Friday, February 21, 2020

Updates from Rivals: Isaac Okoro, A.J. White, Texas A&M




Reprint from Rivals.com
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition addresses 
’s value for Auburn, why   should be a high-major target in 2021, the Team of the Week and more gambling picks.
*****
MASTER CLASS - THE TOP 100 HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS:
Monday - Nos. 81-100
Tuesday - Nos. 61-80
Wednesday - Nos. 41-60
Thursday - Nos. 21-40
Friday - Nos. 1-10
2020 RankingsRivals150 | Team | Position
2021 RankingsRivals150 | Position
2022 Rankings: Top 75
*****

The word "valuable" gets thrown around a lot in sports. Most sports have an award for Most VALUABLE Player, but that usually just goes to the best player on the team that wins the championship or has the best record in the league. Being the best player and most valuable can be the same, but not in every case.

Let’s take Isaac Okoro, for example. He’s one of the best players in the SEC and one of the best in the country, but I don’t think he’s the best player. But what we’ve learned over the past week is that he just might be the most valuable. Since getting hurt at the end of last week’s game against Alabama, Auburn has dropped two in a row to Missouri and Georgia, programs that are a combined 8-18 in the SEC. It should be noted that those were both road games, but those are games the Tigers pull out with Okoro in the lineup.

That brings me back to my point about his value. His absence and the subsequent losing streak has helped Kentucky build a two-game lead in the SEC standings with five games to play. And how many times this year has Okoro made a big play in a close game late to help Bruce Pearl’s team pull out a victory? More than a few.
I’ve been watching Okoro since his freshman year at McEachern (Ga.) High School and with his AOT team in the Nike EYBL. This is who he is. He was the key behind an undefeated state championship team for McEachern last year in Georgia’s highest classification with a schedule that put it up against top teams all over the country.
People can ask about his natural position. You can question whether he’ll shoot it well enough to be a high-level NBA player. What you just can’t debate any more is that teams are better with Isaac Okoro. He’s the toughest dude on any court he steps on, and he has a knack for making winning plays late in tight games.
I’d still take 
 with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. He’s the most talented player in this draft class. But after that, if I was an NBA decision-maker in June, I’d have to think long and hard about picking Okoro with one of those next few picks. He’s the type of guy you want on your team and in your locker room, and I’d bet on him continuing to improve any flaws in his game. I would trust him over any other top prospect outside of Edwards.

I often brag about the benefits of living in a city like Atlanta, where it feels like I can watch a high-major prospect at just about any high school gym I walk into. On Wednesday, I watched Chattahoochee vs Heritage-Conyers in the second round of the state playoffs and left with two big takeaways.

 is a prospect I’ve been watching since early in his freshman year. He’s a 5-foot-10 point guard that can score with the best of them. How does 1,785 points for his career sound? But you’ve probably already figured out why you have likely never heard of him if you’re not from Georgia. He’s an undersized guard.

There was a point in time in which I struggled with small guards myself, but I’m over it after watching prospects like 
 and   develop in the Peach State and star in the SEC. I truly believe White can play at the highest level of college basketball. He’s a ridiculously gifted scorer with deep range on his jumper. He’s quick, tight with his handle and makes really good decisions with the ball. For such a talented scorer, he’s very unselfish in keeping teammates involved. He’s become more of a pest on the defensive end this year. He gets better as games go on and never gets rattled (He hit all four free throws in last 30 seconds on Wednesday night.).
I spoke with his head coach, Chris Short, after the game and he had a great story to share about White's instincts as a player. Locked in a tight game for the region championship, Chattahoochee used a 1-3-1 zone to flip the game in its favor. It was a defense they had used before, but there was a tweak that was an idea from White. Instead of putting him in the back to chase the baseline, they shifted it around to place him at the top of the zone. It led to a big run and coach Short credits White’s intelligence for the adjustment.
Clemson, which had an assistant at the game, and Georgia have shown some interest. His offer list includes Charleston Southern, Kennesaw State, Merrimack, North Alabama, Presbyterian, Troy and Winthrop. That list should include some ACC and SEC schools soon.
Speaking of Clemson, the Tigers were also at the game to check in on an under-the-radar wing in the 2021 class: 
. He has the look of a potential Rivals150 prospect. At 6-foot-5, he’s a very gifted scorer who averaged around 25 points per game this year in a tough region. Expect him to have a lot of eyes on him this travel season on the Under Armour circuit with the Atlanta Xpress.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Texas A&M

