USC Basketball: State of Recruiting
It's a good thing the new South Carolina basketball staff is so young. The schedule they face the next couple of months is daunting, as they go out scouring the nation to find the talent they need.
Dave Telep, the national director of basketball recruiting for Scout.com, describes a typical summer for coaches like Horn and his staff: "June is spent reaching out to AAU coaches, trying to get guys to your elite camps, trying to get them on the campus during the month for unofficial visits, and then really planning out what your plan of attack is going to be for July, when you send three guys out and just blanket the country - where you're going to be, who your primary recruits are, and the logistics of going across the country for 20 days and seeing people play. It's all being planned out right now."
Horn and his staff are starting almost from scratch in their recruiting efforts for the new team. While still at Western Kentucky, for a long time they had been working their top target Lakeem Jackson, and were also pursuing Ramon Galloway and Ben Eblen. Other than that trio, all the prospects they are recruiting for South Carolina are initial contacts since coming to Columbia.
Jackson is ranked by Scout.com as the #10 small forward in the country. He is the prototype player for a Darrin Horn team – a slashing style player who is strong, and plays in attack mode on offense, and also plays just as aggressively on defense. Telep said of Jackson, "He is, I think, the first and foremost name that comes to mind when you talk about filling South Carolina's recruiting needs. He's a top 75 and a high major player, and a guy that they had a tremendous relationship with during their time at Western Kentucky. From my perspective, he is the most important guy on their board right now."
They have offered five players so far, and are evaluating a lot more. The players who have received offers thus far are: Jackson, who is out of Arden, NC; Galloway, the #15 ranked point guard out of Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Richard Howell, a 6'7" 215 lb four-star power forward out of Marietta, GA; Mfon Udofia, the #8 ranked point guard in the country out of Lithonia GA; and Colin Reddick, a 3-star 6'9" 230 lb center out of Atlanta.
Horn was frank about the immediate challenges his program faces in recruiting. "I think short term, it's just playing catch up. We're going to need to sign multiple guys, and recruiting starts very early now at this level. We just got the job in April. In the short term, (we are) identifying, evaluating, and making the inroads we need to sign a quality class."
The staff is covering the east coast in their recruiting efforts. South Carolina natives Kenny Manigault, a point guard from Summerville, and Lucas Troutman, a power forward from Honea Path, are two players from the Palmetto State being evaluated.
In addition to the three already offered from the Peach State, the following players are being recruited: Terrence Shannon, power forward from Forsyth; Tahj Tate, shooting guard from Marietta; Taariq Muhammad, point guard from Norcross; Adrien Coleman, shooting guard from Stone Mountain; Cameron Baskerville, small forward from Atlanta; Shawn Kemp, Jr., #21 center from Canton; and Daniel Miller, center from Loganville.
Heading south from there to Florida, in addition to Galloway, the Gamecocks are evaluating Ben Eblen, a point guard from Melbourne, and Keith Clanton, the #49 power forward from Orlando.
Jackson is not the only player from the Tar Heel state the staff is pursuing. Keith Dewitt, a power forward from Goldsboro; Matt Wilson, a power forward from Raleigh; Antonio Kalpich, a power forward from Fayetteville; and CJ Harris, the #24 shooting guard out of Winston Salem, are all being evaluated by the Gamecock staff.
The airlines are making money, as the USC coaches evaluate three players in three states that are the only players from their respective states currently being pursued by Carolina: Augustine Rubit, a center from Houston TX; Cadarian Raines, another center, from Petersburg VA; and Eric Bledsoe, the #10 ranked point guard in the country, from Alabama.
Perhaps the new staff will follow in the footsteps of the most successful basketball staff in South Carolina history, and entice some players from the Big Apple to come south. A trio of players from New York they are evaluating are Kevin Parrom, a small forward from the Bronx; Sherrod Wright, a shooting guard from Mt Vernon; and James Padgett, a center from Brooklyn.
Telep knows Coach Horn and his staff well, but was realistic in his expectations in how long it would take for them to make South Carolina competitive. "It may be another year and another recruiting class or two," he said. "But the good thing is, Devan Downey to me is a kid who is going to thrive, because Coach Horn had Tyrone Brazelton at Western Kentucky and he told Tyrone to put his foot on the gas and go. I think that's something that someone like Devan Downey is going to enjoy hearing. He's going to have the ability to drive the car as fast as he can. The only problem is, he may run out of gas to run with, and that's going to be one of the growing pains of taking over a program in your first year. Your style is going to have to be curbed a little bit, just because you don't have the personnel in place to do it yet."
The nationally recognized recruiting analyst talked about what Horn's style of play requires, and the kind of players necessary to make it work. "For now," he says, "do the best with what you've got. Obviously, they like guys who can get out and run, big long guys as opposed to traditional low block guys, versatile guys. Things are going to have to change a little bit. In the Sunbelt Conference, you could get away with a thinner, longer guy. You're going to be in some battles in the SEC where you're going to need post defenders and multiple post defenders.
"After that, they need a point guard, and it's a shallow crop nationally. They need that guy, they need that position in a bad way. It's just a little thinner crop than you would like if you're an SEC head coach right now. The other spot they need is power forward.
"These guys are no strangers to hard work," Telep continued. "They had that reputation when they were at Western Kentucky, and I'm sure it's going to follow them to South Carolina. They are just a passionate staff about recruiting, and they know that is the lifeblood of what they're going to do at South Carolina.
"In some ways, it's a little difficult as a new head coach to take over a program right now because of the recruiting calendar. As much of an advantage as you think you've got when you get a job before the final four, you also have a disadvantage because younger kids are committing earlier and earlier, and it's almost like you're second. Where it used to be, your first year on the job you'd have a great recruiting class. Now the trend is that your second year should be a better class, because you've had that full amount of time to spend with those people. Any new coach will tell you how difficult it is. Especially when you have to come in and dig up some guys for your current class, and then you're a little behind the eight ball with the seniors. I think the trend of new coaches, if you look at it, is probably that they have their best recruiting classes in their second year on the job."
Telep talked about Horn and his staff's strengths as recruiters. "He's smart. He's very intelligent, and they did an excellent job with their evaluations at Western Kentucky. At Marquette, Western Kentucky, you name it, he's good at that. The guys they recruited were the guys they used."
Horn said he hoped to be at South Carolina in twenty years. He talked about what he needed to accomplish recruiting-wise to make that happen: "I think long term, (we need to be) establishing relationships, and making inroads, not only in (particular) areas, but with people, where...South Carolina is on their radar as a major consideration."
He's got his sleeves rolled up, and he's out there working hard to make it happen.
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