The Hilltop Review 8/7

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

Layssard sees recruitment skyrocket

By: Patrick Engel

Summer live periods are over and SMU is getting to setting its board for its 2016 recruiting targets. One player who has shot up a lot of teams’ boards, including SMU’s, is Lena (La.) Northwood center Mike Layssard Jr., thanks to his stellar summer for Urban DFW Elite.

“Mike had a great summer,” his AAU coach, B.J. Johnson, said. “What he gave us was tremendous. On the boards, grabbing rebounds and running the floor, giving us six to eight minutes (at a time) constantly. He does a good job altering shots too, with his size and length.”

Layssard is a hefty 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, down from the 340 he weighed a little over a year ago. He showed a much-improved offensive game this summer,

“What he does best is finish at the basket. He’s a big guy that can shoot it, he’s got really good hands and good touch,” Johnson said. “He’s got a good left and right jump hook. At time he wants to show the world he can shoot the three ball and shoot from mid-range.”

One thing Layssard hasn’t yet grasped is basketball X’s and O’s, because he’s still a bit of a project as an all-around player.

“He’s very raw, he doesn’t know basketball terminology,” Johnson said. “He’s never been really taught a lot of basketball. With his ability, he’s playing raw and he’s good at it. He’s going to be dangerous when you give him somebody like Larry Brown and they teach him the game.”

SMU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wichita State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Clemson, Wake Forest, Memphis, South Florida, Providence, Rhode Island, Old Dominion and Murray State have offered Layssard, who comes from a high school with about 300 people. Johnson said he is very high on SMU and has gotten to know assistant coach K.T. Turner pretty well, and they communicate regularly. He drove around the campus with Johnson in July while in town for the GASO, but he hasn’t visited for a formal official and met the coaches on campus. He was plenty impressed by the school by just driving through it.

“We drove through to check out the new arena, and he went crazy,” Johnson said. “He was like, ‘I want to come here.’ He’s very interested in SMU. Just talking to him, he really likes SMU, he really likes Oklahoma and he really likes Rhode Island. Those are schools that he gets hit up hard by a lot.”

It’s a stretch to call those his top three schools, but those are the three with the highest mutual interest. Johnson said he’s looking closest at SMU, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wichita State, Texas Tech and Providence. SMU, Oklahoma, Rhode Island are on the list for official visits, and Johnson has reached out to each to set up dates. Each school has given him dates, but he has to pick them and confirm with the respective school. Wichita State will most likely be in mid-to-late September, and SMU would ideally be in August. The fifth official is not yet determined.

Layssard does not have a decision timeline, but he will sign in the early signing period.

2017 defensive tackle has high expectations

By: Matt Sanders

2017 Steele (Tex.) defensive tackle Joshua Croslen has had a summer full of workouts, but he knows that his most important challenge will be in the classroom.

“Off the field, I’m going for straight As this year because junior year is really important for grades,” Croslen said.

Although he has individual goals for his life outside of football, he is focused more on goals for his team than he is for individual performance goals.

“I know everybody on the team has the goal of winning every single game, making district and winning a championship, but I don’t have any specific goals for me,” he said.

Croslen has an offer from SMU, and he is currently talking with Texas Tech and UTSA. He visited the Hilltop recently and walked away impressed.

“I participated in a camp at SMU and toured the facilities,” he said. “The coaches are nice guys and remind me of my high school coaches, which is a good thing.”

Croslen wants to attend an SMU game this fall, but the football program is not what will determine if he attends SMU or not.

“I want to major in biomedical engineering, so I look to see if a school has a good engineering program.”

Croslen has nothing but praise for the SMU coaching staff, so he expects the Mustangs to be successful.

“A lot of those coaches came from Clemson, and Clemson is a really talented program. I expect them to pick it up and be a lot better than last year.”

The SMU coaching staff aims to keep local players from leaving the state, and that does not surprise Croslen at all.

“Everybody in Texas knows that there’s nothing better than Texas football,” he said. “In Texas, you’re going to get the best talent.”

With two years to go in his high school career, Croslen is in no rush when it comes to his recruiting process.

“I want to see how things play out,” he said. “Every college that shows interest I look into, but I know I have to make the best decision for me later.”

Wallace sees a family at SMU

By: Patrick Engel

The SMU football barbeque in late July made an immediate impact for 2016 players, producing two commitments. But the handful of 2017 prospects who attended came away impressed as well. Among them was Fort Worth (Texas) South Hills wide receiver/defensive back Tylan Wallace, who attended with his twin brother, Tracin.

“It was pretty fun, they were having FIFA tournaments and Madden tournament, and at the end they had a rock, paper, scissors tournament with everybody. I enjoyed it,” Wallace said.

