The Hilltop Review 5/15

Come inside another jam packed Hilltop Review for all the latest SMU recruiting news!

2017 5-star getting interest from SMU, other top schools

By: Billy Embody

2017 5-star Amarillo power forward Jarred Vanderbilt has had an SMU offer since his freshman year and is continuing to build a relationship with the staff.

“I’ve heard from them a lot. Coach K.T. and coach Larry Brown both came to the school a couple times,” Vanderbilt said. “They’ve talked to me and talked to my parents so we’re just building that relationship.”

The 6-8, 200-pound forward and Scout’s No. 1 power forward has seen SMU talk the most with his parents, who got a call from SMU assistant K.T. Turner just yesterday.

“Not really. They’ve talked with my parents, but I haven’t talked with them recently,” Vanderbilt said. “I think they talked to them about a week ago during the last live period before that (call yesterday).”

Vanderbilt is expected to garner some major attention, but he’s not paying attention to that just yet.

“It’s going good. I haven’t really looked into it yet, but a lot of people have shown interest in me the last few weeks,” Vanderbilt said. “The recruitment is starting to pick up.”

Kentucky, Duke, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M have been pushing for Vanderbilt the hardest recently.

On the Nike EYBL under Houston Hoops, Vanderbilt is looking forward to improving his overall game on the defensive side of the ball.

“Improve my perimeter shooting and being a better defender to guard all of the positions. I can guard my position, but I want to guard all of them. That way we can shut down their main scorer,” Scout’s No. 10 2017 ranked player said.

In terms of a college, like always, it’s the right fit that will land Vanderbilt’s services when he decides to commit.

“Just the right fit. Somebody to take me in so I can feel loved and it all depends where they use me and the right fit,” Vanderbilt said.

2016 guard picks up SMU offer on visit

By: Andrew Hattersley

2016 Irving MacArthur (Tex.) guard Andrew Jones had a good performance at the Nike EYBL tournament but it is the recent interest from SMU that has garnered his attention.

“They said I was really good and that they liked I was a combo guard, he said he loved how I shot the ball and was able to make plays,” Jones said, “They said they would love to have me there, K.T said coach Larry Brown loves my game and that I would be a perfect fit.”

Jones also received an offer earlier this week from the coaching staff while on a visit to the school.

“I really liked it, they really didn’t try to sell me on the school, they just tried to get to know me better,” Jones said, “I never would have thought they would offer, it’s just good, really good, it just feels good.”

The 6-4, 180-pound guard also plans to make a trip up to SMU in the near future again to visit his friend Keith Frazier and possibly work out with the team.

“I should be going back up there, I know some of the guys up there so I might go up for open gym,” Jones said, “I haven’t talked to him about the school I just know him well because he is from Irving.”

Jones currently has offers from SMU, Boise State, Incarnate Word, North Texas, Oklahoma State, Rice, Mississippi State, Tulsa, Texas A&M and Kansas State.

Despite not having a set list yet, Jones said as of right now SMU would be among his top schools.

“I don’t have a list right now, SMU would be in my top, I haven’t written anything down yet though, I will probably try to at the end of the summer,” Jones said.

The Nike EYBL tournament was also a success for Jones as he showed he could be a threat from both the perimeter, as well as, attacking the paint.

“The last couple of days have been good for me, coach has put me in a lot of positions to really expose my talents,” Jones said, “I feel like I’ve rebounded better, I’m making my jump shots, being active on the offensive and defensive end.”

Despite shooting the ball well, Jones says his goal moving forward is to get better on his jump shots and to become more of an offensive threat.

“I just want to be more of a consistent shooter from the outside, I would like to make more of my jump shots, get my bigs more involved and attack the paint more.”

2016 big man taking the college process slow

By: Billy Embody

2016 Pro Skills center Schnider Herard is one of the more imposing figures on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer, but knows he’s still developing.

