NCB On The Trail: San Diego State Aztecs

Breaking down Class of 2015 shooting guard Jeremy Hemsley's commitment to San Diego State:

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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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at San Diego State and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starters:
PG Aqeel Quinn
SG Matt Shrigley
WF J.J. O'Brien
WF Winston Shepard
C Skylar Spencer


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Under Armour Holiday Classic recap 

December, 31, 2013
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- After a down year in 2012 in terms of talent, the 2013 Under Armour Holiday Classic featured a tournament loaded with individual talent and quality teams.

Savvy veterans like North Carolina-bound Theo Pinson (High Point, N.C./Wesleyan Christian Academy) and Arizona-bound Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola) had their way with the competition, while up-and-comers Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) and Bryce Aiken (Elizabeth, N.J./The Patrick School) exhibited glimpses of what the future beholds.

Best All-Around
Theo Pinson (High Point, NC/Wesleyn Christian Academy)
2014, SF, 6-foot-6, 210 pounds
Status: Signed with North Carolina

With his athleticism, length and improved perimeter skill set, Pinson pretty much did whatever he wanted against the competition. He was electrifying in the open court, made sound decisions (played point guard at times) and was disruptive on the defensive end due to his long arms and active hands.


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#AskCoachB: Aztecs have fab class

December, 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.

From @Josh_Suchon: @PaulBiancardi What do you think of SDSU's recruiting class -- Fab Five 2.0?

Josh, so good to hear from you! San Diego State's class is outstanding -- in fact, it's ranked No. 14 in our class rankings.

This is the type of class that can leave a real mark on the program if it develops and grows together as a unit. The Aztecs have four bona fide prospects who can help immediately. Power forward Zylan Cheatham (Phoenix/South Mountain) is a defender and shot-blocker. Malik Pope (Elk Grove, Calif./Laguna Creek) has been under the radar on the recruiting trail because of injuries; he would have possibly been in our top 30 if healthy. The prospect that I am most high on is Trey Kell (San Diego/St. Augustine), as he makes shots and plays under control. Point guard Kevin Zabo (Gatineau, Quebec/Brewster Academy) should help maintain the Aztecs' uptempo style of play.

Not Fab Five 5 2.0, but besides Stanford's group, it's the best-assembled class out west in 2014. Plenty of promising years ahead for the Aztecs under Steve Fisher.

Aztecs lock down 2014 class

November, 13, 2013
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San Diego State announced the signing of four student-athletes on Wednesday, including three ESPN 100 prospects.

Joining the Aztecs in 2014 will be ESPN 100 SF Malik Pope (Elk Grove, Calif./Laguna Creek), ESPN 100 SG Trey Kell (San Diego/St. Augustine) and ESPN 100 PF Zylan Cheatham (Phoenix/South Mountain) along with three-star PG Kevin Zabo (Gatineau, Que./Brewster Academy).

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.

Class rankings analysis: Oct. 30 

October, 30, 2013
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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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#AskCoachB: SDSU's 2014 class

October, 15, 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.



San Diego State and Steve Fisher have done a tremendous job of identifying talent and zeroing in on players who major programs hesitate on. And sometimes they simply beat out well-known schools for these kids.

SDSU finds players who are on the way up or on the way down. Kevin Zabo has always been a consistent performer on the circuit. At one point, he was highly rated, but his performance leveled off. Now, he is playing well and learning the point guard position while still scoring for Jason Smith at Brewster Academy.

Trey Kell was an outstanding pickup from this summer. I came away impressed by his poise and shooting ability. His size will make him an instant success.

Malik Pope is somewhat of an unknown in terms of productivity, but his upside is obvious because before his injury some thought he was one of the nation's top 20 players. When he gets healthy, he will be a force and will adjust to the philosophy and culture of the program, which will make his transition on the floor easier.

SDSU is high-level basketball, and it knows how to win. One of the reasons why is the Aztecs have the ability to evaluate and read a recruiting situation on who they can and can't get. It is a major strength of Fisher and his staff, and they do it as well as anyone in the country. A talented three-man class with two Top 100 players like this keeps a program on top in any league.
Trey Kell (San Diego/St. Augustine) is yet another example of the notion of "it's not where you start out, it's where you end up."

