Posted on: March 8, 2012 8:25 pm

Maryland nabs third top-100 commitment

By Jeff Borzello

It was a good day for Maryland basketball. The Terrapins hammered Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament, but Mark Turgeon’s program picked up some more momentum on Thursday morning.

Charles Mitchell, one of the dozen top-100 prospects still on the board, committed to Maryland.

Mitchell, a 6-foot-7 big man from Wheeler (Ga.), chose the Terrapins over Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, Seton Hall and Cincinnati.

He doesn’t have ideal size for a post player, but he has great hands and length in the low block. Mitchell does most of his damage around the basket, but he can find teammates out of the post and uses his 250-lb. frame to overpower opponents at the rim. If he streamlines his body and improves his athleticism, Mitchell can certainly make an impact in the ACC.

Mitchell is Maryland’s third top-100 commitment, joining fellow big man Shaq Cleare and long forward Jake Layman. Area prospects Seth Allen and Damonte Dodd are also in the fold for the fall. 

Posted on: March 7, 2012 3:11 pm

Ex-Arkansas signee Aaron Ross pops for Texas Tech

By Jeff Borzello

Despite recruiting taking a back seat to conference play, Texas Tech has made a killing on the recruiting trail in recent weeks. In mid-February, the Red Raiders nabbed two commitments from top-100 forward Wannah Bail and strong guard Michael Carey.

On Wednesday morning, Billy Gillispie picked up another commitment, from former Arkansas signee Aaron Ross.

The news was confirmed to CBSSports.com by St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy (Wisc.) assistant coach Bryan Clayton.

The 6-foot-6 small forward from Little Rock, Ark. was expected to play for the Razorbacks last fall, but a hang-up with ACT results forced him to prep school. Because he has a learning disability, he needs to take his tests under special circumstances. While at Parkview (Ark.), he never took the untimed and verbal test. At SJNMA, Ross has received the proper accommodations and is on track to be cleared for next season.

Ross is a combo forward who can score in a variety of ways. He has a nice mid-range jumper and uses his strength to get points around the basket against smaller defenders. Ross absorbs contact effectively, and has a good feel for the game.

He chose the Red Raiders over Dayton, Alabama and others. 

Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:14 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 3:20 pm

No. 1 prospect Nerlens Noel talks recruitment

By Jeff Borzello

Nerlens Noel's recruitment has heated up since he reclassified to 2012. (MassLive.com)

Since Nerlens Noel announced a few weeks ago that he was reclassifying to the class of 2012, he’s been the most talked-about recruit in the country.

Noel, a 6-foot-10 Massachusetts native who plays at Tilton (N.H.), immediately moved to the No. 1 ranking in the nation. Moreover, the schools pursuing him have really turned up the heat.

“Recruiting has gone crazy all of a sudden,” Noel told Jeff Goodman on SiriusXM’s Inside College Basketball on Thursday afternoon. “I just need to plan out some visits to get out to all these schools. Keep talking to coaches, build better relationships with them.”

Noel is currently considering Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida, Georgetown and Connecticut. He later tweeted that Providence was also on his list, but did not mention them during the interview with Goodman.

He visited Syracuse this past weekend for the Orange’s win over Connecticut, and he will trip to Kentucky this coming weekend.

“I’m talking to a few more coaches to get down to their campuses during vacation,” Noel said.

Noel is the best shot-blocker in the country, and would immediately be the best in the college game too. He has tremendous dexterity defensively, able to cover a lot of ground and alter shots with either hand. Noel’s offensive is constantly getting better, and he is developing post moves and is taking defenders off the dribble as well.

He would dominate defensively wherever he ends up.

“Just a good program where I can go and play and be comfortable with the coaching staff, the whole program,” Noel said. “I know I can develop as long as I’m there, as a player and a person.”

Noel maintains that he is wide open among the six schools he mentioned, and he is still a long way from making a decision.

“I don’t really have a timeframe,” Noel said on the show. “I just want to make sure I get in all my visits to these schools. However long that takes.”

Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:22 pm

San Diego State lands top-50 Winston Shepard

By Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello

San Diego State got arguably the nation's best on-ball defender in Winston Shepard. (Adidas Nations)

Looking ahead to next season, San Diego State was missing just one key ingredient: a lockdown defender on the wing who could guard multiple positions.

The Aztecs got what they needed on Thursday, as top-50 senior Winston Shepard committed to Steve Fisher’s program, a source told CBSSports.com.

Shepard is a 6-foot-8 small forward from Findlay Prep (Nev.) and one of the best defensive players in the country. He has terrific athleticism and is very difficult to contain in the open floor. Shepard has improved his jumpshot over the past year, and he loves to crash the offensive glass for tip-ins and putbacks.

After his performance against Jabari Parker at the Hoop Hall Classic in January, Shepard’s stock rose in the eyes of many. He has limitless energy, and was not afraid to chase Parker and force him into bad shots from the perimeter.  Shepard’s size, length and athleticism enable him to guard players at different positions. We’ve seen him guard everyone from point guards to post players – and be effective at it.

Shepard saw recent interest from teams like Connecticut, St. John’s and Oregon, while New Mexico, UNLV, Oklahoma State and UTEP have all been involved for a long time.

He joins guard Matt Shrigley and forward Skylar Spencer in San Diego’s 2012 recruiting class. Transfers Dwayne Polee (St. John’s), J.J. O’Brien (Utah) and James Johnson (Virginia) are also sitting out this season for the Aztecs. 

With the stud backcourt of Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley also returning, the future looks very bright for Fisher’s program.

Posted on: February 13, 2012 11:17 am

Wannah Bail & Michael Carey headed to Texas Tech

By Jeff Borzello

It’s been an exciting couple of days for Texas Tech basketball. On Saturday, the Red Raiders finally won their first game of the Big 12 season, beating Oklahoma by 18.

Things got even better on Monday, as Billy Gillispie picked up commitments from Wannah Bail and Michael Carey.

Bail and Carey are seniors from Lamar Consolidated (Texas), and were being pursued by Houston, Oregon, Florida State and others in the past few months. The two Bahamas natives had said they would announce their decisions back in October, but it seems that scholarship issues prevented them from committing to Houston.

Bail, a 6-foot-8 power forward, is ranked in the CBSSports.com Top 100. He has the physical tools to dominate, given his strength and ability to run the floor effectively. Bail gets solid position for post-ups on the offensive end, and just needs to refine his back-to-the-basket moves and finishing in traffic. Defensively, he’s a very good shot blocker and rebounder.

Meanwhile, Carey is a talented 6-foot-5 point guard who has been playing more off the ball lately. He has very good size for his position, and is explosive off the dribble. Carey is difficult to keep from getting to the rim, and he also has improved his mid-range and pull-up jumpers. He is also a very good defender due to his strength and athleticism. He has recovered from a toe injury that limited him during the summer.

The two join guards Dusty Hannahs and Daylen Robinson in Texas Tech’s 2012 recruiting class.

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.

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)

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 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. 

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