The Hilltop Review

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Eck Says Wood Is Waiting On Decision

By Omar Majzoub

The SMU coaching staff is looking to add another wing player in the Class of 2014 after junior forward Jalen Jones announced he was transferring next semester.

Hutchinson Community College small forward Darrick Wood might be able to fill that hole on the perimeter for the Mustangs. He took an official visit to SMU in September and has shown strong interest in joining the Hilltop since then.

Wood has also been in constant contact with Minnesota and a few other schools recently. But the former St. Johns commit is waiting on his season to be over before focusing on his recruiting.

"I haven't really talked to him about it because it is still early on," Hutchinson head coach Steve Eck said. "He is really focused on getting back to 100 percent and having a good season right now."

Wood is recovering from a serious knee injury he had last season and hasn't returned to full strength yet. Still, Eck has been impressed with Wood's performance so far this year.

"We have only played a handful of games, but I like what I have seen," he said. "He likes to run up and down the court and play very up-tempo. It's not easy to get back into that style of play after an injury like the one he had."

At 6-foot-4,170-pounds, Wood can flat out score the basketball. The three-star can finish well in traffic and almost always plays with a high motor.

"He's a good overall player," Eck said. "He can shoot it long range and midrange. He can penetrate and do it all. He's a good shooter, but he's also a scorer. I think people also don't realize how long he is and the fact that he plays good defense."

Eck said Wood has been an incredibly easy player to coach. Although he is loaded with talent, Wood works very hard on and off the court to improve everyday.

"He's such a good kid," Eck said. "He goes to class everyday and does the right things. It's great to coach kids who really respect the game."

Arbitello shares thoughts on De La Rosa

By Omar Majzoub

The SMU coaching staff is on a mission to land an elite big man from the Class of 2014.

After missing out on Khadeem Lattin and William Lee, the Mustangs have now shifted their focus over to players like Jonah Bolden and Adonis De La Rosa.

Delarosa, a three-star from Christ the King (NY), said he has been in constant contact with SMU commit Emmanuel Mudiay about the possibility of playing together.

Arbitello noted the Mustangs came in late on Jon Severe last year, so he has a previous existing relationship with the SMU coaching staff. However, Arbitello also said he wasn't very involved in De La Rosa's recruiting up to this point.

"I talk to Adonis about it a little bit," he said. "I tell him what I tell all my guys. It's a marriage. I tried to explain to him that there is a difference between going where there is a name and going where you will be happy and play. What's going to be most important to him is playing time, being able to stay on the floor through mistakes, and continuing to keep his conditioning correct."

Arbitello has heard from coaches at St. Johns, Fordham, Florida State, Wake Forest, Purdue, Hofstra, and Seton Hall. Right now, he says De La Rosa doesn't have recruiting on his mind because his focus is on improving his game.

"He's a great kid, just a real loyal kid," Arbitello said. "He lost a lot of weight. Now, he can run up and down the floor consistently for 32 minutes. He's still big, he didn't lose the structure of his body, but he's built a lot of muscle and lost the other weight. He is now able to still be physical with guys and post up, but also get down the floor quicker."

Arbitello believes the lost weight will help De La Rosa fit into any playing style in college. He thinks it will be nearly impossible for the big man to fail wherever he ends up going.

"He's a back to the basket center," Arbitello said. "There aren't too many of those walking around these days. He has great hands and great feet. He can finish around the rim. He doesn't exactly play above the rim because he pounds his way to the basket and is more of a power player."

For now, De La Rosa is waiting for his SAT scores before taking the next step in his recruitment. Arbitello says he recommended that the 6-foot-10, 250-pound center wait until the spring to sign.

"One my biggest concerns is how the coaching carousel happens," he said. "I have seen a couple players really get hurt by the fact of their coach is leaving, retiring, getting fired, or taking a better job.

"All these coaches want kids to sign early, but I don't really think its fair until the college coaches make the commitment that they have to be there. I have told Adonis that, so he's going to take his time."

Coach Speak: Mike Guandolo On Kadeem Goulbourne

By Adam Grosbard

Now that Kadeem Goulbourne, a three-star receiver from Florida, has committed to play his college ball at SMU, many Mustang fans are wondering if he will fit into the SMU offense.

Mike Guandolo, Goulbourne's coach at Cypress Bay, thinks this is a great match.

"I think it's a great fit. We're all excited, and he's really excited," Guandolo said. "They do such a great job of throwing the ball around, but I think he brings something different. He's 6-doot-4 and he'll give them a tall receiver that can get it so I think it's a great fit. He's a winner, he's a good character kid, he's a worker so he's going to bring that winning attitude with him also."

A major reason that Goulbourne chose to play at SMU was the opportunity to get a lot of playing time as a freshman. Guandolo says the receiver is ready to play at the next level.

"He's ready. We play the top teams and the top players in the nation down here on a day-to-day basis so he has experience against big-time players so he's going to be ready to play," Guandolo said. "That was big for him. He wanted to get involved right away. I told him (SMU has) some senior receivers that are leaving so he would have the opportunity to compete early. Their coach is a heck of a coach so I told him if he's a receiver that's one place you want to go."

Guandolo also was impressed with the opportunity Goulbourne will have to grow with the quarterbacks who have committed to SMU this year such as Tyler Harris.

"That's exciting, bringing those young quarterbacks in. He's going to be there for four years with those guys so they'll grow together," Guandolo said.

One major concern surrounding Goulbourne is an injury he suffered early this season. Guandolo says Goulbourne is nearly done with his recovery.

"They didn't operate or anything. They just casted him. It was a hairline fracture on the top of his foot," Guandolo said. "I think two more weeks and then he's out of the cast then he starts walking on it for another two weeks. I think in a month he'll be running on it, maybe six weeks."

While Goulbourne is only one of two commitments that SMU has had out of Florida this year, Guandolo expects the Mustangs' coaching staff to have more success in the future.

"They're going to be coming out here to play Central Florida and South Florida so I think that's going to help SMU more than anything with recruiting," Guandolo said. "They offered Danny Thomas yesterday, just a verbal. He's a junior, going to be a senior, he's our big-time defensive end. He was excited (about the commitment) too. It's a great school academically, and it's got a beautiful campus in a beautiful area. If Kadeem likes it there, it could help recruit some of our other guys."

Coach Speak: Kody Groves on SMU commit Nate Gaines

By Scott Sanford

There have been questions whether or not 2014 SMU commit Nate Gaines would stick to his verbal commitment if a Big 12 School came calling. For now, the Mosquite Poteet safety is still committed to SMU, and the Mustangs should be happy about that.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety has had a stellar season for the Pirates according to his head coach Kody Groves.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do, and he's exceeded the expectations we had for him going into this season," Groves explained. "He's as good as we could have hoped for."

Groves said that Gaines is sitting at 54 tackles, five interceptions and nine pass break-ups, which could mean help is on the way for an SMU secondary that has struggled at times this season.

Groves also added that Gaines, who has played in 25 varsity games over two seasons, was elected as one of two captains unanimously by his teammates. Gaines' leadership on the field is in part why the team has had such success this season.

"Having his kind of experience has been huge for us this year," Groves said. "He calls our secondary. He gets us lined up. He's just a guy we obviously look to for big plays when we need them."

Gaines has been one of SMU's biggest targets in this 2014 recruiting class, so if he does end up signing with the Mustangs, he may be showing up in the box score sooner rather than later.

"They're getting a guy that could start for them for 3-4 years," Groves explained. "I think that he could push for a spot early next because there aren't many 6-foot-3 safeties out there that can run like he runs. He runs like a deer."

Coach Speak: Darren Allman on Jordan Severt

By Scott Sanford

Most high school football teams do not get to play into late November and December, but thanks in part to 2014 SMU commit Jordan Severt, Austin Westlake has been able to make a playoff-run of their own.

