NCAA Basketball Recruiting: Under-the-Radar Players Set for Huge 2014 Seasons
In most years, the top eight or nine prospects of a recruiting class get a massive percentage of the hype and hysteria.
Beyond these outstanding newcomers, there is another group of lesser-touted recruits who could blow up too.
Here are 10 new under-the-radar players set for huge 2013-14 seasons. These players didn't get nearly the amount of media attention and exposure as the above-mentioned individuals, but they could have a huge impact on next season's polls, standings and tournaments.
Ishmail Wainright (Baylor)
Ishmail Wainright is a super-sturdy (6’6”, 220 pounds) SF who brings explosiveness and athleticism every time he steps on the court. He ferociously attacks the rim and finishes well even after contact.
Blue Devil Nation’s Andrew Slater described Ish as being “blessed with the imposing presence of a hungry pit bull” who has “built his reputation on toughness at both ends of the court.”
Wainright will have the chance to be a dynamic part of an imposing Baylor front line that includes Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and Dominic Woodson. That’s not even including possible lottery pick Isaiah Austin, who at the time of publishing this article was still undecided on whether he will enter the NBA draft.
Keith Frazier (SMU)
To put SMU basketball back on the college hoops map, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown needed a top-level recruit to come to Dallas.
Keith Frazier didn’t have to come to the Big D. He was already here. The hometown hooper gives the Mustangs a legitimate backcourt scorer who could carry them a long ways. At various times throughout his high school playing days, Frazier was in the conversation for who was the best SG in the class of 2013.
Frazier has great length (6’5”, 190 pounds) that will cause matchup nightmares for opponents. His shooting range goes well beyond the arc.
He could be this year’s version of Ben McLemore.
Eric Mika (BYU)
Eric Mika is ready to battle under the boards at BYU. He has the size (6’9”, 220 pounds) to dish it out and take it and the frame to add even more muscle and mass.
He is a hard-working post player with a great motor. He competes from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
BYU head coach Dave Rose stated that Mika was:
A perfect fit for how we play at BYU. He has the ability to run the floor, attack the rim and score with his back to the basket. These attributes combined with his great work ethic and his fierce competitiveness will be key to his growth as an individual and the future success and growth of our program.
With the graduation loss of Brandon Davies, the Cougars will need to replace a good-sized chunk of their rebounding, as well as interior defense and scoring. Mika is prepared to take on that challenge.
Jermaine Lawrence (Cincinnati)
Jermaine Lawrence may be one of the more versatile PFs in the 2013 recruiting class. He has the agility and athleticism of a guard, with a surprising shooting touch from beyond the arc.
ESPN’s scouting report on Lawrence says:
[He] is a high level athlete who gets his head on the rim with ease and covers the court with fluid mobility and agility. He's a major weapon when getting out to run lanes in transition but has also developed a lethal half-court skill package as well.
With a new contract extension in place, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin must be eager for next season to begin. Putting Lawrence alongside leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick could be a dynamic duo that puts the Bearcats back into the Top 25.
Rysheed Jordan (St. John's)
Rysheed Jordan does not back down from anyone or anything. He is a long (6’3”, 180 pounds) and strong PG from Philly who loves to get into the paint and explode to the rim. Jordan is a “north-and-south” guy, wasting little energy going laterally on the perimeter.
Jordan’s game is multi-dimensional. He not only put up big scoring numbers as a senior (24.8 points per game), but he also grabbed 6.1 rebounds per outing.
Jordan should have a solid opportunity to come in and instantly earn the PG role at St. John’s. Last season, the Red Storm did not have anyone who averaged three assists per game, and their assists leader was Sir'Dominic Pointer, a 6’5” wing who only handed out 2.8 APG.
Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington)
Nigel Williams-Goss is another PG with size (6’3”, 180 pounds) who loves to create while on the move. He has excellent court vision, makes good decisions with the ball and is a first-rate distributor.
Williams-Goss made a good showing at this year’s McDonald's All-American game, scoring 10 points, handing out six assists and blocking two shots.
NWG’s years at Findlay Prep have prepared him to be able to step right into the Pac-12 and be a factor for Lorenzo Romar at Washington. With the departure of Abdul Gaddy, the Huskies need Williams-Goss to take charge from day one. His leadership may be as important as his stat line.
Austin Nichols (Memphis)
Austin Nichols may be one of the most fundamentally sound post players in the 2013 recruiting class. He has exceptional footwork, keeps the ball in a productive pocket and has strong back-to-the-basket moves. ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep said (h/t to The Duke Chronicle’s Brady Buck) Nichols “has a gift inside the lane and runs the floor exceptionally well.”
With the departures of Tarik Black and D.J.Stephens, the Tigers' two top rebounders from the 2012-13 season, Nichols will be counted on to clog the middle and crash the boards.
Jarrell Martin (LSU)
Jarrell Martin has upside written all over his game. He is a long (6’8”, 210) combo forward who can go upstairs to do work above the rim. He can knock down shots from mid-range to beyond the arc.
Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi confirmed that when he said:
[Martin] has a nice shooting stroke that makes him very dangerous in pick-and-pop situations. The LSU signee has a body that allows him to play a physical game in the lane.
Martin is an unselfish leader on the court who doesn’t need to be the focal point of the team’s strategy to make things happen.
Watch out for LSU this coming season. Putting Martin alongside Johnny O'Bryant III, the Tigers’ 6’9”, 265-pound leading scorer and rebounder, will put LSU in position to jump up into the upper tier of the SEC.
Chris Walker (Florida)
Chris Walker is a physical freak. He stands 6’10” and has the skills to play on the perimeter and knock down shots from mid-range and beyond.
Dave Telep, ESPN’s senior national recruiting analyst, is a big CW fan. He says:
Walker is a physical specimen and one of the most athletically gifted players in the class. He's a unique mix of explosion, athleticism and size. There isn't another big in the class with fast-twitch muscles, ability to change ends and be a factor in the paint defensively.
ESPN’s Southeast recruiting analyst Mike LaPlante adds this about Walker:
His face-up ability is a perfect fit for Donovan’s system as the Gators have had a lot of success causing matchup problems for opponents utilizing post players with perimeter skills. He will need to put on some weight and get stronger to handle the physical demands of the college level, but there will be few 6-10 freshmen arriving on any campus next season who can match Walker’s combination of size, skill and athleticism
With Gators monster post man Patric Young returning for his senior season and transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris becoming eligible, the Gators will be positively scary. Now add Walker and his outrageous potential to the Florida roster. Could this be a year when Florida makes a run at another national title?
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona)
Hollis-Jefferson is an outstanding player at both ends of the court. In fact, his ability to shut down PGs through PFs makes him invaluable to the Wildcats as they load up for a deep run in next year’s NCAA tournament.
At 6’7” and 215 pounds, RHJ brings a rugged physicality to his natural SF position. His ball-handling and passing abilities will make him a multi-dimensional contributor to a Wildcats roster that is loaded with weapons.
Hollis-Jefferson made a good showing in the McDonald's All American game, scoring nine points and dishing out two assists. He really gave us a preview of things to come in the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit, when he scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds.