What to watch: Simeon vs. St. Rita 

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
Friday’s matchup features two of the best teams in Chicago: St. Rita and nationally ranked Simeon (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). There will be a wealth of Division I signees and prospects participating, and bragging rights are at stake. Here is what to watch for.


"Don't recruit. Get."

It's the motto used by Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin and his coaching staff and almost an unofficial slogan for the way in which they approach recruiting.

"It essentially means that we don't want to talk about things that don't matter in the recruiting process and don't need to be one of those programs that recruits a ton of guys," assistant coach Darren Savino explained. "It's just a matter of finding out who fits and what we need to do to have the best chance to get them."

In other words, it's recruiting efficiency personified. Cincinnati isn't going to waste any time. They're not interested in making anyone's final list or being in the mix for a certain number of celebrated prospects, only in targeting prospects who fit their program and who they can realistically get.

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HYATTSVILLE, Md. – Don’t expect Thon Maker to be the next Emmanuel Mudiay.

Ever since Mudiay announced he was going to play professionally in China instead of attending SMU, there has been debate whether the star guard was starting a trend.

[+] EnlargeThon Maker
AP Photo/Gregory PayanThon Maker is considering reclassifying to 2015 and joining the American college ranks.
In Maker’s case, it appears unlikely.

“No. Not at all,” Maker said when asked if playing overseas for one season was an appealing option.

Maker, a 7-foot center who now plays at Orangeville Prep in Canada, is a five-star prospect in the class of 2016. He was born in the South Sudan before moving to Australia for seven years. When Maker began playing basketball, he moved to the United States and has attended multiple high schools since arriving in the States.

Because of his unique skill set and immense potential, Maker is a likely lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft. But he made it clear he wants to spend time in college before making that move.

“I’ve been watching college ball for awhile, and it just causes me to think about that, reclassifying,” Maker told ESPN.com. “So I can get ready for college ball. But so far it’s been, ‘Get ready, get ready, get ready. Have your body ready.’ So as soon as I decide whether I’m reclassifying or not, I’m finally playing college ball – not [just] watching it.”

Maker is being recruited by most of the sport’s biggest programs. He and his Orangeville teammates toured the Maryland campus while in the area for this past weekend’s National High School Hoops Festival. Maker also has visited Kansas, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville, while Indiana is among the other schools in pursuit.

As for the possibility of reclassifying, Maker said he would know more in January – when his semester ends and he can assess how much more work he would have to do in order to join the 2015 class.

Thon Maker

HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- The Washington, D.C., area was the epicenter of high school basketball over the weekend, with multiple events going on near the nation's capital. The main attraction was the National High School Hoops Festival held at DeMatha Catholic (Md.).

Here are five key observations from the weekend:

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The high school basketball season is now in full swing and ESPN2 will feature a marquee matchup on Friday at 6:30 pm ET where No.1 Montverde Academy (Fla.) will host No. 16 Bishop O'Dowd out of Oakland, California.

Here's what to watch for in this game that is headlined by two ESPN 100 Top 5 prospects in No. 1 Ben Simmons, who is headed to LSU, and No. 5 Ivan Rabb who has cut his list to California, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and UCLA.

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Five best mid-major classes in 2015 

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
Conference realignment was supposed to mean the death of mid-majors as perennial mid-major powerhouses such as Xavier, Utah, Butler, Memphis, Temple, Creighton, SMU, and others moved up to high-major conferences.

It hasn’t worked out quite that way though as new programs have emerged as the best of the mid-major elite.

With that in mind, here is a look at the best mid-major recruiting classes to date in the 2015 class:

1. VCU

“Havoc” is synonymous with defensive pressure as VCU’s relentless style of play has become one of the better known brands in college basketball. Offensively though, they’vehad some challenges, especially when unable to create offense from their defense. That won’t be the case for much longer as their 2015 class includes perhaps the best wing scoring tandem the program has had under Shaka Smart. ESPN 100 prospects Tevin Mack (No. 58) and Kenny Williams (No. 79) won’t just bring productivity, they’re two guys who can score from various spots on the floor, including behind the 3-point line. Add in Jordan Murphy, a combo forward who fits the prototype necessary for the Havoc style, and this is the top mid-major class in the country to date (ranked No. 25 in our class rankings).

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Recruiting has quieted down a bit since the end of the early signing period and the start of the high school and college seasons, but there are plenty of teams still looking for players. Where will these schools find them?

Available players

The most obvious route is the remaining uncommitted players in the 2015 class. We’ve gone over the top 100 players countless times, and while there aren’t too many of that caliber still on the board, that’s the straight-forward option for teams still in need. The premier programs in the country are gunning for the Jaylen Browns, Diamond Stones and Ivan Rabbs of the world, but lower-tier high-major programs and mid-major programs have to keep their eyes out. They’re looking outside the top 100 and will also be on the prowl for players set to emerge during their senior seasons.

