Ranking the 10 Biggest NCAA Basketball Recruiting Busts in the Past Decade
It's hard to have success as a coach in college basketball without being a good recruiter. The teams that generally are at the top of the polls and that make deep runs in the NCAA tournament have been effective at reeling in talented players to stock their rosters.
Unfortunately, recruiting is an inexact science. It's not easy to identify high school talent that will translate to the next level.
Here is a look at the 10 biggest NCAA basketball recruiting busts in the last 10 years. There are a lot of definitions for busts. Some left school early. Some transferred, hoping that they would do better at the next stop. Others just didn't get the job done.
10. Tony Parker (UCLA)
Tony Parker was supposed to give the UCLA Bruins a dominating big man on this last year’s team. He was coming in with a big frame (6’9” and 275 pounds) and a big game. The first half of that is true, but his freshman year fell far short of expectations.
He averaged 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. He was so limited by his inadequate conditioning that he rarely played double-figure minutes. He went scoreless and without a rebound in 13 games.
Hopefully, with a new coach, Steve Alford, taking over in Westwood, Parker can get a fresh start and a new lease on a college basketball career.
9. Cameron Ridley (Texas)
It could be premature to list someone on a recruiting bust list after their freshman season. But Texas head coach Rick Barnes surely was hoping for more from McDonald’s All American Cameron Ridley’s first year in Austin. Rather than getting a force in the middle, all Barnes got was a frustrating Longhorn letdown. Ridley was listed as No. 8 (five-stars) in ESPN.com’s Top 100 for the 2012 recruiting class.
He was supposed to have well-developed post skills and an ability to clean the glass on both ends. Instead, the 6’9” and 270-pound center struggled to even stay on the court for very long. In the last 10 games of the season, Ridley averaged 2.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12 minutes per outing.
Even though Ridley takes it strong to the hole, he struggled tremendously in making his free throws. On the year, he made 28-of-84 for a frigid 33.3 percent.
UT needs Ridley to work tirelessly in the offseason on his conditioning and find a way to get back the edge that made him an elite national recruiting target for Arizona and North Carolina, as well as Texas.
8. Josh Hairston (Duke)
When Josh Hairston chose to go to Duke, he was projected as a top-level player that would enjoy a dynamic college hoops career in Durham. After all, Hairston was a Top 20 recruit in the Class of 2010 and a third team Parade All-American. He also had an extensive USA Basketball resume. Everything was in order.
However, his time on the Blue Devils’ roster has not been so favorable. In his first three seasons playing for Coach K, Hairston has never averaged more than 2.7 points or 2.1 rebounds per game. Even when a starting position has temporarily opened up because of an injury, Hairston has not been able to elevate his game to take full advantage of the prime opportunity.
Next year, Duke needs to answer some questions about who’s going to do some of the dirty work down low with the departures of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Once again, Hairston may not be up to the challenge of filling that role.
7. Keith "Tiny" Gallon (Oklahoma)
Keith "Tiny" Gallon arrived in Norman with a large frame (6’9” 300 pounds) and lots of talent. He was not only able to battle underneath the boards, but he had the skills to handle the ball and step outside to knock down some jumpers too.
As a freshman, Gallon led the Sooners in rebounding (7.9 RPG) as well as putting up 10.3 points per night. Because of his obvious competence on the court, Gallon’s OU future looked positive and upbeat.
But, following the 2009-10 season, the NCAA discovered that Gallon had received an unsanctioned payment of $3,000 from a sports agent. Gallon had already stated that he would be returning to Norman for his sophomore season when the allegations came out. Shortly after this, he announced that he would enter the 2010 NBA draft.
These turn of events led to a stunting of Gallon’s development. Even though he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the middle of the second round, he was released before the beginning of what would have been his first season in the Association. Since then, Gallon has bounced around a variety of teams in the NBA-Development League.
6. Keith Brumbaugh (Oklahoma State)
Keith Brumbaugh was a 5-star recruit in the Class of 2005, listed as No. 14 overall and headed for Oklahoma State. He was ranked right up there with Tyler Hansbrough, who was the No. 10 player in ’05. Brumbaugh was known as a player who relentlessly attacked the basket and was a beast on the boards.
Unfortunately, before he ever laced ‘em up for the Cowboys, Brumbaugh self-destructed. Clark Matthews of thelostogle.com recounted his demise:
“Brumbaugh was arrested shoplifting at the Stillwater WalMart. Then, it came to light that the ACT score that made Keith eligible to play had improved significantly over the other efforts he had made on the test. Unsurprisingly, the NCAA ruled him ineligible and Mr. Basketball was exiled to junior college.”
The Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Harry took the story one step further when he said that, “Brumbaugh was arrested six times over a 26-month span that had him serve two jail sentences.”
Brumbaugh eventually played very well at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa but was never able to turn that into an NBA gig. Like many he bounced around overseas, finding it hard to stick anywhere for very long.
Brumbaugh's story is an all-too-common tragedy because he just couldn't seem to get it going in the right direction for very long.
