Hop's Musings and Tidbits

After a short break after Signing Day, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop is back bigger and better than ever with his daily musings on all things Aggie sports and a few random observations mixed in as well. Today, he has quite a bit of Aggie basketball news and some 2014 football recruiting nuggets.

1) We've talked about the weak receiver group in the state of Texas for the upcoming 2014 class. Add in the fact that the Aggies are loaded at receiver after a great 2013 haul and running an offense that is recognized across the country as one of the nation's best, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the coaching staff has recently offered a pair of out-of-state WR prospects. Based on my evaluation, the only in-state receiver prospect I feel is worthy of an A&M offer is current Baylor commit Davion Hall. A&M will continue to recruit Hall, but the staff realizes they must cast a wider net outside of Texas. The latest offers are to a big 6-foot-5 California pass catcher Dallis Todd and Louisiana's best versatile athlete Malachi Dupre from John Curtis HS in the New Orleans area.

Todd is a long, leggy receiver with surprising acceleration and speed for his size. He's a high four-star prospect that already has offers from schools like Florida, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Tennessee, and now Texas A&M among many others. It's safe to say that this will be a highly competitive situation that will likely last throughout the recruiting cycle. Still, A&M now plays in this rent district when it comes to receivers, so these targets will take a lot of time and the competition will be stiff….but that's what happens when you are No. 5 and trying to further improve your talent pool.

Dupre is a similar high four-star receiver with over 20 offers who also holds an offer from LSU. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound prospect is an incredible athlete having won the state's high jump championship. He's also a very good basketball player, but his future is in football at receiver where he combines his overall athleticism and leaping ability with his top-end speed that can stretch the field. The key here will be LSU as it is with all Louisiana prospects. But the Tigers have struggled in recent years throwing the ball, so if A&M can compete with LSU at any position, it will be at receiver.

But the takeaway here is that the A&M staff is recruiting from a position of strength after the nice 2013 receiver haul, so they can afford to roll the dice with some of these out-of-state high profile pass catchers. It doesn't make sense to settle for a solid 3-star Texas kid when A&M already has high four-star talent like Jaquay Williams, Ricky Seals-Jones, Sebastian LaRue, and Mike Evans on the roster. I would expect a few more high profile, out-of-state offers along the way, and if the Aggies can land just one it will be a success.

2) There's been a lot of discussion about the future of the basketball program and it appears the fan base is split on what to do in the short term. In talking to several sources close to the athletic department, there does not appear to be any indication that Eric Hyman is preparing for a change or putting together a list of coaches for a future search at the end of the season. But to be honest, nobody really knows just how Hyman conducts business. Just because he's not showing his hand doesn't mean he's not playing the game. With that said though, it does appear for now that Coach Kennedy will remain in place. While the program isn't where it needs to be, the team has made some improvements in performance with only eight eligible scholarship players. But it's the immediate future and influx of a lot of talent that will likely give Kennedy a third year at the helm.

I had several conversations with staffers and people close to the team, and they tell me that guard Shawn Smith and forward Antwuan Space are two of the best players in practice and if they were eligible they would both be starting. So the basketball people feel that those two will immediately upgrade the skill level on the court as well as provide better depth next season. Smith has the physical presence and explosiveness to attack the interior of a defense unlike what the current guards can do. He's also a decent perimeter shooter, although not at Elston Turner's level. Space is a longer athlete than both Turner and Roberson, but he also has the ability to bring his man outside and hit mid-range jumpers. In fact, I was told he's a very good shooter and will give the staff a lot of versatility and flexibility as far as lineups and strategy. A lot of people are fretting about the graduation of Ray Turner, but the staff feels they will have no drop-off at the No. 4 spot.

Add in post signees Tavario Miller and 6-foot-10 Tony Trocha to go along with Roberson and the staff feels the team will be much stronger in the paint with more length and more depth. I also asked about the status of Trocha, and I was told he'll be good to go next year and there's not a big concern about his eligibility next fall. They are definitely planning next season with him.

The people I talked to are most excited about the guy few people are talking about…6-foot-7 small forward/wing Davonte Fitzgerald from Georgia. He's having a great senior season having developed his strength and ability to drive and attack the basket to go along with his accurate mid-range jumper. He's a big guy that can run the floor in transition like a guard, and that has the staff excited. He brings length and more skill to the roster.

