College Basketball Recruiting: High School Teams Loaded with Talent in 2014-15

The college basketball stars of tomorrow will come from all over the country. Coaches have scoured gyms looking for that next great player to add to their roster.

A lot of that recruiting is done on the AAU and travel ball circuit, which pretty much exists solely to showcase the top prospects in the nation. However, coaches could also simply focus on a handful of high school programs, ones that collectively seem to have the lion’s share of the top talent from the recruiting classes of 2015 and beyond.

Here’s a look at some high school teams that will be overflowing with college-level basketball players this upcoming season.

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Syracuse Basketball Recruiting: Make-or-Break Players for 2015 Class

The 2014-15 Syracuse basketball season hasn’t even started yet, but there is already buzz about the potential of the 2015-16 Orange team.

Over the summer, head coach Jim Boeheim said his 2015 recruiting class is his best ever. Boeheim already has four commits in the ESPN 100, and Boeheim said, “We’re getting another, but I can’t talk about that.” The four players Boeheim already has locked up are Malachi Richardson, Moustapha Diagne, Tyler Lydon and Franklin Howard. 

Each player is rated as a 4-star prospect by both ESPN and 247Sports. In addition, each player is in the Top 75 of the ESPN 100, with Richardson the highest-ranked player at No. 19. So yeah, it’s a pretty strong class already.

But Boeheim says he will be landing another player, which would make this class even better. As it stands right now, the class is already impressive, but one player could really put it over the top.

Thomas Bryant is a 5-star player, according to both ESPN and 247Sports, and he seems to be the most likely candidate to land in Syracuse next fall. Bryant is a hometown kid; he hails from nearby Rochester and was a high school teammate of current Syracuse center Chinonso Obokoh.

Landing Bryant would be the cherry on top of an already appetizing recruiting sundae. By 2015, the Orange will be in desperate need of big men. Rakeem Christmas is in his last year, DaJuan Coleman is still a question mark and Obokoh is unproven.

Bryant is just the player Boeheim needs to bolster his front line. The 6’10″ center is skilled around the basket, and he even shows a decent-looking jump shot. Suiting him up next to Richardson, Trevor Cooney and the rest of Syracuse’s returning players could provide a big boost to the offense.

Speaking of Richardson, he looks like he can be an immediate contributor for the Orange. With or without Bryant, Richardson is the other player who can make the 2015 class.

First of all, Richardson’s flat-top game is on point. But Richardson’s coiffure isn’t the only impressive aspect of the 6’6″ swingman.

One thing that immediately jumps out: Richardson can fill it up. He can score from the three-point line and get to the rim, and his size can be a problem if he is checked by an opposing guard. He can give Cooney a much-needed running mate on the perimeter, and he shapes up to be a more versatile shooter than Cooney is.

Most of Cooney‘s game is predicated on spotting up, catching and shooting. Perhaps that had something to do with the other featured offensive players around him, but Cooney has yet to create his own shot consistently. Richardson can spot up, but he can also get his shot off the dribble or coming off a screen.

The 2015-16 Orange roster is going to be loaded. If all of this year’s players who are eligible to return do so, Boeheim can go 10 deep with several upperclassmen and only two sophomores (Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, should they both return). 

So there may not be a truckload of minutes for Richardson or Bryant (if he chooses Syracuse). But if Syracuse struggles offensively again this year, the door will be open for Richardson to come in and light it up early.

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Virginia Basketball Recruiting: Make-or-Break Players for 2015 Class

The 2016 season is shaping to be a banner year for the Virginia Cavaliers on the recruiting trail. Just this week, the Hoos landed a big commitment when Kyle Guy, a 6’2″ sharpshooting point guard from Indiana, per ESPN, pledged to Virginia. 

Guy, a 4-star recruit, per 247Sports (subscription required), joins fellow 4-star Ty Jerome in the class of 2016.

But what about 2015?

This year’s squad has just one scholarship senior, Darion Atkins, and he will likely come off the bench. So there aren’t many openings for newcomers in 2015.

The Cavaliers currently have one commitment: Jarred Reuter, a 6’8″, 235-pound power forward from New Hampshire. 

