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Posted on: February 10, 2012 11:25 am
 

Penn State lands top-75 junior Brandon Austin

By Jeff Borzello

First-year Penn State head coach Pat Chambers already made a major impact in the class of 2013 with guard Geno Thorpe committing to the Nittany Lions in November.

On Thursday night, Chambers pulled off another junior coup. Brandon Austin, a top-75 wing from Imhotep Charter (Pa.) pledged to Penn State.

He made the announcement on Twitter: “I just committed to Penn State!”

Austin, a 6-foot-6 prospect, is one of the more versatile perimeter players in the country. He can play three positions, with the ability to handle the ball, run the break and knock down shots. Along with Thorpe, Austin should be a key recruit for Chambers.

Austin had plenty of suitors in pursuit, including Rutgers, Villanova, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, Syracuse and others.

This is just another quality pickup from the Philadelphia area due to Chambers’ deep roots in the area. Next season, he will also have the services of Trenton-area forward Brandon Taylor and Southern Mississippi transfer D.J. Newbill, a former Philadelphia high school standout. While the results may not show this season, Chambers has something brewing in Happy Valley. 

Posted on: February 9, 2012 5:02 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 5:09 pm
 

McDonald's All-American Game rosters released

Georgia Tech-signee Robert Carter was the only top-25 player -- besides the recently reclassified Nerlens Noel -- left out of the McDonald's All-American game this season. (ESPN)

By Jeff Borzello

High school All-American games are usually filled with plenty of questionable selections and interesting inclusions. With so many varying opinions and players to choose from, it’s not surprising to get some surprises.

With that said, the McDonald’s All-American game just announced its rosters for this year’s game – and did a really good job.

The most obvious player left out is the No. 1 player in the class, Nerlens Noel, but he reclassified just last week, when the ballots were already sealed. Some people can complain about that, but it’s not the committee’s fault he reclassified too late.

If you’re wondering where Kaleb Tarczewski, Mitch McGary, Steven Adams and Ricardo Ledo are, stop wondering. Fifth-year players are ineligible to play in the game – although all three were listed on the list of nominees, which makes no sense to me. The same goes for Xavier-signee Semaj Christon, who has made his case as one of the best point guards in the country this season.

The only eligible player in our top 25 that was left off the team is Georgia Tech-signee Robert Carter. The 6-foot-8 big man from Shiloh (Ga.) has some of the best post moves in the country, and is one of the more effective back-to-the-basket players in the class. He’s not as well-known as some of the other five-star prospects, but Carter is certainly deserving of a nod.

Outside of Carter, the only other player who I think deserved a spot would have been Maryland-bound Shaq Cleare, who is apparently having a very good school season as well. Danuel House (Houston), Hanner Perea (Indiana), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Jeremy Hollowell (Indiana), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown), Katin Reinhardt (UNLV) and some others could make cases, but they were rightfully left out.

In terms of inclusions, there were only two players outside of our top 30 that made the cut, No. 33 Perry Ellis and No. 55 Tyler Lewis. As pointed out by my colleague Jason Hickman at MaxPreps, Ellis is arguably the most accomplished high school player in the class (along with Kyle Anderson). He’s on track to finish with four state titles at Wichita Heights (Kan.), which has won 56 consecutive games. As a result, it’s difficult to argue with his inclusion.

Lewis is a highlight reel point guard who is one of the best passers in the class, and is entertaining to watch. With that said, he’s not one of the 24 best players in the country, or one of the five best point guards in the class. I don’t think Lewis truly deserved a spot in the game, but he will undoubtedly make the most of it, and people will love watching him push the ball in transition. It’s tough to argue with the entertainment factor.

Compared to last year, the McDonald’s Selection Committee did a far better job with the rosters. There are a couple of gripes here and there – and it’s unfortunate that Nerlens Noel reclassified too late – but overall, the talent in the class of 2012 will be well represented in Chicago.