I spoke to him yesterday and he's averaging 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. That was good enough to be named the region's MVP. He said the A&M coaches have told him they need him to come in ready to play and ready to score. He has watched the Aggies several times on TV and he likes the intensity on defense, and the missing piece is finding another scorer and he thinks that will happen with the class that that's coming in with him. He sees a big jump in performance next season. In talking to him, he's a very smart, articulate kid that seems to really understand the game of basketball.

The area where the staff is concerned is at the point guard and shooting guard positions. There is still hope and optimism that J-Michael Reese will turn the corner and become the player that everybody thought he would be. However, it does appear the staff is focused on fortifying the ballhandling on the team as well as trying to find a great pure shooter who can help fill the void that will be left by Elston Turner. Fabyon Harris will be a senior next season, so given the question marks surrounding Reese, the staff will likely add at least one pure point guard or a combo guard. A shooting guard will likely fill the second open spot. I was told that the staff will not fill both spots if they can't find two that upgrades the roster talent. I think it's safe to say they will sign at least one, and if all goes well that could turn into two. At this point, I wouldn't expect the staff to sign another wing or post player at this time. I'll talk specific targets a little later.

3) The university is starting to unveil some conceptual designs and sketches of the new Kyle Field to various donor and student groups. There will be video screens placed in the corners of the existing The Zone Club structure while the south end will be enclosed with a much larger video screen on top of the structure. With the exception of trying to keep the triple layer sections on the east and west sides, from the inside it will look very close to what Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium looks like now. The outside will have a brick facade with darker brick close to Blue Bell Park as opposed to the traditional Aggie beige brick seen on most recent buildings on campus. Base capacity will be in the low-100's ( I was told around 103,000).

4) I find it interesting that the A&M football staff has already offered JUCO OL Jermaine Eluemunor from Lackawanna College in New Jersey. He's been offered by Ohio State and just about every major program. He's originally came over from London in 2009 and is just now scratching the surface of his potential at 6-foot-5, 300+ pounds. He's definitely one of the best tackle prospects in the country, but it's interesting to see the A&M staff go after JUCO prospects when the pipeline is full for the most part. You could understand the desire to take JUCO tackle Jeremiah Stuckey in the 2013 class with the unknowns surrounding starting tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. But with the 2013 class of Aguilar, Gustafson, Wilson, and Stuckey (who all played tackle in 2012) to go along with underclassmen like Joseph Cheek, Nate Gutekunst, and Germain Ifedi, there doesn't appear to be an immediate need for tackles in 2014 especially if Cedric Ogbuehi sticks around for his senior season unless the staff has a concern or feels guys like Ifedi, Aguilar, and Wilson are better suited at guard. It just makes you wonder about the motivation behind the early JUCO offer and where the current pieces of the puzzle fit.

To be honest, this is the one position where I don't completely understand the strategy of the staff going forward in recruiting both in 2012 and 2013…and now 2014. Then again, it's probably a good thing that I don't understand and smarter people than me are working hard on it.

But, it should be noted that the tackle class on Texas is pretty weak in 2014. Luckily, I do think A&M already landed one of the best if not the best tackle in Texas….Kealvin Davis. So it's no surprise to see A&M look out of state to a 5-star kid like Braden Smith out of Kansas who visited A&M a couple of weeks ago. A&M will be a serious player for him, and he'll remove any doubt about the direction of the tackle position if the staff can land this big kid.

5) As I mentioned earlier, it appears that the hoops staff is focusing strictly on guards in the spring with the two available scholarships at their disposal. They are looking for a pure scorer who can light it up, as well as a point guard with the ability to score. In talking to several sources, it appears that A&M has 4-5 targets on their radar right now and they are still casting a net to find more possibilities.

Let's start with the biggest fish….Keith Frazier. The 5-star shooting guard would be a perfect fit with the graduation of Elston Turner. A&M will get its shot either this weekend or next. It will most likely be the latter weekend (March 2) when the Aggies host South Carolina, although Frazier's team might want to push for this weekend so they can start working on a decision. The staff is prepared for either one. Frazier has already visited SMU, Texas, and Texas Tech. It appears that Texas is on the outside looking in. Tech jumped into the mix when they hired Frazier's coach recently. SMU is in the mix and are probably the leader at the moment due to the relationship built with Frazier's handlers and team. Staying close to home at SMU will also allow him to be closer to his baby daughter who is a year old.

