Monday, May 29, 2017

Walker pledge gives Florida State a needed scoring threat next season

Only four schools have been in the top 12 of recruiting class rankings in each of the past three seasons. There’s Duke and Kentucky, which have finished 1-2 in some order in the rankings in each of the past four classes. There’s Arizona, which has finished in the top seven for seven years running.
The fourth? Not Kansas. Not UCLA. Not North Carolina.
It’s Florida State.
And five-star senior M.J. Walker’s announcement on Wednesday that he was picking the Seminoles over UCLA, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Ohio State moved Florida State’s class to No. 8 in the country and ensured the Seminoles would once again have one of the nation’s top incoming freshman classes.
Coach Leonard Hamilton has long had a reputation as an elite recruiter, consistently getting Florida State -- and before that, Miami -- involved with five-star prospects. Florida State has had 10 players selected in the NBA draft since 2004, including four first-round picks. The Seminoles had a top-10 recruiting class in 2008, a top-20 group in 2010 and 2011 and a top-40 class in 2014 -- before the recent three-year run. They just missed on Andrew Wiggins in 2013, not backing off even when Kentucky and Kansas made him a priority.
Walker’s commitment marks the third consecutive class in which Hamilton has reeled in a five-star prospect. Walker follows in the footsteps of Dwayne Bacon in 2015 and Jonathan Isaac in 2016.
The Seminoles have done it by heavily working Florida and Georgia. Bacon and Isaac were both in-state prospects that the Noles got involved with early in the process, while Malik Beasley -- and now Walker -- are Georgia natives. Assistant coach Charlton Young has deep ties to the Atlanta area, while fellow assistant Dennis Gates was the lead on Isaac and helped on Bacon.
Given the early-entry decisions of both Bacon and Isaac, Hamilton badly needed to land Walker. Florida State made him one of its top targets early in the 2017 recruiting cycle, but Walker took his recruitment slowly. He took one official visit in the fall, and it was to Tallahassee. The early signing period came and went without a commitment, though. The longer his recruitment lasted, the further it was since his visit, and other schools began making their moves for Walker. UCLA, Virginia Tech and Ohio State all got him on campus in the past few weeks, while hometown Georgia Tech hosted him several times.
Florida State suffered a difficult recruiting blow earlier this month, when five-star Kevin Knox shocked the recruiting world and chose Kentucky over the Seminoles, Duke, North Carolina and Missouri.
The Seminoles couldn’t let it happen again.
Florida State is coming off a 26-win season that ended in disappointing fashion, going 8-7 in the final two months of the season and losing by 25 to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Bacon, Isaac and double-figure scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes all left early and signed with agents, while starting center Michael Ojo and sixth man Jarquez Smith ran out of eligibility.
When Knox went elsewhere, it looked as if the Seminoles would lack the scoring punch of the past couple of seasons. Walker solves some of those issues. He’s a big-time offensive player who will immediately become one of the perimeter shooters on the team. Walker will have to shoulder most of the scoring load right off the bat, as there is only one player -- Terance Mann (8.4 PPG) -- returning who averaged more than 5.5 points per game.
There’s now reason for optimism at Florida State, though. Former ESPN 100 prospects CJ Walker and Trent Forrest will likely move into starting roles in the backcourt, while Mann will also take on a bigger role. Hamilton focused on the frontcourt in his 2017 class, with ESPN 100 shot-blocker extraordinaire Ikey Obiagu and four-star forwards Raiquan Gray and Wyatt Wilkes entering the fold. Center Christ Koumadje, at 7-feet-4, also took strides as the season progressed and will at least anchor the defense alongside Obiagu.
A step back was inevitable for Florida State without its top three scorers from last season, but Walker’s commitment gives the Seminoles a chance -- and also reaffirms Hamilton’s status as one of the top recruiters in college basketball.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Four-star Aaron Wiggins is seeing his recruitment take off analyst Corey Evans - reprint
INDIANAPOLIS – Four-star forward Aaron Wiggins recently topped over 20 scholarship offers, with Florida, Kansas, Arizona and Maryland included among that group.
While Wiggins may not be an explosive athlete, he is a highly intellectual player that fills the box score. He has had an impressive few weeks on the UAA circuit with his Team Charlotte 17-under squad, averaging over 12 points off of 54-percent shooting from the floor.
"It is just great but I did put in the work to get here," he said. "To be in that spot where I am getting a lot of high major interest and offers, it just makes me to want to work harder because that is not where I want to stop so I can get to the next level after college."
While a number of schools have made an offer to the 6-foot-6 wing, Wiggins has begun to narrow the focus of his recruitment.
"Maryland, Providence, Virginia, NC State, Wake Forest, USC recently started talking to me," he said. "Florida has gotten on me because they believe me and Devon Dotson are the best backcourt, and Kansas has started to recruit me."
He went on to speak on a few of those in pursuit.
Maryland: “They’re just always texting me. They text me every day; they call every day. They ask how my day was in school and they also came for an in-home visit. They just show the most interest as coaches. They have been to my school the most out of any school. They have made me the number one priority.”
Florida (on a package deal with Dotson): “Me and Devon are definitely a great backcourt, maybe one of the best backcourts here. They just believe that me and Devon together is really an unstoppable backcourt; with my shooting ability and the way that he gets the ball down the court, the way that he can penetrate and kick out, we just play really well together and our games complement each other.
“The location is great, the way that they play, they got really far in the tournament knowing and they have a good team and a good coach.”
Wake Forest: “They definitely had a really good run this year. Danny Manning is a really good coach and the way that he has been recruiting me, he has come to my school a few times to see me, they are a great school, great coaches, a great team and Brandon Childress, one of our recent players from Wesleyan that plays there.”
Kansas: “They’re a blue-blood, it’s a great school, and they had a lot of pros come out of there. Just knowing the way that they play basketball and get up and down the floor and develop players into pros, it is just awesome knowing that they want to recruit me.”
Aaron Wiggins
Small forward
Wesleyan Christian Academy
High Point, NC
Ht: 6'6"
Wt: 180 lbs
Class: 2018
Commitment status:


Wiggins will finish out his final summer of travel ball with the Team Charlotte 17-under squad, a team coached by former NBA guard Jeff McInnis.
When it comes to a college decision, the Rivals150 wing has an idea on how he would like for things to go. “I don’t have a timetable really but I would like to have my school of choice before my senior season starts,” he said. “I will start narrowing down my choices around May or June.”


One of the top breakout performers from the spring evaluation periods, Wiggins is just now getting accustomed to his high-major recruitment. Maryland has done the best job in making the 6-foot-6 junior a priority, though others such as Wake Forest, Kansas, Virginia and Florida may have a say when it comes to his commitment.