The Hilltop Review

Every Saturday morning, we provide exclusive stories and info

Dallas Nike EYBL Notebook

By EJ Holland and Omar Majzoub

PG Alex Robinson, 6-1, 170, Texas Titans/Mansfield Timberview

Quick Hit: Robinson was very impressive today. He might not have been the flashiest player in the event, but he was one of the best leaders and controlled the tempo of the game. He displayed great court vision by making a lot of nice dishes. He does, however, need to improve as a shooter. He went just 3-10 from the field and finished with eight points, four assists and three steals.

PG Emmanuel Mudiay, 6-4, 185, Texas Pro/Prime Prep

Quick Hit: Mudiay is obviously one of the top players in 2014, and he showed why on Friday night. Although his team fell, Mudiay showed the ability to slash and get to the basket with ease. He penetrated the paint and made some very smart decisions in traffic. Mudiay also has a nice shot and was able to sink a few jumpers. Overall, Mudiay was extremely impressive and is deserving of his elite ranking.

PG Larry Austin, 6-1, 160, St. Louis Eagles/Lanphier (IL)

Quick Hit: Austin plays very similar to Robinson. He controls the tempo nicely and makes few mistakes. In fact, he turned the ball over just once. But it would have been nice to see him be more aggressive. Too often, Austin swung the ball around the perimeter rather than driving and creating. Other than that, he had a good game with nine points and four assists.

PG Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 150, Mean Streets/Marian Catholic (IL)

Quick Hit: Ulis has not visited SMU yet, but has talked to coach Larry Brown on the phone a couple times. He planned to visit the Hilltop this weekend but may not get a chance with the EYBL schedule being so busy. Ulis can penetrate and draw defenses with ease and found his teammates in traffic really well. Other schools interested in are Michigan State, Iowa, Florida, and USC. Ulis finished with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists for Mean Streets.

PG Johnnie Vassar, 5-11, 175, Oakland Soldiers/Jserra Catholic

Quick Hit: Did not play in the first game due to wear and tear but said he is using the camp to see how he matches up with some of the best talent in the country. Vassar has interest in SMU and says the coaching staff has done a great job explaining their plan to rebuild the program. Other schools interested in Vassar are mid-majors like TCU and Pepperdine.

PG Jalen Brunson, 5-11, 160, Mac Irvin Fire/Stevenson (IL) (2015)

Quick Hit: Brunson received an offer from SMU back in January, but says the interest has slowed down a little bit. Brunson is still learning a lot about the Hilltop, but said he feels the coaching staff has the ability to build a great program. In his first game, he finished with seven points, six assists, and three rebounds while showing a terrific ability to get his teammates involved.

PG/SG JaQuan Newton, 6-3, 180, Team Final/Neumann-Goretti (PA)

Quick Hit: Newton had the most disappointing performance in the whole event. In 28 minutes of action, he shot the ball just once and missed. He did have five assists, but Newton's performance was simply flat and uninspiring. He played extremely lackadaisically, hung around the perimeter while doing much of nothing and struggled defensively.

SG Phil Booth, 6-3, 170, Team Takeover/Mt. St. Joseph (MD)

Quick Hit: After his first game at the EYBL, Booth talked about his strong interest in SMU. Booth cited the school's location and coaching staff, specifically Ulric Malgi, as major factors in his recruitment. Booth and Larry Brown have discussed a visit on the phone, but the 6-foot-3 guard is also talking to Georgetown, Maryland, Indiana and Villanova. He was quiet offensively for Team Takeover but showed good energy and finished with nine points, six rebounds, and two assists.

SG Khadeen Carrington, 6-3, 180, NY Lightning/ Bishop Loughlin (NY)

Quick Hit: Carrington is one of the best passers in the 2014 class. Carrington showed his terrific feel for the game and passing ability while finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assist.. SMU coaches Larry Brown and Ulric Malgi have been recruiting Carrington and his mother will be setting up a visit to the Hilltop soon. Other schools interested are Connecticut, St. Johns, Iowa State and more.

SG Austin Grandstaff, 6-4, 170, Team Texas Elite/Plano West (2015)

Quick Hit: Grandstaff showed off some good athleticism but didn't do enough to really sell himself as an elite player. He had a nice game, going 7-16 for 15 points but played erratically at times and didn't take the best shots in the world. In fact, most of his points came from lay-ups. There is no doubt Grandstaff is a solid player but not a great one right now. But he still has a year to perfect his game.

