Friday, December 16, 2016

Ikey Obiagu commits to Florida State

ESPN BB Recruiting Page

ESPN 100 center Ikey Obiagu committed to Florida State on Monday.

Obiagu also visited Baylor, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Long Beach State.


"Big competition in the ACC," Obiagu told ESPN in a text message. "Huge chance to play and make an impact right away. Great coaches and program."

ESPN 100 center Ikey Obiagu has committed to Florida State. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Obiagu, a 7-footer from Greenforest Christian Academy (Georgia), is ranked No. 42 in the ESPN 100 for the 2017 class.

He is one of the best defensive players in the country, using his size and length to rebound and block shots at a high rate. Obiagu averaged 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 shots in just 13.7 minutes per game with the Georgia Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit in the spring. His offense isn't quite there yet, but he finishes well around the rim and is able to run the floor effectively.

Obiagu is Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton's fifth commitment in the 2017 class and the first ESPN 100 commitment for the Seminoles this class. He joins four-star forwards Raiquan Gray and Wyatt Wilkes, four-star wing Anthony Polite and three-star shooting guard Bryan Trimble Jr.


Hamilton has consistently done well with 7-footers in the past. Obiagu is the most highly touted one since Solomon Alabi in the Class of 2007.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four-star Marcus Garrett scores big win at Thanksgiving Hoopfest

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Marcus Garrett

DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS -- On the second day of the Thanksgiving Hoopfest, the schedule was highlighted by a battle of highly rated floor generals -- and potential future teammates -- when Kansas-bound four-star Marcus Garrett took the floor to face off with unsigned five-star Trae Young. A sideline full of interested head coaches were among the crowd as Garrett and Dallas Skyline won a battle that highlighted the day's action.

GARRET LEADS TEAM TO WIN

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Marcus Garrett

Four-star guard Marcus Garrett of Dallas (Texas) Skyline's future is already decided after signing with Kansas in the early signing period. However, five-star Trae Young of Norman (Okla.) North is still undecided, and the duo brought out a big-time coaching contingent when their teams squared off on Saturday night.

Kansas head coach Bill Self, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger and Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood -- plus a combined eight assistants between the three of them -- along with an assistant from Texas Tech were all on hand to chase Young, who has visited all four campuses.

While the game was close, it was ugly at times as both teams struggled with shooting and Garrett was saddled with three early fouls during a scoreless first half. Young was misfiring from deep but got to the free throw line over and over again to score 16 in the first half.

Midway through the third quarter, though, the 6-foot-5 Garrett took the game over. He got into passing lanes on defense to create open floor opportunities, he attacked the rim and he hit back-to-back threes. By the time he was done had gone for 21 second-half points and secured a win for Skyline.

"My teammates told me to relax and just let the game come to me, I was a little too excited," Garrett said. "I wanted to compete on the defensive end."

Garrett said he enjoyed playing against Young -- who has also visited Kentucky -- and made his pitch to him about possibly playing together at Kansas.

"He attacks you when he gets the ball and you have to be aware of him at all times when he's on the offensive end he uses his body really well and he can shoot," Garrett said. "We talked about (recruiting). I told him to come to KU and he said he'll think about it."

For his part, Young finished with 33 points, with almost half of them coming from the free throw line. Young told Rivals that he's thinking a decision should come sometime in January and that he's looking into the possibility of some unofficial visits in the near future.


CUNNINGHAM CAPS BIG WEEKEND

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Brock Cunningham

The Thanksgiving Hoopfest offered a big stage and nobody took better advantage of it than three-star junior power forward Brock Cunningham, who had a second straight impactful game for Austin (Texas) Westlake, scoring 19 in a win over Cedar Hill (Texas) High.

Standing around 6-foot-6, Cunningham isn't a crazy athlete and is perhaps a bit undersized. He readily admits to all of that. However, his skill level, toughness and ability to serve as a playmaker anywhere in the frontcourt make him a unique matchup and a player who has a chance to play at the high major level because of his skill.

At Westlake, he plays with four-star junior small forward Matthew Mayer, who had a tough weekend scoring only a combined 11 points in two games. With focus on Mayer Cunningham is allowed to operate somewhat under the radar. Cunningham hasn't flown under the radar of college coaches, however - he listed offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulane, Houston, Columbia, Missouri and San Diego to go with interest from Texas Tech and Stanford.

Though he's open to more interest, Cunningham feels good about the offers he has and isn't in any rush.

"I don't worry about attention or ranking," said Cunningham. "I'm really happy with the offers that I have and the schools that are showing me interest have been great."

MORE SATURDAY NOTES AND STANDOUTS

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Greg Williams

It wasn't a monster offensive game for four-star shooting guard Greg Williams of Lafayette (La.) Christian, but the No. 72 player in the class of 2018 was a monster on the defensive end. We had the shooting guard down for seven blocked shots to go with several steals and countless deflections. He was seemingly in the right place on defense on every trip and can really change things on that end.

Offensively he's an athletic driver with a good enough jumper to keep defenders honest. He finished with 14 points and listed offers from Baylor, Texas A&M, St. John's, Tulane, Louisiana Lafayette, LSU, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech.

Three-star senior forwards Donnie Tillman and Lamine Diane of Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep both had strong outings on Saturday. Tillman is a strong, tough and productive forward who rebounds, scores from 17 feet and in and finds ways to create mismatches. Tillman begins an official visit to Utah on Sunday and is set to visit TCU at the end of December. He's also planning to see
Grand Canyon unofficially in December and has heard from others like Kansas, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Washington, Arizona State and Oregon State.

A standout in late July playing for Team Africa at Adidas Nations, Diane is an intriguing late signing option. The 6-foot-6 wing has long arms, knows how to get to the rim and is a big-time wing defender. He lacks strength and his jumper needs to be reworked, but his energy is contagious. Baylor could be one to keep an eye on with him, and the Bears had two assistants on hand to see him play.

Chalk up another good effort for 2018 wing Jordan Phillips. The three-star at Cedar Hill (Texas) High led his team in scoring but couldn't lead them to a win against Austin Westlake. However, he showed the type of athletic tools and ability to get to the rim that could eventually land him in the Big 12. As it is Phillips is making a push for the Rivals150 in 2018 and could push for four-star status if he gets consistent with his jumper. When matched up, Phillips' defense on 2018's No. 52 ranked player Matthew Mayer was outstanding.

Last but not least, we want to file away the name Jaykwon Walton from the class of 2019 as somebody to monitor for the future. The 6-foot-6 sophomore at Montgomery (Ala.) Carver has good wing size, length and some intriguing upside. Walton has been on campus at Auburn.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Four-star junior PG Anfernee Simons picks Louisville

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Anfernee Simons
With a top 10 class for 2017 already in hand, Rick Pitino and Louisville aren't wasting any time on the class of 2018.

Saturday morning, four-star point guard Anfernee Simons from Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater picked the Cardinals during an unofficial visit.

Kenny Gillion, who runs Simons summer program Team Breakdown, said that the personal attention shown by Pitino made it easy.

"He picked Louisville because he gets a chance to play for a Hall of Fame coach that made him a top priority," said Gillion. "Coach Pitino did not leave it up to his assistants to recruit Anfernee."
Anfernee Simons
Point guard
4 STARS
Edgewater
Orlando, FL
RR: N/A
Ht: 6'2"
Wt: 165 lbs
Class: 2018
-
POSITION
76
NATIONAL
-
STATE
Commitment status:
VERBAL COMMIT
Louisville

Though relatively slight of build, few in the class of 2017 get to the rim the way that Simons does.
During 16U play on the Under Armour Association circuit, Simons led all scorers putting up over 22 a game for Team Breakdown. His attacking style, ability to get hot from three, quickness and underrated athleticism should all be good fits in Louisville.

"Louisville is getting a high school version of Steph Curry with hops," said Gillion. "He is a dangerous shooter that plays the point guard. His length and athletic ability is perfect for Louisville's high energy style of defense."

 
 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Four-star guard Lindell Wigginton commits to Iowa State


Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm and assistant coach Neill Berry visited Wiggington at Oak Hill Academy in West Virginia on Wednesday.

"Iowa State made me a priority and they always made me feel like family," Wigginton said. "They trust me to be their scoring guard and I trust them to coach me. Coach Prohm is a humble guy. He keeps it real, he doesn't tell you what you want to hear and I like that."

Wigginton made his official visit in September on the same weekend that Iowa State commit Terrence Lewis, ranked No. 59 by ESPN, was on campus. The Iowa State campus made quite an impression.

"When I was on my visit everyone was so genuine the people made me feel like home," said Wigginton.  Wigginton, who hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, played for the Canadian National Team that finished in second place in the U18 FIBA Americas.

"Lindell's mental toughness and competitiveness separates him from so many others." said Canadian team head coach Roy Rana.

Last year, Wigginton also played a prominent role for nationally-acclaimed Oak Hill Academy, winners of the Dick's National tournament. He is a scoring point guard who is terrific in the transition game and is equally effective in the half-court facilitating and scoring.

