The Hilltop Review

Come inside this week's Hilltop Review for all the latest news in SMU's recruiting news!

2016 Lancaster wing garnering SMU interest

By: Billy Embody

2016 Lancaster HS (Tex.) wing Jacolby Pemberton looked on as one of the top players in the country and teammate Elijah Thomas announced his college destination as Texas A&M this week.

Pemberton still has a while until that time, but weighed in on Thomas’ choice.

“I feel like he made the right choice. I feel like this is going to be the best recruiting class ever,” Pemberton said. “He knows a lot of people there so I feel like he made the right choice.”

With all the Dallas talent in A&M’s class, local prospects took notice of the Aggies’ class, but people will also be taking notice of a stacked Lancaster roster this season.

Pemberton is a scorer, but with the team Ferrin Douglas has this season, it’s no secret what the team wants to do.

“With our team this year, I feel like we have to just get the ball inside, whatever I got to do to help our team to win, no matter what, that’s what I’ve got to do,” Pemberton said. “I can slash, shoot the ball, but I feel like this year, we’ve got the number one player in the nation so they shouldn’t be able to stop us.”

Pemberton isn’t as highly touted as Thomas yet, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been hearing from SMU.

“Coach Larry Brown, THE Larry Brown, and I talked with coach K.T,” the 6-5, 175 pound wing said. “They’ve talked about offering soon. They came to practices and our games last year.”

Pemberton is building a solid relationship with the staff, especially coach K.T. Turner, who’s starting to really plant his roots in Dallas’ high school and AAU scene.

“I’ve talked to coach K.T. It’s been good,” Pemberton said. “It’s real cool. He’s a nice coach. He checks on me and everything.”

Turner and Pemberton talked a lot when Turner would be on campus watching Thomas, but also gave Pemberton advice for when he makes his college choice.

“When he came to our practices, he’ll talk to me and Eli,” Pemberton said. “He’ll talk to me and Eli about what school you should go to is what fits you and is the best choice for you.”

With offers from Gardner Webb, UI-W and Oral Roberts, Pemberton is just scratching the surface on what opportunities may be coming his way, which he said hopefully includes SMU.

The talented junior isn’t exactly looking to stay close to home though.

“I’m looking a school I can fit in at and it’s comfortable you know?” Pemberton said. “Like it’s a family, but I want to get out of Texas, but that’d fine if that didn’t happen.”

When pressed whether SMU would be in the mix, Pemberton gave the school glowing reviews.

“That’ll be perfect. Basketball is basketball to me,” Pemberton said. “If it’s the right school for me and go to and I’m comfortable, I can go there.”

Pemberton still has plenty of time to decide, but for now, he’ll spend his days on Team Texas on the AAU circuit.

Sterling Brown’s AAU Coach Visits SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

SMU had a special visitor at practice last Friday when coach Walter Woghiren of the Mac Irvin Fire spent the weekend watching SMU’s practices.

Woghiren is very familiar with the SMU program and was here to check on one of his former players, Sterling Brown, as well as see the team.

“I’m here to check in on Sterling and see how he’s doing,” said Woghiren, “I also coached Crandall during AAU so I’m just here to see how the team’s doing,” said Woghiren.

Along with noting that another one of his players Ed Morrow was looking at SMU, Woghiren said there are a couple of his players looking at SMU for the next class.

The Mac Irvin Fire coach came away from practice impressed but also said that he would like to see them again when they start to branch away from a lot of the preseason work that is done all over the country.

“What he’s coaching them on is pretty much what every coaching is telling their kids at this time,” said Woghiren.

Woghiren plans to see the team again when they visit Indiana on November 20th but would also like to see another practice down the road.

“I’ll come back in maybe two months and see how things have progressed,” said Woghiren.

Brown’s coach is not the only one that has stayed in contact, as his coach says Brown does still talk to the senior class but this will probably be the last group he keeps in touch with.

“Sterling does talk to this year’s senior class, but he doesn’t know many of the kids other than that,” Woghiren said, “He always hung with the older guys so this is the last class he knows.”

Many of the players and coaches came up to Woghiren after practice to greet Brown’s coach.

Thomas hasn't heard from SMU recently

By: Patrick Engel

After Elijah Thomas’ commitment to Texas A&M, the availability of big men in the Class of 2015 is dwindling, and SMU needs to add big men. Although SMU has shown interest in Woodrow Wilson HS (Tex.) forward Hassan Thomas, he may be off the Mustangs’ radar.

“I have not heard from SMU recently,” Thomas said. “My coach had been talking to them during the summer, because they have a good relationship with my high school coach, Pat Washington. But I personally have not had contact with them in a while.”

Thomas said former SMU assistant coach Jerrance Howard first reached out to him when he was a sophomore. Current SMU assistant Ulric Maligi continued to recruit Thomas. Maligi also used to coach Thomas with the AAU Dallas Mustangs. Even though SMU never offered, Thomas said he still enjoyed the interest from his former coach.

“He’s very close with our program and our coaches, so it helps recruit people in the program,” Thomas said.

Thomas will wait until the late period to commit and sign his letter of intent. He has offers from Virginia Tech, UTEP, Pepperdine, Tulane, Middle Tennessee State, Illinois-Chicago and Wyoming. He said Virginia Tech, Tulane, and UIC have pursued him the hardest.

The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Thomas will take his first official visit to UIC on the weekend of October 31. He does not have any others scheduled but plans on taking more. He said he does not have a favorite school.

“I’m wide open,” Thomas said. “Virginia Tech and UIC are very interested and I like both the programs, but it’s whatever comes up…If something came up and I found a good situation even before late signing period, maybe January or February, I’d be willing to commit.”