Buzz Williams
Is anyone paying attention to what Buzz Williams is doing at Texas A&M? It’s starting to look a lot like what happened when he took the job at Virginia Tech. After back-to-back wins over Georgia and Alabama, the Aggies are now 7-6 in the SEC, which is tied for seventh in the league. While that may not seem impressive, consider that Texas A&M was chosen to be 12th in the preseason media poll. This is a team that has gradually improved throughout the season and taken on the personality of its coach. They are tough and they compete. The Aggies won’t be in the NCAA Tournament this year, but I’d bet on them being a regular participant going forward.

GAMBLING PICKS

We’re on FIRE right now with back-to-back 4-1 weeks to put us at 22-18 on the year, which is a respectable 55 percent. Let’s keep the momentum rolling and put some more money in your pocket this weekend.
Buffalo (+4) hit for us last week and we’re taking them again this week at Kent State. The Bulls won the first matchup at home by four and steal this one outright on the road. Let’s also see if we can score with the under (150.5) here as that seems a little high. We’re also staying with Harvard again this week (-7.5) at home taking on Princeton. Harvard is the better team here and needs to avenge a one-point loss from a couple weeks ago.
I’m going to trust Mike Rhoades to get his team back on track here at Saint Louis and end a three-game losing streak. Take VCU (-1), which played Dayton tough earlier this week, to get a road victory here. The under (134) feels like the right side as well.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Three-Point Play: Cliff Omaruyi, Colin Smith, upcoming commits

Clifford Omoruyi
Clifford Omoruyi (https://rivals.com)
 cut his college list to a final five earlier this week and his commitment could be the key to any of his finalists season next year. In this week’s Three-Point Play, we examine his suitors, the national recruitment of  , and upcoming commitments.

2020 RankingsRivals150 | Team | Position
2021 RankingsRivals150 | Position

1. OMORUYI HOLDS THE KEYSWe broke the news on Monday that 

 had narrowed his school list to a final five. While he is rated as just the 55th best prospect in the 2020 class, Omoruyi could hold the keys to the season for each of his finalists, even blueblood Kentucky.  Five remain -- Arizona State, Auburn, Kentucky, Rutgers and UConn. This could be the first Arizona State-Kentucky-Rutgers recruiting battle. For the Sun Devils, they leaped into the favorite’s category earlier this fall thanks to the hiring of Rasheen Davis. The former UMass assistant has a great rapport with Omoruyi and while distance could play a factor, don’t underestimate ASU’s chances.  Auburn is the lone program to have already hosted him. Assistant coach, Ira Bowman, thanks to his time in the northeast prior to his hiring at Auburn, developed solid in-roads with Omoruyi and his family. 
 will graduate this spring, but the Tigers could seemingly improve its interior defense with the four-star.  Rutgers and UConn have remained headliners for Omoruyi for over a year and no one may have invested more into his recruitment than the Scarlet Knights. Assistant coach Brandin Knight has done a tremendous job in his recruiting efforts and its success this season has definitely intrigued Omoruyi, along with the in-state appeal.  Lastly, Kentucky, who sits with the top class in America, has checked all of the boxes except one: notching a true center that can protect the basket and rebound. They haven’t enrolled such a figure since 
 and with him likely gone for the NBA, Omoruyi could be the deciding factor for how far the Wildcats go next year and if John Calipari is finally forced to go the small ball route.