Wallace had to leave before the even ended so he could rest up for SMU’s camp the next day, so he couldn’t decide who the best FIFA or Madden player was. But he earned family bragging rights by beating Tracin in Madden. The tournaments were one way he experienced the family atmosphere at SMU, which he loved.

“I talked to some of the commits, and they were talking to me about how I should come to SMU, how we’d be a family if I came, and how close everybody was to each other,” Wallace said.

Running backs coach Claude Mathis has been Wallace’s primary recruiter, and while they didn’t get to sit down and talk for a while, Wallace said the two have gotten to know each other pretty well during the recruiting process.

“He’s really interested in us (Tylan and Tracin), and he talks about how he enjoys seeing us every time and wants us to be there,” Wallace said.

Wallace has camped at TCU and SMU this summer and had visited the Hilltop once before on an unofficial, but doesn’t have any more visits planned for the summer now that two-a-days have started.

Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, Houston, Tulsa, Florida International and SMU have offered Wallace, a four-star recruit and the 116th-ranked overall prospect in the 2017 Scout 300. One school has recruited him much harder than the rest.

“Really SMU has been talking to me more out of everybody honestly,” Wallace said.

Wallace plays offense and defense for South Hills but is being recruited as a wide receiver by SMU. Scout has him as the third-ranked receiver in Texas.

Powell has SMU in his top schools

By: Scott Sanford

With summer ball officially over for 2016 Rowlett (Tex.) forward Oliver Powell, the rising senior has shifted his focus over to his recruitment.

Powell has spent the last few weeks familiarizing himself with the schools and programs recruiting him, and has a general idea of who his top 5 schools will be.

“Right now, if I were to go ahead and close my recruitment, which I’m planning on doing by the end of this week if nothing big pops up, my list would be (in no particular order) Stephen F. Austin, SMU, Rice Louisiana Tech and UTEP,” Powell said.

Up until recently, location was not an important aspect for Powell, but the Rowlett native has changed his mind. Location is one of three deciding factors Powell will factor in when choosing a school.

“Education is one. Location is two, and I want to go to a place where I can play right away,” Powell said. “I don’t want to wait until my junior or senior year to get a shot. I want to come in and make an immediate impact.”

With the Mustangs already thin in the frontcourt, Powell thinks he could come in and contribute as a freshman on the Hilltop.

Powell speaks with his recruiter KT Turner every once in a while, but he really got the chance to know the assistant coach during his unofficial visit to SMU in June.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward spoke favorably of not only the SMU coaching staff and their program, but also SMU as a school.

“Overall, it’s probably one of the best,” Powell said of SMU. “For me, it’s really ideal personally. It’s close to the house, the business school is off the charts, and the basketball program has definitely been on the rise. Not only is the program good, but you’ve got a great coach in Larry The Legend. It’s just about a dream school.”

Powell hopes to make a decision before his season starts, so barring any big offers, he plans to start scheduling official visits (to the schools listed above) in the next week.

During his visits, Powell could commit if he feels comfortable, but he doesn’t want to feel rushed, so he could wait until November to commit anywhere.

2017 wide receiver talks SMU, summer

By: Andrew Hattersley

After an injury shortened his season last year, 2017 San Antonio Central HS (Tex.) wide receiver Aaron Wooten has put his recruiting on hold for a while to focus on the upcoming season.

“Been going good, been talking to the coaches when I can, haven’t made any more visits recently just trying to get ready for the season, we got practices coming up pretty soon,” Wooten said.

SMU is the only offer Wooten has right now, but he said SMU, as well as, other schools will be out there to see him this season.

“They’re going to keep coming to watch me and Brennen perform this season, I know we also have a defensive lineman are our team, there are a lot of players on our team that are some good players,” Wooten said, “They said they’re going to come watch me and that they’d love to have me as a player, I’m always trying to build great relationships, just doing what I can.”

Given SMU’s strong business school, Wooten admits they are high on his list for this reason, as well as, many others.

“It’s a great school, I’ve always thought I might want to go do something in the business world, they got a great school for business, the campus is beautiful, the facilities are high end, I know they are still doing some renovations, future renovations will be really nice,” Wooten said, “Coaches are amazing, they’re on the rise, they’re going to be good, they got some good players recently, one of my really good friends Ryan Becker just committed there, it’s a program that’s on the rise.”

Wooten said he keeps up with the coaches mostly on Twitter, as well as, a couple of other schools.

“It’s going really well, I’m hearing from Tulsa, UTSA, New Mexico State, TCU, it’s going to be an exciting season for high school and college football, for me to get to visit schools and go to some games, it’s going to be really neat,” Wooten said, “I plan to go to a football game, probably a couple games at SMU, TCU, New Mexico State, Tulsa, I’m going to try to get to some of those games.”