Johnson’s commitment to SMU is strong

By: Billy Embody

SMU commit and South Oak Cliff WR Lamont Johnson isn’t the main target his senior year with TCU commit J.F. Thomas as the main receiver target for SOC, but that doesn’t mean he’s complaining about where SOC is heading this year.

In a win over Dallas Kimball a week ago, Johnson had four catches for 61 yards, but that’s not what he’s thinking about.

“The win against Dallas Kimball was a great game to prepare for our next game,” Johnson said. “We just have to stay focused and keep getting better.”

Johnson is focused on something bigger.

“My ultimate goal is to help my team win a state championship.”

Since Johnson committed to SMU that’s all he’s been focused on even with June Jones’ resignation. That didn’t affect his commitment at all.

“Oh, there is no question that I’m still committed to SMU,” the 6-foot, 160 pound receiver said. “To me, it’s more about the school, and SMU offers a great opportunity both academically and athletically. My commitment to SMU is straight.”

SMU fans don’t have to worry about that because Johnson has the right reasons for committing.

“What really made the difference for me is academics,” Johnson said. “SMU offers a really good education, and that’s what made the difference for me.”

Johnson may even end up writing for Pony Stampede after his playing days.

“I want to major in journalism, and they have a really good program for that,” Johnson said. “Like I said, it’s a great opportunity.”

South Oak Cliff is 4-3 on the year, but 3-0 in District 13-5A this year. Johnson has 18 receptions for 295 yards and three scores for his senior year.

Kimball DT Gets Visit from SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Kimball High School defensive tackle Demerick Gary was paid a visit last week at his high school by one of the SMU coaches.

“One of the SMU coaches came and visited my school and I talked to them about a week ago,” said Gary.

While Gary will happily accept an offer from SMU, he admitted he is looking to move out of the Dallas area.

“I’m really not looking at SMU, if they offered me, I would thank them for offering me,” the Kimball defensive tackle said, ”SMU just isn’t in the conference I want to be and I’m also looking to get away from Dallas and Texas.”

While SMU may not be in the cards for Gary, he did have positive things to say about SMU and suggested they recruit more in the Dallas area.

“I really believe they need to recruit more in Dallas, because I don’t see a lot of people from Dallas on their recruiting board or even on their roster,” the 6’2 240-pound defensive tackle said, “I really don’t think they recruit strongly in Dallas and I know there are kids where SMU would be the perfect place.”

Gary has been receiving a lot of interest lately from SFA, TCU, Oklahoma State, Purdue, as well as, his dream school Tennessee.

Gary is hopeful that he will pick up even more offers in the coming months, but for now Gary just wants to get better.

“I’m just trying to get my sack numbers up, we haven’t been playing anyone that can throw the ball, so I’m just trying to get my sack numbers up,” said Gary, ”My tackles for losses are good but I just haven’t been getting any sacks so it’s going to make my numbers look down a little bit.”

Gary doesn’t have any visits to SMU planned but does have a visit to SFA scheduled for Saturday.

Nate Halverson Q&A

By: Demetrio Teniente

DT: How has practice been this week?
NH: “Its actually been going good this week. I think last week we started off a little slow. I feel like Tuesday we kind of picked it back up. We know that we got a lot of work to do the rest of the season.”

DT: You’ve been having a bigger role the past couple of weeks, can you talk a little bit about that?
NH: “So I moved back to outside- I played outside last year. So, moving from inside back to outside I’ve just been understanding the offense a lot more. Just getting in there it feels good to actually get in there and actually contribute.”

DT: Do you like being on the outside more than being on the inside?
NH: “I played outside all through high school, so it’s like its just comfortable to me. Like Inside this year was kind of a learning curve for me. I do like outside more than inside- but I like both of them. I just like being in the game.”

DT: You had a lot of nice catches this last game- kind of right along the sideline where you barely got your feet in. How hard is it to keep in mind where the sideline is and get your feet in?
NH: “It’s more just repetition in practice. The more you do it in practice you kinda of just know where the sideline is. It definitely is hard- don’t get me wrong. I practice at it a lot- we run a lot of outs in practice so you kind of just get awareness of where the sideline is at. But to have knowledge of it during the game is a little challenging but we do it so much its like second nature.”

DT: What can you tell me about Memphis and there defense and kind of what you guys are going to try to do against them?
NH: “Memphis plays a little more physical than Cincinnati did . The play a little more man free so we are definitely working on some more man coverages. Their corners play soft at times but they are still more physical than Cincinnati was. Cincinnati played a lot of loose coverages- more kind of combining the slots. So we expect more man but it’s not anything that we can’t beat.”

DT: A kind of big name for their defense is Bobby McCain. He’s a corner over there that led the nation in interceptions last year. Are yall planning on going after him?
NH: “We aren’t really worried about it. We are going to run our offense the way our offense is supposed to be run. If he is on that side where we are going after then we are going to go after him. But if he is on the other side than he is on the other side. We’re just trying to worry about us and not worry about other people.”

DT: This is about the fourth week now with Krstich at the helm. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from him?
NH: “Every week he’s been getting better- more comfortable. Having some consistency at the quarterback position definitely helps everybody. It helps the lineman they hear his counts. It helps with receivers – we get used to how he throws the ball and just the timing and the whole thing. I’ts just a lot better to have some consistency.”

DT: How is the morale right now in the locker room?
NH: “We know where we are at right now. We know we got to go six straight to make it to a bowl game. So, everybody is just focused. Everybody is against us and we know that. We know that the odds are against us, but we got to take it one game at a time. And that’s about all we can do.”

A look at how the SMU commits did last night:

James Proche had two receptions for 61 yards in a loss to Cedar Hill.

Myron Gailliard had four receptions for 59 yards and a TD in Mansfield Timberview’s 49-0 win over Red Oak.

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