Monday, November 23, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend randomness

1. National Hoops Report college player of the week: Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. If you saw him against North Carolina, you know why he is here. The Texas native was amazing against the Tar Heels.

2. National Hoops Report freshman of the week: Rodney Williams, Minnesota. Surprised? I get it. He’s not the sexiest of picks and sure, he was great against a couple of cupcakes last week. But understand this – Minnesota started the season with major question marks and distractions off the court. The bouncy Minnesota native scored 31 points in two games and was Tubby Smith’s best player in the two wins. The true test awaits him this week with games against Butler and Miami.

3. National Hoops Report win of the week: Boston over Indiana, Syracuse over North Carolina, VCU over Oklahoma. Take your pick. Boston’s win is important for a program that is lead by a great, young head coach in Pat Chambers. Think that’ll help with recruits? Syracuse’s win over UNC has been hashed over a million times since it happened last week. You should know what it is a big win by now. Finally, how about Shaka Smart, the latest Boy Wonder to take over the Rams, beating former VCU head man Jeff Capel in Richmond? The Rams still have the punch against the big boys.

4. You hear coaches say this all the time: “Pre-season polls don’t mean anything.” Boy, are they right. The preseason top 25 poll is a hot mess. Here is my attempt at nailing down a Top 15 after the first full week of hoops.

1. Kansas
2. Texas
3. Kentucky
4. Syracuse
5. Michigan State
6. Purdue
7. Villanova
8. Tennessee
9. Washington
10. West Virginia
11. Duke
12. North Carolina
13. Butler
14. Michigan
15. Clemson

5. N.C. State doesn’t have Lorenzo Brown on its roster this year because of academic issues. Brown is now spending a season at Hargrave in Virginia and quickly becoming one of the most talked about players in the nation. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the former Roswell (Ga.) Centennial crack into the top 10 of the high school player rankings in the class of 2010. He and Ryan Harrow will be one of the top backcourts in the ACC next year despite the fact the two are freshman. Sidney Lowe needs that, too.

6. Keep an eye on these two international freshman: Gonzaga’s Elias Harris and St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova. The two rookies have caught the West Coast by surprise and by storm. Harris, a 6-7 20-year-old German, is Gonzaga’s top rebounder and third best scorer. Dellavedova, a 6-4 Aussie, is his team’s top scorer and the most impressive two guard on the West Coast so far this season.

7. When my wife perks up and says something during a basketball game, I tend to listen. You see, she’s not a big fan of the game. Maybe because it consumes my time. Whatever, the case, she’ll watch on occasion. This week she said “Why are all of these games empty? No one is going to games.” She is right. No one is going to games early this season. Hardly anyone was in Puerto Rico. No surprise there, really. No one really attended games during the 24 hour marathon. Few were at the Coaches Vs. Cancer event at Madison Square Garden. Hawaii will certainly be packed. But the gym is smaller than my office. I saw a Duke game against UNC Greensboro and there were plenty of seats available on the rackety bleachers at Cameron Indoor. Remember the Final Four in Detroit? Michigan’s paradise was empty this year. Hopefully things will change and the gyms will have more spectators. The game needs it.

8. Oh boy, the Pac-10 is horrible. I heard that a lot this weekend. But is the conference really that bad? As a conference, the Pac-10 is 23-10.

UCLA isn’t up to UCLA’s standards. Stanford is a mixed bag. But is Cal as bad as everyone thinks? They lost to Syracuse and Ohio State without Theo Robertson. Oregon State is that bad, however. Little to debate about that. Oregon lost to a very good Portland team that is well coached by Eric Reveno, who could eventually be the next head coach in the Pac-10. I digress.

But Washington is very good. Arizona State is much better than what people think. Washington State is still a question mark early in the season. Arizona has talent and a good, young, aggressive coach in Sean Miller.

By comparison, the SEC is a combined 33-10 with some of those losses coming to Wofford, Rider, Cornell, Missouri State, Central Florida and UAB.

The Big Ten is a combined 28-9 with some of those losses coming to UT-San Antonio, Duquesne, UNC Wilmington, Tulane, Boston and George Mason.

9. So what now? With the early signing period now over, the dominoes have tipped and some decisions have been made easier for some prospects and harder for others. Tobias Harris picked Tennessee on the final day of the early period. His decision caused Jayvauhn Pinkston’s decision to be put on hold. On the public forum, there are those that say Tennessee is still very strong with the New Yorker. But my belief is Villanova will still be the winner.

When Harrison Barnes picked North Carolina, Duke immediately turned it’s attention to Roscoe Smith.

Everyone turned to C.J. Leslie despite the commitment. He’s one of the few uncommitted guy that is truly leaning in one particular direction.

Terrence Jones of Portland will be the most coveted player on the West Coast.

And what domino will Doron Lamb push over? His recruitment may be the toughest one to truly figure out.

10. Linkage: Andy Katz's Weekly Watch...Allow me to play Santa for a moment (save "Well, J, your gut is certainly big enough" jokes). Face it. Men are tough to shop for, right? Admit it. We are. If your wife or girlfriend or mother or someone that needs a buy a gift for an un-shoppable male, take heed. Try the Tony Ingle book "I Don't Mind Hitting Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging" or the ESPN Encyclopedia of College Basketball...Dave Telep spent the weekend in New Haven, Connecticut for the National Prep Showcase. Here is his coverage (sub required): Day 1, Day 2, Day 3...Eric Bossi was also in New Haven…CBS Sports' Gary Parrish released his top 26 teams in the country...Jeff Goodman of Fox released his top 25.

11. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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

A. Dear Santa, I’d like a watch and some common sense for Christmas. Thanks, Les Miles.

B. Dear Santa, I’d like an offensive coordinator’s position in the NFL. Thanks, Charlie Wies.

C. Was it me or did a lot of teams both in college and the NFL go for it on 4th downs on Saturday? Trickle down effect?

D. The BCS computers are on the brink of blowing up Y2K style. Six teams remain undefeated. At least five will remain undefeated by Sunday.

E. What an effort from Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in Tucson on Saturday night. The double overtime thriller was all about the 5-11 junior from San Francisco. He ran for three touchdowns and passed for three touchdowns. I’m surprised the effort wasn’t fawned all over by national analysts like Tim Tebow. It was a 2008 Tim Tebow-like effort.

F. Speaking of Oregon, it is time for Kellen Clemens, a former Duck, to take over the Jets offense. Mark Sanchez hasn’t just hit the wall. He’s stuck under the rubble of bricks.

G. After starting 6-0, Denver will probably finish 9-7. If the NFL Playoffs were like the NCAA tournament, the Broncos would certainly be on the last four out list.

H. So the Browns and the Lions played in the best game of the year on Sunday, huh? The NFL is the best sports product on the planet. You never, ever know who or what will happen.

I. Ricky Williams should be the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award winner this season. If you saw him on Thursday night (and few of you did), Williams looked like the old Ricky Williams en route to his three touchdowns for the Dolphins.

