Friday, October 30, 2009

Just a Minute with Frank Burlison, part two

In our second part of the Just a Minute series with Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, we dive deeper into the recruiting he’s covered over the last 30 years.

Last Friday, he told about Jason Kidd and other prep stars. Today, he touches upon Magic Johnson and others.

Can you recall a story of seeing one of the all-time greats for the first time?

“In the summer of 1976, I was in Las Vegas for a tournament and I was in Tiny Archibald’s office at UNLV. We were in there talking and Bill Frieder comes walking in, and I had never met him at the time, he was an assistant coach at Michigan. He was talking about players, the big name players. He asks Archibald ‘Is Jerry Tarkanian going to recruit this kid named Earvin Johnson from Flint? Let me tell you, you need to go watch him. You aren’t going to get him because he’s going to Michigan or Michigan State but let me tell you, he’s unlike any player you’ve ever seen. He’s going to be one of the all-time greats.’ So I’m sitting there thinking ‘God, this guy must be really good.’

“You hear about the hype. Guys like Eugene Banks from Philadelphia and Albert King and Darnell Valentine and Jeff Lamp but back then they had all of the hype. So they decided to put together the McDonald’s All-American selection committee and I was put on that just because they needed some people from the West. So I flew back to Landover, Maryland to see a game of the Capitol Classic. There was Earvin Johnson. I was watching him for a couple of days. When I got home, all of my friends and coaches asked me who impressed me the most and I told them about this kid who was a 6-8 point guard. I told them to mark my words. They didn’t believe me. I told them that he was going to be the best player ever in his class. Sure enough Bill Frieder knew what he was talking about.”

Do people realize just how good Ben Howland has been? He’s taken three straight teams to the Final Four in this era. In today’s landscape of college basketball, you don’t really win your conference three years in a row.

“Forget taking three teams to three straight Final Fours. Florida is incredible. But he basically had the same team for two years and arguably the best team we’ve seen in the last decade. But the thing with Howland and UCLA, he went to a Final Four and lost arguably his best player, Jordan Farmar, to the NBA. The following year you lose a first team All Pac-10 and All-American in Aron Affalo to the draft and steal go back. The next year they go again.

“If you think about, he goes to Northern Arizona, which was basically a glorified Division II school, and gets them into the NCAA tournament once or twice. He took a Kenyon Martin-led Cincinnati team right down to the wire in the NCAA tournament when he was there. Then he goes to Pittsburgh, which was one of the worst programs in the Big East when he got there. In two years, he gets them to the NCAA tournament and is in the Sweet 16 two straight years without a single player that was ever drafted. That might be more impressive than three straight Final Fours. It’s incredible. That’s an amazing stat. He’s done it at NAU, at Pittsburgh and at a high-level at UCLA. It’s amazing.”

The Pac-10 went through an unbelievable run there over the last four years. It seems like there were so many pros. You’ve been covering the Pac-10 since you first got started. Is that run one of the best runs of talent you’ve seen since you started this?

“It’s incredible. There were better teams in the league of the last couple of years and the level of the players was much, much better. There were just incredible players in the league recently. I think this is the year you can’t lose that many pros at an early age, where you only have these guys for a year or two. I still think you’ll see four, maybe five, schools from the Pac-10 in the tournament but I don’t think we’ll see it like it has been. There won’t be six teams from the league in the tournament and five of those teams are better seeds. This year, you’ll have a couple four or five seeds and a couple of seven to nine seeds.”

As somebody who has been a newspaper man for a long time, are you surprised more newspapers didn’t cover recruiting and high school sports?

“I think it took a long time for people to take one. My paper, the Long Beach paper, we had a guy that followed football recruiting. It was an obsession with us. We had a section called Recruiting Day. We called every college SID and have them fax us their recruiting lists. We’d have three or four part-time employees that were just typing up agate, sometimes two pages worth. For one day a week, 98 percent of our staff was working on football recruiting stuff. Nobody else did it. The LA Times couldn’t give a rat’s ass about recruiting. The Orange County paper did a little bit and a few of the Southern papers did a little bit. By the time newspapers started catching on is when papers started crumbling as we know it today. Certainly the Internet has changed it not only from the coverage of recruiting but in the process of recruiting, too. Anybody who is reading this obviously knows the reasons why. In reality, the Internet and agents or agents representatives probably are the two things that maybe 10 years ago had maybe no or little impact on recruiting that are now huge factors in recruiting. Anyone who doesn’t think so, doesn’t follow recruiting.”

You mentioned the Internet and agents having a big impact on today’s landscape of the game. Is there anything else that you’ve seen that has changed with prospects?

“The specter and the allure of NBA careers is really taking over. Not so long ago when you would talk to guys about recruiting, they’d say the NBA of the better players but it was more about getting on television or playing in the best conference or, if they are a legitimate student, they actually cared about the school and education. Chances are now, kids are thinking more and more of the NBA. Everybody and their mother thinks they are going to be in the NBA and everyone, including their mother, want to be around when and if it does happen.”

Who were the two best players you saw this summer?

“The two best players I saw over the summer were Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes.”

Some of the best games I’ve ever seen since covering high school kids came from Kevin Love. He ripped down nearly 30 rebounds at the City of Palms. The first time I saw Love was when he was a freshman at the Les Schwab Invitational and was outstanding in his first big, major event. Have you ever watched a player live up to the hype, the early hype, as well has he has and succeed?

“Jason Kidd lived up to the hype. O’Bannon, you knew he was really good, but he didn’t have the hype that Kidd did. On every level of basketball that Love played, people would always say he’s a great player but can he do it at the next level? As an eighth grader, he was 6-4 and kind of pudgy. They’d say he’d overpower people at that level. They’d always say wait until he gets to the next level against better and bigger athletes. Well he dominated high school level. They’d say the same thing because he played in Oregon. Well he dominated the national summer level. Well, when he gets to the NBA he’s this, he’s that. He had a great rebounding average as a rookie. You look back and talk to old NBA guys and they always say there is one thing that you can always safely know is this – if a guy is a great rebounder in high school, he’s going to be a great rebounder in college. If he’s a great rebounder in college, then he’s going to be an outstanding rebounder in the NBA. That isn’t about how athletic you are or how tall you are. That’s about a mentality.”

Your bio claims that you are an expert on movies and burgers. I can’t end this interview without asking where the best burgers are on, in your opinion.

“The obvious one is the In-and-Out burger. It’s almost cliché but it is true. I really haven’t found any outside of Southern California that are really better. Fat Burgers, Tommy’s and In-and-Out are probably the three.”

Well what is the best movie you’ve had a chance to watch this year?

“The best movies I saw this summer were Inglorious Bastards, District 9, 500 Days of Summer and The Hurt Locker. Those are the four best movies I saw over the summer.”

Just a Minute archives:
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports
Jody Demling, Louisville Courier-Journal
Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports
Rob Harrington, Prep Stars
Jerry Meyer,
Aran Smith,
Dave Telep,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

12 @ 12: Where are they going?

It is almost November and in recruiting, November means two things: the high school basketball season starts and players sign their National Letters of Intents. There are still a number of top players that have yet to make their college decisions. Where will they go? We take a shot at where we think the top 12 uncommitted players in the class of 2010 may be going.

1. Harrison Barnes - Duke. I’m sticking to my guns with this one. I’m also sticking to my belief that Oklahoma, not North Carolina, is second.
2. Brandon Knight - Connecticut. The reason? Playing time. He could play every minute he wants when he’s in Storrs.
3. Adrien Payne - Florida A&M. Why not? The big man from Ohio seems to always have a new list. But in all seriousness, West Virginia is our pick.
4. Tobias Harris - The Big East. From there, it is hard to call. The gut says Syracuse. Connecticut is the other likely finalist.
5. Jelan Kendrick - Since he maintains his decision will come in the spring, we still believe that his list of school will change a number of times. Memphis and Georgia Tech are strong right now.
6. Doron Lamb (pictured) - The Big 12. From there, it is hard to call (part two). The gut says Oklahoma. Kansas is the other likely finalist.
7. Josh Selby - Kentucky. He makes perfect sense for John Calipari. He’s Chris Douglas-Roberts, part two.
8. Terrence Jones - Washington. And he’ll be a Pac-10 All-Conference player as long as he’s there.
9. Justin Coleman - Prep school or junior college. Or tricky recruiting.
10. Tarik Black - Memphis. His buddy, Joe Jackson, is already locked up for Josh Pastner. Black could follow suit.
11. Josh Smith - UCLA. And not a soul will be surprised.
12. Ray McCallum - Detroit. Chance to play for dad? Chance to help his team make it to the NCAA tournament? Chance to be a mid-major star? Hard to pass on all of that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend Randomness

1. Kyrie Irving caused quite a stir last week with his commitment to Duke. He announced it on live television on the sparsely watched ESPNU channel. One problem: he verbally committed to Duke nearly a month before his big announcement.

