last season’s team, but they’ll only have three available due to the ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by forward Xavier Johnson. Forward/center Josh Scott will lead the way for Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, with players such as Dominique Collier and Wesley Gordon needing to step forward.
Penn State will have to account for the loss of guard D.J. Newbill from last season’s team, and Kent State returns much of its front court from last season including All-MAC forward Jimmy Hall.
To say that Colorado’s 2014-15 season was a disappointing one would be accurate. Picked to finish third in the Pac-12 preseason poll, the Buffaloes struggled throughout the season and finished with a record of 16-18. With Askia Booker moving on Tad Boyle’s team needs to account for the loss of its leading scorer, and the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Xavier Johnson doesn’t help matters as Colorado looks to rebound from last season.
One of the players who will look to step forward alongside senior big man Josh Scott is redshirt sophomore George King, who was incapable of doing anything to help Colorado on the court in 2014-15. Boyle made the decision to redshirt King in hopes that the season spent working on his game without losing a year of eligibility would benefit both player and program in the long run.
And in a story by Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera, King discussed how he looked to use the redshirt season to his benefit.
“The biggest thing for me was embracing it and not taking it as, ‘I’m not that good,’ ” King said. “I took it and used it as an opportunity.
“It looked like I was just sitting on the bench in the games but I was learning a lot. Obviously, practices were my games, and I worked out twice as much as the guys did, because game day was their day off (from workouts), and I was in the gym, lifting and on the court shooting.”
With Booker out of eligibility and Jaron Hopkins transferring, there’s clearly room for other perimeter options to step forward. Xavier Talton returns for his senior season, with Dominique Collier being a player many expect to be improved as a sophomore and former Providence guard Josh Fortune among the other possibilities. And with the incumbent at the three (Johnson) due to miss the entire season, Colorado will need production from Tre’Shaun Fletcher and King if they’re to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15.
Redshirt seasons have benefitted a number of players throughout college basketball, with one of the most recent examples being Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer. While King isn’t the same player as Wiltjer, the hope in Boulder is that his hard work away from game action will pay off in 2015-16.
Thursday afternoon SMU announced that it would be one of the eight teams that will play in the 2015 Las Vegas Classic, with the final rounds of the event scheduled for December 22-23 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Mustangs, who made their first NCAA tournament appearance in more than two decades and won the American Athletic Conference regular and postseason titles, return the majority of their rotation from last season led by point guard Nic Moore and forward Markus Kennedy.
The Mustangs will be joined by Colorado, Penn State, Kent State, Canisius, ULM, Nicholls State and Hampton. The Pirates, who knocked off Manhattan before falling to top overall seed Kentucky, are the only other team in the event to reach the NCAA tournament a season ago.
SMU will get two home games in Dallas before the final rounds of the event in Las Vegas, and the same goes for the three other selected “hosts.” Those three teams are Colorado, Penn State and Kent State, with Canisius, ULM, Nicholls State and Hampton serving as the visiting teams in those pre-Las Vegas matchups.
Matchups for those games, as well as the two brackets once the teams get to Las Vegas (SMU, Colorado, Penn State and Kent State form one bracket, with the other four teams in the other), will be announced later this offseason.