J. I’ll be playing defensive tackle, tight end, full back, linebacker, long snapper, coach and pain inflictor on Thanksgiving morning at Lassiter High School in Marietta, Georgia. Feel free to join the world’s greatest Turkey Bowl. Bring some ice and band-aids.

K. Who is the Heisman leader right now? I am full steam ahead for Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. He’s a man amongst boys as a runner and has a very mediocre team playing well above their expectations this season.

L. Who is the NFL MVP leader right now? You can make a strong case for Brett Favre this year. He’s having one of his best years in his 87-year career. The Vikings are playing on another plain compared to the rest of the league because of his energy. Favre moved up to my second place spot behind Peyton Manning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Time to watch, time to focus

I learned a good lesson today. Live-blogging is vastly over-rated. Time to put this idea to bed. Forever.

I'll have much more on the rest of today's games on the site tomorrow.

Live: Charlotte at Duke

7:40 p.m. Time to put this game to bed. It is 85-50 in favor of Duke. Hard to watch.

7:35 p.m. Tennessee is up 39-6 over UNC Asheville. The blowouts continue.

7:30 p.m.
Andre Dawkins won't be a major player for Duke this year but he'll be the team's top scorer as a junior or senior. He's a star player in waiting.

7:23 p.m.
Jimmy Dykes is nailing it with Nolan Smith. Is he an elite level guard in the ACC? If the answer is "yes" than the Blue Devils are a major contender. If he's a little better than he was last year, it is middle of the pack.

7:12 p.m.
Turning on the tube and seeing the Duke 68, Charlotte 32 score I'm not surprised a bit. That's been the story of the day in this 24 hours of basketball. One team winning big or two teams missing shot after shot after shot. Nolan Smith has 20. Think the Blue Devils can use him this year? He'll be much better off the ball.

Live: Temple at Georgetown

5:36 p.m. The live blog is on an hour (or longer) pause. Duty calls. Can you hear my one-year-old screaming?

4:49 p.m.
Temple is 5-27 from the floor in the first half and 1-10 from three.

4:47 p.m. Halftime score: Georgetown 19, Temple 13. This is, by far, the toughest first half of all of the games today. Thirty-two total points in this match-up. No wonder kids are going to Europe to play basketball.

4:39 p.m.
Temple just hit the 10 point mark. Oh, at 3:40 left in the first.

4:36 p.m.
I've always wondered about Greg Monroe's value at the NBA level. I wonder if he will ever really blossom into the player that so many think he can be.

4:33 p.m.
Lavoy Allen is an impressive rebounder. Always has been. History has proven that if you can rebound in high school, you'll be successful in college as a rebounder.

4:28 p.m.
Nothing like a friend setting you straight. Just had a conversation that went as follows:

Friend: "Just saw on your twitter that you've been live blogging all day today on this basketball stuff."
Me: "Yeah, I'm pathetic."
Friend: "What does your wife think?"
Me: "Haven't asked her."
Friend: "I'll clue you in. She's at my house with my wife. They are mocking you."

4:24 p.m.
Looks like the scoring drought/bad shot selection continues. Total of nine points in nine minutes played in this game.

4:23 p.m.
I'm still stunned by the year that Georgetown had last season. How does a team with that much talent go nearly .500?

4:09 p.m. The Lavoy Allen (Temple) vs. Greg Monroe (Georgetown) match-up should be the best of the day so far. Allen is one of the most under-appreciated players on the East Coast.

4:02 p.m. Welcome to the 16th hour of this very ho-hum 24 hour marathon of college basketball games. Temple travels to Georgetown for what should be a good out of conference game. We have Mike Patrick and Len Elmore calling the game. We have two good coaches in John Thompson III and Fran Dunphy. We have some star power (see Greg Monroe). Hopefully we have a good game.

Live: Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa

4:01 p.m. Just woke up from a power nap and apparently the game is over. I think Tulsa won. Not sure if it really matters.

3:25 p.m.
Finally, some excitement. Donte Medder of Tulsa has shown me enough to keep me intrigued for anything longer than 30 seconds.

3:23 p.m.
Charlie Coles' press conference is now on YouTube. Best post-game dialogue this year. Go ahead and end that contest.

3:22 p.m.
I'm tempted to go to the DMV right. That has to be more exciting than this one. Okay, I promise. That's my last complaint about this game. I swear.

3:18 p.m.
Evan Daniels is reporting that West Virginia signed 7-footer David Nyarsuk this week. (Told you this game was slow.)

3:09 p.m.
Ben Uzoh of Tulsa is now 2-10 from the floor. And he's the most talented player from a skills standpoint on the floor.

3:08 p.m.
If this were an AAU tournament, I would have left by now and found a local eatery Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives style for an hour break away from hoops.

2:51 p.m.
Jason Williams just brutalized UCLA's roster during this halftime break. Gottlieb does his homework and just bailed out his teammate.

2:48 p.m.
Ugh. Another sluggish 1st half of basketball in the books.

2:41 p.m.
Little-Rock has no answer for Jordan's size inside. Too big to handle.

2:23 p.m. ebosshoops "Is anybody going to mention that for the most part it's been 24 hours of bad basketball ? That 6am tip on the East Coast was brutal."

2:20 p.m.
Looks like we are in store for another giant offensive game today. Points are just coming a mile a minute. (Those two sentences were scribed in a new font called sarcasm.)

2:13 p.m. Where will Doug Wojick coach next season? He'll be a hot name come March.

2:11 p.m.
Is there a tornado watch in Tulsa? No one is at this game.

2:09 p.m.
Talking about Tulsa being the Conference USA favorite this year. Would agree with that as we start the season. Would like to see how Memphis can grow as the season under Josh Pastner.

2:08 p.m.
Love the Ron Franklin-Fran Fraschilla combo. We need more Franklin on television.

2:06 p.m.
And we are off in Tulsa. Breaking news: Jerome Jordan is huge.

Live: Northeastern at Siena

Getting back to the television for a little bit and prior to the tip, I was actually quite excited about the Siena-Northeastern game. Then I saw the score and the time on the Internet. I quickly debated even watching the game. 20-10 at 5:38 left in the first half. Nevertheless…let’s pick it up from there.

12:35 p.m. Goodness gracious. Can anyone play well today?

12:36 p.m. Siena students take school much more serious than Liberty. Smaller crowd at Siena. Liberty was pretty full.

12:37 p.m. Edwin Ubiles vs. Northeastern right now.

12:40 p.m. Get the feeling in the short time I've been watching that Siena is about to come out with a big second half and the win. Ubiles is doing all he can do and is proving he's one of the elite mid-major players. Maybe even the best mid-major player in the country.

12:45 p.m . Bill Raferty nailed it with Ubiles when he said he knows where he fits. Had a similar conversation with Ubiles when he was in high school. Kids that understand their value and pick a school that allows them to shine always have success. Self-awareness is the cornerstone to success as a player.

12:47 p.m. A lot of my fellow basketball scribes like Matt Janning of Northeastern as the CAA Preseason Player of the Year. He's good, no doubt about it. But I don't think he's the guy for that. First team all-conference, no doubt. But he's not the MVP of the conference.

