Alabama Crimson Tide: Basketball Recruiting

Class of 2014 three-star shooting guard Devin Mitchell (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill) committed to Alabama on Wednesday over offers from Wake Forest, Georgia, Kansas State and UAB to give coach Anthony Grant his third commitment in the past week.

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Shun Williams2014 SG Devin Mitchell has a knack for scoring in bunches.
In addition to Mitchell, Grant added ESPN 100 small forward Riley Norris (Albertville, Ala./Albertville) on Monday and received a commitment from ESPN 100 point guard Justin Coleman (Birmingham, Ala./Wenonah) last Wednesday. Norris ranks No. 64 and Coleman No. 72 in the 2014 class.

In the span of a week, the Tide went from zero commitments to No. 9 in the 2014 recruiting class rankings.

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ESPN 100 small forward Riley Norris (Albertville, Ala./Albertville) committed to Alabama on Monday over offers from Arkansas, Butler, Florida State, Marquette, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others.

He gives the Tide their second in-state ESPN 100 recruit in less than a week after receiving a commitment from point guard Justin Coleman (Birmingham, Ala./Wenonah) on July 31. Norris is the No. 1 prospect in the state and No. 64 overall in the Class of 2014, while Coleman is No. 3 in Alabama and No. 72 overall in the country.

Norris’ commitment moves the Tide into the 2014 class rankings at No. 9 and is huge for Alabama coach Anthony Grant to keep home two of the top three players in the state.

So why did Norris pick the Tide and what will he bring to Alabama?

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ESPN 100 point guard Justin Coleman (Birmingham, Ala./Wenonah) committed to Alabama on Wednesday over offers from Auburn, Arkansas, UAB, Butler and Xavier, among others.

Justin Coleman
Courtesy of NikeNo. 72 recruit Justin Coleman committed to Alabama on Wednesday.
Coleman’s pledge puts the Crimson Tide on the board in the 2014 class with the No. 3-ranked player in the state of Alabama and the nation’s No. 72 overall prospect in the ESPN 100.

The point guard position was a huge priority for the Crimson Tide in the Class of 2014, so head coach Anthony Grant and his staff have filled a major need with Coleman on board.

What will he bring and how does he fit with the Tide?

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Only two days after firing head coach Bill Carmody, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips flew to New Jersey on Monday to meet with four-star senior point guard signee Jaren Sina (Lake Hopatcong, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's), one of the best recruits Carmody had been able to land during his 13-year tenure.

As a result of the meeting, Sina is now expected to be released from his letter of intent with Northwestern within the next two days, according to his father and high school coach, Mergin Sina.

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John F. Rhodes for ESPN.comUncommitted senior point guard Jaren Sina is one to watch this spring signing period.
“We’re going to get the release because they might bring a guy in that’s not a great fit with Jaren,” Mergin said. “But we love the school.”

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In the Class 3A state semifinal game, freshman Joshua Langford scored 30 points and pulled down 16 rebounds as Madison Academy held off a Greensboro team featuring Alabama signee Jimmie Taylor to advance to the finals.

What would the 2016 prospect do for an encore?

How about 21 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in the championship game to lead the Mustangs to a win over Southside Selma. It wasn’t easy, though. In the first half, Langford shot just 2 of 15 from the field, but he and his teammates battled back in the second half to overcome a double-digit lead and claim the state title.

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GT, FSU after 2014 SG Tadric Jackson 

December, 18, 2012
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The City of Palms Classic is filled with intriguing prospects looking to improve their recruiting stock against some of the top talent the nation has to offer. One such player is 2014 three-star combination guard Tadric Jackson (Tifton, Ga./Tift County), who leads his squad into action against No. 6 Long Beach Poly (Calif.).

Tadric Jackson
Reggie RankinFour-star guard Tadric Jackson is a great start for Georgia Tech in the 2014 class.
Jackson is averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 assist, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game for the 20th-ranked Blue Devils. His ability to fill up the stat sheet is why a number of high major programs are trying to land this talented prospect.

"I have offers from Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina and Memphis,” said Jackson. “I am receiving interest from Kansas, Michigan State, NC State, Ohio State and others. I really like [the team’s that are] recruiting me."