2. COLIN SMITH GOES NATIONAL    is really good. He is deserving of all of the attention he receives. But don’t underestimate his teammate on St. Mark’s,  . The top-50 forward has had a strong sophomore campaign and has shown great progress with his all-around skill set while remaining a multi-positional prospect.


The class of 2022 in the state of Texas is more than promising and Smith is one of the select few leading the charge. His recruitment has already been a high-major affair for over a year. Florida State, Georgetown, MemphisPurdue and Texas A&M have placed a heavy priority upon him and just a few weeks ago, Kansas’ Bill Self was in attendance for him.
Smith is now working on a handful of visits. He has already visited Baylor and TCU, two others that have kept close tabs on him, and will take two trips in the coming weeks. On Feb. 1, Stanford, a school that his sister will play volleyball at beginning in the fall, will host the four-star, before he heads to Michigan on Feb. 8.
Smith is someone that can defend up to three positions, make shots, handle and defend. Thanks to these traits alone, along with the upside that he showcases and tremendous grades in the classroom, Smith may lead one of the more prioritized recruitments on the national platform over the next two years.

3. COMMITMENTS AHEAD

Frank Anselem
Frank Anselem (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)
It has been a slow few weeks on the commitment front, but that is about to change. Well, actually it already did thanks to Wednesday night’s commitment from 
. The Canadian forward has the chance to immediately impact Arizona’s program next year and so will a few others that have scheduled their college decisions.  On Friday,   will come off of the board for the second time. The former Michigan State commit took official visits to LouisvilleLSU and Oregon following his decommitment earlier this fall. All signs point towards the Ducks beginning its 2020 class with the top-50 talent.
One of the few programs that have made up ground on the recruiting trail this 
winter could add again. 
, the oldest son of Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, is ready to end his recruitment on Monday. Plenty of Ivy League suitors have piqued his interests but the three-star could be the next to become a member of the fourth-ranked class in America.
Still some time away, Zion Harmon  will complete his official visit tour to Kansas next weekend. Last weekend, he visited Seton Hall, and has also been to the campuses at Louisville, Maryland and Western Kentucky in recent months. His plan is to commit on his birthday, Mar. 12. WKU gained most of the chatter up until this point and there is a solid chance that he reclassifies into the 2020 class.

Lastly, a commitment could be made any day now by Frank Anselem. The four-star junior has taken official visits to Arizona, LSU and Nebraska. The Tigers have garnered most of the talk of late with Anselem who is all but likely to reclassify into the 2020 class, too.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Recruiting beginning to take off for 2021 four-star Alex Tchikou


Dan McDonald

Reprint from Rivals.com

Athletic post players who are 6-foot-11 will always be in demand at all levels of basketball. When you combine those traits with a little skill, you have one of the most highly ranked prospects in any given class, which is exactly what 
 is in the 2021 class.
His recruitment has taken off in the past six months. He says Arizona StateKansasMississippi StateOregonUCLA and USC are among the schools he’s talking to the most. SyracuseMemphisWashingtonNC StateNorth Carolina and others have shown interest in the No. 24 prospect in the 2021 Rivals150.
2020 RankingsRivals150 | Team | Position
2021 RankingsRivals150 | Position

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Tchikou talked about the programs coming at him the hardest right now.
Arizona State: “I like their program. I took an unofficial visit there for one of their games. I like how they play and how the head coach lets his players play with freedom.”
Kansas: “They talk to me a lot, too. I like them. They show a lot of interest in me.”
Mississippi State: “They came to a tournament last weekend in Kentucky. I like them. They are always trying to keep it 100 with me and to keep them on my mind.
Oregon: “They are the school talking to me the most. I like them a lot. They came to watch me last week and I had probably 20 points and 10 rebounds.”
USC: “I’ve been there a few times. That’s probably the school I’m closest to because my brother and trainer live in Los Angeles. I like USC a lot.”
Tchikou is still new to the process and in no rush to make a decision, but a pair of Pac-12 programs have emerged as the teams to beat early on. He says Oregon and USC are the two schools that he’s developed the best relationships with and is most familiar with. But again, we’re still likely nine months out at least from a decision. Expect new schools to come into the picture and for his recruitment to have some twist and turns between now and decision day.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Five-star Josh Hall to N.C. State