12:50 p.m. ESPN noted that the first points in the Saint Peters-Monmouth game was scored by a kid named Bacon. If there was a kid with the last name of Benedict, Bill Raferty would have most certainly called him "Eggs."

12:51 p.m. Northeastern up 26-20 at the half thanks to a Janning shot to end the half.

1:18 p.m. The laptop secretly compensated by my wife for the last 20 minutes. We are now new owners of an over-sized Christmas wreath.

1:52 p.m. Wanted to find a good time to write this but never really found the moment. Now seems good. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen is one of the best talent evaluators in the business. He was the magic behind the Boston College steals (Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Tyrese Rice, etc.) and now he’s finding players and developing them into producers at the mid-level. He’s the king of the follow-up. If he ever received a tip on a player, he immediately chased the lead, did his homework and went hard after a player if he was sold.

1:58 p.m. This has nothing to do with this game but certainly worth space on this site. A good friend of mine called the 24 hour marathon “basketball Viagra."

Live: Clemson at Liberty 2nd half

11:48 a.m. Time to be the only dad at pre-school picking up his child. Always awkward. Clemson will clearly win out. Up next is Siena vs. Northeastern. Guarantee you we will have several mentions of the 4th & 2 in this game.

11:46 a.m.
In response to whether or not the DVR was one of the top five inventions this century, I received this Tweet from Michael_Rudolph "Easily. It goes like this 1. Internet 2. George Foreman Grill 3. Coors Light 4. DVR 5. The Slap Chop."

11:41 a.m.
Talking fantasy football with Telep (that's what you do when the game is 68-31) and I just shot myself in the foot. Telep: "I need to pick up a player in our league." Me: "You should get Jason Snelling of the Falcons. With Michael Turner out, Snelling will get 80 yards and a touchdown when he starts." Telep: "Why don't you get him?" Me: "Um." Waiver wire order Telep 1, Me 4. I need a RB. Whoops.

11:39 a.m.
Have had the game on mute for the last 15 minutes. Best 15 minutes of the morning.

11:31 a.m.
Somewhere Scot Pollard is thinking "I really like the mutton chops with the fo-hawk," with regards to Carter McMasters.

11:27 a.m.
Always enjoy an impromptu call from my good friend Dave Telep.

11:21 a.m.
I'll be honest when Noel Johnson signed with Southern Cal, I always had the feeling that he'd go pro or transfer back to East Coast after a year in L.A. He told me he doesn't even like tacos. There is a killer taco stand right down the street from the Galen Center.

11:19 a.m.
ESPNAndyKatz "So far only dozed for 15 minutes on the floor at ESPN from the second half 16-minute to the 8-minute mark of Hawaii-Northern Colorado."

11:15 a.m.
Trevor Booker just hit a three and then a fade away jumper. I might take my first break of a day. Adrian Branch is gushing.

11:13 a.m.
Tanner Smith with the drive and score. He's gotten better and better and better. Guys like Mike Maynard did a great job with his skill development in high school.

11:12 a.m.
Fact - I never saw Demontez Stitt in high school or AAU. That's a rarity.

11:07 a.m.
Getting ready to dive into the second half.

Two quick thoughts - really respected Jason Williams as a player. One of the best guards in college basketball this decade. But he struggles as an analyst and color commentator. Wish him well as an assistant coach. Let's be honest, that's what he'll be in two or three years.

Second thought - didn't respect Doug Gottlieb as a player in college. Played against him one summer. Cheap shot artist on screens. But so was I. Maybe we are one in the same. Love his views on college hoops and the second best guy at ESPN behind Jay Bilas. Great insight. Understands how important recruiting is. Shoots it straight and honest. Really respect him and his views.

Live: Clemson at Liberty 1st half

10:16 a.m. "You are looking live at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia..." Sorry, Brent Musberger, I've always wanted to say that.

10:17 a.m. Game went live with the one-liner of "You gotta love a train" by the analyst. This will be fun.

10:19 a.m. 11-1 Clemson start. Can Bobo Baciu get in the game now?

10:20 a.m. "David Potter is a poor man's Allan Houston." Who is doing the color analyst?

10:21 a.m. Crap, Potter just hit another three (that's three). I mean, this guy is a poor man's Allan Houston!

10:22 a.m. Seth Davis already with the Tweet of the Morning. "I got 10 bucks that says @ESPNAndyKatz is asleep on his couch right now in a snuggie."

10:24 a.m. 22-5 Clemson. Potter is a poor man's Rotnei Clarke right now.

10:27 a.m. Just realized that this game has a lot of firsts for me in this game. Happy to say I was the first national writer to scribe about Clemson's Trevor Booker, Andre Young, Tanner Smith, David Potter, Noel Johnson, Milton Jennings, Liberty's Carter McMasters and Jesse Sanders. Someone give me a cookie. Or a gold star.

10:28 a.m. Cool story on Liberty's Sanders - he played for a home school team in Houston. My man Jim Hicks of the Recruiter's Cheat Sheet swore up and down to me that he was a player. He'll be a big player this year at Liberty.

10:30 a.m. Evan Gordon, Eric's little brother, is at the foul line. I'll be honest, never knew this is where little Gordon ended up.

10:31 a.m. Full warning - if you text me or call me today, good chance I'll use it in the live blog. You've been given fair warning and I hope you bring it today.

10:36 a.m. Right on cue, got a commitment call. Santoine Butler to Gardner-Webb. Blog on pause.

10:53 a.m. Back. Butler to Gardner-Webb. I love DVR. Let's catch up, shall we?

10:58 a.m. I love watching Clemson’s point guard Andre Young. He is one of my favorite players I’ve covered in Georgia. He is one of the top competitors I’ve ever covered and a guy that defied all of the small player odds that were stacked against him. He played at a very small school in Albany (Deerfield Christian) and won, won, won there. He and current Georgia starting point guard Dustin Ware faced each other time and time again for the championships and developed into one of the best rivalries in Georgia’s storied history for high school hoops.

11:01 a.m. Trevor Booker is a monster rebounder. Sheesh.

11:02 a.m. All of the games are promoting the new ESPN encyclopedia and more times than not, I’ll probably be my usual ornery self and make a smart-alecky statement about the promotion but the book is amazing. Truly amazing. If you are a hardcore hoops fan, add this book to your Christmas list. The book is full of gold.

11:04 a.m. Adrian Branch is doing some recruiting for Liberty. Talking about out of conference schedule, the A.D. baking cookies, intimate atmosphere in Lynchburg. This is disturbing.

11:06 a.m. Caught up on the DVR. Which brings me to this question - is DVR one of the top 5 greatest inventions this century? Clemson 42, Liberty 19.

24 Hours of Hoop

Okay, let’s try this again.

I wanted to go all 24 hours here on the National Hoops Report. But by 12:06 a.m., I was dead asleep on the world’s greatest coach, a place I like to call “Where Amazing Happens.”

The 24 hours of blogging was a wrap before it ever began.

