Pac-10 Recruiting Breakdown
Lack of star power shouldn’t dampen anticipation.
The Pac-10 lost a lot of star power to the NBA this year with the likes of James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Jordan Hill and many others all moving on to the League. All the more surprising is that the conference isn’t exactly restocking their rosters with any monster blue chip prospects this season save for one or two. Abdul Gaddy who joins Washington is by far the highest rated player who will be debuting this fall, with a couple of others (Tyler Honeycutt and Jamil Wilson) who could make some noise at the national level. UCLA brings in the top class yet again this season, but Washington, Arizona and Washington State also welcome in pretty good groups as well. While it isn’t likely that the Pac-10 will see three players selected in the top-20 in next seasons draft, there is still reason to be looking forward to the incoming crop of talent for the upcoming year.
The ‘Cats and new head coach Sean Miller will be welcoming in a talented five man class that features impact players at spots all over the floor. Center Kyryl Natyazhko had offers on the table from Big East and ACC programs but opted to head west after spending his prep career at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. The 6-10 240-pound native of the Ukraine has a body that will allow him to be a physical presence right away, but it is his skill set that will really set him apart as a freshman. Natyazhko has a developing mid-range jumper that he can hit on a fairly consistent basis and his post moves around the basket are solid at this point, thanks in part to his soft touch. Joining the frontcourt as well will be California product Derrick Williams, a power forward out of La Mirada. The 6-7 forward is similar to many of the big men that Miller coached while at Xavier, capable of banging inside while also possessing the skill to step out and contribute on the wing as well. Solomon Hill, a top-100 small forward who had originally committed to USC, brings immense versatility to the wing, able to line up at multiple positions. Another California graduate, Hill is a great athlete, a good rebounder, passer and ball handler, making him a real threat to attack the basket. Kevin Parrom, who joins Arizona after playing at basketball factory South Kent Prep, is very much like Hill. He excels in the open floor thanks to his athleticism and is a constant threat to finish around the basket; his jumper needs work though. Lastly there is Lamont “MoMo” Jones out of Oak Hill Academy, who had previously verbally committed to Louisville, Virginia Tech and USC before finally finding his home in Arizona. Jones is a big time scorer with good range on his shot. He is quick off the bounce but is held back from being a more effective penetrator because of his loose handles.
Arizona State Sun Devils
ASU will be hurting with the departures of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA, but the Sun Devils are bringing in a decent five-man class highlighted by top-100 player Demetrius Walker. The Phoenix native is a slightly undersized swingman at 6-4, but he brings the ability to score in bunches and is a big time hustle player. Shooting guard Trent Lockett received plenty of interest before settling on ASU; the Minnesota product had offers on the table from Wisconsin and Iowa State as well. The 6-5 guard is a tough, gritty backcourt player with a high skill level for the position. Also joining the backcourt will be shooting guard Brandon Thompson out of San Antonio. The 6-2 Thompson averaged 17 ppg as a senior last season, the majority of which came from beyond the arc as he is an excellent shooter. A bonus for Herb Sendek is the youngster’s ability to play either guard position if needed. Massive 6-8 small forward Victor Rudd will be an interesting player to keep an eye on. Rudd played for national champ Findlay Prep this past season and has a long wingspan to go along with great athleticism. The prep star has pretty good ball handling skills which will allow him to get to the rim and finish (something he does well), but he also shows pretty good range with his jumper. The final member of the Sun Devils 2009 class is center Ruslan Pateev out of Montverde Academy. At 7-feet and nearly 240 pounds, the big man will help to fill some of the void left by Pendergraph in the middle and will be able to handle the physical play in the lane right away thanks to his strength.
California Golden Bears
Cal has plenty of talent returning next season, particularly in the backcourt with Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher back for another go around. With that said, the Golden Bears didn’t exactly need to break the bank with their three-man recruiting hall. Point guard Brandon Smith should get minutes as a backup next season thanks to his high basketball IQ and good feel for the game. The 5-11 floor general opted to stay close to home when he chose Cal; Smith played his high school ball at De La Salle HS in Concord, CA. Power forward Bak Bak has an early lead in the race for best name in the 2009 recruiting class and is another homegrown talent for the Bears. Bak is a long 6-8 frontcourt player who shows pretty good versatility, able to handle the ball on the wing and hit the mid-range jumper when he has a little space to operate. Mike Montgomery also went out and added a junior college transfer in Markuri Sanders-Frison, a beefy power forward who will bang inside and rebound with his 6-8 265-pound frame.
