Help is on the way for Big Ten 

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
videoTalent continues to pour into this power conference as the Big Ten has 13 ESPN 100 prospects coming in along with five top-40 classes. Help is on the way for next season.

Most impactful class: Ohio State

It’s a class (ranked No. 5) of three top-100 players and one top-100 player from 2014 as this group possesses both quality and quantity. The class doesn't have a current superstar, but it does have a collection of really good players who all bring unique skills and will grow with the program.

Austin Grandstaff (No. 50) provides an instant outside shooter who will open up the post and driving lines for his teammates. Daniel Giddens (No. 56) brings a physical, athletic presence to the paint as he will look to block shots, rebound and finish at the rim. If Giddens develops offensively, the Buckeyes could have an all-league player in the frontcourt.

With the departure of Shannon Scott and D'Angelo Russell playing himself into a potential high lottery pick, A.J. Harris (No. 76) will come in and orchestrate the offense with blinding speed and quickness. Mickey Mitchell adds toughness and versatility, and he is a ball mover as he passes often. A big X factor for the Buckeyes could be point guard Jaquan Lyle (who decommitted from both Louisville and Oregon before a post-graduate year at IMG Academy). If he is focused and in top physical condition, his feel for the game is advanced.

If you know anything about ESPN 100 big man Cheick Diallo (No. 11) it’s that he’s known for his high motor and athleticism. He runs and jumps with ease, brings tremendous energy to the floor and is an outstanding defender. But what does that equate to in terms of how he’ll be utilized at the college level? Here’s an idea of what to expect next season, regardless of where he ends up.

On offense

The big knock on Diallo is that he hasn’t refined his interior skill set, particularly with his back to the basket. The reality, though, is that most college teams don’t look to post their bigs nearly as consistently as they used to, instead using them more in pick-and-roll or catch-and-finish situations.

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A closer look at Cheick Diallo 

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
video The late signing period for the 2015 class is drawing near. In the coming weeks, we’re going to take a deeper dive into each of the uncommitted players in the top 25 of the ESPN 100.

Next up:

Cheick Diallo
6-foot-9, 225 pounds | Power forward
Centereach, New York | Our Savior New American School
No. 11 overall (No. 4 PF)

Recruitment so far

Potential schools
Pittsburgh -- Official visit: Jan. 26, 2014
Kentucky -- Official visit: June 27, 2014
Kansas -- Official visit: Sept. 19, 2014
Iowa State -- Official visit: Sept. 27, 2014
St. John's -- Official visit: Oct. 17, 2014

Diallo has had a fairly even recruitment thus far, especially the past year. The native of Mali really saw his stock boom after dominating the NBPA Top 100 camp after his sophomore year in high school, and high-majors from all over became involved. Diallo doesn’t talk to the media much, so there aren’t too many hints being given out about where he’s leaning. He’s been focused on Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa State and St. John’s for the past several months, but it’s hard to gauge a true leader.

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ESPN 60 power forward Omari Spellman made a verbal commitment Friday to Villanova, giving the Wildcats one of the premier power forwards in the 2016 national class.

Why he committed: Spellman has been to Villanova unofficially on multiple occasions, the last of which came two weeks ago when he and his mother attended the Georgetown game. His commitment Friday coincided with his mother's birthday.

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We recently caught up with ESPN 60 point guard Dennis Smith Jr. -- who is No. 4 overall in the class of 2016 and the No.-1 ranked point guard in the class -- for a chat about where he is at in the recruiting process as his junior high school season comes to a close.

The five-star Smith is a strong and physical true point guard with tremendous basketball instincts who has elite play-making ability that allows him to not only run the team and get teammates involved but score in variety of ways. The program that ultimately lands Smith will have an immediate impact player at the most important position on the court.

RecruitingNation: What schools have offered you so far that you are most serious about?
Dennis Smith Jr.: I have offers from North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, Kansas, Louisville, Miami, Ohio State, Florida and local Fayetteville State.

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Two years before he was the NBA Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams had a hard time getting off the bench during his freshman year at Syracuse.

In fact, there were 11 games that season when he didn’t get off the bench at all, stuck in a deep and veteran-laden backcourt that included Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters.

Not coincidentally, Syracuse won the Big East regular season championship and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.

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Duke and North Carolina wrote the latest chapter in their legendary rivalry on Wednesday night with the Blue Devils mounting a late rally to force overtime and ultimately steal a victory with five of the country’s top recruits sitting courtside.

ESPN 100 center Caleb Swanigan (No. 8) was in town for his official visit while No. 23 Luke Kennard -- who signed with Duke in November -- was on campus unofficially.

The Blue Devils also hosted three top ESPN 60 prospects, including No. 2 Harry Giles, No. 4 Dennis Smith Jr., and No. 11 Derryck Thornton, all of whom were on campus unofficially as well. caught up with all four unsigned prospects, or their parents, before the day was out.

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While it might not have been the clear-cut announcement some were hoping for, Wednesday morning brought the next step in Thon Maker’s recruitment.

The elite high school prospect announced on Twitter that he was “on track to graduate this year” -- meaning he’s moving forward with the plan to reclassify from 2016 into the senior class.

Maker was one of the top prospects in the junior class, but the possibility of reclassifying has been a major story on the recruiting circuit for the past several months. Ed Smith, Maker’s guardian, came out multiple times throughout the process and said the plan was for Maker to reclassify and graduate high school in the spring.

