Commentary

Smaller programs score major talent

Originally Published: April 14, 2010
By Mike LaPlante | ESPN Recruiting

Today was a big day for Kentucky, one of college basketball's most storied programs. The folks in Lexington, however, aren't the only ones who should feel good about what transpired on Wednesday, the first day of the late signing period.

Detroit and Central Michigan may have pulled off the biggest and best recruiting coups of the year. Ray McCallum Jr. (Detroit) and Trey Zeigler (Central Michigan) have both pledged to schools at which their fathers are head coaches. They decided to buck the trend of playing at the highest level possible and instead are going to programs where they can have a Stephen Curry-type impact.

Of course, these two players committing to smaller programs certainly could alter the landscape in a couple of mid-major leagues.

In McCallum's case, it's hard to see Butler giving up its position atop the Horizon League anytime soon. Of course, that doesn't mean McCallum can't have a major impact from day one. His presence gives the Titans a player who can create his own shot and get his teammates involved. McCallum, who picked Detroit over a list of schools that included Florida and Arizona, probably possesses more athletic ability than any other player in the conference, and that should be an asset for the Titans on both ends of the court. He could stand to improve his jumper, but that will come in time.

If McCallum stays for three or four years he could provide his father with the foundation to build something special at Detroit. It takes only one high-profile run for a program to become a national name. After that, recruiting gets much easier.

In Zeigler, CMU is getting a versatile guard who can play the point in a pinch. His body -- standing 6-foot-5 -- is ideal for the 2-guard position. He also has a very nice stroke from outside and isn't shy about attacking off the dribble. Zeigler is an immediate starter for CMU and will provide the team with a perimeter player who is very talented and versatile.

For Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler, who was just rewarded with a new four-year contract extension for leading the Chippewas to back-to-back West Division titles, the opportunity to coach his son while leading his own program is going to be special. Trey turned down overtures from the likes of in-state heavy hitters Michigan and Michigan State along with national power UCLA to stay home and play for his father while trying to bring glory to the CMU program.

Both of these players have a chance to give additional positive exposure to their respective schools while potentially setting the foundation of long-term success. Not only will they have a chance to be impact players individually, they will help attract other outstanding players as they raise their schools' profile and legitimize these programs as realistic options for high-level players to attend.

Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.