Louisville made three former scholarship men’s basketball players into walk-ons this year, so it’s clear that the Cardinals have a dearth of future full rides available for current high school prospects. With that said, they’ve approached their incoming recruiting classes with precision, making few offers, but also scoring important pledges.
In recent days, Louisville reached into traditional ACC recruiting country, North Carolina’s Triangle region, and landed 6-2 shooting guard Anton Gill, a top-50 prospect from Ravenscroft (N.C.). Known as a crafty scorer and accurate shooter, Gill is a terrific all-around prospect, and gives Louisville flexibility with his ability to play a passable point guard in addition to his off the ball prowess.
Coach Rick Pitino and his staff have made the backcourt their top priority in future recruiting classes, as Louisville signed Ohio-native point guard Terry Rozier as the sole current member of their 2012 class. In addition to Gill, the first 2013 pledge, Louisville also have a commitment from a hometown player, in a 5-11 point guard from Ballard (Ky.), Quentin Snider, a 2014 prospect.
Louisville fans are hoping that Gill works out better than the last commitment Louisville held from a top prospect from the Triangle, in 2012 star combo guard Rodney Purvis. He pledged to the Cardinals early on in high school, mostly due to his relationship with former Louisville assistant coach, and current Missouri assistant coach Tim Fuller. After Fuller left Louisville, Purvis re-opened his recruitment and ultimately signed with NC State.
It’s unlikely that Gill will follow Purvis’ footsteps, as he cited his relationship with Pitino as one of the chief reasons he decided to head to the Bluegrass State for college.
Stokes gives Vols instant impact in frontcourt
As expected, Southwind (Tenn.) power forward Jarnell Stokes, a 6-8, 250 pound presence, is headed the college hoops ranks early, and the blue chip native of Memphis is bucking the recent trend of elite Memphis high schoolers in joining coach Josh Pastner’s Tigers program, as Stokes has cast his lot with Tennessee.
What makes this decision even more important is the fact that Stokes will most likely be eligible to play in SEC league play for the Volunteers. He’s already signed an institutional offer of financial aid, and now needs to be officially admitted to the university, added to Tennessee’s institutional squad list, and become approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Those three steps are expected to be mostly formalities, as Stokes was an honors student in high school. He’s expected to be set to go around the start of Tennessee’s spring semester, which starts January 11. A universal top-25 talent in the 2012 class, Stokes was ruled ineligible to play by the state association after transferring from Central (Tenn.) to Southwind this season. Instead of sitting the season out, Stokes sought to enter college basketball early.
In the fallout from Bruce Pearl era, new Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t have much time to put together a quality 2011 recruiting class after being hired late in the recruiting cycle, and quite simply focused on completing the roster with scholarship players, rather than selecting from any quantity of available talent. The two signees for 2012 to date, forwards Derek Reese and D’Montre Edwards, aren’t particularly highly-regarded, either. Stokes is an important first five star recruit for Martin.
In Stokes, Tennessee is in a double-bonus situation. Not only do the Volunteers have a player that could conceivably be a valued contributor this season, Stokes also represents a huge score and gives in-state recruiting credibility to Martin’s fledgling program. Stokes was considering several high-major programs, but Florida and Arkansas were the other programs that had scholarship space to offer him. Had Stokes selected Memphis, which originally was considered a favorite for his services, he would have sat out the season as a “recruited walk-on” according to NCAA regulations.
Over the summer Stokes was impressive, but he will be thrust into SEC play after not playing in a meaningful game for several months. It’s not clear how much impact he can have from the outset, but the bar hasn’t exactly been set high in terms of performance on the largely mediocre current frontcourt.
Don’t be surprised to see Stokes be an important addition for this season, and a building block and interior force as early as next season for the rebuilding Tennessee program.
Torian Graham commits and reconsiders NC State, again
Shortly after taking the reins as the head coach at NC State, new coach Mark Gottfried added a verbal commitment from top-50 shooting guard Torian Graham. That pledge lasted almost three months, before Graham decided to break off his pledge to the Wolfpack, and then transferred to Arlington Country Day (Fla.) to finish out high school.
On Thursday, Graham re-upped his verbal to the Wolfpack, and in fact announced his decision to attend NC State in a YouTube video. At the time, the scorer stated, “I’m going to end up at NC State, in my heart that’s where I want to be”.
While joining the Wolfpack may be what is in Graham’s heart, less than twelve hours after his commitment, he re-opened his recruiting, yet again. There is unquestionably more at play with the Graham/NC State situation that has fully been fleshed out publically at this point, as more influences are in play than the star player simply deciding he wants to attend NC State and play basketball.
As it stands, it seems fairly clear that Graham wants to join the NC State roster. His addition would push the already loaded NC State recruiting class into the No. 2 haul in the land (unless Kentucky adds one of the blue chip players they are pursuing first), with top notch distributor Tyler Lewis at point guard, elite combo guard Rodney Purvis and slick forward TJ Warren already signed and sealed.
Graham has bounced around in recent years, attending three high schools and playing on several AAU teams. He’s faced his mother’s death this year, and now something is holding up his apparent desire to play at NC State. It’s speculation as to what that factor ultimately is, but Graham’s talent is undeniable, and he’s one of a handful of elite guards left unsigned in the 2012 class.
For Graham’s sake, here’s hoping he receives some quality advice and counsel from the adults in his life, and makes a college star out of his basketball promise and acumen.
Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.