Kell was a virtual unknown during his junior campaign. Most pundits didn't feel he was a high-major player, let alone a Top 100 player, but we felt differently. And after a scintillating spring and summer, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Arizona would join San Diego State in the Kell sweepstakes.


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Weekly Commitment Roundup

August, 16, 2013
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SEC
Arkansas
Nick Babb SG Arlington, Texas/James Martin
HT: 6-4 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 26
Stars: 4

ACC
Georgia Tech
Tadric Jackson SG Tifton, Ga./Tift County
HT: 6-2 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 24
Stars: 4

Big Ten
Ohio State
A.J. Harris PG Dayton, Ohio/Dunbar
HT: 5-9 WT: 150
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 15
Stars: 4

Big 12
Oklahoma State
Joe Thomasson SG Dayton, Ohio/State Fair C.C. (juco)
HT: 6-3 WT: 180
Class of 2014

American Athletic
Central Florida
B.J. Taylor PG Orlando, Fla./Boone
HT: 6-2 WT: 177
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 2

Atlantic 10
UMass
Rashaan Armstead-Holloway C Elmer, N.J./Arthur P. Schalick
HT: 6-10 WT: 280
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 38
Stars: 3

Horizon
Wright State
Justin Mitchell SG Fort Wayne, Ind./Wayne
HT: 6-4 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Mountain West
San Diego State
Kevin Zabo PG Gatineau, Que./Brewster Academy
HT: 6-2 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Postional Rank: 32
Stars: 3

Mid-American
Miami (Ohio)
Roderick Mills SF Cincinnati/St. Xavier
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Northeast
Wagner
Joe Cooper PG Wilmington, Del./The Tatnall School
HT: 6-1 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 1

Patriot
Boston University
Cheddi Mosely PG Oceanport, N.J./St. Anthony
HT: 6-0 WT: 160
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 1

Loyola (MD)
Cam Gregory SF Waldorf, Md./St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
HT: 6-8 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Missouri Valley
Drake
Ore Arogundade SG Arlington Heights, Ill./St. Viator
HT: 6-2 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Mid-Eastern Athletic
Norfolk State
Lou Myers SG Philadelphia/Math, Civics and Sciences Charter
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MAAC
Rider
Kenny Grant C East Orange, N.J./Hyde School
HT: 6-8 WT: 250
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Iona
Bashir Ahmed SF Bronx, N.Y./John F. Kennedy
HT: 6-5 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Southland
Oral Roberts
Albert Owens C Cedar Hill, Texas/Trinity Christian
HT: 6-8 WT: 220
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

SF Chris Sandifer picks Mizzou 

June, 28, 2013
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Six-foot-5 small forward Chris Sandifer (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) gave Missouri a verbal commitment on Friday, he confirmed to ESPN.com.


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2014 SF Stanley Johnson narrows list 

January, 26, 2013
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ESPN 60 small forward Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) has narrowed his list to 10 schools.


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Jordan BellScott Kurtz for ESPN.comLong Beach (Calif.) Poly forward Jordan Bell committed to Oregon Tuesday, giving the Ducks their first commitment in the 2013 class.
After a weekend visit to Auburn to check out the Tigers' program, the No. 14 player in California, F Jordan Bell (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic) decided to announce his commitment at a small press conference at the school today. Choosing between life-long favorite Connecticut, Oregon and Auburn, the 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward announced that he will be heading to Eugene to play for Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks.

Ranked as the No. 27 in the West region by ESPN, Bell is just what the Ducks have been in search of in recent years. His long frame, athleticism and untapped potential make him an ideal fit for the Ducks' style of play. Bell has yet to reach his potential on the offensive end, but the defensive end is where the Long Beach Poly standout has made his name.

Bell averaged 8.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks as a junior for the Jackrabbits, who at 29-3 overall, were among the top teams in California last season. Bell had three triple-doubles comprised of points, rebounds and blocked shots. Two of them came against Long Beach Jordan, including a game last January when he finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 16 blocks.

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