NCB On The Trail: Memphis Tigers

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The Tigers lose four seniors who played a significant role, including Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford.

Memphis does add ESPN 100 prospect Dominic Magee and three other junior college players. What's important to know is that redshirt freshman combination guard Markel Crawford will be ready to go for the 2014-15 season.

Memphis still has plenty of talent in the frontcourt, as Kuran Iverson, Austin Nichols, Nick King and Shaq Goodwin can produce at a high level. The Tigers might struggle at the point guard spot, but there is enough talent there to have a good season.

Also don't forget coach Josh Pastner and his staff already have a verbal commitment from ESPN 60 prospect K.J. Lawson in 2015. He is a stud.

Recruit and return: Memphis 

March, 23, 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 Memphis and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: RaShawn Powell
G: Markel Crawford
F: Trahson Burrell
F: Austin Nichols
F: Shaq Goodwin


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When looking at the final four schools involved for JaQuan Lyle -- Oregon, Memphis, Oklahoma State and Kansas -- the one that lost out the most was Oklahoma State, as I believe it needed him more than the other schools.

Kansas has Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason coming back next season to share the point. Tharpe has made steady progress at Kansas and will be a senior next season.

Memphis has ESPN 100 prospect Dominic Magee coming in. He will be sharing the point guard spot with Rashawn Powell, who sat out this season.

When you look at Oklahoma State’s returning roster, it doesn't have an obvious choice at the point guard spot. The Cowboys will be relying on junior college prospect Jeff Newberry.

Oregon landed Lyle and has a need for a pass-first point guard, as it allows Dominic Artis, who prefers to score first, to slide over to shooting guard at times. Lyle’s choice was not a surprise, as he visited every school and every school has a need for him.
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Only three players are left on the board in the ESPN 100, and Myles Turner is the only one who's a game-changer. But it doesn't mean there is talent out there who won't help a major program.

JaQuan Lyle, who is ranked No. 41, is a setup point guard with a strong body and is capable of playing as a freshman. His greatest assets are his passing ability and basketball IQ. He understands the game. Lyle plans on making his college decision soon and is down to Oregon, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Memphis.

No. 99 prospect Josh Cunningham is a hybrid forward who excels on the break and in defending in the half court. He has enough of offense to keep opponents honest and is looking at many schools, including Indiana and South Carolina.

There are always guys outside the top 100 who can help programs at different levels next season. If they are still unsigned in the late period, it could mean a lot of things. Some may be waiting on their grades, while others are still blossoming, and a few may be hoping for better offers.

Roundtable: Identifying 2014's sleepers 

March, 4, 2014
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video
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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Biancardi's Breakdown: JaQuan Lyle 

February, 17, 2014
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video JaQuan Lyle (Evansville, Ind./Huntington Prep), the highest-rated uncommitted perimeter player left in the ESPN 100, is in high demand as Kansas, Providence, Oregon, UConn, Memphis and Oklahoma State are in heavy pursuit of the Indiana native. He is one of the few players left in the 2014 class who could come in and contribute immediately to a major college program.

Let’s take a look at the latest on his recruitment, how his game has grown and what he can do to reach his potential.


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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.

Possible domino effect for top four 

October, 18, 2013
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Jahlil Okafor, Tyus JonesESPN, Icon SMIThe decisions of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones -- who might be a tandem in college -- will have a likely ripple effect among other top prospects.
Many times in recruiting, one player's choices directly affects another. Players and coaches all have a plan when they start the recruiting process, but that plan can quickly change. Let's take a look at a few possible scenarios that could take place among the top four prospects in the ESPN 100. The only thing I base this on is my experience of a college coach and knowledge of how quickly things can change.

Let's have a little fun with these possible recruiting domino effects:

For Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones: I believe that Kansas and Duke are the major players here. Both are visiting Kansas this weekend and Duke next weekend, along with Justise Winslow, who will be on the trip to Durham only. Okafor and Jones could go to Kansas and Duke together. They also could play together at Baylor, another place they have already visited together. But that would be the biggest stretch of the three schools.

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#AskCoachB: Latest on Bluiett

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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I spoke with Trevon's dad, Reynardo Bluiett, just a few days ago and he mentioned the following schools for his son: Butler, Memphis, Xavier, Michigan State and Purdue.

This past weekend, Bluiett (Indianapolis/Park Tudor) made an official visit to Memphis. A significant factor in the favor of Memphis is assistant coach Jason Gardner, who was Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1999 and became an All-American at Arizona. Butler also seems to be right in the thick of it, as they are the local school that is now in the Big East. Michigan State is in the hunt to go along with ESPN 100 PG Lourawls Nairn, who we like to distribute the ball. After speaking with his dad, it looks as though there is a good chance Bluiett will make his decision in the early signing period.