The 6 a.m. wake-up call came, turned on the tube, saw the Saint Peter’s-Monmouth game on television and promptly decided that the marathon would wait a little longer to get started at NHR headquarters.

At 7:54 a.m. I checked the score and saw Rotnei Clarke, er, Saint Peters beat Monmouth 58-34.

Hello Drexel-Niagara. Watched for a couple of minutes, went to the kitchen to grab some Special K only to return to see PBS Kids on the television. My four-year-old was propped up with her one-year-old sister on “Where Amazing Happens” and I had my third loss of the young day.

The time came to take my four-year-old to pre-school (the best three hours of the day), put the one-year-old down for an early nap, reclaimed the remote, the “WAH” and settled in for a long day of basketball.

The first image I get is Bruiser Flint ripping into his team about playing defense with 1:17 to play in the second half.

Niagara will win this game.

Clemson at Liberty is next. I’ll be there for it. Join me, won’t you? Join me all day here at the National Hoops Report.

Monday, November 16, 2009

12@12: Weekend randomness

1. National Hoops Report college player of the week: The opening week schedule didn’t have a lot of games on tap (disappointing, isn’t it?) but there was a clear cut leader in the POW award in week one. Ohio State’s Evan Turner was amazing. The first game of the year, he messed around and got a triple-double. The next game, he racks up 17 boards and scored 24 points.

Chad Ford says a few NBA scouts have called Turner a Brandon Roy type of player. Sure, it has only been two games into the year, but believe it. Don't look at Turner's scoring. Look at his rebounding and passing. He's a high-level pro with that kind of size.

2. National Hoops Report freshman of the week: Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas. How about 27 points in 24 minutes in his college debut. And Hofstra isn’t exactly a cupcake. Henry can flat out score. We all knew that after watching him torch the prep ranks for four years. He obviously won’t keep up that pace on a team like Kansas. It will be fun to watch him play against Memphis (the team he was committed to at one point) on Tuesday night.

3. National Hoops Report win of the week: Rider over Mississippi State in Starkville. Huge confidence booster for the MAAC school. Huge confidence destroyer for the SEC school.

4. Harrison Barnes The nation’s top high school basketball player is going to North Carolina.

Barnes announced his decision at an elaborate press conference in a standing room only ceremony at Ames (Iowa) High School. Over 13,000 people watched the press conference online. ESPNU carried it on their Recruiting Insider show.

Roy Williams watched it via Skype.

His commitment via online teleconference with Roy Williams was a look into the world of recruiting like never before seen. That part was unique. Those that are addicted to college recruiting never get to see that moment where the player commits to the coach. It is a fun thing to witness. With his use of modern technology, Barnes opened a window into the world of high stakes recruiting.

And in high stakes recruiting, oftentimes real, genuine emotion is not there. It is all positional movement amongst one millionaire against another with a teenager caught in the middle of it all. When Barnes brought Roy Williams onto the big screen, there was a genuine excitement there. You don’t see that very often anymore, not even from good ‘ole Roy.

5. After Barnes announced he’d be a Tar Heel and not a Duke Blue Devil (like I thought he’d be), the question was immediately asked: “What does this mean for Duke?” Part of me wonders if Duke jumped the shark with the loss of Barnes to North Carolina.

Coach K doesn’t lose players. The last one he really, truly lost was Jared Jeffries, a Bloomington, Ind., to Indiana.

Clearly, Duke needs to land Quincy Miller and/or Austin Rivers in 2011. I’ll go out on a limb and even say J.P. Tokoto, a 2012 stud, will be a Blue Devil. Or can I? In the past, you just knew who was going to Duke. It took all of two seconds to know who commits to Duke.

Not anymore. Barnes proved that.

6. Lost in the shuffle of National Signing Day is an amazing story of a player that is expected to help a NCAA tournament team. It shouldn't have been lost at all. In fact, the story should have been a national one, especially with the the first day of the signing period coming on Veteran's Day. Meet Bernard James. Here is his story.

7. With the signing period coming to a close on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., college staffs will hit a collective reset button and re-examine the current pool of unsigned prospects. But understand this: more times than not, a player’s value is oftentimes is misconstrued in the spring period. The value of a late addition particularly for a high-major big man is tough to gauge. No disrespect to him, but see Frank Ben-Eze for example.

8. I was told there was a signing announcement/press conference/county fair/whatever you want to call these things these days that lasted one hour and 45 minutes last week. That is 105 minutes, folks. Whoa. Where there clowns making balloons, faces being painted and turkey legs being handed out for refreshments? That’s a long time to celebrate a college decision. I wonder if the valedictorian gets two hours.

Of course, I’m not a big fan of any high school player holding a press conference. I suppose I’m just a curmudgeon.

9. Sure, it has only been one game. Sure, John Wall didn't play. But Eric Bledsoe is much better than his No. 52 composite ranking coming out high school. Rivals had him ranked 23 overall coming out of high school, the highest of the services. Prep Stars had him at 69, the lowest of the rankers. Bledsoe was brilliant in his college debut.

10. Did Isiah Thomas even look at the talent at FIU before taking that job? He’s bound to blow up if the losses, the bad losses, pile up like they are starting to.

11. One NBA sources of mine says: “Nastiest dunk by a guard in the post-Jordan era.” Truth.

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

A. Brian Kelly, uber-successful coach at Cincinnati, I’ll save you the trouble. Here is the MLS search page
for South Bend.

B. Dexter McCluster touched the ball more for Ole Miss. Just like I asked. He ran for 282 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee. And Texas remains the most consistent top tier team in the country. Call me Nostradamus.

C. USC’s defense isn’t the same this year, particularly with the linebackers. With Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, last year’s backers for the Trojans, not only starting but amongst the top 12 linebackers in the NFL this season, it’s easy to see why there is little fight with USC’s defense this year.

D. The Pac-10 is the best conference in America right now in college football. Why the SEC keeps getting pumped as the nation’s best league is mind-boggling. The ACC might even be better.

E. Bill Belichick. Where do we begin? Start and end with his arrogance. Two major things come to mind in the ripple effect. 1. New England’s defense doesn’t have a leader in its own locker room after the head coach showed zero faith in his team. 2. Belichick said without saying that Peyton Manning scares him to death.

F. As bonehead of a move that was the 4th and two play, credit needs to go to Manning. Indianapolis was down by 17 points in the fourth quarter. The Colts scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Manning was an amazing 9-11 passing for 119 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Joseph Addai scored a four yard run thanks to a great drive by Manning. The Colts had 15 plays in less than six minutes to collect those scores.

G. How about the poll NBC conducted with the 20 living NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks about which quarterback they’d want leading their team – Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. The results were as follows: 13.5 to 2.5 in favor of Manning.

H. Denver is the Iowa of the NFL.

I. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh twice this year. Say that out loud. No, really, it’s true.

J. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson has 1,091 rushing yards thru nine games. That is the most since Shaun Alexander rushed for 1,114 yards in 2005 in that span.

