Wednesday, October 2, 2013
VCU trending up in class rankings
By Paul Biancardi
In the latest edition of the 2014 class rankings, there are three new additions (Vanderbilt, Miami and Michigan), while VCU, Xavier and Providence made big moves. Here's a look at one team making its move, one team that needs to pick it up, and what to watch for in the next week.
Trending up: No question about this one, as the VCU Rams have landed back-to-back ESPN 100 prospects in small forward Terry Larrier and power forward Mike Gilmore, taking their class all the way up to No. 6. Larrier is highly skilled with length and athletic ability, while Gilmore is long and does his damage both inside and outside the paint. Their commitments add to a class that already includes point guard Jonathan Williams, who is a catalyst in the backcourt, and forward Justin Tillman, who is an extra-long athlete who runs well and scores with a soft touch inside.
This covers the needs of the program at the present time, along with a huge upside that will develop over time. VCU coach Shaka Smart and his staff have branded this program through detailed evaluations in recruiting and winning on the court. There is plenty of energy, talent and athletic ability in this class to keep the Rams at the top of the Atlantic 10 and relevant as a national contender in the years to come.
Team that needs to make a move: After a tremendous season on the court last year, Bruce Weber and his Kansas State staff brought in a class with quality and quantity. It's time again to replace the departing talent, but the Wildcats have no commitments as of yet from the 2014 high school class, with only junior college transfer Stephen Hurt having committed thus far. And with seniors who play significant minutes moving on, along with the late transfer loss of second-team All-Big 12 guard Angel Rodriquez, Kansas State has plenty of work to do on the recruiting trail.
The Wildcats are making headway in recruiting circles, but they need to get some good news so they can be sure to offset the losses. Kansas State just needs to back up last year's class with the type of players Weber wants to coach, as he is one of the more underrated coaches in the country. The great news about recruiting is that it really doesn't matter when you land them -- all that's important is that you evaluate well and get your fair share.
What to watch: ESPN 100 center Goodluck Okonoboh has made three official visits to Indiana, Ohio State and UNLV, and might be getting close to a decision. Florida is still in the mix but has not received a visit yet. Okonoboh is a shot-blocking and shot-altering machine who aggressively protects the rim. He is an outstanding athlete who runs the floor with effort and speed and stays in the middle third of the floor when going rim to rim in transition.
Every elite team needs a quality big man, and while Okonoboh needs to develop his offensive game, he'll bring ample tools to be a presence in the post with a short jumper. With no other visits planned, it seems the time is getting near for him to make a decision.
Bold prediction: Duke will come out of nowhere and have the No. 1 recruiting class, and it could happen as soon as the early signing period in November. The reason I think this will happen is that there is a strong chance the Blue Devils will land No. 1 overall recruit Jahlil Okafor and No. 1 point guard Tyus Jones, who will visit Duke together on Oct. 25.
By landing both, it would mean the Blue Devils will have secured two top-five players to go along with shooting guard Grayson Allen, who sits at No. 24. Duke is also going after elite prospects such as Myles Turner, Kevon Looney, Reid Travis and Justise Winslow. Add any one of those prospects along with Okafor and Jones, and it will make Duke's class the best in 2014.