Skal Labissiere Decision: Odds for Contenders to Land Top 2015 Recruit

Skal Labissiere, No. 7 on 247Sports.com’s rankings for 2015 recruits, plans on announcing where he’ll take his 6’10″, 200-pound frame.

And to think that as recently as July, here was a kid who gave a passing glance to skipping college altogether for a chance to play professionally overseas—against men—to fine-tune his game. He could possibly earn $1.2 million. No amount of unlimited swipes on the campus meal plan amount to what $1.2 million could do for a young man from an earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

“Overseas is an option,” Labissiere told CBSSports.com. “I don’t know yet for sure. We’ll see. But that is a lot of money.”

What he does know now is that he’ll be choosing to stay in North America and play ball amongst his peers on the college level. What college? Well, we don’t know yet. We do know there are six finalists, so read on to see who are the favorites and the long shots in the bidding for Labissiere’s talents.

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Top-10 recruit Chase Jeter signs with Duke

Top-10 hoops recruit Chase Jeter signs on with Duke

      
 

 

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Isaiah Briscoe Decision: Odds for Contenders to Land Top 2015 Recruit

While most players have a short list of five or six schools, Isaiah Briscoe, the No. 9-ranked player in 247Sports.com’s 2015 composite rankings, has just three. Briscoe was three-exclamation-point happy to announce his finalists:

Without knowing it—or maybe he does know and he’s really tipping his hand—Briscoe wrote down St. John’s first, Kentucky second and UConn third. That could be the order of preference. 

So because Briscoe, in his own words, decided to “shut interviews and media down,” we’re left to speculate which lucky school will stand out above the fray. 

And no matter who he chooses, he won’t sign his national letter of intent on Thursday, so the three schools shouldn’t start embroidering uniforms just yet.

Without wasting too much time, let’s take a quick look at the Big Three and the odds that they’ll land this 5-star guard.

 

Connecticut: 25-1

Kevin Ollie recruited Briscoe himself. Ollie wasn’t about to put his faith in an assistant to land this top-10 recruit. 

Briscoe is a 6’3″ point guard, and who better to learn the craft from than a coach who played professionally as a point guard. 

Briscoe wrote for USA Today:

Then with UConn you’ve got Coach (Kevin) Ollie who has played 13 seasons in the NBA as a point guard and I would love to learn from him because of that. 

Who wouldn’t want to learn from a guy who’s been there; we’ve got a great relationship too. Then the whole staff there played point guard at UConn and I love the campus.

Yes, there’s that. A good relationship is key, but these coaches could charm a scorpion into thinking it’s a lady bug. An entire staff of point guards? What’s next? Ice cream has no calories? 

Despite those finer points, and even though UConn can boast that fresh-off-a-national-championship swagger, Ollie and Co. are lukewarm at best to land Briscoe.

 

Kentucky: 4-1

Look at that, 4-1 on Briscoe to Kentucky? Bet, bet, bet! You’re not going to get better odds. When John Calipari gets his Wildcat incisors into a recruit he doesn’t let go. This is Discovery Channel viewing here.

Heck, even Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv sees a world divided between UK and St. John’s:

So what is it? George Briscoe, Isaiah’s father, told The Courier-Journal‘s Steve Jones, ”You can’t say enough about Kentucky. It is what is. It’s the model. What else do you want me to say? Facility-wise, coaching-wise, preparation, it’s the model, and it speaks for itself. They have, what, 19 draft choices since (John) Calipari (was hired)?”

That’s a strong endorsement for Calipari and UK, but as Jones wrote, “Although Isaiah Briscoe has never publicly stated a favorite, the Cats were seen as the likely leaders for much of the last two months. The past few weeks, however, there’s been buzz in the recruiting media that St. John’s could be the team to beat.”

Geography is often an overlook factor. Click those heels; there’s no place like home.

 

St. John’s: 2-1

St. John’s and Steve Lavin have been in the running for Briscoe for years now. Briscoe hails from Newark, New Jersey, a little over an hour away from St. John’s. That’s a bonus Lavin loves to lavish on a recruit, especially one as talented as Briscoe.

Lavin, now entering his fifth season for the Red Storm, has put all his eggs in Briscoe‘s basket.

Zach Braziller the New York Post writes, “The two are interlocked, because of how much time and effort St. John’s has put into the star New Jersey lead guard—they’ve recruited him since his freshman year—and what his commitment would mean to the program’s future.”

Braziller also noted that St. John’s has seven open scholarships and not a single commitment. What does that spell? It means Lavin better sign Briscoe or he could end up back at ESPN. What does Briscoe see in this situation? He will undoubtedly be the focal point of Lavin‘s system, but will he have any help? Maybe that doesn’t matter to Briscoe. He wrote for USA Today:

With St. John’s, first off, just staying home and having my family and friends and fans around and being able to watch me play all the time is great. Then, playing in The Garden, it doesn’t get any better than that; plus it’s New York City and that’s the biggest market in the world! I’m cool with the coaches and I think it would be a great fit.

Maybe it’s more of a push between Kentucky and St. John’s. Maybe that would be the case were the two schools closer geographically. There’s something to be said for playing ball at Madison Square Garden instead of in land-locked horse country. 

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LeBron gives surprising answer on why he couldn’t recruit players to Cleveland

LeBron says he couldn’t get any players to come to Cleveland during his first stint with the Cavs
It’s anyone’s guess when NBA players started recruiting free agents to play for their team. Some NBA fans and analysts will tell you Michael Jordan recruited Dennis Rodman back in the mid ’90s to play for the Chicago Bulls. Others will tell you the Boston Celtics started it with the trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Whatever the reason, recruitment of players has become the new norm for the Association. And surprisingly, the game’s best player, LeBron James, couldn’t get anyone to play with him during his first stint in Cleveland.
 
LeBron was also quite open on recruiting: “I recruited (before) I left here, but I just didn’t win nothing so nobody wanted to play with me”
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 15, 2014

LeBron said during his first stint in CLE, he failed recruiting Michael Redd, Joe Johnson & Chris Bosh. Larry Hughes was the one guy he got
— Dave McMenamin (

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Kobe Paras: Video Highlights for UCLA Recruit

The UCLA Bruins have already secured a commitment from prized Filipino basketball recruit Kobe Paras for their 2016 class.    

Sharing a first name with Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is reason enough to buzz about Paras’ skills and decision to take his talents to one of the most storied college programs.

And that’s not even to mention the fact that he dunked on LeBron James in July 2013 at a Nike Witness Exhibition Show in Manila:

Paras is slated to be a part of the Bruins’ 2016 recruiting class and is listed as a 3-star prospect by 247Sports’ composite rankings, which place him as the 37th-ranked shooting guard and inside the top 200 overall nationally in his class.

The young, budding star’s coach at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, William Middlebrooks, insists Paras has more to offer than his ability to throw down highlight-reel jams.

“Most know him for his dunking, but he can shoot the three, dribbles and passes,” said Middlebrooks, per the Los Angeles TimesEric Sondheimer. “He’s highly skilled and is adapting to the style of play in America.”

Paras is eager to prove himself as an all-around player, too.

“I want to show everybody it’s not all about dunking or highlights,” said Paras, per Sondheimer. “It’s about what you do on the court.”

The highlight of Paras soaring over James, even though the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar wasn’t selling out to deny him at the rim, shows off Paras’ evident hops and raw athleticism.

That was on display yet again at the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships, when he took home the top prize in the Honda Dunk Contest:

With some celebratory dance moves to boot, Paras certainly doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. That will be a vital intangible to maintain as he makes his eventual transition to UCLA—and in adjusting to the U.S. brand of basketball in general.

TJ Manotoc, a sportscaster in the Philippines, noted the significance Paras’ sport of choice has in his homeland—and how it will only lend to an even greater following.