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Help is on the way for the American 

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
videoThe American Athletic Conference is in its second year of existence, and it is coming off a national championship with UConn leading the way. Now, the conference is looking to build on that momentum on the recruiting trail.

Help is on the way for next season as the conference's teams have secured seven ESPN 100 prospects and four top-40 classes.

Most impactful class: Memphis

The Lawson brothers Dedric and K.J. are the stars of this three-man class, which ranks at No. 11. These local prospects will bring both potential and productivity to the Tigers.

They each will bring high-level versatility that will give head coach Josh Pastner options in the press and in the half court. K.J. (No. 44) is the better shooter and rebounder while Dedric (No. 26) is more comfortable inside the arc shooting and finishing. Because of their length, athletic ability and scoring instincts, combined with Pastner's pressing style, expect this pair to make heavy contributions and an immediate impact in their first season.

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A closer look at Brandon Ingram 

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
videoThe late signing period for the 2015 class is drawing near. Over the coming weeks, we’re going to take a deeper dive into each of the uncommitted players in the top 25 of the ESPN 100.

We begin with:

Brandon Ingram
6-foot-8, 180 pounds | Small Forward
Kinston, North Carolina | Kinston High School
No. 12 overall (No. 2 SF)

Recruitment so far

Potential schools
North Carolina -- Official visit: January 26, 2014
Duke -- Official visit: August 7, 2014
UCLA -- Official visit: October 24, 2014
Kansas -- Official visit: October 10, 2014
Kentucky -- Official visit: October 17, 2014
NC State

For the early stages of his recruitment, most thought Ingram would end up staying home, at either North Carolina or Duke. The Blue Devils made an impression on him, while the Tar Heels had the pipeline: Former UNC wings Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock both went to Kinston, and Ingram also played on Stackhouse’s AAU team. Over the past few months, though, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA have all gained ground -- as Ingram took visits to all three schools. North Carolina State is also in the mix.

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When college coaches run out of good options in the senior class, they are forced to get creative.

They can mine the junior-college market, explore immediately-eligible transfers or look for overseas prospects who can make an impact.

Another increasingly popular strategy in recent years has been to look for juniors open to the idea of reclassifying, heading to college a year earlier than planned.

Top prospects such as Andre Drummond, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Noah Vonleh are just a few of the most recent examples.

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Four star power forward Ted Kapita ended his recruitment on Thursday, committing to head coach Mike Anderson and the Arkansas Razorbacks over offers from Missouri, Memphis, South Florida and Kansas among others.

Here's a look at what the ESPN 100 prospect will bring to Arkansas.

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Help is on the way for Pac-12 

February, 11, 2015
Feb 11
Last season, the Pac-12 lost a lot of talent to graduation and the NBA draft, and it's showing with only two ranked teams as of this week. The conference certainly appears to have made some strong inroads on the recruiting trail this year as there are six 2015 classes in our top 40 and thirteen ESPN 100 players coming in next season. We've identified the help that's coming for other major conferences. Now let's take a look at the Pac-12.

Most impactful class: Arizona

The Wildcats boast the nation's No. 2 class because of star power, quality and depth that will come into Tucson. When you break down Sean Miller’s class, it’s a combination of terrific positional size, scoring ability and versatility. Allonzo Trier (No. 15) can score as well as anyone in the class in the open floor or against set defense by driving, creating fouls and making deep and mid-range jump shots. People will see that he is a very underrated passer. Justin Simon (No. 37) brings athletic ability and height to the backcourt to play and defend the point guard spot. Ray Smith (No. 28) has freakish athletic ability at the small forward spot and will be coming off a torn ACL. Chance Comanche (No. 90) is a lean post with bounce to rebound, block shots and make shots. This class has an abundance of talent and will flex its muscles in the Pac-12.

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Harry Giles -- the No. 2 player in the 2016 ESPN 60 -- has cut his list to eight, and I spoke with him last night about his choices.

The recruiting process was beginning to get overwhelming for Giles, who is back from an ACL and MCL tear he suffered in 2013.

“My season is about to end, and I wanted to get this out of the way. The recruiting was getting crazy," he said. "I still will have to cut this list again before my senior year.”

He had some hard decisions to make along the way.

"The two hardest schools to cut were NC State and Baylor," Giles said.

While he was injured, schools such as Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina still continued to recruit him hard, and it paid off for those programs.

Here is what he had to say about his choices:

"I went to Countdown to Cameron Crazies, and it was a crazy atmosphere. Coach K is amazing, and he coached the USA team, and he has coached players with my type of versatility (Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Justise Winslow). I like how Coach K changes the system up to his players, and Duke is close to home."

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One of the hottest players in the country regardless of class is ESPN 60 point guard Kobi Simmons who is having a tremendous junior season and was terrific when we saw him at the City of Palms Classic in late December. Simmons climbed in our rankings from No. 19 to where he currently sits at No. 5. Simmons is also the top 2016 player in the talent-rich state of Georgia.

Simmons' recruiting is picking up, and don't expect that trend to change anytime soon for the long, athletic, five-star guard.

"I have been offered by Ohio State, North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Xavier, Cincinnati, USC, LSU and Florida State among others," Simmons said.

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