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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.
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Wednesday / December 12.
  • Legends Classic Teams Recruiting New York/New Jersey

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    NEW YORK — All four of the teams in this weekend’s Legends Classic at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., have ties to the New York metropolitan area.

    Texas, N.C. State, Vanderbilt and Oregon State each have at least one player who played high school ball in the area — and all four coaches say they plan to continue to recruit this fertile region despite the challenges it presents.

    “We’ve tried to come up there for a lot of years and get good players,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, whose roster features senior guard Lance Goulbourne of Brooklyn and sophomore forward Rod Odom of Central Islip, said Thursday on a conference call.

    “Fortunately, we have Lance and Rod and we will continue to try to recruit the players in that area that we think we can effectively recruit, but at the same time we realize the many challenges that await you because there are so many other great programs in that area that are trying to get the same kind of guys.”

    For an SEC school like Vandy to come into this area and get players is often tough because they’re competing against not only many Big East schools but against national powers like Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.

    “It’s very difficult to get in there and recruit against the Big East teams,” Stallings said. “It’s a challenge to get really good players out of that area and we feel fortunate that we’ve been able to do so.”

    First-year N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried cleaned up during this recruiting period by landing North Carolina stars T.J. Warren, Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis, but would also like to target top talent in the Northeast. The N.C. State roster includes freshman forward Tyler Harris of Long Island, younger brother of first-round NBA Draft pick Tobias Harris.

    “We’re going to recruit anywhere there’s a good player,” Gottfried said. “Obviously, this year we had some guys in our state, but that’s not going to happen every year. So we’ve got to be good wherever it may be, and certainly in New York. You look at guys like Julius Hodge, the school has had success there before in the past, the school has. So we’re not going to limit ourselves to any one part of the country.”

    Texas coach Rick Barnes comes to the area with freshman point guards Sterling Gibbs, who played at Seton Hall Prep in Scotch Plains, N.J., and Myck Kabongo, who spent time under Dan Hurley at St. Benedict’s Prep. Fifth-year senior forward Alexis Wangmene also played at Blair Academy in New Jersey.

    “We like recruiting Eastern players,” Barnes said. “Our goal is always we start here in Texas and work out. But because of the calling card that we have — the University of Texas Longhorns — it opens doors for us because of what this university stands for and what it’s about.

    “So we are able to get involved with a lot of people, and we do really enjoy recruiting the East Coast because we’ve had a lot of success through this program even before I got here. And we’re going to do continue to do that.”

    Finally, Oregon State has sophomore Devon Collier, a New York kid who finished up at St. Anthony under Bob Hurley and then opted to go West to the Pac-12.

    “The first thing that kids look at when they hear from folks our way, especially Oregon State, they hear the Pac-12, so that’s helpful,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “Once we get an opportunity to get in front of them and tell them our story and have them come out and visit, I think it makes it an easier proposition.

    “In Devon’s case, he just needed to see the place and realize that taking a four-and-half-hour plane ride is not too different from taking a two-hour plane ride

    “So we’re planning on continuing to recruit New York. We’re going to recruit the East Coast, and look for the next Devon Collier.”

    NOTES: Vandy meets N.C. State in the first game at 6:30 Saturday, followed by Texas-Oregon State. The final and consolation games will be played Monday….Vandy continues to play without senior center Festus Ezeli, out 6-8 weeks with sprained ligaments in his right knee. “In his absence, we don’t really have a great low-post guy, a shot-blocking guy,” Stallings said. Steve Tchiengang starts in Ezeli’s absence. “Much different player than Festus is but Steve’s effective and knows how to play,” the coach added.

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    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.