2015 AAC Recruiting Roundup

Patrick breaks down each AAC 2015 recruiting class now that freshmen are set to arrive on campus!

Barring a last-minute addition, each American Athletic conference basketball team’s 2015 recruiting class is finalized. The AAC will look to rebound after a down year in 2014-15, and a talented crop of freshmen will help. This year’s class of newcomers is the strongest and deepest in the conference’s three-year history. Nine current or former Scout top 100 players will call the AAC home this coming season, the most in the AAC’s short lifespan.

The AAC will also welcome nine junior college transfers, who all could contribute right away. Without further ado, here is each team’s class broken down and ranked one through 11. (Note: Transfers from other Division I programs are not reflected in the rankings. See the separate section for information on all the transfers).

1. Memphis: seven signees

The Tigers bring in the top class in the conference with six signees, four of whom are four-star players. Headlining the class are brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson (above), Scout’s 45th- and 63rd-ranked players for 2015, respectively. 6-foot-11 center Nick Marshall (at top of story) and combo guard Randall Broddie were originally 2016 commits, but reclassified to 2015. Marshall was 92nd in the 2016 Scout 100, while Broddie came in at 45th. Rounding out the class are two guards: PG Jeremiah Martin, a former Louisiana Tech commit, and July 1 commitment Dante Scott, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound SG and former Mississippi State commit under Rick Ray. He is a two-star who held offers from UMass, Georgia State George Mason and Middle Tennessee. Memphis brought in an infusion of talent and hit on all of its needs. This class is a big step toward righting the ship after last season’s 18-14 record. (Update July 19: Memphis replaced Austin Nichols on the roster with combo guard Craig Randall, who held offers from St. John's and UTEP, among others).

Signee spotlight: The Lawson brothers
Josh Pastner’s shrewd hiring of Keelon Lawson as an assistant coach all but assured his sons would play for Memphis. Dedric is a strong, athletic, high-scoring power forward with a good post presence and range on his jumper. He was also originally a 2016 recruit, but moved up last summer. K.J. is a 3/4 combo type player who does a little bit of everything well. He doesn’t have an area of his game that jumps out, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses either.

2. Connecticut: two signees

The class might be small, but it brings two extremely talented players. Five-star combo guard Jalen Adams is the highest-rated 2015 AAC signee, checking in at No. 18 in the final Scout 100. Joining him is four-star center Steven Enoch (above), ranked 42nd. Both hail from the Northeast.

Signee spotlight: Jalen Adams
Adams has the talent to lead the AAC in scoring as a freshman. Thanks to a strong core around him, he probably won’t. But he’s a big-time scorer with great athleticism and ball-handing ability. He’s an attacker and good finisher who mixes in a solid three-point shot. He should start right away for Kevin Ollie’s Huskies.

3. SMU: Three signees (one unsigned commit)

There’s very little separation between three and seven, showing the depth of talent coming into the AAC. This is Larry Brown’s best class in four years on the Hilltop. Guard Shake Milton, who squeezed into the final Scout 100 at No. 97, joins three-star PG and high-level passer Sedrick Barefield (above) in the backcourt. Wing Jarrey Foster is an under-the-radar addition who would likely have gained a lot of other offers if not for a torn ACL during the summer after his junior year. 3-star PF Simeon Carter was a late addition to the class, but hasn’t yet signed his letter of intent (Update Aug. 8: Carter did not sign and instead signed with Iowa State).

Signee spotlight: Shake Milton
The versatile Milton played mostly off the ball in high school, but will primarily play point guard for SMU. He’ll be an impact defender at the position right away thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame and good overall defensive ability. Milton is a good facilitator and rebounder, but also grew as a scorer during his senior season.

4. Cincinnati: three signees

Mick Cronin hauls in a good three-man class led by four-star wing and Louisiana native Jacob Evans (above), a former member of the Scout 100 who had offers from Baylor, South Carolina, Auburn, Houston and Tulane. Three-star PG Justin Jenifer is a typical no-fluff Bearcat player with great passing ability, and three-star 6-foot-7 forward Tre Scott is an underrated piece who can play the three or the four.

Signee spotlight: Jacob Evans
A versatile wing, Evans needs structured offense to succeed, but he brings a good three-point shot to a team needing good shooters. He’s a good enough ball handler to get to the rim and set up shorter jumpers. While he possesses good length, he’s just a decent defender on the wing.

5. UCF: five signees

Entering a crucial year, Donnie Jones brings in another strong class. The Knights had severe defensive woes a season ago, but 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall (Scout 100 No. 99) and ace shot blocker Chad Brown (Scout’s 26th-ranked center and pictured above) will be impact defenders immediately. Joining them is three-star scoring wing Chance McSpadden, who held Florida and Tennessee offers. The fourth member, wing Tanksley Efianayi was the top rated junior college player in Florida and an NJCAA second-team All-American. He also picked the Knights over an offer from Florida, as well as Florida State, Kansas State and DePaul. The final member of the class is point guard Brendan Boyle, who played at well-known Montverde (Fla.) Academy.

