NCB On The Trail: Mike Gilmore

Conference realignment has had lasting implications on every major conference in college basketball, but the group that might have been affected more than anyone else were the mid-major schools.

Annual powerhouses like Xavier, Memphis, Butler, Temple and several others have now been elevated to “high-major” conferences, leaving a void for other mid-major programs to establish their recruiting superiority at their own level.

So after grading the ACC, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC last week, it’s now time to examine the best of the rest. Grading mid-major classes can be subjective, meaning there’s a little bit of a curve in order to account for the fact that recruiting at this level is tougher than ever before given the unprecedented number of competing programs who can now leverage their high-major conference affiliation.

Smart, VCU sign four players

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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Two ESPN 100 prospects highlight VCU’s 2014 recruiting class which was announced on Thursday.

Head coach Shaka Smart and his staff received letters of intent from ESPN 100 SF Terry Larrier (Bronx, N.Y./The Phelps School) and ESPN 100 PF Mike Gilmore (Tallahassee, Fla./Rickards) along with four-star PG Jonathan Williams (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) and three-star PF Justin Tillman (Redford, Mich./Pershing).

“We're very excited about this group because all four young men possess the talent, drive and work ethic to be outstanding members of our team," Smart said. "It's a class that can contribute to a great deal of winning at VCU."

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.
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.

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Weekly Commitment Update

September, 27, 2013
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Big Ten
Indiana
Robert Johnson | SG | Richmond, Va./Benedictine Prep
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 10
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 44

Northwestern
Scott Lindsey | SG | Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick
HT: 6-3 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 42
Stars: 3

Iowa
Brady Ellingson | SG | Menomonie, Wis./Hamilton
HT: 6-3 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Michigan State
Lourawls Nairn | PG | Bel Aire, Kans./Sunrise Christian
HT: 5-10 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 72

ACC
Georgia Tech
Ben Lammers | C | San Antonio/Alamo Heights
HT: 6-10 WT: 220
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 28
Stars: 3

Miami
Omar Sherman | C | Dallas/Prime Prep
HT: 6-8 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 14
Stars: 4

Big 12
Oklahoma State
Jeff Newberry | PG | Atlanta/New Mexico Junior College (Juco)
HT: 6-2 WT: 175
Class of 2014

SEC
LSU
Aaron Epps | C | Tioga, La./Tioga
HT: 6-9 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Pac 12
Oregon State
JaQuori McLaughlin | PG | Gig Harbor, Wash./Peninsula
HT: 6-2 WT: 155
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Conference USA
Marshall
Henry Uwadiae | C | Nigeria/Kirkwood C.C. (Juco)
HT: 6-11 WT: 210
Class of 2014

Shane Hall | PF | Paintsville, Ky./Johnson Central
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 40
Stars: 3

North Texas
Jeremy Combs | SF | Dallas/Carter
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Old Dominion
Isaiah Maurice | PF | Durham, N.C./Bull City Prep
HT: 6-8
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big East
Creighton
Leon Gilmore | SF | Manvel, Texas/Manvel
HT: 6-7 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 26
Stars: 4

Xavier
Makinde London | PF | Thompson's Station, Tenn./Montverde Academy
HT: 6-9 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 22
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 91

Atlantic 10
St. Joseph's
Markell Lodge | PF | Creedmoor, N.C./Christian Faith Center
HT: 6-6 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

St. Bonaventure
Jordan Tyson | C | Cincinnati/Fishburne Military Academy (Post Grad)
HT: 6-10
Class of 2014

Virginia Commonwealth
Mike Gilmore | PF | Tallahassee, Fla./Rickards
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 19
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 76

Duquesne
Eric James | SG | Westerville, Ohio/Westerville
HT: 6-5 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

AAC
Central Florida
Chad Brown | PF | Deltona, Fla./Deltona
HT: 6-8 WT: 210
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MVC
Indiana State
Brandon Murphy | PF | Birmingham, Ala./Carver
HT: 6-7
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
Maryland - Baltimore County
Malcolm Brent | SG | Silver Spring, Md./Kimball Union
HT: 6-4
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ivy League
Columbia
Noah Daoust | C | Montreal/Hotchkiss School
HT: 6-8 WT: 230
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Yale
Sem Kroon | C | Greenwich, Conn./Northfield-Mt. Hermon
HT: 6-10
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MAC
Toledo
Cuyler Mosley | SG | Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek
HT: 6-3 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Kent State
Devon Andrews | PG | Lorain, Ohio/Lorain
HT: 6-4
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

West Coast Conference
Loyola Marymount
Elijah Stewart | SF | Los Angeles/Westchester
HT: 6-5 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Ohio Valley Conference
Eastern Kentucky
Daniel Norl | SG | Clarksville, Tenn./Kenwood
HT: 6-2 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big West Conference
Long Beach State
Temidayo Yussuf | SF | Alameda, Calif./St. Joseph Notre Dame
HT: 6-7
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Hawaii
Isaac Fleming | PG | New Castle, Del./Massanutten Military Academy
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

