How Briante Weber ended up at VCU 

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
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Believe it or not, Shaka Smart's presence didn't always loom so large on the recruiting trail.

While he's made a habit of out-recruiting high-major programs in recent years, that was hardly the case when he first arrived at VCU, and in the case of senior guard Briante Weber, it was anything but the case.

Weber may be the reigning two-time defensive player of the year in the Atlantic 10 and a preseason pick for the league's all-conference team, but he didn't have a single Division I scholarship offer to his name when he finished his senior season at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Some of the nation’s best prospects are known for their athletic ability, size or basketball IQ, but most elite high school players are known nationally because of their offensive gifts. There is another way to impact a game, and that’s by playing outstanding defense. There are many aspects to being a good defender, and it requires a ton of determination and effort and a certain mindset to get the job done.

Let's take a look at the five best defenders in the senior class and how their defense affects the outcome of a game.


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Heading into the 2014-15 season, Virginia is being discussed among the top teams in the country (No. 9 in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings), and coach Tony Bennett is regarded as one of the better coaches in the loaded ACC. The momentum has carried over to the recruiting trail, too: Bennett is recruiting to his system, finding players that fit, and landing high-major transfers.

But it didn’t always line up perfectly for Bennett and Virginia. Four members of his six-player 2010 class -- his first full recruiting class with the Cavaliers -- transferred. Three of his first four top-100 recruits left the program.

[+] EnlargeTony Bennett
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesTony Bennett has made a habit of locking down guys early in the recruiting process.
It took awhile for Bennett to really find his groove in Charlottesville, but he has been very good with unheralded prospects and under-recruited, back-end top-100 players. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell were both three-star prospects coming out of high school but had terrific four-year careers for the Cavaliers. Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey were top-100 prospects but have bought into their roles in Virginia’s system. Anthony Gill transferred in from South Carolina but had no qualms playing a bench role behind Mitchell and Tobey last season.

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Texas A&M turns heads with 2015 class 

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
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When Tyler Davis chose Texas A&M over the likes of Kansas and Arizona back in August, it was met with a collective eyebrow raise.

Even by some of those closest to him.

"Some people were disappointed, even in my own family," Davis told ESPN.com. "They were like, ‘Why would you go there?'"

The surprises continued over the past two months, as Texas A&M has picked up three more commitments from 2015 ESPN 100 prospects to earn the No. 2 recruiting class in the country up to this point. Following Davis (No. 20) were D.J. Hogg (No. 35), Admon Gilder (No. 64) and last Tuesday, Elijah Thomas (No. 29).

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Small forward Markis McDuffie, ranked No. 92 in the 2015 ESPN 100, has committed to Wichita State after also considering VCU, SMU and Boston College. Let's take a look at what McDuffie will add to the Wichita State program.


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Isaiah Briscoe, the No. 13 prospect in the 2015 ESPN 100, told ESPN he has cut his list of schools down to three: St. John's, UConn and Kentucky. Seton Hall, Rutgers and Missouri were cut from his list.

Very few players showed as well as Briscoe in the offseason. The Union, New Jersey, native changed his body and converted to a legitimate point guard, making plays for others as he demonstrated the ability to lead the New Jersey Playaz to a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) championship at the Peach Jam.

As we approach the early signing period (Nov. 12-19), Briscoe discussed each school.


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After winning a gold medal with USA Basketball this past summer, Ivan Rabb, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 100, narrowed his list of finalists. The No. 3 power forward in the senior class told ESPN.com he will focused on Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. Georgetown and North Carolina were cut from the list.


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Scout's Take: Kerwin Roach to Texas 

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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On his 18th birthday, ESPN 100 shooting guard Kerwin Roach made his college decision and picked Texas over Wichita State and California. During Roach's junior year he had one only scholarship offer and that was from Rice, but during this past summer he performed extremely well at various camps and events and his recruiting blew up. This gives Longhorns coach Rick Barnes his fourth ESPN 100 player in the past two years. Let's breakdown Roach's game and see what he will bring to the Longhorns.


