January 7, 2010

Meyer's Mailbag: Big men in high demand

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Dec 17: Can UK land 2011's top three?
Dec 13: Bruins search for a PG
Dec 3: Mitchell's stock climbing?
What is the latest on two of the top available big men in the country -- Maurice Walker and Ricardo Ratliffe?

Has the turmoil surrounding Rick Pitino off the court affected Louisville's recruiting efforts?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer answers these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Walker will wait

What is the latest on 3-star center Maurice Walker? When will he make a choice?

-- Stephen from Pittsburgh
Walker, a 6-foot-10, 270-pounder from Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy, is still high on the Pittsburgh Panthers, but Walker will not be making a college decision any time soon.

One hold-up is that Pittsburgh is over its scholarship limit. The Panthers definitely want Walker, and in fact, assistant coach Tom Herrion was at Walker's last game before the break when he scored 26 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. The question is whether or not a roster spot will open up for Walker in the spring.

Walker is also receiving inquiries from a number of other schools. According to Brewster Academy head coach Jason Smith, "everyone and everybody" is calling about Walker. Smith mentioned Seton Hall and LSU as two schools that are showing significant interest in Walker.

Coaches and fans will have to be patient concerning Walker, because a decision before the spring is highly unlikely.

In search of size

Will Alabama and Anthony Grant sign a significant recruit in the late signing period this spring?

-- John from Lansing
Continuing the theme of available big men, Alabama is targeting 6-foot-8 junior college power forward Ricardo Ratliffe. When Anthony Grant was unable to land four-star post player Tarik Black, who signed with Memphis, he quickly turned his attention to Ratliffe.

Ratliffe's play for Central Florida Community College is receiving rave reviews. He is putting up more than 26 points per game and is being pursued by more than just Alabama. Arkansas, Clemson and Missouri have also made inroads with Ratliffe. A number of other schools, including Kentucky and Connecticut, are joining the mix.

Looking ahead at Louisville

Does Coach Rick Pitino have anyone in the pipeline, or has he completely lost it because of his legal entanglements? I've only noticed one 4-star recruit in this class. I know it's still early, but it looks like Pitino is losing interest.

-- Doug from Louisville
Louisville does have someone in the pipeline who Coach Pitino hopes will join three-star point guard Russ Smith in Louisville's 2010 class. Four-star wing Justin Coleman of Huntington (W.V.) Prep recently visited Louisville, and Coach Pitino will attend his game against national power Findlay Prep this Friday.

Coleman is a big-bodied 6-foot-4 wing player with explosive athleticism. At times he becomes disengaged on the court and doesn't always take full advantage of his abilities, but there is no denying his immense potential.

Louisville is currently at the top of Coleman's list, but he has a lot of work to do academically to qualify and will not know his academic status until after summer school.

Along with Louisville, Arkansas and Marquette have also offered.

The big story, though, concerning Louisville's recruiting is the success Pitino is having in the 2011 class. Right now Louisville has one of the top 2011 recruiting classes along with Texas. Two five-star prospects Wayne Blackshear and Michael Chandler are committed to play at Louisville. Four-star prospects Zach Price and Ryan Taylor are also 2011 Louisville commitments.

Love game

Baylor has signed Perry Jones, Bakari Turner and most recently Stargell Love. I have seen Jones play and he seems pretty legit when he gives a full effort. My question is how good is Love?

--Jeremy from Valparaiso
You are correct on Jones. He has as much physical potential as any player in the 2010 class, and when he is fully engaged, he is a major impact player.

What makes Love a special player is that he has those attributes that the Baylor coaching staff would love to see Jones develop. Love is a highly physical point guard who is extremely competitive.

He just missed being ranked in the Rivals150 and has a good chance of making the cut in the final ranking in the spring. His competitiveness, physicality and willingness to give up the ball should have a positive effect on the Baylor basketball program, which has traditionally had guards with a shoot-first mentality.

Slow start

Jerry, a couple of years ago five-star recruit J'Mison Morgan came to UCLA. He has not played any significant minutes in two years. What happened to this guy? Rarely do five-star rated players fail so miserably.

--Randy from Los Angeles
UCLA fans' frustration over the performance of some of its recent recruits is understandable. And the play, or lack thereof, of Morgan, has to be the most frustrating.

As a freshman he averaged 5.4 minutes of playing time per game. This year he is averaging 8.0 minutes of playing time per game. That is not what you would expect from a consensus five-star prospect.

The issue for Morgan has been his inability to get into the physical shape a player needs to be in to perform at a high level. His lack of conditioning has simply put him into a position where he can't run the floor and defend at the level the UCLA coaching staff demands.

You hate to write Morgan off as a failure midway through his sophomore season; but if he doesn't turn the corner soon, he will be considered a bust. He has some intriguing tools and the legitimate size that produced his high ranking coming out of high school. But until he makes the commitment to improve his conditioning, he will never make an impact on the college level.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.


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