Signee spotlight: Tacko Fall
Fall isn’t a fully developed offensive player yet, but he’s an impact defender just because of his size. The tallest player in high school basketball last year, he can touch the rim without leaving his feet. Coordination and stamina can be issues with players as big as Fall, but he’s improved a lot in both those areas since coming to America a little over two years ago. His biggest issue right away will be his quickness.

6. Tulane: six signees

This was the surprise class of the AAC. Ed Conroy pulled off the biggest recruiting coup in the conference, earning a late signature from in-state guard/forward and high three-star Melvin Frazier. That wasn’t his only impressive pull. A couple weeks before Frazier, small forward Kipper Nichols (pictured above) picked Tulane in the late period over Northwestern and Butler. The Ohio native was Scout’s 26th-ranked small forward and also held offers from Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Xavier and Dayton. Three-star center Taron Oliver picked Tulane over Georgia, Rhode Island and South Florida, while local three-star PF Blake Paul picked the Green Wave over Baylor, Louisiana Tech and Houston. Backcourt help arrived in the form of two three-stars, Chicago combo guard Kain Harris and New Orleans area PG Von Julien. This was an excellent class at all positions that will help Tulane take a step toward contending for the AAC.

Signee spotlight: Melvin Frazier
Frazier had a top four of LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arkansas but decided to stay local and sign with the Green Wave in early May. He’s a top-level athlete, leaper and dunker with a solid mid-range jumper. He can defend the three or the four, but his lack of three-point shooting and ball-handling isn’t great for three in Conroy’s offense. His 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame is a tad small for the four, but with a little more weight, that’s his likely position. He’s a good pick to land on the All-AAC freshman team at season’s end.

7. Temple: five signees

The Owls bring in what they lacked a season ago: good shooters. New Jersey native Trey Lowe (above) is probably the best shooter of all the AAC newcomers. Fellow three-star wing Levan Alston Jr. (highlights below) is a sniper as well. He chose Fran Dunphy’s team over Notre Dame, VCU, Marquette and Penn State. Temple wrapped up its class of three East Coast players with three-star center and shot-blocker Ernest Aflakpui, who spurned Big Five rival Villanova to play for the Owls. Temple landed the shooters and backcourt players it needed, but adding another big man would have been valuable. (Update Aug 8: Temple added Argentinian wing Ayan Carvalho as the fifth member of the class. He averaged 10 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships.)

Signee spotlight: Trey Lowe
Lowe is a lengthy 6-foot-5 wing who is versatile and solid on both ends of the floor. He’s a very good shooter, but also is quick off the dribble and can take it to the rim. He’s not a finished product in the half-court offense because he can force some shots, and he needs to fill out his frame. But he’s an immediate contributor for Temple thanks to his pure shooting ability and solid defense. He chose Temple over finalists SMU, VCU and Saint Joe’s.

8. Houston: five signees

Kelvin Sampson saw some attrition after last season’s trying season, but he brings in a good class with a mix of freshmen and junior college transfers. Houston native and three-star center Chris Harris brings much-needed size to Houston’s frontcourt at 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds. He had an offer from Texas A&M. Joining him in the frontcourt are junior college transfers Kyle Meyer and Xavier Dupree, both of whom held a couple high-major offers. The Cougars also landed junior college combo guard Rob Gray (above), who held offers from Memphis, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Tennessee. Finally, local 3-star PG Galen Robinson Jr. picked Houston over TCU and Wichita State. Look for many, if not all, of these signees to play significant roles in 2015-16.

Signee spotlight: Kyle Meyer
Meyer is a PF/C combo who played parts of two seasons at Iowa before spending last season at Eastern Florida State College. He averaged 15 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season and earned NJCAA All-American honorable mention honors. He picked the Cougars over offers from Central Florida, Tulsa and Wichita State. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility at Houston.

9. USF: four signees (one unsigned commit)

The Bulls bring in a handful of reinforcements that should play big roles in pushing them out of the conference’s cellar. The prize of the class is junior college combo guard Shawn Smith, a highly touted high school recruit. SG Jahmal McMurray accompanies him in the backcourt. Three forwards signed with South Florida: Center Luis Santos , who had offers from Rutgers and Seton Hall, PF Tulio De La Silva and junior college transfer small forward Luis Montero. Montero had interest from a few other high majors, including SMU, but has not signed his letter of intent yet amid a forged transcript scandal at Westchester Community College, where he played last season (Update Sept. 16: Montero is not listed on the Bulls' roster). The Bulls also still have an opening for 2015-16.

Signee spotlight: Shawn Smith
Smith was hailed as a program-changing recruit when he committed to UCF in January of 2011. He picked the Knights over offers from Florida, Florida State, West Virginia and Ole Miss. However, he decommitted amid rumors that former UCF assistant Ken Caldwell impermissible contacted recruits. He eventually signed with Texas A&M, but sat out the 2012-13 season because he was only a partial qualifier. He averaged 5.7 points per game the following season before transferring out of the program and landing at Lee College, where he averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Smith can play either guard spot.

