NCB On The Trail: Louisville Cardinals

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
Mar 29
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.
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
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.
The early signing period will officially come to an end in a matter of hours. Before the clock strikes midnight, we look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the past eight days.


[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
Jeff Hinds/adidasDuke is a big winner with the addition of Jahlil Okafor, the nations top-ranked overall prospect,
When the nation’s top-ranked overall prospect and best point guard coordinate a dual announcement on national TV and flip over your hat, it’s a win. Duke might not officially have the top-ranked recruiting class in the country just yet, but there’s no denying it scored the biggest prize.

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Pitino signs four ESPN 100 prospects

November, 15, 2013
Louisville coach Rick Pitino announced the signing of four ESPN 100 players on Friday.

Leading the way for the Cardinals is small forward Shaqquan Aaron (Seattle/Rainier Beach) along with point guard Quentin Snider (Louisville, Ky./Ballard), power forward Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti) and center Chinanu Onuaku (Upper Marlboro, Md./Riverdale Baptist).

Snider became the fourth recruit on Friday after decommitting from Illinois. He had originally committed to Louisville as a junior.

"This is a tremendous class that is deep, talented and all have great potential to improve," Pitino. "Not only is it a well-balanced group with outstanding basketball players, but they really fit our system. We look for offensive players who can be a triple-threat -- shoot, pass and beat their man off the bounce -- and this group can certainly do that."
ESPN 100 point guard Quentin Snider (Louisville, Ky./Ballard), the No. 5 point guard in the Class of 2014, decommitted from Illinois on Friday and recommitted to hometown Louisville, where he originally pledged before his sophomore season.

What sparked this decision? And what will Snider bring to the Cardinals?

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With seven ESPN 100 commitments in as many days, the last week has been incredibly busy on the recruiting wire, but the best could still be yet to come with Reid Travis, Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones all likely to make decisions in time to sign during the early signing period, which begins next week.

In case you missed any of last week’s headlines, here’s a rundown: Devin Robinson chose Florida over Indiana on Wednesday; later that night, big man Michael Humphrey picked Stanford over Arizona; Devin Booker started a busy Thursday by picking Kentucky over Missouri; James Blackmon Jr. pulled a surprise by spurning Kentucky to recommit to Indiana; Kevon Looney’s commitment to UCLA was equally surprising, with most predicting Duke, Florida or Tennessee; former UCLA pledge Trevon Bluiett picked Xavier over Butler and Michigan State on Friday; and Trey Lyles chose Kentucky over Louisville on Tuesday.

That flurry of activity, along with the upcoming announcements, has brought more clarity to a lot of top national programs. Here’s a look at some of the implications:

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Class rankings analysis: Oct. 30 

October, 30, 2013
As we come down to the wire for basketball's early signing period in November, many of the best players in the nation have finished their visits and are ready to make their decisions. Here’s a look at how some of the recruiting classes are shaping up as we get closer to the signing period:

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Roundtable: Recruiting rivalries to watch 

October, 29, 2013
Duke vs. North Carolina. Kentucky vs. Louisville. Connecticut vs. Syracuse.

Some of the greatest rivalries in sports play out on the college basketball court, but this season marks a changing of the guard in many of those rivalries as conference realignment has done away with annual matchups like UConn vs. Syracuse while carving out the potential for new ones.

Rivalries also exist in recruiting, and while they’re often an extension of natural rivalries on the court, that isn’t always the case.

Jim Calhoun and John Calipari had a huge recruiting rivalry when they were the head coaches at UConn and UMass, respectively -- despite the fact their teams never played -- stemming from the recruitment of Marcus Camby.

So whether it’s an extension of a conference rivalry, a personality clash between high-profile coaches or even the consequence of a particularly contentious recruitment process, recruiting rivalries can take shape in a number of ways.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable recruiting rivalries, whether historic or up-and-coming based on the implications of realignment, as chosen by our RecruitingNation experts:

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Center/power forward Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity), the No. 2 player in the ESPN 100, has returned home to Texas after spending the weekend at Ohio State, his first official visit.

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Biancardi's Breakdown: Trey Lyles 

October, 14, 2013
Trey Lyles is the nation’s No. 7 player overall and No. 2 at power forward.

Trey Lyles
Courtesy of Jerry HoltTrey Lyles, the nation's No. 7 prospect, has both patience and poise in the post.
Lyles will play his college basketball in the state of Kentucky, as his top two choices are Kentucky and Louisville. His final decision is planned for early November.

Here's a breakdown of his game.

Fundamentally sound
All the physical tools are in place for Lyles to be an outstanding big man. Let’s focus in on his hands, head and footwork. To say he possesses a secure pair of hands is an understatement. His hands are large, and once he obtains possession of the ball, he rarely lets anyone take the ball or bat it away from him. He also has soft finger tips that create a release and rotation on his jump shot, which is impressive. He can use either hand to finish at the rim. He has a big advantage in releasing the ball before the shot-blocker arrives. His head is in the game from a basketball standpoint so he can process a play, understand spacing and where he and teammates are at all times.

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