CAA
Delaware
Skye Johnson | PF | Lynchburg, Va./Virginia Episcopal School
HT: 6-9 WT: 230
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Northeastern
Devon Begley | SG | Pearland, Texas/Pearland
HT: 6-3
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big South
Winthrop
Joseph Lopez | SF | Miami/South Miami
HT: 6-6 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Southern Conference
Chattanooga
Shaquille Preston | SG | Metairie, La./East Jefferson
HT: 6-3 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Georgia Southern
Shawn O'Connell | SF | Alpharetta, Ga./Milton
HT: 6-8 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Sun Belt
Texas - Arlington
Kevin Hervey | SF | Arlington, Texas/Bowie
HT: 6-6 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Mountain West
Utah State
Julion Pearre | SG | McKinney, Texas/McKinney North
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Atlantic Sun
Northern Kentucky
Jordan Garnett | SF | Indianapolis/Warren Central
HT: 6-6 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Summit League
North Dakota State
Evan Wesenberg | PF | Germantown, Wis./Germantown
HT: 6-7 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Patriot League
Navy
Daniel Noe | SF | Alexandria, Va./Bishop Ireton
HT: 6-5 WT: 205
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Colgate
Sean O'Brien | SG | Philadelphia/Penn Charter
HT: 6-2 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

NEC
Mount St. Mary's
Mo Sallah | PF | Falling Waters, W.Va./Fishburne Military Academy (Post-Grad)
HT: 6-9 WT: 205
Class of 2014

Farleigh-Dickinson
Darian Anderson | PG | Washinton, DC/St. John's
HT: 5-11 WT: 150
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

MAAC
Qunnipiac
Dimitri Floras | SG | Merrimack, N.H./The MacDuffie School
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending
ESPN 100 PF Mike Gilmore (Tallahassee, Fla./James S. Rickards) made a verbal commitment to VCU on Thursday night. Gilmore is the second ESPN 100 player and fourth four-star prospect to commit to VCU so far this year in what is becoming Shaka Smart's most decorated recruiting class to date.


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Stars live up to hype at Super Showcase 

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
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Editor's note: This is the latest entry in Dave Telep's July Road Trip blog. Throughout the month, Dave will check in each day he's on the road while covering some of the biggest basketball recruiting events in the country. He'll let you know where he is, offer some highlights of the day and give a quick look at what's next.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It was a quick stay in Disney for me this week. Basically, I was in town to help broadcast a pair of AAU Super Showcase games on ESPNU and then pick off a few guys during pool play of the AAU Nationals whom I needed to see.

Mission accomplished.

So here are my final thoughts from the Super Showcase.

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Top 10 lessons learned in Georgia 

July, 24, 2013
7/24/13
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Last week, the second of July’s three open evaluation periods took me to three events in Georgia, where it was time to do work on players from the Southeast. The Best of the South, Elite 32 and All-American Juco Showcase had my full attention. The juco thing was fun, but I found that high school and grassroots hoops is more my speed.

Of course, that’s not the only thing I learned from my time in the Peach State. Here are my top 10 takeaways from July’s second evaluation period.

Juwan Durham
Dave Telep/ESPNESPN 25 center Juwan Durham is one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2016.
1. Durham is not taking this summer lightly

During July, the challenge is seeing as many of the rising seniors enough times so you can feel good about the evaluation and create reasonable expectations for them. However, your head is always on a swivel, pivoting just enough to see the next wave of underclassmen backing up the current crop.

ESPN 25 center Juwan Durham (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Prep) is one of the nation’s top prospects in the 2016 class and is thus two summers away from taking center stage. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take him seriously.

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Gilmore gets chance to shine in Georgia 

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
2:00
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Editor's note: This is the latest entry in Dave Telep's July Road Trip blog. Throughout the month, Dave will check in each day he's on the road while covering some of the biggest basketball recruiting events in the country. He'll let you know where he is, offer some highlights of the day and give a quick look at what's next.

SUWANEE, Ga. -- After a few days off the road, we’re back at it as the Best of the South at the Suwanee Sports Academy tipped off on Thursday. This event is mid-major heaven, with some senior and underclassman high-major prospects sprinkled in. It’s a chance to peek into the state of Georgia and its tributaries for a couple days.

Here are some nuggets from Thursday’s action in Suwanee.

Michael Gilmore
Dave Telep/ESPNOften overshadowed on his AAU team, 2014 PF Mike Gilmore got a chance to play a starring role on Thursday.
Gilmore only needed the chance

Since April, 2014 power forward Mike Gilmore (Jacksonville, Fla./Episcopal) has been talked about in this blog almost every time I’ve seen him. To me, he’s one of the more undervalued power forward stocks in the Southeast.

The Each 1 Teach 1 big man is the fourth-best prospect on his own travel team, a squad that includes North Carolina-bound point guard Joel Berry, Ohio State-bound shooting guard D'Angelo Russell and Duke-bound shooting guard Grayson Allen. You can see why he might get overshadowed.

Well, E1T1’s three big names didn’t attend the Best of the South. And by the looks of his play, Gilmore wasn’t too broken up about it.

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10 things to know about the 2014 class 

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
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The new player rankings are out and the 2014 class of rising seniors has graduated from the ESPN 60 to its initial full ESPN 100. As this group of prospects takes center stage in a new recruiting cycle, here are 10 things you need to know about the Class of 2014.

1. Potential landscape-altering package deal

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