So why did he deny reports that he committed? I have a theory.

There is pressure from the fine folks that coordinate the ESPNU on-air announcements. They have asked kids to “keep your mouth shut,” as one parent told me last year about a conversation between a producer, the high school coach, AAU coach and the player regarding the player’s commitment. I knew the player committed. The player knew I knew he committed. The parent knew I knew he committed. They told me, for goodness sakes, but asked that I not print anything because if I did, the parent said “ESPN said they will pull the interview five minutes before (his son) was to go on the air.”

That is why there is a denial. Sure, I get it. The kid wants his moment on television. That’s pretty cool. I can’t deny that. But who has ESPNU? Who watches that channel anyways? I can promise you that more people read and more than they watch ESPNU. Why not announce it via the Internet sites where the traffic is greater? Enough of my complaining.

2. One more thing…Irving said he visited Texas A&M as a favor to assistant coach Scott Spinelli, who played college ball with Irving’s father at Boston University. Favor visits are insulting more than anything else. Coaches believe that having a high-profile player coming to campus does wonders with recruits. Hogwash. Having a big-time player coming to town and not landing him hurts more than helps. It’s like saying you’ve faced Nolan Ryan 12 times in your playing career and struck out all 12 times. Now I’m done. I swear.

3. Okay, okay. This is it. I swear. Irving is a terrific commitment for the Duke Blue Devils. He is a terrific kid. He is a terrific scorer. He has terrific basketball I.Q. He is the best commitment in the Duke backcourt since Jason Williams and Chris Duhon. His impact will be felt immediately. All eyes are now on you Harrison Barnes. Just stay off Twitter.

4. In all of my years of covering college basketball recruiting and high school hoops, I never went to the Eddie Griffin Challenge in the fall. The day is a match-up of the top players in Philly and New Jersey. It is one of the few events that I truly want to cover but never can. My friends at NBE Basketball were there. And their coverage is excellent (no surprise there).

5. I’m not going to say West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks is a sleeper. But I will say this: he’s the best player in the country that gets the least amount of credit. In fact, he’s a better version of Rudy Gay. In fact, he’s better than Rudy Gay. In fact, he could be the best player in the country.

6. The NBA season officially starts this season. Can’t wait to see where amazing happens.

7. I’ve pumped them before, last week in fact. But if you don’t read Rush the Court on a daily basis, you are missing out on a great college basketball site.

8. Brilliant story written by Shira Springer of The Boston Globe about former Celtic Antoine Walker and how he is losing nearly $110 million. If you've been to Vegas in July, this story shouldn't surprise you one bit.

9. You can stop chewing your nails and staying up late at night. The latest ranking of the nation’s top sixth graders is now up on at the HoopScoop, the biggest mockery of basketball on the planet.

10. Is it me or does Rick Pitino look really aged in this sit down with ESPN's Andy Katz? He may say his off-the-court sex-capades won’t play into his team. His team said the same thing at the Big East media day. But take one good look at him, and he looks like a man that has lived with a lot of internal stress of late.

11. I know of three teams that went paint-balling as a team building experience this week. Very cool idea.

12. Here are my 12 football thoughts from the weekend:

A. Reason number one why BYU isn’t as good as their record or ranking: they can’t handle athletes. Florida State laughed at the Cougars’ lack of speed. TCU walked all over the BYU secondary. Both losses came at home, one of the toughest places to play in the West.
B. Wow, what a finish in the Alabama-Tennessee game. Perhaps the best finish of a game this season?
C. Then Iowa comes along and scores on a last second touchdown against Michigan State just an hour later.
D. Thank goodness the best game of the week isn’t on Versus every single week. That was the freshmen ‘B’ team doing the game on play-by-play, commentary and camera work. Sheesh.
E. Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, how many times a week do you hear, “You remind me so much of Wes Welker.”
F. If you aren’t a believer in the Pittsburgh Steelers, you should be. Now that Troy Polamulu is back in the secondary, that defense is downright deadly. Just ask Percy Harvin.
G. We know this much – Brett Favre will not make a tackle on a defensive return.
H. Move over Dos Equis man, Mike Tomlin is the coolest man in the world. Those aviators are GQ, baby.
I. Shame on Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed. What was that attempted tackle on Percy Harvin’s kickoff return? That was offensive.
J. Part of me wonders if the Houston Texans are this year’s Arizona Cardinals.
K. Ted Ginn, Jr. has a bad case of the Braylan Edwards. Ginn can’t catch a ball when it matters.
K. Mile Austin, welcome to the Big Time, kid.
L. Who is the Heisman leader right now? Another week, another blank stare at a list of great players that have underachieved by their lofty standards. How about giving the award to the SEC officials? Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame will probably be the popular pick with Alabama’s Mark Ingram being the most logical choice at the current moment.
M. Who is the early NFL MVP leader right now? Peyton Manning sits atop my list. Drew Brees is a close second. And the New Orleans gunslinger may take over the top spot in the very near future. He was AMAZING in a terrific second half comeback on Sunday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just a Minute with Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram

Prior to my immersion into the .com recruiting world with and, I was a young, hungry hoops addict that wanted to dive into the hoops journalism scene. I reached out to several top writers in the hoops world. One of those writers was Frank Burlison, one of the best basketball writers I knew of.

To my surprise, he replied back. We eventually talked for a while about hoops and for a couple of stories that I wrote for various publications. Now years later, I had the great pleasure of reaching out to Burlison again for a Q&A session for the National Hoops Report.

Burlison is a member of the basketball writers Hall of Fame and the brain trust behind the Best in the West list of the top high school basketball players from the West.

In part one of our two-part series, we talk a lot about the Best in the West and a number of other topics.

How long have you been doing the Best in the West series?

“This is our 31st year that I’ve done it. The first one I did, I was 21 years old. It was 1977. I’d do it every spring but with the advent of the November letter of intent whenever that was in the 80s, I thought it becomes rather anti-climatic. Everybody would have signed five months prior to the list coming out and people lose the enthusiasm with it. I moved it to coincide with the early signing period.”

When you did your first one, was it a matter of, “Okay, here is who I think is the Best in the West.” Or did you reach out to people like you do now?

“In 1977 I started doing it because at the time we had another guy at the paper who was really into football recruiting. He was heavy into it. Obviously when you are talking about the late 1970s, there is no Internet, no television games for high school, no recruiting shows. The way you got your information nationally was you knew coaches and you talk to them on the phone or you talked to them at games about the good players that they have seen. You have different friends that are writers that you’d call up and ask. Or you go to a big library that had all of the metropolitan papers and you’d learn what days would have the high school coverage and literally go through stacks of papers from across the country. You’d sit there for hours and read everything. There was no Google. No Internet. And if there was a big summer tournament, you’d try to go to it. You’d go to BCI. The Superstar Camp, which I think started in the summer of ’74 at Point Loma College in San Diego, then moved to UC Santa Barbara for a long, long time after that. Anyways, for someone like me in the West, it was great. Coaches would go to BCI, Superstar camp and that’s about it. Those camps would get about 90 percent of the best players in the West and a sprinkling of guys nationally. You’d have Watts summer games, which still exists but only has about 30 teams, but back then you’d have like 120 of the top teams in Southern California. It was a two weekend long thing. There’d be a few others. The only other camps out there were the Five-Star camps and Bill Cronauer camps. There wasn’t all these venues to see players like there are now. If you got to see 20 percent of the best players in the country, you were feeling pretty good. The first Vegas event that I went to was in 1975 at Valley High School. I think there was only like 18 teams there – two from New York, two from L.A., one from Vegas, one from Arizona, one from Utah, that was it. It was a three-day thing. College coaches would be there. The first one that I can remember had Riverside Church (out of New York) that had Jeff Ruland and Albert King. You were almost giddy to see an elite level player in person.”

Your story about the library reminds me of a story a head coach told me about his days as an early recruiter and doing the same thing with the newspapers and calling the kids that scored the most points in a game or the writer that wrote the game story.

“Or they’d go find the paper in the spring time that had the all-city or all-state teams. You’d get all excited and almost yell out ‘Oh there is an all-state team from Utah or Texas!’ You couldn’t tear the paper, so you’d either copy it or hand write it all out. Or you take your ruler out and rip it out and put it in a folder so no one knew you just ripped it out. The stuff I do now is just amazing for finding this information. You’d write the papers and ask them to mail you their all-state teams. Back then, I’m 17, 18-years-old, and I’m not going to work up a giant phone bill so I’d just write the papers and ask for them to send it to me. More often than not, they’d write you back. People would start to send more and more lists as it went along. It was really time consuming but it was a labor of love. Nowadays you Google a kid and there are three or four websites that have a profile on the kid and eight different papers have done a story on him and MaxPreps has all of his stats and you probably can find three different mug shots. You just don’t find sleepers anymore because of that.”