SG Charles Matthews, 6-4, 180, Mean Streets/St. Rita (IL) (2015)

Quick Hit: Matthews has been in contact with coach Jerrance Howard and hopes to visit the Hilltop later this month. Matthews talked about the lure of a Hall of Fame coach and how he plans on getting more familiar with the school. He truly showcased his athleticism and length on defense and finished the game with 10 points, two assists and a steal for Mean Streets.

SG Terrance Ferguson, 6-4, 170, Texas Pro/Prime Prep (2016)

Quick Hit: Only 14 years old, Ferguson was out there battling with the big boys and showed he belonged. Although Ferguson didn't have a big night, he has a nice stroke and good range. He did look a little fragile out there but has plenty of time to fill out and reach his potential.

SF DJ Hogg, 6-6, 185, Texas Titans/Plano West (2015)

Quick Hit: Hogg really struggled from the floor today, going 1-13. He finished with just three points and appeared frustrated by the constant clank of the iron. It simply looked he lacked the confidence in his shot, but it may have been just a case of game one jitters. But he did have an impressive defensive performance. His wingspan helped him block three shots and alter plenty of other shots.

PF Cliff Alexander, 6-8, 240, Mac Irvin Fire/Curie (IL)

Quick Hit: Alexander has also talked to the coaching staff a little, but expects an increase in contact soon. Other schools interested in Alexander are Indiana, Louisville, Florida State, Arizona, Kentucky and Michigan State. Alexander is still developing his offensive game but already is a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. He finished with a monster18 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks.

PF Elijah Thomas, 6-9, 290, Texas Team Elite/Prime Prep (2015)

Quick Hit: Thomas was without a doubt one of the most dominant big men in today's event. From monster dunks to key rebounds and big blocks, Thomas did it all. He is extremely athletic for his size and controlled the paint with ease. Thomas also plays the game with a lot of passion and heart and was a true leader on the court Friday night. He finished the game with 20 points and nine rebounds.

PF Marcus Derrickson, 6-7, 250, Team Takeover/Paul VI (VA) (2015)

Quick Hit: Big man Derrickson is taking his time with the recruiting process and reviewing all of his options. He did not play in the first game of the EYBL tournament for Team Takeover and the Paul VI (VA) product has not visited SMU yet. The 6-foot-6 Derrickson has offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Miami, and Villanova, but will wait until the summer to start narrowing down his options.

Hill Visits Pair Of Prospects

By EJ Holland

SMU lacks some serious depth along the defensive line so it's pivotal that the Ponies lure some talented defensive ends and nose tackles in 2014.

SMU defensive line coach Bert Hill understands this and was in the Houston-area trying to find some players that fit the 3-4 scheme. On Wednesday, he stopped by Cleveland to visit with nose tackle Kevin Strong and defensive end Cedric Gambrell.

"It was good. He said he was watching me, I was just excited about it," Strong said. "My brother (Marcus Mallet) plays for TCU so I've seen a few SMU games. They are definitely in my top five right now. It's a good school, and I'm looking to get a good degree in computer science."

Gambrell, on the other hand, isn't too familiar with SMU but is looking forward to learning more as the recruiting process continues.

"Coach Hill told me about how SMU has a bunch of players going to the NFL and how it was a good school," Gambrell said. "This is the first time I heard from them so I was excited. I just need to find out more about them."

Both players plan on attending SMU's summer camp in June. At 6-foot-2, 285-pounds Strong believes he can be a good fit at nose tackle. Last season, he earned first team all-district honors after recording 79 tackles and eight sacks.

Gambrell is more of a project player but at 6-foot-6, 230-pounds, he has the potential to develop into a nice player. Gambrell has only been playing football for two years and is still working on improving his technique.

Baylor, Mississippi State and UTSA have also been by Cleveland to visit with both prospects, who plan to play at the next level together.

Houston Commit Interested In SMU

By Billy Embody

Houston Lamar has become a pipeline for SMU in the last two years and with Jason Phillips offering 2014 defensive end Ira Lewis, the school has truly taken center stage in the program's recruiting efforts.

Lewis is committed to Houston, but with SMU offering, his emotions are now high, and it has him thinking.

"Emotions are very high because I just got offered by UH and then SMU offered and some of my friends have been offered by SMU so it makes me think that we could really change that football program if I go there," Lewis said. "They see the talent in me, and I appreciate them giving me the chance."

Lewis was impressed with Phillips after meeting him at one of his practices a few weeks ago.

