Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Memphis Leading Big East in 2013 Recruiting (UPDATED)
Today is the last day of the NCAA early signing period and the Big East team leading the pack in recruiting for 2013 isn’t even in the Big East yet.
That’s right, folks.
Josh Pastner’s Memphis outfit is ranked No. 3 behind Kentucky and Kansas by ESPN.com in the Class of 2013 rankings.
The early signing period runs Nov. 14-21.
The Tigers recently landed a verbal commitment from Austin Nichols, a 6-8, 215-pound power forward from Memphis Briarcrest Christian, who is their top recruit.
Nichols will enter the Big East in 2013 along with small forwards Kuran Iverson and Nick King, shooting guard Markel Crawford and point guard RaShawn “Pookie” Powell.
“(Memphis’ 2013 class) is a group of good, unselfish kids,” Mark Nichols, Austin’s father, told the Commercial Appeal. “Austin’s played with them over the past few years (in AAU). I feel like they’re gonna be an unselfish group. It takes unselfishness to win.”
As if to underscore the vast talent base in the city of Memphis, several other Big East teams are benefitting by adding players from that city.
Elsewhere in the Big East…**Syracuse, which is leaving the Big East for the ACC, is No. 7 in the ESPN.com rankings with five pledges, including two from New Jersey in five-star point guard Tyler Ennis of St. Benedict’s Prep, and four-star small forward Tyler Roberson of Roselle (N.J.) Catholic.
**Louisville, ranked No. 7 in the recruiting rankings, has four commits, including junior college guard Chris Jones, a Memphis native who plays at Northwest Florida. Jones, who is expected to replace Peyton Siva at the point, was just named NJCAA Region 8 Player of the Week. A sophomore, Jones averaged 33.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 5.5 steals and 1.0 block in two games during the voting period, including a 38-point outing on 15-of-22 shooting from the floor in the Raiders’ 80-72 win over Atlanta Metro on Nov. 9. Louisville also adds guards Terry Rozier and Anton Gill, both of Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy.
**Marquette, ranked No. 12, has five commits, including, you guessed it, someone from Memphis. JaJuan Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 188-pound shooting guard from Memphis Southwind, chose Buzz Williams’s club over Alabama and Miami. He joins point guards Duane Wilson andJohn Dawson, small forward Deonte Burton and power forward Jameel McKay in Marquette’s class.
**Notre Dame, ranked No. 13, also has four commits, highlighted by four-star point guard Demetrius Jackson and four-star small forward V.J. Beachem — both of Indiana. (It remains unclear exactly when the Irish will leave the league for the ACC.)
**UConn, whose coach, Kevin Ollie, is not signed past early April, has two commits — and both are from New York City: point guard Terrence Samuel (Brooklyn South Shore) and power forward Kentan Facey (Long Island Lutheran).
**Temple, which, like Memphis, joins the Big East in 2013, has two pledges, including St. Anthony combo guard Josh Brown, who committed on SNY.tv.
As for the New York/New Jersey schools….
**St. John’s and head coach Steve Lavin had the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, according to ESPN.com, in 2011. In 2012, St. John’s also brought in a strong class, headlined by JaKarr Sampson, originally a member of the 2011 class.
This year, the Johnnies have only a couple of scholarships to give and plan on signing one or two players in the late period. They were in the mix for Louisiana forward Jarell Martin, but he committed early to LSU. Chris McCullough, a potential one-and-done forward in the Class of 2014, also picked Syracuse over St. John’s.
“Obviously, St. John’s is not going to have the recruiting class that they had two years ago,” Konchalski said. “It just is not going to happen.”
They remain in the hunt for 2013 guard Rysheed Jordan out of Philly Vaux Roberts and forward Jermaine Lawrence from Pope John Sparta (N.J.).
Jordan’s AAU coach, Kamal Yard, told SNY.tv Wednesday that the player won’t commit today, the final day of the signing period. He is said to be considering St. John’s, Rutgers and Temple.
“Rysheed Jordan could be a game-changer,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski said. “He’s an explosive athlete. In terms of running a halfcourt offense, he’s gotta make certain improvements. But he’s a one-man fast-break. He plays like he’s shot out of a cannon, Evel Knievel without the cycle. He really pushes the pace, forces the pace in the game. Halfcourt he looks to attack the basket. He has great hands and great feet and he can be an outstanding, outstanding player.”
The 6-10 Lawrence recently cut his list to St. John’s, Syracuse, UNLV and Cincinnati and will sign in the spring.
“He could be very good but more than anything else, he needs experience, he needs playing time,” Konchalski said. “He needs a lot of repetitions on the court in situations. He’s gotta learn to play hard all the time. When he does, he can be really a factor on the boards, especially on the offensive boards. And he changes ends as well as any big man you’ll find. He’s gotta build up his strength, his stamina and learn to play every possession.”
**Rutgers, which is now headed to the Big Ten, possibly in 2014, has just two scholarships to give because only Dane Miller and Austin Johnson are seniors. The Scarlet Knights could still sign a couple of players in the early period, or wait until the spring.
Mike Rice’s outfit has missed out on forwards Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart (Villanova), forward Tyler Roberson (Syracuse), wing Rondae Jefferson (Arizona) and point guard Roddy Peters (Maryland). Rutgers is now awaiting word from Jordan.
“Rutgers has had success recruiting and they have a lot of young players,” Konchalski said. “They’ve gotta do something with those young players. I mean, that’s the program.”
**Seton Hall has just one scholarship to give and is the lone local school with a 2013 commit in the form of Princeton (Md.) Day shooting guard Aquille Carr. Carr told SNY.tv last week during a scrimmage at St. Benedict’s Prep that he could’ve signed last week, but is focusing on his academics and plans to sign with the Pirates in the spring.
“I could’ve signed [Wednesday],” Carr said. “I’m just focusing on my grades right now”
Seton Hall previously missed out on forwards Austin Colbert (Illinois), who committed on SNY.tv, and Garland Owens (BC), and is now involved with guards Jevon Thomas and Jerron Wilbut of St. John’s Military (Wisc.), among others.
“The fact that they’re losing out on these kids is not a good sign, obviously, but look at whom they’re losing out on to,” Konchalski said. “Illinois is a major, major, major program. John Groce has done a very good job recruiting-wise.”
Photos: Daily News, Yahoo, Hoopdoctors
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.