#AskCoachB: Package deals?

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
12:30
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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.



Maybe it's an aberration or maybe it will become a trend in college recruiting, but count Cliff Alexander and JaQuan Lyle as the latest who talk about going to school together. This talk all started when Lyle decommitted from Louisville.

A recent quote from Alexander on Twitter:



Another pair of top players, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, have been planning the same scenario and have been on the same page for months about their intentions and the recruiting process.

Lyle has visits set up with Arizona, Kansas and Memphis, and he visited UConn this past weekend.

Alexander and Lyle will be visiting Kansas and Memphis together, and it's worth noting that Alexander's girlfriend will be on the Jayhawks women's basketball team as a freshman this season, which is one reason why Kansas has been such a high mention.

Alexander already has visited Arizona and DePaul and will also be heading to Illinois for an official visit. Michigan State is still in the race, as Alexander has been there unofficially and includes them on his list.

Memphis is right in the thick of the race and they just made a home visit last Friday. Cliff told me that he and his mom love Tigers coach Josh Pastner.

Look for both to make their decisions after the early signing period to give Lyle time to sort things out and to let the dust settle after the early signing week. Alexander told me he should be ready sometime in December.

Top 10 schools with recruiting momentum 

September, 18, 2013
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The recruiting game is predicated on momentum. Win a title, and you get a bump with recruits. Put a dearth of guys in the NBA, and the players notice. The last few weeks we've looked at the programs that signed the most Top 100 players and most Top 25 players in past five seasons. This time around, we went with momentum.

By looking at the current senior high school class (2014) and who signed last year (2013), we were able to figure out which programs are the hottest in terms of their appeal to recruits. Obviously, this number is dynamic, since not all ESPN 100 members in the Class of 2014 have committed.

Most Top 100 players 2013-14


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Top 10: Signing ESPN Top 25 players 

September, 11, 2013
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OK, last week we looked at college basketball teams in relation to Top 100 players signed in the last five years. No surprise, the Kentucky Wildcats led the way with 23 Top 100 players from 2009-2013.

Are you sitting down? John Calipari's team didn't merely land players in the Top 100. It dominated the landscape when it came to Top 25 prospects. In total, of the 23 Top 100 players the Cats signed, 19 of them were Top 25 prospects. Whoa.

Most Top 25 Players (Classes 2009-13)


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Magee gives Memphis dynamic PG 

September, 8, 2013
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Memphis landed its point guard of the future when Dominic Magee (Gretna, La./Helen Cox), the No. 71 player in the ESPN 100, committed to the Tigers on Sunday over Oklahoma State, LSU, Kansas State and recent interest from Kentucky.

Magee told coach Josh Pastner and his staff right before departing from his official visit.

"I became very close to the coaching staff. They made me feel at home and like I was a priority" said Magee.

So, why did Magee commit and how will he fit with the Tigers?


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Where will top prospects end up? 

September, 5, 2013
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With only 13 five-star prospects left on the board, all it takes is a quick glance down their recruiting lists to come to a quick conclusion: The vast majority are being recruited by a long list of the same schools. So when it’s all said and done, some of those schools are going to be left out in the cold.

Remaining 5-Star Prospects
[+] EnlargeTyus Jones
AP Photo/Damen Jackson Point guard Tyus Jones has visited Baylor and will see Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), 6-10, 265, C: He and Tyus Jones will visit Kansas and Duke in October after seeing Baylor together last weekend. They’ll visit Kentucky on separate dates because of scheduling conflicts. Okafor is also scheduled to see Arizona independently.


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Top 10: Signing ESPN 100 players 

September, 4, 2013
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Sometimes you have to see it to believe it. Since John Calipari took over at Kentucky we’ve steadily sung the praises of the Wildcats and their recruits. Well, it turns out there was a good reason for the high praise. Kentucky exports prospects to the NBA and imports elite high school players at a rate higher than any of its peers.

The following is a list of programs that signed the most ESPN 100 players from 2009-2013. I know, it’s Telep’s Top 10, but we had some ties. Here’s a snapshot of where the talent goes in our country:

Kentucky (23 ESPN 100 recruits): What did you expect? When there’s a revolving door of lottery picks it’s only natural to replace talent with talent. Because of its ability to put elite talent in the NBA, UK has plenty of openings each year. UK has had four of the last five No. 1 recruiting classes and that's not an accident.

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