The Hilltop Review

Come inside for exclusive stories and info on SMU recruiting!

Brown Watches Atwood

By EJ Holland

SMU is still looking to add another piece to its 2014 class, which includes the nation's top point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay. A few months ago, the Mustangs just missed out on Jonah Bolden and William Lee.

And now, it looks like they're turning their attention to JUCO combo forward Willie Atwood. Ulric Maligi went down to Connors State to watch Atwood about a month ago and earlier this week, Larry Brown stopped by to watch him practice.

"Our conversation went really good, and he likes that I can play different positions," Atwood said. "He said he was going to come back to watch me in a game and then he'll decide on the offer. But I think it's coming."

The reason Atwood is so confident is because he's been dominating on the JUCO level. This season, Atwood is averaging 20.2 points and nine rebounds per game. If Atwood lands at SMU, he'll be an immediate contributor.

So how high is his interest?

"It's still pretty high because not a lot of schools are giving me the chance to play for a Hall of Famer," Atwood said. "It was pretty cool just to have him at practice. Even my coach was really impressed because it's not everyday you have a Hall of Fame coach come by.

"I still don't know too much about SMU, but I want to see everything down there. But like I said, they have a Hall of Fame coach and their staff is great."

Atwood says he plans on visiting SMU after the season and is ‘just waiting' to make a decision. His main focus right now is to become an All-American and continue to add as many offers as possible.

Arizona State, Auburn and Murray State have all extended offers while Arkansas, Florida State, Gonzaga, Wichita State and others have all shown strong interest.

Snoop Johnson On Jawun Evans, Keith Frazier

By Beionny Mickles

Dallas Kimball produces basketball talent.

So it is not a shock that Larry Brown has already tapped into the young talent bred at the school, located just fourteen miles away and is looking forward to doing so as often as he is at SMU. SMU freshman Keith Frazier unclogged the tunnel between Kimball and SMU when he signed with the Mustangs last year.

Now, rising four-star Jawun Evans is the player at Kimball that has Brown paying close attention.

"He's having a great season," Kimball head coach Royce ‘Snoop' Johnson said. "Right now, I think he's averaging 20 points a game, right around eight-and-a-half to nine assists and about four rebounds a game.

"I know Larry Brown and Ulric Maligi were out there on the first day watching practice, so I know that they're recruiting him pretty tough."

The junior point guard set to graduate in 2015 has been humble and solely focused on basketball thus far during his recruitment and has yet to pick any schools as his favorites. But Johnson says when it's time for him to begin the process of choosing, he won't forget the programs who noticed him first.

"He's not really focusing on it that much right now," Johnson said. "He just kind of keeps his eye on who's around and who's coming to see him so when he gets around to deciding he'll remember who was recruiting him hardest."

Johnson, who coached Frazier at Kimball as well, still talks to the former McDonald's All-American about his schooling and well-being. Johnson had no comment about the recent grade scandal surrounding Kimball, Frazier and SMU, but he did talk about a side of Frazier that he thinks goes unnoticed.

"One thing about Keith is he's a smart individual, and that's where I don't think a lot of people give him credit," Johnson said. "A lot of people think of him as just being an athlete and a great basketball player but he's a smart athlete. I think that's one of his strengths."

"Him being a smart person – I think in time, that is what people will start to see more of."

As a freshman, Frazier has yet to produce the caliber of performance he did regularly in high school, but he is still learning and growing. Johnson has no doubt that when everything does click for the shooter, he will be electrifying.

"The big thing with Keith is he's a rhythm player that the Hilltop hasn't seen the best of," Johnson said. "He's trying to get a feel for Larry Brown's system versus him playing his game.

"It's not easy because our style of play was a lot of transition and Larry Brown has more of a methodical system right now. Once he really gets comfortable with that pace, I think he's really going to light that place up."

SMU Offers Trio Of Prep Players

By EJ Holland

When signing day rolls around, things can get pretty crazy.

SMU's class, which was thought to be nearly full, apparently isn't. Earlier this week, the Mustangs sent out offers to Army Prep defensive backs Shaun Kagawa and Sidney Wilkinson as well as outside linebacker Elijah Anglin.

"When I decided to transfer from Army, I started sending out my film to all kinds of different schools," Kagawa said. "My coach, Rich Ellerson, has a great relationship with June Jones, and he got me in contact with him and Coach (Tom) Mason, and they offered me on Wednesday."

