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.
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.
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.