Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Any program in the running for the No. 1
high school prospect of the 2014 high school class will need to have two
roster spots open to land the blue chip recruit.
Chicago has been consistently producing some of the top names in basketball
for quite a while. Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Evan Turner and Anthony Davis
all came out of the Windy City to turn their respective colleges into national
title contenders. Davis, the only big man of those mentioned, was the backbone
of Kentucky's national title run under John Calipari in 2010.
Many think that the 6-foot-10, 265-pound Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young High
School in the Near West Side of Chicago could be the leader of an NCAA
Championship squad in the not to distant future.
Davis, who had his name called first by commissioner David Stern at the 2012
NBA Draft, had plenty of help when he was at UK. Fellow freshmen Michael Kidd-
Gilchrist (No. 2) and Marquis Teague (No. 29) were also picked in the first
round. Three other Wildcats from that team were also selected in that draft
immediately after they cut down the nets at the Final Four.
Okafor has reportedly banded together with Tyus Jones, a 6-1 floor general
from Minnesota who is arguably the top point of the 2014 class. The two met as
third-graders at an AAU national tournament and realized their great on-floor
chemistry two years ago while playing for the FIBA American Under 16
Davis had talent around him thanks to the recruiting skills of Calipari, who
has the best incoming class in the nation for 2013 as well. Among the new
stars in Lexington is the twin backcourt of Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who
came in a more traditional type of package. Twin brothers going to the same
school has been somewhat common in recent years. Stanford had a twin towers
look with Brook and Robin Lopez suiting up for the Cardinal. Travis and David
Wear not only signed with North Carolina together out of high school, but also
transferred to UCLA to stay together.
Okafor and Jones are not the first pair of superstar high school athletes to
collaborate on a college decision. Their union is rare considering that they
grew up in different Midwest states, but it is clearly a product of the AAU
system that has been impacting the amateur basketball world for some time now.
Among the schools in the running for Okafor and Jones are Duke, Kansas,
Kentucky, Michigan State, Baylor, and Ohio State.
They are not the only big time recruits who have decided to make their
decision on college together. The top power forward in the class, Cliff
Alexander, announced on his Twitter account that he planned on playing college
basketball with JaQuan Lyle, an Indiana native playing at the powerhouse
Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Lyle had recently just backed out of his
commitment to Louisville.
While Okafor has a huge size advantage over most of his opponents, it will not
be a huge surprise if Alexander, who is also a Chicago prep star, has a bigger
impact when they both make their collegiate debuts. Lyle is not predicted to
be an All-American during his final year at Huntington Prep, but he is still a
capable player that any coach would be crazy to turn away.
There is no guarantee that the packages will stay intact. But both duos seem
adamant on sticking together throughout the recruiting process.
That is not always the case. USC used some unorthodox tactics to insure Demarr
DeRozan would become a Trojan in 2009. Tim Floyd, now UTEP's head coach, gave
a scholarship to Percy Miller, Jr., better known as Lil' Romeo for his rapping
career, to entice DeRozan to sign with USC. The two became friends while
playing for Percy Miller, Sr's AAU team and Floyd signed them both, although
Miller was hardly Pac-10 Conference material at the time. What Floyd did was
perfectly legal, although risky considering it was clear DeRozan was not going
to be in Los Angeles for a long stay.
Seton Hall recently added a top-20 recruit in Isaiah Whitehead out of
Brooklyn's famed Lincoln High School, the same institution that Stephon
Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson all attended. SHU head coach
Kevin Willard has had trouble guiding the team back into the winner's circle.
He has gone 18-36 through three years before landing Whitehead, which saved
him from the hot seat if the 2013-14 season is another struggle. Willard
didn't offer one of Whitehead's friends a spot on his roster though, instead
he hired Lincoln's head coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton to be an assistant on his
staff. Willard also hired Oliver Antigua to his staff, which was instrumental
in the signing of top 50 power forward Angel Delgado from Huntington Prep.
Antigua coached Delgado on the Dominic Republic National Team where the two
built a strong relationship.
Willard is not the first coach to shake up his staff as a way to improve
recruiting results. Kansas hired Mario Chalmers' father and went on to win a
national title. Calipari did the same with DaJuan Wagner's father at Memphis.
For a struggling program like Seton Hall, it may be its saving grace. A talent
like Whitehead is going to attract other recruits to the school. Willard may
end up having a long tenure with the Pirates thanks to his completely legal
Willard was not the first and will not be the last coach to use this method to
improve his talent pool. If the NCAA recruiting guidelines allow it, coaches
would be foolish not to improve their programs in any way they can. The NCAA
is under scrutiny more than ever, but there is nothing it can really do to
prevent hirings that directly affect recruiting.
It is unfortunate because it completely changes the meaning of the first word
of the often used phrase - "best man for the job."
The Sports Network