Virginia will be loaded with perimeter players the next season. Malcolm Brogdon, London Perrantes, Justin Anderson, B.J. Stith, Devon Hall and Marial Shayok all have at least two years of eligibility remaining. So adding perimeter players in this recruiting class is not a high priority.

Center Mike Tobey is a junior, and his backup, freshman Jack Salt, is a freshman. The Hoos would prefer to add another big man to the 2015 class. 

Here are three players who could make or break Virginia’s 2015 recruiting class.

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Ohio State Basketball Recruiting: Make or Break Players for 2015 Class

Let’s be perfectly honest—Thad Matta and his Ohio State basketball program would be absolutely fine if it didn’t land another recruit from now until national signing day.

That may not be what fans who are always looking for the next star or a No.1 class want to hear, but the Buckeyes currently have the No. 7 class in the country, according to 247Sports, for 2015 and just landed the No. 8 class in 2014, according to 247Sports. Between the 2014 and 2015 groups alone, the Buckeyes have eight different players.

That is a lot of young incoming talent, and that’s not even mentioning Marc Loving and Trevor Thompson, who will both have multiple years of eligibility remaining after the 2014-15 basketball season is over.

Yes, the Buckeyes have some seniors this year, including Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams, but between Loving, Thompson, D’Angelo Russell, Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams, David Bell and the four 2015 commits, the immediate future looks rather bright.

With that in mind, it is hard to justify the idea that a remaining prospect or two could “make or break” the 2015 class.

However, you could make the argument that losing out on Carlton Bragg, Esa Ahmad and Luke Kennard was a significant blow. Kennard is a 5-star shooting guard, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, who committed to Duke, Ahmad is a 4-star power forward who committed to West Virginia and Bragg is a 5-star power forward and potential superstar who will go elsewhere as well.

That is some significant in-state talent leaving Ohio’s borders, which is difficult for Buckeyes fans to see after Ohio natives Trey Burke and Adreian Payne made life particularly difficult for them in the Big Ten the past few years.

Ibby Ahmad, Esa’s father, discussed the decision, via Bill Landis of Cleveland.com, “[Ohio State] wasn’t there as long as Maryland and West Virginia, but when they did come on they showed a lot of love. Ohio State came in, gave it their shot.”

Matta may have lost out on that significant in-state talent, but he has responded with a potentially dominant class that includes two Texans, a Georgian and one Ohioan. It is more important that he keeps those verbal pledges intact than actually signing anyone else at this point, especially since Mickey Mitchell already de-committed once before joining the group again.

Shooting guard Austin Grandstaff, center Daniel Giddens, point guard A.J. Harris and small forward Mitchell are all 4-star prospects, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, and give Matta an elite option at basically every position on the floor. Sure, there’s no power forward, but there are a number of versatile young guys already on the roster who could take care of that if needed.

These four recruits are the ideal complement to each other because Harris is always looking to set up teammates to score, Grandstaff can light it up from behind the three-point line, Mitchell can both shoot and slash to the rim and Giddens is capable of anchoring a defense down low with his strength, rebounding ability and shot-blocking athleticism.

Pairing this class with the loaded 2014 group down the road should have Buckeyes fans thrilled about the future.

Even though Matta’s class can’t really be “broken” if he strikes out on any remaining outside prospects, there are a few remaining players who would solidify this class as one of the nation’s best.

However, it is important to note that it is looking all the more likely that Matta and his coaching staff may be done adding 2015 commits. At one point or another, they were in on the recruitment of Ivan Rabb, Jaylen Brown, Cheick Diallo, Thomas Bryant and Isaiah Briscoe.

Considering all five of those players are 5-star recruits, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, landing even one of them would be a significant boost to the 2015 class. Still, they are all listed as “cooled” on Ohio State on 247Sports and will in all likelihood be taking their collective talents elsewhere.

Of course, if any of them came knocking on Matta’s door saying he wanted in, the coach would be happy to take him. But Ohio State is likely turning its attention toward laying the foundation for the future with the 2016 class already.

The Buckeyes are targeting small forward Braxton Blackwell, point guard Kobi Simmons and center Derek Funderburk, which would give them some depth across different positions yet again.

