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.
College Realignment Has Big Impact on Huntington Prep
Huntington (West Va.) Prep coach Rob Fulford may be the only high school basketball coach in the country with players committed to both Missouri and West Virginia.
“I think so,” he said.
In 6-foot-9 power forward Stefan Jankovic and 6-6 small forward Negus Webster-Chan, Huntington has two players who will sign with Missouri Thursday during an event at the school.
That same day, Elijah Macon, Huntington’s 6-9 power forward, will sign with West Virginia.
That makes Fulford, whose team is absolutely loaded this year, uniquely positioned to talk about the state of college realignment.
Missouri is officially leaving the Big 12 for the SEC for the 2012-13 basketball season, although its start date could be impacted by when West Virginia leaves the Big East for the Big 12.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto has said he intends to hold West Virginia — as well as Syracuse and Pittsburgh (ACC) — to the league-mandated 27-month exit timeline. The Big East and West Virginia are suing one another over the matter.
Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said he doesn’t expect the legal dispute between West Virginia and the Big East to impact Missouri’s plans for a quick exit, referring to “assurances” that the Big 12 won’t try to block an imminent Missouri move.
Fulford believes that both Jankovic (pictured) and Webster-Chan will acclimate well to life in the SEC East, where Missouri will join Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
“I think the style of play, it’s a very similar conference [to the Big 12],” he said. “It’s an up-and-down athletic league, and I think it fits both of them pretty well, so I think either way it’s a good fit for them.”
As for West Virginia, Fulford believes the school had to make the move to the Big 12 for football.
“Being from here, obviously they needed to make a move for football and the Big 12 is going to be a better conference for West Virginia from a football standpoint,” Fulford said. “I think they needed to take a chance to see where the basketball would take them.”
So far it’s taken them to a complicated legal dispute involving two lawsuits.
But Fulford said Macon was not as concerned with conference he will play in as much as coach Bob Huggins’ overall style of play.
“He didn’t really care regardless of what conference they were going in,” he said. “He picked West Virginia for their style of play and I think it fits him very well.”
Fulford expects Huggins to bring a more “grind-it-out, extremely physical on defense” style of play that will be unique in the Big 12.
“I think most of the Big 12 teams are more offensive skill related, so it will be kind of a contrasting style,” he said.
PAYNE TO SIGN LATEEvan Payne, a 6-1 combo guard from Akron, Ohio who plays at Huntington Prep, will sign late, Fulford said.
“He’s a kid that’s starting to draw high-major interest,” he said.
USC, Missouri and DePaul are among the leaders for Payne, who will take an official to USC the weekend of Nov. 18.
Akron, Miami (Ohio) and Kent State were previously recruiting him.
“He’s just a pure scorer,” Fulford said. “He’s freakishly athletic. He’s a 6-1 kid with a well over a 40-inch vertical. He plays as high as above the rim as any 6-1 kid I’ve ever seen.
“It’s freakish how high he jumps.”
See this video of Payne and teammate Andrew Wiggins for proof.
(The AP contributed)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.