M. Who is the Heisman leader right now? Stanford’s Toby Gerhart has rumbled through every defense that has lined up across from the Cardinal this year. After watching him for two full games (against Oregon and Stanford), I’m ready to call him my Heisman favorite.

N. Who is the NFL MVP leader right now? Clearly, it is Peyton Manning. Still need a reason after last night’s game?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Live from Ames, Iowa

Harrison Barnes, the nation's top high school basketball player, will announce his decision today at 4 p.m. EST live from Ames High School.

You can watch the press conference here.

Barnes will select between Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and Iowa State.

Where will it be?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bold prediction: Today is National Signing Day

Today is National Signing Day. But you probably knew that. Teenagers will sign what is essentially a contract that binds them to the college or university of their choice. (Where is the student-athlete's benefit in that? Nevermind, that's another column for another day.)

With that being said, there are still a number of players that are waiting to make their decisions. They have a week to sign, ending at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

I'll be posting my predictions on where the top 150 players (according to Scout, Rivals, Prep Stars and ESPN) go. I would attempt all 750 players on the new HoopScoop rankings. But I remembered that ranking 750 kids is pointless. So is predicting all of them.

Click HERE for my Twitter page

Feel free to post your questions in the comments section below or via Twitter. Consider this a National Signing Day Mailbag.

Monday, November 9, 2009

12 @ 12: Weekend randomness

1. Pete Thamel, one of the best writers in the nation that covers high school sports, traveled to Israel to see how Jeremy Tyler is doing in his quest to becoming a decorated professional basketball player.

To no one’s surprise, Tyler is struggling in a foreign land and on his own.

Tyler left sunny San Diego to play at Maccabi Haifa for a $140,000 two-year deal. The end result, in Tyler’s eyes, is being drafted in 2011. His play was to follow in the footsteps of Brandon Jennings, who is having a surprisingly successful start to his NBA career.

The difference between Tyler and Jennings was this: Jennings was always good and a producer. Tyler, however, was not. One game he’d be a dominant force and clearly the best player to step foot onto the court. The next game, he’d complain, throw his arms up in frustration and immediately point fingers as to why his teenage world was rocked. Jennings never did that.

The other difference was work ethic. Jennings is a gym rat. When Tyler left the 2008 Pangos All-American camp after one night of action, Jennings, then out of high school, was constantly on the court and inside the gym.

Both are incredibly arrogant. Tyler’s is/was unjustified. Jennings, like him or not, was an arrogance that was competitive and it gave him an edge. Clearly, the trip to Italy was a life reality that your world is not the only world. Humility is life’s great reset button.

Perhaps a giant slice of humility is what Tyler, who would be graduating high school in May of 2010, needs.

2. The college basketball season officially starts today and the hoops world will be watching Isiah Thomas’s college coaching debut at North Carolina. And, sure, that’s a big time storyline to watch. But the game won’t be fun to watch. In fact, it will probably be a 25-point blowout.

3. But the game that is the most intriguing game on Monday’s slate is the Albany-Syracuse tilt. It is no secret that Syracuse lost to Le Moyne, Division II school, in a preseason exhibition. The Orange are sitting back on their heels at the moment while a team like Albany, certainly talented enough in the starting line up with Will Harris and Tim Ambrose. While Syracuse is much more talented, Albany will give the Big East team a run for their money to start the year.

4. High-major freshman that was ranked outside the top 25 that will have the biggest year: Noel Johnson of Clemson.

5. High-major freshman that won’t live up to his top 25 billing: Milton Jennings of Clemson.

6. Mid-major freshman that will have a huge rookie season: Keith Clanton of Central Florida.

7. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated nailed it. College hoops needs an opening day or an opening weekend.

8. I know I pump them every week but if you love college hoops, Rush the Court should be one of the first five websites you check everyday. Here is one of the reasons why.

9. Where will Harrison Barnes be going to school? I’ve seen that sentence via text, twitter and email more than any other question this year. My answer? Duke. That’s my guess. Take it for what it is worth.

10. I spent the weekend counting the number of blogs that the University of Kentucky men’s basketball has “covering” the team. Unofficially, the count was 1,685,095.

11. If this guy would have gone to one of these fake schools that boast "national prep players", he would have gotten away with his plan of playing high school basketball.

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

A. Well, thanks Oregon. Right when everyone believed in you, Stanford outsmarts you with your own game. The Cardinal just ran all over the Ducks to the tune of 254 rushing yards on 52 attempts. Ball control, clock management and power football.

B. Iowa, it was only a matter of time. Really, it was.

C. Who are you Boise State? Seriously. Are you as good as your record? Or was the Oregon win a matter of emotion at home and on national television? Or are you just that good?

D. Texas is the most consistent of all of the top tier programs this season. The closest game the Longhorns have had was a three-point win over Oklahoma at a neutral site. Florida and Alabama have been up and down all season.

E. However, Alabama’s win over LSU was one to help lock their position into the top two positions. The Tide would be my No. 2 team in the country (if my voice meant anything). Texas would be No. 1 while Florida checks in at No. 3.

F. Cal's Jahvid Best's touchdown dive against Oregon State was one of the scariest airborne accidents I've seen in quite some time. That was a terrifying leap for six points.

G. Twitter note number one that amazed me over the weekend: ESPN’s Joe Schad wrote “Jimmy Clausen Heisman? ESPN Research says 6 TD, 0 INT when trailing in 4th Quarter.”

H. Twitter note number two that amazed me over the weekend: ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote “On third down, where Dallas won the game, Tony Romo was nine-of-11 for 140 yards, one touchdown and that quarterback rating of 149.1.”

I. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again. I’d play for Atlanta head coach Mike Smith a million times over. His antics against DeAngelo Hall (the worst role model in any professional American sport) were outstanding. Hall wanted to take on the entire Atlanta Falcons sidelines after a cheap shot on Matt Ryan by Laron Landry. The Falcons gladly obliged to take on the world’s biggest moron. And out of nowhere Smith, who is in his 50s, plowed through the pile and got right in the grill of the helmeted Hall. That’s leadership I’ll get behind any day.

J. The top two wide receivers for the Dallas Cowboys played at Northwestern Oklahoma State (Patrick Crayton) and Monmouth (Miles Austin). And the two play in a billion dollar stadium. Jackpot!

K. Stat that caught my eye this week: Peyton Manning threw the ball 40 times in the first half against Houston. 40 times! Only five quarterbacks threw over 40 times in the entire game this week. Manning finished with 50 attempts in a lucky win against Houston.

L. Who is the Heisman leader right now? Finally, a weekend for separation for some players. Let’s throw Stanford’s Toby Gerhart and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller onto the ballot. But Colt McCoy then Jimmy Clausen are my one and number two picks right now.

M. Who is the early NFL MVP leader right now? It is still a two-horse race between Manning and Drew Brees. And a million other guys chasing after the top spot.

