09 SEC Recruiting Breakdown
Kentucky isn’t the only team that struck it big.
The SEC has outdone itself with its recruiting efforts this season, landing four of the top 10 players in the country. The overwhelming winner is Kentucky who under the guise of new head coach John Calipari has assembled a recruiting class that is already being hailed as one of the greatest of all time. With that said, don’t sleep on some of the other teams in this conference.
The old maxim “less is more” proves to ring true when examining the efforts of Florida, Tennessee and Vanderbilt this season. The three schools combine to land only four players for next season, but all of them are ranked in the top 100 in their class, including Kenny Boynton Jr., a top 10 prospect who was inked by the Gators. Mississippi State signed perhaps the best one-two frontcourt duo in the country and even Arkansas put together a recruiting haul that it can be proud of.
In short, while the Wildcats are likely to get all of the attention with their star-studded class – and rightfully so – the SEC should bounce back from a down year last season thanks to an excellent influx of new talent to the conference for the upcoming season.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide welcome in an average class mainly as a result of the recruiting time lost due to the coaching change that took place. Still, with Anthony Grant at the helm now, Alabama fans can expect a strong influx of talent to the program in the near future. For now though, the team will be welcoming four new additions to the roster this fall highlighted by the signing of Shawn Kemp Jr., the son of the former NBA All-Star. Kemp is a slightly undersized center at 6-8 200-pounds, but is a very long athlete who at the very least will provide a defensive and rebounding presence from the outset. This is a player with a good amount of upside and it doesn’t hurt that he has a strong pedigree either. Florida point guard Ben Eblen followed Grant after originally committing to VCU. The 6-0 floor general has a very high basketball IQ and is an excellent passer; could be a solid point despite lacking superior athleticism. Georgia product Tony Mitchell is an interesting addition to the roster given that he was originally supposed to be a member of the 2008 recruiting class but failed to qualify academically. After a fifth year of high school the Georgia product is ready to lace them up for the Crimson Tide. Mitchell is a very long 6-6 small forward who is an aggressive offensive player. He doesn’t have a spectacular perimeter shot at this point, but is very good attack the basket off the bounce. The final member of the 2009 class joining ‘Bama next season is junior college transfer Chris Hines out of Southwestern Illinois. The 6-7 small forward is a very good athlete and with the 225 pounds he packs onto his frame, Hines is capable of banging inside and contributing on the block.
Update: Kemp Jr. recently announced he will be enrolling at Hargrave Military Academy for the upcoming academic year. He is expected to re-commit to Alabama during the April signing period for the 2010 year.
This proved to be a good recruiting year for Arkansas coach John Pelphrey as he locked up five recruits including top-100 prospect Marshawn Powell. A 6-8 power forward out of Charlottesville, Virginia, Powell is a strong rebounder and perhaps an even stronger scorer on the block. He uses his strength and fairly polished post game effectively when in one-on-one situations, something he did to the tune of 22 ppg during his senior year. Power forward Glenn Bryant and center Anthony Borden will be joining Powell in the frontcourt as well. Bryant, an Oak Hill Academy product, is a 6-6 athletic combo-forward who had offers on the table from Memphis and Syracuse before opting to become a Razorback. He is somewhat stuck between positions, not strong enough to play in the post, but not skilled enough to operate on the wing, yet. Bryant will make his early impact defensively thanks to his quickness and length which allow him to lock down taller players. Borden, a 7-footer from West Memphis HS in Arkansas is raw, very, very raw. The big man has only been playing organized basketball for three years so his learning curve is still steep and with the athleticism he has shown already, is a definite upside guy to keep an eye on. Point guard Julyses Nobles joins the team fresh off leading Callaway Sr HS to a state championship in Mississippi, posting averages of 20 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. The 6-0 floor general is a tough competitor who knows who to run an offense, while possessing a quick first step that allows him to penetrate defenses well. Lastly there is junior college transfer Jemal Farmer who joins the school from Concordia, Kansas. At 6-5 he possesses good size and strength for the wing and is a good rebounder for a perimeter player. Farmer is a solid athlete with a long wingspan and range beyond the arc.