It is also worth keeping an eye on prospects like Tyus Battle, V.J. King, Mario Kegler and Omari Spellman, who are all listed as potential Ohio State targets for 2016 on 247Sports. Buckeyes fans should be quite encouraged that every single one of the 2016 prospects mentioned here is either a 4- or 5-star recruit, so it is clear Matta is looking for a dominant class for a third straight year.

Ultimately, it is difficult to say a given player or two will make or break the Buckeyes’ 2015 class because it appears to be as close to set in stone as it can be at this time of year. Ohio State landed an impressive 2014 group and has another formidable one coming down the pipeline next season. 

Now it’s time for the Buckeyes to turn their attention toward even more 4- and 5-star prospects in 2016.

 

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Duke Basketball Recruiting: Make-or-Break Players for 2015 Class

The Duke basketball program landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2014, according to 247Sports, and there is a very real chance that the rich will get richer in 2015. Mike Krzyzewski and company are one or two elite players away from bringing in yet another loaded class.

Before we look at some prospects that the Blue Devils are pursuing, it is worth summarizing where Duke stands moving forward, because that always shapes the direction of any recruiting class.

For one, Quinn Cook is the only scholarship senior on the roster this season, so there may not be that many scholarships available for next year. Yes, Jahlil Okafor is likely to go pro, and Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and perhaps even Rasheed Sulaimon could follow suit, but there is plenty of talented youth in Durham.

The Blue Devils may not have the numbers available to land a four- or five-man group in the 2015 cycle, depending on those eventual NBA decisions. The good news about the loaded 2014 class, though, is that there isn’t an absolute pressing need to land a top-notch 2015 group.

Still, Krzyzewski already boasts the No. 13-rated class for 2015, per 247Sports, thanks to two high-profile commitments from Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter. Both are 5-star prospects, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, and play different positions. Kennard is a perimeter scorer at shooting guard, while Jeter is a lockdown defender at the rim and low-post threat at power forward/center.

The thing that immediately jumps out about Kennard is his ability to drain it from behind the three-point line, but he is also a solid passer and can attack the rim off the dribble with impressive ball-handling skills.

As for Jeter, his jump hook may be his best offensive weapon, but he can hit from mid-range and has soft touch at the rim. It is not difficult to envision a pick-and-roll game with Kennard and Jeter developing down the line in Durham.

Jeter is also incredibly athletic and quick enough to get out in transition, protect the rim with blocked shots and control the glass.

Ultimately, just hanging on to Kennard and Jeter alone would “make” the Blue Devils’ class considering how much young talent is already on campus. Even if you are to assume that Okafor is gone after his freshman season, pairing Kennard and Jeter with Jones, Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Winslow, Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones would be a problem for the rest of the ACC.

Jeter would naturally slide into Okafor’s newly available spot too, so losing Okafor to the draft would not be nearly as crippling of a blow as some would expect.

The only way to “break” this class is by somehow losing Kennard and Jeter, which is not going to happen.

However, there are a few other potential targets who would really “make” this class something special.

Brandon Ingram, Ivan Rabb and Diamond Stone are all listed as top targets or high choices for Duke on 247Sports. All three of these guys are 5-star prospects, so even landing one would officially put the ACC on notice since the Blue Devils already have two 5-stars in tow for 2015.

It is worth mentioning that both Rabb and Stone are listed as “cool” on Duke right now, so things may be trending slightly in the wrong direction.

This quote from 2015 prospect Carlton Bragg, via Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog and SNY.tv, is also worrisome when it comes to Duke’s chances at Ingram: “Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown, we’re thinking about packaging.”

With so much youth on the roster and two commits already, Duke really doesn’t have the scholarship numbers to land that trio and continue recruiting. More importantly, Bragg is not tied to Duke at all and could end up as part of Kansas or Kentucky’s 2015 class. If he took Ingram with him, that would be a problem for the Blue Devils. 

However, Bragg is not the only recruit interested in playing with Ingram, as Adam Rowe of 247Sports passed along:

Krzyzewski certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to land Ingram because programs like Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina are also in on his recruitment. Of course, if the Blue Devils did get Ingram, the additional bonus would be keeping him away from the rival Tar Heels.

It is no wonder why so many blueblood programs want Ingram. He can hit from the outside or attack the basket and is versatile enough to play anything from shooting guard to an athletic power forward. Pairing him with Winslow at Duke would be a nightmare for opposing ball-handlers because of all that athleticism and length guarding on the wing.

