The Hilltop Review

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Elbert Robinson Takes SMU Off List

By Adam Grosbard

Four-star 2014 center Elbert Robinson is set to make his decision on Tuesday. But don't expect it to be SMU.

According to Robinson's AAU coach Lawrence Johns, Robinson has taken SMU off of his list. Johns was vague about the reasoning behind Robinson's decision to eliminate the Mustangs.

"He's not going to SMU," Johns said. "I don't know nothing about that to be honest with you. I can't say nothing about that, you'd have to talk to his dad about that.But he's not going there."

The 7-foot, 320-pound Robinson had been high on SMU's recruiting wish list but recently has been visiting other schools. Last month, Robinson visited Nebraska, LSU (where he met former Tiger big man Shaquille O'Neal) and Ohio State. Johns said the trip to Ohio State went well.

"It was okay, I guess," said Johns. "We'll see where he ends up. He had a good time and everything was okay I guess. All this is based on his daddy and him. I can't really comment on how they feel unless they tell me and other than that you have to go on record with him on that."

With Robinson out of the fold expect SMU to turn its attention to Myles Turner, Jonah Bolden, Khadeem Lattin, William Lee, Adonis Delarosa and possibly Cliff Alexander.

SMU Talking To 5-Star Big Man

By Scott Sanford

While the SMU coaching staff has been hard at work trying to find a partner in crime to pair up with Prime Prep point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, the highly touted commit has been doing some recruiting of his own.

Mudiay, one of the top overall prospects in the 2014 class, has been vocal about his search for a big man and has even gone on to name Myles Turner and Cliff Alexander as two of his top choices.

Although the Mustangs haven't been recruiting Alexander as hard, his coach Nick Irvin believes the five-star power forward could be special.

"I think with Mudiay, the best point guard in the nation, and Cliff, you've got a dynamic duo right there," Irvin said. "Those two could take you deep into the NCAA tournament."

Irvin, who believes Alexander is a one-and-done type player, has talked with SMU assistant coach K.T. Turner about the school's interest in Alexander.

"I talk to KT (Turner) a lot so I know that the coaching staff has reached out to Cliff a couple of times, but I'm not sure how serious their conversations have been," Irvin said. "I always tell KT that, if I'm a coach, I don't care where I'm coaching I want Cliff Alexander."

As of now, Alexander has narrowed his list to DePaul, Arizona, Kansas, Memphis and Illinois, but with Hall of Famer Larry Brown on the SMU sideline and Mudiay's verbal, it's never too late for the Mustangs.

"Coach Brown has been around a lot of big guys throughout his career," Irvin said. "Cliff could really learn how to play every play and how to just be a pro."

At this point, Alexander's interest in SMU is somewhat of an unknown, but if Mudiay and the coaching staff remain persistent, things could change for the better. This weekend, Alexander made an official visit to Kansas.

SMU Checks In With Charles Matthews

By Adam Grosbard

2015 five-star shooting guard Charles Matthews is a highly-desired recruit across the nation. There is no disputing that.

And SMU head coach Larry Brown recently went to Chicago to see the junior practice. St. Rita head coach Gary DeCesare says Matthews, who recently listed SMU in his top 10, is definitely interested.

"Well, Charles has a lot schools to decide from," DeCesare said. "SMU is one of them. Charles is a junior, and those coaches were out here last year and are back in here this year. But he definitely has an interest (in SMU), and I think anyone would have an interest when Larry Brown comes to see you."

Matthews has been recruited by a number of top programs and coaches. He has received interest from Kentucky and holds offers from SMU, Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Stanford. But DeCesare was still impressed with having Brown visit his young player.

"When you speak about Hall of Fame coaches and coaches in the country, Larry Brown is obviously right up there if not the best coaches," DeCesare said.

And DeCesare had a lot of praise for Mathews.

"Charles has tremendous versatility to play multiple positions," DeCesare said. "He's just a fierce competitor and he can do it all. He's a leader. He's been a starter for two years and he gets better every day."

While the SMU coaches were talking to the 6-foot-5, 175-pound Matthews, they also had their eye on another one of his other players.

"Their coaches came in and talked to Charles and his brother Dominique actually and offered both of them," DeCesare said.