National Hoops Report Preseason Players of the Year

America East
Atlantic Sun
Atlantic 10
Big East
Big Sky
Big South
Big Ten
Big West
Big 12
Conference USA
Great West
Ivy League
Metro Atlantic
Missouri Valley
Mountain West
Ohio Valley
Sun Belt
West Coast Conference

WCC Preseason Player of the Year: Dior Lowhorn

National Hoops Report West Coast Preseason Player of the Year
Dior Lowhorn, PF, Senior, San Francisco

After playing for Bob Knight one year at Texas Tech, the 6-7, 230-pound power forward could make a case for top dog on the West Coast alongside Luke Babbitt of Nevada. Lowhorn has recorded back-to-back 20 point per game seasons. Another year like his sophomore and junior years, Lowhorn could go down as one of the greatest players in West Coast Conference history.

As a recruit, the bruising Bay Area native was the No. 67ranked player in the class of 2005 and in retrospect that is too low for the class.

Gonzaga has traditionally been the team from the West Coast Conference that the rest of the college hoops world knows about. However, San Francisco could be primed for their turn in the national spotlight because of guys like Lowhorn.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

WAC Preseason Player of the Year: Luke Babbitt

National Hoops Report WAC Preseason Player of the Year
Luke Babbitt, PF, Sophomore, Nevada

Babbitt was one of the top scoring freshmen in the country last year at 16.9 per clip. The big man also grabbed 7.4 rebounds a game while shooting 42 percent from three. He can burn you inside, outside and every where in between.

Not only is Babbitt the best player in the WAC, he is the best player on the West Coast right now.

Babbitt originally committed to Ohio State as a junior but the Reno native thought against his original feelings and switched his pledge later to Nevada, the local school. Babbitt was the No. 31 ranked player in the class of 2008, according to and Prep Stars listed him as the No. 24 ranked player in the class. He’s lived up to the hype in a very real way and by the time it is all said and done, Babbitt could be the most decorated player in Nevada history.

SWAC Preseason Player of the Year: Grant Maxey

National Hoops Report SWAC Preseason Player of the Year
Grant Maxey, PF, Senior, Jackson State

Meet the toughest player to defend in the Deep South’s low-major conference. The 6-7, 210-pound can score (16.7 points a game) and, moreover, defend the low blocks. He’s one of the best in the conference when his team doesn’t have the ball.

Maxey can rebound (6.7 a game), work the passing lanes and front the post (1.6 steals a game) and block shots (nearly one a game).

Maxey was a non-factor as a recruit coming out of Toledo, Ohio. His .com résumé is non-existent. Not that those kinds of things matter. Clearly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year: A.J. Slaughter

National Hoops Report Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year
A.J. Slaughter, SG, Junior, Western Kentucky

Slaughter really came into his own last year as a junior. The homegrown product put up impressive numbers (16 points, 3.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals a game) last year and his a much bigger role this season now that Orlando Mendez-Valdez has graduated.

The Hilltoppers have become a constant in the postseason and with guys like Slaughter in the backcourt, WKU should, once again, be traveling quite a bit in late March.

Slaughter played AAU basketball alongside O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker on the D1 Greyhounds. listed Slaughter as a three-star prospect coming out of high school.

Summit Preseason Player of the Year: Keith Benson

National Hoops Report Summit Preseason Player of the Year
Keith Benson, C, Junior, Oakland

On what is the most talented low-major team in the country (and perhaps the very best low-major team in the country), Benson is one of the several players on Oakland’s roster that could be considered a preseason player of the year in the Summit.

Benson, a towering 6-11 center, is a shot-blocking machine (2.4 a game) and a player that continues to improve as a scorer (14.3 a game) and a rebounder (7.8 a game). Benson is also one of the premiere low post scorers in the country, ranking fourth in the nation in field goal percentage.

Coming out of the talent-ladened Detroit Country Day school, Benson didn’t jump off the pages as a prospect. In fact, he was strongly considered a role player, at best, for a low-major after averaging a humble 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds as a senior. Benson took a redshirt year his first year in college and is now a guy that NBA teams are watching.

Southland Preseason Player of the Year: Marquez Haynes

National Hoops Report Southland League Preseason Player of the Year
Marquez Haynes, SG, Senior, UT-Arlington

It could be argued that Haynes is the best college player in the Dallas-Fort Worth area right now.

After two years at Boston College, the 6-3 guard returned home and find a place where he could not only shine but also turn the program around. Haynes averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game as a junior.

As a prospect, Haynes was the No. 150 ranked player, according to, coming out of high school.

SoCon Preseason Player of the Year: Andrew Goudelock

National Hoops Report SoCon League Preseason Player of the Year
Andrew Goudelock, SG, Junior, College of Charleston

Bobby Cremins has a court named after him in downtown Atlanta at Georgia Tech and every player that is a player has played on that court. The Cremins name holds a lot of weight with kids from Atlanta and College of Charleston has been selling that since Cremins took over the program.

One of the first players to buy into that was Goudelock. And you can call him the piped piper. He’s led the charge of Atlanta area kids that have pledged to Cremins.

For starters, he’s a tremendous scorer. Goudelock is one of the best shooters in the country, hitting 44 percent from behind the three-point line. He led the Cougars in scoring at 16.7 points a game last year. This year, he’s the best shooter in a conference that has produced some deadly perimeter assassins of late.

Goudelock shined at my Georgia Hoops Fall Showcase as a sophomore shooter and kept climbing the improvement ladder until he finished his career at Stone Mountain High School. Cremins encouraged the 6-1 shooter to "just do your thing" and that's exactly what he's done in the SoCon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

SEC Preseason Player of the Year: John Wall

National Hoops Report Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year
John Wall, PG, Freshman, Kentucky

Move over Derrick Rose. John Wall is here.

The charismatic point guard from North Carolina is a hoops prodigy that only seems to be getting better and better every time he steps onto the floor.

Sorry, SEC. Sucks for you.

The rookie has the tools and, more importantly, the talent and coach that can help elevate him to this level so early in his young career. Some even believe Wall is the best player in the country in college basketball.

He could be. For now, however, we’ll just dub him the best player in the SEC.

The first time I watched Wall play was at the first Rbk U camp in Philadelphia. He was amazing throughout and you could see the confidence immediately take over.

I wrote: “Put the name John Wall on the high-major list for the class of 2009. The 6-foot-3 has sprinter speed and great body control when he changes of direction. Mix that all together and you have a player that was simply un-defendable from end to end. He's been the biggest revelation of the camp so far in terms of being an unknown on a national scale.

Maalik Wayns is proving himself once again at the national level.
The speedster has people talking after his proficient 17 point (6-10 FG), six rebound, four assist and three steal performance against the likes of Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight, two of the better guards in the camp.

When looking at the 2009 group of point guards, Wall fits in nicely with the elite prospects in his class. Expect Wall to see a lot of high-major interest and a long line of coaches in tow wherever he plays for the rest of the month.”

Wall was the No. 2 ranked player in the country, according to the RSCI rankings.

Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year: RJ Evans

National Hoops Report Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year
R.J. Evans, SG, Sophomore, Holy Cross

He was last year’s Rookie of the Year in the Patriot. This year he could be the Player of the Year. Correction, he should be the Player of the Year.