Wilkinson had a similar experience.

"It was kind of the same experience for me as it was for Shaun. I sent out my film, and Coach Ellerson got me in contact with Coach Jones," Wilkinson said. "They both told me they really liked me then they offered and invited me up for the visit."

Kagawa is originally from Hilo, Hawaii and picked Army over offers from Hawaii and Navy last year. He spent this season playing both wide receiver and cornerback for Army Prep. Wilkinson went to school at Lincoln Christian in Oklahoma and played cornerback this year while Anglin, who is from Detroit and holds an offer from Toledo, played outside linebacker.

All three Army Prep prospects are currently on campus for their official visits. And don't be surprised if the Mustangs come away with at least one commit.

"I like SMU a lot. I'm from Oklahoma so it's right down the street from home," Wilkinson said. "I've always loved Dallas so it's a good fit for me and my family. I'll probably commit on the visit."

While Wilkinson seems like a lock, Kagawa plans on waiting.

"My interest is very high. Coach Mason said I'm a perfect for for their defensive scheme as a strong safety. I like that they blitz a lot and their alignment," Kagawa said. "I don't want to commit yet because I want to take my visits to Arizona, Tulane and maybe Vanderbilt."

Both Kagawa (5-11, 185) and Wilkinson (6-0, 170) said they really benefitted from a year at prep school and feel they can compete for a starting spot right away at the FBS level.

"It was a great experience because I got another year of playing without losing eligibility," Kagawa said. "I'll still have four years left and will be ahead of the average high school player.

"I played mostly safety in high school so playing a full year at corner really helped my technique," Wilkinson added "It was a great experience for me."

Note: Elijah Anglin wasn't around when I called, but his two teammates told me he was very interested in SMU and might commit on the visit.

Cedar Hill Coach Talks SMU

By Adam Grosbard

While National Signing Day for the class of 2014 is coming right up, SMU's coaching staff has started getting to work on a couple of prospects from Cedar Hill's junior class.

While head coach Joey McGuire admitted SMU does not have the best track record when it comes to recruiting at Cedar Hill, he says that they have improved recently.

"I love Jason Phillips. He's not the main guy, but I really like Coach Phillips a lot," McGuire said. "And then the linebacker coach (Eric Daniels) is brand new. He has done a great job coming in and watching guys practice. He was here last week actually watching us go through our offseason. That means a lot when those coaches can get out and become visible. That's something I can see that they're trying to do."

While the assistants have been doing a good job, McGuire has yet to talk to head coach June Jones about recruiting.

"I've met him whenever I go to SMU," McGuire said. " I love Coach Jones but I've never talked to him about recruiting."

SMU recently offered stud wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge and linebacker Richard Moore. McGuire talked about both players and what they are looking for in a school.

"I mean, there's a reason he's one of the best," McGuire said when asked about Lodge's work ethic. "He works hard every day, and he's one of the best I've seen. I want a leader that's going to show people what it's all about rather than tell people what it's all about.

"It's good to talk and get people motivated, but I think that a true leader is a guy who comes in there and works hard and he stays consistent. DaMarkus gives a chance to other kids to follow him."

A four-star listed at 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, Lodge has many different options to choose from. He holds offers from Baylor, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and UCLA, among others.

According to McGuire, there are a couple of key factors that will play into Lodge's decision next year.

"He thinks education is important. I'll tell you one of the biggest things with DaMarkus Lodge is going to be the position coach, the wide receivers coach that he's going to spend the next few years with, more than anything," McGuire said. "I've heard him tell different coaches, ‘I'd love to meet your receivers coach,' if it isn't the receivers coach recruiting him. I can see him staying in Texas, but I can see him going wherever."

As for Moore, McGuire described him as a fierce competitor.

"Richard is one of those guys that plays with almost an anger and a passion that you want in a linebacker. He's one of our leaders and was one of our team captains," McGuire said. "He just plays with a passion and an anger that you want a defensive player to play with. Just kind of plays with that edge."

Moore also holds offers from Iowa, Arizona State, Baylor, Tulsa, and Houston. McGuire thinks that the quality of school will play a big factor in Moore's decision.

"I wouldn't be surprised, though he could go anywhere, if he went to SMU," McGuire said. "You talk about GPA, he's got a 3.5, 3.7. Very intelligent kid so education is going to be very important to where he goes."

