NCB On The Trail: Georgetown Hoyas

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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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The finish line was already in site in February when we last updated our ESPN 100 rankings. After watching many of these prospects for the better part of the past four years, the evaluation process was no longer about learning new things as much as it was monitoring recent developments.

As a result, our most recent and final version of the 2014 ESPN 100 bears a resemblance to its predecessor, except for a select few prospects who seized their opportunity to make one lasting impression.

With that in mind, here are the players whose stock rose the most in the final ESPN 100 of the 2014 class.


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Metro Challenge recap 

March, 30, 2014
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HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- DeMatha Catholic High School was the site of the inaugural Metro Challenge, which hosted 60 of the top basketball prospects from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia for a one-day showcase on Saturday.

One of the biggest themes of the day was the depth and talent of the region’s backcourt players in the 2015 class. Bryant Crawford led the way and made it clear from the opening tip that he was out to prove a point and silence his critics in the process.


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Recruit and return: NCAA misses

March, 17, 2014
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While the 68 teams that made the NCAA tournament prepare for the madness, fans of teams on the outside must turn the page to next year. Thanks to a core of returning players and strong incoming recruits, here are five programs that could be dancing at this time next year.

Georgetown Hoyas


Quick references:
Georgetown's 2013-14 roster
Georgetown's 2014 recruiting class

Possible 2014-15 starting five:

G: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

G: Jabril Trawick

F: Paul White

F: Mikael Hopkins

C: Josh Smith

Georgetown


Who it loses: Four players will be gone for coach John Thompson III. Markel Starks and Nate Lubick have been starters since they were sophomores and were instrumental to last season's Big East championship team. Starks was first team All-Big East this season, scoring 17 points per game. Aaron Bowen played a big role as the sixth man and gave the team a spark off the bench. At times, he played starter's minutes. Moses Ayegba was a front-court presence off the bench and was a strong presence in the paint.

Who it adds: This four-man class is the nation's seventh best and it includes three ESPN 100 players. This class is loaded with versatility and scoring talent as the Hoyas will continue to cause matchup problems for opponents. Isaac Copeland's growth continues to impresses us, as he combines size and athletic ability with a very fluid set of skills. He won a championship at Brewster Academy in the New England Prep school league, which is some of the best competition in the country. Paul White is the consummate forward in the Georgetown system as he showed he could be a facilitator, bucket-getter or defender. L.J. Peak is a battle-tested and tough small forward who can score in different ways and someone who can play right away because he competes so hard. Tre Campbell was a first-team all-league performer as a point guard in the prestigious WCAC, an ultra-competitive Washington, D,C.-area high school conference. Georgetown predicates its system of having a high level of skill on the floor at all times and this class gives them that edge plus a whole lot more.

What it means for next season: Next season's team could be more gifted and athletic as the freshman class gives them a big boost. The one freshman who needs to be good early is Campbell, because of the departure of Starks. With Smith-Rivera returning as the team's leading scorer and best 3-point shooter, and Smith back controlling the inside, this team could be a contender for a Big East title. Georgetown has always played the game with many interchangeable parts and next season it will have plenty of pieces to choose from.

Trending: Up. The Hoyas return the strength of their roster and add a lot of talent. Under the guidance of JT3, that means more postseason appearances. - Paul Biancardi



For breakdowns of Indiana, Maryland, Seton Hall and USC, click here Insider.
There is a budding dynasty in prep school basketball, and it goes by the name Brewster Academy.

Winners of three of the last six New England prep titles and two of the last four national championships coming into the year, this season was supposed to be a "down” year for Brewster (Wolfeboro, N.H.). However, it turned into perhaps the Bobcats' most successful season in program history.

While this might not be the most individually talented team in Brewster history, it is probably the most cohesive collective unit. The Bobcats approached this season's National Prep Championship -- which they won on Wednesday -- as if they were on a mission. They competed for 40 minutes each time out, defended and shared the ball incredibly well. In fact, they had at least four players finish in double figures in all three of their wins.


