College coaches are undoubtedly spending more time working on their current teams, as opposed to grinding on the recruiting trail, which generally is shown by a lack of verbal commitments in December. After all, there’s still over four months until the signing period starts for unsigned prospects.
Still, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee all landed pledges from high school players in recent days, with the Jayhawks landing a wing that could help next season.
Kansas snags second top-100 prospect
Lost in the celebration of the unprecedented dominance of Big 12 regular season and tournament championships by Kansas under coach Bill Self, is the fact that last two years of recruiting classes have largely fizzled out, at least by Kansas’ lofty standards.
The duo that the Jayhawks signed in 2010 has already departed from the program, with Josh Selby’s jump to the NBA, and Royce Woolridge moving on to presumably more playing time at Washington State. Academic casualties greatly diminished the impact of the 2011 class, with three incoming freshmen this year being denied initial eligibility, including touted guard Ben McLemore, and forwards Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson.
Anderson has since departed for Fresno State, and Kansas is anticipating the loss of both Tyshawn Taylorand forward Thomas Robinson to the NBA.
All that is to say that Kansas needs an infusion of both bodies and talent for next year to have a chance at continuing their Big 12 roll, and the verbal commitment last week of 6-6 forward Andrew White of The Miller School, Va.,gives them a second top-100 prospect to do so.
White is an important scorer for the Jayhawks, as the all-around wing forward provides a second player likely to contribute as a freshman next year, along with touted in-state star Perry Ellis, a 6-8 power forward from Wichita Heights, Kan. Ellis has three state championships under his belt, and both he and White figure to play steady minutes as rookies next year, based on both talent and need.
Kansas beat out NC State and a host of others for White. He’s a post-graduate player, with an extra year of maturity. Kansas also locked up 6-9 center Landen Lucas and 6-8 forward Zach Peters in the early signing period, and holds a verbal commitment from 6-3 guard Anrio Adams, a well-traveled prospect that’s at Rainier Beach, Wash., for his senior year of high school. Assuming Adams qualifies, he’ll help at both guard slots.
Though it’s not a top-10 recruiting class, it’s probably in the top-20, depending on things shake out during the regular signing period. For Kansas, quantity was needed as well as quality, and if White and Ellis pan out, they’ll have two players capable of starting early on in Lawrence, with the three other players in the class providing depth.
If McLemore and Traylor regain eligibility at the start of next season, Kansas could have seven players without college game experience on the roster next year, and the youth and inexperience will require perhaps coach Self’s most difficult roster construction job yet.
No Johnson, no problem for Arizona
Normally, when a college basketball team loses a freshman that was ranked as a top-100 prospect in their class, especially a live body that’s 6-9, it’s cause for concern. That’s not exactly the case for Arizona, which parted ways with newcomer Sidki Johnson after only three games.
The transfer of Johnson isn’t entirely unexpected for those who knew his track record. He started at national high school hoops powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, Va., last year, but transferred to Wadeigh, N.Y., to finish out high school due to troubles at Oak Hill. Prior to that, Johnson also spent time at St. Raymond, N.Y., and St. Benedict’s Prep, NJ, as a high school student.
The Arizona frontcourt isn’t deep this year, and Johnson could have earned more minutes as a reserve center as the season went on, but the Wildcats in reality only have to hold themselves over until next year. Two top-10 talents have already signed to join the program in 7-0 Kaleb Tarczewski of St. Marks, Mass., and 6-8 Brandon Ashley of Findlay Prep, Nev. Both will be ready to assert themselves when they hit campus next year, on sheer talent alone. Additionally, 6’-9” forward Grant Jerrett of La Verne Lutheran, Calif., continues to improve, and presents an outside shooting dimension to the frontcourt. West Coast scouts are extremely high on Jerrett’s development, and some believe he’s a McDonald’s All American game candidate.
When the trio of Tarczewski, Ashley and Jerrett arrived at Arizona next year, there was the possibility that Johnson would have been the odd man out, regardless of what he did this year. With that said, the situation is curious, especially given the fact that Johnson was committed to Arizona for several years, and did cite his close relationship with assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson on several occasions.
Arizona’s loss could be the gain for another school though, as the early buzz indicates Johnson could return closer to his home in the Big Apple. Assuming he takes care of business in the classroom, as he finishes out the term at Arizona, he could be an attractive and sought-after transfer for numerous schools. Prior to committing to Arizona, Johnson had heavy Big East interest, which included St. John’s, Providence and others. An especially thin front line, like that at St. John’s, could certainly benefit from his presence.
SEC snags a Volunteer and more
Two SEC programs based in the Volunteer state snared verbal pledges recently with Vanderbilt securing the services of 6-10 center Arnold Okechukwu, and Tennessee landing an early commitment from 6-1 point guard Travon Landry.
The Commodores can point to recent successes with Festus Ezeli and Steve Tchiengang, but Okechukwu, a native of Nigeria, is probably more raw that Ezeli and Tchiengang were when they hit campus. Okechukwu comes in at approximately 220 pounds, and has more of an impact on the defensive end right now. He’ll be brought along slowly, but he is improving in a post-graduate year at Queen City Prep, N.C., this year, after finishing high school at West Oaks Academy, Fla.
Tennessee didn’t have much time to fill out this season’s roster when coach Cuonzo Martin took over after last season. Upon taking the helm, Martin scrambled to add a handful of mostly unheralded recruits to fill out the roster. Now, he’s utilizing his chance to put his own stamp on the program, and the Volunteers have their first 2013 recruit, lead guard Travon Landry of Bob Jones, Ala. He’s not nationally ranked by any source, but did reportedly have some interest from other SEC schools. Former coach Bruce Pearl set a high recruiting standard for the Vols, and it remains to be seen if the new staff can meet expectations.
Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.