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College Basketball Recruiting: Latest on Shabazz Muhammad and Unsigned Players

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent IApril 5, 2012

College Basketball Recruiting: Latest on Shabazz Muhammad and Unsigned Players

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    Some of the elite basketball players in the class of 2012 are quite the procrastinators. Guys like Shabazz Muhammad and others remain uncommitted as where they’ll play their college basketball, despite the fact that many of their peers have already picked a university.

    So where will these elite prospects end up in the 2012-13 college basketball season?

    Here’s what we know and what we’re hearing.

Shabazz Muhammad

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    Shabazz Muhammad out of Las Vegas and Bishop Gorman is widely regarded as 2012’s top prospect, and rightfully so. Muhammad is a silky-smooth 6’5” wing player who can attack the basket with ferocious intensity.

    His game is cut from the same cloth as the likes of North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Speaking of Kentucky, reputable college basketball reporters Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish of CBS Sports speculated that Muhammad would end up in Lexington this fall to play for John Calipari and the newly-minted national champion Wildcats.

    But now, Rivals recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer has tweeted that, according to a couple of his sources, UCLA has emerged as the leader to land Muhammad's services.

    (Props to fellow Featured Columnist Matthew Snyder for picking up on this revelation first.)

    If this comes to fruition, then expect coach Ben Howland and his UCLA Bruins to be back in the Final Four real soon. Given that the top two high school players in Muhammad and New Jersey's Kyle Anderson would both be donning UCLA uniforms, it would be Howland's most talented team since the days when Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison took the floor at Pauley Pavilion.

Nerlens Noel

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    Nerlens Noel has flip-flopped from the class of 2012, to the class of 2013, and back again in recent months.

    Maybe this lack of decisiveness is part of the reason why the talented center from New Hampshire’s famed Tilton School (by way of the Boston area) is still undeclared regarding where he will play his college ball this autumn.

    Now it’s looking like Noel will finally reach his decision on April 11. And according to Scout.com’s Evan Daniels on Twitter, a few of his sources have indicated that Noel is leaning towards Big East school Georgetown over Syracuse and Kentucky.

    That move would make sense, given Georgetown’s history of crafting great centers (see Ewing, Patrick and Hibbert, Roy). Regardless of which of these three college basketball powers lands Noel, they’ll be getting the most decorated big man to come out of high school in both 2012 and 2013.

Anthony Bennett

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    No matter how you slice it, Anthony Bennett is a top-five talent. Out of the famed Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, Bennett is a bruising forward at 6’7” and 230 lbs.

    He can take it to the tin with the best of them and also has deadly range from three-point distance. With that unique kind of skill set, it’s no wonder why several schools are still in hot pursuit of this 5-Star prospect.

    Those several schools include the likes of Kentucky, UNLV, Washington, Florida and now the University of Oregon. According to the University of Oregon fan site autzenzoo.com, Bennett has included the Ducks among his top five.

    A big reason for Bennett’s interest in Dana Altman and the Ducks has to be for the fact that his Findlay Prep teammate, 4-Star point guard Dominic Artis, has already committed to Oregon for 2012.

    Those waiting for a decision will likely have to do so until May, according to the folks at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Surely, for whatever school lucky enough to land Bennett’s talents, it will be well worth the wait.

Devonta Pollard

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    Talented 6’7” forward Devonta Pollard has narrowed his college basketball search down to four choices:  Alabama, Texas, Missouri and Georgetown. Pollard took homestate Mississippi State off the list after long-time head coach Rick Stansbury stepped down from the program in mid-March.

    According to The Clarion-Ledger, Pollard has official visits at both Alabama and Georgetown scheduled in the coming days before he’s scheduled to make his decision during the upcoming national signing period (April 11-May 15).

    Pollard was named to the 2012 McDonald’s All-American squad, but missed the prestigious All-Star game in Chicago because of an injury. The lefty is a great low-post player who will upgrade any frontline with his astute rebounding ability. 

Tony Parker

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    Great centers are hard to come by, which is why many of college basketball’s blue bloods have put the full-court press on 6’9” big man Tony Parker, out of Georgia.

    According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Parker still is considering seven schools, including Duke, Ohio State, UCLA and the nearby University of Georgia. The AJC also pointed out that Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils are the favorite to land Parker.

    Parker’s parents, Virgil and Hazel, seem sold on Duke, according to a telling feature piece from ESPN.com’s Jason Jordan. But in that same piece, Parker himself notes that when it comes to big men, Duke has fallen short in helping them thrive at the next level.

    So maybe that opens the door for Ohio State, who now has to replace NBA-bound center Jared Sullinger. Either way, Parker is scheduled to make his decision by mid-April.

Amile Jefferson

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    Duke is also in the running to land another elite prospect, and he goes by the name of Amile Jefferson. Out of the Philadelphia area, Jefferson has the makings of a great power forward.

    At 6'8'', Jefferson can bang down low with the best of them and can occasionally step outside to bury a mid-range jumper. With the benefit of a college weight room, you get the sense that Jefferson can eventually become a dominant frontcourt player at the next level.

    Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have long been thought to be the front-runners to land Jefferson, which makes sense. After all, Duke has always had a presence in the City of Brotherly Love.

    They lured former Duke star Gerald Henderson out of Philly, and Kobe Bryant would’ve been a Blue Devil had he attended college. But now it appears that another team of blue is in serious contention to attract Jefferson: Kentucky.

    If you don’t believe me, just ask Garrett Tucker over at nationofblue.com. According to him, prominent Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne is gaining more influence over Jefferson as the days towards the spring signing progress.

    With that said, expect Jefferson to don the blue of either Duke or Kentucky in the fall.

Robert Upshaw

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    Prized center Robert Upshaw out of Fresno, CA was expected to play for Frank Martin and the Kansas State Wildcats. But with Martin leaving for South Carolina, Upshaw is back on the recruiting market.

    According to the Fresno Bee, Upshaw is primarily considering three universities (Fresno State, Georgetown and Louisville), while K-State is still slightly in the running. It’s still tough to say who will sign the seven-foot center out of San Joaquin.

    Big East members Georgetown and Louisville both offer a lot. The former has a great reputation for developing big men, while the latter is coming off of an impressive Final Four appearance.

    Still, don’t be surprised if Fresno State pulls off a major recruiting coup and keeps Upshaw in the city. If that happens, that could shift the balance of power within the West Coast Conference for the next couple of years.

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