“Basketball is a religion here,” said Manotoc, via Sondenheimer. “The only time kids on the street don’t play ball is when Manny Pacquiao has a fight.”

Being mentioned in the same breath as Bryant, James and Pacquiao is some gaudy company, and it’s part of the reality that Paras will have to deal with as he makes the transition to college. There is still time for Paras to hone his skills at the high school level, but his natural knack for playing above the rim will serve him well as he continues his promising development.

The reason Paras may not be as highly regarded in recruiting rankings is due to the fact that he’s only been seen in flashes so far. At 6’5″, he has ideal height for a 2-guard and can boost his stock by showing off his versatility as a senior at Cathedral.

A lot of pressure will be on Paras to live up to the immense hype he’s generated back home and now stateside with his decision to attend UCLA. So far, he appears up to the task from a playing and personality standpoint.

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Wyoming basketball lands Florida recruit

High scoring small forward from Florida verbally commits to Wyoming for 2015 recruiting class

      
 

 

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Top 2015 Recruit Caleb Swanigan an Old-School Big Ready to Bang with CBB’s Best

The next big thing—literally—in college basketball is Caleb Swanigan.

Swanigan, a top prospect in the class of 2015, is a mountain of a post player—at 6’9″ and 260 pounds—who has actually eaten his way to excellence.  

See, it’s rare in college basketball to find a big man who is successful because of his wide frame but doesn’t become so wide he makes himself obsolete. The cautionary tale has become Josh Smith, the current Georgetown and former UCLA mammoth. Smith has one more year in college to show his true potential, but his career has mostly been a string of “what could have beens” because of his weight. 

There’s hope that Swanigan can dominate with his big body and control his weight as well. The proof is in what has already taken place in the young career of Swanigan, who is ranked eighth in the class by Scout.com and just helped the United States’ Under-17 team win gold in Dubai. 

Swanigan weighed 350 pounds as an eighth-grader. That’s shortly after he left his family in Utah to move in with Roosevelt Barnes, a former NFL linebacker and current sports agent who is Swanigan‘s legal guardian.

Living under Barnes’ roof, Swanigan started shedding pounds by simply starting to eat healthy. In the last three years, he’s lost 90 pounds as he’s grown 4.5 inches.

“He knew he needed to lose some weight, and he dedicated himself to doing that,” Barnes told Bleacher Report in July during Nike’s Peach Jam tournament. “Once he decided to be a basketball player strictly, he really focused in on what he was eating and really got involved with cardio. It was a combination, but it was mostly all his hard work.”

Football was Swanigan‘s other sport, and by looks alone, that’s the sport most tailored to his frame. Chris Johnson, his basketball coach at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said he believes Swanigan could have been an NFL left tackle had he stuck with football. There was already interest from some of the blue-blood football programs when he was a freshman.

Now he has that interest on the hardwood.

Swanigan improved his stock this summer playing in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL). Swanigan averaged a double-double (17.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per game) and led the EYBL in rebounding. He recently received an offer from Kentucky and is also being recruited by a slew of other schools that include Michigan State, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville and Purdue. 

What makes Swanigan special is the combination of his size and his awareness of how to use it. He carves out space with his big backside. He plays mostly below the rim, but he is so strong and patient that length doesn’t seem to bother him.

“My game is not predicated on my quickness,” Swanigan said. “Once I catch it, I’m not in a rush.”

It’s refreshing to watch Swanigan‘s approach. Most big men these days want to play on the perimeter. Diamond Stone, for instance, is one of the top-rated big men in the class. A college coach recently told Bleacher Report that Stone is really talented on the blocks, but “he’s too in love with his jump shot.”

Stone was the top post player for the United States at the U17s, averaging 13.4 points per game, but Swanigan was the most efficient. He averaged 8.0 points on 69.6 percent shooting, compared to 51.9 percent for Stone. 