SMU Targeting Ole Miss Commit

By EJ Holland

SMU has shied away from targeting top-tier prospects with BCS offers in the past. But that appears to be changing.

Last week, SMU extended a junior day invitation to Ole Miss commit Rawleigh Williams. The 2015 four-star running back out of Bishop Lynch says even though he's already a verbal pledge, he's still going to explore his options including SMU.

"I'm definitely going to look around. I was excited when I got the junior day offer. Hopefully I pick up the offer when I go down there," Williams said. "I haven't talked to any of their coaches, but I know they came by last year."

At 5-foot-11, 210-pounds with 4.5 speed, Williams is one of the top backs in the state and would have a chance to compete for a starting job as a true freshman at a school like SMU.

That along with the fact that SMU is right down the road has Williams intrigued.

"My interest in SMU is pretty high. I'm pretty much interested in anybody that's willing to take a chance on me," Williams said. "I want to see what they have to offer on junior day and what everything is like down there."

Williams is also receiving strong interest from Arkansas, Florida State, Oklahoma and others. But for now, he's still committed to Ole Miss.

"I committed early to Ole Miss because they were my first offer," Williams said. "When I visited, I was just really impressed with everything down there. The coaches were really honest too, and I have a great relationship with them."

McGriff Enjoys Visit

By Omar Majzoub

2016 power forward Cameron McGriff was one of many recruits in attendance for SMU's upset over Connecticut at Moody Coliseum earlier this season.

McGriff was impressed with the Mustangs new renovations to their arena and remains highly interested in the possibility of joining the SMU program.

"It was pretty cool to be in there for that game," he said. "I liked the arena a lot and the atmosphere was crazy. It was a different level of basketball, and their team played well, too. It was my first visit and I really enjoyed it."

McGriff plays for South Grand Prairie and is a member of the Dallas Defenders in AAU. SMU was one of the first schools to offer him, and he has remained in contact with the Mustang coaching staff since he's freshman year.

"I talk to the coaching staff a lot. We communicate every now and then. I really like Coach Maligi, he's a very genuine guy," McGriff said. "They have definitely become a much better basketball program over the last few years, especially with coach Larry Brown and his staff. It's great for me because it's less than an hour away from my house, so I think it could be a good fit."

McGriff is listed at 6-foot-6, 190-pounds and also holds offers from Creighton and Houston. He says he has also started receiving interest from Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

"I haven't taken a visit to any other schools yet," McGriff said. "I've only visited SMU once, so they are definitely one of the favorites right now. I think ill start taking the rest of my visits at the beginning of next school year and maybe late this summer."

It's still very early in the recruiting process for McGriff, but he already knows what he is looking for in colleges. He wants to find a strong, competitive program with a coaching staff he can trust.

"What is vital to me is coaching staff because those are the guys that will get you to the next level," McGriff says. "There are a lot of good mentors at SMU. When you see guys like Emmanuel Mudiay commit there, my impression of them changed a little bit. It showed me that they are a program on the rise."

McGriff is a terrific athlete who could develop into a very dangerous small forward in college. He is a versatile scorer that has the ability to shoot from the outside and attack the basket.

Only a sophomore, McGriff is averaging 6.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

"This season is going pretty well. My team got to 20 wins already and we are 3rd in our district, but it's a pretty tough district," he said. "I have been doing well individually. I like to crash the boards. That's probably my main strength. I'm more of an inside player, but I'm trying to develop an outside game as well. I can pretty much play both power forward and small forward, so I'm versatile."

Mason Stops By Local Powerhouse

By EJ Holland

Earlier this week, the SMU coaches hit the road to do some recruiting. Defensive coordinator Tom Mason, who recently made trips to Prestonwood Christian and Rowlett, stopped by Celina on Wednesday.

One of SMU's 2015 targets from the 3A powerhouse is quarterback Nathan Elliott. The three-star prospect was a standout at SMU's summer camp and has high interest in the Mustangs.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to Coach Mason when he stopped by, but they've been sending me some general letters," Elliott said. "I haven't talked to them, but that's not a surprise because they let me know when I was there that they hold off on really recruiting for the next year until they're done with their current class."

And that's why SMU gets so behind on the recruiting trail. Elliott already holds offers from Arkansas State, Army and North Carolina and says he talks to their staffs on a regular basis.