Last season was a promising one for the Tigers who made a good run at an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, but having lost a trio of strong contributor, they will need immediate help from their five-man recruiting class. Andre Malone and Earnest Ross, a pair of shooting guards, are the top newcomers to the squad. Malone, a high school teammate of Derrick Favors, has good size at 6-4 200-pounds and utilized his frame to drop 22 ppg as a senior. Ross also stands at 6-4 and is a versatile player who could spend some time at the point if necessary. The Raleigh, NC native is at his best when attacking the basket off the bounce and has proven to be a good creator for teammates. His basketball IQ isn’t as high as one might expect from a potential point guard, but he is young and learning. Auburn is also bringing in a trio of power forwards to join a frontcourt that was hurt by graduation. Junior college transfer Kenny Gabriel may be the best of the bunch as he presents a versatile, athletic package in his 6-8 frame. The Charlotte native is very long and has great range for a guy who lines up in the post, able to connect out to the arc when given space. Robert Chubb, a 6-10 graduate of Montverde Academy, will provide rebounding and a shot altering presence on the defensive end. Chubb is a good, but not stellar athlete, who will get a lot of easy baskets by running the floor and finishing in transition; he needs to get stronger in order to be a scoring presence on the block though. Ty Armstrong is another Florida product who had offers from Arizona State, Penn State and VCU before settling on Auburn. The 6-8 forward is a raw athlete with an excellent wingspan. He is scrappy on the offensive end, getting the majority of his 13 ppg on the glass and he will block his fair share of shots on the defensive side of the basketball.
Billy Donovan only signed two players for his 2009 recruiting class but they are each studs. Kenny Boynton Jr. a McDonald’s All-American and top-10 prospect is one of the top guards in the country and has the capability of playing both the one and the two. The 6-2 Florida native is arguably the top scoring threat in his class, capable of shredding defenses with his mid-range game and ability to break down defenders. He is certainly more of a scoring guard than a true point guard at this point, but he is working at improving his passing skills. One thing is for certain though, Boynton is a leader on the floor who commands the respect of his teammates and the opposition, he will be a major impact player for the Gators. Power forward Erik Murphy is a top-40 prospect at power forward who will add toughness to the Florida frontcourt. A graduate of St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts, Murphy has a solid 6-9 210-pound frame and a very high basketball IQ. He knows how to play with his back to the basket and is a very good passer for a big man. He shows a developing mid-range jump shot that would help to open his game up even more, but even still, his interior presence will be a welcomed addition to the Gators roster.
Georgia didn’t exactly break the bank with this year’s crop of newcomers, bringing in a pair of guards to help sure up their backcourt. Florida point guard Vincent Williams is a good athlete who has excellent quickness with the basketball in his hand and knows how to get to the rim. The biggest issues for him right now are his decision making skills and his super small 6-1 150-pound frame which will have to get stronger in order to handle the physical play of big time college basketball. In-state recruit DeMario Mayfield is a well built combo-guard at 6-3 190, who excels at attacking the basket. His shot is somewhat suspect at this point, but he has a nice repertoire of dribble drive moves that are effect in isolation situations. Overall this is a small class that won’t be able to make a major impact for Georgia right away. The Bulldogs will have to do a better job on the recruiting trail next season in order to be competitive in a strong SEC.