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Roundtable: Identifying 2014's sleepers 

March, 4, 2014
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As the 2014 class winds down its final season of high school basketball, the ESPN 100 has been analyzed in virtually every way possible. We’ve broken down the top prospects, picked out the best fits, projected both the immediate impact players, and even forecast those who are likely to show the most improvement over their college careers.

But now we are giving each member of the RecruitingNation team one last chance to go on record with a prospect they believe in, a sleeper they expect to be better than most are projecting, whether it's right away or over time.

Here’s a look at who the experts have their eyes on:


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Nike Extravaganza recap 

February, 3, 2014
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The 19th annual Nike Extravaganza was quite possibly the best collection of talent in its tenure. When you have Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young) going head-to-head with Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), that is about as good as it gets. Add in USC-bound Jordan McLaughlin (Etiwanda, Calif./Etiwanda) putting the St. John Bosco defense on skates and recent ESPN 100 entree Elijah Stewart (Los Angeles/Westchester) scorching the nets, it further solidifies the claim that the event was loaded.

A load in the paint

Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-foot-10, 270 pounds
Status: Signed with Duke
Okafor didn't get many touches because of Mater Dei's collapsing zone. Once teammate and Saint Louis signee Miles Stewart started draining 3s, it opened up some breathing room for him to operate. He gathered most of his stats on offensive rebounds and utilizing those magnetic hands he possesses. At this level, he can dominate with his length, strength, and post skills. However, Okafor has limited lift and he struggled at times corralling rebounds despite having a significant size advantage.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



Yes, Paul White is playing better and at a higher level than his ranking, but I ask you to please look at not only his ranking but his grade and evaluation. Many folks get caught up with just the ranking portion, and understandably so, but in our system we give them a grade that tells you the level that they can best play at and an evaluation that describes in detail his strengths and weaknesses.

I agree that he can be a difficult matchup because he has the skill level and athletic ability of a small forward with the height to play some as a face-up forward who can pull a bigger defender away from the basket. Offensively White is usually a problem for the opposition and defensively he could defend multiple positions from a point guard to a power forward.

Recently in the Cancer Research Classic, he took on the challenge of guarding Emmanuel Mudiay, who is No. 5 in the ESPN 100 and the top point guard. He took that assignment when the game was on the line and did a very good job of not allowing Mudiay into the paint. When White is dialed in and focused, it’s easy to see his talent and basketball IQ. The Georgetown Hoyas have a versatile prospect coming.

Cancer Research Classic recap 

January, 6, 2014
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WHEELING, West Va. -- The Cancer Research Classic is known as the nation’s premier Catholic high school event and includes very successful programs and highly-ranked prospects.

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Mudiay
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourPG Emmanuel Mudiay had two impressive showings at the Cancer Research Classic.
Players from all over the country came in with big reputations, and they did not disappoint. The nation's No. 1 player Jahlil Okafor, No. 5 Emmanuel Mudiay and No. 12 D'Angelo Russell all shined bright. Under the direction of Doc Merrick, this event continues to grow and is recognized as a main attraction after the new year.

Best Point Guard
Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas, Texas/Prime Prep)
2014, PG, 6'4", 195
Signed with SMU

Mudiay is known for his ability to take over games when he is plugged in. He was on in both of his performances at the CRC. He had 25 in a loss to Wheeler and 16 -- with a nice floor game -- in a loss to Whitney Young. It was a tough weekend, but Mudiay showed why he is rated as one of the top-5 talents in the 2014 class.


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The high school basketball season is in full swing and some of the nation’s best are playing well and leading their teams. Others are extremely productive and having great individual performances.

There's also a small group of players who are good now with a chance of big-time growth.

As top-ranked players, they have talent. It's what they do with it that will determine their ultimate success. To reach their potential, it’s a matter of two important questions. Does the prospect have the necessary tools to perform at a high level? And will he do what is necessary from an effort standpoint to be great?

Let's take a look at players who are playing at a high level now and who have plenty of potential to be even better down the road.

ESPN No. 2 Myles Turner
The Texas native has a combination of size and skill, and he's a shot blocker with mobility. Turner was one block shy of a triple double, as he had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks last week against Homeschool Christian.