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Shannon Hale celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, but his best gift didn’t come until Wednesday when he signed his national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Alabama.

Jimmie Taylor
Courtesy of Caroline Williams/USA Basketball Greensboro, Ala., center Jimmie Taylor was one of two players that signed letters of intent to Alabama on Wednesday.
“It was exciting,” Hale said. “It was a pretty good feeling to sign those papers. It’s also a little bit of a relief to have it behind me and to make it official now.

“The coaches were pretty happy for me. They called me to wish me a happy birthday yesterday, and we just talked about signing today. They sounded like they were pretty excited to have me.”

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No. 14 recruit Martin set to announce 

October, 31, 2012
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We didn’t see this one coming. ESPN 100 power forward Jarrell Martin (Baton Rouge, La./Madison Prep), thought to be a spring signee, is set to make his college decision.

According to Jeff Jones, the head coach at Madison Prep, Martin will announce Thursday at 1:30 p.m. CT at the school.

“He’s tired (of recruiting) and he’s ready to decide,” Jones said.

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The O-zone: Weekend visitors 

October, 24, 2012
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TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.

Official visitor

Alabama’s only confirmed official visitor to this point might be the Crimson Tide’s most important visitor of the weekend. ESPN 150 wide receiver Robert Foster (Monaca, Pa./Central Valley) announced via Twitter that he is taking his official visit to UA this weekend for the Mississippi State game. Foster is the Tide’s top remaining target at wide receiver. He’s narrowed his list to Alabama, Ohio State and Pittsburgh and will take official visits to the other two schools later this year. The key for Alabama this weekend is to make the Pennsylvania native feel comfortable on his trip and make him feel like he’s at home. Foster has visited Tuscaloosa twice since April.

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Over the weekend, ESPN 100 shooting guard JaJuan Johnson (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind) took his third and final official visit to Marquette for the Golden Eagles’ Midnight Madness festivities.

“It went good,” he said. “The atmosphere was crazy because it’s a basketball town. They had pictures and signs with my name on it.”

Johnson has narrowed his list to Alabama, Marquette and Miami and says a decision will come soon, probably in the next 10 to 12 days. The 6-foot-5 guard talked about his other two finalists, the Crimson Tide and the Hurricanes.

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ESPN 150 stars Holland Fisher and DeMarcus Walker took their official visits to the University of Alabama over the weekend, but football wasn’t the only sport to host an official visitor.

Anthony Grant and the Crimson Tide basketball team welcomed ESPN 100 shooting guard JaJuan Johnson (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind) on his official visit. Johnson visited once before over the summer.

“The visit went good,” he said. “It was a good atmosphere, and it was a real college town. It was a big campus. I had been there before, but it was during summer school and people were just going home.

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Jarrell Martin late to recruiting game 

September, 20, 2012
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Jarrell Martin (Baton Rouge, La./Madison Prep) is a top 20 player, actually he’s No. 12 in the ESPN 100. Most guys that high profile are big news generators. Martin isn’t like most guys.

The 6-foot-7 power forward, who happens to be one of the best rebounders in the country, hasn’t taken an official visit. Only Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma State have either been to his home to do a visit or have plans to visit. Bama, LSU, Oklahoma State, St. John’s, UCLA, Texas A&M and Louisville are on his list of offers. None of them have a campus visit date confirmed for Martin.

Martin can’t take an official visit until he takes a standardized test, be it the SAT or ACT, and that won’t happen until Oct. 27. He hasn’t seen any campuses, so it’s proper to refer to his recruitment as being in its infancy stages. Martin won’t decide until next spring.

Not a basketball junkie growing up and with only a season and change of high school hoops under his belt, Martin would tell you he has a lot to cram into the next few months. This young man is a standout prospect, we know that. We also know that come the springtime, he’ll be coveted and still relatively fresh to the process.

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Tide hoops recruiting: What now? 

September, 19, 2012
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Anthony BarberCourtesy of Reggie RankinAnthony Barber's commitment to North Carolina State has Alabama readjusting its basketball recruiting board quite a bit.
In 2013, point guard was supposed to be a priority for the University of Alabama’s recruiting class, but over the weekend, the Crimson Tide lost two top targets as five-star Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber committed to North Carolina State and combo guard Rashawn Powell committed to Memphis. UA was a finalist for each recruit.