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Weekly commitment update

October, 24, 2014
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The following is a list of commitments made to Division I schools from Oct. 17-23:

ACC
Virginia
Kyle Guy PG
HT: 6-2 WT: 165
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 8
Stars: 4
ESPN 60: 39

Clemson
Legend Robertin C
HT: 7-0 WT: 220
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

SEC
Texas A&M

Elijah Thomas C
HT: 6-9 WT: 230
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 8
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 29

Florida
Keith Stone SF
HT: 6-7 WT: 240
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 18
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 100

Pac 12
Stanford

Josh Sharma C
HT: 6-11 WT: 205
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 13
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 75

Washington
Devenir Duruisseau PF
HT: 6-9 WT: 240
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Post Grad

Malik Dime PF
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Big Ten
Maryland
Jaylen Brantley PG
HT: 5-10 WT: 160
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Nebraska
Isaiah Roby SF
HT: 6-7 WT: 185
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

American Athletic Conference
Memphis

Randall Broddie PG
HT: 6-2 WT: 165
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 30
Stars: 3

East Carolina
Clarence Williams PF
HT: 6-8 WT: 200
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Tulane
Blake Paul C
HT: 6-9 WT: 225
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

SMU
LeGerald Vick SG
HT: 6-5 WT: 185
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 38
Stars: 4

Big 12
Texas Tech
C.J. Williamson Jr. SG
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Oklahoma State
Tre Evans PG
HT: 6-1 WT: 165
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Oklahoma
Christian James SF
HT: 6-5 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 23
Stars: 4

Baylor
Wendell Mitchell SG
HT: 6-3 WT: 175
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 48
Stars: 3

Atlantic 10
La Salle
Karl Harris SG
HT: 6-4 WT: 170
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Conference USA
Old Dominion
Payton Pervier C
HT: 7-1 WT: 250
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

MAC
Ohio
Gavin Block SG
HT: 6-5 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Mountain West Conference
Colorado State
Nico Carvacho PF
HT: 6-10
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Air Force
Keegan Culp SF
HT: 6-6 WT: 195
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big Sky Conference
Eastern Washington
Michael Wearne PG
HT: 6-1 WT: 180
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Australia

Southern Utah
Will Joyce SF
HT: 6-5
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Brayden Holker PF
HT: 6-8 WT: 215
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Big South Conference
Coastal Carolina
Jeremy Harris SF
HT: 6-7 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

Christian Adams SG
HT: 6-4 WT: 190
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Kevin Holmes Jr. SF
HT: 6-8 WT: 175
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big West Conference
Cal State Fullerton
Khalil Ahmad SG
HT: 6-4 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

Colonial Athletic Association
Northeastern
Jeremy Miller PF
HT: 6-9 WT: 200
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

Missouri Valley Conference
Evansville
Harris Brown PG
HT: 5-11
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Loyola (Ill.)
Pernell Adgei SF
HT: 6-7
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

WAC
Texas-Pan American
Dylan Smith SG
HT: 6-5 WT: 170
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Cal State Bakersfield
Justin Pride PG
HT: 5-10 WT: 190
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Texas-Pan American
William Brooks C
HT: 7-0 WT: 210
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MEAC
Bethune-Cookman
JaQuan Harrison SG
HT: 6-3
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Coppin State
Darius Speaks SG
HT: 6-4
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Izais Hicks PF
HT: 6-8 WT: 200
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Norfolk State
Moses Toriola C
HT: 6-10 WT: 215
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Maryland-Eastern Shore
Ahmad Frost SG
HT: 6-1 WT: 190
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Florida A&M
K'Ja Johnson SG
HT: 6-2 WT: 170
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ohio Valley Conference
Jacksonville State
Andre Statam SF
HT: 6-6
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Morehead State
Malik Maitland PG
HT: 5-11 WT: 170
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 42
Stars: 3

Patriot League
Lehigh
Caleb Sedore PF
HT: 6-9 WT: 215
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 1

Navy
Will Lienhard PF
HT: 6-8 WT: 245
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Summit League
North Dakota State
Deng Geu PF
HT: 6-9
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

