Everything you need to know about the early signing period
Five Burning Questions For The Early Signing PeriodThe early signing period begins Wednesday and runs until Nov. 18. Here's a look at some of the most pressing questions as one of most vital weeks on the recruiting calendar approaches.
By Paul Biancardi
1. Which players will be the biggest newsmakers in the coming week?It remains to be seen how many players will announce. In 2008, it looked like there wasn't going to be that much movement, then Xavier Henry decided he'd commit. This year we already expect some big announcements; both SF Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa/Ames) and PF Tobias Harris (New York/Half Hollow Hills West) are planning to make a decision. Barnes, who will makes his annoucement on ESPNU's Signing Day Special (Friday, 2:30 ET), is down to Duke, North Carolina, Iowa State, Oklahoma, UCLA and KU. Harris' list consists of Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville, Maryland and West Virginia. Harris is expected to announce his decision on Nov. 19. Both are wide open to the schools that are on their lists, but that will all change next week. Barnes, the nation's top recruit, and Harris are significant because they have great size and skill at their position. Both can shoot, see the assist, and handle the ball with confidence. They play the game with a sense of purpose and capitalize on what they see throughout the course of a game without being selfish. It's very unique for players to have this type of mature approach this early in their careers.
2. Which new coach is making the biggest impact on the recruiting trail?When you look at the new coaches and how they are faring with the 2010 class, no one has done a better job than Josh Pastner. There was a huge void to fill when John Calipari left Memphis; his recruits followed him and many players on the team left for the professional ranks. But Pastner has done a great job of staying diligent on the recruiting trail, and it's paying off. In 2010 recruits Joe Jackson (Memphis/Whitestation) and Will Barton (Baltimore/Brewster Academy), he has recruited a very dynamic backcourt, which is what you need to win in college basketball. It's a good sign when the bulk of your recruiting is done at this point in the game. Nobody could've come into Memphis and done a better job after Calipari left.
3. Which program could make the biggest jump in ESPN.com's class rankings after the early signing period?The real wild card in this equation is Barnes. We expect Duke to move up from its spot at No. 17 with the addition of top-10 prospect Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick). The Devils' class would be among the nation's most complete with the addition of Barnes. Barnes also could have a similar impact for programs like Oklahoma and North Carolina. Another school on Barnes' list that could really move up is Kansas. In addition to their pursuit of the SF from Iowa, the Jayhawks are courting Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest) and Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton.) Selby's unlikely to make his decision in the early signing period, while Knight could decide within the next few weeks.
4. Of all the prospects in the 2010 ESPNU 100, which kid has the most potential to improve his position?I am really high on Wake Forest commit Carson Desrosiers (Windham, N.H./Central Catholic). The 6-foot-10 center has impressive skills for his size; he shoots 3s, is an excellent passer with great vision and has a strong basketball IQ. He has some work to do to move up, however. First of all, he has to get stronger to be more effective in the paint. In addition to that, a back-to-the basket game would make him a complete inside-outside threat who's very tough to guard.
5. Excluding Memphis, which non-big-six conference program is putting together the best recruiting class?Brian Gregory has done an outstanding job of assembling a guard-heavy class at Dayton. The top player in this class is Oak Hill PG Juwan Staten (Dayton, Ohio/Oak Hill). He was a key figure for All-Ohio Red winning many championships on the summer circuit. He's an ultra-quick PG who's very difficult to contain off the dribble and can shoot a jumper out to 17 feet. He'll be complemented by Brandon Spearmen (Chicago/Simeon), a strong, physical guard who plays with high energy. Also, don't sleep on Jesse Berry (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson), a combo guard who gets to the rim, where he can finish or find the open man off penetration. Gregory does a great job with player development, and he's attracted tons of talent to Ohio in his 2010 class.
Looking At The Top Uncommitted ProspectsFive of the nation's top 10 prospects have yet to pick a school. Although some of these players might wait until the late signing period in April to decide, here's the lowdown on where they stand:
Harrison Barnes, SF, Ames, Iowa/Ames
Player rank (position rank): 1 (1)
Biancardi's take: Barnes has the complete package of skills, size and smarts. He's an athletic player who doesn't waste motion or energy on the floor. He never lets the defense speed him up. The strongest part of his game is his length and deadly accurate outside jumper. Evaluation | Highlights
Recruiting overview:Barnes will be making his announcement on Nov. 13. He has made official visits to all of his finalists except Iowa State. The scuttlebutt has been this one will be a battle of Tobacco Road, between Duke and UNC.