The Alabama coaching staff had also been in contact with ESPN 100 point guards Kendal Harris and Jaren Sina, but Harris committed to USC and Sina gave a verbal pledge to Northwestern. Now, the Tide are still searching for their floor general of the future.

Missing out on Barber and Powell hurts, but it doesn’t take away from a good class that still has the potential to be a great class. Alabama already has commitments from 6-foot-10 center Jimmie Taylor and ESPN 100 forward Shannon Hale, and it's not done. Here’s a look at some of the top prospects available and interested in the Tide.

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Rashawn Powell expected to decide Saturday 

September, 14, 2012
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ESPN 100 point guard Rashawn Powell (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) is expected to announce his decision on Saturday (Sept. 15) at 12 pm ET. The news was confirmed to ESPN.com by his AAU coach, Diana Neal.

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There are are two types of visits high school prospects can make to colleges recruiting them: the "official visit," which is paid for by the school and allowed during a prospect's senior year, and the "unofficial visit," which is paid for by the prospect and isn't restricted to the senior year. Official visits are pretty cut and dry. They are also -- given the modern recruiting trend of prospects committing to schools early in their careers -- passÚ.

The imbalance this rule causes -- wherein prospects from wealthy families can go anywhere and see any school, while prospects of limited means have to find other ways -- is obvious. That imbalance has also placed an undue amount of influence on the unofficial visit, providing a way in for infamously scurrilous prep hoops go-betweens, who can offer influence and access to schools in exchange for helping prospects find their way to campuses. It's not supposed to happen, but it does, and it no doubt happens more frequently than is ever reported.

How do you regulate this? Bylaw Blog's John Infante (along with the aforelinked Mike DeCourcy) has taken on the issue before, arguing that unofficial visits should be banned. The issue is not uncomplicated, as Infante's explanation shows; it would involve a ream of rule changes and restructuring to avoid negative unintentional consequences. The solutions aren't obvious.

Which is why a third way -- which Infante wrote about Thursday -- sounds so very promising. In a landscape in which prospects' increasing willingness to be aggressive in their own pursuit of a college scholarship (the "good old days" of prospects waiting around for coaches to come visit are over, and "probably never existed" in the first place, John writes), some are using Kickstarter-clone web fundraising tools. One such player is football prospect Marcus Rose, who began his own Indiegogo campaign to help pay his way to a camp. And it's legal:
Rose’s fundraising campaign used to be against NCAA rules, but is now allowed by Bylaw 12.1.2.1.4.5.1. As long as the funds do not come from an agent, NCAA member institution, or a booster of an NCAA school, athletes can find “sponsors” to help cover the cost of practice and competition in athletics events.

As of right now, fundraising for recruiting travel is not permitted. While you could put the same restrictions in, there is a much greater temptation to break those rules for boosters and agents when it means the chance to direct an athlete to a certain school rather than just to finance their athletic development. Allowing for fundraising campaigns without close regulation would be difficult.

First of all, that bylaw -- 12.1.2.1.4.5.1 -- is amazing. And people wonder why the NCAA rule book requires so much explanation.

Anyway, it would be very difficult to allow athletes to start raising money directly for recruiting, but not impossible, and that's where John's other idea comes in:
The NCAA could run a fundraising site where athletes could sign up to get recruiting expenses like trips to camps or unofficial visits covered. The best way to do it would be not to allow individual fundraising campaigns, but rather allow individuals to donate collectively to the athletes in the pool. That way money is not directed toward an individual athlete, even if say a recruit considering Kentucky encourages Kentucky fans to contribute.

Prospects would be given the funds for recruiting trips, then required to show the money was spent on recruiting expenses like travel, lodging, and meals. Failure to do so would require the prospect pay the money back and potentially face other penalties when he or she starts school.
This is a pretty great idea. Of course, it would include a gazillion minor contingencies in need of resolution, and it would be yet another major regulatory challenge for the NCAA, and the organization is pretty much swamped as it is. But if the NCAA is serious about limiting or removing unofficial visits altogether -- or at least reducing the influence unofficial visits allow third parties to wield -- a large fundraising pool could help bring things above board. Everybody in the pool!

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