The Hilltop Review

Every Saturday morning, we provide exclusive stories and info!

AAU Coach Talks Isaiah Wilkins

By Adam Grosbard

SMU is still very much in the mix for Greater Atlanta Christian small forward Isaiah Wilkins, who included the Mustangs in his top-10 this week.

When Georgia Stars coach William Steele talks about three-star prospect, he does not hold back his praises.

"Isaiah is a hard worker," Steele said. "If you watch him play, you are going to notice how much he wants to win and how hard he plays. It doesn't matter if we are coming off a win or a loss, you're going to see him busting his behind in practice. He's the type of player that when the ball is on the floor, he is always the first guy diving after it."

While Steele has not been involved in Wilkins's recruiting process and is unaware of his interest level in SMU, Steele believes the 6-foot-8, 205 pound senior would benefit from playing for SMU head coach Larry Brown.

"He's a legend," Steele said of Brown. "He's a great college coach, who knows how to prepare his players to play in the NBA. Isaiah plays for Coach Eddie Martin now at [Greater Atlanta Christian] who works him hard, so he'd be ready to play for Coach Brown."

Steele also praised Wilkins's offensive game.

"He's biggest strength is definitely his perimeter shooting," Steele said. "He also is a good passer. Just a team-player." Wilkins is the stepson of NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, but Steele says the pressure of living up to his famous father's name is a non-factor.

"His family name is high quality, but that doesn't bother Isaiah," said Steele. "I've been coaching him since fifth grade, and he's always happy to be playing basketball."

Quick Hit: EJ here. Isaiah wasn't able to talk this weekend due to other engagements so we exchanged a few text messages. The key things were SMU made the final cut because he is intrigued by the opportunity to play for Brown and would like to visit. He said a few schools could fall out of his top-10 if Memphis and Miami offer. Both schools have shown a lot of interest in recent weeks. He added that he plans on taking an unofficial visit to Virginia soon and hopes to see SMU in the fall.

SMU Commit Stops By Campus

By EJ Holland

While doing some school shopping in Dallas, Texas High linebacker Anthony Rhone decided to stop by SMU to check out his future school.

Unfortunately for Rhone, he missed the morning practice and experienced a flat tire. But he did get a chance to speak to defensive line coach Bert Hill and see the campus.

"Coach Hill talked to me a little bit about how the offseason was going and stuff like that. He invited me up to a game so I think I might go to the opener against Texas Tech since we have a bye week," Rhone said. "He said that they still really like me and that he was going to keep in contact with me.

"I really like the campus. It was nice. It was really attractive and beautiful. I like Dallas as well. It's a big city so there is a lot to do. I think it will be a good fit for me because I'll get to experience new things."

Since committing to SMU, Rhone has not picked up any other offers, but he has received strong interest from Arkansas and UTSA. But he says he's still firmly committed to SMU.

"It is still solid because I really like SMU," he said. "There is a history behind it that I really like, and I know they're trying to build for the future."

With his decision out of the way, Rhone says he is focused on his upcoming senior season. Last year, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder recorded 146 tackles and one interception.

"Practices are going well. I'm just trying to better myself. This offseason, I feel like I got faster and stronger," he said. "I just want be All-State and an All-American and lead my team to state."

Saena Still Adjusting

By EJ Holland

One of the most intriguing prospects that signed with SMU in the Class of 2014 was offensive lineman Jerry Saena of the American Samoa.

An extremely raw prospect, Saena is still adjusting to the level of talent at an FBS school like SMU but has put on 45 pounds this summer and now stands at 6-foot-5, 305-pounds.

"I've had to adjust to constantly lifting weights, three-hour practices and film. Film is really new to me. Back home, we don't even have film," he said. "I feel like I've improved but not enough. I'm just hitting the weights hard and studying the film hard."

Saena says the coaches still want him to add another 10 pounds to his frame. He is expected to redshirt this season and continue to learn the blocking schemes. Saena has been receiving a little extra tutoring from his roommate and fellow offensive lineman Ben Hughes.

"Ben has helped a lot with the audible calls, the sets, who to punch, where to punch, who to double so he's helped a lot. He's a great guy," Saena said. "He's just been really helpful especially since in high school we were a running offense. But it's actually been a little bit easier to be playing in a passing offense because it works to my strengths."