Brandon Knight, PG, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest
Player rank (position rank): 4 (1)
Biancardi's take: This kid goes coast to coast with speed, vision to make the pass and skill to score in transition. What's unique about him is he can have a bad night, but when the game's on the line he steps it up the most. Knight takes over games regardless of how he plays all night prior to that. Evaluation
Recruiting overview: The consensus seems to be that Knight will wait to make his decision until the late signing period. He has made official visits to UConn, Kansas and Kentucky. Knight played AAU basketball with Florida freshman Kenny Boynton and now is on the same club team as 2011 Florida commit Austin Rivers, so those connections could be working in the Gators' favor.
Tobias Harris, PF, Brookville, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills
Player rank (position rank): 7 (3)
Biancardi's take: Harris really has improved his physical makeup over the past year. He's an extremely mobile PF with skill -- he's excellent off the dribble drive for his size. Harris knocks down open shots and is a terrific rebounder. In time, he will be an SF and can always play the PF, where he creates mismatches. Evaluation | Highlights
Recruiting overview: Harris has said he will announce Nov. 19 -- the day after the early signing period concludes. But he will sign his letter of intent on the 18th, which makes it official. He has made visits to Louisville, Kentucky, Syracuse and Tennessee and plans on visiting his other three listed favorites. Harris really hasn't given an indication about which direction he is leaning, but it's always hard to bet against John Calipari or Rick Pitino in these types of scenarios.
Josh Selby, PG, Baltimore/Lake Clifton
Player rank (position rank): 8 (2)
Biancardi's take: Selby is one of the most aggressive attacking PGs in the country. A fierce competitor with great confidence in himself, Selby can score the ball exceptionally well off the dribble or behind the line, which makes him dangerous. He has the vision and the understanding to find his open teammates. Evaluation
Recruiting overview: A former Tennessee commit, Selby's recruiting generated some major buzz due to the purported involvement of William Wesley. Since removing the Vols from contention, Selby has taken visits to Kansas (unofficially) and Kentucky (officially). He plans on visiting IU on Saturday. His mother has said Selby hopes to visit each school he is considering, so he could wait until April to make a choice.
C.J. Leslie, PF, Raleigh, N.C./Word of God
Player rank (position rank): 9 (4)
Biancardi's take: Leslie is a versatile PF who might be able to play the wing in time. He's a big-time finisher who is tough to stop in the paint because of his face-up. Leslie is a highlight waiting to happen each time he touches the ball. Evaluation | Highlights
Recruiting overview: Formerly an NC State commit, Leslie now sounds wide open. He recently visited Kentucky, which is the college home of his former high school teammate John Wall. He has had several programs, including Maryland, come to Raleigh to check in on him.
ESPNU's Signing Day Special
With the early signing period set to begin Wednesday, ESPNU is the place to be for all of your recruiting coverage. The most significant announcement of the week will come on Friday's Signing Day Special (2 p.m. ET), when Harrison Barnes, the nation's top recruit, is slated to pick his school. Also, several coaches from top national programs will discuss their recruiting classes.
ESPNU Signing Day Special, Friday 2 p.m. ET
Harrison Barnes' Highlight Reel
These three teams have seen their effort on the recruiting trail pay off of late:
Michigan State Spartans
The recent commitment of big man Adreian Payne (Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson Township) gives the Spartans three ESPNU 100 recruits and four total in their 2010 class. Another noteworthy development is the Spartans' success in Detroit. Last week, 2011 recruit Brandan Kearney (Detroit/Southeastern) committed to MSU. After years of struggling to get Motor City prospects to East Lansing, the Spartans have landed three Detroit products in the past three recruiting cycles.
Heading into his second season at Stanford, Johnny Dawkins is beginning to show some of the recruiting skill that he exhibited so routinely as an assistant at Duke. The Cardinal have secured verbal commitments from five 2010 prospects. The gem of the class is Dwight Powell (Toronto/IMG Academy). Checking in at No. 37 in the ESPNU 100, the 6-10 power forward is the highest-rated recruit to commit to Stanford since 2007.