As those borderline high-major prospects continue to wait to commit to a school, though, they see their recruitment rise significantly. And therein lies the danger for schools: The talent pool among seniors dries out, schools still need players -- and desperation kicks in. That’s when you’ll see programs reaching for players, just to fill a void or get a body on the roster. For new coaches taking over programs, it’s a necessary evil; they simply need guys. But in some cases, it’s better to hold onto a scholarship for next year instead of reaching for a guy who won’t cut it at the high-major or mid-major level and will therefore transfer or take up a scholarship for four years.

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WAYNESBORO, Va. --- Fishburne Military School was the site of the fourth annual Best Western Plus Caisson Shootout under the direction of head coach Ed Huckaby. The event features some of the best post-grad programs and players from around the country.

Here are five observations.

1. The Fork Union (Virginia) backcourt of 5-foot-11 point guard Kamau Stokes and shooting guard Khyri Thomas is very talented and productive. Stokes has major college speed and quickness. He can also make open shots to the arc and create his own, including step backs and floaters with touch and body control. He can run offense and make something positive at end-of-clock situations. Stokes pressures the ball, and his toughness and willingness to compete is evident. The 6-foot-6 Thomas plays with great energy and urgency. He can get to the rim and finish in the open court. He also knocks down rhythm dribble, pull-up jumpers and floaters in addition to using his quick first-step slashes. He is also strong enough to finish through contact. Defensively, he has the ability to defend both wing positions. Stokes has offers from Bradley, Fairfield, Louisiana Tech, Loyola of Illinois and LaSalle, while Thomas is considering Creighton and Western Kentucky among others. Both should expect their list to grow if they continue to play at a high level and on a consistent basis.

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What to watch: Geico Showcase 

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
Two of the best teams in the state of Texas square off Monday as 6A Plano West takes on 5A Lancaster (7:30 ET, ESPN2). It’s also a matchup between two elite post players, No. 20 Tyler Davis and No. 29 Elijah Thomas. The two will be future teammates at Texas A&M.

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Weekly commitment update

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
The following is a list of commitments made to Division I schools from Nov. 28-Dec. 4:

JaQuori McLaughlin PG
HT: 6-3 WT: 160
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4

Arizona State
Brendan Bailey SF
HT: 6-7 WT: 190
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 23
Stars: 3

Big Ten
Ohio State
Dane Goodwin SG
HT: 6-3
Class of 2018
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big 12
Kristian Doolittle SF
HT: 6-6 WT: 200
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ohio Valley Conference
Anthony Virdure SG
HT: 6-2
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College
After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.

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Now that the class rankings have expanded, everyone knows that Kentucky shot up to the No. 1 spot, that Arizona continues to reload out West, and that Syracuse didn't fail to bring in athletes for its 2-3 zone defense.

Let’s take a look some classes outside the top 20 that may be underrated and will make their respective programs big winners over time .

Texas, No. 21
Rick Barnes and company scored two versatile and productive guards in Eric Davis (No. 41) and Kerwin Roach Jr. (No. 99). Davis is an established player both in the high school and summer circuits. He is a scoring guard by nature who makes a defense pay attention to his jumper. He can also operate in ball screens.

Meanwhile, Roach is an ultra-athlete who can play anywhere on the perimeter and thrive with a defensive mindset to add to his offensive prowess and IQ. He made a huge splash in July and is primed to make another jump in the rankings. The Longhorns are loading up with dependable talent on the perimeter.

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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Here's what we saw at the 63rd annual Pac Shores tournament, featuring some of the top talent in Southern California.

1. ESPN 60 forward Vance Jackson is emerging as one of the elite players in the country. His frame is leaner, and as a result his ball skills and ability to attack off the dribble have improved. The rangy wing type has a feathery shooting touch and his triple-threat game is impressive.

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After California took down Syracuse in the 2K Classic semifinals, there wasn’t much time for the Golden Bears to celebrate. A showdown with at top-10 Texas team was on the docket.

And of course, there was recruiting to be done.

Within an hour or two, Cal’s staff was already reaching out to its primary 2015 targets to hype up the big win over the Orange. There was a sense of excitement around Cal basketball. Moreover, in the days that followed, the Golden Bears became involved with new prospects -- and the televised victory over a name-brand program certainly helped.

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When Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13) announced his commitment to Kentucky, it came with a bit of a caveat.

"Maybe the next signing period I think I'll sign my papers," Briscoe said. "I would just wait to see how everything plays out, to see who stays and who goes and things like that, and just make sure it's the perfect fit. I don't want to rush into something."

Despite that apparent hesitation, it was 24 hours later that Kentucky issued a press release stating that Briscoe had indeed signed along with Skal Labissiere (No. 11) and Charles Matthews (No. 44).

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