A Look at the Big East's Early Signings

The Big East has produced the last two National Champions, and there's no question why this is the case: lots and lots of big-time talent flows into the league on a yearly basis. This past November was no different, as an impressive group of prospects inked with league schools, both current and future. Some recruiting services have pegged as many as 21 Top 100 prospects headed to the Big East, tops among all conferences.

Here's a quick look at how Big East schools made out in the early signing period, along with how many scholarships each school has available to award in the Spring:

Connecticut
Jeff Adrien, F, 6-5, 218, Wofeboro, NH/Brewster Academy Andrew Bynum, C, 6-11, 270, Metuchen, NJ/St. Joseph's Marcus Johnson, WF, 6-6, 200, Los Angeles, CA/Westchester
Jim Calhoun continues to pile up the best talent in the Big East, and that has translated into obvious results on the court. These three signees push his scholarship total to over the 13 allowed, but Calhoun must expect some attrition (Villanueva, Gay, Price?) in the Spring. The prize is Bynum, an excellent shotblocker and post defender who has the size and strength to be unstoppable down low. He has NBA in his future, and will give UConn a top center presence. Adrien is a tough, strong athlete who plays bigger than his size. A strong rebounder and midrange shooter, Adrien can play both ends of the floor with intensity. Johnson is best in a free-flowing running game and can leap. An excellent athlete, Johnson can shoot from the perimeter, slash to the rim and pass the ball with skill. As of now, Connecticut has no scholarships available in the Spring.

Georgetown
Marc Egerson, WF, 6-5, 215, Philadelphia, PA/Berean Octavius Spann, WF, 6-6, 218, College Park, GA/Banneker Josh Thornton, G, 6-1, 165, Camden, DE/Rodney
John Thompson III needed athletes to help restock his depleted roster, and this trio should fit the bill. Thornton is the most highly regarded, a push point guard who must get stronger. He's a score-first point who takes a ton of shots, but also makes his fair share. Great range, but must improve shot selection and penetration skills. Spann is not a great offensive player, but is strong and hits the boards. Egerson is kind of a do-everything well but nothing exceptionally well type of player. He has decent skills and works hard to improve and is most effective close to the basket. Georgetown has one scholarship to give in the Spring.

Notre Dame
Ryan Ayers, G/F, 6-7, 200, Blue Bell, Pa./Germantown Academy Zach Hillesland, F, 6-8, 220, Toledo, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit Kyle McAlarney, G, 6-1, 170, Staten Island, N.Y./Moore Catholic Luke Zeller, F/C, 6-11, 240, Washington, Ind./Washington
Mike Brey wotked the junior class hard, and secured all four commitments by July. The biggest one, both figuratively and literally, was Zeller, Notre Dame's center of the future. Zeller has bulked up some, and is an excellent passer and uses his body well to position for rebounds. His offense is improving. Ayers is the son of Randy Ayers, and is a glue-type player. He does many things well, and is a decent athlete. McAlarney has big shoes to fill, as he'll be expected to step in for Chris Thomas. He shoots and passes well but isn't exceptionally quick. Hillesland is a lefty who can score out to three point land, but will need time to develop. The Irish have no scholarships to give in the Spring.

Pittsburgh
Tyrell Biggs, F, 6-8, 250, Ramsey, NJ/Bosco Levance Fields, G, 6-0, 205, Brooklyn, NY/Xaverian Doyle Hudson, F, 6-8, 230, Roane State (TN) JC Sam Young, F, 6-6, 225, Chatham, VA/Hargrave Military
Jamie Dixon needed to beef up his frontline after this season, and he can consider his mission accomplished. All three of Pitt's frontcourt signees are slightly undersized height-wise, but all three are bulls under the boards. In other words, typical Pitt recruits. Biggs saw his stock drop over the summer but has played better in the fall. He's at his best on the offensive end of the court, and needs to improve his rebounding and defense. Young, on the other hand, is very athletic, and strong to boot. Rebounding, defense and power dunks are his game. Hudson is the sleeper of the class, a juco and originally from the Bahamas. Fields is a strong point guard who verballed to Pitt in December, choosing the Panthers over St. John's. Needs to improve his shooting, but is an excellent floor general.

Providence
Weyinmi Efejuku, G, 6-5, 190, Wolfeboro, NH/Brewster Academy Jonathan Kale, F/C, 6-7, 245, Barrington, RI/St. Andrew's
Tim Welsh continues to upgrade the talent level at Providence, and this class helps that trend. Kale verballed to the Friars in May, and then exploded in July at the ABCD Camp. Kale is not a springy athlete, but uses his body well, positions for rebounds, scores in the paint, and plays a physical, take-no-prisoners game. During the offseason, he honed his skills in Alumni Hall against the likes of Ryan Gomes and Ruben Garces, and more than held his own. Efejuku is a combo guard who can play some point, some off guard and even some wing forward. Somewhat of a sleeper, Efejuku is playing well on a loaded Brewster squad, and has one of the quickest and most explosive first steps in all of high school basketball. His flaw is a so-so perimeter game, and his ability to improve that aspect of his game will impact his effectiveness at PC. The Friars will have one scholarship to give in the Spring.