As for Rabb, he is also an athletic forward, but he will likely play closer to the basket than Ingram. Rabb is a formidable rebounder and shot-blocker who would help Duke shore up some of the interior defensive problems it had last season and contribute in the scoring department down low.

Finally, Stone is a powerful scorer on the blocks who has everything from a hook shot to drop step in his arsenal. If needed, he can step outside and drill the occasional three-pointer as well and will be a solid rebounder.

As long as Duke holds onto its current elite commitments, it is difficult to envision this class “breaking” at all. Still, if the Blue Devils ultimately want to rank among the nation’s best for the second consecutive year, they will need to land at least one more player.

If more than just Okafor leaves for the NBA, that would also give the Blue Devils some stability moving forward.

It’s a fairly safe bet at this point that Duke will have a top-notch recruiting class. After all, Krzyzewski already has two 5-star prospects before the season starts, and the winning that is sure to happen on the floor this year will likely make an impression on others on the recruiting trail. 

Duke is far more likely to “make” its recruiting class in the coming months than “break” it.

 

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Michigan State Basketball Recruiting: Make or Break Players for 2015 Class

With the 2014-15 season looming just under one month away, it is becoming more pivotal for Michigan State to secure some of its top recruits for security purposes. For the 2015 class, one make-or-break target remains within Tom Izzo‘s sights: Caleb Swanigan.

He’s the key, and also the player who would likely propel that class into a top-5 group nationally. Currently, MSU has three commitments. Deyonta Davis (ranked as a 5-star recruit by 247sports.com), Matt McQuaid (4-star) and Kyle Ahrens (three-star).

All three of those high school seniors have the abilities to impact games right away.

Davis is a disciplined, lanky and skilled post player whose game strongly resembles Adreian Payne’s. McQuaid and Ahrens are similar because both guys rely on their outside jumpers to impact games, though both are quick enough to enter the lane and finish.

Currently, it’s a big-time class. 247sports.com has rated MSU‘s 2015 group as the 11th best in the nation. And if Swanigan signs on, he and his AAU teammate Davis could potentially form the next great frontcourt in East Lansing.

Unfortunately, Swanigan‘s decision continues to hang in the balance. He has been undecided for several months now, refusing to give any clear indicators of where he intends to play.

And MSU needs his skill set. Any team would happily allow a 6’8″, 275-pound beast with great awareness and fantastic touch on its squad.

But MSU needs it.

Branden Dawson is the lone returning starter from an Elite Eight team with an excellent frontcourt. He will be called upon to shoulder a considerable amount of the scoring and rebounding responsibilities. Due to his age, however, that onus will only last for another year.

Upon his graduation, MSU will look to find answers. Maybe Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling will prove themselves to be capable big men this season, but neither player has Davis’ or Swanigan‘s potential.

Davis will likely step in immediately, although he needs to add bulk to his frame. Swanigan is only growing and improving. He is cut from the Derrick Nix-Zach Randolph mold, two former Spartan greats, dominating with size and skill around the rim.

Those are the types of skills Izzo will be yearning for in a year from now. ESPN’s No. 8 ranked player in the country is a must-have.

After Swanigan, the interest level of the remaining targets shrinks considerably.

Two remaining prospects are guard Hyron Edwards and and dual-sport athlete Khari Willis.

Edwards is a dynamic combo guard from East Illinois. He plays with a tremendous tempo and can enter the lane at will. His jump shot is still improving, but he can make open looks.

Michigan State has not extended an offer to Edwards yet, but it appears to be interested. The 6’1″ guard’s recruiting profile is immersed with Big Ten foes, so if Izzo missed out, he may end up paying for it.

Willis, on the other hand, holds a more interesting situation. The 6-footer has already signed on to play football for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans as a cornerback.

He’s pretty good on the court, too. According to Rich McGowan of highschoolsports.mlive.com, Izzo candidly acknowledged he “loves two-sport guys,” which opens the possibility to Willis playing in front of the Breslin crowd.

While that would be a sensational storyline, it wouldn’t be as plausible. From a depth and personnel standpoint, MSU is already loaded with fantastic guards. Willis is lesser developed than Lourawls Nairn, the point guard of the future for State, but plays similarly.