South Dakota
Dan Jech PF
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Nebraska-Omaha
Zach Pirog C
HT: 6-9 WT: 200
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Southern Conference
Chattanooga
Austin Donaldson SG
HT: 6-2
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Atlantic Sun
USC Upstate
Deion Holmes SG
HT: 6-3 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
Hartford
J.R. Lynch PG
HT: 5-9
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Maine
Lavar Harewood SG
HT: 6-3
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MAAC
Monmouth
Chris Atkinson PG
HT: 5-10 WT: 165
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Sun Belt Conference
Texas-Arlington
Racine Talla PF
HT: 6-8 WT: 195
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Louisiana-Lafayette
Corey Davis PG
HT: 6-2
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Tyrone Wooten SG
HT: 6-4 WT: 180
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

West Coast Conference
San Diego
Hunter Summy SG
HT: 6-3
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Northeast Conference
Sacred Heart
Jermaine Ukaegbu SF
HT: 6-5
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending
UCLA may already have a pair of ESPN 100 commitments on the books in the class of 2015, but the next two weeks will go a long way toward determining the ultimate strength of the class.

For Steve Alford to return the program to the level that UCLA was once known for, and still expects to be, the second-year head coach needs five-star recruits who can come in and be difference makers from Day 1. He also needs to make a habit of getting them on an annual basis.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Ingram
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourLanding Brandon Ingram would go a long way to solidify UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
Kevon Looney was that type of guy last year. 2016 commit Lonzo Ball is similarly impressive.

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When Chris Collins was named as the new head coach at Northwestern in March of 2013, one of his first priorities was Victor Law, a four-star prospect from St. Rita (Ill.). At the time, Law was leaning elsewhere, but Collins knew he had to sit down with Law and make a final pitch.

He met with Law and Law's father, and the two sides immediately connected. The Wildcats were squarely back in the mix.

"Vic's biggest question the day he spoke to Chris was, 'Coach, do you believe in Chris Collins?'" said Gary DeCesare, Law's former coach at St. Rita. "I said, 'Absolutely. I believe he will get it done.'"


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ESPN 100 big man Josh Sharma made a verbal commitment to Stanford on Tuesday, just two days after wrapping up his official visit. Sharma had previously narrowed his list to Stanford, Boston College, and Wisconsin. Here's a look at what Sharma brings to the Cardinal:

Why he committed: Sharma is a unique prospect who combines a high ceiling on the basketball floor with an already high academic profile. "I was definitely looking for a high academic school with great basketball," Sharma told ESPN.com. "So what other school than Stanford? They just have so much to offer." The fact that Sharma's game might actually be a better fit in the Pac-12 also wasn't totally lost on him, even if that wasn't the primary driving force behind his decision.

What he brings: He's 6-foot-11, runs the floor like a deer, and gets above the rim with extraordinary athleticism for a player his size. While he hasn't necessarily turned potential into production quite as quickly as some would like, that's not uncommon for big men, and he's made clear strides in recent years. His most immediate contribution will be as a shot-blocker, while he'll also add value as a rim-runner and finisher. Long term though, he's the type of prospect who could really blossom as he continues to develop his skills and establishes an identity to his offensive game.

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Defense might win championships, but the only way to get back and set your defense is to to score points on a consistent basis.

The best scorers in basketball can produce when the pace is frenetic or when it slows down against an organized defense. The best scorers create space for themselves by using dribble moves, jab steps, operating on ball screens, or by reading off-ball screens and cutting to get open.

When the scoreboard needs to change, these five prospects will deliver.


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Center Elijah Thomas, ranked No. 29 in the ESPN 100, committed to Texas A&M on Tuesday over finalists LSU, Illinois, SMU and Oklahoma State. Thomas gives Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy his fourth ESPN 100 prospect from the state of Texas in the 2015 class. Let's take a look at what Thomas will bring to the A&M program:


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It was clear several weeks ago that ESPN 100 small forward Keith Stone was zeroing in on Florida. From an outside perspective, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Zion Lutheran (Florida) product officially popped for the Gators. And that moment came on Monday night, as Stone chose Florida over South Carolina and VCU. Here is a look at what Stone will bring to Gainesville:


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