Swanigan has added a jumper to his arsenal, but it’s more of a complement to his low-post game. He knocked down two buzzer-beaters—Christian Laettner style—to force overtime and double overtime in a game at Peach Jam. He made seven of 20 threes last year for Homestead. His jumpers, however, are few and far between. He says his goal is to get a layup every time he touches it.

“We work on back-to-the-basket work every day,” Barnes said. “Because when he decided he wanted to be a basketball player, we consciously made a decision that he was going to be an old-school power forward in the Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Buck Williams, even guys like Al Jefferson, Zach Randolph type where he’s going to beat you up and he’s going to rebound the basketball.” 

Those below-the-rim bangers are extremely valuable in the college game. When Smith was able to play real minutes as a freshman at UCLA, he was the second-best offensive rebounder in the country—per kenpom.com (subscription required)—and he’s averaged double figures in the two years where he played at least 19 minutes per game.

An even better comparison for Swanigan could be former Marquette big man Davante Gardner, who was able to play enough minutes to become a borderline star. Gardner was one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball the last two seasons—his offensive rating of 122.4 this past year ranked seventh nationally among players who used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions, per kenpom.com

Swanigan could end up better than both. His ceiling is more along the lines of the player he’s compared to the most: Randolph. Swanigan may even follow Randolph’s path to the NBA.

Randolph played his high school ball at Marion High School—Marion is about an hour away from Fort Wayne—and many consider Michigan State the leader for Swanigan. Deyonta Davis, his teammate for Spiece Indy Heat, is already verbally committed to the Spartans, and they would both fit well in the Michigan State system.

Earlier this summer, Swanigan and Barnes decided to speed up the process by reclassifying Swanigan from the 2016 class to 2015. 

“Playing another year of high school basketball, we just didn’t feel like it was going to benefit him because he’s so much bigger and stronger,” Barnes said. “He’s bigger and stronger than people here at the EYBL and this is the best of the best.”

The summer has been such a whirlwind that Swanigan said in late July that he hadn’t even started planning official visits yet. Barnes said Chicago State, the first school who recruited Swanigan, was the only school they knew they would visit for sure. 

It can be dangerous to rush a player’s progress at this point in his career, but Swanigan looks ready and Barnes has plenty of experience mentoring young athletes. He’s already a successful agent—he and his firm have represented the likes of Ray Lewis, Dez Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald—so you would think Barnes’ interests have nothing to do with getting Swanigan to the league as quickly as possible. 

It’s too early to say Swanigan will even make it to the NBA. But in the college game, he has the potential to end up as the most productive big man in his class. Smith had similar potential as a freshman, and that’s what has made his career so frustrating to watch.

Will Swanigan follow a similar path? Because of his past, that question will follow him. But those close to him don’t seem to be too worried. 

“When he gets to become an adult, I don’t think he’s going to have a problem,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s even going to be a concern.”

“He knows what he eats affects how he plays,” Barnes said. 

That’s why Swanigan says he has been able to keep the pounds off. He’s seen firsthand the difference in his game when he’s in shape. And it’s much more appetizing than fried foods and sweets. 

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.

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DePaul recruit Doby to attend prep school (Yahoo Sports)

CHICAGO (AP) — DePaul says forward Raymond Doby has enrolled at a prep school and will not play for the Blue Demons next season after signing a letter of intent in the spring.

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Indiana adds recruit to newest freshmen class

Hoosiers announce Emmitt Holt is newest addition to freshman recruiting class

      
 

 

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Kansas Basketball Recruiting: Who Is Most Important 2015 Recruit for Jayhawks?

Bill Self’s ability keep Kansas at the top of the Big 12 for a decade despite annual roster turnover—and recently coaching staff turnover—showcases his abilities as talent evaluator, recruiter and disciplined developmental coach.

After another impressive haul in this four-man 2014 class, with the likes of Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre parading into Lawrence, Self appears well positioned to lure a couple more blue-chip prospects to the Phog for 2015-16.

While each recruit carries his own importance, there are a few 5-star players that could ultimately prove to be the most important piece of a potential class for the Jayhawks.

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