"My first impression was that he was a really good coach. I like what is going on at SMU and he has been telling me what they're about," the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder. "He told me that the D-Line coach has been looking at me for a while. He really showed me that he really wants me to be there at SMU."

Lewis is also impressed with SMU's Lyle Engineering School, but the key may be in his relationship with his teammates.

"Sometimes Darrell Colbert will joke that I need to get on the Pony Express, but they know it's about where I want to go and where I feel comfortable," Lewis said. "Obviously, I would like to be with my friends and play with them for another four or five years and really turn that program around."

Lewis said he is still watching out for other schools to offer and could change his commitment. A firm decision from Lewis is expected in July or right before the start of his season.

VIDEO: Dallas Cowboys LB Taylor Reed

VIDEO: Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley

Culp Recaps SMU Visit

By Omar Majzoub

North Forney wide receiver Dyllon Culp has only played football for one season. After wrestling for seven years at Mill Valley (KS), Culp moved to Texas about 10 months ago and decided to start playing.

"They didn't have a wrestling team, so I figured it was kind of the same concept," he said. "I love hitting people so defense became my thing, and I naturally had really good hands so they also made me a receiver."

The 6-foot, 157-pound recruit visited SMU once already and plans on taking another trip soon. He says he has built a relationship with coaches Dan Morrison and Wes Suan.

"I had a lot of fun watching them practice," he said. "It was nice to see the next level and the amount of work required to put in. I'm really looking forward to playing football somewhere."

Culp's teammate and friend Taylor Durham, who plays tight end for North Forney, helped spark his interest in SMU. After Durham visited the Hilltop, he talked to Culp about going there.

"He went on junior day and talked to a few coaches," Culp said. "I heard it was a lot of fun, so I also went to visit. Since then, I have had it in the back of my mind that SMU would be a pretty nice university to attend."

Culp knows he has a small sample size to show colleges, so he is focused on making his senior season count. Coaches and scouts have told him he has the potential to play at the next level, but he has to continue to improve his game.

"I'm really trying to do something with my senior year because it's my last year," he said. "I'm trying to go all-state, or at least all-district, in defense so I can show out and get a scholarship somewhere."

Culp has tried making up for his lack of experience by outworking everybody. He says this mindset developed during his wrestling years.

"My biggest strength is my work ethic," he explained. "Like I said, I used to wrestle and the work required to put in is really strenuous and hard. I'm also will to do anything my coaches tell me to do."

Culp's background makes him a very rare prospect, so it will be interesting to see if more schools start to contact him. He also said he would like to attend SMU's camp in June.

Cottingame Reviews SMU Visit

By Omar Majzoub

Sunnyvale quarterback Ryan Cottingame is in the process of evaluating all the schools that have shown interest in him. The 6-foot-4200-pound prospect visited SMU on junior day and said he liked what he saw.

"When I came and visited, I thought it was awesome," he said. "I loved the campus, and the school a lot. I also really liked Coach (June) Jones."

Cottingame has also received interest from LSU, North Texas, and Texas Tech. He says he has talked to each school equally and will make another round of visits this summer.

"I will be at SMU again for their camp in June," he said. "I think I would fit in pretty well there. I don't really have anything negative to say about it."

Cottingame is trying to get more familiar with every college before making a final decision. He has not received an offer from SMU yet but says he would be proud to attend a school with its reputation.

"I know it's a really good private school," he said. "I know it's a really hard school to get into academically, but I still need to talk to somebody who goes there."

Cottingame also plays basketball and baseball for Sunnyvale and will be staying active this summer working on all three sports. However, his focus is on making history with the football team.

"My team goal is to make the playoffs for the first time in school history," he said. "I also would like to throw for more passing yards and improve my other stats."

This will be an important summer for Cottingame as he makes more visits and talks to schools. Texas is filled with talented quarterbacks and SMU's coaching staff is always looking to add another dynamic signal caller to the mix.

Partlo Hopes To Hear From SMU

By EJ Holland

SMU already received a verbal commitment from a dual-threat quarterback in Darrell Colbert. But it appears the Mustangs are still looking for a standard pocket passer.

Dallas First Baptist signal caller Max Partlo is exactly that. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder passed for over 3,700 yards and 48 touchdowns last season and believes he would be a perfect fit in the Run N' Shoot offense.

SMU extended an invitation to junior day, but Partlo decided to visit LSU that weekend instead. Partlo says he would like to make a visit at some point but hasn't heard from the staff in months.