5. Ater Majok (UConn)
Ater Majok is truly an international player. He was born in the Sudan, moved to Australia, before coming to the U.S. to play college basketball at UConn. He was rated No. 13 in the recruiting class of 2008 (one place ahead of Kemba Walker). He came to Storrs to elevate his game and move on to play professionally.
According to Majok’s Wikipedia page, he redshirted in 2008-09 “because he was not cleared to play by the NCAA.” When he finally became eligible, the 6’10” forward played 26 games and only averaged 2.3 points and 3 rebounds per game.
But, strangely enough, Majok who did virtually nothing as a Huskie, was drafted in the second round by the Lakers in the 2011 NBA draft. Bizarre.
Since then, he has played in Turkey, Australia, Slovakia and most recently in Belarus.
4. J'Mison Morgan (UCLA/Baylor)
When J'Mison Morgan came out of high school, he was supposed to be a collegiate hoops star. As the No. 26 overall player in the recruiting class of 2008, nearly everyone thought he would help UCLA challenge for more national championships. At 6’10 and 275 pounds, Morgan had all of the tools to be a dominant low-post animal.
However, this was all on paper. The reality was that Morgan never did much dominating in a Bruins’ uniform. In fact, he barely got off the bench in his two years playing in Westwood. In those two seasons, he scored a total of 84 points and only grabbed 45 rebounds.
Morgan also had issues that extended beyond basketball. An AP release indicated that during his sophomore season, Morgan was dismissed from the team after a series of issues that included a suspension for missing a team meeting.
Morgan looked to get a fresh start closer to his Dallas home by transferring to Baylor. But, this move didn’t change much. Morgan still struggled on and off the court. After playing just one game this past season, Morgan was dismissed from the Baylor team for “violating an unspecified university policy.”
3. Josh Smith (UCLA/Georgetown)
From the time that Josh Smith signed with UCLA during his senior year in high school, Bruins’ fans everywhere dreamed of banners being hoisted and glory days returning to Westwood. It could have been just a good expression of “coach-speak,” but when the McDonald’s All-American's college decision was announced, (then) head coach Ben Howland said that Smith had a “very bright future ahead of him and he'll make an immediate impact at UCLA.”
Actually, Smith had a productive start to his collegiate career, putting up 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for his freshman season. But, even then, Smith’s playing time and output were limited by his poor conditioning.
In coming back for his sophomore season, Smith’s weight went up and his stats went down. Sportingnews.com’s Mike DeCourcy commented that Smith has lots of talent that is “being wasted by a player who not only could help his team to excel but could build himself a nice future in the NBA if only he’d take conditioning seriously.”
After a dismal start to his junior season, Smith left the team after six games. He has since transferred to Georgetown, hoping for a fresh start. Maybe John Thompson III can help this Kent, Wa. native to pull it all together and finish what was supposed to be a vibrant career with some measure of accomplishment.
2. Josiah Turner (Arizona)
Coming out of high school, Josiah Turner was supposed to be the next great PG at Point Guard U. He was the No. 15 player in ESPN.com’s Class of 2011 Top 100. He had established himself nationally as a dynamic scoring PG who was going to explode onto the college hoops scene. Instead, Turner never really got on track in Tucson.
In his freshman season, he had almost as many turnovers (64) as assists (71) and only scored 6.8 points per game. Turner was suspended for an early season game and held out of another. But, his one and only season playing for Arizona came to an undesirable close. Turner was suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules right before the Pac 12 tournament and not allowed to travel with the team.
Initially, Turner’s plan was to transfer to SMU and play for Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. But, after a change of heart, Turner decided to pursue playing overseas instead of staying in college. His initial stop was playing for a Hungarian team in Romania. At one point this past January, Turner was on a Canadian pro team in Halifax.
Unfortunately for him, he does not appear to be on a path that remotely looks like it is headed towards the NBA any time soon.
1. Renardo Sidney (Mississippi State)
Renardo Sidney was talked about as much or more than just about any high school player in the last decade. The New York Times’ Tommy Craggs called Sidney "The Next Big Thing" and said that he was a “nationally known quantity since before his eighth-grade year in Jackson, Miss., where his middle school charged $3 admission to his games.” He also indicated that “Sidney was considered the best player in America in his class by the time he reached high school.”
Sidney’s questionable recruitment had plenty of twists and turns, and was well documented and highly debated. In the end, he had more schools backing away from recruiting him than those who wanted him. He was listed as the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2009, and ended up going back home and attending Mississippi State.
Once in Starkville, Sidney had an uneven playing career that spanned three disappointing years. His MSU bio stated that he “lost his entire freshman year of eligibility due to an NCAA suspension.” When he finally got on the court as a sophomore, Sidney averaged a respectable 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. But, as a junior, Sidney regressed and only put up 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest.
Those aren’t horrible numbers, but because of all of the hype and all of the buildup, Sidney’s two years of playing for the Bulldogs can be labeled nothing but a letdown.