How much has Best of the West really evolved?

“When I first started doing it in 1977, I had already known a lot of college coaches just from covering the high schools and a little bit of college stuff. Back then, recruiting rules pretty much only said, ‘Don’t blatantly buy players.’ They could recruit 365 days a year if they wanted to. So I’d see coaches at Verbum Dei, Long Beach Poly, Crenshaw, all of the big programs. You’d see coaches all the time. You’d see the same coaches every summer, too, at the leagues. St. John Bosco and Bellflower would have great summer leagues with the best teams. I’d go there on my free nights and talk to the coaches and talk to people and drum up list. A lot of the people that I trust today I met way back then at these types of places like Dick Davey, who is now at Stanford. I’ve known Ben Howland since high school. We went to rival high schools. I got to know a lot of these guys when they were high school coaches or young assistant coaches. There are guys who vote now for Best of the West that were players on the Best of the West list. There are guys now that are Best of the West guys whose fathers were on the Best of the West lists back then. When you think about all of the years, it gets a little over-whelming.”

How many people vote for the Best of the West team now?

“Back then, I’d call the 12, 13 coaches that would recruit the West the best. There’d be two or three national coaches that I’d call, too, just because they would always been out here recruiting. I’d just talk to everybody and just reach a consensus of 10 players and an honorable mention. Now, I want to make it as objective as I could and I made a ballot and made it a regular vote. Back then, when there was no email, I’d type up a ballot and mail it out to make it easier for them. Four or five days later, they’d start to trickle into the office. I’d find myself racing into the office to see who else sent their ballot in and they’d pile up. Nowadays, I have like 30 ballots sitting here. Before I left the Press-Telegram in ’98 to go to the Orange County Register, it was ridiculous. I’d send out around 120 ballots and get 80 to 90 back. At the highest point, I think I had 90 or so voters through the mail. It became a very valid thing. In the late 1980s, the NCAA came up with the rule where college coaches couldn’t comment on players before they had signed so that ended me listing on who voted because technically that would be a violation of who voted for who. Now I think last year I had 50 or so ballots. Once you get to 50, the guys have already separated themselves beforehand. Nowadays, you already know who it’s going to be more times than not. You know what people are thinking and who people are watching. It’s not quite mysterious as it used to be. But in a year like this, after Terrence Jones or Josh Smith, you don’t really know. You can flip a coin and it because interesting.”

You bring up a good point about how there are really no more sleepers any more. Maybe as early as five years ago you could walk into a gym in Las Vegas and find a kid.

“Let’s put it this way, I still think there plenty of guys that are misevaluated. I don’t mean to put down any of the guys that do the scouting or speak ill will of anyone that does that for a living at all. Sleepers are guys that people just didn’t see. I think there are guys who people see but maybe don’t see in the right setting or the people who saw the player and just didn’t understand that player and what he does well. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t had any coaching. Maybe it’s because he’s a passive individual. All of those things have to be considered. You have to factor those things in. There probably aren’t as many sleepers anymore but there are still a lot of players that are not evaluated correctly. It doesn’t mean he’s way better than people think. I think sometimes the hype gets in the way sometimes with players, too.”

Who comes to mind, 10, 20 years back that are some of the best out of nowhere stories?

“A guy like Stacey Augmon was a guy like that. People maybe never realized how good he was until he got to Vegas. He never went to ABCD camp, he didn’t go to any of the Bill Cronower camps. Back then, the guys that didn’t go to those camps were the sleepers. He’s one that comes to mind.”

You said John Williams “was LeBron James well before the Cleveland Cavaliers' superstar was born.” For the kids, who is John Williams?

“Magic Johnson was the first 6-8, big, bulky kind of guy that was that skilled with the ball. John Williams came a couple of years after him and he was that same kind of player. He ate himself out of NBA stardom. Then LeBron came around. For their particular era, those three guys are unique compared to everyone else. Obviously Magic is an all-timer. In time, LeBron will be an all-timer. John Williams was a great high school and eventually a good college player.” (Read more on John Williams here).

Can you talk about Jason Kidd, who you call the best ever BIW player, when he was in high school?

“Kidd was one of these guys that had massive hype even pre-Internet, pre-national publicity. You’d hear about him all the time. He played varsity at St. Joseph’s as a freshman. Newspaper people and college coaches would always say, ‘You should see this kid playing summer league. He’s only 14. He’s in eighth grade. Jason Kidd! Jason Kidd!’ I saw him in Vegas for the first time and saw him at the Nike camp and you were just like, ‘Wow!’ Even back then, I was starting to become skeptical of hype but when you watched him, you were like, ‘Wow, he’s ridiculous.’”

More from Burlison's Q&A coming next week.

Just a Minute archives:
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports
Jody Demling, Louisville Courier-Journal
Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports
Rob Harrington, Prep Stars
Jerry Meyer,
Aran Smith,
Dave Telep,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

NHR Mailbag: Oct. 22

Over the summer, Jelan Kendrick was mentioned with Georgetown a lot. Now, not so much. Is he truly wide open?

He’s contended that he is wide open and is claiming offers from 30-plus schools, Georgetown being one of them. I think Memphis is in good shape. He made the trek to the school for the Midnight Madness festivities and liked it up there. But that being said, I don’t anticipate him making a decision in the fall and while Memphis is certainly a contender, I can see his list changing shape several more times before he finally makes his decision.

Do you think Brandon Knight and Corey Joseph ever consider playing together at UConn?

I’m not so sure either one has thought about playing with the other one and I don’t think it will factor into either one’s decision. I do think, however, that the two could co-exist on the same team and in the same backcourt. Both can play the one and the two. Knight will demand the ball more than Joseph, who I’d play more at the one than Knight if they played together. At the end of the day, I don’t foresee the two playing together.

There seems to be several teams who seem to have filled their scholarships for next year but you continue to hear about them being involved with recruits. What's the deal with that and explain what these teams could be telling potential recruits? Also, can you sign a recruit to a letter of intent if you're over-extended on scholarships? How does that work?

College basketball recruiting is never truly finished, especially in the fall. In today’s landscape of the game, rosters are always being reshaped and restructured at the end of the year. You could see a transfer or a player leaving for the pros or an injury. You never know. Teams will never say it but sometimes they might be trying to force a player off the team too and that would open up a spot. And finally, they could be planning on a redshirt year for a player, too. Scholarships are renewed every year for every player on the team. I’m a believer that staffs are always looking to fill two more spots than they really have.

After the defections to the Big East, Conference USA was on the board-line between being a low high-major conference and a high mid-major conference, mainly because of Memphis. Now that Calipari has moved on does C-USA officially become a mid-major conference or can Josh Pastner keep Memphis at Calipari-level?

That is a tough question only because there is a fine line between high-major programs in mid-major conferences. Memphis certainly fits the bill the most. I still consider them a high-major school. I think I always will. I consider Gonzaga, Xavier and, you could argue, Butler for high-major status in mid-major conferences. Regardless of what coaches are there, the teams that continually win against BCS conference teams have to be considered a high-major program. There really isn’t a rule or a definition that one can follow regarding this distinction. I know this though – Josh Pastner will try to keep Memphis not only in high-major contention but he’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure the Tigers remain one of the top programs in all the country.

Who is/was better coming out of high school, Brandon Jennings or John Wall?

From a skills standpoint, I think John Wall is/was better than Brandon Jennings. He’s bigger. He’s quicker. He’s stronger. He’s covers more ground in the open floor. But Jennings was still quite the prospect in high school. He went from a dominant pass first guy to a dominant score first guy. Moreover, he won more games. That’s a great equalizer when it comes to point guards. I’d take Wall every day though. I think he is a better player at the end of the day.

Dwight Powell headed to Stanford, where does Georgia Tech turn now for help in the frontcourt?

That is a good question. Tobias Harris is certainly a guy that the staff really wants to land. That isn’t a secret. But something tells me he won’t be leaving the Northeast for college. That bodes well for Syracuse and Connecticut.

The staff has spent some time in Australia and New Zealand this fall looking at a handful of prospects, too. The program is big in that neck of the woods thanks to former Jacket Luke Schenscher.

What’s the latest on Tarik Black and Tony Mitchell. I know Black was at Marquette Madness this past weekend, but I was wondering if he has any other visits set up and what his timetable is? Same question for Mitchell. Will he take visits?

I think it is important to note Black’s visit to Marquette on the first practice weekend of the year. A lot of people, myself very much included, thought Black would have committed to Memphis soon after Joe Jackson popped for the program. I still do think Black ends up at Memphis. But for him to not be at home for Midnight Madness is a big storyline that isn’t being talked about in the national landscape. That bodes well for Marquette.

