Monday, August 26, 2013
How SMU rattled UK, MSU and KU
By Jeff Goodman
Emmanuel Mudiay, ESPN's No. 2 ranked point guard, committed to SMU this weekend.
While Larry Brown celebrated moments after Emmanuel Mudiay gave his SMU Mustangs a verbal commitment Saturday night on national television, Tom Izzo likely went into full-fledged panic mode.
He wasn’t alone, either.
Brown and the Mustangs -- with the help of assistant coach Ulric Maligi and Prime Prep’s Ray Forsett (the coach of the Dallas-area school that Mudiay calls home) -- jolted the college basketball world when Mudiay chose SMU over Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Sure, there were signs that the Mustangs weren’t just thrown on the list as a favor (as was the case for the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, a year ago), but few gave them much of a chance until 24 hours prior to the announcement.
Certainly this gives Brown and the Mustangs instant credibility, especially within the borders of Texas. We all know Brown can coach, but let’s not forget that he can recruit as well. He was also the same guy who, to help lure Danny Manning to Kansas, hired Manning's father Ed, so it’s no surprise he and Maligi came up with the genius plan to give Mudiay’s brother, Jean Micheal Mudiay -- a fringe Division I player in the junior college ranks -- a scholarship in order to secure one of the nation’s top players.
Mudiay is a stud point guard. He’s big, strong and athletic. He can distribute and also get into the lane and score. His perimeter shot needs more consistency, but there’s a reason why John Calipari had pegged him as his next great point guard.
More college basketball recruiting news is available at ESPN RecruitingNation's On The Trail blog.
Mudiay’s pledge will help SMU in a variety of ways, both on and off the court. It already has with credibility, as one of the elite big men in the nation, Myles Turner, told me that he’s now considering SMU -- and may even use one of his five official visits on the Mustangs.
SMU could trot out a starting lineup a season from now of Mudiay, top-50 freshman Keith Frazier, Illinois State transfer Nic Moore, talented 6-foot-10 big man Yanick Moreira and Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy (if SMU doesn’t land another big man such as Turner in the Class of 2014). That’s certainly enough to make noise in an American Athletic Conference that will no longer boast Louisville.
However, the Mudiay commitment now means that three elite schools -- Kentucky, Michigan State and Kansas -- are all on the verge of desperation mode, scrambling in search of an impact point guard. It becomes even more critical because the Class of 2015 is lackluster with players at the position.
It was believed that Izzo and the Spartans, after being cut from the list of Tyus Jones, were a near-lock to land diminutive Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis (his cousin is also former Sparty guard Travis Walton), but now Michigan State won’t just have to beat out Iowa for his services. It will also have to fight Calipari and the Wildcats. Ulis told me he’s heading on his first official visit to Iowa this weekend and then will trip to both Michigan State and Kentucky on Labor Day weekend.
“I know a lot of people think I’m going to Kentucky now,” Ulis said on Sunday. “But I don’t pay much attention to it. I’m going to take my three visits and then figure it out as soon as possible.”
Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self are both still in the equation for Jones, who many have as the top-rated floor leader in the country. However, most recruiting experts -- and even coaches -- feel as though he’s a strong lean to play at Duke next season.
That leaves just four uncommitted point guards in the Class of 2014: Jones, Jordan McLaughlin, recently de-committed Quentin Snider and Ulis. McLaughin appears destined to remain on the West Coast, so that leaves Snider and Ulis.
Izzo offered Snider -- who has already set official visits to UCLA, Memphis and UConn -- a scholarship over the weekend. He also has offered underrated long and talented combo guard Darrell Davis, an in-state kid who had been recruited primarily by Atlantic-10-level schools.
The Spartans need a replacement for Keith Appling at the point guard spot. Travis Trice is a nice backup, he’s not a starter for a Final Four-caliber team. Not even Izzo can pull off that magic trick.
Kentucky needs someone to replace Andrew Harrison, who likely is one-and-done in Lexington due to his physical gifts. Ulis isn’t the typical Calipari point guard, standing at just 5-foot-8, but as you can see, the options are limited. There are benefits for the Wildcats to bring in Ulis, a likely four-year player. He could give consistency at the position, but would also almost certainly be recruited over in subsequent seasons by Calipari and his staff.
That leaves Kansas, which still has a shot at landing the package deal of Jones and big man Jahlil Okafor. There are many who believe Okafor isn’t nearly as excited about playing at Duke as Jones, and that the duo could wind up in Lawrence. However, with Mudiay off the board, the Jayhawks don’t have another elite point guard in their sights and could wind up going with the duo of Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason for the next two seasons.
Brown was able to breathe easy this weekend, having arguably the best point guard in the nation on board at SMU.
The same cannot be said for three future Hall of Famers who have been pressed into scramble mode: Izzo, Calipari and Self.
• Oregon landed Detroit transfer Jason Calliste over the weekend, which marked the sixth one-year transfer that Ducks coach Dana Altman has taken in his three seasons in Eugene. He brought in Olu Ashaolu (Louisiana Tech), Devoe Joseph (Minnesota) his first season, Arsalan Kazemi (Rice) a season ago and has added Mike Moser (UNLV), Joseph Young (Houston) and Calliste this past offseason. Moser and Calliste are both eligible as fifth-year guys while Young’s decision should come this week.
He’s attempting to receive a waiver since his father, formerly on James Dickey’s staff at Houston, was reassigned. Calliste averaged 14.4 points per game for Ray McCallum this past season and will give Oregon a shooter off the bench.
• UNLV suffered a significant loss when the Las Vegas Sun reported that tough, hard-nosed forward Savon Goodman has been suspended for the season. However, Dave Rice and the Runnin’ Rebels were fortunate to pick up 6-foot-6 skilled forward Jamal Aytes so late in the game. I’ve had several coaches tell me he’s a major steal, and one even told me he could start this season for numerous top-50 programs due to his skill, length and toughness.
Here’s a scouting report that ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi gave me on Aytes: “Strong power forward who uses his body to play in the painted area. He brings a physical presence in the lane and offensively will screen and free up his teammates for shots.” Sounds like he can replace much of what Rice lost with Goodman.
• Mudiay’s pledge over the weekend overshadowed Perkins’ verbal commitment to Gonzaga in what is the highest-ranked player ever to commit to the Zags. Austin Daye held the distinction prior to Perkins, and was ranked in the 30s by most recruiting services.
Perkins is a Colorado native who is heading out to play at Huntington Prep (W.Va.). He can either learn for a season by watching then-senior Kevin Pangos, or Mark Few could elect to go with a three-guard lineup of Pangos, Perkins and Gary Bell Jr. Now the key for the Zags is landing a couple of impact big men.