This is the third commitment for the Cyclones and their second-highest ranked prospect. Four-star guard Darius McNeil and Lewis will step in with Wigginton next year on the perimeter.

In only his second year, Prohm has reeled in a much-needed strong recruiting class. Iowa State will lose a ton of experience, leadership and numbers next year with departures from Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Deonte Burton.

HIGHLIGHTS: Five-Star Carter shines at USA Basketball Minicamp

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Five-star center Wendell Carter showed the younger guys in the 2019 and 2020 class how things get done in the paint at USA Basketball earlier this month. Carter is still undecided and is choosing between Duke, Harvard, Georgia and Georgia Tech.
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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Discovery of Benny Anders answers a childhood mystery

ESPN's "30 for 30" episode Phi Slama Jama was an emotional evening for your humble author.  For those of us high school basketball players of the early 1980's, nothing encapsulated the new era to come like the University of Houston and Phi Slama Jama.



Early '80's college hoops is now resplendent with iconic moments, larger than life characters, and the most memorable of historical events in the sport's history.  Many have referred to the 80's as the "Golden Era" for the NBA, with the now well-known story line of Magic and Bird, and a young fellow named Mike Jordan coming up the rear.  But in the era of rabbit ear televisions and new boxes known as cable on top of the set, nothing was bigger than Akeem the Dream, Clyde the Glide, Mr. Mean and the Cougars of Houston.....aka - Phi Slama Jama.  The name, as most readers know, comes from the number, volume, style and ferocity of their dunking, which became a menacing art form, and for which they attempted to do on virtually every possession.

Other names were transcendant in that era:  Ewing, Mark Price, Mullin, Antoine Joubert, Sampson, Worthy, and of course - Jordan.  The teams were equally historical - Georgetown, NC State, UNC, Villanova....all had iconic moments in the early to mid '80's.  Most of which are well known to true basketball followers and historical markers in the pantheon of American sports today.

No name, however, had greater mystery than the name of Benny Anders, the best dunker on the Phi Slama Jama team.



Benny Anders was my favorite player. Their losses in three straight Final Four's were obviously painful to them and their fans, but not me - I simply enjoyed the ride!  As a 15 year old, I remember drawing the conclusion that many historians have years later - the Louisville-Houston Final Four game was the greatest basketball game I had ever watched.  Dunk after dunk after dunk.  It was unbelievable even to this day.  There would be others:  I was present and attended the Duke-Kentucky Regional Final game in Philadelphia in 1992......Villanova-Georgetown......and then of course, the actual final between Houston and NC State, considered by most the greatest upset in the history of the sport.

The Phi Slama Jama story is only complete with a discussion of the disappearance of their greatest player, my favorite player....a player I considered better than Michael Jordan at the time.   His name was Benny Anders.  Anders disappeared after a few stints in minor league basketball.  Not went into hiding.....not that he was refusing to answer phone calls or talk to the media......he literally disappeared.  In the age of camera phones, the internet, NO ONE knew what happened to him or where he was.  No one.  Not even his family!  It was as if he fell off the face of the earth.


Our fondness for Anders, and the joy of his memory that he gave to me as a young high school basketball fanatic, are celebrated by this blog by putting one of Anders' famous one-liners in our header:  when referring to Hakeem Olajuwon (at the time known as Akeem) - "When I drop a dime to the big swahili, he gotta put it in the hole."  Many ask where that line comes from when they come to the blog.  When I tell them, many know who Benny Anders was, some do not, and all wonder what happened to him

The 30 for 30 show documents the outlandish style we remember vividly from that era and from Anders himself - the black suits, the "OUTLAW" tee shirt, the black sports car.  Other great lines from Anders included "I don't wanna play for no Phi Slama Clappa" right before quitting the team during the 83-84 campaign as a junior.  That would be the 3rd of 3 straight Final Four's and back-to-back title game appearances (he would later rejoin his teammates before the '84 Final Four).  My favorite line was after the '83 Regional Final - "Coach said take it to the hole and stick it to him, so I took it to the hole and stuck it to him."


Over the last 30+ years I have literally wondered out loud, in discussions with friends, the proverbial barroom arguments over greatest ever, whatever happened to Benny Anders?  I would tell my children about him, how he was better than Jordan, could have been the greatest player to have ever played, and he just disappeared.  I would show my kids Youtube clips....tell my wife whenever a story would pop up on TV about those Houston teams.....it was a childhood mystery bordering on obsession.