With three 2010 commits and counting, Tommy Amaker is poised to make Harvard a major player in the Ivy League race. Last week, the Crimson secured a verbal from Nigerian center Ugo Okam (Montverde, Fla./Montverde Academy). The 7-footer is a bit of project with raw skills and athletic ability. In addition, the Crimson are also a contender for PG Pe'Shon Howard (Wytheville, Va./Oak Hill), who ranks as the 26th-best prospect at his position.
The Jury's Still Out
With some work, these three programs could make a major move in the coming weeks and months:
After decommitments from guards Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton) and Aaron Craft (Findlay, Ohio/Liberty-Benton), the Vols' class is in better shape than most think. Presently, Tennessee has skilled guards Jordan McRae (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and Trae Golden (Powder Springs, Ga./ McEachern) on board. Tennessee could use some size, and that could come from either PF Tobias Harris (Brookville, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills West) or PF Jayvaughn Pinkston (New York/Bishop Loughlin), both of whom have UT among their favorites.
The Longhorns have one elite prospect on board in PF Tristan Thompson (Brampton, Ontario/Findlay Prep), but this class was hurt when SG Daniel Bejarano (Phoenix/North) reneged on his commitment to Texas in favor of Arizona. The Longhorns might be able to fill that void quickly, however. Cory Joseph (Toronto/Findlay Prep), who is a prep and club teammate of Thompson's, is very high on Rick Barnes' program.
The Bruins have secured the services of ESPNU 100 SG Tyler Lamb (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei). However, their 2010 class is primed to get an infusion of talent. The Bruins have a good shot with virtually all of the top uncommitted recruits, but their chances could be strongest with Josh Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) and Trey Zeigler (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), whose dad, Ernie, is a former UCLA assistant coach.
Under The Radar
These players might not be in the top 100, but they could make a big impact in the college ranks:
Alex Rossi, SG, Cal
Rossi makes tough shots coming off screens and is deadly when his feet are set. He stretches defenses and opens up passing lanes into the post. He knows how to move without the ball and is excellent at reading screens. You can't leave him open for a second. When defending him, if you think you're close enough, you're not.
Tyreek Duren, PG, La Salle
Duren is a tough, cerebral and quick playmaking point guard. A one-man press-breaker, Duren has exhibited excellent leadership ability. He makes open 3s and runs a terrific fast break while seeing the entire floor. Duren is one of the better scoring point men in the class. La Salle got a winner; Duren played for the powerful AAU Team Final with Michael Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) and Dion Waiters (Philadelphia/Life Center Academy). The straw that stirs the drink, Duren makes other players around him better. That's the sign of a great player.
Brandon Young, PG, DePaul
An athletic point who plays with high energy, Young excels in the open floor and pushes the ball with speed. He's always looking to attack the rim, but if there's a better opportunity for another teammate, he'll give the ball up for the assist. He's tough in the middle game, where he can shoot or get to the basket. He's a tenacious on-ball defender who works at it and does whatever he can to help his team win.
CJ Leslie's Highlight Reel
Chat Wrap: Paul Biancardi
Jordan (Columbus, Ohio):
Does the bizarre Dominique Ferguson commit to Florida International stay or does he end elsewhere his freshman year?
Paul Biancardi: Ferguson saw a golden opportunity to play for Isiah Thomas and become an impact player at FIU. He can do this, and if he gives a consistent effort physically and mentally, I see no reason why he wouldn't go. He had a chance to go high-majors, but he chose FIU to get a greater opportunity sooner.
What is the likelihood that CJ Leslie follows his high school teammate John Wall to UK next year?
Paul Biancardi: Hi Michael, Leslie has a big list of schools, still. But KY is one of the favorites. There is a great chance he ends up there, but he won't be playing with Wall -- who will be in the NBA.
Paul Biancardi: After watching both of them and getting to know them, they are two young men with high character. They love to compete and win. Kendall may be the best passer in the 2010 class and runs the point like a coach wants him to. Bullock is a great shooter with size. This is a dynamic duo going to Chapel Hill.