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Insider

Johnson getting close; Pollard going late

10/24/2011

Big one to fall on Wednesday

On Wednesday, No. 25 Brice Johnson (Edisto, S.C./Edisto) will make his collegiate decision. The last teams standing are North Carolina, Florida, NC State and Clemson. Barring an upset, I’d feel confident I could get his choices narrowed to a pair.

Clemson’s been trying to get him on campus for an official visit. Johnson said on Sunday he’s not taking an official to Clemson, which is not great news for the Tigers. You’d have to think if he was going to pick Clemson over the rest of the field, he’d give them some burn at the end of his recruitment. Didn’t happen so we move Clemson to the No. 4 position in his recruitment.

NC State was his first official visit but there’s been little talk of the Pack getting him. Typically, if someone is going to best UNC and Florida for a recruit, they aren’t going to come out of nowhere to do it. Because I have yet to speak with anyone in the know who thinks the Pack is in a position to get Johnson, we’ll hand them the bronze medal.

Now the interesting part of the decision: North Carolina vs. Florida. The Gators were aggressive in their pursuit and went very hard after Johnson in July. They were on him well before his spring series of blowups and laid strong groundwork in his recruitment. They could get him. North Carolina is North Carolina and coach Roy Williams decided in July to make a play for him. The whispers favor the Tar Heels but the reality is, while Johnson said he’s made up his mind, he’s not telling until Wednesday. Could go either way, but we’ll handicap UNC as the slight favorite. I’d tell you if I had great information; instead I’m telling you stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Johnson’s important because of his skill, length and ability to block shots. At this point in the recruiting year, high-major schools would settle for any one of those traits. Physically he’s going to need the keys to the weight room and as many peanut butter protein shakes as he can put down. The upside is strong and he’s closing his high school career on a high note and that’s always a promising sign.

Another top 25 recruit will sign late

I haven’t seen Devonta Pollard (DeKalb, Miss./Kemper Co.) play football but I’m guessing he looks a lot like Plaxico Burress. Picture throwing the end zone fade to a 6-foot-7 athlete over a high school cornerback. That mismatch produced 12 touchdowns already this year for Pollard. There’s one significant difference between Burress and Pollard: Devonta’s not thinking football long term.

Pollard’s also not thinking decision during the fall period. “If I sign early, I don’t want to sign with the wrong school,” Pollard said. “This way (by waiting) I can sit down and look at everything.”

Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgetown, NC State and Missouri are the main players at this stage. There’s bound to be more traffic as the year unfolds and top tier schools miss out on targets. This is a supreme athlete who improved his jump shot. He’s also a great story.

In addition to Pollard waiting for the spring period, we know Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) will join him and power forward Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Ont./Findlay) seems to be in no rush either. Shaq Goodwin (Decatur, Ga./SW Dekalb) and Jarnell Stokes (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind) are top 25 recruits who could also wait. T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster) is a possibility for a winter pledge and spring signing. Translation: Pollard’s going to have some company in the spring.

Buggs vs. Clark

Tuesday night is the annual Oak Hill/Hargrave scrimmage. Unfortunately, I’ll miss it for only the second time in the last 15 years. Tomorrow night’s game is a valuable evaluation opportunity for two different forwards. Charles Buggs (Arlington, Tex./Hargrave) and Darion Clark (Conyers, Ga./Oak Hill) are different prospects, each with something to prove.

Buggs arrived at Hargrave without much of a high school résumé to go with an athletic frame and tantalizing skill set. Clark came to Oak Hill after a so-so spring and summer. His arrival wasn’t heralded as Oak Hill has five ESPNU 100 prospects. However, Clark clearly has something to prove.

My question in this matchup of heralded programs is which big man is going to impact the game? Clark isn’t big but he’s got a motor that has been running high this fall at Oak Hill. He visited Rhode Island and UNC-Asheville, Charlotte, NC State, South Carolina and Georgia Tech are displaying varying degrees of interest. Buggs has Arkansas and Minnesota -- in addition to others -- on him.

Buggs is a high-major prospect but is he a high-major player as a freshman? Tuesday’s matchup will be against a frontline that includes Purdue commit A.J. Hammons (Carmel, Ind./Oak Hill) in addition to Clark. He and Montrezl Harrell (Tarboro, N.C./Hargrave) have to at least hold serve.

Clark on the other hand will be a good player provided he remembers why people like him. At 6-6 he cannot afford to take plays off or lose his edge. What got him to where he is now is an intense desire to rebound and create havoc on the glass. Can he do it versus Harrell, a Virginia Tech commit, and Buggs? This is the first of many tests for Clark and one that will also set the expectations for Buggs as well.