The story with the most potential impact in college basketball recruiting right now centers on Jarnell Stokes and the possibility that one lucky college program may land him in the coming days. It’s not often that high-major schools are in the position to add a national top-25 prospect at midseason, but that is the place that Memphis, Arkansas, Kentucky, UConn, Florida and Tennessee are in, according to a report from The Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
Stokes is a 6-8, 255 pound power forward who is strong enough to play center. He played at Central (Tenn.) last year and is a Memphis native. Over the summer, Stokes was expected to transfer to powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Va.), but got cold feet and returned home to the Bluff City.
Tennessee high school officials denied Stokes the opportunity to play at Southwind (Tenn.) this year, after he decided not to return to Central. He would have teamed with elite 2013 recruit Jonathan Williams III if he played at Southwind. The denial of his eligibility after transferring set into motion Stokes and his family looking into the possibility of enrolling at a college in midseason.
Stokes’s conditioning is unclear, though he’s said to be practicing with the team at Southwind. He has always had a large frame, and hasn’t played in a competitive game since late summer. Still, his interior presence would be welcomed on the decimated front line at Arkansas, and he would certainly be an upgrade to the players currently patrolling the interior at Tennessee. Then again, since taking the head coach position at Memphis, Josh Pastner has kept the city’s top players from leaving for college.
The Razorbacks, Volunteers and Tigers seem to be the most likely destination for Stokes, if he decides to enroll at the break. Notably, Stokes played with fellow Memphis signee Shaquille Goodwin, of Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) for the Atlanta Celtics on the AAU circuit, and at times his recruitment has been thought to be a two-team race between Arkansas and Memphis.
Stokes could also elect to wait, and enroll with his class next season, but as an honors student, he could be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and be ready to play at most schools right away. He would be a solid addition to a shaky front line so far at Memphis, and have the possibility of becoming a starter out of the chute at Arkansas or Tennessee. With that said, Stokes decision could be extremely important to the schools he’s considering, in the coming days.
Package duo pops for South Florida
In recent years, South Florida has relied on junior college transfers perhaps as much as any program in a BCS conference. That may be changing as coach Stan Heath seeks to add stability to the Bulls program with over four seasons under his belt now.
So-called package deals are rare in college basketball recruiting, perhaps occurring less often than the average fan might believe. The Bulls though, have landed a duo that is unquestionably a package deal in the 2013 class, current high school juniors, as evidenced by the fact that the players live within the same household.
Team Georgia Elite teammates Drew Davis, a 6-0 guard and John Egbunu, a 7-0 center, both attend Eagle’s Landing (Ga.), but do not play at the school, instead playing on the Christian schools tournament circuit, for long-time AAU and high school coach Linzy Davis, Drew’s father. Egbunu is a native of Nigeria that resides in the Davis home.
While Davis is thought to be a decent shooter, the prize here is Egbunu. He had plenty of high-major interest before pulling the trigger for South Florida. He’s an active and potential filled interior player that could rise up the charts. With three junior college players already signed for next season, Egbunu will be given the opportunity to develop behind an experienced roster as a senior, and could be a strong player in the decimated Big East.
South Carolina loses two to doubts
It’s never a good thing when verbally committed recruits fail to sign during the allotted time period for making verbal pledges official. When South Carolina only signed post Tyrone Haughton of Dr. Krop (Fla.), and didn’t receive letters of intent from AAU and high school teammates Ian Baker and Carlos Morris during college basketball’s early signing period, there immediately were whispers regarding the recruitment.
It became official in recent days that Baker and Morris, a backcourt tandem, were re-opening their recruitments, due to doubts regarding Gamecocks’ coach Darrin Horn, and his future at South Carolina.
Morris is the biggest prize of the two players, a 6-6 shooting guard that has ideal size and athleticism. Both Baker and Morris ran together over the summer with the Dwight Howard Warriors, and play together for one of the top high school basketball teams in the country, in Arlington Country Day (Fla.).
There’s at least lip service that Morris and Baker will still consider South Carolina, but it’s obviously an uphill battle after both players failed to sign and are entertaining other offers. Expect both players to end up at BCS schools, but it remains to be seen how many programs have scholarship availability for both players, given that the early signing period has already passed.
Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.