College Basketball Recruiting: Top Players Yet to Decide and Where They'll Go

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2012

College Basketball Recruiting: Top Players Yet to Decide and Where They'll Go

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    Seven of the top 10 recruiting prospects on the ESPN 100 have yet to decide which program they will play for in 2013. That includes the No. 1 prospect on all boards, Jabari Parker—not to mention Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Gordon and Austin Nichols.

    That's quite a list of extremely talented players still on the open market. And there isn't a lot to go on, other than rumors and speculation, but I didn't just wipe the dust off my crystal ball for nothing.

    The time is getting near, and at least some of those players will be making their choice. The first cuts have been made, and these prospects are slowly whittling their selections through in-home, official and unofficial visits.

    The hounds must be drooling with anticipation.

    The early signing period begins on Nov. 14, but we may get at least a few verbal commitments—at least from the players that plan to commit this fall. Others will be waiting until spring, after they play their senior seasons and get to see where their potential programs are headed.

    Let the speculation begin.

Jabari Parker

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    ESPN 100: No. 1
    Scout.com: No. 1
    Rivals150: No. 2

    Folks are high on Jabari Parker, and with good reason. The young prospect has game all over the hardwood. He blocks shots, steals, rebounds well at his position, is an excellent passer and a smooth operator when he wants to take it to the hole or put it in someone's eye.

    These are the things that have him hyped by many to be "the best prospect since LeBron James." Don't confuse that with being the next LeBron, though.

    Though I have compared him as a mix of Kobe Bryant's smoothness with LeBron's all-around game, I think the more fair comparison would be Tracy McGrady in his prime. They have a similar build, and McGrady got it done on both ends of the floor.

    But enough about comparisons and hype. Where will he be playing in 2013?

    On July 11, Parker cut down the massive list of schools that were vying for his services to "just" 10 with this tweet:

    UK, Stanford, michigan state, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, Depaul, UNC. No order.

    — Jabari Parker (@JabariParker22) July 11, 2012

    Parker recently took an unofficial visit to BYU and his second unofficial to Stanford. But according to the rumor mill, Michigan State and Duke are at the top of his list, with Kansas trailing closely behind.

    I find this very interesting, as I think back to my article on him cutting his list. A Bleacher Report community member, Nick Masters, made what could be a very astute observation.

    If you look at his tweet, every school was capitalized except Michigan State. Is it a clue or is it a typo? If it were a typo, you would think at least "Michigan" or "State" would be capitalized, but neither of them are.

    I know, I know. It is a stretch, but let's face it—it's every bit as relevant as any other "clues" we have. And a couple months later, MSU is considered one of his top three?

    It may not be much, but get used to it. This is simply guess work on all of these prospects, as they haven't given us much to go on themselves.

    Parker would like to make his decision in November, but he could wait until spring if he isn't set on a program.

    My pick here is Michigan State.

Harrison Twins

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    ESPN 100: No. 2 (Andrew), No. 4 (Aaron)
    Scout.com: No. 2 (Andrew), No. 3 (Aaron)
    Rivals150: No. 3 (Aaron), No. 4 (Andrew)

    The stellar twin guards of Andrew and Aaron Harrison are going to school together, which is why they only get one slide. The twins will be a package deal and they are considering Baylor, Kentucky, Maryland, SMU and Villanova.

    Andrew is the top-ranked point guard, and stands at 6'5" and 210 pounds—big enough to play shooting guard and dominate at point. There are very few flaws in his game, as he is a quality defender with a complete offensive game.

    His brother Aaron's game is much like his twin brother's, but his mentality is to put up treys and score at will. Andrew has five pounds on him and is considered the more versatile of the pair, which is why he currently holds bragging rights over Aaron on two of the three rankings.

    The Harrison twins have announced they plan to make their decision on Oct. 29. They are currently working on setting up some September visits and will at least be visiting SMU and Maryland.

    After picking up Xavier transfer Dez Wells, I can see Maryland having a shot, but I still think it's a long one.

    Take another look at their list and tell me which school you would pick if you and your twin were top prospects. Would it be Baylor, Maryland, SMU, Villanova or Kentucky?

    I'm not feeling these two settling for anything less than the best. I'm placing my bets on Jon Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Julius Randle

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    ESPN 100: No. 3
    Scout.com: No. 4
    Rivals150: No. 1

    While Jabari Parker is ranked No. 1 in two of the three rankings, Julius Randle is widely considered the most dominant player of his class. I've openly admitted I am on that train, too.

    The power forward out of Texas is man-child, listed at 6'9" and 225 pounds—though I feel he is closer to the 235-pound range. He physically dominates opponents on the court and excels at just about every facet of the game.

    If an opponent plays off of him, he can bury a jumper as far out as the three-point line. If they want to play him close, they'll be riding the Randle train all the way to the rim. A physical specimen that gets it done all over the floor, he may actually be the closer comparison to LeBron James.

    Like Parker, Julius Randle cut down his list to 10 schools last month. The remaining candidates are Texas, Kansas, Baylor, UNC, Duke, Kentucky, Florida, NC State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

    From September 9-22, Randle is set for in-home visits from each of the 10 schools on his list.

    Texas and Baylor may be in his home state, but I don't think that's where he will be headed. I think we can go ahead and cross off Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Florida, too.

    I truly feel UNC, Duke, NC State and Kentucky are his top choices. That's three ACC schools and Kentucky. Back in July, I listed Randle's top five destinations, and all five made the latest cut.

