Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:36 pm

Realignment opens up recruiting in Big East

By Jeff Borzello

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: of course the net gain for Big East basketball in realignment is a negative. You could replace Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia with pretty much anyone and it would be a loss for the conference.

From a recruiting perspective, though, it’s not all bad.

In the recruiting game, it’s often about relationships in a certain region. It’s why Marquette is able to recruit Texas effectively, and it’s why Arizona has done a decent job in New York lately. With the additions of UCF, SMU and Houston to the Big East, new avenues for the schools in the Northeast and along the Eastern seaboard could open up.

Back when the ACC and Big East changes were originally rumored in September, we spoke to several assistant coaches who seemed to welcome the changes.

“The climate changes from year to year as to where the best players are, but all we’re looking for is a chance to get our foot in the door,” one said.

Texas and Florida are hotbeds for recruiting, and now Big East schools could have a new pitch in those areas. They could now tell prospective recruits that they can play in the Big East and still have a chance to play in front of family and friends at least once a year.

On the other side, this is clearly a plus for Houston, SMU and UCF in recruiting. All three schools have been doing a good job on the trail over the past couple of years, but this could take it to a new level. Now the pitch is, you can stay at home and still play in a major conference. Most elite prospects don’t want to play in Conference-USA (aside from Memphis), but that won’t be a hindrance anymore.

For UCF, this is going to make or break the basketball program. For the past several years, the Knights have been looked at as a sleeping giant on the hardwood. Great facilities, beautiful weather and a great campus. They’re constantly judged on potential; UCF could be a huge factor nationally. Now, Donnie Jones has to expedite the process of pushing the Knights to national prominence. They can’t go into the Big East and just falter immediately. They have had decent success with transfers and in recruiting the past few years – they need to continue that.

With Houston, it’s going to be a matter of protecting its territory. James Dickey did a great job with the class of 2012, getting four-star prospects Danuel House and Chicken Knowles to stay home with Houston. Nearly every high-level prospect from the area is giving serious consideration to the Cougars, which is going to be a necessity in the Big East. Kids no longer have to choose between staying home and playing in a major conference; they can have both. For the rest of the schools, though, this could open up opportunities to poach kids out of Houston. Dickey can’t allow that.

SMU has done a great job recruiting the Northeast in 2012. Blaise Mbargorba is from New Jersey, while Brian Bernardi calls New York home. Both also received plenty of interest from Big East schools. Expect more battles between Matt Doherty and Big East schools in the near future. What he can’t do, though, is allow the NYC-area schools to return the favor and start taking kids out of the Dallas area.

The new moves will certainly alter the recruiting landscape in the Big East. Current conference schools now have new avenues of recruitment, while the new ones can now include the Big East as part of the pitch.

It’s tough to find a bright side for the Big East in realignment, but recruiting could be the one.


Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:26 am

Jarnell Stokes to enroll in college in January?

Jeff Borzello

Jarnell Stokes was expected to provide a boost to whichever school he committed to for 2012. However, could that boost be coming in one month?

According to Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, there is a “good chance” Stokes will enroll at a college in January. Stokes was ruled ineligible to play at Southwind (Tenn.) this season after transferring in from Central High (Tenn.) over the summer. His hardship appeal was also denied, meaning he won’t be able to play at all this season.

Moreover, Stokes said he is on pace to graduate this month from Southwind.

“I’ve set myself up to go to college midyear,” Stokes told Smith. “I really don’t know yet, but that’s definitely an option. I have other options that me and my dad don’t want to reveal.”

Stokes is currently considering six schools: Memphis, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. According to Stokes’ father, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Tennessee have scholarships available for January.

Smith also wrote that Stokes could qualify for an academic scholarship at Memphis, thereby becoming a walk-on for a semester.

Stokes is apparently not ready for a decision.

“I wish I could just choose right now and get it all out the way, but I don’t think I’m ready to make a decision right now,” Stokes said. “Maybe I will be next week, but I can’t give you a timetable right now.”

Stokes, a 6-foot-8 power forward, is ranked No. 16 in’s Top 100. He is tough to matchup with, given his strength and the improvement on his perimeter game. He has the ability to outmuscle smaller defenders, and beat slower opponents to the rim. Stokes can score effectively in the paint, and is also adept at getting to the foul line. He is also one of the best rebounders in the class.