Dominique Matthews is a 2014 three-star shooting guard who up until now has received little interest from schools. While the brothers are close, DeCesare does not think that having Dominique at SMU would necessarily sway Charles's decision.

"I don't look at it that way," DeCesare said. "If it's right for both of them, great."

Hassan Thomas Offered

By Omar Majzoub

The Dallas Mustangs might become somewhat of a pipeline for SMU basketball. The AAU team has sent multiple players to the Hilltop and even Mustangs assistant coach Ulric Maligi used to be a member of their coaching staff a few years ago.

Now, SMU is targeting another one of their players in Class of 2015 forward Hassan Thomas. Thomas recently picked up an offer from coach Larry Brown and staff when they went to watch him play.

Coach Tony Johnson has been the Dallas Mustangs coach for almost 10 years now. He believes Thomas would be a good fit on the Hilltop because of how he could develop under Brown.

"I think SMU would be a good fit for him," said Johnson. "I could see him playing there because I think playing for somebody like Coach Larry Brown would be really good for his game. He can already play right now because he plays hard and is very skilled, but that would help him out a lot."

Johnson called his relationship with the SMU coaching staff ‘great' and cited his former assistant as being a big reason for that.

"He's a great influence on that program because he's a really likeable guy around Dallas," Johnson said. "He really knows how to relate to kids, so that's a good staff over there. They really know how to recruit and they've proven that to everybody."

Johnson has sent multiple players to SMU before, including current Mustang Nick Russell. He says the location and facilities always made the Hilltop an interesting place to play, but the addition of Brown puts them over the top.

"I'm right next door to SMU in Dallas, so I'm very familiar with it," he said. "I'm probably more comfortable with SMU than any other school in the country. They're doing a great job building that program up."

As for Hassan Thomas, Johnson believes he can be a great player in the right system. At 6-foot-7 and 200 pounds, the prospect from Woodrow Wilson is somewhat in-between positions right now.

"He's a more of a power forward type-player," Johnson said. "I think of him as maybe a stretch four. He can shoot it, he plays hard, he rebounds, and he's very athletic. He's got a few things he can work on like his ball handling because he is in-between a stretch four and small forward right now, but well most definitely get on that this summer."

Thomas has talked to Baylor, Cal, Fresno State, Georgetown, Iowa, North Texas, TCU, USC, Wyoming and more. As a sophomore, he averaged five points per game on 52 percent shooting last year for a 26-8 Woodrow Wilson team.

"I think it's still too early for him to start picking favorites," Johnson said. "He needs to keep improving on his game and let the rest take care of itself. I just tell him to make sure he ends up somewhere he really wants to be, so he will be really happy there. In the end, that's what matters."

Irvin Has High Expectations For Sterling Brown

By Scott Sanford

Although Mac Irvin Fire coach Nick Irvin is known for being the coach of five-star power forward Cliff Alexander this year, last year the Mustangs signed one of his other players.

SMU freshman shooting guard Sterling Brown played for Irvin last year, and the Chicago-based coach thinks Brown can thrive under the guidance of Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown.

"I think Sterling will be able to learn not only the big things but also the little things about the game from Coach Brown, and I think that could really help his game," Irvin said. "It's always been Sterling's dream to play in the NBA, and Coach Brown can help him get there."

Although Brown is just a freshman, Irvin loves the energy he brings to the court and believes the shooting guard can contribute to the Mustangs early.

"I just expect for Sterling to play consistent and steady all year long," Irvin said. "He can pass and rebound and score well so I just hope he has an all around good freshman year."

Irvin hasn't stayed in contact with Brown as much as he would like to but if he had one message for the 6-foot-4 freshman, it would be to listen carefully and pay attention to detail.

"It's only his first year, so I hope he focuses on listening and trying to take in everything that the coaches tell him," Irvin said.

Irvin doesn't have any plans to make a visit to the Hilltop to see Brown play, but he hopes to catch his former player on TV at some point this season and might make it to SMU's game in the area when the Mustangs take on Illinois-Chicago.

Scouting Nate Gaines

By EJ Holland

This was my first time watching Nate Gaines in action, and I was definitely impressed. We all know, he's a taller safety with range. But two more things really stood out to me.