“I think I did alright. I did my part on the floor,” Herard said. “I’m trying to work on boxing out, rebound and scoring. It’s my first time on the EYBL this year. I feel like I have a lot to prove. I wasn’t here last year.”

SMU has been in touch with Herard’s handler, Derrick Shelby, and says he’s liking the attention from the staff.

“They’re a good college too so I’m just focused on working on myself, but I don’t really focus on colleges right now,” Herard said. “It’s not just about basketball so I’m trying to go somewhere I can get a good education.”

Herard is looking for a school that can give him the entire package.

“They’ve been talking to me so I just try to play, but I don’t really focus on college right now so I got a little bit of time,” Herard said. “After Peach Jam, I’ll start taking a harder look.”

Kansas is the other school that is really standing out and the Jayhawks got a visit from Herard this spring.

“They’re looking out for me and they’ve been watching me so I’m just looking forward to all of that,” Herard said.

If basketball doesn’t work out, Herard wants to be able to do more than just be a basketball player.

“You know, basketball is good and you can make a ton of money and you might not have to focus on it (other things), but you can probably get hurt so you got to have other things to do, not only basketball.”

Nike Pro Skills coach Jeff Webster said Herard is still developing after playing just four years of basketball.

“I stay on him and all these guys. They’re trying to be perfect, which they’re not and our team is a work in progress. Schnider is just a kid that has to keep playing,” Webster said. “Man, when he comes to play, you can’t guard him because he’s such a big body, but it’s him challenging himself to play through fatigue, which is going to take time.”

Rose expecting to take SMU official visit

By: Patrick Engel

2016 Albany City Rocks/Bishop Kearney (N.Y) guard Quinton Rose picked up an SMU offer at the very end of April, and even though he’s in the middle of AAU season, he’s still found time to talk with SMU head coach Larry Brown and assistant coach Jerry Hobbie and learn about the school.

“They’re really good guys.” Rose said. “They told me that even if I don’t choose SMU, they’d still look out for me. But they told me they definitely like my game, and they want me to come and develop over my time there.”

Rose has added a few other offers this spring, but his AAU coach, Jim Hart, can tell SMU sticks out, especially because of its academic reputation.

“Loves them. Loves them,” Hart said. “Academics will be very important, so at the end when he chooses, it’s going to be a school with a strong academic program…They’re a top 50 U.S. News and World report school, Hall of Fame coach who won a NCAA and an NBA championship…If [a school] has high-level basketball an good academics, those are going to be the ones I think he’s going to focus on.”

Rose wants to make a college decision in November, and he said will take visits before then. Hart said there is a “good chance” SMU gets an official visit from Rose.

The 6-foot-5, 170-pound Rose has offers from George Washington, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) Memphis, Temple, Rhode Island and Penn State. Hart said George Washington has recruited him the hardest and the longest, and it just might be at the top of his list.

“George Washington has been on him the earliest, they offered early, he’s got family I the D.C. area, and great academics,” Hart said. “Their staff has done a phenomenal job with him. They’ve probably worked the hardest, they’re the earliest. Someone’s going to have to knock them off.”

Rose stopped short of calling George Washington a favorite, but he said he expects the school to be a factor until the end.

Rose improved at the Houston EYBL, overcoming a sluggish first day (seven points, 2-of-11 shooting from the field) to finish with 13 points and six rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting in the City Rocks’ last game, flashing his ability to attack the basket and dribble in traffic.

“We don’t have many guys that can beat people off the dribble and get to the rim, he’s one who can. He’s vital to us,” Hart said.

Rose is averaging 8.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this AAU season.

2016 DB talks SMU, senior year

By: Matt Sanders

Houston Cypress Ridge cornerback D’Angelo Ellis received an offer from SMU this past Tuesday. The Mustangs join Rice and Army on Ellis’ growing list of offers.

“SMU is a good school, and I want to see the program get turned around,” he said.

Ellis’ recruitment is just starting to pick up, so he is not pressured to make up his mind right now.