As a freshman, Evans averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He was one of the best offensive rebounders in the conference and a “scorer supreme” to use the words of those that watched him in high school.

Pac-10 Preseason Player of the Year: Jerome Randle

National Hoops Report Pac-10 Preseason Player of the Year
Kenneth Faried, PG, Senior, Cal

Whenever a player returns to a conference as the top scorer and assist man, there is a strong chance that they earn Preseason Player of the Year honors. Randle is exactly in this position this season. The tiny guard from Chicago scored 18.3 points a game last year while dishing out five assists a game for Mike Montgomery.

This year, Randle has the Golden Bears sitting atop many Pac-10 lists and inside the top 10 in the eyes of a number of hoops pundits. He and backcourt mate Patrick Christopher will certainly battle Washington’s trio of Abdul Gaddy, Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton for the “top backcourt in the Pac-10” title all season. listed Randle as the No. 15 ranked point guard in the class of 2006. Scout nailed the evaluation on Randle: "One of the fastest, smartest and most poised point guards around. You can't take the ball from him and he makes sound decisions. You want the ball in his hands at all times and he exudes confidence. Forget the size, the kid is a player. Plus, he'll launch 3s with range and confidence."

Ohio Valley Preseason Player of the Year: Kenneth Faried

National Hoops Report Ohio Valley Preseason Player of the Year
Kenneth Faried, PF, Junior, Morehead State

The nation got to know who the New Jersey native was last season in March. His play late in the schedule within conference play and in the post-season was inspired. He’ll have a chance to shine on the big stage once again next week when he and his teammates play Kentucky.

Faried is the nation’s top returning rebounder at 13 a contest. The bouncy big man is also a capable scorer, putting in a hair under 14 a contest. In the Ohio Valley Conference, you have to have a bouncy forward to win. And no one has a guy like Faried.

Academics stunted his recruitment out of high school in New Jersey and he wasn’t a big name player on the grassroots circuit, even in the highly covered area of the Northeast. Consider him one of the best steals in mid-major basketball.

Northeast Preseason Player of the Year: Jeremy Goode

National Hoops Report Northeast Preseason Player of the Year
Jeremy Goode, PG, Senior, Mount St. Mary's

For those that have watched the Charlotte native since high school, they aren’t surprised with the career that Goode has had so far at The Mount. The 5-9 senior has enjoyed a great career so far for the Northeast Conference program.

Last year, Goode averaged a team high 14.9 points, 4.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game. This year, he is hoping to get his program back to the NCAA tournament.

I was first impressed by Goode after watching him at the Dell Curry Shootout (now known as the Bojangles Shootout) in 2004. His game, even then, was about putting defenders on their heels. And he won big games at that level, too. See the trend?

Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year: Malcolm Thomas

National Hoops Report Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year
Malcolm Thomas, PF, Junior, San Diego State

When he was coming out of high school, he was only a two-star prospect.

A year later, Thomas was a dominant force at Pepperdine. As a freshman, the 6-9 big man averaged 12.5 points and a team high 8.8 rebounds and two blocks. After a difficult season in Malibu, he wanted to leave for greener pastures.

Thomas considered transferring to UCLA, Boston College, Arizona or UNLV after his stellar rookie season at Pepperdine. Instead, he went home to San Diego City College. While there, Thomas was amazing. He led his team in points (21.1), rebounds (12.9), blocks (3.8) and field‑goal percentage (60.6).

Big things are expected for Thomas and San Diego State this season. Rightfully so.

Thomas’s high school and Pepperdine teammate Tyrone Shelley could very well be the Player of the Year in the conference, too. Shelley is one of the best scorers in the country. He could be the top scorer in the conference this season.

Missouri Valley Preseason Player of the Year: Osiris Eldridge

National Hoops Report Missouri Valley Preseason Player of the Year
Osiris Eldridge, SG, Senior, Illinois State

If last year’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament was any indication of what Eldridge has in store for this season, watch out.

The bouncy Chicago native was an absolute terror for opponents in the post-season and even tested the NBA waters after his season. He’s a major talent in the MVC and one of the elite athletes in the Midwest.

Eldridge’s scoring numbers dropped last year from nearly 16 a game to 14 a contest. However, the rest of his game improved. He shined as a rebounder (6.2 a game), assist man (2.4) and defender (1.5 steals).

As a recruit, ranked him in the top 150 and top 40 at his position. Coming out of high school, Eldridge understood his level and where he could shine.

Mid-American Preseason Player of the Year: Darion Anderson

National Hoops Report Mid-American Preseason Player of the Year
Darion Anderson, SG, Junior, Northern Illinois

There may not be a more wide open league for teams and players this season than in the Mid-American. Take your pick for Player of the Year. Seriously. There are probably seven guys that could all make a strong case for the award that means very little.

My pick is Anderson.

Here’s why: he’s a terrific score (16.9 points a game last year). He’s a great rebounder (5.4 a game) for a 6-2, 200-pound guard. He’s the top player for what I believe is one of the top two teams in the league.

But it is a crap shoot.

The race is so wide open that Anderson could even “lose” the award to his own teammate, Xavier Silas.

MEAC Preseason Player of the Year: Reggie Holmes

National Hoops Report MEAC Preseason Player of the Year
Reggie Holmes, SG, Senior, Morgan State

There is a value of staying home and making a difference. That is what Holmes did. The Baltimore native stayed home after a strong career at St. Frances to play at Morgan State.

He has made a significant difference for the NCAA tournament team and the revival of Todd Bozeman’s coaching career. Holmes averaged nearly 17 points a game and was the top shooter in the conference last year. At 6-4, he’s also one of the top rebounders in the league, too.

As a high school prospect, Holmes didn’t make a splash with the .com services. In fact, he doesn’t even have a profile on the two major networks.

Metro Atlantic Preseason Player of the Year: Ryan Thompson

National Hoops Report Metro Atlantic Preseason Player of the Year
Ryan Thompson, PG, Senior, Rider

The New Jersey Ironman was the second leading scoring in the MAAC last year at 18 a game. He played over 38 minutes a contest and played all over the floor for the Broncs. The 6-6 guard is a proven shooter, defender and decision-maker in the backcourt.

Like his older brother, Jason, Thompson was under recruited and developed late. There is a train of thought that the younger Thompson cold follow big brother to the NBA because of his size at the point guard position.

He picked Rider over George Mason, Drexel, and Marist coming out of high school.

Ivy League Preseason Player of the Year: Ryan Wittman

National Hoops Report Ivy League Preseason Player of the Year
Ryan Wittman, SF, Senior, Cornell

Andy Bernard, you aren’t the most popular Cornell alum this time of year. That is Wittman’s honor right now.

The 6-7 son of former Indiana star and NBA head coach Randy Wittman is making a name for himself in college. The younger Wittman averaged 18.5 points a game last yea and is one of the premiere shooters in the conference. He returns to the league as the top scorer and the hardest player to defend in the conference.

