Louisville lands recruit over Providence, proves college hoops hierarchy exists

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Providence recruited Donovan Mitchell, a talented lead guard in the Class of 2015, as well as any program can recruit a player.

For two years, the coaching staff stalked him, building a relationship and watching his games and doing all the little things that it takes to convince a kid to come to your college to play basketball for you. They didn’t stop recruiting him when a broken wrist kept him out the summer after his sophomore season and their interest didn’t fluctuate when Mitchell’s ranking on the major recruiting websites remained in the borderline top 100 range. They were, many believed, the favorites to land his services.

This summer, the Friars were court side for every game that Mitchell played during the July live period, with at least one assistant and, often times, head coach Ed Cooley getting a front row look as Mitchell’s stock began to soar. From Philly to Springfield to Atlanta to Vegas, the Friars trailed Mitchell as he put together sterling performance after sterling performance, collecting scholarship offer after scholarship offer.

When it was all said and done, Mitchell had gone from a borderline top 100 recruit to a borderline five-star recruit; from a kid that was a target for the high-major programs in the northeast to someone that was being targeted by heavily by one of the nation’s best basketball programs, Louisville.

MORE: Donovan Mitchell’s recruitment blows up

He played his best basketball in front of the right people at the right time, and it was all over for Providence before they even knew what hit them. Last Thursday, less than a month from the time he received an offer from the Cardinals, Mitchell committed during a visit to the campus. He never even took an official visit to Providence.

That’s the kind of miss of the recruiting trail that is going to sting, but it’s also one that schools like Providence know all too well. The best programs are going to get the best players, and often times it doesn’t matter how good a relationship with a coaching staff is or how much effort one program has put into a kid’s recruitment.

They want to play for the best programs in the country, which is why Mitchell’s recruitment is a textbook example of why granting the Power 5 conferences the autonomy to play their athletes a stipend isn’t going to significantly change the power structure in college basketball. I wrote about that very point extensively here.

RELATED: What does Power 5 autonomy mean for college hoops?

Louisville won the 2013 national title a year after playing in the 2012 Final Four. The school will make the jump from the American to the ACC this season, putting itself in what is likely the nation’s premier basketball conference. He’ll play every meaningful game in his career on national television, and there will be a lot of meaningful games during the years that he spends on campus. He’ll compete for league championships and national titles. He’ll play in front of 22,090 fans every time the Cardinals take the court at the KFC Yum! Center.

That said, Providence isn’t a bad program. Cooley has done a terrific job rebooting that program despite the fact that arguably the three best recruits that he’s brought to campus in his tenure — Ricky Ledo, Kris Dunn and Brandon Austin — have done next to nothing in a Friar uniform. He’s got a very good 2014 recruiting class entering the program this season and his 2015 class is off to a good start. In Cooley’s third season, the Friars made the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade, and sent their star guard to the NBA.

They’re peaking right now. Outside of Villanova — maybe — I’d say there is an argument to be made that Providence has the brightest future of any program in the Big East.

But none of that changes the fact that Providence isn’t Louisville.

And this is without Louisville having the ability to pay for full cost of attendance scholarships or to fly family members of their players to NCAA tournament or all of those things that the Power 5 conference schools are going to be able to provide with the new autonomy ruling.

So if Providence loses a kid it prioritized for two years to Louisville, who recruited him for a month. What is really going to change when the rules change?

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)