They say Texas A&M is a football school, and that will be hard to deny when over 80,000 Aggies find their way to Kyle Field for the season opener this Saturday. Until three years ago, football was the only major revenue sport in College Station. Basketball was a mere afterthought for most Aggie fans, something that passed the time between fall football and spring football. The A&M program was also an afterthought for blue chip basketball players. And who's to blame them when the program was one of the worst in major college basketball, going almost 20 years without an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
Well, what a difference four seasons make. In a stunning turnaround, the Texas A&M basketball program is now on a roll having participated in four straight postseason tournaments, including three straight berths in the NCAA Tournament, four wins, and one Sweet Sixteen appearance. Basketball recruits are also taking notice. If early recruiting is any indication, second year coach Mark Turgeon and his staff are laying the foundation for this success to continue into the future.
The Aggies already have three verbal commitments for the 2009 class that will likely sign LOI's during the early signing period in November. However, in basketball the relationship between college coaches and prospects begin two and even three years before they are eligible to sign. That's why this past week was important for the future of Aggie basketball when the staff welcomed a pair of highly-touted Class of 2010 recruits, 6-foot-8, 200-pound Bellaire forward Tobi Oyedeji and 6-foot-9 Dripping Springs forward Daniel Alexander. Both are considered national Top 100 prospects, with Oyedeji recently ranked No. 33 in Scout.com's 2010 National Top 75.
However, as impressive as the Class of 2010 is shaping up to be, the collection of talent that showed up on campus this past weekend for the Class of 2011 and 2012 was even better. No fewer than eight nationally ranked high school freshmen and sophomores made their way to College Station on Saturday to become familiar with Texas A&M, tour the new basketball facilities, and meet with the coaching staff in what will sure to be the start of a long courtship.
So just how impressive was the turnout this weekend? Well, for starters the top-rated 2011 player in Texas, LaBryan Nash was in attendance and this was at least his second unofficial visit to Texas A&M coming with Dallas Mustangs (AAU) teammate Nolan Dennis last season. Nash is a mature 6-foot-7 forward considered a national Top 20 prospect in the class of 2011. Also with the Dallas Mustangs, 6-foot-6 Dallas Skyline forward Keaton Miles also made the trip. He's a top 10 prospect in the state and generally recognized as a Top 75 national recruit in the Class of 2011. Rounding out the high profile 2011 prospects on-campus was Dallas Spruce Devonta Abron. The 6-foot-6 prospect was very impressive at the Texas A&M Elite camp this summer and he's generally considered a national Top 75 recruit in the 2011 class.
But as impressive as that list of 2011 visitors may seem, several nationally elite Class of 2012 prospects in attendance definitely signals to the college basketball community that Texas A&M will be a major factor in basketball recruiting on the national scene for the foreseeable future.
The most recognizable high school freshman in the country is Bryan's J'Mychal Reese who has been somewhat of a local celebrity after being named by HoopScoop as the top 7th grader in the nation a couple of years ago. Reese, whose father is the head basketball coach at Bryan High, has been a regular to Aggie games and functions over the past several years so his attendance isn't a big surprise. However, Reese's teammate on the Texas Ambassadors (AAU) from their junior high days made the trip to Texas A&M from Houston. Rasheed Sulaimon is not only considered the best freshman point guard in the state, but many recruiting experts feel he's one of the 20 best 2012 prospects in the nation.
Another national Top 20 prospect that visited Texas A&M this weekend was New Orleans area product Louis Dabney who participated with Reese and Sulaimon at last year's prestigious John Lucas International Middle School Combine. Mansfield post Isaiah Austin was also in College Station. Already standing 6-foot-10 as a freshman, Austin also played in the John Lucas combine, and many observers feel he's a national Top 50 prospect. Rounding out the impressive list of visitors was Houston wingman Winston Sheppard, considered to be one of the state's top 5 prospects, and a national Top 75 caliber recruit.
In all, at least 10 national Top 100 prospects made their way to College Station this past weekend. It may sound a little early to be talking about high school freshmen and sophomores, but basketball recruiting is a long process that takes years in the making to build relationships with a prospect, his parents, coaches, and family friends. Those long term relationships are essential if a coach wants to sign the best players in the nation. In regard to the Aggies, it's way too early to speculate just how many of these prospects will ever wear a maroon jersey, but it has to start somewhere.
For Coach Turgeon and his staff, they are laying the foundation for the future. While most Aggie fans are focused on this week's football season opener, the last thing on the mind of fans is a seemingly insignificant unofficial weekend visit by a handful of basketball players that won't play a college game for 3-4 years. However, the turnout from this weekend definitely shows that Texas A&M is positioned well for future recruiting. That may not seem important today, but it will be in three years.
Foundation for the future
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