John Calipari has put together the type of class that should it live up to expectations could go down as the greatest ever. The six-man smorgasbord of talent is already being mentioned in the same breath as the Fab Five and with good reason as four of the players are ranked in the top 100, including two in the top five. It’s tough to know where to start when breaking this class down, but point guard John Wall, considered by some to be the best incoming freshman in the country, seems like a good jumping off point. Duke was very much in the mix for Wall’s services before the North Carolina product opted to go with the newly hired Calipari in the Bluegrass State. The 6-4 guard is already drawing Derrick Rose comparisons because of his size and tremendous athleticism. Though he isn’t as good of a true point guard as Rose was at this point in his career, Wall has the type of blow-by speed that will make him nearly impossible to handle consistently in one-on-one situations. There may not be a faster open floor player in the 2009 class and certainly there isn’t a more athletic guard. The Wildcats also landed a budding superstar to add to their frontcourt in DeMarcus Cousins, likely the top center in the country. The Alabama native is a specimen at 6-10 and 245 pounds, but capable of taking defenders away from the basket. He is a highly skilled offensive player who can score with his back to the basket or facing up in a variety of situations. Cousins has the potential to absolutely dominate at the college level but he needs to make sure that he keeps his focus for the entirety of the game, something that Calipari should help with. Joining Cousins and the returning Patrick Patterson in the frontcourt will be another one of the top centers in the country, Oklahoma City product Daniel Orton, a 6-10 260-pound monster in the middle. Orton is a defensive force who will be a shot blocking machine from day one and with his tremendous strength should clean up on the glass. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but it is solid enough that Orton ranks just outside the top ten nationally in most recruiting rankings. Kentucky raided the state of Alabama again for another one of the top point guard recruits in the country in Eric Bledsoe. The 6-0 floor general is very much a pass-first player with excellent instincts, court vision and a high basketball IQ. Bledsoe knows how to get into the lane and create for teammates and he has also proven to be a very good on-ball defender. In-state product Jon Hood is a 6-5 small forward who does a lot of things very well, especially offensively. He knows how to break defenders down off the dribble and has range out to 20-feet. Lastly, there is junior college transfer Darnell Dodson, a 6-8 small forward. After failing to qualify academically to play at Pittsburgh, the Maryland native spent the year at Miami-Dade College before committing to player at UK. Dodson shoots the ball well off the dribble and will create plenty of matchup problems given his size and athleticism. John Calipari in a very short time has assembled a recruiting class that is capable of winning a national championship in its first year in the college ranks and at the very least is the top group in the country.
Trent Johnson may be hard pressed to repeat the success he had in his first season at LSU, winning the SEC regular season title given the loss of Marcus Thornton. Still, the Tigers did the best they could to restock, welcoming in a pair of players in their 2009 class. Shooting guard Aaron Dotson out of Rainier Beach HS in Seattle is a pretty good athlete who does a fair amount of damage off the dribble. The 6-4 wing has solid range out to the arc, explodes to the rim well in transition and is an above average rebounder for his position. Local product Eddie Ludwig played his high school ball at Metairie Park Country Day School and had offers from several other SEC schools as well as Cal. The 6-7 small forward is a very good shooter who will be able to do damage from the perimeter and he is strong enough to occasionally operate inside when he has to.
Ole Miss has signed a respectable three-man recruiting class highlighted by the addition of Memphis based power forward Reggie Buckner. The 6-9 Buckner took home Mr. Basketball honors for the state of Tennessee this season after averaging an impressive 19 points and 14 rebounds; he also set the state record for career blocked shots. Buckner is a very good athlete who over powers players on his way to the basket, though he’ll need to improve his finesse game in order to succeed in the SEC. He has also proven to be an excellent rebounder. Combo-forward Aaron Davis is a handful physically, packing 240-pounds onto his 6-7 frame and showing he knows how to use it. The graduate of J O Johnson HS in Huntsville, Alabama is tough enough to play inside and an undersized power forward and has a smooth enough stroke that he can operate on the perimeter as well as a catch and shoot type of player. The final member of the Rebels 2009 group is another power forward, junior college transfer DeAngelo Riley who will provide more bulk in the middle. The Southwest Tennessee transfer stands at 6-9 235-pounds; he shot fifty percent and averaged nearly a double-double in his second season at the JuCo level.