Nairn will only be a sophomore when Willis arrives in East Lansing, and an abundance of combo guards will also be vying for playing time. That includes Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris, two established transfers from Division I schools.

That type of depth and skill essentially eliminates other guards from the recruiting discussion. That is, unless the player is a top-notch prospect.

So, the remaining outlook for the class of 2015 remains how it has been for the last several months: all-in for Swanigan.

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Syracuse Basketball Recruiting: Orange’s Top Targets in ’14 Early Signing Period

The Syracuse basketball season is just around the corner. Orange Madness is Friday night, and it will be the first opportunity for fans and media alike to get a look at the new members of the Syracuse squad.

The early signing period for high school athletes is fast approaching, so you can bet Jim Boeheim and his staff are hard at work on the recruiting trail. Are there any players Boeheim could lock up next month? Let’s explore it a little deeper.

Boeheim already has four commits for his 2015 class, according to 247Sports, so there isn’t much work left to do on that front. As of now, the Orange don’t have any more available scholarships to offer for next year, so signing another player could be tricky. But things happen that cause scholarships to become available. Some players transfer, and others move on early to the NBA.

Either way, Boeheim is excited about next year’s incoming freshmen. He had this to say about his 2015 bunch at a recent speaking engagement:

I will tell you that next year’s recruiting class will be the best that we’ve ever had here at Syracuse University. That’s next year’s class — 2015. We’ve got four guys (who’ve committed) and we’re getting another, but I can’t talk about that. It’s going to be a great recruiting class, and I think you’ll be excited about the future.

So, Boeheim thinks he will be adding another player to next year’s class. The most likely candidate is Thomas Bryant, a 6’10″ center out of Rochester. ZagsBlog.com reported that Bryant has visited Syracuse but doesn’t plan on making a decision until the spring. 

With that in mind, don’t expect to see Bryant sign the dotted line this November. Since it’s unlikely Syracuse will target anyone else in 2015, that moves the focus to 2016.

Tyus Battle, a 6’6″ guard out of New Jersey, recently visited Syracuse. According to Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com, Battle’s dad said the visit went “as well as it can go.”

However, Battle is the 14th-ranked player in the class, according to ESPN.com, and schools such as Kentucky, Duke, Arizona and Florida are all in the mix. So it’s unlikely he will make a decision anytime soon.

But there is one player Boeheim may be able to coax a commitment out of in the next month or two. He is Sedee Keita (no relation to Baye), a 6’9″ forward from South Carolina. 

Keita is a 4-star prospect, according to 247Sports. Mike Waters of Syracuse.com recently wrote a feature on Keita. Waters talked to Keita‘s AAU coach, Terrell Myers, who said Keita has grown three inches a year each of the last three years.

“He’s gone from being a guard to a 6’9″ forward,” Myers told Waters. “If Keita has the ball-handling skills of a guard with forward size, he could be tough for other forwards to check.” 

So far, the recruiting powerhouses haven’t gotten on Keita. Per Waters, schools such as Iowa State, Connecticut, Memphis and VCU are interested in Keita. If Syracuse can coax a commit out of Keita before the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world catch wind of him, it would be a major coup for Boeheim.

But even Keita‘s decision seems far off. Waters said Keita is deciding on a new prep school and then will focus on his college choice.

From the looks of things, Syracuse might end up being quiet during the early signing period. But who knows? Boeheim may surprise us all again. Either way, the college hoops season can’t get here soon enough.

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UNC Basketball Recruiting: Tar Heels’ Top Targets in 2014 Early Signing Period

Is it time to worry about North Carolina basketball recruiting with the early signing period on the horizon (Nov. 12-19, per NationalLetter.org)?

The short answer is no, even if the Tar Heels don’t have a single commit for the 2015 class yet. After all, Roy Williams landed the No. 3 class in 2014 (according to 247Sports) with Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson. Pinson and Jackson are both 5-star prospects, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, while Berry checks in as a 4-star.

North Carolina also ended up with the No. 14 class in 2013 and the No. 9 class in 2012, per 247Sports.

Expectations are high every season in Chapel Hill, and that’s completely understandable. It is one of the national-title-or-bust programs and certainly earned that distinction through years of dominance.