For Wooten, the biggest thing is to stay healthy and the rest of the offers will come in as he sees it.

“Probably just playing all the games, I got hurt last year so trying to stay healthy, just try to make a big impact, you know when you hear of the Central Bobcats, you know my name is in the discussion,” Wooten said, “So I’m just going to try to prove what I can do and make myself known.”

Pickett talks SMU

By: Andrew Hattersley

Summer is winding down for 2016 Sam Houston HS (Tex.) running back Peytton Pickett, but he’s hoping his recruitment is about to pick up.

”It’s been going pretty well, the recruiting process has been pretty slow, I have been talking to Maryland pretty often but as far SMU, I haven’t talked to coach Mathis in a week or so,” Pickett said, “But other than it’s been going good.”

Mathis and the rest of the staff would really like to get Pickett on campus pretty soon to check out the school.

”They’re just telling me how I need to come see the school, and how nice the campus is, as a player, they’re just telling me I could benefit them,” Pickett said.

Pickett doesn’t have a ton of time to make a decision as he’s entering his last semester of school.

”I will have to make it sooner than most people, it’ll come probably early on in the season, so I will be making my decision around then,” Pickett said.

Similar to what Ben Hicks just went through, Pickett believes wherever he attends, it will be beneficial for him to get on campus for a semester before everyone else to get accustomed to the school and college life.

“I think it’ll help me, as far as getting acclimated sooner to college than my peers, I think that’ll help me, I already have 12 hours so I’m starting ahead anyway, but going on campus early will help me with football and with academics,” Pickett said “I’ll get acclimated to school really quickly and get acclimated to life of a college student and get to go through spring practice, just the whole process will help.”

Pickett also has high hopes for SMU and that something could work out there due to their strong academic program and his relationship with coach Mathis.

“As far as the school, I know it is a great school and will help me in what I want to major in which is business marketing, on that part it will be perfect, as for the program I know they are on the rise as far as just trying to get back to the top just like they were way back when,” Pickett said.

The 5-8, 189-pound running back says that as of right now there are front runners amongst SMU, Delaware State and Liberty, the three schools to offer him.

”It’s wide open, I really want to go on campus to the schools I have heard from and enjoyed talking to the most, as far as a list no it’s just wide open, unanimously, my decision will probably come during the season,” Pickett said, “I’m just trying to make sure it’s solid so I’m just waiting a bit longer so no short list.

2016 guard talks SMU interest

By: Andrew Hattersley

It was a solid summer for 2016 Philly Pride shooting guard DeAndre Hunter, and it got even better when he picked up an offer from Larry Brown earlier this week.

“It was a little bit unexpected because they really haven’t been recruiting me for a long period of time so getting an offer was a bit unexpected,” Hunter said, “They said they really like the way I play and they think I can help with what they’re trying to do.”

Coach Brown has been the main recruiter for Hunter, and has stressed to him he could make a difference for SMU.

“They said they were really impressed with me, they thought I was one of those top players that could come in and help them win,” Hunter said.

The 6-6, 180-pound guard is not too familiar with SMU, but noted he watched a couple of their games last year and came away impressed, largely due to coach Brown.

“I saw a couple of games they played last year but I don’t know much about them, but I mean Larry Brown is a great coach,” Hunter said, “I know that he coached in the NBA so he can boast that he’s got that experience and because he has that experience I think that helps.”

Hunter says he has not been to the SMU campus, and is not yet sure if he will take a visit to the school in the coming weeks.

“I’m not sure yet, I’m not sure yet,” Hunter said.

Taking a visit to the school will be a must for Hunter, as he said he couldn’t commit to a school without seeing the atmosphere first.

“I would say so, because I won’t commit to a school that I have never visited because I don’t know what life is like there or what I can expect them to offer so I would probably have to visit before I commit,” Hunter said.

SMU faces some stiff competition, as Hunter gets ready to narrow down his list in a couple of weeks.

“In terms of cutting down my list, I will probably do that in a couple of weeks, but I probably won’t commit to a school for about a month or so,” Hunter said.

Tuesday, Hunter was on campus for a visit with Villanova, a school that has been in it for a while because of its close proximity to him.

“It was really nice, it’s a local school it was easy to get up there, I mean talking to Jay Wright, essentially they said they need a wing that can score and help them win also,” Hunter said.

The very next day, the Friends’ Central School guard was on campus for a visit with Virginia. “I mean they had a beautiful campus, I sat there and talked with the coach, I watched the players work out, that was a big thing watching the players work out, it really showed me, how hard they actually work and how good they’re going to be this year,” Hunter said.

A couple of key factors will end up making the difference for Hunter, although it will admittedly be a tough decision.

“The coach that I have the best relationship with, someone who I can talk to about stuff other than basketball, and just a good environment where I feel comfortable.”

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