“Everything is open when it comes to choosing colleges right now.”

Like other recruits, Ellis has turned to his family for help with his recruiting process. However, he knows that his decision is up to him.

“My family said that it’s really my decision, and that I should go to the school that is the best fit for me,” he said.

Currently, Ellis wants to study either kinesiology or engineering in college, so the deciding factor for him is what a school has to offer off the field.

“What matters is the academics,” he said. “I want to go somewhere that has the best education for me.”

For his senior year, Ellis has set goals that will make his recruitment even more exciting.

“I want to lead the district in interceptions,” he said. “I also want to be a better teammate and be good in my academics.”

As summer workouts are approaching, Ellis will look to improve not only his physical strength, but also his mental strength. As for his college goals, Ellis simply wants to succeed.

“I want to be the best player I can,” he said. “I want to learn the defense quickly, and do well in my role.”

Although he is unsure where he will attend college, Ellis believes that SMU is headed in the right direction.

“They have good recruits coming in,” he said. “I believe that they will be successful.”

Missouri transfer talks SMU, other visits

By: Patrick Engel

Missouri transfer Jonathan Williams III took the next step in his decision process when he visited SMU this past weekend. He enjoyed seeing SMU basketball’s family atmosphere and hanging out with Larry Brown.

“I got to spend some time with coach Brown,” Williams said. “He’s a great guy and a great coach. It was really cool.”

Williams visited SMU during finals week, but that didn’t stop the players and coaches from making him feel welcome. Spending time with Brown especially stood out during his visit.

“Just hanging out with coach and listening to him and being around the coaches. They can help me improve my skill set,” Williams said. “The year off is a big year for me so I can work on my game and understand the system.”

Up next for Williams is a visit to Georgetown the weekend of May 15, who was a finalist for him when he originally committed to Missouri. He said the familiarity is helpful, but he’s still evaluating it the same way as his other options.

“[I’m going to] see how I fit in their offense and look at their roster and see if I’ll have a chance to play,” Williams said.

Williams’ first visit was to Gonzaga on May 1, one he really enjoyed because of the players, including getting to play with them a little bit.

“It was a pretty cool visit. Going up there was pretty nice,” Williams said. “I got to spend a lot of time with the guys and also got to play pickup with the guys, which was pretty fun.”

Williams still plans to take all of his visits and make a decision by late May. Kansas has even entered the mix.

“It’s pretty even right now. I’m just taking it day by day and trying to figure everything out,” Williams said.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Williams averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in 2014-15, both tops on Missouri. He will have to sit out a year wherever he goes due to NCAA transfer rules.

2017 wing not hearing from SMU

By: Billy Embody

Elite 2017 wing P.J. Washington, Jr. picked up an SMU offer early, but since then, the former Frisco, Tex. star hasn’t heard from SMU.

“I haven’t heard from them lately. It was about last year was the last time when I heard from them last,” the Team Penny forward said. “They just stopped talking to me.”

Texas and Oklahoma have been recruiting Washington the hardest and Washington likes new Texas head coach Shaka Smart.

“They’re nice. I think they’re going to be pretty good this year,” Washington said. “I’m not even sure yet though. I’m looking for a nice coach, nice program and winning program.”

On the Nike EYBL circuit, Washington said even though he’s playing out of position at the four, it’s fun to play down low where he can use his quickness.

“It’s different because everybody out here is big and skilled so you gotta bring your A-game every game,” Washington said. “You gotta get low, play your skill and play hard. Most of the bigs are slow so my quickness helps me get by them for easy layups.”

Washington recently transferred to Findlay Prep from Frisco, where he’s getting more help with preparing for the next level.

“It’s different. It’s like going to college early. I’m feeling really prepared,” Washington said. “They’re helping around mid-range and stepping out and shooting threes.”

At the end of Penny’s win over Expressions Elite in the Houston EYBL, Washington had a key block on a three-pointer that could have tied the game.