Sports Illustrated tried to find him, with an article in 2013 titled "Seen Benny?  Have him give me a call." (http://www.si.com/vault/2013/03/25/106300716/seen-benny-have-him-give-me-a-call)  It was a great read, detailing some of his great moments in text that helped rekindle my own childhood memories.  What makes it an obsession is the total iconoclastic American nature of the story. Childhood superstar.....failed potential.......disappearance from sight......all tied to my own youth and experiences as a high school student athlete.   

And then - Benny is found.



ESPN did a masterful job with this episode.  No discussion of Phi Slama Jama can be done without the Benny Anders story, and his disappareance, and now his resurrection.  While you can quibble over the pacing of the game footage, and a better narration of the march to each Final Four, the overall effect of the show is quite moving.  

A folk tale I had shared with my children.......a man who had gone missing from the public stage...... perhaps the greatest player that never was......he was finally found.  Through the detective work of two former teammates, Benny is found in Detroit.  Not over weight, no drug problems, but noticeably alone.

Benny Anders does not know me, but I would love to meet Benny Anders.  More than my favorite player of all time, Larry Bird.  More than the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan.  The player I would like to meet is Benny Anders.  My Saturday afternoon's, my youthful NCAA tournament experiences, begin with and were most memorable, with Benny and Phi Slama Jama.  I'm glad you were found Benny, and I am glad we got to see you again!

http://www.si.com/college-basketball/2016/10/03/phi-slama-jama-star-benny-anders-appears-new-30-30-documentary

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqUzdPhjiPA

http://www.espn.com/30for30/film?page=phislamajama

By Steve Rodriguez, a very happy author of this story.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

UCLA lands No. 34 overall Cody Riley

Reprint from Rivals.com / By Eric Bossi


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Steve Alford and UCLA are getting the job done on the recruiting front in Southern Cal in a major way.

Friday afternoon the Bruins scored another local player when 2017’s No. 35 player Cody Riley announced at Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon that he will play his college ball in Westwood.
"It was a long process," Riley said Friday. "UCLA, Kansas and USC were my final three. In the end, I decided to head to Westwood and continue my education there."
A rugged and long armed interior player, the 6-foot-8 Riley should provide the Bruins with an instant low post presence.

Riley is all about establishing position on the block and using his strength to hold off defenders. He makes short turnarounds, he can hit 12 footers, he passes well out of double teams and he’s a physical rebounder and defender who always plays with max effort.


Cody Riley
Power forward

4 STARS
Sierra Canyon
Chatsworth, CA
RR: N/A
Ht: 6'7"
Wt: 225 lbs
Class: 2017

-
POSITION


NATIONAL


-
STATE
Commitment status:
VERBAL COMMIT
UCLA
The addition of Riley brings a conclusion to a recruitment that had appeared to be going in the favor of UCLA ever since Riley began to publicly list the program as his leader in the summer of 2015.

With the addition of Riley, the Bruins 2017 recruiting class will move into the top five of the team recruiting rankings. He joins five-star point guard Jaylen Hands, four-star power forward Jalen Hill and three-star shooting guard LiAngelo Ball.

The Bruins also hold a commitment from 2019 point guard LaMelo Ball and counting their 2016 class, the last nine Bruin commitments have come from players based in Southern California.

Currently ranked No. 7 in the team rankings for 2017, UCLA will move to No. 5 with the addition of Riley. They still have room to move higher if they can land five-star wing Kris Wilkes for whom they are a finalist with Indiana and Illinois.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Four-star power forward Malik Williams commits to Louisville

Reprint from ESPN By Jeff Borzello
 
Four-star power forward Malik Williams has committed to Louisville.
Williams, a six-foot-11 product of R. Nelson Snide High School (Indiana), boosted his stock during the spring, playing for Legit Basketball, an independent AAU team not on one of the big sneaker circuits. Williams didn't lack for attention, though, with the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Purdue all seriously involved in his recruitment.



Louisville entered the mix in early May, extending an offer to Williams and then getting him on campus a few weeks later for an unofficial visit. Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino made Williams a clear priority during the crucial July evaluation period, watching him in his first game in Philadelphia all the way to the third period in Orlando. Pitino and his assistants were sitting front and center at most of Williams' July games. Williams took another visit to Louisville earlier this week, and the Cardinals closed the deal.

Williams, ranked No. 42 in the ESPN 100, cemented his status during an impressive month of July, averaging 23.5 points and 13.2 rebounds at an Under Armour tournament during the second period.