Despite the lack of early contact, Elliott said he has strong interest in the Ponies.

"I'm pretty much open for anything. I like SMU because it's close to home," Elliott said. "I like that they're rebuilding and that they're on the rise. I feel like I can go in there and help them to be even better."

Last season, Elliott passed for 1,928 yards and 26 touchdowns and also rushed for 394 yards and six more scores. Celina is one of the top small schools in the state, and Elliott believes his team can win it all next season.

"The offseason has been going well," he said. "I'm just working on being more comfortable in the pocket."

2015 RB On SMU's Radar

By Scott Sanford

There has been no shortage of criticism for SMU head coach June Jones and staff when it comes to the job they have done recruiting this year.

The staff has, however, gotten a early jump, by their standards, on their recruiting for next year's 2015 class.

While the staff has not extended an offer to 2015 Kennedale running back Juwan Washington, a member of the coaching staff did make the trek to the school last week to express their interest in the 5-foot-7, 170-pound speedster.

Washington, who is not sure which coach made the visit, did not get a chance to meet with the visiting SMU coach, but his high school coach shared with him what the visit was about.

"I didn't get a chance to talk with him (the SMU coach), but my coach said he was really interested in me," Washington said. "He said he really liked my highlight tape, and he wanted me to come down for some camps this summer and probably for junior day."

While this is the first time SMU has expressed interest in Washington, the junior already knows what SMU's reputation is as a school and football program and would like to attend junior day.

"I know they have a great academic program over there," Washington explained. "I know some kids who go there, or plan on going there, so I know they have a real family-oriented team and they all get along. I haven't done a lot of research on the school, but I will now that they're expressing interest."

The junior also believes that if he is able to make a good impression at SMU's junior day, an offer could come his way shortly after.

Washington, who is known for his 4.4-speed and vision out of the backfield, does not hold any offers at the moment, but schools like BYU, Minnesota and Rice have expressed the most interest in the running back.

With the spring and summer months preceding his senior season being crucial in terms of making an impression on college coaches, Washington plans to attend a number of camps as well.

"I just went to the Next Level Athlete camp this past week, but I also plan on going to the Rivals camp in March and then the Nike camp that's coming up as well," Washington said. "I also just got invited to Minnesota's junior day so I plan on heading down there."

Brown Still Solid

By Scott Sanford

With the decommitment of Lance Cottrell and Nate Gaines exploring other options, it's fair to speculate whether other SMU commits are having the same thoughts.

But one thing is for sure-- Southlake Carroll offensive lineman Evan Brown will be a Mustang come signing day.

"It's 100 percent. I'll be signing with them on national signing day," Brown said. "It's a great feeling. I get to spend my college career there. It's a great school, and I feel that it's a good fit for me."

The offensive guard took his official visit to SMU in December and had a blast seeing the weight room and facilities. He also had the chance to sit down with head coach June Jones.

"I talked to him (Coach Jones) about how I am going to fit in the program next season, what the upcoming years will be like," Brown said. "And what direction we want to have the program go in."

Brown, who is 6-foot-3 and now sits at 305 pounds, will add some much needed depth to a very thin and depleted offensive line that will lose at least one starter.

It has even been said that with Brown's size and skill set, he may compete for one of the two guard positions as a true freshman. One reason Brown chose SMU was because of the opportunity to play early, and the soon-to-be Mustangs feels he is ready for the challenge.

"I don't think I need to change that much (about his game)," Brown said. "We've got a great program here at Southlake Carroll, and I feel that since we've got a great program it shouldn't be that hard to transition to college."

Villalobos No Longer An Option

By Scott Sanford

With signing day fast approaching, most 2014 recruits have found their home, but there are still a few that have yet to make a decision.

It's no secret that SMU still needs a defensive lineman to bolster a position of serious need, and Keller Fossil Ridge's Anthony Villalobos was thought to be a possible option.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, Villalobos went ahead and pulled the trigger and committed to Navy last month.

"They (Navy) came for a home visit, and we've been talking a while," Villalobos said. "They're a great school with great academics and a great football team, so everything just kind of clicked."

While Villalobos feels that the Naval Academy was the best fit for him, he still had SMU on his board late in the process.

"They (SMU) were in it until the very end," Villalobos explained. "Once football season ended, I didn't hear from them as much, so other schools came around and got my attention."

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