Recruiting rundown, including the new studs for Duke, UNC

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Editor’s note: This marks the debut of Kellon Hassenstab to the blog. Kellon runs a recruiting web site, Hoopniks.com, and will be writing a weekly column focusing on the big news and trends.

Sin City’s top-10 tandem remains unsigned
College basketball programs in need of an elite incoming freshman for next year need to look no further than Las Vegas for next year, as two high school seniors in Las Vegas are the only two top-10 prospects remaining unsigned for next year.

The early signing period for current high school seniors and junior college prospects concluded Nov. 16, and when the dust settled, only 15 prospects, give or take depending on the rankings source, of the top-100 are still considering with college they’d like to play at next year.

The epicenter of the holdouts, which probably doesn’t pain the coaching staffs still pursuing the two players, in the desert playground of Las Vegas, which holds the nation’s top prospect in 6-6 wing Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Nev.), and Anthony Bennett, a 6-8 power forward from Findlay Prep (Nev.), located in the suburb of Henderson.

The programs in the mix for Muhammad and Bennett appear to be in the recruiting race for the long haul, as neither player seems particularly interested in making a decision at any point in the near future. Kentucky and UNLV are on the respective lists for both players, with Muhammad also considering UCLA, Duke, Texas A&M, Kansas, and USC. Muhammad plays for UNLV head coach Dave Rice’s brother, Grant Rice, at Bishop Gorman.

Bennett has not made any official trips to college campuses, while Muhammad has used two of his five trips, as he was at Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness, and previously visited Texas A&M. Bennett is of particular interest, as the native of Brampton, Ontario, has given no indications of a leader, with UConn, Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Washington and West Virginia also on his list.

There’s really not enough information to even speculate on where Bennett ends up at this point, but the almost opposite is true for Muhammad. UCLA was considered the clubhouse leader for him, and the stumble out of the gate by the Bruins program has either hurt or helped the Bruins’ cause, depending on whom you believe. Now, rumblings indicate Kentucky or Duke may be scrapping for top billing.

Both players’ recruitments seem far from over, and are quite important to the success of the teams pursuing them for next year, in some cases. The tenacious, relentless slashing style of Muhammad, and the brawny, bullying interior play of Bennett would be welcomed on any roster, and could make a major difference where they end up next season.

For now, expect to see plenty of head and assistant coaches trip to the desert for major face time with Muhammad and Bennett until the commencement of the regular signing period, which is set for mid-April.

Wildcats and Hoosiers are great out of the gate
The early signing period isn’t the end all, be all for recruiting for next year, with the aforementioned fair helping of prospects still on the board. Still, a pair of Wildcats (Arizona and Kentucky), and the Indiana Hoosiers snared the top-3 recruiting classes of the early signing period, with North Carolina State, Michigan and Providence signing the next tier of classes.

Observers that have seen Arizona’s triumvirate of incoming frontcourt stars, 7-0 center Kaleb Tarczewski, and 6-8 forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett aren’t surprised at the way coach Sean Miller is appearing to wave good bye to current freshman Sidiki Johnson. It’s that type of rich talent coming in that buoyed Arizona to be the universal top recruiting class in the country, to date. That’s not even mentioning bouncy combo guard Gabe York, who could’ve made the year at some of the other schools he was considering.

A five member class locked up at Indiana was mostly assembled last year throughout the season, which  allowed many hardcore Indiana fans to get through last year’s flop. A dynamo point guard, homegrown talent Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and freak athlete power forward Hanner Perea have fans salivating. Kentucky fans aren’t quite at the same excitement level, but it’s most likely that they’re used to unbelievable crops of talent, having landed the top class in the land, the last three seasons coming into this year. A “ho-hum” class with three top-50 talents, led by shooting guard Archie Goodwin has cast their lot with the Big Blue Nation.

The second-best player in the land, power forward Mitch McGary, an Indiana-native prepping at Brewster Academy (NH) could put the exclamation mark on coach John Beilein’s rebuilding process at Michigan, and North Carolina State landed three in-state players ranked in the national top-100, in coach Mark Gottfried’s first recruiting class for the Wolfpack. Providence also appears to be trending upward on a rapid trajectory, with perhaps the best signed backcourt duo in the country in point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Ricardo Ledo.

Tobacco Road takes two 2013 stars
Some schools can now focus on the 2013 class, current high school juniors, with their incoming recruiting classes for next year already locked up. North Carolina and Duke are doing just that, as they secured verbal commitments from a pair of top-25 players in the high school junior class early this week.

Five-star point guard Nate Britt, a 6-0 superb talent from Gonzaga Prep (D.C.) pledged to North Carolina, while fellow top talent Matt Jones, a 6-4 shooting guard from DeSoto (Texas) made his intentions known for Duke.

Britt is considered the no. 2 point guard in the country in the 2013 class, just behind 6-5 Andrew Harrison of Fort Bend Travis (Texas). He made his pledge to North Carolina over ACC Rivals Maryland and Virginia, as well as Georgetown and Arizona.

Jones is a close friend of Duke’s sole signee in the 2012 class, Strake Jesuit (Texas) guard Rasheed Sulaimon. He’s considered to be one of a handful of elite level shooters in the junior class.

The addition of Britt and Jones is what appears to be a case of the rich getting richer, as both project to be potential all-ACC players down the road.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.