- Antonio Williams, Basketball Recruiting
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Though most of the elite prospects in the 2009 class have either signed or delivered a virtually iron-clad verbal commitment to their respective schools of choice for next fall, there remains a decent amount of top prep players still available. The slew of recent coaching changes, led by the hiring of John Calipari at Kentucky, has served as the catalyst for a number of significant changes in the recruiting universe. Seven players in the ESPNU 100 have either asked for a release from their letter of intent, stated that they plan to ask for one, talked about decommitting, or simply still have not selected a college at all. Xavier Henry, the nation's No 1. prospect, has yet to decide where he will end up, and two other top 10 players -- electrifying point guard John Wall and SG Lance Stephenson -- also remain undecided. With this caliber of player left on board, expect the competition on the recruiting trail to remain hot and heavy through the upcoming late signing period.
Xavier Henry, SG, Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City
Player rank (position rank): 3 (2).
Considering: Kansas, Kentucky.
Recruiting overview: Henry had an addendum attached to his letter of intent that allowed him to opt out if Calipari left Memphis. That turned out to be a pretty good move. With his newfound freedom, Henry's father last week stated what most believed once Calipari left -- Xavier, along with his brother C.J., would like to attend Kansas, the only other school that Xavier expressed serious interest in throughout the early signing period. However, on the recruiting trail Calipari has the ability to close like Jonathan Papelbon, so it's impossible to count out Calipari and the attraction of his dribble-drive offense paired with the immense allure of Kentucky, not to mention the fact DeMarcus Cousins, the nation's top center, recently committed to Kentucky.
John Wall, PG, Raleigh, N.C./Word of God
Player rank (position rank): 5 (1).
Considering: NC State, Duke, Baylor, Kentucky, Kansas, Miami, North Carolina.
Front-runner: It's hard to say at this moment.
Recruiting overview: Though Wall had not stated definitively that he would pick Memphis when Calipari coached there, Wall did say the Tigers held the lead for his services. With Calipari at Kentucky and Cousins now joining him there, Wall could head to Lexington and form a dynamic inside-outside duo with Cousins, or even complete the terrific triumvirate with Cousins and Henry that many expected to see in Memphis. Miami has come into the picture along with the elephant in the room -- national champion North Carolina, which has the nation's top recruiting haul heading into the late signing period. And don't forget that Duke has also entered the race in an emphatic way. This could turn into another battle between heated rivals Duke and UNC. This episode of "As The Recruiting World Turns" could offer plenty of excitement and twists.
Lance Stephenson, SG, New York/Lincoln
Player rank (position rank): 12 (4).
Considering: Maryland, Kansas, St. John's, USC.
Front-runner: St. John's.
Recruiting overview: Stephenson originally intended to announce his college choice at the McDonald's All-American game, with Kansas seemingly the choice over initial favorite and hometown school St. John's as well as Maryland, which made a serious late run and has high school teammate James Padgett for next season. But Stephenson decided not to make a choice after Calipari left Memphis and the thinking is he's waiting to see what Henry does. If Henry goes to Kansas, St. John's should step right in and provide Stephenson with the chance to star in a Hollywood-type movie with the hometown hero staying to resurrect the hometown school. There's also been speculation that Stephenson ends up at Kentucky if Henry ends up at Kansas. However, if Henry selects Kentucky, then Stephenson likely opts for Kansas. Stephenson's college choice will also provide plenty of interest as it unfolds.
Nolan Dennis, SG, Richland Hills, Texas/Richland
Player rank (position rank): 44 (12).
Front-runner: Kentucky, though his recruitment remains wide open at the moment.
Recruiting overview: Calipari's departure affected more than just Henry, it also forced another ESPNU 100 player and fellow shooting guard, Dennis, to reconsider his college choice for next season. Dennis also had a waiver that allowed him to seek an alternative destination in the event that Calipari left the school. Now comes word, through Dennis' mother, that he will re-open his recruitment and really favors following Calipari to the Bluegrass State. However, with such a talented player left searching for a home, expect Dennis to have plenty of viable suitors, especially if Kentucky faces some issues with respect to number of available scholarships.
Terrell Vinson, SF, Baltimore, Md./St. Frances
Player rank (position rank): 49 (8).
Considering: Maryland, UMass, South Florida and Cincinnati.
Recruiting overview: Originally slated for Loyola-Marymount, where he would have ranked as a program-changing recruit, Vinson received a release from his letter of intent when coach Bill Bayno retired earlier this season. Now, Vinson favors two Big East schools, South Florida and Cincinnati, as well as UMass and Maryland, which is looking for a signature recruit to signal its resurgence on the recruiting scene. The Terps probably hold the lead at this juncture, but the other three schools are making a strong push as we approach the finish line. The competition will remain at a high level with such a versatile prospect remaining on the recruiting board.
DeShawn Painter, PF, Norfolk, Va./Hargrave Military Academy
Player rank (position rank): 64 (19).
Considering: Virginia, Virginia Tech and Louisville, (the list is still taking shape)
Recruiting overview: Painter committed to Florida in May 2008, so it's hard to say, which of his previous suitors still would be interested. At the time he picked the Gators, Painter was getting recruited hard by Louisville and Virginia. (Kentucky and Florida State also were in the mix.) Virginia is almost certain to pursue Painter. Pairing him with AAU teammate Tristan Spurlock would be a major recruiting coup for new UVA coach Tony Bennett.
Others players to watch
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.
With players like Henry, Wall and Stephenson still available, the late signing period will be interesting to watch, writes Antonio Williams.