Ernie Kent and Co. will be welcoming some badly needed reinforcements to campus this fall with a four-man class that fans are hoping can turn around a disastrous 2009 season. The group is highlighted by top-50 recruit Jamil Wilson out of Wisconsin. The 6-6 small forward is an elite talent who had offers on the table from Texas and Michigan State in addition to Oregon. Wilson is a very versatile player who can play inside if needed; he has solid handles at this point and is at his best attacking the basket off the bounce. Another 6-6 small forward joining the team is homegrown talent E.J. Singler, the younger brother of Duke’s Kyle Singler. Like his brother, Singler isn’t a super athlete and never will be, but he is very smart and a highly skilled player who will be a nice addition to the Ducks rotation. In addition to these two incoming freshman, Oregon has signed a pair of junior college players as well in Malcolm Armstead and Jeremy Jacob, teammates from Chipola CC in Florida. Armstead, a 6-0 point guard, has good court vision and is a steady floor general who protects the ball. He should see time running the offense right away. Jacob is a 6-7 power forward with a solid mid-range game and fantastic hustle. While he likely won’t be a game changer, he certainly has the ability to develop into a strong role player in his time with the team.
Oregon State Beavers
Believe it or not, Oregon State is slowly working itself back to respectability in the Pac-10 and this year’s recruiting class is just another step forward. The Beavers will be welcoming a very solid group of five freshman, led by top-100 shooting guard Roberto Nelson out of Santa Barbara HS in California. The 6-3 Nelson is a tad undersized for the position, but possesses a high skill level, able to handle the ball well in traffic and having a nose for the basket. He should be a scoring punch to the offense fairly early on in his first season. A pair of centers, Angus Brandt and Joe Burton, will provide a little more beef to the middle of the floor. Brandt (6-9 220 pounds) is a physical player who will help on the glass and has very good touch on his mid-range shot for a frontcourt player. Burton (6-7 270 pounds) is a very big body that will take up a lot of space, set screens and surprisingly help out tremendously on the offensive end thanks to his excellent passing skills for a big man. Small forward Rhys Murphy, an Australian native, is an athletic 6-7 wing who has the ability to beat defenders off the dribble. The real strength of Murphy’s game though lies in his ability to consistently burry shots from the perimeter. Lastly, there is California point guard Jared Cunningham, a smooth player who has shown a high basketball IQ. He has a lot of upside and if he continues to develop could emerge as one of the better floor generals in the conference in a couple of seasons.
Stanford will welcome a pair of freshman to their roster next season in hopes that the newcomers can fill some holes left by graduation. The Cardinal needed a floor general and they found one in 6-2 combo guard Gabriel Harris who travels west from Birmingham, Alabama. Harris can break down a defense off the dribble, particularly with his quickness with the ball. If need be, he has shown pretty good range from beyond the arc that should help to stretch out opposing defenses. Power forward Andy Brown from powerhouse Mater Dei HS in California will also be a welcome addition to the roster. Brown is a wiry, but tough player who can handle his own inside, but is also capable of stepping away from the paint and knocking down the open jumper when given space. Stanford also will be bringing in former Santa Clara center Andrew Zimmerman, who at 6-9 and possessing a soft touch, could create some mismatches with his mid-range game.
