It’s been a mild winter for many Americans. Last year’s prodigious snowfalls have been replaced by warmer temperatures and fewer flakes. I never thought I’d been comparing the winter to recruiting but hey, it’s applicable this time around.
Mild winter, mild recruiting season. There hasn’t been a lot of action on the recruiting front. The most significant news was last month’s re-reclassification of Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton School) into the senior class. Then there was Ricardo Gathers (LaPlace, La./Riverside) picking Baylor. Other than that, no serious recruiting news has blown onto the radar.
Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad
The big boys, Nerlens and Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) are beginning to awake and generate some news but we aren’t preparing to batten down the hatches just yet.
Noel visited Syracuse last weekend where he was greeted by a few hundred students sporting their own version of his flattop. This weekend, he’ll be in Kentucky auditioning for the job of Anthony Davis’ replacement.
On Feb. 24, Muhammad is set to take his second official visit, wisely picking the Missouri/Kansas game for his trip to Lawrence. OK, maybe he didn’t because I’m guessing Kansas coach Bill Self picked that electric atmosphere for him. The visit will be Muhammad's second official; Texas A&M was the first. Since the A&M visit, barely a whisper can be heard regarding the Aggies. Next month, there’s a little game in Durham involving UNC and Duke and we expect Shabazz to be courtside for that one. He’s doing it right. The best only comes out for the best matchups and he’s using his trips wisely. By the way, Shabazz was in the crowd for UNLV’s upset of UNC so again, he schedules wisely.
Down in Georgia, big man Tony Parker (Lithonia, Ga./Miller Grove) has navigated the recruiting process fairly quietly. In fact, there’s been more speculation than actual news regarding Parker. The big storm hit in January when Kentucky tossed its name into the ring. Word out of Georgia this week is that Parker wants his decision to be a “surprise.” What surprise means is anyone’s guess. Going across the country to UCLA (perceived to be in good shape) wouldn’t be a huge shocker. Picking Duke, that’s not a surprise either. Ohio State, well, he said he’s always liked them. You know what would be a surprise at this point? Staying close to home and playing for Georgia. No, I don’t have any inside information, I’m just saying …
Anyone notice that Las Vegas is the hub for high-level talent these days? Between Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep there are three top-10 seniors and between five and seven high-major signees from the Class of 2012 alone. And we wonder why UNLV is about to go on a recruiting run. Anthony Bennett (Toronto, Can./Findlay Prep) hasn’t taken a single official visit yet and things are about to become complicated. We expect him to pick either Florida or Kentucky for an official visit in March. “To be honest, I’m still looking at five,” Bennett said on Thursday. “It’s a hard decision and I’m trying to take all my visits.”
While he’s got a big list and I believe his intentions are sincere, I don’t see Bennett taking all five official visits; that’s my gut feeling. Oregon, Washington and UNLV are the other teams. Remember, April is a busier month than it’s been in the past with coaches out on the recruiting trail, so in order for a staff to sacrifice an entire recruiting weekend to host a visitor, they’re going to have to believe they are a major factor. They could also find a way to bring him in during the week so they can still have the weekend to evaluate and be seen with the next group of kids.
And then there’s Amile Jefferson (Philadelphia, Pa./Friends Central). There’s been a buzz regarding his decision. I’d have thought that by now he would have picked between Duke, NC State, Villanova, Ohio State and Kentucky. However, I think he’s having a tough time telling colleges “no.” There’s also chatter that like Parker’s recruitment, the entire family isn’t on the same page. When there’s cognitive dissonance, plus a young man who is wired to please making the final call, the actual deliberation process tends to take more time.
Devonta Pollard (DeKalb, Miss./Kemper County) also clicked off a pair of official visits already. Texas, which has a good buzz going, hosted him first. Missouri followed up with an official and Georgetown is on tap for Feb. 25.
Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi State remain on his list. Rick Stansbury’s Bulldogs are strong in there. Stay tuned.