    In that article, I guaranteed his destination state would be North Carolina, and I was leaning heavily toward NC State in that scenario. He's mentioned on several occasions that he is tight with Rodney Purvis (subscription required) and likes what Mark Gottfried has done with the program.

    He has also expressed how fond he is of Roy Williams and his system—not to mention his love for the school colors.

    "They get out-in transition—I love to run—high pressure defense, and you can just tell by the way they play, their style is fun. And plus, North Carolina blue is a beautiful color,” he said in an interview with Five Star Basketball.

    Julius Randle's position is very hard to speculate, as he has had great things to say about each of the four programs I mentioned. However, there has been a lot more in the way of NC State and North Carolina, and I really feel it will be between those two schools.

    I previously indicated NC State would be the one, but my crystal ball just turned Carolina Blue. Look for Randle to land in Chapel Hill.

James Young

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    ESPN 100: No. 5
    Scout.com:
    No. 8
    Rivals150: No. 8

    While he may not get the exposure of Aaron Harrison, James Young is a very talented shooting guard with a high basketball IQ. He also has excellent size at the 2, standing at 6'6" and 210 pounds.

    The only strike against this young man is his lack of killer instinct. He has all the tools to take over the game on his own but doesn't maintain that mentality throughout the game. At the same time, he looks to get his teammates involved—and there is nothing wrong with that.

    He has received offers from nine different programs, but it appears there may only be four on his mind.

    In an interview with Adam Zagoria, Young's former AAU coach indicated that the prospect's top four schools are Kentucky, Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas. Coach Williamson also revealed that we can expect a decision on those teams in November.

    There is a chance Young waits until spring, but he is more likely to commit early.

    Much like the other recruits, James Young hasn't given us much to go on. These kids do a great job of keeping it on the low, which is very frustrating for those of us in my line of work.

    I'm highly favoring Kentucky for James Young. That's where a lot of people thought he would go from the jump. However, I have the Harrison twins going to Kentucky.

    While that is a perfect fit for someone that has aspirations of being a one-and-done—which is his plan, according to Coach Williamson—how much playing time would he get with Aaron Harrison in his way?

    I'm going out on a limb and saying Tom Izzo manages to snatch him up, too. He and Parker would be a perfect fit together at the 2 and 3 positions. This could be wise for all parties involved.

Aaron Gordon

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    ESPN 100: No. 6
    Scout.com: No. 5
    Rivals150: No. 5

    Aaron Gordon is a very special player at the power forward position and has received many comparisons to Blake Griffin. This is probably the most accurate comparison of all the prospects.

    Gordon is relentless in the paint, snatching rebounds, blocking shots and laying down thunderous dunks. And like Griffin, he also isn't much of a shooter at this stage of his career.

    It's almost a flawless comparison in my book.

    Nine schools have made offers at this point, and he has yet to make an official cut. So far, he has made an unofficial visit to Cal and is set to have in-home visits with Kentucky and Arizona on Sept. 10. He is also working on visits with Kansas, Washington and Oregon at this time.

    However, the California native may already have his mind set to stay in his home state.

    Gordon has been considering Cal, and their latest recruit may have just tipped the scales. Fellow Californian Jabari Bird just committed to Cal on Wednesday, and the two have thought about making it a package deal.

    "Right now those two visits we will take together," Bird told 247sports. "I don't know how to put it, but we aren't a package deal, but we are. Don't be shocked to see us both play at the same college. It isn't a required thing, but we like all the same schools."

    The stars are lining up for Cal, but will they capitalize on the moment? Kentucky, Arizona, Washington, Kansas and Oregon may have something to say about that.

    The odds may not be in Cal's favor, with the announcement of Aaron Gordon's five official visits, but you can't win big if you don't bet against the odds. For now, I'm sticking with Cal.

Austin Nichols

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    ESPN 100: No. 10
    Scout.com: No. 47 (they're off their rocker)
    Rivals.com: No. 17

    While Austin Nichols is a late-comer to the top 10 of the ESPN 100—and has yet to get there in the other two rankings—he is a superior power forward. His play this summer earned him recognition from the ESPN scouts for a reason.

    Would you consider Tyler or Cody Zeller a top-10 player? If you do, then there is no reason to think otherwise with Austin Nichols. His game is almost an exact clone of the Zeller brothers.

    Nichols is shorter, at 6'8", but he has a solid mid-range game, a nice hook and runs the floor with the best of them. He is also an excellent free-throw shooter, which is always nice to see from the 4.

    As of now, he has planned visits with Memphis, Duke, Tennessee, Virginia and Vanderbilt.

    With the indications he has made toward staying in his home state of Tennessee, it's tough to think he will be going anywhere else.

    “Of course staying close to my family,” Nichols said in an interview with Inside Carolina's Alex Schwartz (subscription required). “They’re there when I need somebody to talk to; I can go talk to them. If I decide to stay close to home, I could talk to them pretty much every day.”

    He has also mentioned staying close to his family on numerous other occasions and even left the USA Basketball U-18 team over homesickness, as I laid out in my article on Nichols cutting his list.

    Trust me, it's between Memphis and Tennessee. Small forward Nick King just recently committed to Memphis, and that could be another potential pairing, though neither has indicated such. Their skills and positions just fit together.

    Personally, I think he should take Memphis, and that's where I have him going.