How the elite were built: Non-Elite Recruits

This year seven teams have dominated college basketball. In this series takes a look at how all seven were built and came together. In part II the focus is on Villanova, Virginia, and Wisconsin who have built teams without many stars on the recruiting trail.

While schools such as Kentucky, Duke, and Arizona are routinely pulling in elite recruits and multiple McDonald’s All-Americans, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Virginia have built their teams differently. In fact between the three teams there is only one McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster.


Of all the teams that fit into this category on how to build an elite team, Villanova is the one who has done it with the most heralded prospects. Overall the Wildcats play a consistent eight man rotation, and six of them were considered four-star recruits coming out of high school.

In the frontcourt is where Villanova has the majority of their recruiting talent. Jayvaughn Pinkston is their lone McDonald’s All-American, but he wasn’t considered a top 25 prospect, in fact in the final 2011 rankings he checked in at No. 51. Next to Pinkston on the frontline is Daniel Ochefu who was a top 50 prospect, but was considered a raw shot blocker and defender coming out. Ochefu has made great strides with his offensive game.

Backing them up at the forward position are a pair of four-star sophomores. Both Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins came from the Washington D.C. area, and both were top 75 recruits. Now each of them is performing at a high level and making key shots off the bench for one of the nation’s best.

The four perimeter players in the rotation are where Villanova doesn’t have as much elite talent coming out of high school. Shooting guard Dylan Ennis was a kid who transferred in from Rice, and wasn’t considered a high level recruit coming out while Darrun Hilliard was a two-star prospect who was mostly an after-thought in his own recruiting class, but has turned into maybe the team’s best player.

That said the point guards have been highly thought of prospects. Ryan Arcidiacono was a highly touted four-star player and his backup Phil Booth was also heavily recruited out of the city of Baltimore as a four-star prospect.

Even without a five-star prospect on the roster, Jay Wright and his staff have built a juggernaut in Philadelphia, and have assembled one of the elite teams in the country.


There is a perception that Virginia has gotten it done this year with kids who were totally under the radar, and that isn’t entirely true, but it is a roster without a five-star prospect on it.

In the backcourt two four-star prospects really set the tone of the Cavaliers. Both Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogden were fairly highly thought of prospects with Anderson being ranked No. 63 in the final 2012 rankings. Initially Anderson had committed to Maryland, but following the resignation of Gary Williams, he opened things back up and picked Virginia. Brogden also picked UVa over a host of high-majors and showed himself to be a solid high-major in high school.

If one player has been a bit of a surprise it has been London Perrantes. The three-star floor general from California wasn’t super touted coming out, but has shown the basketball IQ and feel for the game to run the show for Virginia.

In the frontcourt the Cavs play five players, but only two of them were considered four-star prospects. Center Mike Tobey and forward Evan Nolte each had big time attention before picking Virginia, and each found themselves in the top 100 of the final rankings in their class.

However the rest of the frontcourt was a bit more under the radar. Darion Atkins was a role player on his AAU team before making his way to Charlottesville, and was only considered a three-star prospect. Same can be said for Isaiah Wilkins and Marial Shayok, both of whom are freshman who while known commodities, weren’t considered elite level recruits.

Overall the Cavaliers have done an excellent job with their system and developing talent, and even without the elite recruits, still are at the top of college basketball.


Virtually no coach has been more consistent than Bo Ryan over the past decade. Ryan has finished in the top four of the Big Ten every year, and usually he doesn’t do it with the elite recruits, and this year is no different.

Now unlike the other schools on this list, Wisconsin does have a five-star on their roster. That player is small forward Sam Dekker who was considered one of the elite recruits in the entire country coming out of high school.

The rest of the Badgers frontcourt however was not as highly touted. National Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky was just a three-star recruit. The big man showed some upside with his skill level in high school, but was a role player on his AAU team and also wasn’t an elite producer at the high school level. Nigel Hayes came on late and nearly garnered four-star status, but like Kaminsky was considered a good three-star recruit.

The role players on the frontline in Vitto Brown and Duje Dukan were also considered three-star prospects, though each of them plays a role for the Badgers, neither were heavily recruited by high-majors.

In the backcourt only one prospect was a four-star coming out, and that was point guard Bronson Koenig. Koenig had offers from other elite level schools, such as North Carolina, but eventually stayed home and picked the Badgers.

Along with Koenig, three-star prospects Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser make up the Badgers rotation at the guard spot. Gasser was fairly lightly regarded as a prospect when he picked the Badgers and Jackson while known, wasn’t seen as an impact player at the high-major level.

Like always Bo Ryan recruited to his system and found a group that plays well together. The development of Kaminsky was huge, and now Ryan and his staff have built one of the best teams in the nation.


When looking at this list of players, you might only find three or four players total who play in the NBA or are first round draft picks, and most of those are on Wisconsin. Still all three teams have the talent, chemistry, and coaching to be one of the elite in college basketball.

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