Recruiting rundown, including the new studs for Duke, UNC


Editor’s note: This marks the debut of Kellon Hassenstab to the blog. Kellon runs a recruiting web site,, 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 Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.