Longhorns A Recruiting Power

If the signatures come across as expected Wednesday for the start of the Early National Signing Period, Texas will have the No. 1 class in the Big 12 and the No. 3 class nationally. It marks the second year in a row that the Longhorns have hauled in a top-five class and lends to a natural second question: have the Longhorns secured enough talent to make a run at the National Championship?

"I don't think there's any question about that," said Evan Daniels, Scout.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst. "Texas has recruited at a high level for quite some time. This is another top-five class, a group that is top-to-bottom strong, with a quality point guard and some really strong post guys.

"Anytime you're bringing in this much talent — last year they were No. 5, this year No. 3 — you have a chance," Daniels said. "Coaches can only do so much. The rest is talent."

And that's why the class started with the first commitment, and arguably the most important one, five-star center Cameron Ridley, from George Bush High School in Richmond, Texas.

"I'm a really big fan of his game," Daniels said. "I've gotten to watch him develop over the course of two years. He's a huge prospect and really an imposing guy, with long arms. He has a great set of hands for a guy of his size and has great touch around the basket. He has a mid-range jumper and some great post moves.

"He's one of the impact big men in this class," Daniels said. "He's somebody who can come into Texas next year and be impactful right away."

Ridley was an early commitment, with the 6-foot-9, 260-pounder committing back in January of his junior year. From there, it took nearly seven months until the Longhorns' second commitment, with this one coming from one of the hottest names over the summer — St. Augustine (La.) point guard Javan Felix.

"He's a guy that really built up his reputation in Vegas over the course of the summer," Daniels said. "He really showed he could shoot, and he's pretty crafty and is creative enough to create looks for other people. He finished as the No. 65 overall prospect, and he's another really strong get."

And October was the biggest month for the Longhorns, with three of the five Texas commitments making their decisions in a three-week span. First to pull the trigger was San Antonio Churchill big man Connor Lammert. The 6-9, 220-pound post player is similar to past Texas posts that have had the skill set to pick-and-pop. He should be a valuable rotation player, and is rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com.

The second was Naaman Forest center Prince Ibeh, known for his shot-blocking and rebounding. He's rated as the No. 15 center in the country and a four-star prospect.

"He's a guy that nationally kind of flew under the radar," Daniels said. "He broke out in July. He's 6-10 with a big, strong body and long arms. He runs well, is a good athlete and affects the game from the defensive end by shot-blocking and protecting the basket. He's a great complementary post player, somebody who can really provide something for the team from a shot-blocking and rebounding standpoint."

And while the last prospect to commit might have been the most unknown — he's not yet ranked on Scout.com — the Longhorns had to fend off Kansas for the right to his signature. Ioannis Papapetrou of Melbourne (Fla.) Florida Air Academy supplies a 6-8 (and growing), 225-pound small forward who is known for his basketball IQ and his ability to do a little bit of everything, from handling the ball to passing to shooting. According to his coach Aubin Goporo, Papapetrou can play any spot on the court.

And while Wednesday marks the start of the early signing period and likely the five signatures above, the Longhorns aren't finished with their haul. Andrew White is expected to decide at some point soon, and he visited Texas recently. And the Texas coaches are still searching for another shooter to bring it all together.

So why has Texas been so successful on the recruiting trail? While many opposing fans point to the success of former Longhorn Kevin Durant as a boon, Daniels said it could simply come down to proximity.

"If you look at Texas, you look at their recruiting base and how many players there are in the Houston and Dallas areas, those are guys they don't have to go far to go out and get," Daniels said. "Granted, there's quite a bit of competition for those players from schools like Texas A&M and Baylor and those other guys, but Texas has great facilities and really a terrific recruiting staff. Rick Barnes is a really personable guy.

"The past two years, they've had the top class in the Big 12, and in 2010, they had the second-best class to Missouri," Daniels said. "So I think that over the past couple of years, they've really become a monster in Big 12, and national, recruiting."


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