But A&M has the last visit and the last shot. We also know that Keith loved his unofficial visit to A&M last fall and he said at the time that if it was strictly a personal decision, A&M would be the choice but that he wanted to evaluate the performance of all the teams he's looking at which is why he waited to sign in the spring. Ironically, A&M is doing the best of his final four, but what also happened since the fall is that his primary mentor changed and he started listening to a new team of people. Unfortunately for A&M, the staff was very close with the original AAU coach Frazier played for, and then there was the connection with the Reeses and Houston Hoops. Larry Brown and SMU seem to have the ear of this new mentor and that's why schools like Texas have basically conceded Frazier to SMU and have moved on to other targets. A&M is hoping that the official visit will bring back the old feelings and that Keith will step in and be more assertive on where he wants to go if he likes his weekend visit.

But I think every school recruiting Frazier now realizes that if nothing changes in the next few weeks, SMU is his likely destination.

Three other serious targets for the team's last two scholarship spots are JUCO shooting guard Chad Frazier of Gulf Coast CC in Panama City (FL), Richardson (TX) high school combo guard Kendal Harris, and prep school point guard Trey Dickerson.

The 6-foot-4 Chad Frazier has an A&M offer and is near the top of the staff's wish list. Frazier has over 30 offers and he recently cut his list to five and the Aggies made the cut. South Carolina and Washington look to be the biggest competition, although both UCLA and Marquette offered last week. I don't know if they are late to the party. Frazier originally committed to Oklahoma State in the fall and took three trips but he backed out and started over. He only has two official visits remaining. It will be interesting to see if A&M will bring him in for next Saturday's game against….South Carolina.

Kendal Harris is a 6-foot-3 combo guard that originally signed with Southern Cal in the fall. But pat Haden fired the head coach last month and Harris wanted his release and Haden agreed to allow him to open his recruitment. Many local teams have contacted him including TCU, Texas, and Texas A&M among others. Ironically, both Texas and Texas A&M are jumping into the Harris sweepstakes as a back-up to Keith Frazier. My conversation with Kendal was cut short yesterday, so I hope to add some more details after we talk later today. But in talking to my sources, Harris was receptive to the coaches when they contacted him.

Coach Cyprien recently watched prep school point guard Trey Dickerson play last week and came away impressed, but according to Trey the Aggies were not quite ready to offer a scholarship just yet. They want to see him play another game before moving forward. Dickerson is originally from New York who finished up his high school career in Los Angeles. The 6-foot-1 point guard was getting only lower level D-1 offers so he decided to go to a prep school in Dallas. It has paid off as his performances at prep school has attracted TCU, Seton Hall, Texas A&M, and UCLA. Both A&M and UCLA will be in attendance for his game this weekend. In talking to him, I think he'll go to UCLA if they offer. Otherwise, he'd love an offer from A&M and he seems to know all the players and that Elston Turner is leaving and he'd like to play with Fabyon. But he likes LA, so if the Bruins offer that will be tough to beat.

Desmond Lee from New Mexico JC is another highly-rated shooting guard with offers from Baylor and Illinois that Texas A&M may take a look at this spring.

6) You know, a mother always wants to make her son's 16th birthday party a special event and one to remember for the rest of his life. New York mother Judy Viger is no different from any other loving mom. She wanted the best birthday party for her son. Hey, how about a party at the local bowling alley, Spare Time Bowling Center in South Glen Falls, NY.

Teenage friends….check.

Chocolate cake…..check.

Ice cream…..check


Two strippers from Tops in Bottoms….check

Errr….yeah. Mom ordered strippers to spice up the bowling party. When other patrons and bowling alley employees literally saw upside-down strippers with their face in the groins on 13-16 year olds, they called the authorities and mom was arrested. Now, the local newspaper in researching the story called the owner of the Tops in Bottoms Company that supplied the strippers and asked for his reaction to the arrest of his client at the bowling alley.

"The situation has been blown way out of proportion. The strippers had no idea that any of the party goers were under-aged," said the owner of Tops in Bottoms who refused to be identified for the article. After all, it's quite common to have stripper parties with ice cream and birthday cake at the local bowling alley.

7) Hop's weekly Top 10 most important 2014 class priority list:

1. Myles Garrett, DE
2. Zach Whitley, LB
3. Davion Hall, WR
4. Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S
5. DeShawn Washington, DT
6. Braden Smith, OT (KS)
7. Ed Paris, S
8. Malachi Dupre, WR (LA)
9. Qualen Cunningham, DE (AZ)
10. 10. Out-of-state RB (Fournette, Mixon, etc.)

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