Still, just about every program in America would love to have the Nos. 9, 14 and 3 classes in the country in three consecutive years. The Tar Heels may not recruit like Kentucky, but there is plenty of winning on the horizon with the latest group of youngsters.

Evan Daniels, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, discussed the notion that North Carolina’s recruiting has fallen off recently, via Andrew Carter of The Charlotte Observer:

I think that’s valid. But I also think that North Carolina goes after the players that they think they can get, that fit their mold and fit what they’re trying to do. I mean, they’ve still got highly rated guys.

Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson were both very highly rated recruits last year.

North Carolina is going to be fine and will likely use the early signing period to make some inroads on 2015 and 2016 prospects, even though it may not get a commitment from anyone.

It is somewhat difficult to project the 2016 recruiting because it will be shaped by North Carolina’s successes or failures in 2015 with factors like scholarship numbers hanging in the balance. However, power forward Harry Giles, small forward Jayson Tatum and point guard Dennis Smith have all caught North Carolina’s attention as some of the best players in the country. 

Landing any of those three would be ideal for the Tar Heels, but fans are likely more concerned with the state of the empty 2015 class with the early signing period approaching. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential prospects to keep an eye on.

 

Brandon Ingram

Brandon Ingram is a 5-star small forward, per 247Sports, who checks in at 6’8” and may be North Carolina’s top 2015 target. Other powerhouse programs like Duke, Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas have all been connected to Ingram at some point, so Williams certainly has his work cut out for him.

Ingram is a versatile forward who can play both inside and outside. His smooth shooting stroke allows him to connect from behind the three-point line, but he is more than capable of attacking the basket off the dribble as well. 

His length and athleticism also help on the defensive side because he is quick enough to stay in front of guards but long enough to bother the shots of bigger forwards.

 

Ivan Rabb

North Carolina probably doesn’t have quite as good of a chance to land the 6’10” power forward Ivan Rabb, who is also a 5-star prospect in 247Sports’ composite rankings, as it does Ingram. Rabb is trimming down his list of schools, and there was somewhat of an ominous update from Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv and NBA.com, via Jerry Meyer of 247Sports:

Of course, that doesn’t mean North Carolina is out of contention, but schools like Arizona and Kentucky have made an impression on the youngster. 

Rabb is an elite power forward who uses his athleticism and leaping ability to control the glass, swat shots and score around the basket. He has impressive footwork on the block and often finds the basket with offensive putbacks.

 

Other Targets

There are a number of other targets that Williams is eyeing as the early signing period approaches.

Skal Labissiere, Stephen Zimmerman, Diamond Stone and Perry Dozier Jr., among others, are all listed as interested, 5-star prospects by 247Sports’ composite rankings, so North Carolina is certainly swinging for the fences in 2015.

Stone, Labissiere and Zimmerman are all centers, and North Carolina is clearly looking for at least one big man in this class. You can throw Rabb on that list of impact bigs as well. If Brice Johnson does have the breakthrough season that many expect in 2014-15, he could very well leave early for the NBA, which would open up a spot in the frontcourt for at least one of these recruits.

If North Carolina strikes out on every single one of these elite prospects, then it will officially be time to panic. However, all it will take is one or two commitments to turn around the momentum. After all, it’s only October and the season hasn’t even started yet. 

There will be 5-star prospects who commit to North Carolina in the 2015 and 2016 classes. We just don’t know which ones yet.

 

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Ohio State Basketball Recruiting: Top Targets in 2014 Early Signing Period

As the 2014 early signing period approaches in college basketball (Nov. 12-19, according to nationalletter.org), the Ohio State basketball program may not land another target in the 2015 recruiting class.

Considering where the Buckeyes stand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ohio State sports the seventh-ranked Class of 2015, per 247Sports, thanks to an impressive collection of talented commits. Shooting guard Austin Grandstaff, center Daniel Giddens, point guard A.J. Harris and small forward Mickey Mitchell are all 4-star prospects, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and on their way to Columbus.

The future is clearly bright for the Buckeyes, especially after Thad Matta landed such a highly regarded 2014 class to pair with these incoming players. The 2015 class also gives Ohio State options everywhere on the court with a center, forward and two guards.

The Buckeyes are still interested in a handful of 2015 prospects with the early signing period around the corner, but they likely won’t be securing any additional commitments.

