December 14, 2012

Mailbag: Which new coach has done best?


Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi opens his mailbag to address reader questions.

Big Least

Can you talk about the recruiting impact of the seven Catholic schools breaking away from the Big East?
-- Randolph, Philadelphia (via email)

The re-alignment in college sports continues to show no signs of ending. However, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova breaking away from the Big East is perhaps the boldest move we've seen so far. None of the schools have football teams and essentially look to be making a break to try and form a new basketball-only, high-major conference. Within that, they are going to try and attract programs such as Butler, VCU, Xavier, Creighton and perhaps some others.

It's an interesting move and give those schools credit for not sitting around and waiting for the Big East to crumble. It's a little early to tell how this will impact recruiting.

Of late, Georgetown, DePaul and Marquette have been plugging away solidly on the recruiting trail while Providence has seriously upgraded their recruiting. Villanova has perhaps been a bit stagnant while DePaul and Seton Hall have had some struggles.

These programs will still be located in a talent-rich corridor. Depending on who they can add, they will still likely be able to attract a big TV contract that will allow them to spend as they have in years past. However, they lose the selling of "come play in the Big East" and plenty of traditional rivalries. Rivalries don't really matter much to kids and as long as they can build a new conference with television exposure, each program should still be able to recruit on a level consistent with where they already are.

I've done a lot of calling around to coaches (college and high school, summer) and for now nobody seems to have any real gauge for what type of impact this will have. It's clear that there is still a lot of change on the horizon and the consensus seems to be that until the dust settles, we don't really know what type of impact Big East re-alignment/implosion will have on the schools.

New kid in town

What college coach has made the biggest impact in his first year at a new job?
-- Donovan, Okinawa (via email)

In my opinion, there are two guys who stand out: John Groce at Illinois and Kevin Ollie at Connecticut.

In his first year in Champaign, Groce has taken what last year looked like a team that quit, into a top-10 power. The Illini are playing a faster, more free-flowing and guard-friendly offense with lots of ball screens as promised. In addition to the first year on-the-floor success, Groce has been outstanding on the recruiting trail, helping the Illini lock up the nation's No. 13 recruiting class for 2013 up to this point. The early returns are suggesting that Groce was a great hire.

Heading over to Storrs, what Ollie has done has been quite impressive as well. He's replacing the legendary Jim Calhoun who won multiple national championships at UConn -- where Ollie was an assistant -- and he's doing so under very tough circumstances. Ollie has yet to receive a contract beyond this year, lost players to the NBA Draft and transfer and is working under the cloud of NCAA violations.

Despite all of that, he has the Huskies playing well and sitting just outside of the national top 25. On top of that, he was able to recruit and sign two members of the Rivals 150 in four-star big man Kentan Facey and three-star combo guard Terrence Samuel despite his own lack of stability.

Mudiay today?

Emmanuel Mudiay, is there a leader here? What's the latest?
-- Cornered Weasel (via message board)

The nation's second-ranked player in the class of 2014, the 6-foot-4 point guard doesn't do very much talking about his recruiting. In interview situations he tries to avoid speaking directly about specific programs and is very general in his thoughts. Behind the scenes, the talk is relatively limited. He's not somebody who appears on the verge of committing in the near future but with some digging some info can be found.

The two teams that seem to come up the most when discussing Mudiay are Baylor and Kentucky. The Bears under Scott Drew are local, play a free-flowing style that would allow Mudiay freedom and he, his family and coaches have connected pretty well with the staff.

Of course, Kentucky has been dominant on the recruiting trail and has proven to be a haven for potential one-and-done players and Mudiay is certainly one of those right now. Texas, Arizona and even SMU are among the others that get the most legitimate discussion along with the Bears and Wildcats at the moment.

Wood on fire

Have you seen Christian Wood lately? Does he stand to move up in your 150?
-- Lvreb86 (via message board)

I traveled out to Las Vegas in late fall and had a chance to watch the long and athletic UNLV signee workout out with his Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep teammates. He is still quite skinny, but is actually starting to grow into his 6-foot-10 frame a little and is a very intriguing guy because of his height, length, quickness off the floor and ability to bomb 3-pointers.

Currently, Wood ranks No. 36 and much of that ranking has to do with projecting his potential upside once everything comes together. Based on reports out of Findlay, he's starting to figure things out and is playing more and more to his ranking.

Could he go up? Absolutely he could go up, but you have to account for him already being ranked highly due more to potential than early results. That he's starting to have more and more results in line with his potential, though, is a very good sign.

Rooks move?

Kameron Rooks, what's the story on him?
-- Huskyfan224 (via message board)

There isn't much size left on the West Coast -- or anywhere in the country for that matter -- in the class of 2013 and at nearly 7-feet tall with a wide body, Rooks certainly has plenty of that. He also has relatively soft hands and can clog up the lane. He's a bit of a late bloomer, but he would likely benefit from a redshirt year at the high-major level.

The son of former Arizona and NBA player Sean Rooks, there's a very good chance that he ends up following in his father's footsteps to Tucson and Rooks will take an official visit there this weekend to watch Sean Miller's crew host Florida. If not Arizona, Washington has positioned itself well while others such as Arizona State, California and many others have been involved and his decision should likely be made sooner than later.

Gotta have Hart

Josh Hart, have you had a chance to see him play this year?
-- Gldendog (via message board)

Ranked No. 90 in the 2013 Rivals150, the 6-foot-5 Villanova-bound wing was one of many standouts we saw last weekend during a swing through Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. A star at Sidwell Friends in D.C., Hart was playing at as high a level as we have seen. He is strong, loves to create contact, plays with versatility and seems to have total command over his strengths and weaknesses.

Right now, his strengths are playing tough defense, scoring in transition, hitting the glass and flashing into the high post to make plays for himself and others. He looked in D.C. like he's been working on his jumper, he didn't force things with the dribble and he was a terrific passer. In many instances, his team used him as a high-post four man and he delivered. At his size, he's not likely to be playing the four in whatever conference Villanova ends up in, but he's a guy that can kind of be used to play many roles who won't make a lot of mistakes.



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