- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
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Technically the late signing period started April 14, but in reality scouts have been in full gear since the early signing period ended Nov. 18. Here is a recap of all the big storylines during the late signing period:
Four major programs -- Kentucky, Kansas, Texas and Connecticut -- all landed an elite point guard in the late signing period. All four are very good athletes and will be given big roles in their first season, but it remains to be seen who will be able to fight through the "freshman wall" against a whole new level of talent.
Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest)
6-3, 183 pounds | College: Kentucky
This was an important get by the Wildcats because they lost John Wall and Eric Bledsoe to the NBA. This is nothing new for coach John Calipari, who will rely on a freshman point guard for the fourth straight season.
Josh Selby (Baltimore, Md./Lake Clifton)
6-3, 183 pounds | College: Kansas
The Jayhawks already have a lot of talent, and Selby is yet another dynamic presence. He is a scoring point guard who can create for others with deep lane penetration and his drive, draw and kick ability.
Cory Joseph (Pickering, Ont./Findlay Prep)
6-3, 180 pounds | College: Texas
With Avery Bradley deciding to leave for the NBA, landing Joseph became that much more important. He will instantly boost the Longhorns' perimeter game and give them a deadly threat from beyond the arc, which will help spread the defense. On top of being the arguably the best 3-point shooter in the class, Joseph rounds out his game by being a tenacious defender.
Shabazz Napier (Randolph, Mass./Lawrence Academy)
5-11, 165 pounds | College: UConn
Napier is just what the Huskies needed: a shooter who can play the point. Plus, although small in size, he bounces off defenders and finishes in the paint. Napier's feel for the game is what makes him special. He has great composure and court presence.
New Auburn coach Tony Barbee did a fantastic job of bringing in local talent in power forward Luke Cothron (Huntsville, Ala./Flora MacDonald Academy) and small forward Josh Langford (Huntsville, Ala./Lee), who are two of the best prospects from Alabama in this class. Both players will help out immediately, and their recruitment speaks volumes regarding what Barbee can accomplish in the future.
Some things never change
After committing and decommiting from North Carolina State, ESPNU 100 power forward C.J. Leslie (Holly Springs, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) finally signed with the Wolfpack. By landing Leslie in the late signing period, NC State closes the gap on the powerhouses in the ACC because he has the makings of a big-time player. The 6-9, 205-pounder has tremendous athletic ability and a lot of upside.
Washington's deadly duo
Landing one of the best players available in the late signing period gives your recruiting class a nice boost; when Washington landed Terrence Jones (Portland, Ore./Jefferson) and Terrence Ross (Portland, Ore./Jefferson) in the late signing period, the Huskies' class became elite. Jones is a lengthy, lefty hybrid 4-man who can hurt the defense in a variety of ways. His frame is terrific, and he possesses Lamar Odom-like skills. Ross is an athletic wing who has great size and a big time shooting stroke. Defensively, Ross is impressive with his anticipation and quick hands. Unlike Ross, Jones has yet to sign his national letter of intent with the Huskies.
All in the family
The fact that Trey Zeigler (Mt. Pleasant, Mich./Mt. Pleasant) and Ray McCallum (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit Country Day School) chose to play for their fathers wasn't surprising, but the fact that they will be playing in the MAC and the Horizon League, respectively, certainly is. Both are elite prospects and could have gone to pretty much any school in the country.
Both will have immediate, huge impacts on their conferences and have already closed the gaps on the front-runners in the MAC and Horizon. The fact that these two have chosen to go to smaller programs is also a tribute to schools like Butler and Northern Iowa, which have made their presences felt in the NCAA tournament recently.
Gators piling on
Coming into the late signing period, Florida was already ranked No. 10 in the country and now the Gators have added more size in power forwards Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, S.D./Roosevelt) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Air Academy). Larson has good athleticism and quickness, which he uses to surprise opposing bigs. The 6-8 lefty also has good strength and finishes around the basket with a good amount of effectiveness. Meanwhile, Yeguete scores mostly on face-up drives from the high post area and from offensive rebound tip-ins.
Others making moves
Coach Charlton Young did a great job by landing shooting guard Jelani Hewitt (Oakland Park/Northeast), who is a very talented high major prospect. He possesses an excellent knack for scoring and is capable of putting up big numbers when he is in a rhythm.
It's hard to add good-sized players in the late signing period, which makes the addition of 6-8 center Godwin Okonji (Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep) that much more impressive. Coach Max Good has landed a strong, athletic and battle-tested interior presence.
The Commodores also added good size during this late signing period in centers Juvonte Reddic (Winston-Salem, N.C./Quality Education) and Darrell Haley (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale). Reddic plays with great energy, has great athletic ability and can defend both post positions at 6-9. Haley has an impressive frame (6-10, 230 pounds) with broad shoulders and long arms, but needs to hone his offensive game.
The Billikens landed power forward Rob Loe (Auckland, New Zealand/Westlake), which was a great get for this program. At 6-11, he will have an immediate impact in the Atlantic 10 and Loe can also stretch the defense with his shooting ability. Saint Louis also landed a solid point guard during the late signing in Jordair Jett (St. Paul, Minn./Notre Dame Prep). He has great floor vision, pinpoint passing ability and a good shooting stroke. Coach Rick Majerus, who is a master at developing players, has a lot to work with in Loe and Jett.
Best players still available
At this point in the recruiting process, it is rare to find high-major talented players who aren't signed, or at least committed. However, power forward Marcus Thornton (Atlanta/Westlake) and small forward Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/Westchester) are two uncommitted prospects who can make an immediate impact.
Thornton was signed with Clemson, but was released from his letter of intent due to the coaching change. The 6-7, 215-pounder is a little undersized for the power forward position, but he's a very good defender. He does a lot of the dirty work that doesn't always show up in the box score, but leads to wins for his team. At this time, it looks like Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Kentucky are in the running for his services.
Unlike Thornton, Polee never signed a letter of intent with USC and has since decommitted from the Trojans. The 6-7, 180-pounder is a high major athlete who can run and jump with the best of them. He is long and athletic enough to be a very good defender if he puts his mind to it, and he could be an excellent addition to a team that utilizes a pressing system. Georgia, Oregon and St. John's look to be his top three at the moment.
Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Elite point guards, like Brandon Knight and Josh Selby, highlighted the late signing period, writes Paul Biancardi.