“We just didn’t want them to hit a three so I had to come out and contest. We’d rather them make a layup than a three,” Washington said.

It appears SMU’s pursuit of the talented wing is over.

SMU legacy hearing from SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

It was the not the best EYBL performance for 2016 Duncanville (Tex.) point guard Jalen Harris but nonetheless he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“Today I was a little off I didn’t play very well so I’m hoping to come back the next game and play a little harder and yesterday I was a little disappointed we lost but we came back today and won,” Harris said.

One of the perks for the 6-3 point guard was getting to play with two talented bigs in Marques Bolden and Schnider Herard.

“It’s different, I’m not used to playing with good bigs like that, it’s real nice, at my school we played outside in more and here we play inside out,” Harris said.

The SMU legacy point guard who had both his parents attend the school has been in touch with the SMU coaching staff but maintains he is also focusing heavily on his own basketball season.

“Larry Brown texted me, he really just talked about how he thought I make a lot of plays and he just enjoyed seeing me play and things like that,” Harris said, “I like it both of my parents went there so I feel really comfortable and I’m used to being around there a lot, I like the new stadium a lot.”

Harris has offers from Incarnate Word and UTA and has also been in contact with Virginia, Texas, Rice, Creighton, Tulsa and Houston to go along with his interest from SMU.

The Duncanville point guard however does hope to improve as a player in the coming months to improve his options for playing at a school like SMU.

“Mainly my defense and my rebounding I do a solid job right now but I’m trying to better at that and really excel at that.”

2016 forward has A&M standing out so far

By: Billy Embody

2016 North Caddo (La.) forward Robert Williams isn’t exactly fond of the recruiting process, but with his performance and athleticism, Williams is expected to get a lot more attention.

“It’s real stressful. I’m not used to this many coaches calling me. Every time I get a call, it’s an out of state number. It’s weird,” Williams said.

Texas A&M is recruiting Williams the hardest and has offered the Houston Hoops forward. Baylor and LSU have also offered and Oregon is also showing interest.

The Aggies are certainly standing out.

“Texas A&M. They’re No. 1 on my list right now. I hung out with their players and stuff and they’ve got a family atmosphere and that’s what I’m used to,” the 6-8, 220-pound forward said.

SMU has not reached out to Williams, but with his stock continuing to rise, the Mustangs staff should reach out to the long, athletic wing.

At the next level, Williams is looking for that family atmosphere he’s used to.

“Just somewhere that we can bond and play together like we’re brothers,” Williams said.

Williams’ ability to crash the boards and step out in the perimeter is something colleges will love in Williams. Somehow, he’s managed to keep his college offers to just three.

Williams said he’s focusing on improving his overall quickness in his game on the EYBL circuit this summer.

2017 Team Final wing getting comfortable on EYBL

By: Billy Embody

2017 Team Final wing Lonnie Walker has been going on a tear on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer and it’s been about locking in before games.

“I was just focused on the game and my jump shot before the game, stretching my legs and getting my rhythm,” Walker said.

Team Final got a big win led by Walker’s three-point shooting on Saturday of the Houston EYBL to recover from an earlier loss and help Team Final’s cause.

“We lost the King James game so this was a big game towards our division and ranking so it a big game overall,” Walker said.

In his first summer on the EYBL, Walker is beginning to see his game develop even more.

“I’m getting more comfortable, but this is my first time out here in the EYBL. I started to let the game though and let it come to me,” the 6-5 wing said.

While Walker’s perimeter game led the way, but he’s working on his aggression and post moves this summer.

“It all started off with confidence and it got going from there,” Walker said. “On my one-dribble pull up, I had that too.

Villanova, Holy Cross, West Virginia, Miami (Fla.) and Temple have offered Walker.

“Nova is hitting me up the most. It’s pretty good,” Walker said. “He’s been coming to a lot of my high school games and practices so it’s been pretty good.”

As far as what he’s looking for in a school, Walker would love to see more national interest.