Regarding Mitchell – I’ve been told that his recruitment could likely carry over to the spring and could be similar to Latavious Williams’s recruitment because of academics. I think Mitchell is much better and is in better shape in the classroom so it may not be as complicated in the spring.

I'm a SoCon fan and was wondering who the top 2010 recruits are for Davidson, College of Charleston and GA Southern? Who do you think will win the conference and who will get Player of the Year award?

I really like the James Carlton commitment for College of Charleston that happened this week. He’s the ultimate SoCon big man and after a potential red-shirt year, the North Carolina native could be a three-year starter.

Trent Wiedeman, a brute of a forward from Greater Atlanta Christian in Georgia, is close to committing and it will come down to College of Charleston, Georgia Southern and High Point. He’s the top recruit for each of those schools right now.

As far as winning the conference – I like College of Charleston this year. It is their time and I like Andrew Goudelock to take home the Player of the Year honors this season.

Quinn Cook vs. Kyrie Irving are both are studs and have similar games. Can you compare the two?

You are right, the two are studs. Cook isn’t the scorer that Irving is. Irving is a sneaky scorer that can pump in 30-plus points with little fanfare. Cook can score it but he has never really been a threat to go for a load of points. He is more of a setup man. Cook is probably a little quicker and a tad more athletic. I like Irving’s long-term potential a little bit better because of his high basketball IQ.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

12 @ 12: Top mid-major transfers

After looking at the top 12 high-major transfers last week, we dive into the mid-major schools this week. Who tops the list? Who will make a difference? Who will help take their team to the NCAA tournament? We take a stab at the top dozen mid-major transfers that are eligible to play this season.

1. Tyrone Shelley, Pepperdine to San Diego State (pictured above) - After averaging 15.1 points a game at Pepperdine as a freshman, the 6-5 sophomore is back home and ready for an equally big role for the Aztecs. Shelley’s addition, as well as his high school teammate Malcolm Thomas’s addition, make a strong case as to why San Diego State will be in the National Hoops Report top 25 pre-season teams.

2. Armon Bassett, Indiana to Ohio - There are those in the Midwest that believe the former Hoosier could be the Player of the Year in the MAC despite missing a couple of games at the start of the year due to transfer rules. He averaged over 10 points and three assists a game in his career at IU.

3. Tony Freeman, Iowa State to Southern Illinois - After being named third team All-Big Ten, the Illinois native returned home for his senior season. Before ending his junior year early due to an injury, Freeman averaged 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He’ll likely content for All-Missouri Valley Conference honors this year.

4. Derrick Jasper, Kentucky to UNLV - A change of scenery is what the California native was looking forward. What he found was the keys to the car for the Running Rebels. Jasper should drive Lon Kruger’s team back to the Big Dance once again this year.

5. Xavier Silas, Colorado to Northern Illinois – The Texas native averaged nearly 10 points a game as a sophomore at Colorado. He started 35 games for the Big 12 school and should start every game this year for Ricardo Patton, the coach that recruited him to Colorado.

6. Shamari Spears, Boston College to Charlotte – The former ACC starter gives the 49ers some more brute strength on the low blocks. He averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore at BC. He should be good for 13 points and similar rebounds for a team that is ready to right the ship.

7. Christian Polk, Arizona State to UTEP – After scoring a dozen points a game as a freshman, he dropped down to less than four a game last year for Herb Sendek. Now in West Texas, Polk and Randy Culpepper make for a deadly duo for Tony Barbee’s team.

8. Larry Wright, St. John’s to Oakland - After two years playing for Norm Roberts, the 6-2 Michigan native is back home. And there are some that expect him to be the Summit League Player of the Year. We aren’t as confident but Wright should be an instant starter and an all-conference level player this season.

9. JayDee Luster, San Diego State to Wyoming - The 5-7 point guard was looking for a change. And boy will he get one. The San Diego native leaves the majestic winters of SoCal for the dreary Wyoming blizzards. In return, Luster will likely start for a team that is trying to make a move from middle of the pack to relevance in the Mountain West. How about this – he’s already a team captain.

10. Eli Holman, Indiana to Detroit – The Detroit coaches are expecting a lot from him defensively. The long-armed Californian will block a lot of shots and clog the lane. A near 7-footer, Holman is a rarity in the Horizon League.
11. Larry Davis, Seton Hall to Loyola Marymount - After last year’s three win season, the only way to go is up for LMU. Davis, a New York native, should play a big role in the upswing. He’s a smart scorer that could be a 15 points per game guy.

12. Justin Tubbs, Alabama to East Tennessee State - There just aren’t guards like him in the competitive and balanced Atlantic Sun. The muscular and athletic 6-4 guard could be the difference maker for a team that always battles for the top spot in the A-Sun.

Monday, October 19, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend randomness

1. I held my annual Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase over the weekend at the New Birth church in Lithonia, Georgia and came away impressed with the effort level put forward by the players at the event. The tone was set early by our amazing staff of coaches, the best you will find at any fall showcase nationally, and the players took the attitude and ran with it. We talked about taking home three things from camp regardless of the sport that we all love. I’d love to hear the feedback from the players and parents on what the three things they took home with them. Email me at

2. Top 2010 prospect from the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase: Cameron Solomon, SG, Lovejoy & Chad Johnson, PG/SG, Westlake

3. Top 2011 prospect from the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase: Henry Brooks, PF, Miller Grove & Ryon Riggins, PF, North Gwinnett

4. Top 2012 prospect from the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase: Kyle Meyer, C, Northview

5. Top 2013 prospect from the Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase: A.J. Davis, SF, Greater Atlanta Christian

6. For more detailed coverage from camp, be sure to check out ESPN Recruiting, and I’ll be running daily stories on regarding the camp.

7. Jerry Meyer of tackled an interesting question in his mailbag over the weekend regarding the top seven players he's scouted in high school. In order, he picked:

1. LeBron James
2. John Wall
3. Mike Gilchrist
4. Greg Oden
5. Dwight Howard
6. Michael Beasley
7. Brandon Knight

My list looks a little different:

1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Greg Oden
4. Kevin Durant
5. John Wall
6. Derrick Rose
7. Michael Beasley

8. Do you use Twitter? I do. So do a lot of college coaches. Dave Telep of tackled the issue and it’s role in recruiting. He and I share the same belief that it offers zero advantage in the recruiting process. Telep surveyed a number of coaches about it’s effectiveness.

9. If you missed out on who was visiting where for Midnight Madness, did a great job of tracking down the lists for schools across the country.

10. In all of my years of covering recruiting, I’ve never heard a recruit say he committed to the school because a coach awkwardly danced in front of the student body, drove in on a race car or preached to the followers for 10 minutes. Rappers, dunk contests and intra-squad scrimmages are fun, sure, but they aren’t the recruiting tool that they are perceived to be.

11. There seems to be this belief that if you aren’t committed to a school before your senior year than you are behind pace in the recruiting calendar. Wrong. What’s the rush? It is perfectly okay to still be uncommitted right now. With the April period closed for evaluations, college coaches are still identify, even in October, as to who they want to pursue during the high school season. Besides, with the constant changing of coaches, the increased number of transfers and now the departure of players to not only the NBA but to international endeavors, teams are always scrambling in the spring to figure out their recruiting plan. Word of the wise to prospects: Be patient, play hard and make teams make you a priority.

12. Here are my 12 football thoughts from the weekend:

A. The Texas-Oklahoma game just didn’t seem to have the same kind of juice this year. Neither does the Big 12 for that matter.

B. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, last year’s star rookie quarterbacks, never looked like Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford have this year.

C. The New York Giants entered Sunday’s match-up against the New Orleans Saints with a 5-0 record. But the combined record of the teams the Giants defeated five games into the season was 6-19. Clearly the record was deceiving.

That made me wonder, of the four undefeated teams in the NFL right now, who could be like the Giants? Indiapolis, Denver, Minnesota and New Orleans are all undefeated. The combined record for teams that Denver and New Orleans have defeated is 14-15, the best of the four. The combined record for teams beaten by Minnesota, the only 6-0 team in the league, is 11-23. Indianapolis opponents combine for 10-18.

D. It took Peyton Manning five games to finally get into his groove last year en route to a MVP season. Tom Brady looked like he is finally finding his old form, albeit the lowly Tennessee Titans, on Sunday. He was making pinpoint passes in the snow. If he has time to plant his front foot, forget about it. That pass will be complete and likely six points.

E. Have the Tennessee Titans lost their jerseys this season? The Oilers gear has been the go-to uniform this season for Jeff Fisher’s club. The way the team is playing, maybe they should just hand in all of the jerseys and call the year a wash.

F. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Brett Favre is still simply amazing.

G. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Ray Lewis is simply amazing.

H. When the Atlanta Falcons signed former Jacksonville Jaguar Mike Peterson in the offseason, there was a collective groan from fans over the disappointment in the lack of movement on the defensive end. Once again, Thomas Dimitroff has proven he and head coach Mike Smith know much more about you and I regarding football personnel. Peterson is the hardest hitting player on the Falcons and has made big play after big play on a mediocre Falcon defense.

I. Speaking of my hometown Falcons, Matt Ryan is simply amazing to watch. He already has it, whatever it is, in just a season and five games into his NFL career. I wonder how many Super Bowls rings he’ll be fitter for.

J. Peter King, one of my favorite sportswriters on the planet and inspiration for this “Weekend Randomness” 12 @ 12, wrote: “It is a mark of how good Ben Roethlisberger is that he threw for 417 yards, with two touchdowns, and no one noticed. It's becoming routine.” So, so true. Did anyone outside of the Steel City see those numbers? Sheesh.

K. Wow, what a fantasy football weekend. It was the best scoring Sunday of the year. If your team didn’t score in the 100s, you probably lost.

L. Who is the Heisman leader right now? Your guess is as good as mine.

M. Who is the early NFL MVP leader right now? With Indianapolis on a bye week, Peyton Manning didn’t move up or down on my MVP list. However, Drew Brees has the offense playing at a Super Bowl caliber team in New Orleans. He shredded the Giants defense for 369 yards passing on 23-30 attempts and four touchdowns inside the Superdome.

Submit your questions for The Mailbag

Have a question regarding recruiting, high school hoops, college basketball, rankings, coaches or anything that relates hoops, ask away. National Hoops Report editor Justin Young will answer your submissions in this week's edition of The NHR Mailbag on Friday. To submit your question, email, via Twitter, or in the comments section below.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A little advice from your's truly

"Can I ask you for some advice?"

I get asked this question almost daily. Sometimes I feel like Lucy from Charlie Brown. For you kids, that was a cartoon back in the day. And we're not talking The Family Guy. Cartoons, the kind that were meant for kids.


I'm not a great advice giver. I promise. But I'll try.

Here are a couple of things to consider as the season approaches:

- Do you get it? Either you do or you don't. It's that simple. Do you have good grades? Do you honor the rules and guidelines that are given to you by your parents, teachers, coaches, leaders and those that have your best interest at heart? Do you play hard in blowouts? Do you run through a wall in practice? Do you stand up for your teammates? Do you do the right thing? People are watching. They are always watching.

- Are you humble? Guess what, it's okay to say you didn't do something right. It's okay to sit back, take the tongue-lashing from a coach or hear a criticism from someone that knows the game and the recruiting process. Learn from it. Get better from it. You learn the most when you are the most humble. Swallow your pride every once in a while. Part of becoming a man, is taking it like a man.

- Find your fit. Parents and players ask round the clock about what school is the best. It's about the fit. Of course, everyone wants to play at the highest level. Who doesn't want to hear Dickie V go crazy about you? But guess what, there is more to life than that. Don't rob yourself of a great opportunity because you want to go to a high-major and play when the games are clearly in the books. Will you find your best fit at a: High-major? Mid-major? Low-major? Division II? Division III? Junior college? NAIA? Do your homework. Finding the best fit is the first start to an amazing college experience.

- If you do go to a high-major school, make sure you know what it takes to be a teammate. Guess what, that guy that you'll be rooming with or traveling in a bus across the country and flying in a cramped airplane is just as good as you (or better). So are the guys that the assistant coaches will be recruiting when you are in college. Sometimes it is his night to shine. Hopefully you all shine together.

- If someone goes out of their way to come and watch you play (ahem, a college coach!), be sure to sincerely thank him. Chances are, he'd probably like to be tucking his kids into bed and sitting on the couch with his wife back home. Instead, he came to watch you play. Be aware of that. Be sure to thank them. It goes a long way.

- Research, research, research. I can't stress this enough. I can't tell you how many times I've seen kids renege on their commitment. Honor your word. It is part of becoming a man. Find out everything you can about that school. Visit them. See the town you want to live in for four years. Find out if they have your major. See the campus. See the people. You might meet your wife there. You might meet your future business partner there. You might cure cancer thanks to the studies you receive there. Find out if that coach runs a style of play that you can shine in but be challenged to grow as a player. Can you win at that school?

- Associate yourself with people that you trust. That is, hopefully, your parents. That is, hopefully, your high school coach. That is, hopefully, a travel team coach. Seek out those that want you to succeed long past your playing days are over. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Beware.

- If you are a college prospect, everything will take care of itself. Don't worry about rankings. They have never paid for anyone's education. You do by your play, your work in the classroom and your character. You can't rank those. If you want a gold star, I'll take you down to CVS and buy one for you. Worry about what happens on the court, what happens in the classroom and what happens within the walls of your own home. Everything takes care of itself if you are doing your part.

I could go on for days but this should cover it. For now, at least. Play ball, play hard, play for fun, enjoy your high school days and find those that you consider your friends and listen to your family, who loves you and wants the best for you. If you do that, you won't need the advice because you are probably already living these principles already.

(I orginally wrote this for my Georgia Hoops blog on 10/22/07. In preparing for my camp this weekend, these thoughts re-entered my tiny, pea-sized brain. I hope they can help someone.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

12 @ 12: Top high-major transfers

Sometimes change is good.

A number of high-major programs have welcomed new faces to town and rely on the newcomers quite a bit this year. Here is a look at the National Hoops Report's 12 best high major transfers.

1. Wesley Johnson, Iowa State to Syracuse (pictured above) – The former Cyclone may be the most significant transfer in the country. Jim Boeheim’s team needs a go-to guy and the 6-7 forward should be that guy. In fact, Johnson could even turn his season into a position in the NBA Lottery.

2. Elliot Williams, Duke to Memphis – Back home in front of family and friends and on a team that needs to find it’s identity, the native son could be in store for a magical year. He’s proven himself as a dynamic scorer and should have a green light to let it fly.

3. Jordan Crawford, Indiana to Xavier – Talk to anyone in Cincinanati and they’ll tell you that the 6-5 guard is much more than a bigger than life dunk from the summer. He’s one of the most versatile guards in college basketball.

4. Malcolm Grant, Villanova to Miami – He’s the best point guard Frank Haith has had since he’s been at the helm of the ACC school. And for this year’s team, that means a lot. Grant could be the surprise of the conference this year.

5. Ben Hansbrough, Mississippi State to Notre Dame – The Irish will love his toughness in the backcourt and his mindset to get the meat-eaters (i.e. Luke Harangody) the basketball but can also score off the ball. Hansbrough was a sophomore starter at Mississippi State.

6. Curtis Kelly, UConn to Kansas State – The coaches in Manhattan are excited about the match-up problem the New Yorker will be in the Big 12. He’s bigger and stronger and ready to give the team a presence on the low block. He only makes Wally Judge better, too.

7. Alex Stepheson, North Carolina to Southern Cal – Now back in his hometown, the muscular forward is exactly what new head coach Kevin O’Neill needs – a tough guy in a tough guy system.

8. Herb Pope, New Mexico State to Seton Hall – Finally on his feet and with a stable foundation under him, the former prep star is expected to shine. Word out of the Pirate camp, Pope has looked like his old self. That’s good news for Bobby Gonzalez and bad news for the Big East.

9. Vernon Macklin, Georgetown to Florida - For once, the Gators are gaining one instead of losing one. Macklin was rarely used in the Big East. He won’t be in the SEC. Bouncy and brawny, the Virginia native should play a significant role this year.

10. Jonathan Mitchell, Florida to Rutgers - After winning a national title at Florida, the former New York Player of the Year should start in the Big East. He adds leadership and a winner’s edge to the club.

11. Jeremiah Rivers, Georgetown to Indiana - The Hoosiers have only one way to go this year and that is up. Rivers gives the team some stability in the backcourt and versatility to run different looks.

12. Taylor King, Duke to Villanova - Jay Wright's team needed a perimeter threat and that is exactly what the former California prep star is. He's not afraid to fire from a far. With quick guards always on the attack, King will spot up and be a threat from the wing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

12 @ 12: Naismith Award favorites

A number of the top basketball analysts in the country have published their preseason top 50 Wooden Award nominees. For the most part, the lists are the same. Looking at the lists, I’ve come up with a dozen players that stand out the most.

My preseason favorites to win the Wooden Award are in alphabetical order:

1. Cole Aldrich, Kansas
2. Devan Downey, South Carolina
3. Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
4. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
5. Gordon Hayward, Butler
6. Robbie Hummel, Purdue
7. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
8. Greg Monroe, Georgetown
9. Kyle Singler, Duke
10. Tyler Smith, Tennessee
11. John Wall, Kentucky
12. Willie Warren, Oklahoma

I won’t be surprised to see seven or eight new faces on this list by the end of the year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend randomness

The fall is slowly disappearing and the basketball season is right around the corner. By next Monday, teams will have already practiced. The energy is growing stronger for the year. Can you feel it?

