Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Under-the-radar recruiting powers
When it comes to recruiting, there are certain superpower programs that are simply on a different playing field from everyone else in college basketball. Programs such as Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are the most obvious there. Those teams are national brands with Hall of Fame coaches, rabid fan bases and a history of success at the highest levels.
But there are always surprising teams that can rise up and compete with the big boys. Change and evolution are inevitable in the world of recruiting. Whether that’s thanks to a dynamic coach, a deep run in the NCAA tournament or an impressive crop of local prospects, teams can quickly establish themselves as forces on the recruiting trail.
With that in mind, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts to predict which under-the-radar team could become a recruiting power in the next few years.
Paul Biancardi: Virginia Commonwealth
Ever since he has taken over at VCU, Shaka Smart has produced in a big way on the court and in the recruiting world. He and his staff have identified and landed athletic, gifted players who fit VCU's “Havoc” style of defense and have the offensive skills the Rams value, including shooting 3-pointers. At the start of Smart’s tenure, the Rams would land under-the-radar players who were evaluated properly and produced at a high level. With three NCAA appearances and a Final Four -- along with a 111-37 overall record -- Smart has landed six four-star recruits and four ESPN 100 players in the past three classes. With a supportive fan base and a move to the Atlantic 10, the Rams have become a factor nationally in recruiting circles and are poised to become a national power.
Adam Finkelstein: Providence
After fighting an uphill battle in the Big East for the past 25 years, Providence suddenly looks poised to emerge as one of the conference’s top recruiting powers. The biggest factor is coach Ed Cooley, a Providence native who has brought renewed passion and energy to the program. Second is the positive momentum Cooley has already built thanks to a top-10 recruiting class in 2012, the potential for a similar class in 2014 and a total of five ESPN 100 recruits in his first three seasons. Third is an enthusiastic fan base in a city and state where PC basketball is the main attraction. Finally, there’s the impact of conference realignment. Because, let’s face it, being the top dog in the Big East is a little more realistic when Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Jamie Dixon aren’t around anymore.
Joel Francisco: Boise State
It was just a matter of time until Leon Rice, who is yet another success story from the Gonzaga coaching tree, would elevate Boise State to NCAA tournament status -- and this is just the start, in my humble opinion. With every key player back, look for the Broncos to make another run in the underrated Mountain West Conference. Thanks to the national attention they'll receive, as well as a gifted recruiting staff led by John Rillie, the Broncos are luring prospects from the West Coast (Chandler Hutchison) and Southwest (David Wacker) as well as from Australia and Europe. In other words, with continued success on the court, Rice might have a Gonzaga-type program emerging in the MWC.
Reggie Rankin: Illinois
I think Illinois will become a surprising recruiting power because of the depth of talent in the state of Illinois, especially in Chicago. Second-year coach John Groce and his staff have worked tirelessly to build and strengthen recruiting ties throughout the state, and the Illini already have in-state talent on the roster after his first season. Groce also has other strong Midwest recruiting contacts in Indiana, Ohio and Missouri and in the South in Kentucky and Tennessee. Illinois has great tradition, currently has the No. 9 recruiting class in 2014 and is in the final five schools for ESPN 100 No. 3 recruit Cliff Alexander. When Groce took over, the recruiting process was too far along for Illinois to make up ground on Chicago prospects Jabari Parker (2013) and Jahlil Okafor (2014), but expect that trend to change now that Groce is established and has made homegrown talent a top priority.
John Stovall: Southern California
New coach Andy Enfield is making an impact on the West Coast at USC. He is changing the mindset of up-and-coming recruits with his personality and his projected style of play. The biggest example is ESPN 100 point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who was long considered a UCLA lean but ended up committing to USC. Enfield already has gotten younger players to notice USC and seriously consider the Trojans for their collegiate future. Coming off his success at Florida Gulf Coast, Enfield has players enamored with the "Dunk City" style of exciting basketball. The tide is changing in Southern California.