With a college-ready body, there is little doubt Stokes could help out a school in the second semester.

Photo: Wildcat Blue Nation

Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:18 pm

Andrew White announces for Kansas

By Jeff Borzello

Throughout his recruitment, Andrew White kept everyone guessing. No one knew where he was going or when he was announcing.

On Friday, we got answers to both – White is headed to Kansas.

“I think it was a huge opportunity there to play,” White said during his announcement on NBC12 in Richmond. “I have a great relationship with the staff. They’ve been good to me.”

Ranked No. 51 in’s Top 100, the 6-foot-6 small forward from Miller (Va.) really improved his stock over the spring and summer. White is a versatile scorer who is one of the top shooters in the class, either from behind the arc or in the mid-range. His confidence skyrocketed on the AAU circuit, and he became more aggressive as a result. White is only getting better.

This is a huge recruit for Kansas, even though White falls just outside the top 50. Bill Self had not had the most impressive of recruiting classes thus far in 2012, but the past few weeks make it very good. He already had Perry Ellis and Zach Peters in the fold, but big man Landen Lucas joined the group during the early signing period and Anrio Adams committed two weeks ago.

Picking up White gives the Jayhawks two legit players – Ellis and White – who could be immediate impact players in the Big 12. Both are versatile offensive players who can create matchup problems.

With the recent commitments, Kansas could make a case for being part of the top 25 classes in the country. The Jayhawks aren’t done, either. They always seem to pick up a player or two late after the coaching carousel and decommitments.

Photo: Daily Progress

Posted on: December 2, 2011 11:19 am

Unselfish Troy Williams ready for big year


Jeff Borzello

Junior Troy Williams has lofty individual goals for the upcoming season – but the unselfish five-star prospect doesn’t want it to revolve around his personal offensive exploits.

“I want to get Player of the Year this year, but not by just scoring – but how I involved my teammates on the floor with me,” Williams said.

The 6-foot-6 small forward from Pheobus (Va.) is ranked No. 8 in’s Top 100 for 2013. He doesn’t mind being the go-to-guy for his high school team, but he prefers getting his teammates shots too.

“Definitely [going to] have a bigger role this year, and again this year, I have players around me who can ball, so I’m looking for their help too,” Williams said.

Williams is one of the best scoring wings in the class. He has good range on his jump shot, and he is tough with his mid-range game as well. Defensively, he uses his athleticism and tremendous length to be a factor in passing lanes. The nephew of famed AAU coach Boo Williams has one of the higher ceilings in the class.

Not surprisingly, Williams isn’t settling, working to expand his game in the offseason.

“Shooting, defense, ball-handling and being a better leader on and off the court,” he said when asked what he improved in the fall.

A slew of colleges stopped by his Hampton, Va. high school during the fall to check him during workouts. Villanova, Georgetown, Florida, Texas, DePaul, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Louisville all came through.

In addition to those schools – besides the Tar Heels – Kentucky, Alabama and Miami (Fl.) have also offered him a scholarship.

As for North Carolina, they continue to eye Williams but have yet to pull the trigger on an offer.

“They were ready to offer but they either offered too many people or are just holding off,” he said. “But they do have high interest.”

Williams has already taken trips to North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville.

“They were great,” he said. “I learned a lot of history about the schools, and met some of the players and coaches.”

Villanova, Georgetown and Virginia Tech are next on his unofficial visit list, although no dates have been set. There are no favorites for Williams, but he knows what he’s looking for in a prospective school.

“High graduation percentage of the players that went there,” he said. “Great relationship with the coach, and a school that can shape me into an NBA player.”

Don’t expect a decision anytime soon from Williams; he’s going to wait out the process.

“I probably won’t commit until next summer.”


Posted on: November 28, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 6:56 pm

Five-star junior Matt Jones commits to Duke

By Jeff Borzello

It looks like Duke has a new go-to recruiting area for talented shooting guards.

Last year, the Blue Devils dipped into Texas for five-star guard Rasheed Sulaimon. On Monday, Mike Kryzewski picked up another stud recruit from the Lonestar State.

Matt Jones, the No. 12-ranked player in the class of 2013 by, committed to Duke. Jones is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from DeSoto (Texas).