An already good class turned great on Monday when five-star wing 
 picked N.C. State.
A tall and lanky wing at Hickory (N.C.) Moravian Prep with a burner for a jump shot, Hall adds starpower to a balanced class. He's also a huge win for Kevin Keatts and staff who persuaded him to commit early rather than wait around until the late signing period as initially planned.
“I feel like the system is a hand-in-glove fit for me. Coach (Kevin) Keatts and his staff have sowed constant supports towards me and my family, as well,” Hall said regarding his college decision. “It will be amazing to play in front of my family especially since the ACC is the biggest stage for college hoops.” S
An in state star who can really stretch defenses with his scoring, Hall is a natural scorer at all three levels.
He can use his size and touch in the post to score over smaller defenders. He has a dangerous mid range pull-up game and he's a glider who gets out in transition and works his way to the rim. His ball handling is an area he will continue to improve and a college weight room should do wonders for his finishing ability.
Now that Hall is official N.C. State's class moves to No. 5 overall in the 2020 team rankings. He joins four-star point guard 
, three-star guard
 and three-star post players
 and
 to complete the Pack's class.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

USA Basketball: Khristian Lander recaps visits, talks reclassification

COLORADO SPRINGS – After taking his first two official visits of his junior year, 
 has returned to the USA Basketball Mini-Camp. The five-star guard has remained a top target for some of the best within his region and those outside of it as he recapped the visits that he has taken, newcomers to his recruitment and the potential of a reclassification.
Khristian Lander


“It is going well,” Lander said about his junior year. “Academically, I started off well and we started practice with my high school team and I think we are pretty young but I also think that we will be pretty good this year.”
IndianaKansasLouisvilleMemphisMichigan, North Carolina and UCLA sit among the group of schools that he is in contact with often, he told Rivals.com.
2020 RankingsRivals150 | Team | Position
2021 RankingsRivals150 | Position

IN HIS OWN WORDS

 13 
NATIONAL
   
STATE
 3 
POSITION
6'2" 165 LBS PG
F.J. REITZ
EVANSVILLE, IN
CLASS OF 2021
UNDECIDED
Indiana: “It was a good experience. It was more about building a relationship further with the since I have been to IU multiple times but it was still more about building that relationship.
“The fan base is crazy there. The student section goes until forever and it is pretty exciting there.”
Louisville: “That was a really good visit. I liked it there a lot. That was more of a getting to know the coaches and the team, also getting to know guys that I could potentially play with.”
Memphis: “They wanted for me to get back from USA to get on the phone with me some more. I think that they are doing a pretty good job as far as recruiting. Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller, they were great NBA players. They got contacts and know the ins and outs of the NBA.”
Michigan: “That want for me to get up there and I am going up there the 26th (October) and that if they got me, I would be their point guard for their team.”

WHAT'S NEXT?

Lander has taken official visits to Indiana and Louisville in recent weeks and, during the final weekend in October, will take an official visit to Michigan.
No others have been scheduled following his trip to Ann Arbor, but IU and Louisville have broached the idea of a reclassification. “It is a possibility but I am not positive about it yet,” he said. “I would have to get 14 more credits to graduate after this year so I would have to take a few more courses but I could get a head start and play at the college level right now but I need to get a little stronger.”
The decision to reclassify remains far off, just as his college decision. Memphis has begun to invest greater time in his recruitment but Indiana, Louisville and Michigan may have a leg up on the rest of the field as his junior season approaches.