- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
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There were plenty of major developments during college basketball's early signing period. Here are five things we learned this past week:
1. Josh Pastner is one of the top recruiters in college basketball.
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the early signing period was Memphis' ascension to No. 1 in ESPN.com's recruiting class rankings. The Tigers came into the early signing period with a very good class, ranked third, that was led by ESPNU 100 prospects Will Barton (Baltimore/Brewster Academy) and Joe Jackson (Memphis, Tenn./Whitestation). The late additions of Jelan Kendrick and Tarik Black, both ESPNU 100 prospects, propelled the Tigers to the top spot. Having known Josh Pastner for some time, I am impressed with how quick his recruiting success has come as a head coach. He has been a known commodity on the recruiting trail as an assistant coach at both Arizona and Memphis. Now he's a household name.
In Barton and Jackson, he already had the dynamic backcourt to get very far in the tournament. With Kendrick, who was not expected to commit early, Memphis adds another big guard wing who makes plays. He has exceptional vision that allows him to make the pass that leads to the assists. His passing ability could help get Barton and Jackson more shots.
With all the elite guard play Memphis had in this class, the only thing Pastner's squad was missing was a versatile athlete down low. That void was filled when Black announced for the Tigers on Monday. Black compares favorably to Shawn Taggart and some of the other athletic big guys Memphis has had in recent years. He's strong around the basket and finishes everything around the hoop. He's a force on defense with his rebounding and shot-blocking. Most importantly, Black is a very efficient player who knows his role.
2. The deepest pool of remaining talent is at the point guard position.
On the whole with Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), Kyrie Irving (Orange, N.J./St. Patrick; signed with Duke), Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton) and Joe Jackson (Memphis, Tenn./Whitestation), the point guard position is the most loaded in the 2010 class. That's also true when looking at the remaining unsigned prospects.
Of the 15 ESPNU 100 prospects who have yet to pick a school, five are point guards. The top uncommitted lead guard is Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), who will be a game changer for whichever program secures his services. Knight excels in the transition game and is becoming adept at running a team. He is a special player and young man. The only other truly elite point guard on the board is Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton). Selby is an aggressive scoring guard who finishes with the best of them. Ray McCallum (Detroit/Country Day) and Cory Joseph (Toronto/Findlay Prep) also are more than capable of leading a top-25 college squad.
3. Kentucky still has work left to do.
Kentucky did well to add Stacey Poole (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School), but there could be a few holes to fill in Lexington this coming offseason. At this point, early departures are a part of the college game. Therefore, we have to think that Kentucky's top returning players John Wall and Patrick Patterson are likely going to bolt for the NBA in the spring. It's also possible that the Wildcats will lose DeMarcus Cousins if he has a productive season. (He needs to step up his intensity and motor to become a player NBA GMs covet.)
With a few players graduating and a few anticipated early departures, the Wildcats are going to have a few need areas to fill. Look for UK to make a push to get a point guard, a shooter and some size. The Wildcats could get a head start on filling these needs if they get a commitment from Tobias Harris (Brookville, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills), who plans to announce his decision on Thursday. They also are in the running for unsigned prospects Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton), Doron Lamb (Laurelton, N.Y./Oak Hill Academy) and Terrence Jones (Portland, Ore./Jefferson), among others.
There's no reason for Wildcats fans to worry. John Calipari knows as well as anyone that it doesn't matter when you get your commitments. What matters most it that you fill your needs.
4. Great coaches never let up on the recruiting trail.
Even with Josh Pastner's recent run, there are plenty of elite recruiting head coaches out there. Of course, Kentucky's John Calipari comes immediately to mind as well. These coaches deserve some credit for their recent efforts
Tom Izzo: Izzo is very consistent with his recruiting. He has a plan and he sticks to it. He knows what he's looking for and is a very strong communicator. Izzo lets players know that he is a straightforward coach who tells them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. What's even more impressive is how Coach Izzo develops his talent as he has produced 11 NBA draft picks in his 15 years a head Coach. That fact could make for big results in this class -- particularly with incoming big man Adreian Payne (Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson Township).
Mike Krzyzewski: Although Duke missed out on Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa), you have to like what the Blue Devils have done with this class. Kyrie Irving (Orange, N.J./St. Patrick) is the star point guard Duke has been lacking in recent years. He's capable of running the show from day one in Durham and make his mark as Duke's next great point guard. The Blue Devils also added a very athletic frontcourt player in Joshua Hairston (Rockville, Md./Montrose Christian). With his size, skill and strength, Hairston reminds me a bit of Carlos Boozer. The final piece of this class is Tyler Thornton (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga), a tough guard with a winning pedigree.
Roy Williams: Fresh off a second national title, North Carolina is in no danger of losing its spot atop the ACC. After finishing second in the recruiting class rankings in 2009, Williams has put together a class that is one of America's finest. In Harrison Barnes he adds the nation's top recruit. Moreover, Barnes could be the type of player who spends a couple of years on campus. Williams' teams have always been led by great guard play. That should continue with the additions of top-15 recruits Kendall Marshall (Arlington, Va./Bishop O'Connell) and Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.).
5. Missouri's Mike Anderson knows how to turn on-court success into recruiting riches.
Missouri hadn't really been a fixture in the recruiting class rankings in recent years, but that appears to be changing. Mike Anderson's squad is very deserving of its top-15 spot among top 2010 recruiting classes. With this group, you're looking at four talented, athletic players who fit Missouri's style of play to a T.
The big swing for the Tigers came with the commitment of ESPNU 100 PF Tony Mitchell (Dallas/Pinkston). With Mitchell, the Tigers have an athletic forward who should provide immediate help up front. Mitchell is a physically strong, athletic finisher. He'll be the recipient of many transition baskets. In the press, he covers ground with length and speed; his athletic ability allows him to play at the top of Mizzou's press. He's a good rebounder and is good at taking guys off the dribble for his size, and gets in the lane and finishes.
Besides Mitchell, the Tigers have found the perfect point guard for their system in Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal). He's a catalyst on both ends of the floor. SG Ricky Kreklow (Columbia, Mo./Rockbridge) is a big wing with really good perimeter skills and a strong IQ. In time, he's going to develop into a player to watch out for. Kadeem Greene (Markham, Ont./United Faith Academy) is athletic, long and can really handle it well at 6-8.
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.