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#AskCoachB: Interchangeable Hoyas

December, 13, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Playing for John Thompson III at Georgetown, both Isaac Copeland (Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy) and Paul White (Chicago/Whitney Young) will fit nicely together.

Copeland is more of a skilled, stretch four man with terrific mobility and length. He can stroke the 3 and score close to the rim. Meanwhile, if you watched White's performance Thursday on ESPN2 against Apple Valley, you could easily see the array of skills he brings to the game. The ability to score shoot, pass, rebound and handle the ball allows him to play small forward or power forward.

Both bring excellent positional size, length, and versatility to the court. Each still has plenty of upside to tap into as they mature, and they need to learn how to utilize their athletic frames to play defense. They both could influence the game on defense if they get serious in their approach.

They will easily be able to coexist on the floor as interchangeable parts to the Georgetown system, which is heavily based on skill, finesse and exploring mismatches on the floor.

Prep school stars shine at Showcase 

November, 25, 2013
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The National Prep Showcase has annually served as the unofficial start to the prep school basketball season, and the 2013 edition was no different, hosting 23 top teams over the course of three exciting days of action.

A variety of top prospects stood out over the course of the weekend. UNLV-bound ESPN 100 big man Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Wilbraham & Monson) put on his latest display of shot-blocking prowess, turning away eight attempts on Saturday night, while Colorado-bound big man Tory Miller (Lee’s Summit, Mo./New Hampton) emerged as perhaps the most impactful true post player in the field.

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The early signing period arrives Wednesday, marking the first time 2014 prospects can officially sign their national letters of intent, turning previously unbinding verbal commitments into contractually binding scholarship agreements.

Here are 10 storylines to watch for during the eight-day signing period:

Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaJahlil Okafor is hoping to sign during the early signing period. Where will he end up?
1. Package-deal decision day
Word is that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both hoping to sign during the early period, and that means the country’s biggest package deal should have a decision within days. All indications are that the duo still intends to go to school together, but the final destination has become unclear of late. Duke has long since been considered the front-runner, but there’s been growing chatter for Kansas, especially as it pertains to Okafor. Baylor is the dark horse, and while nobody seems to be talking about the Bears anymore, neither prospect has said they’re out of the running just yet.

2. Awaiting word from Alexander
We’re anticipating an announcement from Cliff Alexander, the nation’s third-ranked prospect. The 6-foot-8 big man took the nation by storm during the recent EYBL season and picked up offers from some of college basketball’s most prestigious programs in the process. Four of those remain in the hunt for his services. While Illinois and DePaul have been the perceived favorites, Kansas and Memphis are in the mix as well. Look for Alexander to trim one of those four off his list before his announcement -- and ultimately make his choice from a list of three final schools.

3. Early or late? That is the question
While Okafor, Jones, and Alexander are all expected to make their decisions in time to sign during the early signing period (that is, on or before Nov. 20), there is another group of prospects we still don’t know what to expect from. Justise Winslow just took his last visit, and he could be ready to decide. William Lee is another ESPN 100 prospect who could very well be ready in the coming days. Stanley Johnson was once targeting a January decision, but he now appears to be on the fence, as there has been mounting speculation that he could abandon those original plans in time to sign early.

4. What’s left for the spring?
With 87 players in the current ESPN 100 already committed and at least four more expected to make their decisions in time to sign early, we’re expecting over 90 percent of the current ESPN 100 to officially be off the board within the next 10 days. That’s an almost unprecedented percentage, leaving very little left on the table for the spring’s late signing period. The big prizes for those playing the waiting game are likely to be Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle, along with any of the previously mentioned top prospects who ultimately decide against early signatures.

5. Care for a contingency plan
With so few prospects remaining on the board following this period, the major question is what happens to the programs that have gone the distance with top remaining prospects -- only to end up missing out on them. The best examples are Duke and Kansas. The Blue Devils and Jayhawks have gone head-to-head for Okafor and Jones and have passed on other talented guys as a result. Now they’re in a spot where the consequences of losing out on Okafor and Jones could be especially high, with no good contingency plans left on the board unless they’re able to score Turner, who isn’t likely to be excited about being perceived as anybody’s runner-up.