Despite his size, Williams runs the floor well, can make shots consistently from the perimeter and is also capable of facing up and driving to the basket.

Williams is Louisville's first commitment in the 2017 class, but the Cardinals are also pursuing Makai Ashton-Langford (No. 32), Brandon Randolph (No. 43), Alex O'Connell, Darius Perry (No. 48), Lindell Wigginton (No. 60), Matt Coleman (No. 27) and more. With Williams in the fold, Pitino's focus will turn to the perimeter.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Point guard Nick Weatherspoon commits to Mississippi State

Reprint from ESPN.com - Analyst Jeff Borzello
ESPN 100 point guard Nick Weatherspoon has committed to Mississippi Stateon his official visit.
Ben Howland and the Bulldogs were long considered the favorite for Weatherspoon, as his older brother, Quinndary, is a sophomore on the Mississippi State basketball team. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team a season ago.
Weatherspoon saw his stock rise during the spring and summer, going from a player ranked outside the ESPN 100 to slotting in at No. 34 in the latest rankings. Bigger schools were becoming more involved, with Kentucky reaching out to him last week and Kansas setting up an in-home visit. North Carolina was also in the mix.
The Velma Jackson Magnet High School (Mississippi) product decided to stay home, though, and will be expected to play alongside his older brother in the backcourt right away. Weatherspoon was the second-leading scorer on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit, averaging 23.4 points while shooting 37.8 percent from 3-point range and dishing out 3.6 assists.

Howland has continued to completely revamp Mississippi State recruiting since taking over in Starkville two springs ago. He reeled in elite guard Malik Newman in his first month on the job in the 2015 class, then followed that up with the No. 4 recruiting class in the country in 2016. Weatherspoon is Howland's first commitment in the class of 2017.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Coby White, No. 21 in ESPN 60 for 2018 class, commits to Tar Heels

  • Jeff BorzelloESPN Staff Writer - Reprint from ESPN.com
Five-star junior point guard Coby White committed to North Carolina on Thursday, three days after the Tar Heels extended a scholarship offer to him.
White, a 6-foot-3 prospect from Greenfield High School in North Carolina, is ranked No. 21 in the ESPN 60 for the 2018 class. He is also the No. 5 point guard in the class.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams watched White in April, and then the North Carolina staff tracked him throughout July. He took an unofficial visit to Chapel Hill in June.
Virginia, Wake Forest, Clemson and others had also offered scholarships to White.
Although it's early for the 2018 class, North Carolina has a leg up for the No. 1 recruiting class. The Tar Heels have two top-30 commitments, with White joining four-star guard Rechon Black (No. 26).
North Carolina has two of the four players in the ESPN 60 who are committed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Jaren Jackson, No. 26 recruit in ESPN 100, commits to Michigan State

Reprint from ESPN.com

Jaren Jackson, the No. 26 overall prospect in the ESPN 100 rankings, has committed to play at Michigan State.

Ranked the No. 5 power forward in the Class of 2017, Jackson chose the Spartans over Georgetown, Maryland, Notre Dame and Purdue on Thursday, his 17th birthday.

"I didn't plan it this way," Jackson said. "I have done all my homework on each school ... and discussed everything with my family, and the timing just happened to land on my birthday," Jackson said. "When you have a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo, it makes a statement about the program.
"Coach Izzo has established a culture and an attitude of winning and I want to be part of that. He does a great job at developing his talent too."

Izzo was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend and made an immediate recruiting trip to see Jackson on Sunday after the ceremony. The visit made quite an impression on Jackson.

"It was crazy he came to visit me right after I was watching him on television from the Hall of Fame," Jackson said. "I heard he was coming but I did not know for sure he would show up. That meant a lot to me."

At 6-foot-10, Jackson's outside shooting makes him special. His skill level continues to grow and his versatility continues to impress.

"From a basketball perspective, he is extremely skilled, competitive and has unlimited potential," said Shane Heirman, Jackson's coach at La Lumiere School in LaPorte, Indiana.

Both of Jackson's parents have a strong basketball background. Jaren Sr. starred at Georgetown (1985-1989) and played on multiple NBA teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, where he won an NBA title in 1999. His mother, Terri, also is a Georgetown grad and is the director of operations for the Women's National Basketball Players Association.

Michigan State claimed the No. 3 recruiting class in 2016, which included top-10 prospect Miles Bridges -- projected to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA draft. Izzo and his staff are also in pursuit of ESPN 100 prospects Brandon McCoy (6), Gary Trent Jr. (8), Brian Bowen (13) and Nojel Eastern (76).