EAST
Kyle Anderson (No. 5, UCLA)
DaJuan Coleman (No. 11, Syracuse)
Kris Dunn (No. 24, Providence)
Perry Ellis (No. 33, Kansas)
Shaq Goodwin (No. 21, Memphis)
Gary Harris (No. 16, Michigan State)
Amile Jefferson (No. 14, Uncommitted)
Tyler Lewis (No. 55, NC State)
Tony Parker (No. 22, Uncommitted)
Alex Poythress (No. 13, Kentucky)
Rodney Purvis (No. 18, NC State)
T.J. Warren (No. 25, NC State)

WEST
Brandon Ashley (No. 4, Arizona)
Isaiah Austin (No. 8, Baylor)
Anthony Bennett (No. 15, Uncommitted)
Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell (No. 27, Indiana)
Archie Goodwin (No. 7, Kentucky) 
Grant Jerrett (No. 23, Arizona)
Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2, Uncommitted)
Marcus Paige (No. 28, North Carolina)
Devonta Pollard (No. 20, Uncommitted)
Cameron Ridley (No. 9, Texas)
Marcus Smart (No. 10, Oklahoma State)
Rasheed Sulaimon (No. 12, Duke) 

Posted on: February 6, 2012 7:29 pm
 

Ricardo Gathers pledges to Baylor

By Jeff Borzello

It looks like Scott Drew has locked up yet another top-10 recruiting class. He was on the verge of breaking into that vaunted group, but Monday cemented Baylor’s position.

Ricardo Gathers, a former St. John’s commit, made his pledge to the Bears.

The news was first reported by Dave Telep of ESPN.com, and confirmed to CBSSports.com by Greg Gathers, Ricardo’s brother.

Gathers is a 6-foot-7 forward from Riverside Academy (La.) and one of the best rebounders in the entire class. He’s a physical specimen who gets up and down the floor very quickly with his short strides and quick burst of speed. Gathers is extremely strong and powerful, and his NFL body enables him to dominate the glass at both ends of the floor. His speed also makes him a menace in transition, while his relentlessness at both ends earns him plenty of trips to the foul line.

Gathers averaged 20.2 points and 12.0 rebounds during Nike’s EYBL competition last summer, culminating with a 29-point, 20-rebound performance against Boo Williams at the Peach Jam.

He said last month that Florida and North Carolina State were among his favorites, along with Baylor and St. John’s. Gathers joins Isaiah Austin, L.J. Rose and Chad Rykhoek in Baylor’s 2012 recruiting class.

Posted on: February 2, 2012 3:48 pm
 

Jordan Brand Classic releases its rosters

By Jeff Borzello

Jordan Brand released its rosters on Thursday for the Jordan Brand Classic, their high school All-American game.

There are some question marks immediately.

First of all, North Carolina-signee J.P. Tokoto was selected. I understand that North Carolina is Jordan-affiliated and therefore gets preferential treatment, but Tokoto is barely a top-75 player in the class. Another Jordan-affiliated school, Syracuse, also received some love with Jerami Grant, who is a borderline top-50 player in the class.

Brice Johnson, another North Carolina commit and a player who I’m higher on than most people, was also selected. He played much better in the summer, but he’s still not a top-25 player in the nation. Two other choices – Houston-bound Danuel House and North Carolina-signee Marcus Paige – are also question marks, but they’re top-30 players and acceptable.

What’s more glaring when looking at the rosters are the players who aren’t listed. Cameron Ridley, Marcus Smart and DaJuan Coleman are all top-10 players in the class, but were not selected. Mitch McGary has dropped from the No. 2 spot to somewhere in the 15-20 range, but he too wasn’t picked. Amile Jefferson, No. 13 in the class, was also left out. We can't blame the committee for not taking Nerlens Noel, since he only reclassified back to 2012 last night.

A year ago, I wrote that the Jordan Brand Classic was catching up to the McDonald’s All-American Game as the marquee all-star game for high school players.

It doesn’t seem the same way this year. There was just too much preferential treatment given to Jordan-affiliated schools and players from Nike-affiliated AAU teams. If you look at the top five players who weren’t taken – Ridley, Smart, Coleman, McGary and Jefferson – you’ll find one common theme: they aren’t “Nike kids.” Only Coleman played for a Nike AAU team, and he went to the Adidas Nations competition in July.

The Jordan Brand Classic will still field a very good game with some of the best prospects in the country, but the sneaker company influence certainly came to the surface this year.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 1, 2012 11:07 pm
 

Nerlens Noel reclassifying to class of 2012

By Jeff Borzello

It’s been a possibility for awhile, but it became official on Wednesday night: Nerlens Noel is reclassifying to the class of 2012.