Saena has also been receiving plenty of help off the field.

"SMU has a real family feel. They're here to help you not only on the field but also in the classroom," Saena said. "I never had trainers. I didn't have as many academic advisors. I have two academic advisors and two tutors for each class that I have, and I have five classes in the fall so it's crazy how much they help you.

" I even have an essay specialist, a reading specialist and a writing specialist. I'm very blessed and grateful for all of this, and I want to make these people proud of me."

You can't help but to root for a guy like Saena, and he says he's extremely thankful for the opportunity to suit up for the Mustangs and attend a prestigious university.

"I'm grateful," he said. "Hard work really does pay off. I'm really focusing on football but more importantly getting a degree. I want to graduate and have a great life after football."

Scouting New Hoops Offeree Chad Lott

By Scott Sanford

When coach Jonathan Pixley of the Nike Team Louisiana chose 2015 Byrd (LA) point guard Chad Lott as just one of two rising juniors to play on his team this summer, he knew what he was doing.

Lott is just 16-years-old. But Pixley is consistently wowed by his maturity, leadership and desire to learn at such a young age.

"He always asks questions non-stop and is always trying to get better," Pixley said. "People follow him just because of how dedicated he is. He's always giving 100 percent."

Pixley is not only impressed by the way Lott carries himself during practice, but also by his style of play during games.

"He can do two things for us really well. Je can either run the offense like a quarterback or he can score the ball," Pixley said. "I think he's more of a natural scorer, but he can certainly do both."

Interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-poung guard has picked up quickly, and rightfully so. Lott has the ability to drive and score, drive and dish and shoot the three-pointer, which according to Pixley could be the best part of his game. One is he recent offers came from SMU, which offered after GASO earlier this summer.

The three-star prospect also holds offers from Creighton, LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette. Pixley believes the race for Lott is still wide open.

"I think at this point Chad is interested in everyone that is interested in him. Chad just wants to play basketball and that's what it comes down to," Pixley said. "Whichever school is the best situation for him is who he'll end up picking."

While there is a lot to rave about with Lott, the point guard from Louisiana, like all players, does have some weaknesses that he needs to improve on.

"He struggles some with on-ball defense, but he's always working on that trying to get better," Pixley said. "He also has trouble knowing when to pass and when to shoot sometimes, but that'll improve the more he plays."

McHardy Visits SMU

By Adam Grosbard

2015 Hebron offensive lineman Stephen McHardy watched SMU practice last week and enjoyed his time on campus.

"It went really good," McHardy said. "I just watched some of the guys do their stuff, watched the practice, talked to some of the coaches and saw how they work."

While at camp McHardy took the time to talk to offensive line coach Wes Suan about how the Mustangs' offensive line plays. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman also spoke to Coach Bert Hill, his main recruiter, about when an offer from SMU will be coming McHardy's way.

"We are going to discuss an offer more when I go down to see one of their games," McHardy said. "I was actually going to go their first one but [Hebron's] first home game is that day so I'm going to have to make it out there for the second one."

After watching the Mustangs in action, McHardy took the opportunity to explore SMU's campus and was pleased with what he saw.

"I walked around the campus, and it was actually a really nice campus," McHardy said. "I thought it was somewhere I could be in two years. The people in the student center were really nice. They helped me out with where everything is, told me how it is around the campus, and how the teachers and the education works."

McHardy was not shy about sharing his high interest in SMU.

"My interest level would definitely be high," said McHardy. "I have family who graduated from there, and it's close to home. It's always good to have family around."

McHardy has also received interest from Sam Houston, Texas and Baylor, and had preliminary talks with Oklahoma after attending a camp there.

Lundblade Still Interested

By Scott Sanford

With Nate Halverson's new commitment to SMU, bringing the grand total to 16, there are only a few open spots left in the 2014 recruiting class, which means the Mustang staff will think long and hard about which players they want filling those slots.

With SMU apparently full at offensive line, that could leave Argyle Liberty Christian product Brad Lundblade out of the equation. But Lundblade, whose father attended SMU and played basketball for the Mustangs, received an offer from SMU defensive coordinator Bert Hill and is still very interested in SMU.

