NCB On The Trail: Louisville Cardinals

When recruit changes mind, chaos ensues 

September, 17, 2014
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On Sept. 4, Antonio Blakeney told ESPN.com’s Reggie Rankin, "I was very comfortable with the coaching staff," after pledging to attend the University of Louisville.

Two weeks later, he told Rankin, “I made a quick and emotional decision based on the wrong reasons," after decommitting from the Cardinal, before following up with a tweet that read, "I am still really considering Louisville. I like everything about there (sic) program, coaches and fans!!"

[+] EnlargeAntonio Blakeney
AP Photo/Gregory PayanAntonio Blakeney, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN 100, verbally committed to Louisville earlier this month only to decommit two weeks later.
Which, to those who parent the odd beast known as teenagers, sounds about right. Teens are as certain about their futures as they are the inner workings of nuclear physics.

The difference is, Blakeney is not your typical teen. He is the No. 14-rated player in the 2015 ESPN 100, and what should be his private, independent decision has ramifications from his home base in Florida throughout basketball offices across the country.

Decommitment is not even a word -- shows up underlined in red every time you type it. Yet it is very much a thing in college sports circles, where kids can and do renege on their verbal pledges.

The problem isn’t nearly as bad in hoops as it is in football. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn did a numbers crunch study this summer and found that, in 2013, only 11.8 percent of the basketball players he studied made multiple commitments, down from 12.4 in 2012.

Still, it happens. And when it does, it sends coaches into a tizzy.

The Louisville Cardinals are on the board in the class of 2015 with four star small forward Deng Adel. Adel has been on the rise since busting out in a big way on the travel circuit this spring and summer, where he has continued to play at a high level while being the go to guy for the Florida Elite travel team. Read how he fits with head coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals:


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Rick PitinoJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesRick Pitino focuses on development as well as talent when recruiting players and hiring assistants.
Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng were cornerstones of the Louisville Cardinals' 2013 national championship team and yet none of them were top 100-rated recruits coming out of high school.

Unlike some of the game's other coaching giants, Rick Pitino has never been afraid to go off the path on the recruiting trail. Never the coach to focus exclusively on five-star prospects, Pitino's philosophy has always been of his own making.


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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The opening day of the 2014 NBPA Top 100 not only brought out some of the nation’s top prospects in the 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes, but some recruiting news as well.


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After a long and detailed conversation about the nation’s best prospects, Ivan Rabb holds on to his No. 1 spot as we launch the new ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015.

Why he is No. 1: Many factors go into being tabbed the nation’s top prospect such as strong performance, consistent production and potential. At 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Rabb has all the physical markers to impact a game. Rabb has mobility and an enormous wing span (7-4). He utilizes those features along with speed and lateral quickness to protect the basket, outrun opponents and score the ball. It’s his efficiency that is impressive, as the majority of shots come inside the paint. After 16 games in the Elite Youth Basketball League, he had made more than 60 percent of his field-goal attempts, per GameChanger stats service.


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Minneapolis Nike EYBL recap 

May, 25, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The fourth session of the Nike EYBL gave teams one more opportunity to add league wins and earn the right to participate in the Peach Jam that will crown a champion in July.

Check out some of the many terrific prospect performances we witnessed this weekend at the EYBL:


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ESPN 60 guard Allonzo Trier made Nike EYBL history last weekend, becoming the first player to ever record 30 or more points in each game of a single session.

While the feat has never been accomplished before on the Nike circuit, ironically, Adidas had someone accomplish the very same thing on the same weekend when fellow ESPN 60 guard Jalen Adams finished with 30 or more points in all four of his games.

While Trier and Adams are similar in that they are two of the nation's best scoring guards in the 2015 class, they’re unique in the way they look to attack the defense.


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Top up-and-coming recruiters 

May, 21, 2014
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Assistant coaches such as Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, Kansas’ Jerrance Howard, Arizona’s Emmanuel Richardson, Texas’ Russell Springmann and Michigan State’s Dwayne Stephens are recognized as some of the best recruiters in all of college basketball.