Another year and another excellent recruiting class for the Bruins and head coach Ben Howland. Of the five players that will be wearing the blue and gold for the first time next season, three of them were ranked in the top 100 in their class, including Tyler Honeycutt, Mike Moser and Brendan Lane. Honeycutt is one of the top small forward prospects in the country and will certainly be one of the best newcomers to the Pac-10 next season. At 6-8 with good athleticism, an advanced skill set and a great shot, the Sylmar, CA native is going to be a handful to cover in one-on-one situations. Also worth noting, Honeycutt is a tremendous shot blocker who will be a major impact player on the defensive end. Moser is another athletic wing who stands at 6-7 and has a super long wingspan. The versatile youngster is still very raw at this point, but has a lot of upside and has already shown a developing offensive game to go along with great instincts as a defender. Lane will line up at the power forward spot, but at 6-9 and just 200 pounds, still needs to add a bit of muscle to his frame. With that said, he is a good athlete, moves well off the dribble and has a great shot; he will certainly be able to draw defenders away from the basket and hit from the outside. The other two commits for the Bruins, Anthony Stover and Reeves Nelson, will help to solidify the frontcourt. Stover, a 6-10 center from Los Angeles, is another raw athlete, who as one would expect with his size is primarily known as a shot blocker at this point. With that said, the big man shows a lot of potential to develop into a dangerous player during his time in college. Nelson is an undersized, but super tough, power forward who shows some pretty good spring in his legs. Right now he doesn’t do much outside from the immediate vicinity of the rim, but can do a lot of damage on the offensive glass. Think a less refined, but slightly more athletic Jon Brockman in the long run. Once again though, UCLA brings in the top class in the Pac-10 for next season.
It hasn’t been the best of times for the USC basketball program. The Trojans in the last few months have lost former recruits Renardo Sidney, Lamont Jones and Noel Johnson in the face of the scandal that has racked the program. Currently, there is one player set to join the team this fall in 6-6 forward Evan Smith. A graduate of Calabasas HS in California, Smith is a gunner from the perimeter, but doesn’t bring much else to the court at this point. It has the potential to be a very long season for USC with a roster that has been depleted by the NBA and isn’t bringing much in to help fill the holes.
The Huskies locked up letters of intent from four players for next season, including McDonald’s All-American Abdul Gaddy. The nearby standout from Tacoma could be the top point guard from his class, if not, definitely in the top three. Gady has great size for the position (6-3) is a tremendous passer who possesses fantastic court vision and a super high basketball IQ. He will be an absolute terror off the dribble for opposing defenses, as he knows how to get into the lane and create for his teammates. Gady isn’t a big time scorer at this point in his career, but give him a season or two at the college level and he will be able to put up the numbers. Power forward Clarence Trent joins the team fresh off a national championship with Findlay Prep where he played an integral role in the frontcourt. At 6-7, Trent is a bit undersized for the position, but he is an explosive athlete with the muscle to push around opposing players on the glass. He has a developing jump shot that could help make him a more versatile player in the future. He will have to be an inside scoring presence early on though to help offset the loss of Jon Brockman. Shooting guard C.J. Wilcox from Pleasant Grove, Utah, is a great athlete who possesses a very smooth shooting stroke. He is at his best when he can spot up and fire away from the outside, but has shown he is capable of hitting shots off the dribble as well. Junior college transfer Charles Garcia (CC of San Francisco) will be another big body that joins the frontcourt. At 6-10 and packing 220 pounds, Garcia will take up space in the middle, help on the glass, and has shown he can knock down the foul line jumper if the defense gives him room. This looks like the next best group joining the Pac-10 behind UCLA next season.
Washington State Cougars
New coach Ken Bone will have an average recruiting haul in his first year with WSU, consisting of four signings. The Cougars landed a pair of point guards in Xavier Thames and Reggie Moore. Thames, at 6-3, has great size for the position and shows a natural ability to run an offense. He is a highly skilled player, who doesn’t wow with athleticism, but protects the basketball. Moore is a more hardnosed player, but knows how to get in the lane and create for his teammates. Spokane native Anthony Brown is a 6-5 shooting guard who can bury it from well beyond the arc; he will be a nice addition to the offense with his ability to stretch defenses. His game is a tad one-dimensional at this point. Lastly there is Australian native Brock Motum who will join the frontcourt at the power forward position. At 6-9, possessing fantastic athleticism and a motor that doesn’t stop, Motum is going to be a great under the radar addition to rotation next season. The fact that he can shoot the ball fairly well from the outside makes him all the more appealing. This was a nice class for Washington State and many of these players should see some minutes right away.