For a brief time on Saturday afternoon, it was once again cool to commit. There was a run on commitments like we haven’t seen all year. It began at noon with Rashawn Powell (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and carried into the evening when Illinois secured arguably the most important commitment of the weekend.
Ranking the top three weekend pledges is a blossoming tradition. Will these new courtships resemble those of Kris and Kim, Ocho and Evelyn or Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith?
ESPN 100 SG Kendrick Nunn (Chicago/Simeon)
Committed to Illinois
Guys will try and say that in order to win big at Illinois you don’t need to recruit Chicago. Whatever, dude. Ever heard of Derrick Rose or Anthony Davis? One played in the title game, the other won it. Both left the Windy City and played for John Calipari.
John Groce knows Chicago is important. Heck, he won two NCAA games last year at Ohio on the back of D.J. Cooper, a Chicago native. Groce isn’t going to get Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon) in the Class of 2013 but he needed to turn on the tap quickly as the head coach in Champaign.
Nunn, No. 56 overall, is a good player. He’s Hershel Walker strong, very tough and athletic as a slasher/finisher. Marquette really wanted him. The Golden Eagles once signed a guy out of Chicago. Dwyane or something was his name. Anyway, he plays for the Heat now.
Cooper gave Groce street cred in Chicago and the hiring of assistant Paris Parham helped with the city’s power brokers. Nunn’s a high-profile kid who has the respect of his peers and his pledge could carry weight.
“We talked about that a lot, me him and his dad,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “We felt like a lot of guys wanted to play with him. When it came down to it, he wanted to set a trend and hopefully it continues. He wasn’t afraid to take a chance. He believes in the coach and the staff. He thinks some people will come with him and play.”
ESPN 100 PG Anthony Barber (Hampton, Va./Hampton)
Committed to NC State
The last great point guard out of Hampton High wasn't Allen Iverson (he went to Bethel), it’s Ronald Curry. Yeah, the guy who played wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders after flaming out as a quarterback. Curry went to North Carolina, Barber’s going to NC State. At UNC, Curry knew he’d play with a ton of McDonald’s All-Americans. Guess what? Barber knows the same thing. Who knew?
In the fall of 2013, it’s possible that three of the Pack’s top four backcourt players are alums of the McDonald’s All-American game. In the 10 years before Mark Gottfried landed in Raleigh, the Pack had five McDonald’s game participants. Last year, Gottfried signed three himself and Barber’s got an excellent chance to be the fourth. Tyler Lewis, Rodney Purvis and Ralston Turner (not a burger boy) will welcome Barber.
NC State doesn’t have anyone on the roster like Barber, known as "Cat" for his elusive speed. This kid can get in the lane and get after it. Hard to guard, speedy and strong, Barber’s battle tested. You win the ACC, you typically have a pro at the point or at the very least, someone who can exert maximum pressure on defenses.
ESPN 100 C Moses Kingsley (New Albany, Miss./Huntington Prep)
Committed to Arkansas
Moses Kingsley must really, really like Arkansas because that place had to be a morgue once the Crimson Tide annihilated the Hogs 52-0. Kingsley, who took his official visit alongside travel teammate and Hogs commit Bobby Portis (Little Rock, Ark./Hall), to the disappointment of many college coaches, committed while on campus.
Trust me, guys are heated over this one because plenty of coaches wanted to get this kid on their campus. Here’s the deal on Kingsley. Last year, he was a Dikembe Mutombo type of center; all defense, no offense. This spring and summer, Kingsley came out of his shell. He took open midrange shots, making enough to raise an eyebrow. With his confidence brimming, his offense in the lane started to look better. There are few bigs in this class you will toss it to in the paint and ask them to score but Kingsley showed he’s not merely a defender. He’s more than capable offensively, especially in the second half of his collegiate career.
Arkansas, under Mike Anderson, isn’t loud on the recruiting trail. However, the Hogs are dare we say quietly giving the program a shot in the arm of talent.
Below the radar commitment of the weekend
The farthest west Massachusetts ventured for a player on is roster is Texas. Derek Kellogg got one out of Louisiana as well, but California?
Entering the pivotal July recruiting period, wing Seth Berger (Seattle, Wash./Ballard) didn’t have a firm scholarship offer. I thought he was one of the best basketball players -- emphasis on basketball player -- at the Reebok Breakout Challenge. UMass assistant coach Adam Ginsburg happened to be watching the same game I was and the rest is history.
This kid has good size for a small forward. At Reebok he was actually screening to help other guys get shots. Didn’t anyone instruct him on the selfish play or camp protocol? In a chaotic setting, his basketball brain and attention to detail stood out. Two months following his breakout Reebok performance he offered up a commitment to UMass. Neat story.