Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Starting 5: Top PGs left on the board
By Dave Telep
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
Being on the ground floor for many of the decisions by elite prep players, you begin to notice details. Sometimes it’s simple, like seeing the stress of a situation weighing on a player. That manifests in uneven efforts and unfocused plays. Once an event isn’t a big deal, but when it becomes common, there’s a stressor. Most of the time, it’s the way the players communicate. This generation, for all its follies on Twitter, is guarded. The best players make measured statements about their school lists. They are in constant protection mode and that’s a new area for them to deal with. There isn’t a public relations coordinator around screening their media.
Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 5 player in the ESPN 100, committed to SMU over the weekend.
The actual stress of the college decision, no matter what the player says publicly, is burdensome. I’m convinced it affects play on the court. Think about your real life situation at home and then what your workday is like with said situation hanging over you. It’s difficult to do your best work when there’s noise. Same for high school kids immersed in the recruiting process.
Last year, Jabari Parker was a great example. He was coming off injury, out of shape and mentally not in a great place. He makes a pre-Christmas college decision and goes with Duke and immediately, those of us that were around him noticed the change. For as well as he played last month in Las Vegas, you could tell Emmanuel Mudiay’s mind was in another place. At the Elite 24, even his peers commented on it. It all changed the moment he released the news of the commitment to SMU. His second half performance at the Elite 24 was overpowering and dazzling. Mudiay’s post-game comments given credence to the theory that once you say the words, it’s a lot easier to play. “I can’t lie,” Mudiay said, “first half I was thinking about it. After that, I felt free.”
My advice, if winning and enjoying your senior season are priorities: make the decision before you play your first game as a senior. It’s liberating, just ask one of the premium players who went before you and relieved his stress.
2. Elite 24: a new basketball experience (at least for me)
Without knowing what it looked like on TV, let me tell you about my experience with the Elite 24. Going into the game, you are fearful that street ball and chaos will reign supreme and that the contest will lose any element of competition. Granted, it was a chaotic basketball environment but it was cloaked in an atmosphere of fun. They played the game under the Brooklyn Bridge on a court constructed within a courtyard, which was formerly a tobacco warehouse. The setting was super cool. If you watched the game as a basketball traditionalist, you were disappointed. If you watched just for fun ... then you had a shot at enjoying it.
It’s time to give the current senior class credit. Their approach, whether the finals at adidas nations or the Elite 24, has been better than their peers of the previous class. A lower maintenance group than last year, these guys competed in the game. Heck, one team went up 30 only to get run down before finally rallying to seal the win. The competition wasn’t in the form we’re used to with coaches diagramming plays and the like but it was competitive and if you watched in your living room without the context of the moment, it might not have come across that way. However, on that court, those guys got after it. It wasn’t traditional but it was entertaining and the environment -- Brooklyn, outside, inside the brick walls of a warehouse -- gave it a feel and created a moment.
3. Indiana’s busy weekend
Isaiah Whitehead captured one of the MVP’s at the Elite 24 game Saturday night in Brooklyn. By Sunday morning he was on a plane bound for Bloomington to meet with the Indiana Hoosiers. Coach Tom Crean recently jumped on board and tossed the Hoosiers’ hat into the mix for the dazzling one-on-one scorer. By the time Whitehead arrived on campus, Indiana’s staff had to be taxed. It was a long few days for the Hoosiers.
On Friday, Indiana hosted James Blackmon, the shooting guard that just two weeks ago was an IU commit. Now, the son of a former Kentucky Wildcat, is no longer committed and aggressively looking at other schools. Indiana would like him back but they can’t dance with him long and must gather new options (Whitehead was offered after Blackmon de-committed). Guard Robert Johnson arrived on Saturday for his official visit. Junior small forward Malachi Richardson was on campus over the weekend as was a member of the 2017 class. Indiana was busy.
Last Saturday, two premium point guards committed to different schools on the same day. When that happens, you best believe the dominoes are coming. Even if another point guard doesn’t commit immediately, the news that Josh Perkins is going to attend Gonzaga and Emmanuel Mudiay is going to SMU will send ripple effects through many offices.
Mudiay was widely regarded as Kentucky’s No. 1 target. The Wildcats love their one-and-done point guards and he fits the bill. Now, UK finds itself in the uncommon position of maybe signing a point that will be around a year longer.
Regardless, here are the five best point guards on the board and what’s going on with their recruitments.
Tyus Jones: He has visits set with Baylor, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke. Minnesota, the local school, is a longshot. Remember, you get Jones, you’re likely to get Jahlil Okafor (Minnesota has no shot at Okafor); Ohio State is also recruiting both.
Tyler Ulis: He recently was on UK’s campus and has an offer. Iowa, Southern Cal and Michigan State round out the list. Notice UK and Michigan State are on the top two points.
Jordan McLaughlin: He’s got a visit set to Kansas. San Diego State, UNLV, UCLA, Southern Cal, Connecticut and Indiana are on the list. Gonzaga was in the chase but Perkins’ pledge took care of that.
Robert Cartwright: The least-heralded of the bunch is a blue-collar handler and very much undervalued. If he gets into Stanford then that’s where he winds up.
Quentin Snider: The former Louisville commitment might need time to sort through the process. UCLA, Memphis and UConn will receive official visits. Illinois is in the mix and you’d have to think Indiana and Michigan State are evaluating him for their rotation. He was committed to Louisville for so long, he mightrequire extra time to decide.
5. Giles talking about getting ready for USA Basketball
Last weekend, sophomore power forward Harry Giles, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016, hobbled around the Elite 24 with a cumbersome knee brace. The week before he was on crutches. He’s a few weeks into rehabbing a procedure to repair his ACL, MCL and meniscus; the holy trinity of knee injuries. Giles is arguably the best prospect in high school basketball and turned 15 only in April.
Last week, the Duke Blue Devils offered him a scholarship. North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest, the ACC programs in his home state of North Carolina, have all offered. Toss in a Kentucky offer. Do we really need to list the others that either have, would or will offer? Harry Giles is one of those rare players who could legitimately pick up the phone, cold call any program in the country, and they’d accept his commitment right now, regardless of knowing the eventual status of his knee.
Giles is part of a generation of athletes that has now seen Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III pull superhuman recoveries from severe knee injuries. A self-starter who is easily motivated, Giles has his heart set on returning to action next June, almost a year from the date he shredded the knee. USA’s U17 team will play for the World Championship in Dubai next June Giles want his spot on the roster. It’s an aggressive goal for a player that will miss his entire sophomore season (he won a state title with Theo Pinson last year).