“It makes me stand out more, but not just on the east coast, but nationally. This is a big deal.”

Walker hasn’t taken any visits yet, but with SMU having offered 2016 teammate Tony Carr, there’s a solid chance that Walker will get some major exposure to SMU.

Scouting Report: Willie Jackson

By: Andrew Hattersley

POSITIVES: Willie Jackson will wow you with his athleticism on both the offensive and defensive end. One of the first things that jumps out with the 6-6, 215-pound small forward is his aggressiveness at the rim and his ability to go up and win a rebound against virtually anyone. Throughout his team’s victory over Team Final, Jackson showed the ability to attack the rim and pull down big rebounds in traffic. It should be said that a lot of the scoring is taken care of by Derrick Funderburk who was an offensive load throughout the game. Jackson was in foul trouble throughout the first half but stayed into the game and aggressive throughout the game. One of the positives that also doesn’t show up in the stat sheet was how responsive Jackson was to the coaching staff on both sides of the floor. On numerous occasions, coaches gave him a pointer from the sideline that on the very next play he put into effect to either get a stop or a bucket.

NEGATIVES: Despite showing a good aggressiveness on the offensive and defensive end, Jackson is still a work in progress. Jackson has got the moves down low to be a very good player, however his touch around the rim certainly does need some work. To go along with this touch, Jackson also struggles heavily from the free throw line, which is something he will need to work hard on that aspect of his game. On the defensive end, the 6-6 forward needs to improve his awareness to match the athleticism he has on the floor. Jackson was often slow on rotations and was forced to either foul or gave up some open baskets.

OVERALL OUTLOOK: Jackson is a good player that reminds me athletically a little bit of Ryan Manuel if he can improve on the defensive end of the floor. The King James forward certainly does not move around on defense as well as Manuel did but in the manner he attacks the rim and the endless amount of athleticism he has makes him a promising prospect in the future. He does have a lot of work however but has the tools in place to get better on the offensive end especially with his touch to take advantage of this impressive athleticism. The tolls are in place and this is certainly one player to watch in the coming months if he can improve.

2017 point guard has SMU interest

By: Patrick Engel

R.J. Nembhard has broken out on the EYBL this year, grabbing five offers since late April. The Team Texas Elite/Keller HS (Texas) point guard hasn’t grabbed an SMU offer yet, but he’s been on the Mustangs’ radar since December.

“I can see myself fitting in there. I like their pick-roll sets,” Nembhard said. “Coach Brown, he has them controlled, but he lets them go when he needs to.

Nembhard has visited SMU before on an unofficial. He also took in a couple of SMU’s wins last season, and like most other high school players, enjoyed the Moody environment.

“I watched when they played Temple and when they played UConn,” Nembhard said. “It was a great atmosphere in the gym.”

Other schools have long been monitoring Nembhard too. He unofficially visited Texas last August when Rick Barnes was the Longhorns coach. But the interest carried over when Shaka Smart accepted the Texas job. Smart offered him just a couple weeks after he was hired. It’s safe to say the Nembhard’s interest in Texas stayed strong through the change too

“I fell in love with Texas when I took an unofficial visit around August, and then the coaching change came, so the whole recruiting process had to start over again,” Nembhard said. “Then Shaka reached out, and with his style and the tenacity he brings to the program, he gets the best out of players.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Nembhard has offers from Kansas State, New Mexico, Creighton, TCU and Louisiana Tech in addition to Texas. He said Ohio State is showing interest and trying to get him to take a visit.

Team Texas Elite saw a lot of turnover from last year’s team that featured stars Elijah Thomas, Jawun Evans, Matt McQuaid and Austin Grandstaff. This year, it has posted a 1-11 record on the Nike Circuit. But Nembhard isn’t packing it in.

“We’ve had a tough outing so far, but I think if we play as a team and play together, we’re going to win more,” he said.

Nembhard is averaging 11.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game during AAU play, but is shooting just 31 percent from the floor.

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