NCB On The Trail: Southern Methodist Mustangs

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 McDonald's All American Game is annually the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star event. The rosters have been announced for the Class of 2014, and this year's game will once again be played at the United Center in Chicago and will air live on ESPN on April 2.

Here's a deeper look at five exciting matchups we'll see in the 2014 contest.

1. The battle of the giants
Jahlil Okafor (West) vs. Myles Turner (East)

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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.

When you speak of Tyus Jones (Duke), Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU) and Joel Berry (North Carolina), you are looking at three of the elite point guard recruits in the country. Each brings his own talent, physical tools and traits to play the position. I don't see a drop off among them at all.

Berry has been a starting point guard since his freshman season, so he knows how to lead. He is tough-minded, makes open shots, defends the ball and makes winning plays. Berry was recently was named to the USA Junior National Select Team that will compete in the Nike Hoop Summit in April.

Jones is the best passer of the trio and manages the end of games extremely well. Mudiay has more of the physical tools such as size (6-5, 190 pounds) and speed and is the best driver of the three. From his penetration, Mudiay also displays excellent passing vision.

Point guard is the most important and most difficult position to make the adjustment to the college game, and as future leaders, they all have a huge learning curve processing the game and performing at the next level. Duke, SMU and North Carolina each signed elite players and people with these three point guard prospects.

Cancer Research Classic recap 

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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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#AskCoachB: Four on the rise

November, 21, 2013
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

From Twitter (@james_peden9): Who are some young teams that we should be keeping and eye on that you think are on the rise? #AskCoachB

Besides the Kentucky Wildcats, who have to be the youngest team in the NCAA this season, there are a few teams to keep your eye on.

Take a look at the Clemson Tigers, who have no seniors and will be led by junior K.J. McDaniels, who is one of the best athletes in the ACC. They are picked near the bottom of their league, but after watching them practice and calling their game against South Carolina, I believe they could be much higher in the standings.

The Boston College Eagles have a very promising and young team returning, led by junior Ryan Anderson and sophomore Olivier Hanlan, who was the ACC freshman of the year.

Out west, BYU has no seniors and is loaded with skill and the impactful guys are juniors Matt Carlino and junior Tyler Haws.

A program on the rise is SMU, as their top three scorers this season are all underclassmen: sophomore Nic Moore, freshman Ben Moore and freshman Keith Frazier. Looking ahead to next season, they add the No. 5 prospect in 2014, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

Watch for these four programs to make a move this year and be strong in the future.

Starting 5: Top PGs left on the board 

August, 27, 2013
Each week, Starting 5 takes you on a tour of the recruiting landscape. It delves into topics, recruiting trends and stories. This edition focuses on the pressure of drawing out your commitment, the Elite 24, Indiana's busy weekend, the five best uncommitted point guards and No. 1 sophomore Harry Giles.

1. The stress of the decision

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Five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas/Prime Prep) committed to SMU on Saturday, turning down offers from Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State.

Mudiay, the No. 5 overall player and No. 2 point guard in the ESPN 100, said no to many of college basketball's blue bloods in order to stay home. Mudiay is SMU coach Larry Brown's most highly ranked recruit since Brown took over in Dallas.

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Vandy adds late addition to 2013 class

May, 2, 2013
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings added a late commitment to the Commodores' 2013 class earlier this week, according to The Tennessean.

Six-foot-10 power forward Luke Kornet (Argyle, Texas/Liberty Christian) chose Vanderbilt after considering interest from SMU, Kansas State, Purdue and TCU. He is the son of former Vanderbilt player Frank Kornet, who was All-SEC in the late 1980s.

"I think it's awesome," the elder Kornet told the paper. "It's hard to describe how it's coming full circle again. I'm really happy for Luke. I think it's a great fit. I've always tried to, for the most part, stay out of it. But at same time, you'd love for them to be part of that -- something you were a part of once and holds a special place in your heart."

Kornet joins ESPN 100 PF Damian Jones (Baton Rouge, La./Scotlandville Magnet).

SMU announces Frazier signing 

April, 18, 2013
Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown announced the signing of McDonald's All-American guard Keith Frazier (Dallas/Kimball) on Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period.

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ESPN 100 Frazier delays announcement 

March, 28, 2013
ESPN 100 shooting guard Keith Frazier (Dallas/Kimball) will not announce his decision on Thursday as was originally expected. The senior confirmed the news to ESPN RecruitingNation coordinator Reggie Rankin.

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ESPN 100 SG Keith Frazier sets date 

March, 13, 2013
PM ET has confirmed that uncommitted shooting guard Keith Frazier (Dallas/Kimball) has set an official announcement date.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Keith Frazier (Dallas/Kimball) grins and laughs when the tougher questions come up, like which school is No. 1 or which official visit was the best of the three he’s taken. He came to Austin to play basketball, not drop any recruiting news.

But now that the UIL state championships are over and Frazier’s senior season has ended, it’s time for the ESPN 100 guard to start closing in on a decision. Next up could be two final official visits.

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SMU lands juco center Yanick Moreira 

November, 1, 2012
New Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown landed a verbal pledge from junior college center Yanick Moreira (South Plains College) on Wednesday, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

The native of Angola chose the Mustangs over Baylor, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Oregon.

"I think ultimately, [Moreira's reason] was Larry Brown," South Plains coach Steve Green told the paper. "Yanick, I think, was sold on the fact that Larry Brown, in basketball circles, is regarded as a very good teacher."

Moreira joins SG Sterling Brown (Chicago/Proviso East) and PF Ben Moore (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) in SMU's 2013 class.

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Catamounts gain guard Kiefer Douse 

October, 24, 2012
Point guard Kiefer Douse (Brampton, Ont./Lee Academy) ended his recruitment earlier this week with a verbal pledge to Vermont, according to the Burlington Free Press.

The Canadian chose the Catamounts over SMU, Clemson, Florida Atlantic and St. Bonaventure.

"I'm a pass-first guy and like to get everyone involved on the court," he told the paper. "I'd like to think I can make an impact [at Vermont] ASAP."

Douse joins small forward Kurt Steidl (Ridgefield, Conn./Ridgefield) in UVM's class of 2013.

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SMU lands PF Ben Moore 

October, 16, 2012
Ben Moore (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) became the second Chicgao-area product to commit to SMU this week when he picked the Mustangs on Tuesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Shooting guard Sterling Brown (Chicago/Proviso East) gave his pledge on Monday. Moore chose SMU over offers from Illinois, DePaul, Minnesota and Northwestern.

"The very first time (SMU) coach (Larry) Brown saw Ben play he called me immediately," Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost told the Sun-Times. "He recognized all the things Ben could do as a player, how he could handle it, pass it, his basketball I.Q. There was no doubt coach Brown thought Ben could play at the highest level."

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