Early signing period goes quietly
No big signing period moment, but still some stories worth mentioning
Think of the early signing period as a trip to the ice cream shop, and after you got all worked up over the possibilities of 31 flavors, they handed you vanilla. Translation: This early signing period had no flavor.
And there's no guarantee the second serving will be any better than the first. Barring a rash of coaches being fired and players defecting, the spring period isn't shaping up to be any more flavorful. And what will a nation of recruiting junkies do now that zero ESPN top-25 prospects remain on the board? In fact, 94 members of the ESPNU 100 hitched their wagons to college programs this period. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with players signing early. In a time in which players decommit regularly, it's good to see players honor their commitments. Still, it's just a little different that all but six players made their decisions already. Last year, four of the top 10 players were still available.
Typically on the opening day of the early signing period, there's a major announcement that creates buzz for the next few days. This time around, there was no signature signing day moment. The biggest news of the opening salvo was the decommitment of center Michael Chandler (Indianapolis/Lawrence North) from Xavier. Chandler, ranked No. 51, remains on the board for the spring.
LaQuinton Ross (Burlington, N.J./Life Center) also made the front page as he held off on signing with Ohio State. Three days later, however, he visited Columbus and officially became a Buckeye. Thad Matta closed the period by plucking center Amir Williams (Birmingham, Mich./Country Day) over Florida, giving him two wins over the Gators in two days.
The real action on the high school scene took place at the notary public last week. Dom Pointer informed us he's now Sir Dom Pointer. Down in Georgia, Kentavious Caldwell added "Pope" to his last name.
We've spent the past seven days singing the praises of Kentucky's No. 1 class and marveling at the resurgence at Rutgers. We've covered each of St. John's 51 commitments (OK, the Red Storm signed only eight, but it seemed like more). The basketball community heaped praise on Duke and Austin Rivers. But now it's high time we hit the highlights of a few less-publicized additions.
Sneaky like a Fox
Mark Fox signed the best player in Georgia. The addition of Caldwell-Pope (Greenville, Ga./Greenville) merits conversation. The state of Georgia kicks out a significant number of players on a yearly basis, and Fox, in his second year, was viewed as an outsider to the SEC. Caldwell-Pope and the continued emergence of Trey Thompkins should arm Fox with the street cred in-state to be a factor against Georgia Tech and the SEC invaders.
Florida's Billy Donovan invested a significant amount of time in Brad Beal (St. Louis/Chaminade), going as far as Germany this past summer to demonstrate his commitment. Behind the scenes, this one wasn't a slam dunk, as whispers proceeded through the fall that Beal might take a peek at Missouri or Kansas. To his credit, ESPN's No. 8 prospect never wavered and signed with the Gators quickly on the opening day of the period.
Catching a Z
The Zeller family has been down this road before, as they've sent McDonald's All-Americans to Notre Dame and North Carolina. Cody Zeller (Washington, Ind./Washington) didn't want the spotlight, but when your finalists are Indiana, North Carolina and Butler, plus you're the highest-rated player on the board, it's difficult to duck the cameras. Zeller meant the most to the Hoosiers' Tom Crean, and the cream and crimson of Indiana kept one of their own in-state. This is a résumé builder for Crean.
Michigan State looks good this season, but like many of the current elites, it will experience significant offseason losses. Tom Izzo has Adreian Payne, but he'll lose producers in Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. Enter Branden Dawson (Gary, Ind./Lew Wallace). Dawson is exactly the tough-minded wing Izzo wins with regularly. This past summer, to the astonishment of many, Dawson routinely knocked down his deep jumper, only adding to the importance of him picking Izzo's program.
The other guy
The culture of today's game often hinges around rankings and hype, neither of which seems to matter much to Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Ore./Jesuit). No. 16 in ESPN's rankings, he's merely the fourth-ranked recruit in Kentucky's No. 1 class. He's always the last guy anyone talks about in relation to John Calipari's haul of players, which includes second-ranked Anthony Davis (Chicago, Ill./Perspectives Charter), third-ranked Michael Gilchrist (Somerdale, N.J./St. Patrick) and sixth-ranked Marquis Teague (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), but he might be the most excited to get to Lexington. Wiltjer is selfless, skilled and ready to battle for playing time. In short, his attitude and self-awareness are going to take him places in the SEC and beyond.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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