Noel, a 6-foot-10 center from Tilton (N.H.), has been a member of the class of 2013, but he is heading back to his original graduating class, according to Dave Telep of ESPN.com.

Noel told Telep he would take his first official visit the weekend of February 11, to Syracuse. He also said Providence, Connecticut, Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina are in the mix.

“I’m ready to do it,” Noel told ESPN.com. “It’s a short window of time to pick a school.”

Noel will become the No. 1 player in CBSSports.com’s class of 2012 rankings, ahead of Shabazz Muhammad. He is the best shot-blocker not currently in the NBA, and one of the best to pass through the high school ranks in years. Moreover, his offense is rapidly improving and his dexterity is impressive.

Syracuse and Kentucky have long been considered the favorites to land Noel, and we expect them to battle it out in the coming months. 

Posted on: January 31, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 2:24 pm
 

7-foot-5 high school prospect gaining attention

By Jeff Borzello

It’s hard enough for 7-foot-5 high school basketball players to become fluid enough to become legitimate factors on a consistent basis during games.

It’s even harder when said player has only been living in the United States for two years and recently had a tumor removed from his pituitary gland.

Those are the circumstances for Mamadou Ndiaye, a mammoth 2013 prospect from Brethren Christian (Calif.). He came over from Senegal two years ago, enrolling at Stoneridge Prep (Calif.) and obtaining a student visa. When that school couldn’t afford his aforementioned surgery, enough money was raised through charitable donations to cover two operations. A couple near Brethren Christian – more than 80 miles from Stoneridge – became Ndiaye’s legal guardians.

Most players Ndiaye’s size are awkward and can’t move well on the basketball court, but as the video below demonstrates, he has some skills. Aside from not winning the opening tip (no clue how someone 7-foot-5 doesn’t win a jump ball), he is able to drop-step and finish, and knows how to get position inside against smaller players. His touch from the free-throw line also was decent, and he clearly has pretty good hands.

Expect to hear plenty more about Ndiaye in the coming months. 

UPDATE: Talked to a few people about Ndiaye. The competition he faces in Brethren's league is poor, and includes some co-ed teams. He's not likely to go to a different school, though, as his host family has kids that go to Brethren and Ndiaye seems loyal to them. In terms of recruiting, he has been on Santa Clara's campus, but it's still quiet for now. That will change soon.  

Posted on: January 27, 2012 12:26 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Shabazz Muhammad keeps everyone guessing

No. 1 prospect Shabazz Muhammad has not given any hints as to where he's headed next year. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Everyone wants to know where Shabazz Muhammad will play his college basketball next season. As the consensus top prospect in the class of 2012, his decision has the attention of fans, casual observers, recruitniks, coaches – everyone.

Muhammad’s classmates at Bishop Gorman (Nev.) are no different.

“Probably 10 times a day in school,” Muhammad said last week when asked how often he hears the question. “Everyone wants to know. I don’t mind it. I just say I don’t know yet.

“I’m still looking at all my schools.”

Muhammad, a 6-foot-5 small forward, has had a pretty static list for the past year. UCLA, Kentucky, UNLV, Duke, Arizona, Kansas and USC are the ones jockeying for his services right now.

He’s taken his time throughout the process, only taking official visits to Kentucky and Texas A&M so far. He won’t make a decision until he’s taken all five of his officials.

“Probably when I’m done with my visits,” Muhammad said. “I have three more officials, and I’m definitely going to take them. I’ll have them scheduled in a month or so.”

For now, he said he’s looking at Duke, Kansas and Arizona for the remaining visits. Because they’re so close to home, UCLA and UNLV likely won’t receive official visits.

“It’s worthwhile to go to a farther school for an official, since they’re paying,” Muhammad said.

UNLV seems to be gaining some traction in his recruitment, especially after picking up Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch. Moreover, the hometown school has been on Muhammad as long as anyone, and the Runnin’ Rebels performance this season is just proving that the program is on the rise.

They’re certainly in the mix for Muhammad.