Ivan Rabb is listed on 247Sports as a potential target. As an elite power forward who can finish in the lane with formidable footwork and soft touch, or from mid-range with a gradually expanding offensive arsenal, Rabb would give the Buckeyes the one position they don’t have in the 2015 class. He would also be a potential lockdown defender and rebounder

It needs to be noted, though, that Rabb has apparently “cooled” on the Buckeyes, per 247Sports’ recruiting page. As College Basketball Talk noted, Rabb’s list of schools is getting smaller, and it likely isn’t going to include Ohio State:

There are some other guys, such as small forward Jaylen Brown, power forward Cheick Diallo, power forward Thomas Bryant and point guard Isaiah Briscoe, who are listed under the “Interested” section on 247Sports that would give Matta some additional positional diversity. However, like Rabb, all four have also “cooled” on Ohio State.

There is a very realistic possibility that Matta is done with the 2015 class, which would not really be a problem at all. He already has a top-10 class and a plethora of young talent on campus in the form of D’Angelo Russell, Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Trevor Thompson and Kam Williams. Throw the four 2015 pledges into that group, and the Buckeyes are set for the next couple of years.

That means Matta can turn his attention toward recruiting the 2016 class in the early signing period and laying the foundation for a future core, even if he doesn’t get any actual commits in November.

Braxton Blackwell and Kobi Simmons both went on unofficial visits to Ohio State and took in a football game in the fabled Horseshoe.

Simmons’ father, DeMond Stephens, discussed the visit, via Brian Snow of Scout.com:

We really liked the whole visit. Kobi and my wife liked it a lot, and the whole coaching staff was great. The coaches are very family oriented people and treated us first class. Also the facilities were great.

I really liked the specifics they were talking about how they want him to not just play right away, but make an impact right away. They said they need him to come in and make an impact immediately like a Michael Conley or someone like that. They made it clear that they don’t care who is a freshman or who is a senior, they want to let the best players play.

Simmons is a 5-star point guard, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, from Georgia who checks in at 6’5” and has drawn the interest of powerhouses like Kentucky and Kansas. His length, athleticism and explosiveness immediately jump out and help him attack the basket off the bounce like a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook.

Simmons is also capable of hitting from behind the three-point line and is more than comfortable setting up teammates with crisp passes. That length and quickness also help on the defensive side, which is critical if he wants to be a Buckeye.

As for Blackwell, he is a 4-star small forward, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, from Nashville who stands at 6’8” and has drawn interest from local Vanderbilt and Indiana, among others. His versatility is what immediately jumps out because he can drive the lane from the perimeter, shoot from the outside and find teammates with pinpoint passes.

Blackwell has the ball-handling skills of a point guard and enough height to get involved in the rebounding game.

Between the 2014 recruiting class and the 2015 group, the foundation is set at Ohio State. It is certainly noteworthy that Matta and his staff are trying to parlay their recent momentum into a quick start for the 2016 class with visits from elite prospects Blackwell and Simmons. 

Landing either one would be a major coup for the program, so it is worth keeping an eye on their recruitment in what may otherwise be a quiet early signing period for the Buckeyes.

 

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NCAA Basketball Recruiting: Latest Buzz on Top Uncommitted Players in 2015 Class

The 2015 college basketball recruiting trail had a major player pull off the road Thursday and set up camp for next year with the news that 5-star prospect Henry Ellenson had committed to Marquette.

The pledge by Ellenson, a 6’10″, 230-pound power forward from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, makes him the 12th of 24 players listed as 5-star recruits (according to 247Sports’ composite rankings) in the 2015 class to commit.

The school choice was somewhat of a surprise considering the Golden Eagles went through a coaching change during the offseason, but it’s also a sign that new coach Steve Wojciechowski has no plans to take his time rebuilding the Marquette program. It’s also one of the few pieces of concrete news related to a top prospect in the 2015 class, as most information about the best of the lot falls more into the realm of speculation or “buzz” than hard facts.

But that buzz can’t be ignored since where the collegiate stars of tomorrow may end up is big news for basketball fans. With that in mind, here’s a recap of some of the most noteworthy happenings involving some of the top uncommitted players in the 2015 class.

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