Basketball Signing Class Evaluation

As the letters coming rolling in to play for Mark Turgeon and the Texas A&M men's basktball team, Aggie Websider's David Sandhop brings you the evaluation of this year's stock of recruits, including Naji Hibbert, Khris Middleton, Kourtney Roberson, and Ray Turner.

Hop's Scouting Report – Class of 2009

The Aggies are expecting to sign four prospects in the early signing period that starts today for all collegiate sports with the exception of football and soccer. The Texas A&M staff will sign 6-foot-5 guard Naji HIbbert from DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, 6-foot-8 wing Khris Middleton from Porter Gaud HS in South Carolina, 6-foot-8 forward Kourtney Roberson from Arcadia, Louisiana, and 6-foot-8 forward Ray Turner from Houston Jones.

The overall theme for this class is athleticism and versatility. You can see the distinct coaching philosophy and style that Coach Turgeon and his staff want to bring to the Texas A&M program, especially with the bigs. In the past 2-3 years, the team revolved around the big, physical play of the interior. Post men like Joseph Jones were stalwarts in the paint and dictated the action with brutal, yet an effective physical presence.

With the signing of Kourtney Roberson and Ray Turner, this signals the arrival of forwards that are versatile who can step out and hit some shots when needed, but primarily they are athletic big men that can run the court well and bring the much-desired up-tempo game that Turgeon likes so much. In all honesty, Turgeon was forced to play a more deliberate, post-up style in his first year dictated by the personnel. With the addition of David Loubeau this year, and the arrival next year of Turner and Roberson, this team can now run and take advantage of scoring opportunities in the transition game.

The theme of versatility continues with the inclusion of Naji Hibbert, a thick 6-foot-5 combo guard from famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Baltimore. Hibbert is a slasher who can also run the court and he has a nice outside shot to go with his game. 6-foot-8 wing Khris Middleton is a long, wiry sharpshooter who can hit from anywhere on the court, and he'll be this class's sharpshooter from the outside who can also drive and hit a nice pull-up jumper.

There are no one trick ponies in this class, and it will be an extremely underrated class from looking at the preliminary rankings from the recruiting services, although ESPN.com did rate Texas A&M with the No. 4 class nationally last month. Frankly, there is a difference of opinion from the pundits on this class and with a couple of the individual prospects that A&M will sign today. Here's a quick rundown of each prospect and my brief thoughts.

Naji Hibbert

For me personally, Naji is the toughest of the four signees to evaluate. During his junior season, he was getting rave reviews from the national services and his early rankings were in the #30-#50 range nationally. He plays for one of the most prestigious basketball schools in the nation (DeMatha Catholic) and his film shows a big, physical guard who can mix it up inside but can consistently nail the tough outside shots with a hand in his face. His stock dropped nationally when he struggled at one AAU event this past spring, dropping down to the #90-#100 range. I watched him in person at the A&M Elite Camp this summer, and it was clear that he was pressing and trying to impress the coaches. The talent was there, but he tried to do too much at times which is in stark contrast to his normal game in high school where he's very disciplined and plays within the system. However, after he committed to Texas A&M and ended the recruiting process, he seemed to relax and his play improved in the late summer AAU events.

His stock climbed back up to the four-star category, and he currently is ranked #59 nationally by ESPN.com. He's a guy that is physically ready to go, and in talking to him he's one of those players that wants to win first, then worry about individual stats. He's a hard-nosed, physically mature player that plays against the highest level of competition, so he should be ready to compete immediately for playing time in 2009.


Khris Middleton

I'm really baffled why Khris didn't get more play nationally. He's consistently listed in the #100-#120 rage nationally, although I think ESPN.com is more on the target ranking him #64 nationally on their board. He's a long, wiry prospect that from a body type reminds me of a taller Bernard King, but with the outside shot of Josh Carter. He's also very young for his classification, so expect a lot of filling out and maturing of his game in the next couple of years. He's still growing too. Many services list him at 6-foot-7, but I talked to him recently and he said he's closer to 6-foot-8. Now think about that. A 6-foot-8 wing who can consistently hit NBA three-pointers?

From my observations, he was one of the best athletes and shooters at the Texas A&M Elite Camp that had approximately 10-15 national Top 100 caliber players. tHe can also drive the ball when needed and hits a nice pull-up jumper, something Carter struggled with early in his career. It may take a little longer to get him used to the speed of the college game and playing with faster, stronger players, but Middleton probably has more upside potential than any prospect in this class.


Kourtney Roberson

Roberson is the half-brother of former Texas A&M guard and one-time leading scorer in Big 12 history, Bernard King. King wasn't always a crowd favorite at A&M with the misperception of his on-court grimaces and frustration as being a negative influence. In reality, King is a big fan of his alma-mater and was a factor in his younger brother's decision to attend Texas A&M. Roberson is very quiet and soft-spoken unlike his brother, and he's a big-bodied forward unlike his rangy brother who played guard. But they have one thing in common. They are both extremely athletic and great basketball players. Roberson can step out and hit a 12-footer if needed and he's really working hard on his outside shot right now, but his success is in the paint where his quickness and athleticism has him getting most loose balls under the basket and always getting a rebound or put-back near the basket. He's going to be one of those guys who gets a lot of what they call "trash" around the basket. If there's a loose ball down with the bigs, he'll get it.

He also runs the floor well for a big man in transition and is skilled, but he has the mentality of freight truck to get down-and-dirty in the paint which is a great combination to have. From a small high school in Louisiana, the national services don't see him much, but playing for Louisiana Select this summer, he was clearly the best player on a very good AAU team and many services bumped him up to a four-star prospect. ESPN.com ranks Roberson at #87 nationally.


Ray Turner

Not one major national service rates Turner a four-star or in their Top 100. But I've never been as emphatic as I am with Turner that the services are flat out wrong. He just didn't have the exposure on the AAU circuit or at Jones High School to get his proper run from the national services. One Texas-based service has him listed at #6 in the state, and while that's a little closer to his true value I'd say he's still underrated.

The 6-foot-8 forward isn't the biggest post around and he could add a few pounds to his 220-pound frame, but man does he have quickness and more importantly a motor on the court that's like none other. I watched him at the Texas A&M Elite Camp and I thought he was clearly the best post prospect there, and possibly the best overall prospect at the event that had about 150 players and 10+ national Top 100 quality recruits participating. Four-star guys like Andrew Fitzgerald (who A&M could have gotten, IMO), who will sign with OU, were at the same camp and I thought Turner was clearly the superior talent at the time. Turner can hit out to 15 feet with no problem, he runs the court like a gazelle, and his ferocity under the basket to grab the rebound is impressive. Now, for those of you who read my A&M Elite Camp report back in July, I said at the time Turner was the best prospect at the camp, and this was long before he committed to Texas A&M.

So you won't find Turner on many lists, and his star rating will be about average, but I'm telling you this prospect is anything but average. Now, he's still a little raw and will need some fine tuning, but Turner is as talented as any post prospect that A&M has signed in recent years.




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