Notebook: Big(gie) Drama

In our weekly Notebook feature, the national team explores creative and broad topics from the grassroots hoops realm. This week, we lead with recent and now former Michigan State pledge Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan.

High stakes for Swanigan

He is the last remaining five-star player on the board and right now for Caleb Swanigan (pictured above), it is beyond interesting. After his surprise commitment to Michigan State quickly resulted in a surprise de-commitment from the Spartans, Swanigan is surprisingly still uncommitted to anybody.

I had the opportunity to speak with Roosevelt Barnes, Swanigan's father, this weekend, and not many clues were given, but the only thing that was entirely clear from the conversation is that a final decision isn't made.

With this recruitment, the unexpected is to be expected, so anyone stating it is a done deal or they know what is going on is probably getting a bit shall we say "aggressive" with the reality of the situation.”

California, Purdue and to an extent Michigan State remain in the mix, and who knows, others might be calling as well. The reasons he didn't choose California and Purdue remain in place, however, so there are more questions than answers at the moment because no one expects him to go back to Michigan State.

In terms of a decision, in theory it has to happen before June when he would enroll, but it’s also possible Swanigan could enroll for the second summer session which would be closer to July. However it plays out, it’s going to be fascinating to observe, and at the moment there is no clear path to any of the schools on his list.

— Brian Snow

History Repeats Itself With Mathews

In the 2013 recruiting class, one of the more productive scorers on the West Coast was Jordan Mathews, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound shooting guard from Santa Monica (Calif.).

Mathews was an aggressive player who could get hot from three, showed consistently improved ball skills and slashing ability and played very good on the ball defense. Probably due to the fact that he was a little undersized, Mathews was mostly overlooked in recruiting and even though he did have a handful of high major offers, he should have received more attention than he did.

Like his brother, Jonah Mathews boasts significant long-term promise

California correctly evaluated Mathews, however, and ultimately landed him. As a sophomore this past season for the Golden Bears, he averaged 13.6 points and 3.4 rebounds, shooting 44.3 percent from three, giving the Golden Bears one of the best shooters in the conference.

Three recruiting classes later and Jordan’s little brother, 2016 Santa Monica shooting guard Jonah Mathews, is being similarly under-recruited.

Jonah, 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, isn’t the athlete that Jordan was at the same stage, but he’s also less physically mature and has a better, longer frame. He has a very big weapon in his midrange pull-up jumper but has also really improved from three and now is a serious threat from distance as well. A better ball handler than his brother at the same stage, Jonah is a two all the way, but his ball skills will allow him to play some one at the next level.

There’s a lack of quality available shooting guards on the West in 2016, but Jonah’s talent and mental makeup give reason to believe he’s going to overachieve at the next level for many of the same reasons that Jordan did.

— Josh Gershon

Simpson Drawing Close

Xavier Simpson is gearing up to make his college decision.

A 2016 point guard out of Lima (Ohio) High, Simpson said he’s looking to make his college choice in less than a month. Simpson told Scout at the EYBL Houston event that Xavier, Iowa, Iowa State, Butler, Illinois and Purdue are the schools he’s considering.

To date, Simpson has visited only Xavier.

“I like that it’s a pretty small college,” Simpson said of Xavier. “I like the coaches and I have a pretty good relationship with Coach (Travis) Steele and Coach Mack. It’s been good going through the recruiting process with them.”

Does Simpson plan to take any other visits prior to making his college choice?

“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “Possibly, most likely. Me and my parents haven’t really decided yet. We are trying to find a good date to take some visits.”

— Evan Daniels

Double Duty No Problem For Smith

Dennis Smith unquestionably is one of the Adidas’ circuits grandest names this travel season, but the Team Loaded star — and nationally elite point guard in the 2016 class — toured with Team Penny last weekend on the EYBL circuit.

Smith didn’t struggle making that transition as he did a year ago, when he moonlighted with Team United. For Team Penny, he averaged 15 points per game and shot just under 50 percent from the field in four games. He didn’t knock down his threes but did bury his free throws (14-16) and averaged four rebounds and three steals per contest as well.

Smith’s confidence has skyrocketed along with his reputation

None of this should surprise anyone; Smith is ranked in our top 10 for good reason. But it’s certainly noteworthy, if for no reason than Smith was able to compete against opponents he typically doesn’t face, including the likes of Jayson Tatum.

The reality is that Adidas was off last weekend and is off this entire month, for that matter, and Smith always has been a gym rat. If anything, Smith’s presence at an EYBL event may have underscored to onlookers the extent to which the point guard position is down this year at Nike.

With Smith and other elites in 2016 and 2017 such as Kobi Simmons, Lonzo Ball, Frank Jackson, Trevon Duval, Jalek Felton and others all playing off the EYBL — which nevertheless does remain the talent ringleader — the league’s overall quality of backcourt play has suffered.

Smith himself remains closely linked to NC State with others such as Louisville, North Carolina and Duke also in pursuit, and Mark Gofftried’s Wolfpack are aiming to accomplish the feat of landing both Smith and his Team Loaded teammate, center Edrice Adebayo.

— Rob Harrington

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this article

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