Within your home region, what were three standout plotlines for this year's cycle?
Rob Harrington (South):
1. Cameron Crushing: After struggling for several cycles to sign a blue-chip big man, Duke for the second straight year landed a top-five center. Every college fan knows about this season’s massive freshman, Jahlil Okafor, but of course nearly everyone expects Okafor to depart for the NBA following this season.
Thus, Duke had to reload inside, and the Blue Devils were able to win out for Chase Jeter. No one will confuse Jeter with Okafor in terms of interior scoring, but he’s mobile, sturdily built, a talented rebounder and shotblocker, and he has improved magnificently over the past year.
With Mike Krzyzewski entering his golden years in Durham, the Devils appear poised not only to field elite squads — which they do nearly every year — but to have the proper balance that could push them over the top in April.
2. SEC Shakeup: A few years may need to pass before the results manifest on the court, but the SEC recruiting rankings at this moment feature Texas A&M and Auburn in the top two spaces. Not Kentucky, not Florida (which does rank No. 3), but the Aggies and Tigers.
The conference has faced its detractors in recent seasons for being overly top heavy, given the dominance of the Wildcats and Gators, so an influx of talent to locales other than Lexington and Gainesville should boost the league’s overall level of play.
3. The Southern Majority: Of the 12 prospects uncommitted within the top 26, five of those hail from the South. That number includes our top overall prospect, Georgia wing Jaylen Brown (pictured above), as well as forward Skal Labissiere (a Haiti native living in Memphis), Mississippi guard Malik Newman, Florida slasher Antonio Blakeney and North Carolina forward Brandon Ingram.
|Newman’s prolific scoring could make him an all-conference freshman|
But while we’re obviously talking about national level prospects, the recruitments are more regional than you may believe. Brown holds a list that is more far flung, yet even so the Georgia schools and Kentucky (among others) hope to keep him within the South.
Many expect the Wildcats will prevail for Labissiere, and they’re battling the home-state programs, among others, for Newman. Blakeney at one time was committed to Louisville, but he backed off and is yet another considering UK while LSU also looms as a regional threat. Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State all are working hard on Ingram, and it appears at least very possible that one of those three will fend off Kansas and others.
Brian Snow (Midwest):
1. Coleman-Lands has wild recruitment: A major question all fall was what would Jalen Coleman-Lands would do. One of the top shooters in the class, Coleman-Lands had a fairly interesting recruiting battle that featured schools like Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame leading at different times, before Illinois was able to seal the deal at the end. Coleman-Lands will be the first signee for Illinois from the state of Indiana in nearly 30 years, and this is the type of kid who can have an immediate impact on the Illini.
2. Spartans rebound on recruiting trail: Michigan State didn't exactly have banner years recruiting in 2013 and 2014, but in 2015 they responded in a big way with a very solid effort. Deyonta Davis got things going early, and he is a top 50 prospect, then the Spartans added two excellent shooters on the wing in Matt McQuaid and Kyle Ahrens.
|The Spartans will benefit from McQuaid’s long-range shooting prowess|
Both of them are four-star prospects and have the ability to really stretch a defense and make life difficult for opponents. Then you add in another big time proven scorer in transfer Eron Harris, and the group of newcomers coming in for Tom Izzo is going to add some much needed talent into the program.
Wojo makes an impact: When Buzz Williams left Marquette for Virginia Tech there was some uncertainty regarding the Golden Eagles. However, they hired Steve Wojciechowski and that turned out to be a tremendous move. Marquette landed one of the top classes in the country headed by elite prospect Henry Ellenson. Also the Golden Eagles really controlled the state of Wisconsin landing two other highly touted prospects in Nick Noskowiak and Matt Heldt. Add in a very talented guard in Haanif Cheatham, and Wojo made his impact known from day one in Milwaukee.
Evan Daniels (Northeast):
The Northeast isn’t exactly my home region, but for this exercise I’ll look at the three biggest plot ines in that area:
1. Isaiah Briscoe Craziness: Isaiah Briscoe’s recruitment has been a hot topic. In fact, one prominent basketball figure told me that it was the “wildest recruitment he’d ever seen.” Briscoe has had a number of different favorites throughout his recruiting process. At one point he was set to go to Arizona, but they are no longer in the picture.
|The recruitment may be wild, but Briscoe will prove worth it to the winner|
He has a final list of three – Connecticut, Kentucky and St. John’s. But realistically, it’s UK and St. John’s as we head into the signing period.
2. Home or Away for Diallo: Much like Briscoe’s recruitment, Cheick Diallo has entertained interest from the local school – St. John’s. But is also strongly considering and has visited Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky and Pittsburgh. Diallo visited St. John’s the weekend of October 18th with Briscoe and Brandon Sampson. There was a lot of buzz about St. John’s possibly getting all three at that time. Although he’s taken visits to all the schools involved, don’t expect a college choice from Diallo during the early signing period.
3. No one knows what Jones will do: Tracking down information on Derrick Jones has been a task … throughout his high school career. At this point he’s listing Auburn, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky and UNLV, but I don’t think anyone truly knows what he’s going to do as far as a decision goes or when he will decide.
Josh Gershon (West):
1. Arizona continues success in West: Sean Miller has been extremely successful recruiting the West Coast since he arrived at Arizona, and this cycle has been no different. He landed the top 2015 point guard prospect in the region in Justin Simon, the top shooting guard - via transfer to Findlay Prep - in Allonzo Trier, the top small forward in Ray Smith and the third ranked center in Chance Comanche.
|Rabb would give the Wildcats yet another starring Oakland Soldier|
The Wildcats also remain in the running for the top ranked power forward in Ivan Rabb, number one center in Stephen Zimmerman and, outside of the region, is heavily in the mix for five-star center Caleb Swanigan.
2. Washington puts together historic class: On paper, Lorenzo Romar has compiled a class for UW that is its best in school history. Point guard David Crisp, shooting guard Dejounte Murray, small forward Matisse Thybulle, power forward Marquese Chriss and posts Devenir Duruisseau and Malik Dime form a six-man group that is expected to have a very successful run in Seattle. Credit the Washington coaching staff for completing one of the toughest tasks for a program having a run of recruiting struggles by putting together a Top 10 class when no one was expecting it.
3. Oregon State signing Top 20 class: Oregon State signing a Top 20 class is so monumental - when considering the school's lack of success in recruiting for the last decade - that one could argue it's the biggest storyline of this group. Yes, the Beavers were aided by the fact they signed two Top 100 players who were sons of head coach Wayne Tinkle and assistant Stephen Thompson, Jr., but results are results and the bottom line is small forward Tres Tinkle and shooting guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. are two of the biggest commitments in the school's recent history. Add in two high upside prospects in point guard Derrick Bruce and center Drew Eubanks, along with a reliable and skilled center Gligorjie Rakocevic, and you have a huge recruiting classic in Corvallis.
Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report