But who are the best up-and-coming young recruiters? Here’s a look at five assistant coaches who might not be as well known just yet but are the ones people are going to be hearing about in the future:


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The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


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Recruit and return: Louisville 

March, 29, 2014
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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at the Louisville Cardinals and their chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:

G: Chris Jones
G: Terry Rozier
F: Wayne Blackshear
F: Montrezl Harrell
C: Mangok Mathiang


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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.



Louisville has the nation's No. 4 recruiting class, and it is loaded with size. Power forward Jaylen Johnson has all the tools and an active body. He just needs to learn how to play with a high motor all the time. The Cardinals just landed 7-foot-1 Anas Mahmoud, who has plenty of skills and upside, but his body needs work. Not much is known about Norwegian 7-2, 230-pound center Matz Stockman. I believe the most ready to play prospect is ESPN 100 C Chinanu Onuaku. He is physical and strong enough to contribute in the paint and on the glass. He is also really good at setting screens -- whether it's a ball screen or away from the ball to free up a teammate. You can't put a value on that. There will always be playing time available for a guy who gets his teammates open.
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One of four remaining ESPN 100 players is now off the board as No. 69 Anas Osama Mahmoud, a 7-foot-1 center, has committed to Louisville. A native of Egypt, he came to the United States in September and it didn’t take long for college coaches to start inquiring.

He took official visits to Louisville, Georgia Tech and Minnesota.

“I was talking to Coach [Rick] Pitino today and I told him I wanted to go to Louisville,” Mahmoud said. He took official visits to Louisville, Georgia Tech and Minnesota as well as unofficial visits to Kentucky, Auburn, Cincinnati and USF. Florida and Kansas were starting to show interest..


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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.
The Louisville Cardinals have an outstanding class coming in next season -- the Cardinals are No. 5 in our class rankings.

Quentin Snider will be the point guard of the future. He combines quickness with good decision-making abilities, as he navigates well in ball-screen actions. Chinanu Onuaku is an inside physical presence who rebounds, alters shots and scores on put-backs. Jaylen Johnson brings athletic ability and versatility to the front court. Perhaps the most talented in terms of potential is Shaqquan Aaron. He is the Cardinals’ highest-rated prospect No. 33 and is extremely long with excellent ball skills. He desperately needs to get stronger, but can stroke it from deep and create his own shot inside the arc. There is also Norwegian center Matz Stockman.

I expect Aaron to have a strong influence on next year’s team. His ability to score, shoot, and finish with length will make him hard to guard.

Snider and Onuaku are ESPN 100 prospects who should contribute right away. Snider will back up and play alongside current point guard Chris Jones. The Cardinals will need size next year, so Onuaku will have a chance to play right away if he is ready. This group is talented and athletic, with plenty of room for growth.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
Players move up and down with each new ranking. Quentin Snider went from No. 35 to No. 39, and JaQuan Lyle went from No. 39 to No. 41. Those are not significant drops at all. Both have played well and, at times, they have made big plays, but neither have stood out enough to move up.

On the flip side, when prospects drop, it can be more about others playing a at high level on a more consistent basis, which was true for both Snider and Lyle.

Remember, the best way for a prospect to move up is with consistent productivity and dominant performances. It also helps if they play big roles in their teams' wins.

#AskCoachB: Talking JaQuan Lyle

December, 18, 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.

JaQuan Lyle is a strong, thick guard who is a natural facilitator. His game has a little bit of everything, as he scores via the 3-point shot or with a drive to the basket, using his size to squeeze off shots in the paint. He rebounds from the perimeter and will push the break. Defensively, he possesses great size at 6-foot-5 and is capable of defending a point guard, shooting guard, and even a small forward once he gets in better shape. He needs to get lighter to defend the small, quick point guards. One thing about Lyle that has always impressed me is his understanding of the game and how he sees an advantage and attacks it.

In some ways he reminds me of former Utah great and NBA standout Andre Miller. Lyle taller but both have the strong, thick body and use that frame to their advantage. Both pass extremely well with instincts for the game and understand their role, be it as a point guard or as a scorer. Miller had a toughness on the floor, as he rarely missed a practice or game. I don't know how tough-minded Lyle is yet.

Lyle will be playing on ESPN on Thursday night at 9:30 pm ET if you want to check him out.

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