1. In a bit of a last minute surprise (scheduled Wednesday), the staff brought in a pair of foreign prospects from London. In for a visit was 6-foot-11, 225-pound athletic post Dylan Johns and guard Jake Eynon. Both players are teammates in London. From what I've been told, Johns is the prospect that the staff likes. Eynon is a nice scorer, but his quickness at the collegiate is questionable at this point. A&M is willing to place him in a JUCO and see how he develops.
Johns is a legitimate high D-1 collegiate prospect. In fact, he signed with LSU last year but their admin was unable to get all of the paperwork and documentation from London straightened out before the start of school and he was never cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Because of these difficulties and the fact that Johns was still in London, schools forgot about him this spring. Plus, everybody figured LSU would re-sign him in the April signing period.
When the A&M staff saw that he did not sign with LSU, they started doing research on the kid's academic documentation and they got the A&M academic/compliance people looking into it to match up his credits in England with core course requirements of the NCAA Clearinghouse. Anyway, the feedback from the clearinghouse was positive and the A&M admin gave the staff the green light to recruit Johns. So with a couple of days notice, A&M brought in Johns and his teammate across the Atlantic for a two day official visit in College Station. The two left College Station Sunday afternoon for London.
Johns is a legitimate 6-foot-11. Many schools including A&M like him because he's a long post that can run the floor well who comfortably plays above the rim. He needs to add some weight and get used to the more physical American game at the college level, so he's probably not somebody that will contribute a lot as a freshman, especially if Tony Trocha and Antwan Space perform as hoped. However, A&M had two major glaring weaknesses last season. One was point guard play. The other was length at the No. 4 and 5 spots, and he would definitely help in that area over the next 3-4 years.
Anyway, I've been told that the staff will take him and they are hoping this one will pop shortly. With a foreign player residing outside the U.S., there's some unpredictability because they don't usually know the pecking order of programs and conferences in college basketball. With LSU out, Hofstra and Florida International are the current teams pushing hard. You'd think A&M would be the hands-down favorite but you never know until he signs.
2. I've been told that this new development does not affect the status of Antonio Barton's transfer. Coach Cyprien has been pulling out all the stops this week to keep A&M's chances strong. Barton returned to Baltimore on Friday to attend his daughter's birthday party that evening. Before the party, he spent several hours with Mark Turgeon and the Terp staff and last night he texted a Baltimore sports writer that he visit was "tremendous" but he did not commit. Pundits have assumed that Maryland is the team to beat because of their close proximity to his daughter and family. Geography certainly doesn't hurt Maryland's case, but you also have to remember that Barton is a senior transfer and he has one more season to set his value on the professional basketball market. Decisions are usually based first and foremost on playing opportunity, and while Maryland has a need for a point guard, they do have highly-regarded sophomore Seth Allen coming back as a combo scoring guard and a pretty good pure point guard freshman that they want Barton to mentor.
On the other hand, A&M needs both an accomplished point guard AND a scorer after Elston Turner's graduation. Barton will have every opportunity to be the focal point at the guard position, and I can tell you the staff sees Barton as the missing piece on this team for next season. With the experienced Barton working at the point, they feel the team has the potential to be pretty good next season. Finally, Cyprien was Barton's primary recruiter at Memphis four years ago, and he has a very close relationship with Antonio and his mom.
We should hear something within the next few days. The staff is cautiously optimistic, but realizes Maryland provides a stiff challenge given the geography advantage.
3. While there's still a lot of buzz closing out the 2013 class, the recruiting cycle is in full swing for the 2014 class that can start signing next November. The spring evaluation period for coaches just concluded and A&M has identified about 12 targets so far. There will be another evaluation period in July and more names will surface at that time. But the goal now for coaches is to position themselves for the critical September/October official visit period. Pay close attention to the Alabama weekend on September 14 to see which recruits A&M can get to campus for an official visit. I expect the biggest names on that weekend. Football at Kyle Field is one of the biggest draws on a basketball recruiting weekend.
The target list includes two longtime, highly-recruited prospects from Houston Hoops in Top 10 wing Justise Winslow (son of UH's Ricky Winslow) and 6-foot-9 post Khadeem Lattin who s a consensus Top 75 national prospect. Both recruits have multiple national offers and both are listing A&M in their top 5 which includes the royalty of college basketball. A&M has established a long-term, close relationship with Winslow so that's why A&M should stay on his final list of schools and he's somebody they will try to bring in for the Bama game. Yeah, it's a longshot, but there is a good relationship there so you take your swing. Lattin is home schooled and he's the son of former USA track star Monica Lamb, so his path has been unique and you never know what will ultimately go into his final decision…so as long as they are listening (and they are), you keep recruiting.
4. Two other prospects have been on A&M's radar for quite a while and are probably the staff's best chance of landing a quality Top 100-150 national prospect or two is 6-foot-10 Alamo Heights post man Ben Lammers and 6-foot-1 point guard Alex Robinson from Kennedale.
Lammers is a low four-star and a Top 100-125 national prospect on several services. He led his team to the state championship finals in Austin and he's been considered one of the best 5-6 2014 players in the state just behind some of the bigger names like Justin Jackson, Justise Winslow, and Emmanuel Mudiay to name a few. It's a strong class in the state. Lammers runs the floor well for a big man, but he's also tough in the paint and he can be physical. I spoke to him last week and he's working on his mid-range jumper to go with a decent post-up game. He has already been offered by Baylor, Texas, OSU, A&M, and about 15 other schools. Stanford is also seriously involved and I thnk an offer by the cardinal would put them clearly in play.
But the good news for A&M fans is that Lammers is a legacy. His dad Chris was an A&M football player in the early 1980's and Ben says he grew up going to A&M football games and he even said jokingly "Yeah, you could say I grew up an Aggie." His father was also the lead architect that drew up plans for a 110,000 seat capacity Kyle Field in 2004, although cost and the program's poor performance shelved those plans.
With that said, Lammers made it clear that he will go through the process and will make a business decision based on what is best for him and his basketball career. He said academics are the number one factor in choosing a school (and why I think Stanford could be a player) followed by the opportunity for early playing time and then the comfort level with the coaches and players.
Just because he's a legacy doesn't mean he's a done deal for the Aggies…but it doesn't hurt either.
The other best chance at signing a national caliber recruit is Kennedale point guard Alex Robinson. The 6-foot-1 lefty has all the tools. He's a great ballhandler who can break down a defender. He's a very good assist man and when I spoke to him last week he said he takes the most pride in creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. He also has an adequate outside stroke. It's a tad long, but given his height and ballhandling to give him some space, he shouldn't have much problem getting his shot off when needed. Overall, he's a Top 75 national guy and a solid four-star point who's valued by the coaches because of his versatility and well-rounded game.
A&M has been on him from day one, and that's one big reason why the Aggies are in his top three along with Vanderbilt and SMU among his 15+ offers. Don't let the list fool you, he's a national guy with Baylor, Texas, and the usual suspects offering. But, in talking to him he is very sensitive to who's been on him from the start and who's recruiting him the hardest. In fact, those three schools mentioned are there because he said those three are recruiting him the hardest, and he wants to go somewhere that looks at him as a top priority. Given A&M's situation at point guard after this next season (which is basically just J-Myke Reese), you could say A&M has him as the highest priority. Other schools will enter the picture simply because he's that good and he's really been shining on the national EYBL AAU circuit this spring with the Texas Titans. This is a critical target for the Aggies given their need at the point…and he's the best one they are recruiting right now. Plus, the staff seems to have his attention at the moment.
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