Ryan James, the best hoops guy I know in Minnesota, had Wittman as the sixth best player coming out of his state in 2006. In hind sight, Wittman was the best guy in the class.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year: Gordon Hayward

National Hoops Report Horizon Preseason Player of the Year
Gordon Hayward, SF, Sophomore, Butler

Hayward was under-recruited and looked over by the .com world, including myself, despite several nudges from those that followed the program closely. Hayward was not ranked by the national recruiting services and when he committed to the Bulldogs, it didn’t receive any notoriety.

Boy, were we ever wrong.

Shelvin Mack, a fellow sophomore on the team, was thought to be the gem of the class. While Mack is certainly a tremendous player, Hayward was clearly the steal of the class and the steal of the entire 2008 recruiting class. Hayward would have shined at any level, judging his success with USA Basketball this summer.

Hayward averaged 13.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, two assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks a game as a freshman all the while shooting nearly 45 percent from three.

You don’t find guys like him in the Big Ten anymore so for him to land at Butler and in the Horizon, it doesn’t come as a big surprise that the Bulldogs are the favorites to win their league but also receive recognition as a national top 10 program.

Great West Preseason Player of the Year: Tyler Cain

National Hoops Great West Preseason Player of the Year
Tyler Cain, PF, Senior, South Dakota

Hard to really call this a league since the Great West won’t be eligible for the NCAA tournament bid until 2020 but that doesn’t mean the league lacks for good basketball players.

Enter Cain, a bruising 6-8, 235-pound power forward. Cain averaged 15.4 points, 11 rebounds, all the while leading his team in blocks (82), steals (45) and shooting percentage at 66.5 from the floor.

Cain is a defensive gem in the low blocks as well. He’s big, strong and plays with a football mentality. Recruited by the low-majors, Cain was not a highly sought after prospect coming out of high school despite a good prep career.

Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year: Jerome Jordan

Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year
Jerome Jordan, C, Senior, Tulsa

For the first time in what feels like forever, a Memphis player is not the Preseason Player of the Year in Conference USA. In fact, there isn’t one Memphis player on the Preseason All-Conference USA team.

Tulsa’s tower of terror gets the nod this season. He is one of the premiere shot-blockers in the country (top ten in the nation last year with 88) and a capable scorer on the low-block. The 7-footer rips down over eight rebounds a game. He is certainly capable of pulling down upwards of nine and a half. That will only help his draft status.

As a recruit, Jordan was a non-factor player. He didn’t play his senior year at Florida Air Academy, a school that consistently pumps out Division I players, due to transfer rules. He didn’t play summer ball after coming to the United States from Jamaica.

Stetson was really the only other true player for his services. A year from now, he could be playing in the NBA.

Colonial Preseason Player of the Year: Charles Jenkins

National Hoops Report Colonial Preseason Player of the Year
Charles Jenkins, SG, Junior, Hofstra

The CAA is quickly becoming a league where the country looks for the best mid-major guards. This year, keep an eye on Jenkins.

All Jenkins did was score nearly 20 points a game, grab 4.8 rebounds, hand out 4.3 assists a game and collect 1.4 steals a game. He’s also one of the best assist to turnover guys back in the league this season. The ironman is the top returning scorer in the CAA and has Hofstra on the top half of a very competitive league that sent five teams to the postseason last year.

Jenkins was a non-factor on the recruiting scene as a prep star despite having a very respectable high school career.

He scored 36 points against New York powerhouse St. Raymond's and saw a rise in his recruitment. However, he laid low on the recruiting radar and took a redshirt year when he enrolled at Hofstra.

You could argue he is the best redshirt player in the country.

Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year: Sherron Collins

National Hoops Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year
Sherron Collins, PG, Senior, Kansas

Many believe the Kansas Jayhawks are the top team in the country heading into the season. Hard to argue against that. With the bulk of the team back in Lawrence, the Jayhawks certainly boast the talent.

Sherron Collins will glue it all together. The 5-11 bowling ball from Chicago is the team’s senior leader. Collins led the team in scoring at 18.9 points and assists with five a game. He’s a speedster with big-time athleticism in the backcourt. His play should have Bill Self looking at another Final Four this season.

Collins was a rarity at the time he “blew up” nationally. Few outside of Chicago had actually watched the three-sport superstar in person. He was a legend in conversations amongst the message boards and .com evaluators. It wasn’t until the Boo Williams Invitational where he burst onto the scene and everyone had a chance to watch him.

His first game of the tournament in the back gym at Hampton University was packed with reporters and analysts. Collins didn’t disappoint.

After watching him for the first time, you could say I was smitten.

“He's got wheels for feet, springs for legs, a stump of oak for a chest and every other adjective you can find. Collins is the real deal,” I wrote in 2005.

Collins was the No. 14 ranked player in the class of 2006, according to the RSCI rankings. In hindsight, that might be too low.

Big West Preseason Player of the Year: Larry Anderson

Big West Preseason Player of the Year
Larry Anderson, SG, Long Beach State, Sophomore

The 6-6 wing is one of the fun stories of all of the West Coast schools. He left his Long Beach home to go to the cold winters of Maine to play at Wincendon in order to shore up his academics. He entered college as a solid pick up for the 49ers and as a guy that should help.

Little did anyone know he’d turn out to be the conference’s Freshman of the Year and one of the most versatile players in the league. He enters his sophomore season as the most intriguing player in the Big West and should play over 30 minutes a game this season.

Anderson shined at the National Prep Showcase, the event to play well at if you are a post-graduate or prep school prospect. Anderson did and because of that he became a hot prospect late in the game. Little did anyone realize he was as good as he turned out to be. listed him as a three-star prospect coming out of prep school.

A number of high-majors looked but he decided on the home school - Long Beach State - and is a key reason by Dan Monson's program is a contender for the Big West this season. Not bad for a club that won just six games less than three years ago.

Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year: Manny Harris

National Hoops Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year
Manny Harris, SG, Junior, Michigan

The Big Ten is stocked deep with top talent and this award could have gone to five different players. But what pushed Marris over the edge was his all-around game. At 6-4, the Detroit native can play three positions for John Beilein. Harris has helped turn the program around and into a NCAA tournament team and Big Ten contender.

As a sophomore, Harris averaged 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals a game and he helped put the Wolverines into the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Harris was the No. 42 ranked player in the class of 2007, according to the RSCI rankings. Looking back on the first time I saw him at the King James Classic in 2006, Harris is still the same kind of player except he is a much better scorer in college than he was in high school. His real name is “Corperryale” and, man, do I wish he went by that instead of Manny.

Big South Preseason Player of the Year: Artsiom Parakhouski

National Hoops Big South Preseason Player of the Year
Artsiom Parakhouski, C, Senior, Radford

Let’s be honest. No one, and I mean no one, saw this one coming. The 6-11 center from Belarus was an under-the-radar big man that enrolled at the College of Southern Idaho. He played as a freshman but was merely a role player.

A year later, he was quietly one of the top junior college prospects in the country. As a junior at Radford, he averaged a double-double (16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds) a game. The big fella was one of the top 10 rebounders in the country last year. Bet you didn’t realize that.

Hey, he was the Big South Player of the Year last year. Why change things?