"If SMU showed interest again, I would definitely be interested," he said. "I thought about going there before I started getting recruited because it's a great academic school."

Partlo hopes to attend the same school as his teammate Trae Hart, who is currently committed to Purdue but has high interest in SMU.

"It would be nice to keep playing with Trae, and I know SMU is one of his favorites so it would be great to go there together," Partlo said. "Trae has the speed to run past anybody and is always double covered so I think he would be a great get for any team."

More From Taylor Reed

By Beionny Mickles

BM: How does it feel to be able to stay fairly close to Dallas while playing football at the highest level there is?

TR: It feels great. It didn't hit me at first because I was still kind of upset about the draft, but I'm still here in Dallas playing for America's team. I'm still close to home, still close enough to my girl. It's great.

BM: How do you think that Coach Tom Mason and the rest of the SMU coaching staff prepared you for the NFL?

TR: I think they did a great job. Coach (Jun) Jones ‘ way of keeping everybody up and keeping everybody healthy is exactly the same way we're practicing here. Coach Mason did a great job of helping me with reading my keys. I'm out there, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job or reading my keys so I've got to give credit to the whole SMU coaching staff for teaching me to be a pro.

BM: Can you talk a little bit about your draft experience?

TR: The draft was crazy. It kept me up late nights just thinking to myself, and it woke me up really early. So on the last day when I thought I was going, fourth round goes by… fifth round goes by… no one's calling. I'm hitting up my agent like have you heard anything? He's telling me nothing but a few teams calling about free-agent deals. The sixth round goes by, and I thought Zach Line would be going in that round now. I'm thinking aww man I'm in trouble. And in the sixth round the Cowboys took another linebacker so I'm like okay. The seventh round comes around, and the Cowboys didn't have any pick in the seventh round so I was just kind of waiting. I started to get discouraged because Zach Line still hadn't been taken. But during the seventh round, the Cowboys called me and made a deal so it was out of a few more teams- the Redskins and the Ravens. I felt like the Cowboys were a good fit for me. Monte Kiffin had been calling me a lot during the process, and he says he's seen me on film and thinks that I can make plays. He thinks I can be a great asset to this team so I'm trying to prove him right. I chose to sign with the Cowboys and that's worked out so far.

BM: What are your thoughts on having a future Hall of Fame defensive coordinator like Monte Kiffin?

TR: It hasn't really hit me yet man but just the name Monte Kiffin… when you realize what he was able to do in Tampa winning a world championship there. We watched some of the film from that Tampa defense man, everybody ran to the ball We were watching Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Ronde Barber- these guys were trucking. Getting after it.

BM: What are your goals and expectations for this minicamp and what's the plan after that?

TR: To just get better every day. I know that I'm going to do some things wrong but when I mess up I want to do it fast. We're about to go and look at loafs and he already told me that have a couple of them so I'm going to work hard to get that corrected for this next practice and tomorrow's practice. After all of this is over and everything is said and done I'll lose weight or gain weight- whatever I have to do. I'll work out with the team and hopefully compete. I'll try to get some good work on special teams or defense or however I can. Like they say, competition will bring out the best in every body.

BM: When did you first possess the dream to play in the NFL and what does it mean to have accomplished such a feat?

TR: I've had the dream inside me my whole life. Growing up in pop warner I was chubby so I played offensive line. Back then I didn't like football very much. In middle school I finally got my chance to play running back and linebacker. I didn't like playing defense I didn't like hitting I didn't like any of that stuff so the NFL really wasn't anything that was on my mind. Then I got to high school, and I'm playing running back and doing pretty well at that so it started getting on my mind a little bit. Christine Michael, who actually just got drafted by the Seahawks, told me that either I would have to continue playing behind him or switch to linebacker. So I switched of course and got a scholarship out of it. At this point, I'm thinking the dream could possibly come true. So I get to college and I see all these good players and I'm just like whoa… But I had a little bit of success. I made a couple plays my freshman year, sophomore year I made more plays. Junior year I picked it up so by my senior year I had all these bowl rings and stuff and it's like you know what, maybe this can happen. So after three productive years all of a sudden you have this dream of being drafted. That didn't happen, but that's ok. I got picked up as an undrafted free agent and signed with the Cowboys, and it's like wow, I'm here. We just talked about it with Coach (Jason) Garrett ,and he told us to think about who you played football with in middle school. Now think about who you played football with in high school. Now think about who you played football with in college... you made it. And I was just sitting in the media room thinking about all the guys I played football with and how few made it. I'm blessed to get this opportunity.

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