With most of the attention on the floor and in the recruiting world focused on the schools that comprise the high-major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC), a number of mid-major powers outside of BCS conferences have made significant progress on the recruiting trail. Consequently, these teams have reaped the rewards of their recruiting victories with increased win totals.
While Gonzaga has served as the blueprint for how to build a dominant power outside of a BCS conference, teams such as Butler and Davidson have emerged to place their own imprint on the college basketball landscape, and nobody will forget George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four in 2006.
With increased television and media exposure mid-major teams have more than enough ammunition to lure top prospects on campus. In fact, five ESPNU 100 recruits (Terrell Vinson, Massachusetts; Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State; Zeke Marshall, Akron; Aaric Murray, LaSalle; Anthony Marshall, UNLV) decided to take their considerable basketball talents to non-BCS homes in the fall.
Coach Jim Larranaga has assembled a very impressive group that will make its debut in the fall. Six-foot-4 SG Sherrod Wright provides George Mason with a tremendously athletic wing player. Wright can get to the rim at will and will become even better when he improves his jumper to go along with his athleticism and strength. Johnnie Williams (Memphis, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian), a 6-8 PF, gives the Patriots a dominant post presence who can also connect on jumpers.
Luke Hancock (Roanoke, Va./Hargrave Military Academy) is a 6-5 SF who will provide long-range shooting and high intensity. Rashad Whack (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), a 6-2 SG, puts an immense amount of pressure on opposing defenders with his aggressive style of play. Vertrail Vaughns (Mesquite, Texas/Mesquite) will give the Patriots a 6-2 point guard with great quickness and passing ability while 6-6 PF Paris Bennett (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) will play some face-up 4.
UMass seems well on its way to bringing the program back to national prominence and this recruiting class will figure heavily in the restoration process. Terrell Vinson (Baltimore/St. Frances Academy), a superb 6-7 forward who can play in the paint as well as on the perimeter, headlines the 2009 recruiting haul for the Minutemen. This ESPNU 100 prospect can connect on jumpers in addition to taking the ball to the hoop.
Raphael Putney (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), a 6-8 PF, has more than enough athleticism to get to the rim and beat slower big men off the dribble. Freddie Riley (Ocala, Fla./Hargrave Military Academy) is a 6-5 SF who can hit difficult shots due to his high level of confidence in his scoring ability. Sampson Carter (Memphis, Tenn./Winchendon), a 6-8 SF, can also score from the wing and 6-5 Javorn Farrell (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist) can stroke the ball from the perimeter.
Rice's class boasts some real elite talent. The Owls have a jumping jack with a never-ending motor in 6-8 PF Arsalan Kazemi (Lenoir, N.C./The Patterson School). SG Tamir Jackson (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's Prep) is a 6-2 guard with the versatility to play both guard spots and can get to the paint with ease.
A.J. Holland (Cottondale, Ala./Bryant), a 6-2 PG, can get to the paint with his quickness and excels in the open court, while 6-5 SF Chris Eversley (Chicago/Payton College Prep) has good strength and excels as a catch-and-shoot wing player. Egheosa Edomwonyi (Princeton, N.J./The Hun School) is a 6-7 PF with great athleticism and can rebound on both ends of the floor.
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher has gained a reputation as an outstanding recruiter and this class demonstrates his ability to evaluate talent and lure players to campus. Kawhi Leonard (Riverside, Calif./King), a 6-7 SF, leads this group with his versatility. This ESPNU 100 recruit plays hard and can play in the paint as well as connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line.
Eric Lawton (Hemet, Calif./West Valley) is a 6-1 SG with incredible scoring ability who can erupt for points in a hurry. Six-foot-2 SG Chase Tapley (Sacramento, Calif./Sacramento) understands how to score and can connect on jumpers. Alec Williams (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra), a 6-5 PF, can score around the hoop as well as hit jumpers from 3-point range. PF Malcolm Thomas, a 6-9 junior college transfer, gives the Aztecs another option in the paint.
Anthony Marshall (Las Vegas/Mojave) is a 6-3 SG who plays with an incredible amount of intensity on the defensive end. An ESPNU 100 prospect, Marshall passes the ball very well and has an emerging perimeter game. Six-foot-9 C Carlos Lopez (Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep) has the ability to connect on jumpers as a pick-and-pop big man. Justin Hawkins (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft), a 6-2 SG, plays both ends of the court with great effectiveness.
Coach Mark Few regularly fields one of the better teams in the country. He does a great job of assessing and assembling talent and this recruiting class is no exception. At 6-foot-10, SF Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops, British Columbia/South Kamloops) has very good size for the perimeter and can score from 3-point range as well as in the paint. Six-foot-9 C Samuel Dower (Osseo, Minn./Osseo) has good mobility and will use the jump hook to score as well as connect on short jumpers. PG G.J. Vilarino (McKinney, Texas/McKinney), a 5-11 one-time Kentucky signee, excels in transition and has very good vision and passing skills. Six-foot-6 SG Mangisto Arop (Hamilton, Ontario/NEDA) has very good athleticism and an immense amount of upside.
Central Florida brings another noteworthy 2009 recruiting class to Conference USA. Hometown prospect 6-8 PF Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla./Orlando Christian Prep) has the ability to play as a face-up 4-man with his shooting ability and passing skills. Six-foot-6 SG Nik Garcia (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) gives the Knights a tremendous shooter with great range from the perimeter. Marcus Jordan (Wilmette, Ill./Whitney Young), a 6-3 SG, has the toughness and versatility to play both guard spots. R.J. Scott (Slidell, La./Salmen) is a 6-2 SG who can connect with regularity from 3-point range.
The Cougars did a great job of getting commitments from high school teammates 6-4 SG Tyler Haws (Highland, Utah/Lone Peak) and 6-9 C Nate Austin (Highland, Utah/Lone Peak). Haws has range that extends right out to the 3-point line and plays with great intensity and effort. Austin runs the floor well and scores in the paint well. Six-foot-10 C Ian Harward (East Orem, Utah/Orem) can use his quickness to turn and face to beat slower defenders off the dribble on his way to the rim, and 6-8 PF Brandon Davies (Provo, Utah/Provo) can score in a variety of ways.
Miami has a very good group of recruits coming in for 2009, led by 6-6 PF Drew Kelly (Franklin, Tenn./Centennial). Kelly uses his power to establish position in the paint for scoring and rebounding, but he can also hit free throw line jumpers. Drew McGhee (North Ridgeville, Ohio/North Ridgeville), a 6-9 C, has very good footwork and can score with his back to the basket. Allen Roberts (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) is a 6-1 SG who can score the basketball and hit jumpers just beyond the 3-point line. Six-foot-4 SG Orlando Williams (Cincinnati, Ohio/Princeton) can play both guard positions and attacks the rim for points.
Coach Dan Monson has a nice group of players at his disposal, one that will help in the rebuilding efforts at Long Beach State. Kyle Richardson (Lakewood, Calif./Mayfair) is a 6-7 SF who scores around the hoop using his devastating combination of length and athleticism. At 6-9, PF Jules Montgomery (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade) has great length and leaping ability that he uses to score in the paint, but he excels as a perimeter shooter. Two juco transfers, 6-9 C Lin Chang and 6-5 Tristan Wilson, will help the 49ers. Chang will excel as a big who can shoot the ball and Wilson should provide scoring from the wing.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.