George Mason, Rice lead mid-majors
Themajor conferences get their share of the best basketball prospects in the country, but they most definitely do not have a monopoly on them. For example, Memphis of Conference USA signed the ESPNU No. 1 player, G Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City), and ultimately could land ESPNU No. 6 PG John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God). The Tigers are ranked among the nation's top recruiting classes.
Another Conference USA member, UAB, had appeared to be a strong candidate to make the top 25. But the Blazers' top commit, No. 4-rated C DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala./Leflore), wanted to make sure coach Mike Davis would be with the program. So Cousins, as well as two top junior college players who also had committed, did not sign with UAB. This stopped the program from earning national recruiting recognition, but the Blazers certainly could vault back up the rankings if they retain all three players in the spring.
A number of so-called "non-power conferences" regularly land outstanding basketball recruits, even in the fall. Men's basketball teams have only 13 scholarship players, so more talent is available in basketball than in football for mid-majors and higher programs. Conferences that did particularly well during this recruiting period were the Mountain West (with five schools in the top dozen classes), Conference USA, Mid-American, Atlantic 10, Big West and Western Athletic. It's also worth noting that we have excluded mid-major teams that made the national top 25 classes from our rankings.
Prominent among the newcomers is powerful athlete C/F Johnnie Williams (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian), a player who has the potential and intensity to become a future Will Thomas-type performer for Larranaga. Also signing were rugged 6-foot-7 PF Paris Bennett (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), textbook shooter and postgraduate wing Luke Hancock (Chatham, Va./Hargrave Military Academy), SG Rashad Whack (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) and highly regarded Texas floor leader Vertrail Vaughns (Mesquite, Texas).
The standouts in this class are 6-3 SG Tamir Jackson (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's), who has been a three-year starter for one of the country's top high school programs, and 6-8 P/WF Arsalan Kazemi (Lenoir, N.C./Patterson School), a native of Iran who also had garnered interest from schools such as Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma State. Jackson is an effective scorer and has the toughness to play excellent defense. Kazemi is a surprisingly gifted athlete and an accurate 3-point marksman.
Other Rice signees include 6-5 wing Chris Eversley (Chicago/Walter Payton College Prep), 6-7 PF Egheosa Edomwonyi (Princeton, N.J./The Hun School) and stellar floor leader Stevie Rogers (Houston/Strake Jesuit).
Big man Jeremy Olsen (Suwanee, Ga./Collins Hill) was impressive at several national all-star camps in the summer. He has outstanding mobility, agility and a high skill set for a center. Olsen could become a major force in the Mountain West.
Utah added two junior college players who have the talent and experience to be major contributors for the program next season. Wing Joe Watkins, from the College of Southern Idaho, can score in a variety of ways and is an excellent athlete. Center Matt Read, of Collin County Community College (Texas), is a strong, physical low-post operative who has outstanding scoring skills. He is a very capable rebounder and shot-blocker.
The top signee is 6-3 G Anthony Marshall (North Las Vegas, Nev./Mojave). Marshall is a versatile, highly skilled backcourt ace who can play both point and shooting guard. He is a highly accurate 3-point marksman and can use his effective dribble-drive abilities to get to the rim. He could start next season.
Carlos Lopez (Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep) is a long, talented big man loaded with potential. A top performer on the Puerto Rican national team, Lopez is very agile, athletic and quick. He is an excellent shot-blocker and rebounder.
Combo guard Justin Hawkins (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) was the teammate of current UNC freshman Larry Drew last season. This season, he could assume some of Drew's point guard duties. Hawkins is one of the best backcourt defenders in this class. He needs to become a more consistent outside shooter.
Coles and his staff were pleased to sign highly regarded 6-10 C Drew McGhee (North Ridgeville, Ohio). McGhee is a big man who has tons of potential. He likely will team up with PF Drew Kelly (Franklin, Tenn./Centennial) to form a solid interior tandem. Both of these young men should be major factors for Miami next season.
Other valuable additions are junior college standout PF Mark Anderson, of Sinclair Community College (Ohio), who averaged 25.8 points per game last season; high-scoring SG Allen Roberts (Middletown, Ohio) and gifted athlete SG Orlando Williams (Cincinnati/Princeton).
Top San Diego State signees are high-flying athlete Kawhi Leonard (Riverside, Calif./Martin Luther King) and smart, skilled team leader Chase Tapley (Sacramento). They'll be joined by stellar athlete Eric Lawton (Hemet, Calif./West Valley) and undersized PF Alec Williams (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra).
Brandon Davies (Provo) and Tyler Haws (Highland/Lone Peak). Both had outstanding summers, and Haws could be one of the country's most accurate outside shooters. Both should be immediate impact players next season at BYU.
The Cougars also added good size with in-state big men Nate Austin (Haws' teammate at Lone Peak High) and Ian Harward (Orem).
The player who could have the most immediate impact is world-class athlete Freddie Riley, a native Floridian now at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Riley signed last year with Florida Atlantic but after a coaching change chose to attend Hargrave Military for a postgraduate year. He can score in every conceivable way, from eye-popping slams to on-target 3s. Riley appears to be the player of the future for Kellogg.
Others who could make immediate contributions to the Minutemen are skilled 6-4 2G Javon Farrell (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist), 6-9 PF Raphael Putney (Woodbridge, Va.) and their latest signee, 6-8 forward Sampson Carter (Winchendon, Mass.). Carter is versatile and can play both forward positions.
Productive big man 6-10 C Jules Montgomery (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade Prep) and forward Kyle Richardson (Lakewood, Calif./Mayfair) lead the class. Montgomery has great size and can stretch the defense with his jumper. Richardson is an active wing who is still a work in progress on the offensive end. Joining them will be 6-9 C/F Lin Chang, a native of China now at Miracosta College (Calif.).
Laser-quick guard D.J. Cooper (Chicago/Hales Franciscan) should be one of the fastest players in the MAC as a freshman. Wing Marquis Horne (Cincinnati/Princeton) is a tough athlete who uses his length well. The Bobcats class is rounded out by PF Reggie Keely (Cleveland Heights, Ohio/University Heights) and 6-1 PG James Kinney (Champaign, Ill./ Centennial).
Greg Smith (Phoenix/Westwind Academy). Smith has really improved in the past year. He's learning how to use his length and bulky frame.
The Bulldogs also signed versatile wings Garrett Johnson (Pomona, Calif./Diamond Ranch) and Jerry Brown (San Francisco/Sacred Heart).
The recruit who could have the most immediate impact because of his age and experience is junior college All-American prospect, 6-7 G/F Darrington Hobson (College of Eastern Utah). He'll start from day one at New Mexico next season. Other talented signees include PF Matt Staff, (Houston/Memorial); SG Chad Adams (Albuquerque, N.M./Highland), who could be the top senior in the state; and prolific scoring PG Jamal Fenton (Houston/Chavez).
Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball.
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