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.
With Briscoe About to Cut List, Lavin, Willard Talk Recruiting
NEW YORK — St. John’s coach Steve Lavin and Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard can’t discuss specific recruits on the record, but it was interesting to hear them talk broadly about recruiting at Big East Media Day on Wednesday.
Especially interesting given that Roselle (N.J.) Catholic point guard Isaiah Briscoe is set to cut his list to three schools on Saturday and is considering both local schools, along with Kentucky, UConn, Missouri and others.
“You gotta find the local kids,” Willard said, speaking generally about recruiting. “There’s a lot out there. You gotta find them and then you gotta get them to stay between St. John’s and us.”
At this point, you’d have to say that St. John’s looks like it has the inside track for the 6-foot-3 Briscoe. Since Thursday, he hosted Lavin and three assistants at RC; took an official visit to St. John’s over the weekend; and attended a St. John’s practice at Madison Square Garden.
But until Briscoe cuts his list, and then makes an announcement, anything remains possible.
“It just comes down to where are the players?” Lavin said. “And wherever the players are, then we go after them. So when Maurice Harkless was in our back yard, we signed him. When Chris Obekpa was at Long Island Our Savior, we signed him. When you have a chance to get D’Angelo Harrison in Houston or Phil Greene out of Chicago or Dom Pointer out of Detroit or JaKarr Sampson out of Ohio or Rysheed Jordan out of Philadelphia or this kid Amar Alibegovic from Bosnia through Rome, we’re going to find them. I’m going to Milan this weekend.”
Lavin is currently focusing on two area kids in Briscoe and 6-9 Cheick Diallo, who plays for Obekpa’s former schools, as well as Brandon Sampson, a shooting guard from Louisiana, as well as overseas recruits like Federico Mussini, who he will see in Milan.
Interestingly, Lavin hasn’t really recruited New Jersey much since taking the job in 2010.
He and Willard both fought hard for former St. Anthony star Kyle Anderson, who ultimately picked UCLA over Seton Hall as his second choice.
Now Lavin appears to be in strong for Briscoe, a potential program-changing point guard projected as the No. 7 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by Draft Express.com.
If he were to land Briscoe, it would be Lavin’s first significant recruit out of New Jersey, and it would simultaneously signify that he can beat out both Seton Hall and Rutgers, as well as national powerhouses like Kentucky and UConn, for an elite recruit.
Meantime, Willard landed a tremendous six-man recruiting class consisting solely of New York and New Jersey kids in 2014, including McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Whitehead,the Big East Preseason Player of the Year and a potential one-and-done talent.
But he said he’s learned to focus only on area kids who want to stay home.
“When you’re at a school like Seton Hall, I think you really have to focus on the type of kid that wants to stay local,” Willard said. “Again, different kids want to get away. No matter what, New Jersey and New York kids, most of them have always gone away but ..I found some guys that really wanted to stay home and we focused on that. I think you really gotta be selective. If a kid’s taking a visit to UCLA, Stanford and Hawaii, you know he’s not going to be a kid that really wants to stay at home.”
Willard and Lavin both said they are happy when the Big East lands top kids because it’s good for the conference as a whole.
“If you look at the recruits we brought in last year…thats pretty damn good for a 10-team conference,” Willard said.
The question is, if St. John’s or Seton Hall lands Briscoe at the other’s expense, how good will the other feel?
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.