August 25, 2014

Starting Five: Pearl starts fast

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

It hasn't taken Bruce Pearl very long to hop back into the saddle, and he proved it with a big recruiting weekend at Auburn. In this week's Starting Five we discuss Pearl, find a comparison for center Doral Moore, talk Elite 24 and more.

Pearl back on the prowl

Auburn made a bold move in March when it hired Bruce Pearl to lead the Tigers basketball program. It wasn't bold in a sense that Pearl wasn't qualified for the job, because he certainly was. It was bold because of how things ended for him at Tennessee and because the show-cause penalty with which he was hit for violations while in Knoxville would keep him from being able to have any contact with recruits through the spring and summer.

Judging by the early returns, Auburn made a wise decision because the show-cause doesn't seem to have hurt recruiting in the least. Over the weekend, Pearl -- whose penalties expired at midnight on Sunday morning -- and the Tigers landed two highly regarded four-star prospects from the class of 2015 in Danjel Purifoy and Horace Spencer. Monday morning, they added a highly regarded junior college player in T.J. Dunans.

Technically, the commitment from Purifoy came on Friday night before Pearl was allowed to make any contact with him, so his staff of Harris Adler, Tony Jones and Chuck Perkins deserves a world of credit for setting the table with the highly coveted forward. Additionally, Adler's Philly connections from years working in the city as an assistant at La Salle were huge in luring Spencer to campus.

Make no mistake, though, the main attraction to Auburn is and will remain Pearl. He has proven at each stop in his career that he can win, recruit and develop talent and there's no reason to expect that he's not going to do so at Auburn. The job that he and his staff have already done on the recruiting trail is nothing short of impressive, and there is no reason to think that they won't have more success this year and down the road.

Comparing Moore

There may not be a player in the class of 2015 who is harder to get a read on than big man Doral Moore. A native of Georgia who has transferred to Montverde (Fla.) Academy for his senior season, the four-star center is as much a mystery as he is a talent. In many ways, he reminds Rivals.com of current Kentucky senior Willie Cauley-Stein when he was a high schooler.

During his high school days, Cauley-Stein was an impressive physical specimen. He could run, he could jump, was incredibly agile for a big man and he had the type of frame that would easily carry more muscle without hindering his athleticism. He was more advanced defensively than offensively, and he frustrated at times because his production didn't always seem to match his physical gifts or overall ability level. There have still been some up and down moments during his college career, but Cauley-Stein has developed into a player who is almost certainly going to be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft when he leaves college. The question is could the same happen for Moore?

After all, Moore is similar to Cauley-Stein in so many ways. Their games are a bit different with Cauley-Stein being more of a defensive stopper in his high school days and Moore perhaps being more offensively skilled at the same stage. But, Moore is every bit as big and he is also quite athletic (though not quite as fluid and agile as Cauley-Stein) and he also suffers from inconsistency like Cauley-Stein did. When Moore is fully engaged and playing with energy on both ends, it isn't tough to envision him playing in the NBA. The problem is that he is often quiet on the floor and has many outings where his production doesn't seem to match his physical gifts.

The key for Moore is that he is still very young and that he does have that next level type of talent. Now, it is up to him to find the college situation and coach who is most likely to help pull all of that ability out of him.

Elite 24 notes

Over the weekend, Under Armour held its annual Elite 24 game in New York City. Played alongside the Brooklyn Bridge, the game featured an absolutely breathtaking view of the Big Apple skyline and a setting for basketball that was second to none Rivals.com has ever seen.

While the views of the NYC skyline were breathtaking and made for great television, the game itself has never been one to lend itself to making evaluations. When you watch a game like the Elite 24 you watch to be entertained and see stretches where one-on-one battles -- like the entertaining one waged by five-star shooting guards Malik Newman and Antonio Blakeney during the first half -- and crowd pleasing dunks take over the game. That being said, we were left with a few impressions.

Chief among them is that at No. 16 in the country, Blakeney is still a little bit under-ranked. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is an electric one-on-one offensive player and closed out his summer in style by scoring 22 points. He can shoot with range, creates off the dribble and is a high-end athlete. The problem is, the guys currently ahead of him are awfully good. Can he jump over an Isaiah Briscoe or an Allonzo Trier in the rankings? That answer is yet to be determined. But, at a minimum, he needs to be closer to the national top 10 than top 20, and he will move up the list when it is released on Wednesday.

All summer long Rivals.com has hoped to that something would make picking the No. 1 player in the class of 2016 easier. Unfortunately the Elite 24 didn't give us any clarity there. The current top four of Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Thon Maker and Jayson Tatum all had their moments, and it would be hard to argue about any order somebody wanted to put them in. Making things even more difficult, guards Dennis Smith and Malik Monk (who didn't play in the Elite 24), who rank Nos. 5 and 6, have built strong cases to be moved up themselves. Bottom line, we saw in the Elite 24 that the class of 2016 is every bit as good at the top as we have been hoping that it could be.

Finally, Chase Jeter finished out a strong summer. He has probably come along as far as any big man in his class and is putting some serious heat on the big men ranked ahead of him. It is usually tough for big men to shine in All-Star settings like the Elite 24 but the Duke-bound big man did so by hitting the glass and demanding the ball.

Big weekend ahead at Oregon State

When Oregon State fired Craig Robinson in May and then looked to be dragging its feet when it came to hiring a new head coach, Rivals.com was pretty critical of the Beavers athletic department. In hiring Wayne Tinkle they made a well-researched and relatively outside-the-box decision, and it was one that held some promise.

Tinkle went on to assemble an intriguing staff of Kerry Rupp (associate head coach), Gregg Gottlieb and Stephen Thompson. Throughout July's three evaluation periods the Beaver staff could be seen virtually everywhere, and nobody could question whether they were working hard on the recruiting trail.

This weekend, they will host an impressive group of official visitors and we should start seeing how well their efforts have paid off sooner than later. Visiting Corvallis this weekend are Tinkle and Thompson's sons Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson, Jr. Both are four-star prospects and common sense says that the OSU is the favorite to land each of them. But they'll also be joined by two very intriguing three-star prospects.

Both point guard Derrick Bruce and power forward Drew Eubanks will soon be ranked in the 2015 Rivals150, and they are the types of players who could be huge additions. Both are late-blooming and relatively under-the-radar prospects that hail from the West Coast and have the tools to develop into good Pac-12 players. Though skinny, Bruce is an attacking point guard who plays with zero fear while Eubanks is a very athletic and fluid big man who until recently was better known for his prowess as a pitcher.

Can Tinkle and his staff seal the deal on these prospects? Only time will tell, and they will certainly face stiff competition. But, it has been a while since this much talent has been on campus for one weekend and Beavers fans have to see it as a sign of progress.

Remembering Shanun

Finally, we end this week's Starting Five on a somber note.

Over the weekend, tragedy hit the high school basketball world when senior forward Abdul Shanun of San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City was found dead.

According to the UT San Diego, Shanun rented a kayak on Saturday, and the kayak capsized that afternoon. Efforts to rescue him were unsuccessful, and the 17-year-old who had emigrated to the United States from Ghana was found on Sunday morning.

It is a tragic situation and Rivals.com was deeply saddened to learn the news of Shanun's passing. We would like to extend our condolences to his friends and family during these tough times, and the young man will be missed tremendously. A fund has been set up on his behalf to help his family with the cost of burial and giving him a proper memorial and can be found at youcaring.com/AbdulRazak.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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