"Obviously with their recent bowl wins, I think Coach (June) Jones and the coaching staff are really doing a great job so it could be a good fit for me," he said. "I'd love to be able to follow in my dad's footsteps."

The 6-foot-3 287-pounder had a chance to visit the campus in the spring and loved everything about it. But his favorite quality of SMU is the academics.

"They have a great business school, which is a big thing for me," Lundblade said. "Obviously leaving school with a degree from SMU in business, it goes a long way."

Besides being in contact with Coach Bert Hill, the three-star prospect has had some interaction with offensive line coach Wes Suan and still believes that SMU has interest in him even with the 2014 recruiting class filling up quickly.

Although Lundblade would love playing for the Mustangs, he still has no favorites and wants to take a long, hard look at all of the schools that have offered him.

San Diego State, Wake Forest and New Mexico have been the three schools recruiting Lundblade the hardest, and if possible, he would like to visit the schools once his senior season is over.

Washington Bulking Up

By EJ Holland

Darrion Richardson has been having an impressive camp so far but fellow freshman safety Trey Washington hasn't looked too shabby either.

But the Gilmer product still looks a little thin and has been focusing on bulking up throughout the offseason. And with the depth in the defensive backfield, Washington wouldn't mind taking a redshirt year.

"Part of me wants to play immediately. But when I got up here, I realized that I really needed to put on some weight. So it's up in the air right now," he said. "If I redshirt, that's cool. But if I get a chance, I want to get out there and show what I can do."

Washington has already added seven pounds to his frame. But getting stronger and reshaping his body isn't the biggest challenge the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder has faced so far.

It's often a cliché when player transitioning from one level to another says the speed of the game is extremely. But Washington says that's truly the case.

"The part that I find difficult is the speed of the game. When you transition from high school to college, there is a big difference in the speed of the game," he said. "Everyone up here is fast. That's probably the biggest challenge. I'm picking up on the coverages easily, but it's all about adjusting to the speed."

Washington may not see the field in his first year on the Hilltop, but he has high expectations for himself and the team.

"I'm expecting us to go to a big bowl and win. Offensively, we look a lot more sound. Defensively we got a lot back in the secondary and a lot of depth," he said. "For me, I just want to keep getting stronger and adding more eight and hopefully, I can help the team."

Off the field, Washington is having no problems. He made all A's in his summer classes.

Cedar Hill DB Interested In SMU

By EJ Holland

SMU doesn't have much room left in the Class of 2014, but the Mustangs may add one more defensive back. A local option could be Cedar Hill safety Tuffy Luster.

Although the Mustangs have ignored Cedar Hill in the past, the staff definitely noticed Luster at their first summer camp in June. After all, he ran a blazing 4.25 forty time and did well in 1-on-1's.

"I think I did really good. I liked the camp, and it was nice to be there," he said. "We got to learn how they do things, and Coach (Derrick) Odum said I was looking good and was impressed. I was also really happy with my time. Afterwards, the coaches said they would be in contact."

But the staff has yet to get in touch.

"I haven't heard from them since, which is disappointing because I'm very interested," he said. "It's close to home, and they offer a great education. It would be cool if my parents could come and watch me play. I also loved the campus. Everything was really nice."

The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has yet to pick up his first offer but camped at a couple of Louisiana schools this summer and believes his first scholarship could come soon.

"Louisiana Tech is a nice school. We had a lot of 1-on-1 reps. I liked Louisiana Tech. I'm really interested in them," he said. "I didn't get to see the facilities. But everything was nice.

"I also camped at ULM. I didn't get as many reps there because there were a lot of people. But I thought I did well. It was limited, but I competed hard. My interest level in ULM is moderate right now."

Playing for one of the Dallas-area's top programs, Luster is sure to get plenty of exposure. But his main focus is getting his team back to the championship game.

"We are focused on making a name for ourselves. We lost a lot of guys on offense, but our defense coming back strong," Luster said. "I think we're definitely a championship contender. We're getting after it so far in practice. My goals are just to get more interceptions than last year and win state."

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