In the meantime, here are 12 things bouncing around my brain on a Monday.

1. This will be the last week of self-promotion in the Monday 12 @ 12. I can’t say enough about my upcoming camp on Saturday, Oct. 17. Former University of Georgia interim head coach Pete Hermann is our lead instructor at the camp. What a goldmine of knowledge he is for young players.

I’ve spent the fall going to showcases across the Southeast and I can promise you that none will provide the type of instruction that Hermann and our staff will provide. Our coaches combine for over 200 years of coaching and playing at the NBA, European, NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA, junior college and high school levels. Are you in the camp? If not, you can register today by clicking HERE.

ESPN and are our official media partners for the event – the two most visited recruiting websites on the Internet.

2. I took in a day’s work at the Pangos All-South camp over the weekend. The camp was stocked with good, young talent from the class of 2012 and 2013 classes. It wasn’t as strong as the camp has been in the past (few camps are this fall) but there were still several that stood out.

3. The top 2012 player from the Pangos All-South camp was: Charles Mitchell of Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler (pictured). The big man has really improved his offensive skill work in the post and scored with both hands all over the paint. He’s a below the rim player but knows how to use his body to score and rebound. Nice day’s work on Saturday.

4. The top 2013 player from the Pangos All-South camp was: A.J. Davis of Greater Atlanta Christian (Ga.). The 6-6 lefty and son of former NBA player Antonio Davis won the individual battles I saw him in on Saturday. He’s able to score down low, from the wing and defended the post. Impressive fall so far for the youngster.

5. Pangos All-South 2012 notes: Haven’t seen an athlete like Shaquille Johnson of Conyers (Ga.) Salem in a long time. Kid is incredibly explosive…Really liked the way Jack Montague (Brentwood, Tenn.) ran his team. Probably the best PG in the building. Really knew how to play…Mississippi post Gavin Ware of Starkville is a hoss. He couldn’t be moved on the low block…Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grove always has players. Tony Evans, a 6-4 wing, could be next...Damien Wilson, a 6-4 guard, had it rolling as a scorer on Saturday…Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler always lands a big transfer. Keep an eye on New Yorker move-in Winston McCleod. He’ll be on the JV because of the move-in this year but he’s a player to watch much like Winthrop bound Joey Jerome was after he moved in…Mississippi big man Devonta Pollard is one of the biggest sleepers for high-majors in 2012…Same goes for Memphis guard Chris Jones. He’s a blur with the ball and strong to boot.

6. Pangos All-South 2013 notes: Southwest Atlanta Christian forward Chris Davenport could be one of the best power forwards in the Southeast’s 2013 class. He’s skilled in the post and a great outlet passer…Brandon Bibbs of Atlantic Shores (Va.) was one of the best ball-hanlders at the camp…Looking forward to see Ishmael Martin of Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview again at my camp this weekend. Nice looking young player…Nick Gorski, a 6-7 forward from Richmond (Va.) Cosby has a chance to be a player. Thought of the Wear twins from California when watching him…Terrence Thompson of Alpharetta (Ga.) will be asked to wear a lot of hats this high school season. The 6-3 wing could be a surprise player in Atlanta.

7. No mailbag this week at the National Hoops Report.

8. If you don't have an ESPN Insider account, I'd urge you to get one for Jay Bilas and Jay Bilas alone. He's the smartest man in college basketball analysis. He is honest, well-spoken and backs up his points exceptionally well. He breaks down a number of items in his weekly column including: Phone Call Sensibleness, Recruiting, Letter of Intent, The Rules Committee, Ollie from Hoosiers, The Food Police and fun with numbers. Well worth the read for lunch today.

9. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports nailed it with Louisville. A day after Rick Pitino said: "Don't become part of that negative environment that just knocks and constantly says things that tear things down. Build things up. That's what positive people do," two of his players were arrested.

When I interviewed Parrish last month, he said "One of the keys to this business is not giving your opponent any fuel for ammunition. Louisville right now has a lot of ammunition against that program."

Louisville is loading up on ammo for all the wrong reasons right now.

10. Really thought’s Dave Telep knocked it out of the park with this outside-the-box story about visits and the anxiety level of college coaches during the process. The .com recruiting industry needs more stories like this. It reveals more from the coach's perspective. It's raw and honest - something that isn't always the case in recruiting.

A number of quotes stand out but this one, I thought, was intriguing: "Positioning of the visit depends completely on a kid's timetable. If we think we can get it done, we'd love to have the first visit. If the recruit is truly committed to taking all his visits, we'd rather go last. If it's unclear, we'll go first. As a rule, we try to get our most critical guys on campus as early as we can."

11. Ready for the college season to start? These guys are. Make sure you bookmark these guys. You'll probably be reading them a lot this year. Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, ESPN's crew of Jay Bilas, Andy Katz, Fran Fraschilla and Doug Gottlieb, Frank Burlison, Mike DeCourcey of The Sporting News, Basketball State, Rush the Court, The Mid-Majority and Ballin' is a Habit.

12. Here are my 12 football thoughts from the weekend:

A. Wide receivers, stay far away from Deion Sanders. Again. And again. And again. And M.C. Hammer for that matter.

B. Forget the ups and downs of offense in the SEC, the defenses in the league are scary. Florida beat LSU on the account of its defense. And LSU’s defense wasn’t too shabby either in defeat. Alabama’s defense may be the most physical in the league, too.

C. Thursday night games in NCAA football are becoming equally as exciting as Monday Night Football games. This week’s match-up of undefeated Big East teams – Cincinnati (5-0) and South Florida (5-0) – will have BCS nerds chewing their fingernails.

D. BYU quarterback Max Hall was a preseason Heisman candidate. Wonder why he isn’t considered one right now? The Florida State loss doesn’t help. But it is his 10 interceptions. He threw 14 last year.

E. Speaking of quarterbacks…can’t wait to watch Arkansas’s Ryan Mallett in the NFL. He’s 6-7, strong-armed and being groomed by All-American jerk and smart offensive coach Bobby Petrino…Florida State is struggling but not because of Christian Ponder. The junior from Texas has only thrown one interception this season. He was great in the first half against Georgia Tech…Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour has 20 total touchdowns this year. He’s 6-3 and 240 pounds. Think he’ll get a sniff for a first round pick?

F. Did anyone outside of the Denver Broncos locker room think the team would be 5-0 and have a win against the Patriots under their belt? And Kyle Orton would be as good as he’s been? Josh McDaniels, the youthful leader of men at Mile High, let it all hang out at the end of the game. That was great to see. Imagine if Bill Belichick did that after a win? Think it would inspire the Patriots, a team that looks a little lost right now?

G. Very emotional day for the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinate Mike Zimmer. His wife, Vikki, died last week. After struggling with her shocking death, Zimmer piloted his defense to a great win at Baltimore. What was more stirring was the immediate out-pouring of emotion from every single player on that Bengals team on the sidelines and locker room to Zimmer. You could tell Zimmer is very well respected in that locker room.

H. Tom Cable, however, is not in Oakland. Amazing story

I. Good thinking, Owen Schmitt.

J. It seems like the officials spent more time on their backs than quarterbacks on Sunday.

K. Who would have thought the UFL had better jerseys than a team in the NFL (see the Denver Broncos).

L. Who is the Heisman leader right now? While I’m not a big Jimmy Clausen fan and certainly not one that believes he will win the Heisman, his best chance to earn the award will come this weekend when the Irish play Southern Cal. Clausen will shoot up the charts with a big win. Call the race wide open right now. Something makes me want to push hard for Eric Berry of Tennessee. Sure, defenders never win. But this kid is Ed Reed like.

M. Who is the early NFL MVP leader right now? Peyton Manning is clearly the best player in the NFL right now. He’s winning big games. He is directing his offense. He is taking the confidence of teams. Five games in, the Colts are undefeated and rolling. After a week 6 bye week, the Colts have a tough slate ahead of them with games against San Francisco, Baltimore, Denver and the Texans twice.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Live from the Pangos All-South camp

I'll be at the Pangos All-South camp today at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia. This is always one of the top events of the fall for the National Hoops Report. The event is for the top underclassmen in the Southeast.

Last year Quincy Miller emerged on the national scene. The year before it was Jelan Kendrick emerged as a national prospect. Who will it be this year? We are eager to find out.

I will be updating live from the event through Twitter. Follow me for the updates.