"After long consideration with my parents and people around me, we felt it was best that I commit to Duke University!," Jones tweeted on Monday evening.

Jones had offers from North Carolina, Texas, Ohio State, Florida, Louisville, Kansas and others.

What set Duke apart, though, was the all-around feel he got from the Blue Devils.

“Just how they play,” Jones told when asked why he chose the Blue Devils. “Academics. It felt like coaches could take me to the next level. It felt like home away from home. Plus, my whole family liked my decision.”

Jones is one of the best shooters in the entire class, with deep range and a quick release on his jumper. He moves well without the ball and knows how to get his shot off over defenders. Moreover, he’s improved his ability to get into the lane and finish. He can knock down pull-up jumpers or score in transition.

Jones is Duke’s first commitment in the class of 2013.

Photo: Memphis Roar 

Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:09 pm

Prep Showcase Wrapup: Top Performers, Notables

Jeff Borzello

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The unofficial start to the high school basketball season is the National Prep Showcase. Held at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Conn., the Showcase gathers around 20 of the best prep school teams in the country. Most of the teams play two games during the weekend, giving everyone a chance to see where they stack up compared to the competition. Brewster Academy (N.H.) and Tilton (N.H.) were the marquee teams, but New Hampton (N.H.) and South Kent (Conn.) were also standout teams. With plenty of college coaches in the stands – including John Calipari, Steve Lavin, Chris Mack, Ed Cooley and others – unsigned players were looking to make an impression. Who stood out? Let’s take a look.

Top Performers

Noah Vonleh, 2014, New Hampton: At an event mostly focused on upperclassmen, Vonleh really stood out. He’s a tremendous rebounder at 6-foot-8, using his length and athleticism to dominate the glass. He’s also developing his offensive arsenal to become a matchup nightmare.

Nerlens Noel, 2013, Tilton: Tilton had an easy win against Kiski, but Noel still showed why he’s in consideration for the top spot in 2013. He’s a tremendous shot blocker, but he’s also improved his offensive game. He face-up and knock down shots and also worked on his ball-handling.

Ricardo Ledo, 2012, South Kent: Ledo is a flat-out dominant scorer when he is focused. He has tremendous range on his outside jumper, and his length and size makes him tough to stop when going to the basket. Cooley must have loved what he saw over the weekend.

Ryan Taylor, 2012, Hargrave Military Academy: The former Louisville commit (right) made an impact and showed off a versatile game. He dominated the inside in his Friday game, but then went and worked on his mid-range jumper against a bigger team on Saturday.

Semaj Christon, 2012, Brewster Academy: Christon continues to rise up the charts with his stellar play. The future Xavier Musketeer is nearly impossible to stop going to the basket, and he knows how to finish at the rim. He can make a case for best point guard in the class.

T.J. Warren, 2012, Brewster Academy: Warren comes off the bench for Brewster, but his scoring arsenal is nearly unparalleled. He can score in so many different ways, from getting to the rim and finishing in the lane to pull-up jumpers and baseline leaners.

Dominic Woodson, 2013, Vermont Academy: The junior big man is one of the more dangerous scorers at his position. He is a big, strong body who can finish inside but what makes him tough is his face-up game. Woodson is not afraid to shoot jumpers from the perimeter.

Jakarr Sampson, 2012, Brewster Academy: Easily the best unsigned 2012 prospect at the event. Sampson is still raw offensively, but he knows how to get points in the lane using his athleticism and length. Defensively, he is aggressive and loves to get out in transition 