Rutgers
Anthony Farmer, G, 6-2, 185, Millville, N.J./St. Augustine's Prep Zack Gibson, F, 6-9, 205, Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc Community HS Jaron Griffin, F, 6-7, 205, Manchester, N.J./Manchester Regional Gerald "JR" Inman, F, 6-9, 200, Pomona, N.Y./St. Joseph's Regional
Gary Waters, upon taking the Rutgers job, stated that his goal was to keep the top talent home. To that end, three of these four players are from New Jersey, and this is a talented group. Inman is thin, but can run the court, stroke midrange jumpers and can leap. If he bulks up, the sky is the limit. Griffin is a strong wing player, goes hard to the glass and is a decent shooter who needs to improve his range. Gibson is a bit of a project, but has decent size and is fundamentally sound with some skills. Farmer may be the point guard of the future, with speed and strength. Rutgers has no scholarships to give in the Spring.

St. John's
Tomas Jasiulionis, F/C, 6-11, 250, Richmond, VA/Trinity Episcopal Anthony Mason, Jr., F, 6-7, 205, Memphis, TN/Fairley Aaron Spears. F, 6-9, Highland (IL) JC Ricky Torres, G, 6-4, 205, Bronx, NY/St. Raymond's
Norm Roberts has begun the healing at St. John's and has worked hard at reestablishing relations with the City's high school programs. the first dividend of that effort was the talented Torres, a superb three point shooter. Torres will be a building block at the two-guard. Mason is another good deep shooter, but needs to develop more of an inside game to play upfront in the Big East. Jasiulionis is beefy and can help clog the middle for the Storm. He's from Lithuania, and passes well and has good skills for a big man. Spears transferred to junior college from Illinois, and will give St. John's more power in the paint. St. John's has one scholarship to offer in the Spring, but a second could open up if Darryl Hill decides to test the NBA waters again.

Seton Hall
John Garcia, F/C, 6-9, 230, Bayshore, N.Y./Brentwood
Louis Orr continues to mine the New York/New Jersey area for prospects and the Pirate's single signing was no exception. Garcia is a tough low post player with solid fundamentals and enough bulk to get the job done down low. Most effective within the paint, he gets to the free throw stripe with frequency, has the strength to push players around for position, and is a good low post passer. The Hall will have one scholarship to give in the Spring.

Syracuse
Eric Devendorf, G, 6-3, 190, Mouth of Wilson, VA/Oak Hill Academy Tiki Mayben, G, 6-2, 170, Troy, NY/Troy High Arinze Onuaku, C, 6-9, 255, Alexandria, VA/Episcopal
Jim Boeheim has done a very good job keeping up with the UConn juggernaut on the recruiting trails, and this class is no exception. Devendorf can score inside, on midrange jumpers and long threes. A tough defensive guard, he's the complete package. Mayben is perhaps the number one point guard in the nation and he's an elite playmaker. His court vision and passing ability are ahead of his scoring ability, but he'll hit the occassional three. Onuaku is a developmental big man, but he's strong, and catches the ball well. At this point, his defensive abilities are way ahead of his offense, but he's an improving athlete. Syracuse has up to two scholarships to give in the Spring.

Villanova
Dwayne Anderson, F/G, 6-5, St. Thomas More (Conn.) Dante Cunningham, F, 6-7, Potomac (Md.) Frank Tchuisi, F, 6-8, St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Jay Wright's fall recruits weren't quite up to his past Top 100 efforts, but the trio that inked will fill some pieces of the puzzle. Nova's efforts were hurt when Shane Clark backed out of a verbal, and reopened his recruiting, but Anderson has a sweet jump shot and can take his game inside, as well. Cunningham is a combo forward who is more effective closer to the basket, jumps well and can hit the glass. Tchuisi is more of a long range prospect who is from the Cameroon. Villanova will have one scholarship available in the Spring.

West Virginia
Joe Alexander, F, 6-7, Frederick, Md./Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) Alex Ruoff, G, 6-6, Brooksville, Fla./ Central
John Beilein continues to bring in players who tend to fly under the radar screen, but are solid players nonetheless. The current Mountaineer team is stocked with just such players, but has gotten off to a promising start. Ruoff is typical of this type of player - he's sound fundamentally, but doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. He's not especially strong, athletic or quick, but he's a winner. Alexander has a good pedigree, having played at Hargrave, but is more of a sleeper than Ruoff. He's a wing, with decent slashing skills, but an erratic perimeter game.

