NCB On The Trail: Xavier Musketeers

video
Making jump shots is one of the most important skills in basketball. It might look easy, but it’s hard to become a consistent shooter with range.

Taking open shots is a big part of becoming a great shooter, as well as moving without the ball. High-level shooters are ready to shoot the ball as soon as it’s passed to them.

There are many outstanding jump shooters in the Class of 2014, but here are my top five.

Three ESPN 100s highlight Xavier class

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
9:09
PM ET
On Thursday, Xavier head coach Chris Mack announced the signings of ESPN 100 SF Trevon Bluiett (Indianapolis/Park Tudor), ESPN 100 PG Edmond Sumner (Detroit/Country Day) and ESPN 100 PF Makinde London (Thompson's Station, Tenn./Montverde Academy) along with three-star SG J.P. Macura (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North) and three-star C Sean O'Mara (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Benet Academy).

"This is an awesome day for Xavier Basketball," Mack said. "While many recruiting experts have labeled our five-man class as a top class nationally, we feel we have the best shooting class in the entire country. My staff worked very hard to identify talented players with tremendous character. The five-man class of Edmond Sumner, JP Macura, Makinde London, Sean O'Mara and Trevon Bluiett has the makings of a special one."

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.
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:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ESPN 100 SF Trevon Bluiett made a verbal commitment to Xavier on Friday, simultaneously ending what has been a long and complicated recruiting process, and giving Musketeers’ coach Chris Mack a major addition to his frontline.

Trevon Bluiett
Dave Telep/ESPNESPN 100 SF Trevon Bluiett rounds out Xavier's class with commitments at all five positions.
Why he committed: When it was all said and done, the opportunity to stay close to home and step right into immediate minutes was too much for Bluiett to pass up on. Distance was a big factor in his decommitment from UCLA, where his former high school coach Ed Schilling is now one of Steve Alford’s assistants. Since that point, Butler Michigan State and Memphis to a somewhat lesser extent, made pushes for Bluiett, but it has been Xavier in the driver’s seat. Recent on-campus visits sealed the deal for Xavier.

What he brings: Bluiett is an elite level shot-maker, who drills deep threes and pull-ups with equal ease. But more than that, he’s a true scorer, with plenty of mismatch potential. He understands how to come off screens away from the ball, utilizes his thick lower body to create space, and is very poised and crafty when operating in the mid-range area. While he might not be a blow-by driver, he’s capable of getting himself into the lane and is also a good passer off the bounce. He’s going to bring even more versatility, because he’ll be capable of seeing time at either forward position, allowing Mack the flexibility to go with a bigger lineup with him at the three, or go with a smaller, quicker group with him as a floor-spacing four.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

#AskCoachB: Latest on Bluiett

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
12:30
PM ET
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.



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.
Fast-rising four-star power forward Makinde London (Thompson's Station, Tenn./Montverde Academy) ended his recruitment today when he committed to Xavier over VCU, Miami and Mississippi State.

This is an excellent pick up for Xavier coach Chris Mack. London is a talented, skilled forward who has grown to 6-foot-10 recently with his best playing days ahead.

London, who visited the Musketeers back on Sept. 13, developed a lasting impression that led to his commitment.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES