The Hilltop Review

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SMU Offers Chicago Combo Guard

By Adam Grosbard

SMU recently sent out an offer to Zachary Norvell, a 2016 guard out of Simeon (IL). It's clear the Mustangs are still recruiting the area hard and stopped by to watch Norvell in action before extending the scholarship a couple of weeks ago.

While his AAU coach, Nick Irvin of the Mac Irvin Fire, has not had the chance to speak to Norvell about the SMU offer, Irvin was highly complementary of his young player.

"Zach's a big-time player, a big guard, can play both guard spots. He loves the game of basketball," Irvin said. "His strength to me is scoring, a good two-guard scorer. But he can play point guard too, and that helps his overall game like his passing and what not. But he's definitely a shooting guard."

Irvin feels that Norvell would fit right in with Larry Brown's offensive system.

"He could fit in perfect. Playing with the Fire, we got our up-tempo style, and Zach is just a good basketball player," Irvin said. "He'd be able to do whatever Coach Brown asks him to do, and I think he'll be (ready to be) a pro at some point in his college career."

While Irvin thinks that Norvell is fairly polished on the offensive side of the ball, the 6-foot-3 sophomore could use more work on other parts of his game.

"His defense is coming along. Zach is trying to get after and trying to defend," Irvin said. "He knows rotation on the ball and all that but he's just got to continue to work on that and get better."

Irvin talks regularly with Norvell, who also holds an offer from Memphis, about what to look for in a college and has a message for all of his players.

"What Zach is looking for in college is an up-tempo style, somewhere he can grow and get better as a basketball player and where they want him," Irvin said. "We always talk about that, play where they really want and where they'll let you be you. And that's what he's looking for."



AAU Coach Talks 4-Star PG, Sterling Brown

By Adam Grosbard

Four-star point guard Jalen Brunson of Stevenson (IL) holds an SMU offer and has serious interest in the Mustangs, according to the Mack Irvin Fire coach Nick Irvin. The Mustangs extended the scholarship to the 2015 prospect back in the spring.

"I talk to Jalen about it and his dad, a former NBA player and a coach (Rick Brunson)," Irvin said. "That's the best thing about Larry Brown, is he has experience on both sides, college and pro. And I believe (Brown and Rick) are friends, so that helps."

Irvin sees Brunson as the prototypical point guard.

"Jalen is what I call an old school, throwback point guard. He runs the show, he gets guys to where they need to be on the floor, and he can score too," Irvin said. "He can just do everything on the basketball court. I love his game. Whatever program Jalen goes to, he's starting. He should start, he should have the ball in his hands from day one on campus. He's what I call a guy who can lead you to the promise land."

On defense, Irvin was equally enamored with Brunson, who also holds offers from UConn, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Virginia, Xavier and others.

"He can defend the pick and roll; that's his biggest strength on defense. And that's the game of basketball now is the pick and roll," Irvin said. "He ain't the fastest person, but he gets to the spot he needs to be quick enough. He just knows the game. He comes from a great basketball family and he uses his IQ, and it's just crazy."

Irvin has coached numerous top prospects, including Cliff Alexander, Kansas's new recruiting prize.

One of his former players is SMU freshman Sterling Brown. Irvin and his players were not able to make it to the SMU-UIC game because they had a game of their own, but Irvin is keeping an eye on his former pupil.

"The game that I watched it looked like he was playing good," Irvin said. "He's just got to continue to adapt to the college game. Once he adjusts then he'll be fine."

Irvin says he has continued to watch SMU grow as program, especially in his hometown of Chicago.

"Coach Brown, I've known him for a while and he's one of my finest coach friends. Coach Brown wanted to come to Chicago, and we've accepted him with open arms," Irvin said. "If he wants to recruit any of our guys, he knows he can call or come and get in on any one of our guys "He knows he can.

"We don't see (Tim Jankovich) around a lot, but we see K.T. (Turner) a lot. He comes around and I talk to him a lot and he talks to (Brunson and fellow SMU recruit Zach Norvell) so I think K.T. will help them a lot."



ESD Coach Talks Baptiste, SMU

By Omar Majzoub

The SMU basketball program has done a great job targeting talented players from the DFW area in recruiting.

Recently, the staff went to check out Episcopal School of Dallas big man Djery Baptiste. The 7-footer from Haiiti only started playing basketball a short time ago and recently transferred from Monson Academy in Massachusetts.

His new head coach, Corey Henderson, says SMU is on the radar for Baptiste because of their location and coaching staff.

"Just from observation, I think SMU is doing a good job of making sure their presence is being felt in gyms and around the Dallas-Forth Worth area," Henderson said. "I think they are doing a really good job of changing the culture there and making sure that they are getting quality student-athletes."

Henderson says he is starting to build a strong relationship with head coach Larry Brown and assistant Ulric Maligi. The two have come to watch Baptiste a few times and loved what they saw.

"I talked to them when they came during the open period in the fall," Henderson said. "It's been numerous occasions, but also very appropriate timing. They commented on how much he had improved from the spring through up until that point. Summer to fall they were very pleased with his progress."

Henderson described Baptiste's recruiting as ‘somewhat all over the place' and said he has received interest from a long list of schools. The most recent being SMU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Oregon State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Wichita State.

Baptiste has also worked hard on developing his game and now weighs 225 pounds after adding 40 pounds to his frame this past year. Henderson says it's that kind of work ethic that will make college coaches fall in love.

"He's a hardworking kid that does a great job of blocking shots and rebounding," Henderson said. "He is a little raw offensively, but he's gaining some speed in terms of improving in that area. He has a nice hook shot with both hands down now. He can face-up and knock down the 12-15 foot shot and he's a good free throw shooter."

Henderson believes it will be beneficial for Baptiste to have a coach who is hard on him everyday. That type of coaching style has been very successful for Henderson when dealing with the big man.

"He needs to continue to work, listen and understand that every time you're on the court is a day that you can get better," he said. "He needs to continue to improve. With a person of his athletic ability and with him starting to play basketball so late, I think a lot of it is just repetition and the mental side of it.

"He needs to be poised and relaxed. It's going to take time to figure things out, and he needs to be patient because not everything is going to happen all at once."

Overall, however, Henderson says he has been really fortunate to coach Baptiste and hopes the big man will be back soon this season.

"He's done pretty good this year so far, and he's been great to coach," Henderson said. "He's been out with some small back issues that we held him out for, but overall I'm pleased with what he has done this year, so hopefully we can get him out there playing pretty soon."



Hill Targeting JUCO Safety

By EJ Holland

SMU is apparently still trying to fill a couple of spots in the 2014 class, and a safety might be an option.

Earlier this week, SMU defensive line coach Bert Hill got in contact with three-star Tyler JC defensive back Kenny Iloka. Although Hill did not extend an offer, Iloka says Hill is extremely interested him.

"Coach Hill called me and said he really liked my film. He wanted to see how interested I was since I have other offers," Iloka said. "I told him I was open to everybody right now, and he said he would get back to me because he just wanted to see if they would have a chance."

With offers on the table from TCU, Texas and Texas Tech, Iloka has nice options to choose from.

If SMU wants to seriously get in the mix, Iloka, the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka, says the Ponies need to offer soon because he graduates this month.

"I told Coach Hill I was interested. Like I said, I'm open to everyone," Iloka said. "My bother is really good friends with Chris Banjo. We're from the same area, and I actually got to talk to Chris about SMU, and he told me it was a good school. He said he was going to put in a word for me, and I guess he did."

Iloka is taking an official visit to TCU on Friday and will then head to Texas on Saturday. He hopes to make his decision in the next couple of weeks.



Ice Disrupts DB's Plan to Visit

By Beionny Mickles

Fort Worth Southwest senior defensive back Cam White isn't planning on giving up his cleats and helmet anytime soon.

White, who was used as a defensive end in his first few years, made an unlikely move to the secondary as a senior and believes he showed college recruiters enough at his new position to attract schools looking to better their group of defensive backs.