Head coach Rick Stansbury took a major role of the dice in his recruiting class by signing big men Renardo Sidney and John Riek who both have eligibility questions hovering around them, but the presence of these two coupled with the return of Jarvis Varnado gives the Bulldogs a scary frontcourt rotation. Sidney is the most talented of the bunch, a top-10 prospect who was originally likely to end up at USC or UCLA before both schools withdrew their scholarship offers amidst controversy surround Sidney’s past. Mississippi State was more than thrilled when the Los Angeles product fell into their lap. Sidney is a rare combination of size (6-11 255-pounds) and skill who can dominate the college game when he puts his mind to it. He is a devastating force when he faces up in the post, able to create shots in a variety of ways for himself. Sidney has a smooth jumper, particularly from mid-range, but can step out and hit the open three if give space. He has shown the ability to handle the ball in the open floor and is an excellent passer; he very easily could be a one-and-done prospect if he continues to give full effort on the court. Riek is a real wild card prospect here. Two years ago the 7-2 native of the Sudan was being hailed as a potential lottery pick given his 7-7 wingspan and some dominating performances at events like the Lebron James Skills Academy. A knee injury thwarted those plans and Riek pulled his name out of the draft before attending the famed IMG Academy this past season. The big man is a defensive presence, able to block shots and rebound very well, but his offensive game is still very much a work in progress. At this point he needs to get stronger (weighs 240), but it will be most interesting to see how he has improved his conditioning. At the Elite 24 in 2007 Riek could barely get up and down the floor to keep up with the fast pace of the guard dominated game; he should have more success as a true center in a slower college game. Wendell Lewis, another center, will be joining the Bulldogs roster from Selma HS in Alabama. At 6-8 220, Lewis is a strong player with very good athleticism. He has a solid post game and range out to the elbow with his jumper. His biggest asset right now is how quick he is to the ball off the glass, making him a good rebounder. While Mississippi State went decidedly big with their recruiting efforts for next season, they did sign a solid shooting guard in Shaunessy Smith who had offers from Clemson, USC and Mississippi. The 6-5 in-state recruit has been flying under the radar due to missing the entire summer after his junior season as a result of hip surgery; this coming on the heels of an All-State season when he averaged 30 ppg. Smith is a great athlete with a very advanced skill set for a player his age. He is a big time scorer who can drill it from beyond the arc and is equally as dangerous pulling up from mid-range. The Bulldogs have locked up the kind of class that when paired with their returning talent, could push them to a deeper run in March than they had last year.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks locked up commitments from four newcomers to their program for next season including top-100 prospect Lakeem Jackson. The 6-5 small forward was high school teammates with Duke-bound Mason Plumlee and has the potential to be a big time impact player in his first season as well. Jackson is a fantastic athlete who very aggressively attacks the rim off the bounce; this is a guy who can fill up the box score in a hurry. He also brings a strong perimeter defensive presence to the roster as well thanks to his quickness and length. Point guard Ramon Galloway will be a nice addition to the backcourt as will New Jersey product Steve Spinella. Galloway, a 6-2 floor general from Palm Beach Gardens, FL, is a long athletic guard who shows excellent court vision and passing ability. He has the range on his shot and the blow-by ability off the dribble to handle some of the scoring load himself when he isn’t about to get his teammates going. Spinella had offers on the table from Penn State and Seton Hall before deciding on South Carolina. The 6-5 two-guard can score in a variety of ways but is at his most effective right now when he can rotate behind plays and spot up from the outside. Lastly, there is junior college transfer Johndre Johnson out of Okasoola-Walton CC, a 6-9 power forward who will add depth and strength to the Gamecocks frontline. Johnson is pretty thin at just 205-pounds, but he is able to rebound out of his area thanks to his wingspan, he will need to get stronger though.
Bruce Pearl only had room to sign one player, but he made it a good one in top-100 prospect Kenny Hall out of Stone Mountain, Georgia. The 6-9 power forward is a gifted athlete who is strong enough to more than handle his own in the post at the big time college level. He has excellent length and a great motor, but his offensive game is still raw at this point, with the majority of his baskets coming from his extensive work on the offensive glass or dump offs from teammates. Hall will also be a dangerous weapon for Tennessee in that he runs the floor exceptionally well and has proven to be a dynamic finisher in transition for a big man.
The Commodores only added one player to their roster for next season but they scored big when they locked up one of the top shooting guard prospects in the nation in John Jenkins. The Tennessee product has decent size at 6-4 but has a big time scorer’s mentality, playing very aggressively when he has the ball. Jenkins has range out beyond the arc and enough consistency there to do some serious damage if given space, but he seems to be at his best when he can break defenders down and attack the rim. He isn’t going to blow anyone away with his athleticism, but what Jenkins lacks in that department he makes up for with a strong basketball IQ and a craftiness that makes him a tough defensive assignment. This was a great addition for Vanderbilt, adding a big time perimeter scoring option which they need.