I will also be handing out invitations for my Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase at the event along with one of our camp coaches, Drew Catlett, a former assistant coach at Georgia State, West Virginia and other stops. He will be instructing players at today's Pangos camp and looking for the top prospects with me.

If you are interested in attending the camp, you can register today via ScoreLore. Click HERE to lock yourself into the camp.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NHR Mailbag: Oct. 8

Rockdale County's Kevin Ware (pictured above) was quoted as saying, "I've been talking to Tennessee and Georgetown a lot lately. Tennessee is the school at the top of my list. I love Coach Pearl. He has a great style of play and is a great coach. I might be committing really soon."

UT already has Trae Golden verbally committed for class of 2009. How would those two complement each other on the court? Also, UT has had recent success getting guys from the state of GA, do you see that success continuing?

Kevin Ware and Trae Golden are two different players. Ware is cut from the mold of former Vol Ramar Smith in the sense that he is a super athlete that is improving his ball skills. Ware gets by at the prep level with his top-shelf athleticism. He’s a freak in that regard. Smith was more skilled but was always caught in between positions.

Ware makes sense in Tennessee’s up-tempo style of play. I don’t see him in Georgetown’s think first, react second type of style. The Vols make the most sense. Golden could pair well with Ware because neither player would have to play a position. They’d be considered a backcourt player and neither a point or a shooting guard. Neither guy has a real position. You can have a lot of versatility with the two. I think Golden brings more stability.

I do see the trend continuing for Tennessee in Georgia. The Vols have in grained themselves in the Peach State and have a great in-road with the state’s top players. You could argue that Tennessee is the top SEC school recruiting the Peach State right now.

How would you rank the 2010 Wake Forest recruiting class?

At this point, Dino Gaudio and his staff have reeled in a top 10 class at the current time. Now that could change as we get closer to the November signing week. But as of right now, the Demon Deacons have a solid five-man class where every position was filled. You have to like the balance that the class brings to the team next year.

I don’t, however, think there is a true star of the group. I think all five are solid contributors over time. J.T. Terrell will score the most points of the five while Travis McKie will be a good four-year producing player somewhat similar to Maryland’s Landon Milbourne.

The most intriguing guy of the class is big man Carson Desrosiers. He might be the gem of the class. Melvin Tabb is the best rebounder of the bunch and Tony Chenault will be a solid back-up point guard for two years and a serviceable starter in his junior and senior seasons.

It will be interesting to see who emerges as the go-to guy and the player the coaches trust the most.

What's your breakdown of recent Oklahoma commitment Cameron Clark? You have him higher in your rankings than some others, so I'm eager to hear what you like so much about him.

I really like Cameron Clark. I’m a big fan of big wings. And he’s a big wing. A very good big wing. The Texan can shoot, score, put the ball on the floor and I think he could develop into a good defender, too.

With Clark, I think his best basketball is ahead of him and every time I saw him play, he looked better and better. I really like to see players ending their high school careers on the way up. As he prepares for his senior season, Clark looks like he is continuing the upward climb. I have him ranked high in part to his high ceiling as a prospect.

What if anything can you tell us about the prospects of VCU landing any of the three big man recruits they have had in for visits over the last couple of months in Michael Bradley, Cady Lalanne and Melsahn Basabe?

Truth be told, I don’t think VCU lands any of these players. Bradley is a likely Connecticut commitment any day now. Lalanne will visit Ole Miss this weekend but sources have indicated that UMass is the team to beat. Admittedly, I don’t really know what’s going on with Basabe.

Let me throw another name into the mix – Dante Williams of Miller Grove High School in Georgia. The 6-9 big man is looking hard at VCU, UAB and Tennessee. All three schools have a legit shot of landing him. I think he’s one of the better big men out there and comparable with Lalanne. I think VCU fans may be sleeping on the Rams’ chances with him.

Who are the top 2010 big man prospects with high major talent (or potential) being overlooked by the high majors?

At this stage of the game in a weak year for big men, there just aren’t that many big men that are being overlooked. Staffs are searching high and low for players. I’ve talked to three different coaches this week that have been to places like New Zealand, Australia, France, Croatia and Nigeria to see players, in particularly big men.

But some names in the states that fit the mold (somewhat) to what you are asking include: Hippolyte Tsafack (Miller School/VA), Steve Adams (Pasadena/CA), Ugo Okam (Montverde/FL), Jordan Railey (Beaverton/OR), Godwin Okonji (Findlay/NV).

How would you compare the following bigs: Kadeem Green (Charlotte, NC), Santoine Butler (Augusta, GA), or Donte Williams (Lithonia, GA). Who are in the recruiting mix with those guys and why haven't we heard much about them recently?

Of the three players you mentioned, I think Williams the best player of the bunch. I think he’s the best of the bunch by a significant gap. He has high-major potential and could be an all-conference level player at the mid-major schools.

Green is next on the pecking order. The Canadian has always been a very intriguing player. He has good size and length and 6-8 and he’ll have a game or two where you would like to say he’s a high-major guy. Ideally, Green would probably be served at the Atlantic 10 level.

Butler is now at Oldsmar Christian in Tampa, Florida and that should help his recruitment. When he was in Augusta, he was isolated away from a lot of schools. But he did play well at times in front of recruiters. I think Butler could play in a conference like the Southern or Big South and that is probably where he’ll go at the end of the day. Academically, Butler will have to get after in Tampa to open more recruiting doors.

What can you tell us about Justin Coleman and his recruiting. Evidently he is very talented.

Justin Coleman is very talented. He has a lot of features that the big-timers have. From an athletic standpoint, Coleman is one of the elite in the 2010 class. Academics are a major concern with him. Word is, he could be a part of the 2011 class or junior college bound barring an academic miracle. Now, we also have to remember in recruiting, anything is possible. It would surprise me if he becomes the guy everyone is going after come March.

In your opinion, who are the best recruiting bets at this point for Marquette?

That is a tough question to answer simply because Marquette recruits with such a large brush. They have ties to Texas, Northeast, the Deep South and, of course, the talented areas of Milwaukee, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. And then mix in junior colleges, a place where Buzz Williams has looked every spot he’s been as a college coach.

All of that being said, Coleman (who is mentioned in the previous question) is thought to be the favorite of the 2010 kids. Chicago Reggie Smith guard is high on the Big East school while local guard Vander Blue also comes to mind.

Where does Quincy Miller end up, in your opinion?

Good question. Something tells me that it will come down to a Duke-Illinois battle. Duke is Duke. And Illinois was one of the first high-major schools to really move on the versatile forward. Both Coach K and Bruce Weber have both taken the reigns in this recruitment and both head men have really made an impression with the 6-8 forward.

Miller doesn’t seem like a guy that will be making a decision any time soon and that bodes well for schools like Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wake Forest and the other schools that are hot after him, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

12 @ 12: Top 12 in Florida

1. John Henson, PF, Sickles NORTH CAROLINA
2. Kenny Boynton, SG, American Heritage FLORIDA
3. Wally Judge, PF, Arlington County Day KANSAS STATE
4. Rakeem Buckles, PF, Pace LOUISVILLE
5. Kyryl Natyazhko, C, IMG ARIZONA
6. Rodney McGruder, SG, Arlington Country Day KANSAS STATE
7. Keith Clanton, PF, Orlando Christian CENTRAL FLORIDA
8. Ramon Galloway, PG, Dwyer SOUTH CAROLINA
9. Dexter Fields, SG, Olympia UAB
10. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, PF, Cambridge SOUTH FLORIDA
11. Ben Eblen, PG, Florida Air Academy ALABAMA
12. Terrance Beasley, PF, Pensacola TULANE

1. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, Pine Crest, 2010 (pictured)
2. Austin Rivers, PG/SG, Winter Park, 2011
3. Fab Melo, C, Sagemont, 2010 SYRACUSE
4. Ishmael Douda, C, Grandview Prep, 2012 MIAMI
5. Dwight Powell, PF, IMG, 2010
6. Patric Young, PF, Paxon, 2010 FLORIDA
7. Okaro White, PF, Clearwater, 2010 FLORIDA STATE
8. Stacey Poole, SF/SG, Andrew Jackson, 2010 KENTUCKY
9. James Bell, SF, Montverde Academy, 2010, VILLANOVA
10. Jumail Jones, SF, Montverde Academy, 2010 MARQUETTE
11. Cady Lalanne, PF, Oak Ridge, 2010
12. Malik Martin, PF, Pace, 2013

Hot dozen archive
New Jersey
North Carolina

Submit your questions for the NHR mailbag

Have a question regarding recruiting, high school hoops, college basketball, rankings, coaches or anything that relates hoops, ask away. National Hoops Report editor Justin Young will answer your submissions in next week's edition of The NHR Mailbag. To submit your question, email, via Twitter, or in the comments section below.

