The months of January and February are usually reserved for football recruiting news — with football's Signing Day falling in early February and most top basketball recruits focusing on the end of their seasons.
But the past month has still yielded plenty of top hoop recruiting news. Here are the biggest developments of the past few weeks:
* When we did our early-signing period "Winners & Losers" back in November, Kentucky earned a spot among the "Losers" after not signing any elite impact recruits. But that changed big time at the end of January, when Renaissance High (Mich.) senior shooting guard Joe Crawford and Oak Hill Academy (Va.) senior point guard Rajon Rondo both committed to the Wildcats.
Crawford, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound two-guard, is rated the No. 14 overall recruit in the Class of 2004 by SchoolSports.com. He committed to Kentucky over Michigan, which he de-committed from last summer.
Crawford's commitment came only days after Rondo, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound point guard who is rated the No. 60 recruit in the Class of 2004, pledged to the Wildcats over Louisville and Illinois. Rondo has raised his stock more than any other player in the country this season while leading powerhouse Oak Hill to a No. 1 national ranking by averaging 20 points and 11 assists per game.
The addition of Crawford and Rondo should boost Kentucky to a Top 10-level recruiting class and solidify the Wildcats' future backcourt.
* Georgia was another school that doubled its pleasure last month by receiving commitments from two of the top guards in the Class of 2005. And in this case, the Bulldogs landed high school teammates Louis Williams and Mike Mercer from South Gwinnett High (Ga.) on the same day.
Williams, a high-scoring 6-foot-3, 175-pound shooting guard, is rated the No. 1 player nationally in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com. Mercer, a 6-foot-4, 170-pound floor leader, is one of the most underrated point guards in the country.
Their commitments are huge for Georgia not only because both are big-time players, but also because they help the Bulldogs get back on track recruiting-wise after former coach Jim Harrick resigned last year.
* Lanier High (Miss.) junior shooting guard Monta Ellis committed to Mississippi State earlier this month over Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas and North Carolina. The 6-foot-4, 165-pounder is rated the No. 7 overall recruit in the Class of 2005 and is averaging more than 30 points per game this season.
* Landmark Christian School (Ga.) senior center Randolph Morris has narrowed his college choices to Georgia Tech and Kentucky — if he even heads to college at all. Morris, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound big man who is rated the No. 10 recruit in the Class of 2004, has posted two huge performances this season against possible No. 1 draft pick Dwight Howard. Morris remains non-committal about whether he'll enter the NBA Draft, but his stock has certainly risen among NBA scouts.
* There's also recruiting news on another of the nation's top uncommitted seniors, Renaissance High (Mich.) small forward Malik Hairston. According to TheInsidersHoops.com, North Carolina, Maryland and Oregon are trying to get involved with Hairston's recruitment, joining UCLA, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma in a suddenly crowded mix. Hairston, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior, is rated the No. 16 recruit in the Class of 2004 by SchoolSports.com.
* Coastal Christian Academy (Va.) fifth-year senior center Jackie Butler announced last week that he will enter this summer's NBA Draft, becoming the first prep player to announce his intentions this year. Butler was a McDonald's All-American last season at McComb High (Miss.) and originally signed with Mississippi State in the fall of 2002. However, he failed to qualify academically, decided to attend Laurinburg Prep (N.C.) this season, transferred to Coastal Christian, and eventually de-committed from MSU and signed with Tennessee this past fall. Butler is not expected to be a first-round pick in the draft.
* North Crowley High (Texas) senior power forward Kevin Langford committed to Cal over Stanford and Virginia earlier this month. The 6-foot-8, 205-pounder is the younger brother of Kansas' Keith Langford.