The first was his athleticism. Gaines got to play a little bit of receiver and also returned punts for Mesquite Poteet. He was pretty elusive for a guy his height and displayed excellent speed. Don't be surprised to see SMU experiment with him on offense when he arrives on the Hilltop (more on that Monday) and try him out as a returner.

The second was how he's not afraid to come up and make a hit. Gaines is pretty lanky and will need to put on some weight when he gets to SMU, but he plays with an attitude and can lay the wood. Gaines was excellent in run support and mad some key stops on wide out coming over the middle on shallow routes.

Gaines also has great anticipation. He jumped a couple of routes and batted down balls before finally picking one off and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown. Gaines could work a little on his straight-line speed, but I really don't have anything bad to say about him. I think SMU got a really good one, if they can keep him.

Odum Watches Florida Safety

By Adam Grosbard

SMU head coach June Jones told the media last year that he expected to have more success recruiting Florida thanks to the move to the American Athletic Conference. But that hasn't been the case.

The Mustangs have landed just one player from the Sunshine State this year in two-star athlete William Jeanlys. Defensive backs coach Derrick Odum hasn't given up though. A few weeks ago, he was in Florida to watch Cooper City safety Tyson Burch play.

"I didn't get the name, but I know that SMU had one of their coaches come to one of my games to watch," said Burch. "It was against Cardinal Gibbons. I did good, but we didn't get to finish because of a lightning delay."

Burch, who holds no offers, hopes to visit the SMU campus later this year and is interested in playing for the Mustangs.

"Out of ten, it's like a seven," Burch said. "I like TCU and they're rivals so I know all about SMU."

Recruitment of Burch has been limited to schools such as Boston College but the 5-foot-10, 170 defensive back knows that there is a reason behind that.

"I sat out my junior year because the first game of junior year I broke my femur and tore my meniscus," Burch said. "My recovery was fine. It was very long though. In the spring I practiced again. It was just a very long process because I had a full-leg cast on for my fractured femur, and we had to wait before we repaired the meniscus."

The injury came during a collision with a teammate while Burch was on defense. Now, the senior is just focusing on playing well to get more attention from schools.

"I am a playmaker because I can read the quarterback's eyes and strip the ball," Burch said. "Almost every game I force a turnover."

As a sophomore, Burch recorded 110 tackles and four interceptions.

3-star DE No Longer Considering SMU

By Omar Majzoub 2014 Arlington Martin defensive end Justin Hollins has narrowed his list of schools to four, and SMU is not one of them. Hollins, who picked up an SMU offer at junior day in the spring, says he is now deciding between Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and Oregon State.

"I liked SMU because it's close to home and they have a great engineering program," he said. "I appreciated their offer a lot, but I just think I will be a better fit at one of those schools."

Hollins says he wants to play in one of the best conferences in the country, and SMU isn't in one of those right now. But he visited the Hilltop over the summer and enjoyed checking out the facilities.

"It was a good experience," he said. "I met a couple of their coaches and talked with them. They were nice, but didn't really stay in contact with me too often after that."

Hollins, a three-star prospect, transferred from Arlington Grace Prep before his senior season because he wanted to go to a 5A school in Texas. At 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, Hollins wanted to face the best competition in the state.

"It was a great decision for me to transfer," he said. "We get to play pretty great teams, and I love my coaching staff and teammates. We work really hard, so I'm probably in the best shape of my life."

Hollins is a former basketball player with incredible speed and athleticism. He needs to add more strength to play across the defensive line in college, but is a great open field tackler and has a very quick first step off the edge.

He described the recruitment process as ‘very humbling' and hopes to make a decision after his upcoming visits. He says he expects that will be towards the end of the season in late December.

A Look At How A Few SMU Commits Did…

- Nate Gaines returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown in Mesquite Poteet's 40-3 win over Forney.

- Jordan Ingram has two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in Dallas Carter's 53-0 win over Adamson.

- Jordan Wyatt has five catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns in Wylie East's 35-28 win over Wylie.

- Jordan Severt suffered a minor injury and did not play for Austin Westlake this week.

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