And for a sneak peek at how the future Big East members fared:

Cincinnati
Devon Downey, G, 5-10, 165, Chester, S.C./Chester Tyree Evans, G, 6-3, 200, Richmond, Va./George Wythe Abdul Herrera, C, 6-10, 250, Miami, Fla./South Miami Senior HS Cedric McGowan, F, 6-7, 225, Kilgore, Texas JC
Bob Huggins shied away a bit from the junior college route for a change, and landed three talented prep/high school prospects. Evans is the plum of the group, a big-time outside shooter who has strength and slashing ability to boot. His catch-and-shoot skills are among the best in the nation. Downey is more of a scoring point guard than a playmaking point, and he has quite a bit of playground in his game, but he can defend and he should improve as a floor leader. Herrera is not a great athlete, but he's a rugged low post player who gets by with solid fundamentals. McGowan was the lone juco to sign, a rugged power forward. The Bearcats have two scholarships to give in the Spring.

DePaul
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-7, 185, Benton Harbor, Mich./Benton Harbor Jabari Currie, G, 6-4, 195, Detoit, Mich./Pershing Rashad Woods, G, 6-5, 215, Westbury, Texas/Westbury
Dave Leitao has continued to stockpile talent as the Blue Demons prepare for their entry into the Big East. Rashad Woods is a big-time lefty scorer who plays with aggressiveness and high energy. More of a perimeter player, Woods does finish well. Chandler needs to get stronger, but can stroke the three, runs well and sneaks inside for acrobatic finishes. Currie is a decent point guard, but is a very erratic shooter. DePaul currently has no scholarships to give in the Spring.

Louisville
Bryan Harvey, G, 6-5, 210, Compton, Calif./Dominguez Clarence Holloway, C, 7-0, 270, Chicago, Ill./Harlan Jonathan Huffman, F, 7-0, 215, Birmingham, Ala./Central Park Christian School Amir Johnson, F, 6-9, 215, Los Angeles, Calif./Westchester Andre McGee, G, 5-10, 190, Moreno Valley, Calif./Canyon Springs Chad Millard, F, 6-8, 210, Goffstown, N.H./Brewster Academy Terrence Williams, F, 6-5, 225, Seattle, Wash./Ranier Beach
Rick Pitino always recruits well, and this year was no exception, as the Cards garnered seven signees. Call this a multi-plum class, which should set Louisville up well for the Big East wars. Johnson leads the way with tremendous post quickness and a variety of polished offensive moves and shots. McGee is another score-first, pass-second point guard, but Pitino has a way of convincing his points to change that mindset. If he improves his decision making, McGee can be outstanding. Williams is a strong athlete who can hit threes, attack the glass and defend either wing position. Harvey is a top three point shooter, which will fit well into Pitino's system, but he sometimes forces bad shots. Holloway missed some time with injury, and is a bit of a project, but he has great size which can't be taught. Millard was a one-time Friar target, and while he does several things well, like shoot from the wing, he doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well. Louisville may have reached here. Huffman is a late-blooming big man, who has decent skills but must get stronger. Right now, the Cardinals have no scholarships for the Spring, but one may open if Francisco Garcia leaves for the NBA.

Marquette
Dominic James, G, 5-10, 180, Richmond, Ind./Richmond Wesley Matthews, G/F, 6-5, Madison, Wis./Memorial Jerel McNeal, G/F, 6-3, 190, Country Club Hills, Ill./Hillcrest Matt Mortensen, F, 6-5, 185, Provo, Utah/Timpview
Tom Crean has the Golden Eagles perched to make a splash upon entering the Big East. The school's Final Four apperance of a couple years ago continues to reap benefits on the recruiting trail. James will provide big-time pure point guard skills for Marquette. Quick as a jet, James can hit threes, go to the rim and dish with the best of them. Matthews is the son of former Wisconsin star Wes Matthews, and he can play. A fundamentally sound, intelligent player, Matthews does the little things to make up for his erratic outside shooting. McNeal scores in traffic, goes strong to the basket and is a very strong combo guard. Mortensen is a bit of a sleeper, but is a proficient three point shooter and won't join Marquette for two years as he begins a Mormon mission. Marquette has no scholarships available for the Spring.

South Florida
Zaronn Cann, F, 6-6, 240, Brandon, Fla./Brandon Chris Howard, G, 6-2, Fort Washington, Md./Friendly McHugh Mattis, G/F, 6-6, 185, North Lauderdale, Fla./St. Petersburg JC
South Florida is in need of the biggest talent upgrade for the schools entering the Big East, and they hope that their three man class is a start. Cann should be fully recovered from an ACL injury, and prior to the injury, he exhibited decent quickness and a good midrange game to go along with a rugged frame. Howard and Mattis are both reaches and both need to improve to make an impact in the Big East. Howard is a solid off guard, while Mattis is a good athlete with some perimeter and slashing skills.

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