10. East Carolina: four signees

There’s still some talent to be found here. Jeff Lebo brought a needed talent and size infusion to the frontcourt with the additions of three-star PF/C Deng Riak (above) and junior college transfer PF Clarence Williams. Three-star wing Kentrell Barkley also signed with ECU. He had several mid-major offers and one from Providence as well. The final member is junior college transfer PG Charles Foster, who averaged 14.4 points per game last season at Vincennes University. He was a Morehead State commit in high school before going JUCO and playing two seasons at Vincennes. Jeff Lebo found some good talent that will help right away, but it is not quite as good compared to the rest of the AAC’s incoming talent.

Signee spotlight: Deng Riak
East Carolina was often abused defensively because of a lack of size in the frontcourt. Not having a true post player on offense led to inefficient offensive performances because of forced low-percentage shots. Riak will help solve both problems. He’ll make more of an impact on defense because he’s a shot blocker with athleticism, but he runs the floor well too and has improved offensively in the last couple years. A native of Australia, he spent last season in prep school, where he averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10, 220-pound Riak had offers from Florida, Virginia Tech, Florida International and Florida Gulf Coast.

11. Tulsa: three signees

Every significant contributor to last year’s team that went 14-4 in conference play returns, so Frank Haith didn’t have a lot of spots to work with. Three players transferred after the season, giving him a little flexibility. He landed two wings in junior college transfer Pat Birt and 6-foot-4 freshman Kajon Brown. He dipped into upstate New York to land PG Sterling Taplin, who is a little older than most freshmen because he attended prep school last year. Haith recruited players who will fit his four-guard offense, but didn’t address his shallow frontcourt. The talent also just isn’t as good when it’s stacked up against its AAC foes.

Signee spotlight: Pat Birt
Birt played 2014-15 at South Plains Community College in Texas, but has Division I experience. He was named to the All-freshman team in the Horizon League in 2013-14, when he averaged 6.3 points per game and shot 39 percent from three for UIC. He’s a long scorer at 6-foot-5 and started 15 games for UIC as a freshman.

*** Memphis and South Florida are still recruiting for 2015. Memphis hosted 2015 wing Alonzo Walker for an official visit on June 30, while 2015 forward Johan Lofberg visited South Florida the weekend of June 26.***


They weren’t included in the above ranks, so here’s a look at all the eligible Division I transfers who will play in the AAC this upcoming season.

Memphis: Memphis had inconsistent play at point guard all of last season. The Tigers added Alabama graduate transfer PG Ricky Tarrant, who brings needed stability to the position. He averaged 13.1 points on 41.3 percent shooting 2014-15.

Connecticut: Kevin Ollie did not find Ryan Boatright’s replacement on the recruiting trail, so he hit the transfer market and landed Seton Hall graduate transfer PG Sterling Gibbs. Gibbs led Seton Hall in four categories: points per game (16.3), assists per game (3.8), minutes per game (33.7) and three-point percentage (43.6). Also joining the Huskies is Cornell graduate transfer SF/PF Shonn Miller. The 6-foot-7 Miller led the Big Red in points per game (16.8), rebounds per game (8.6), blocks per game (1.8) and free throw percentage (83.4).

SMU: Former Duke wing Semi Ojeleye transferred to SMU in December 2014 and will be eligible when the fall semester ends. Ojeleye played just 10.5 minutes per game and averaged 3.0 points per game. The former five-star recruit will have two and a half years of eligibility left. Joining his is Jordan Tolbert, who transferred from Texas Tech in the spring of 2014 and sat out last season. He averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting in 2013-14. He has one season of eligibility remaining.

Central Florida: Former Tennessee forward A.J. Davis is eligible after transferring in June of 2014. He played in 9.4 minutes per game in 2013-14, his freshman season. He can play both small and power forward and has three seasons remaining.

South Florida: The Bulls made a huge addition, adding former Maryland PG Roddy Peters. A four-star recruit in the class of 2013, Peters averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 assists as a freshman for the Terps in 2013-14. He has three years of eligibility left. Also coming to USF is Gonzaga graduate transfer PF Angel Nunez, who averaged 2.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game while playing 6.3 minutes per game in 2014-15.

Tulane: The Green Wave found a likely starter at center in Washington graduate transfer Jernard Jarreau, who initially picked Oklahoma State, but a day later opted to return to his native New Orleans. He averaged 5.1 points and 4.7 rebounds a season ago. He has one season of eligibility left, but will likely be granted another year because of an injury sustained in 2013-14 that limited him to just two minutes all season. Also eligible for Tulane in 2015-16 is wing Malik Morgan, who transferred from LSU in the spring of 2014. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in his sophomore season (2013-14) before tearing his patellar tendon in February of 2014. He has two seasons of eligibility left.

Houston: Former Purdue point guard Ronnie Johnson is eligible after sitting out last season. He averaged 10.8 points and 3.7 assists per game for the Boilermakers in 2013-14 and has two seasons remaining. Former Oregon wing Damyean Dotson is immediately eligible after signing in April. Dotson was dismissed from Oregon, along with two teammates, in spring 2014 after a sexual assault allegation and investigation. The 6-foot-5 Houston native averaged 9.4 points per game as a sophomore and has two seasons remaining.

Cincinnati, Tulsa, East Carolina and Temple do not have any transfers who will play this season.

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