CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: The impact from this week’s Signing Week commitments

Kentucky commit Skal Labissiere (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, a look back on the impact of Thursday’s four top-100 commitments.

Kentucky keeps the five-star ball rolling

John Calipari certainly knows how to land impact recruits. The Kentucky head coach recruits multiple five-star prospects every season, and on Thursday, that trend continued as the Wildcats landed commitments from five-star big man Skal Labissiere and five-star point guard Isaiah Briscoe.

The commitments of Labissiere and Briscoe are significant for Kentucky not just because these are future pros and tremendous basketball players, but now the 2015 class is beginning to take shape for Calipari. With Briscoe, Labissiere and four-star guard Charles Matthews committed, Calipari can focus more of his recruiting efforts on filling out that 2015 class with even more potential five-star talent while also spending more time monitoring younger classes of players.

It’s also attractive to unsigned recruits knowing that arguably the nation’s top point guard in the 2015 class, Briscoe, will give Kentucky another good guard who can distribute and get things done with the ball in his hands. Briscoe is big enough to play alongside Tyler Ulis next season — assuming the Harrison twins declare for the 2015 NBA Draft — but he can also take the reigns by himself and get into the paint whenever he wants. If Calipari opts for platoons again next season like he’s currently doing with his team, he could even have Ulis on one team and Briscoe on the other. The amount of talent that Kentucky has on its roster gives them tremendous line-up flexibility going forward and that’s a good problem to have for Calipari.

source: AP
Isaiah Briscoe

The murky situation of Labissiere’s recruitment probably affects Kentucky the least of any of the potential schools that could have landed the Haitian big man. While the NCAA will surely investigate Labissiere’s current prep school situation and the motives of his legal guardian, Gerald Hamilton, Kentucky already has an insane amount of front-court depth on its roster and it wouldn’t hurt them nearly as much as other programs if Skal never played a game of college basketball.

Kentucky has also dealt with situations like this before. Enes Kanter never played a game at Kentucky but spent a season in school before going to the NBA and Anthony Davis was in the news for a report that his recruitment might have had improper benefits but that obviously never changed anything about his future at Kentucky. Nerlens Noel also faced questions concerning his eligibility, but those concerns ultimately didn’t impact his status.

Kanter obviously didn’t help Kentucky on the floor, but Davis helped lead Calipari to his only national championship and nobody seems to remember — or care — about the Davis or Noel allegations since they were both cleared by the NCAA and played only one season in Lexington before turning pro.

We won’t know about the future of Skal Labissiere until many months from now, but Kentucky has gotten through situations like this in the past and they’ll be fine going forward with or without the five-star forward.

UNLV pulls in a talented four-star wing

Kentucky was the big winner of Thursday’s commitment spree, but UNLV had to be pleased to land a commitment from four-star forward Derrick Jones.

The Philadelphia native took a visit to campus and felt comfortable enough to end things for the Runnin’ Rebels and now Dave Rice has a potential replacement for some playing time if UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn has a big season and declares for the Draft.

UNLV commit Derrick Jones (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Vaughn and the 6-foot-7 Jones are different players with different skills, but Jones has outstanding run-and-jump athleticism and he should thrive in that uptempo system in Las Vegas.

If he can become more consistent with his jumper and ball handling, Jones could see himself potentially in the starting line-up next season, if certain pieces like Vaughn don’t return. Coupled with four-star guard Jalen Poyser, UNLV has a lot more quality talent coming to the desert.

VCU makes a statement with Tevin Mack’s commitment

Many fans and media have questioned Shaka Smart’s decision to stay at VCU after turning down so many high-profile jobs the last few offseasons.

But Smart has CBT‘s No. 13 ranked team in the 2014-15 preseason and has now won the services of two four-star recruits this fall by defeating former national championship-winning head coaches.

Tevin Mack and Jordan Murphy’s commitments to the Rams on Thursday is the latest bit of good news. The late chatter had UConn and VCU battling it out for Mack, the four-star wing from Columbia, South Carolina, but Smart ultimately won out and defeated the defending national champs in an important recruitment.

The 6-foot-6 Mack and 6-foot-7 Murphy join 6-foot-3 guard Kenny Williams in VCU’s 2015 class and the trio gives Smart plenty of firepower from the perimeter. Mack and Williams are both known as deep threats while Murphy can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket.

VCU had to outlast North Carolina to land Williams and UConn to land Mack and Smart is proving to be one of the better recruiters in the country, regardless of conference affiliation.

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
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

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
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

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.