Not surprisingly, when I reached TheInsiders.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep by phone Tuesday, he told me that his brain had pretty much "turned to complete mush" in the aftermath of all his travels. If you've been reading his daily reports from the road, you know that Telep has been present for every camp this summer, sometimes even (along with fellow writer Jeff Goodman) covering three camps simultaneously.
Yet no one knows the circuit quite like Telep. Vanderbilt's top targets-- he's seen them all, and has encyclopedic knowledge as well as an opinion on them all. As for Vanderbilt's three coaches who recruit-- Kevin Stallings, Jeff Jackson and Brad Frederick-- he's tracked them and spotted them, numerous times, along the recruiting trail this past July.
Telep will soon be re-releasing his list of TheInsiders' Top 100 Players, revised considerably with the conclusion of summer camps. Plenty of prospects improved their standing with bravura performances and will appear on the upcoming list for the first time, while others will drop off.
Keep in mind, as you read the following, that Vanderbilt currently has three open scholarships open for the class of '05, and head coach Kevin Stallings has said he will look to use them to replace departing seniors Jason Holwerda (shooting guard), Corey Smith (small forward) and Dawid Przybyszewski (power forward / post).
Telep says if there's one Vanderbilt target who improved his stock this summer, it was J.P. Prince [right], the 6-7 point guard from Memphis-White Station. Prince turned in a dazzling performance last week in Orlando at the AAU Nationals, one that left Telep raving.
"Kevin Stallings and his entire staff have made a big push for J.P.," said Telep. "Honestly he's one of the biggest risers of the summer. We've always had him in our Top 50.
"People are just now realizing that this kid is a 6-7 point guard. There might not be five other guys in the country who are better teammates, and have a better feel and understanding of the game.
"J.P.'s not a big scorer. He's not a great shooter. But he's going to be an excellent leader at the high-major level."
According to Telep, there is no longer any doubt about Prince's ability to play the point at the next level ("I think he's a point all the way," Dave says). If all goes according to plan, look for Vanderbilt to receive an unofficial visit sometime between August and October-- but the Commodores will likely have to beat out heavyweights like Arizona, North Carolina State, Mississippi State and hometown Memphis for his services.
A second name that rocketed to the top of Vanderbilt's list recently was Kendric Price, a smooth, 6-7 power forward from Buckingham Browne Nichols, an elite prep school in Cambridge, Mass. Last Wednesday, to the surprise of many, Price told Jeff Goodman that Vanderbilt and vaulted to the top of his list as well.
"Vanderbilt chased him down hard," Telep says. "They attended a lot of his games this summer. I don't think folks realized with Kendric at first how good his grades were.
"Here's a guy with a little bit of bounce. When he plays inside, he's a good athlete who can finish. [College scouts] like him because he can step out to midrange and make 15-footers. He can face up and draw some interesting matchups at the power forward spot."
College coaches place a high emphasis on summer camps, since they pit prospects against other players of a similar caliber. An untimely injury prevented RouSean Cromwell (6-10 center, Memphis-Fairley) from getting the attention he would normally have received this summer, but the big man recovered in time to make an appearance last week at the AAU's. Reviews were mixed, and despite Cromwell's size, the jury on him is still out in the minds of most coaching staffs.
"I think RouSean's recruiting is going to shake down in the next two weeks," Telep says. "A lot of schools were disappointed that they could not see him this summer. His performance was enough to keep people interested, but maybe not enough to sell all the high-majors on.
"He might be one of those guys who'd be wise to wait until the spring-- that way if he can put together a good senior season, he'll have a lot more options."
Vanderbilt was interested in Cromwell early on because of his good grades. Have they backed off?
"I'm not sure they've backed off, as much as they haven't had a chance to see him, and I'm sure that's probably the case with everybody."
Telep was the first to report two weeks ago that Chad Millard, an intriguing 6-8 small forward prospect from Manchester, N.H., was being closely observed at the Reebok Big Time Camp in Las Vegas by the Commodore staff. Little-known at the beginning of the summer, Millard's stock soared with some impressive performances at the NBA Players, Adidas and Reebok camps, so much that he is now fielding offers from several high-major programs. Nearby Providence is considered the hometown favorite, but Vanderbilt has made inroads.
"He had a summer where some people may move on him, and others may wait and see," Telep reports. "We're talking about a guy who's pushing 6-8 and shoots 3's. That's the strength of his game."
Some Vanderbilt fans might immediately think of a slightly smaller version of Matt Freije, but Telep was quick to say that's not a good comparison. Millard, says Telep, is destined to play the 3.
"Matt was a lot stronger physically, and was a lot better inside player," he said. "I see Chad as more of an all-or-nothing perimeter player."
Nonetheless, Millard is a guy who sounds guaranteed to cause match-up problems, and perfectly suited to the perimeter-oriented offense Vanderbilt ran in 2003-04. Look for things to happen quickly with Millard, and an official visit in September or October is likely.
Lastly I asked Telep about two players who didn't really make the camp circuits this summer-- George Drake (6-3 shooting guard, Calera, Ala.) [left] and Daniel Puckett (6-7 forward, McEwen, Tenn.). Naturally, he'd seen them both anyway.
"I think Drake is probably a guy who is probably on a lot of guys' second-tier lists," he said of Drake, who holds offers from Vanderbilt and Alabama. "George has a decent body, but I don't think he's elevated his game to where he's a first-tier high-major target." In other words, don't look for Drake among the Top 100 any time soon.
"Daniel is a guy who's being heavily recruited at the mid-major level. He was a little up and down this summer, but because he can step out and make shots, people are really taking a look at him. I think he probably winds up at the mid-major range."
Vanderbilt fans who wonder if the staff is in good shape for the early signing period this fall shouldn't wonder, Telep insisted.
"Coach Stallings and his staff were extremely visible this summer," he said. "They had kind of a rotation going. Coach Stallings, Jeff Jackson and Brad Frederick. I thought they did a good job mixing it up on the road, because everywhere I went, I saw one of those three guys.
"I know they did some last-minute red-eye flying late in the period. The last two days it was very aggressive, because they were able to take some late-night flights and get in and see their prospects on the last day. They were really active in July."
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