Monday, October 5, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend randomness

1. I spent the weekend in Boca Raton at the adidas Superstar Showcase at Lynn University and really came away impressed with the start-up event. The players competed, played smart and took advantage of the stage and opportunity all the while not playing selfish or out of control. Matt Ramker did a great job of assembling a top-notch staff and ran a terrific event. The event will be a staple on the National Hoops Report travel calendar from here on out. Saturday was about the younger guys. Sunday was about the next group of prospects from the Sunshine State.

2. The top 2010 player from the event was: Cady Lalanne of Oak Ridge High School (pictured).

3. The top 2011 player from the event was: Adonis Burbage of Orlando Christian.

4. The top 2012 player from the event was: Ishmael Douda of Grandview Prep.

5. The top 2013 player from the event was: Malik Martin of Monsignor Pace.

6. After spending the weekend in Florida, I’m excited to roll out the top 12 players from 2009 and the Hot Dozen for the Sunshine State for tomorrow’s 12 @ 12.

7. Get better Emmanuel Negedu. The Tennessee freshman spent last weekend a Knoxville hospital after having to be revived with a difibulator. Negedu is one of the most engaging young men I’ve ever covered on the prep scene. He has an infectious personality and a motor that didn’t come with an off switch. I hope nothing but the best for a guy that wants to be the best and not just in basketball. He is a future leader of men.

8. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that the off-the-court issues Kansas is currently having will really sidetrack this team’s quest for a National Championship. The talent is certainly there. But is the mental focus? Champions have a steel wall with Kevlar coatings around their minds. The focus is solely on winning all the marbles. I do wonder if the Jayhawks are in that mental state.

9. If you need a good read for lunch, check out ESPN's story and breakdown of the all-time rankings of college basketball programs. A lot to go through but if you are a college hoops addict, and I assume you are, make sure you read it.

10. I’ve been to a lot of individual showcases this month and there are two things that I value more than anything this fall: Guys that can hit jumpers and kids that compete.

11. My Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase is quickly approaching on Oct. 17. This is the first year that I have opened it up to non Georgia residents. If you are interested in attending, please email me at The event is open to all non Division I programs to evaluate players, too. College coaches, please spread the word. Former University of Georgia interim head coach Pete Hermann is our lead instructor. What’s he doing before he works our camp? Spending time with Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats. Are you in the camp?

12. Here are my 12 football thoughts of the weekend:

A. Oregon is back. The Ducks could win the Pac-10, especially if LaGarrett Blount returns to the team before the Oct. 31 game against Southern Cal. The Ducks average nearly 200 yards a game on the ground without him.

B. Patrick Willis of the 49ers is the best player in the NFL that few people are talking about.

C. What an amazing run after the catch from Brandon Marshall. His snag and sprint kept the Broncos, yes THE BRONCOS, undefeated and it sent the Cowboys back to Dallas looking for hope in an already dismal year.

D. Terrence Newman of the Dallas Cowboys is the most overrated defensive back in the NFL.

E. Ben Roethlisberger is playing for the absolutely perfect team and for the perfect coach. He’s working on his place in Canton if you ask me. Have you ever seen a quarterback that big, that good and that poised in the face of adversity on the field?

F. If you are a hardcore NFL fan, make sure you follow Pro Football Talk, Peter King, Adam Schefter and

G. These celebration rules in college football are too inconsistent and ridiculous. The Georgia-LSU game was ruined or enhanced (depending on who you talk to) because of two terrible “celebrations.” Yet, Notre Dame doesn’t get a penalty for the near-minute long celebration by tight end Kyle Rudolph against Washington. Stripes, be consistent.

H. Cincinnati is 5-0 and quietly in the top 10. With seven games remaining, the Bearcats only face one top 25 team (this weekend at No. 23 South Florida) for the remainder of the year. If Brian Kelly’s team can run the table, will Cincy get a shot at the National Championship?

I. Other than Sam Bradford, it has been a relatively healthy season for stars in both the NFL and NCAA.

J. What is more surprising this year: the Tennessee Titans being 0-4 or the Denver Broncos 4-0?

K. Don’t call me on Saturday night. The LSU-Florida game is the best game of the year to date. The two programs are the most physical programs in the country and there are just pros everywhere you look in this one. Think Trent Johnson and staff will try to have over a 100 basketball prospects on campus? What a recruiting opportunity!

L. Who is the Heisman leader right now? Colt McCoy of Texas sat at home in Austin over the weekend with an off week. And so did his top spot in my Heisman list. The next three weeks will be telling for the Longhorn gunslinger.

M. Who is the early NFL MVP leader right now? Peyton Manning is starting to separate himself from the rest of the pack and he is the most valuable individual on any of the 32 teams in the NFL. He alone has raised the level of play with a team with a new head coach, new receivers and a new backfield.

adidas Superstar Showcase: Sunday

BOCA RATON, FLA. -- The young stars of Florida took over the action on Sunday at the adidas Superstar Showcase at Lynn University. The kids didn’t disappoint either.


Malik Martin, PF, 2013, Pace (pictured) – There wasn’t a player in the building on Sunday that was a better long term prospect than the long-armed 6-foot-8 post player. His ceiling is outstanding. Just 14-years-old, Martin has a frame that looks like it could fill out to the near 7-foot mark. He is quite comfortable facing the basket and shooting the 14-foot jumper. There is a good group of basketball people around him to help him continue to grow and develop into a top-level player. Martin was easily the best player on Sunday and you could argue that he could be the best long-term guy from the entire camp.

Quinten Payne, SG, 2013, Bishop Verot – From a basketball perspective, no one understood how to play the game better than the 6-foot-3 Chicago area transplant. Payne did everything well in this setting. To start the day, he wanted to move the ball around and showed his awareness as a passer. As the day moved forward, Payne showed off his fine offensive touch. He squares up and knocks down shots with beautiful technique. He’s much more athletic and bigger than his brother, Cully, who is a freshman at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have offered already. Smart move. Payne is on his way to a high-major roster spot.

Stephon Blair, PF/C, 2012, Dillard – Blair played with great energy and passion throughout the camp. He was the best rebounder of the second day and no one stood a chance against him from a physicality standpoint on the low blocks. He enjoyed being the punisher and wanted to send the message that you’d have to fight him tooth and nail for anything that came off the rim. The locals say he is improving at a rapid clip and that he is willing to put in the work. That is encouraging. Blair was one of the top players overall from the weekend. Alabama, Kansas State and Cincinnati are already in the mix.

Jordan Montgomery, SG, 2012, Orlando Christian Prep – Outside of Payne, the only no-brainer high-major guard on Sunday was the 6-foot-2 guard. Montgomery has a basketball body (great length, long arms, bouncy legs) and a game that can translate well to the next level. He can handle like a point guard and had little trouble with defenders creeping into him. Montgomery showed his perimeter touch with several good-looking perimeter jumpers. He rebounds the ball well and could be a great defender. Very nice surprise from the event and should be a guy that high-major sneak a peek at this fall.

D.J. White, SG, 2013, Boca Ciega – For a guy that has yet to play in a high school game, he sure does have a lot of swagger and confidence. White was a difficult player to defend because he was on constant attack to the basket and never let a defender play his physical. White just powers through the defense and scores in traffic. His jump shot will need some fine tuning but the talent is there. His father, David, was a McDonald’s All-American before a career at Florida State.

Devontae Morgan, SG/PG, 2012, Tampa Prep – The swagger and confidence that the 6-2 guard played with was likable. He knew he was one of the better players on the floor and picked his moments to shine. His pull-up jumper was his go-to move all day. When he shifted over to the point guard position, he demonstrated good change of speed and direction and passed the ball quite well. Florida, Florida State, Wake Forest, Jacksonville, Stetson and Elon have all made early indications that they are watching him.


Paul Jones, an aggressive 6-5 power forward from West Boca HS was a rebounding and dunking machine. The 2012 prospect was Mr. Energy and was rewarded for his hard work with easy scores at the rim…Not sure what position Jeff Coby plays in college but the class of 2012 prospect from Sagemont sure got a lot done on Sunday inside the paint. He’s a 6-5 post that showed he could defend the three…Really liked the play of Tavares sophomore combo guard Darien Anthony. The 5-10 running back look alike was one of the top rebounding guards and he was quick and smart with the ball. Very good effort from him on Sunday…Monsignor Pace brought a lot of players to the camp and it seemed like each of their players peaked our interest. Samad Hines, a 6-4 combo forward, was a producing mismatch player…The same thing can be said about Orlando Christian Prep. The school was well-represented with prospects. Isaac Cohen, a 6-4 wing from the 2012 class, did the dirty work and got better as the day moved forward…Romas Marcinkevicius, a bruising 6-7 freshman post from Pinecrest, looked more like a bouncer than basketball player. He played tough and was the strongest youngster in the event on Sunday.