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.
**PROGRAMMING NOTE: Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner will be my guest on ‘The Big East Report’ on Thursday. Check back here and on SNY.tv tomorrow for the interview.**
Everyone in the college basketball world knows Josh Pastner can recruit.
The Memphis coach signed ESPN’s No. 4 recruiting class nationally in 2010.
His current roster includes McDonald’s All-American Joe Jackson and Jordan Brand All-Americans Will Barton and Wesley Witherspoon.
Now that Memphis is headed to the Big East beginning in 2013, Pastner and his staff will have recruiting entree to the rich talent corridor from New York to Washington, D.C.
“I think joining the Big East helps a program like Memphis recruit New Jersey/New York kids,” Roselle (N.J.) Catholic coach Dave Boff, whose best player is 2013 small forward Tyler Roberson, told SNY.tv. “First of all, the name Big East still carries weight. Kids know they will be playing in one of the best conferences and a conference with great tradition. Second, I think kids are more apt to go away to school if they know there is a chance they get to play some road games that are close to home.”
When former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick star Jeff Robinson picked Memphis out of high school, he was headed to play in Conference-USA. Robinson ultimately transferred to Seton Hall and finished his career in the Big East.
Now, a player from New York or New Jersey could pick Memphis, and still come home several times a year to play at St. John’s, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Villanova. The Big East Tournament, still the crown jewel of the league, is held each March at Madison Square Garden.
“I think it will definitely help them get players from the Northeast knowing they will come home multiple times to play in front of friends and family,” said St. Benedict’s Prep coach Mark Taylor.
The St. Benedict’s roster includes 2013 point guard Tyler Ennis, who is being courted by Memphis, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Kansas, Arizona and Louisville, and 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe, who is being courted by UConn and Syracuse and is one of the top players nationally in that class.
Brooklyn Lincoln coach Tiny Morton, who coached Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson, agrees with Taylor and Boff.
“[Memphis] is a place that a lot of players that I’ve coached and known never visited so to be able to play there and come back home would be great,” Morton said.
Lincoln’s current roster is highlighted by 2014 wing Isaiah Whitehead, who holds offers from Arizona, Syracuse, St. John’s and PIttsburgh and has interest from Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, Louisville, Georgetown and Florida State.
Pastner and Memphis will, of course, be competing in the Northeast with established Big East power like UConn, Louisville, Villanova, Georgetown, Cincinnati and Marquette for players, as well as rising programs like Providence, St. John’s, Rutgers and Seton Hall.
Syracuse and Pitt, which will move to the ACC, will also continue to recruit nationally and will now attempt to draw players away from the Big East.
In Philadelphia, Memphis will have to go head-to-head with Villanova, as well as the other programs that recruit the City of Brotherly Love.
“There are so many Big East teams between here and Memphis,” said Philly Constitution coach Rob Moore, whose roster includes uncommitted 2012 wing Savon Goodman and 2013 point guard Daiquan Walker.
“There’s more Big East teams here [in this area] than Conference-USA so it actually puts them at a disadvantage in Philly.”
In the Washington D.C. area, Memphis could also make some inroads.
“Yes, sir, no doubt about it,” DC Assault coach Nate Britt Sr., the father of North Carolina-bound 2013 point guard Nate Britt Jr., told SNY.tv. “It puts Memphis in the loop for recruits from the DMV. It’s a great move for Memphis to the Big East for basketball.”
Mike Jones, head coach at legendary DeMatha Catholic, concurs.
“I definitely believe it will [help Memphis],” he said. “They already have ties into Baltimore.”
Ultimately, said Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd, whose roster includes Pitt-bound Steven Adams, Xavier signee Myles Davis and uncommitted shooting guard Sam Cassell Sr., recruiting comes down to relationships.
“Anytime you go up a notch league-wise it’s going to be great for your program,” Hurd said. “Especially when you’re heading to a league with as many media hotbeds as the Big East has.
“Ultimately, recruiting is about relationships and whether or not you treat people the right way.”
HOW THE BIG EAST WILL LOOK
The Big East still publicly maintains that Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia won’t be permitted to leave the conference until June 2014.
So their press release officially introducing Memphis in 2013 says the league will look like this beginning in 2015.
In 2015, the 12-team Big East football membership will consist of Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU and USF.
In 2015, the 17-member Big East basketball league will include UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall, SMU, USF and Villanova.
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.