The senior captain, who leads his area in passing, has put together a solid season according to his head coach Darren Allman.

"He's had a great year, and I think that's evident because we're still playing at this time of the year," Allman explained. "He's been very consistent, and he's really shown a sense of maturity and leadership."

His maturity and leadership were on display just last week. After Severt's first two throws were intercepted and returned for points by Pflugerville Hendrickson, the quarterback settled down and led his team to a crucial 17-10 playoff win.

Coach Allman praised his quarterback's composer after his two early mistakes.

"The rest of the game he was on target and really didn't make anymore mistakes," Allman said. "I think that's really indicative of who he is. He's a guy who can get over a bad play and get on to the next one."

Allman also says that Severt has shown he can consistently run the ball with success when he is called upon, which is one of his bigger improvements from last season.

While Severt has shown significant growth over his senior year, Allman believes the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder still has room for improvement and could maximize his potential at SMU.

"I think he's perfect for it (SMU's system)," Allman explained. "He's got a great arm, and he's strong and he understands football. Jordan really has the ability to really get to the next level as a quarterback in June Jones and Hal Mumme's offense."

SMU Targeting Local RB

By EJ Holland

There aren't many spots left in SMU's 2014 class, if any, but one position the Mustangs could look at filling is running back. SMU has been awful on the ground this year, and a lack of depth caused the staff to convert defensive tackle Nick Reed to running back this past week.

Last month, SMU hosted Princeton running back Trey Jackson for an unofficial visit when the Ponies took on Temple and has been on their radar since.

"Everything went really good. I liked the campus, and I like that it's close to home," Jackson said. "I'm really interested in SMU. I know they are more of a passing team, but I'm a good pass blocker, and I can help them out running the ball too."

Jackson made the switch from linebacker to running back before this season and really busted onto the scene as one of the area's top backs with 1,775 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Jackson hopes one more schools see his film, he'll receive more interest. But as of right now, only SMU and Texas Southern have been in contact. If the Mustangs do offer, Jackson might end up committing.

"Right now, the staff is reviewing my film. They just said to keep doing what I'm doing so we'll see what happens," Jackson said. "SMU is the biggest school recruiting me so they are definitely up there."

The 5-foot-11,180-pounder says his favorite part of the visit was meeting SMU head coach June Jones, and he hopes he can continue to build a relationship with him.

"He was really confident about his team, which I liked," Jackson said. "I got to shake his hand, and he just told me that he was glad I was there. I also got to meet Coach (Timmy) Chang, and I really liked both of them because they're laid back. They're guys I could see myself playing for."

2016 ATH Visits SMU

By Adam Grosbard

2016 athlete DQ Steels from Texarkana Liberty Eylau visited SMU last week for the game against UConn and enjoyed his time on campus.

"I liked it a lot. I liked the weight room and the team room," Steels said. "I didn't really get a chance to talk to the coaches, but it was pretty nice. I haven't really talked to them a lot."

Steels received his invitation from SMU coach Bert Hill, his main recruiter. Like many of SMU's younger recruits, he has not received much attention as the SMU coaches focus on this year's recruiting class. But Steels was pleased by the SMU campus.

"It was my first time visiting campus," he said. "I liked it. It seemed like a nice area to stay in."

Listed as an athlete, the 5-foot-10, 155-pounder thinks he can come in and help SMU on offense.

"I see myself playing running back. That's my favorite position," Steels said. "I've got good instincts when it comes to reading blocks without the coaches' help."

Steels and Liberty Eylau are now in the offseason after being eliminated during the playoffs and like many of his underclassmen teammates, Steels is focused on getting ready for the next season.

"We did pretty good. We lost our last district game and lost in the first round of the playoffs," he said. "I think I did pretty good. I played both sides of the ball, corner and running back. Now I'm just focused on getting bigger, faster and stronger."

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