"I think I got first team all-district, but I won't know until the last team in our district (Aledo) loses," White said. "For my first time playing safety I think I did pretty well. It felt kind of natural and each week it continued to get better and better."

White does not hold any offers at the moment but is expecting his recruitment to pick up once coaches analyze his tape and see that he can excel on the back end.

Programs showing interest thus far are Sacred Heart, Midwestern, Angelo State, Stoney Brook and SMU – with the latter holding a great deal of his interest.

"On a scale of one to ten it would probably be an eleven," White said. "My sister (Kaira White) played basketball for SMU a couple years back and ever since then, I've been kind of leaning towards the idea. I just like it, the atmosphere and the school too."

The 6-foot, 200-pound athlete was scheduled to take a visit to SMU to watch its game vs. UCF, but the weather in Fort Worth would not permit him to do so.

SMU defensive line coach Bert Hill is the recruiter in White's neck of the woods and although the two have primarily only been in contact through the medium of White's high school coach, he is optimistic about establishing a solid relationship with the Mustangs going forward.

"I lost contact with them (SMU) because I think they thought I wouldn't get any taller or something like that," White said. "But it's starting to pick back up and I hope we can pick up where we left off so I can end up going there in the fall."



Coach Speak: Nick Natour

By Scott Sanford

With three new starters on the offensive line, a unit that struggled mightily all year long, it's safe to say SMU could have used some help up front.

And that help could be on its way.

SMU has five offensive linemen committed from the 2014 recruiting class, and one of those commitments is from 6-foot-5, 285-pound offensive tackle Nick Natour.

Natour, who is known for his strength and nasty streak, was the catalyst of the Rangers' running game and could do wonders for a SMU running game that sputtered all season.

Natour's coach, Jeff Rayburn, was more than pleased with how much the senior captain was able to help his team.

"He got better and better as the season went on," Rayburn said. "We knew that he was going to be good, but he was better than advertised. He's just a big, strong kid who comes off the football and can do a lot of things."

Rayburn also said that, with Natour being a captain, he was one of the players that everyone looked to.

"They knew his work ethic and they knew his character so people took after him," Rayburn explained. "He wasn't the most vocal kid, but after what he did week in and week out on the field, everyone respected him."

After a 56-21 third-round loss to Kilgore in the state playoffs, Natour's season has come to an end, but that doesn't mean he's done working.

While Rayburn believes that because of Natour's size and strength, he is a very well put-together tackle, but there are obviously areas for improvement before he gets to the next level.

"I think he (Natour) just needs to continue to work on his footwork," Rayburn said. "He's got ok footwork right now, but he could really be a standout player if his quickness and foot speed improve."

Although Natour's recruitment has picked up in recent weeks, with his newest offer coming from Tulsa, Rayburn believes his commitment to SMU is solid.



Meadows Loses Contact

By Omar Majzoub

Lubbock Coronado defensive end Devondric Meadows hasn't heard from any college coaches in a while.

After receiving an offer from SMU and interest from Texas Tech last year, Meadows stopped hearing from schools after tearing his MCL just four games into this season.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder still holds an offer from the Mustangs that he received last spring. However, Meadows said he hasn't heard from Coach Bert Hill at all lately.

"I actually haven't talked to them in a minute," he said. "I like that SMU is not that far away from home and I have family right in that area as well. I have heard nothing but good things about their program. I want to major in business, and I've heard they have a great business program as well."

The 2014 defensive end is also a starting forward and captain of the Coronado Basketball team. He's a big time athlete who can run a 4.8 40-yard dash and play multiple positions across the line.

Although he always wanted to play basketball as a kid, Meadows is now focused on finding a school where he can play football and get a good education.

"I just want to go where there is good academics," he said. "As for football, I'm looking for a combination of both playing time and a great coaching staff. A little bit more coaching would be huge. There is a lot more I can learn, so coaching will definitely be important."

Meadows is asking schools to be patient with his rehab and decision making process. He says nothing will happen until he feels back to 100 percent.

"I'm taking the process slow and trying to get healthy," he said. "That's what is most important to me right now. Everything else will just have to wait."



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