Wow, what a weekend in the recruiting world. In this edition of Just a Minute, we take a look at the recruiting haul for Louisville, the NBA Draft, the Junior World Championships and what’s next for ESPN’s coverage of high school hoops.
Louisville stockpiled a bulk of recruits like they were at a members-only warehouse club this weekend. First, former Kansas center David Padgett announced he will transfer and play for Coach Rick Pitino. Padgett will sit out a year and have three seasons of eligibility remaining. The Reno, Nev., native averaged 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds last season for the Jayhawks.
Many believed he would transfer to North Carolina and play for Roy Williams, the coach who recruited Padgett to Kansas. But that wasn’t the case. Padgett's announcement was only the first good news of the weekend for Louisville.
A number of top 150 recruits came to perhaps the single most impressive team camp of the year. So it came as no surprise that the Cardinals reeled in two top 40 players after the talent-laden event. Californians Andre McGee and Amir Johnson said they will return to Louisville as players next season.
McGee may be the most valuable player in the group. He’s rated the No. 4 point guard in the country by Rivals.com, but more importantly, he is the first highly-rated point guard to most likely play for Pitino at Louisville. Super recruit Sebastian Telfair toyed with Cardinal fans’ hearts before deciding to skip college and test the draft waters of the NBA. A lucrative shoe deal later, the hopes of Telfair ever playing at Louisville were dead.
McGee helps ease the loss. He’s a heady and smart player who should thrive in the Louisville program.
Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 204-pound forward, is the latest talented pivotman to pledge to the Cardinals. He’ll join Juan Palacios, Brian Johnson, Terrence Farley and Padgett on the frontline, if every player sticks around for awhile. Johnson is a bouncy player who runs the floor well and has solid shot-blocking abilities. He has the potential to become an all-conference type of player.
One of the main reasons why McGee and Johnson - and even Lamar Roberson - picked Louisville can be traced to the efforts of assistant coach Reggie Theus. The former NBA star and actor has ties in Golden State and has worked relentlessly in his former home. Those efforts are now paying off. And the crew isn’t done. Seattle wing Terrence Williams and Utah big man Brayden Bell were also at the camp this weekend and have Louisville high on their respective lists. The lead recruiter for both of those players? Yep, Theus.
With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, several preps-to-pros players have been busy working their way up (and some down) the draft mock drafts. A record number of 13 high school players announced they will throw their names into the pool. Some are staying in, while some are close to pulling out.
The biggest news from the weekend wasn’t the news Duke followers wanted to hear. Shaun Livingston called Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Friday night and told the Hall of Fame coach that he will not come to Durham, N.C., next season. Livingston is the first recruit to spurn the storied ACC program for the NBA, but it’s hard to find blame with the 6-foot-7 point guard. He’s handled the process the best way possible, by staying close to home and not traveling to cities for workouts.
He’s also been working with Tim Grover, the super trainer whose clientele includes Michael Jordan. Agents have tried to woo Livingston with lucrative endorsement deals, but he has remained strong and tight-lipped. With strong workouts for a small number of teams, Livingston is just beginning to crack the lottery talk, scouts say. One Western Conference scout said Livingston could play himself into possibly being the top pick this week with workouts. Did you hear that, Dwight Howard?
Several scouts told RivalsHoops.com they would not be surprised if the Orlando Magic took Howard instead of UConn’s Emeka Okafor with the top pick in the draft. They love the Atlanta forward’s long-term potential, while questions concerning Okafor’s back problems have some teams worried.
California center Robert Swift has quietly moved up the charts, a surprising development since he hasn’t been on a workout tour. Perhaps a promise to be picked has been made? That is usually the case for prospects. Teams like Boston and Portland have been known to do such things.
Josh Smith and J.R. Smith have been up and down in draft circles. Josh, a former Oak Hill (Va. ) Academy star, has questions regarding his set shot and ability to play the small forward position at the next level. A drop-out of the lottery is a strong possibility, according to sources close to and in the league.
J.R. Smith could actually be picked ahead of Josh Smith. The former North Carolina recruit has been a hot topic since his high-flying act in the McDonalds game. That will be his ticket for going high in the draft. Laying low has helped him maintain that.
New York City point guard Sebastian Telfair continues to struggle in workouts. The hype propelled him into the draft, but will that be enough? The prep star wasn’t invited to the Chicago Pre-Draft camp and several scouts say Telfair is not playing well enough to warrant a high pick.
“He is...well, he’s not doing anything to help himself right now,” one Western Conference scout said. “His problem is his shot. I will give him credit, he’s wanting to be coached. He wants to get better, but sometimes college is better for coaching.”
Sources have also indicated that they expect LaMarcus Aldridge and Robert Rothbart to withdraw from the draft this week.
It is a Roundball World After All
Several top prospects were in Douai, France, this week for the Junior World Championships. According to Linzy Davis, the director of the U.S. program, the youngsters did their country proud. Leading the way for the prep stars was Jon Brockman. The Washington big man was one of the top power players in the field, going for near double-doubles each night. He told RivalsHoops.com before he left the country that his top schools are Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Duke. A couple of super-sponsored Europeans are also eyeing him for a professional career after his showing.
Also playing well was rising junior Derrick Caracter. The 6-foot-8 power forward has been solid throughout the AAU season, and his game has extended to international standards, too. The No. 4 player in the class of 2006 has learned on the job and improved his baby hook and rebounding skills. Expect his game to grow even more impressive this July.
ESPN Has Georgia on Its Mind
ESPN has decided to continue its coverage of high school hoops for the upcoming prep season. With the success of last year’s Dwight Howard vs. Randolph Morris matchup, the boys from Bristol will again dig into the talent-rich red clay of Georgia.
On Jan. 22, ESPN will broadcast a game between South Gwinnett High School and Dunwoody High School. Both teams received national recognition last year, and for good reason. South Gwinnett is led by Georgia commitments Louis Williams and Mike Mercer. They are joined by Division I prospects Avery Jukes, Delano Howard and others.
Dunwoody is young, talented and disciplined. Led by An’juan Wilderness, the boys from the North Atlanta school also have their share of Division I talent. The roster boasts seven players who have a chance of playing collegiately. Kris Thomas, Kierre Jordan, Aulbrey Doss and Wesley Mency are all mid-major plus players.
The biggest questions between now and the actual game will be whether or not South Gwinnett’s Williams will use the air time as a national audition for the NBA. Let the rumors and speculation begin.