“The program is really coming along,” he said. “They got Khem Birch, some other recruits. They’re a great program, they’re going to be a great team. I’m really looking forward to getting more involved with the recruitment.”

Muhammad also said he would be OK staying at home in Las Vegas.

John Calipari and a couple of assistants were in attendance for Muhammad’s game at the Hoophall Classic against DeMatha Catholic (Md.). The Wildcats are continuing to turn up the heat on Muhammad.

“The interest level is high,” Muhammad said. “Coach Cal was at my game. I talked to them a week ago. I just think I fit really well in their style of play.”

Another school that sent a head coach and two assistants was Duke, as Mike Krzyzewski was front-and-center for Muhammad’s nationally-televised game.

“Coach K is just a mastermind,” he said. “I’m really getting excited about going down there.”

The school that has been associated with Muhammad’s recruitment for most of the past two years was UCLA. The Bruins are squarely in the mix for him, and the addition of top-five prospect Kyle Anderson in the fall can only help.

“Who wouldn’t want to play with Kyle?” Muhammad said. “How he sees the floor is just remarkable.”

Another school in the running for an official visit from Muhammad is Arizona. The Wildcats have the top recruiting class in the country right now, and adding the No. 1 prospect would cement its spot atop the rankings.

Moreover, Sean Miller would have one of the most talented rosters around.

“I think I would fit really well,” Muhammad said. “They run a high-tempo style.”

Style of play is Muhammad’s most important factor in his recruitment. He prefers a mostly half-court style where he could use his tremendous scoring ability to his advantage, but he also wants some fast-break opportunities where he can get out in transition.

Muhammad won’t let the pressure get to him; he’s set on taking his time and making an informed decision after his season ends.

“It’s kind of weighing on me, but I’m still weighing my options out.”

Posted on: January 24, 2012 3:00 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 3:01 pm
 

Notebook: Balamou getting high-major interest

By Jeff Borzello

Chris Obekpa is the marquee player on Our Savior New American (N.Y.), but college coaches have been surprised when they go to check out the Nigerian big man.

Obekpa isn’t the only high-major player on the team. Felix Balamou, a native of Guinea West Africa, has been impressive throughout the season.

“He’s one of the most underrecruited kids in the country,” OSNA assistant coach Eric Jaklitsch said. “He’s exploded his senior year.”

There is a chance Balamou will have to reclassify to the class of 2013 and do a post-grad year at a prep school due to academics. However, that will likely only increase his recruiting attention.

St. John’s, Providence and Virginia Tech are already among the schools showing interest.

“He’s 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan and a nice set of athleticism,” Jaklitsch said. “He has a chance to be really special.”

Brantley plays different role away from AAU

When he’s playing with BABC on the AAU circuit, junior Jaylen Brantley is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. At Wilbraham and Monson (Mass.), things are a little different.

Brantley is the focal point of the defense, expected to carry most of the load offensively. Nerlens Noel, Wayne Selden, Georges Niang and co. are not there to help him out.

“There’s not a lot of open shots,” Brantley said. “Our team is not as gifted as BABC, so I’m trying to be a leader.”

Brantley currently has offers from Syracuse, Florida, Louisville, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Richmond, Rhode Island, Iowa State and Missouri. Connecticut is interested.

He’s visited Georgetown and UConn.

“I’m looking for a good coach, a team that’s a contender, and academics,” Brantley said.

Former New Mexico commit exploring options

At 7-foot-2, Chier Ajou is bound to get plenty of attention from college coaches. The questions surrounding his recruitment have only forced more schools to get involved.

“I don’t know where he’s going to end up,” St. Thomas More (Conn.) coach Jere Quinn said.

Ajou is a native of the Sudan who is also related to Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng and former Connecticut big man Ajou Deng. He was once committed to New Mexico, but the two have parted ways.

“I haven’t talked to them,” Ajou said.

There are some academic situations with Ajou that he is looking to fix at St. Thomas More, but for now, plenty of schools are in the mix.

Oklahoma, Central Connecticut State and Cincinnati are among the “eclectic ray of schools” that have talked to Quinn about him.

“Everyone asks about him,” Quinn said 

Notes: Torin Childs-Harris is hearing from Hofstra, Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart . . . A.J. English has interest from Duquesne, Delaware, Towson and others.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com