Other Notables: Was really impressed with the improvement of Jalen Reynolds. He’s extremely active at both ends and has a strong body . . . France native William Howard made a name for himself as one of the best unsigned players at the event. He has a good frame and can do different things . . . New Hampton sophomore Jared Terrell is a tough scorer who can get to the rim or shoot from the perimeter . . . A sleeper prospect could be Hargrave’s Ambrose Mosley. He can knock down shots and handle the ball . . . Myles Davis and Sam Cassell Jr. are a very good scoring duo, but they’re both volume shooters . . . Adonis Filer needs to be more of a facilitator for Notre Dame Prep, but he’s strong and quick . . . Virginia Tech-bound Montrezl Harrell is an absolute beast down low. He’s so strong and looks to dunk everything . . . Former Arkansas commit Aaron Ross played pretty well; he just needs to improve his quickness . . . Amir Garrett was quietly productive, while Malik Nichols was a very good scorer from the wing . . . At St. Thomas More, Chier Ajou replaced Andre Drummond. He’s 7-foot-2, and is fairly mobile . . . When Chris Thomas is hot, look out. He can fill it up . . . La Jolla Prep wing Jarion Henry is a tremendous passer for his size. Loves the one-handed pass . . . Future Cleveland State forward Darnell Harris is one of the best 6-foot-8 shooters in the country . . . Morehead State got a sleeper in Corey Heyward . . . Codi Miller-McIntyre is a dynamite offensive player; gets to the rim at will . . . Nehemias Morillo is a high-major sleeper . . . Mitch McGary wasn’t overly impressive on the offensive end, but his enthusiasm is unmatched . . . Purdue signee Raphael Davis was really good at getting to the basket. Used his body effectively . . . Virginia-bound Mike Tobey is healthy and played well. He runs the floor well for someone his size.

Photos: Nation of Blue (Ricardo Ledo), Indy Star (Ryan Taylor)

Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: November 23, 2011 11:27 am

Schools pursue foreign import William Howard


Jeff Borzello

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – There always one or two sleepers that emerge at the National Prep Showcase, especially with the increasing foreign influence on some of the prep teams.

New Hope Academy (Md.) had a distinct international flavor, with players from Puerto Rico, Kosovo, Canada and France on the roster.

The best prospect on the squad is William Howard, a France native who created a buzz with his play in Europe. NBA types have known about Howard for a while, and college coaches are beginning to get acquainted with the 6-foot-8 forward.

He’s a 2012 prospect but will not sign until the spring.

“He still has to take the SATs and, even though he’s in prep school, he’s still young,” coach Chris Chaney said. “He just turned 18.”

Howard really made an impact over the weekend, going for 19 points and 11 rebounds in an easy win on Friday night. He followed that up with 30 points in a high-scoring loss to Notre Dame Prep (Mass.).

He has a good frame and strong legs, but is also long and athletic. He can rebound effectively and knows how to score in different ways.

“He’s a good player,” Chaney said. “He played better.”

In terms of recruiting, Washington, Providence, Rhode Island and Maryland have all shown interest in Howard.

One Pac-12 school stands out, though. “We’re leaning Washington,” Chaney said.

Other notes: Top-three 2013 prospect Nerlens Noel said he plans to visit Florida when down for the City of Palms Classic . . . Junior big man Dominic Woodson listed Michigan, Michigan State and Connecticut . . . South Kent Prep (Conn.) coach Kelvin Jefferson said Xavier and Seton Hall have contacted him about Chris Thomas . . . Dominican Republic native Nehemias Morillo is new to Notre Dame Prep (Mass.), but Ole Miss and Iowa State are already showing interest . . . Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd listed Maryland, TCU, Oregon State, Washington and Texas Tech for Sam Cassell Jr. . . . 2014 guard Jared Terrell has offers from Rutgers, Miami (Fl.), Boston College, Cincinnati and Providence. He also likes Connecticut. 

Posted on: November 23, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: November 23, 2011 11:27 am

Noah Vonleh stands out against upperclassmen

By Jeff Borzello

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The National Prep Showcase focuses primarily on the seniors and fifth-year players that are looking to make a last impression on college coaches in attendance.

This past weekend at Albertus Magnus College, though, the most impressive player might have been an underclassman, 2014 forward Noah Vonleh.

The New Hampton Prep (Mass.) averaged 17.0 points and 16.5 rebounds in two victories.

“I thought I played pretty good,” Vonleh said. “I’ve been working on my shooting and getting my handle better.”

Vonleh is only 6-foot-8, but he might be the best rebounder in his class. He has tremendous leaping ability and tracks the ball extremely well. His strength is always a major help.

“I’m long and athletic,” he said. “I just jump and get it.”

There are plenty of schools in the mix for his services. Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, Arizona, Xavier, Georgia Tech, Auburn, UCLA, Georgetown and Connecticut are all pursuing him with vigor.

Right now, Vonleh is certainly among the top 10 sophomores in the country. After his performance, he makes a case for moving even higher, potentially into the top three.

He said he would remain humble either way.

“I don’t let it get to my head,” Vonleh said.

Photo: Scott Hazelton Basketball

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