6. Competition for Kentucky
Kentucky currently has the top-ranked recruiting class in the country. If the Wildcats can hold on to that spot, it would be the fifth time in John Calipari’s six years in Lexington he has secured that distinction. The reality, however, is that it may be unlikely. And while Kentucky’s class is undeniably loaded, the 2014 group will be remembered as much for the guys who passed on the Wildcats -- Okafor, Alexander, Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kelly Oubre and James Blackmon Jr. among others -- perhaps signaling a decline in what has been one of the most dominant recruiting periods for any program in recent history.

7. The Big East is back (or never left)
If this season's recruiting class is any indication, the demise of the Big East has been somewhat exaggerated. While conference realignment might have forever changed one of the country’s most historic conferences, it apparently has not done much to hurt the brand. Xavier, Seton Hall and Georgetown have all put together top-10 classes, and Marquette and Providence are not far behind. With five different programs among the top-20 classes in the country and a total of 15 ESPN 100 prospects having already popped for the Big East, the league is recruiting as well as any in the country.

8. What’s the Matta with this class?
Ohio State has the second-ranked recruiting class in the country, a group loaded with four ESPN 100 prospects and another big man who is just on the cusp of that list. Yet nobody seems to be talking about the Buckeyes. With so much attention being paid to the potential classes at Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, Ohio State has flown under the radar. The reality is that coach Thad Matta did his work early and did it well. D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are all coming in next year, and Payton Dastrup is essentially joining the Class of 2016 after he takes a two-year Mormon mission. The Buckeyes have solidified their future as well as any program in America.

9. Talking about the Tar Heels
Roy Williams and North Carolina are in a similar situation. They have a trio of ESPN 100 prospects on board for next season, all ranked among the top 15 prospects in the country. However, because all three were already committed by last May, the Tar Heels haven’t been at the forefront of any recent recruiting headlines. It’s a mistake to sleep on them, though, as they have one of the country’s best scorers on the wing in Justin Jackson, a swingman with elite athleticism; an alpha-male mentality in Theo Pinson; and one of the most dependable point guards in the country in Joel Berry.

10. Mid-major impact
A quick glance at the class rankings will show that the mid-majors are once again well-represented among this year’s top recruiting classes. San Diego State, VCU and UNLV have all asserted themselves as national recruiters. Steve Fisher’s four-man class is headlined by a trio of ESPN 100 products in Malik Pope, Trey Kell and Zylan Cheatham, while Terry Larrier and Mike Gilmore lead a similar four-man group for Shaka Smart and VCU. Dave Rice and the Rebels have one of the best incoming frontcourt tandems in the country in Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.

Hoyas land ESPN 60 PF Derrickson 

October, 26, 2013
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Junior power forward Marcus Derrickson (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI) ended his recruitment Saturday with a verbal commitment to Georgetown, according to multiple sources.

The 6-foot-6 ESPN 60 prospect chose the Hoyas over offers from Indiana, NC State, Miami (Fla.), Maryland, Rutgers, Villanova and Virginia Tech. He is the first recruit from the 2015 class for Georgetown coach John Thompson III. It's a huge get for Thompson, who was able land a nationally ranked prospect from the talent-rich DC-Maryland-Virginia area and the respected Team Takeover AAU/Travel Team program.

What does Derrickson's commitment mean for the Hoyas?


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#AskcoachB: Where's Onuaku headed?

October, 3, 2013
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Chinanu Onuaku (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist) is set to make his college decision on Friday afternoon, as he just returned home from his third and final visit to Georgetown. He also visited Louisville and Miami.

Louisville seems to be the frontrunner for the center at this point, as the Cardinals are coming off a national championship last season and currently hold the nation’s No. 19 recruiting class. Miami losses a lot this season and so far it has done a very good job of building the nation’s No. 20-ranked class. Both schools have a need for more size.

Never count out the local school, Georgetown, which sits in a good spot after getting the last visit.

It would be a surprise if he picks Maryland, which has assembled the No. 3 class and has a loaded roster with really no room. The Terps are mainly focusing on underclassmen right now. Cincinnati could be a dark horse in this race.

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