Indiana Basketball Recruiting: Analyzing Hoosiers' Chances to Land Jaquan Lyle
One week ago, five-star point guard JaQuan Lyle of Evansville (Ind.) Bosse High School trimmed his list of potential college destinations to four. Indiana, Tennessee, Florida and defending national champion Louisville are the chosen quartet.
At first glance, these programs have the feel of "one of these things is not like the other," but each have strengths and weaknesses in regards to their chances of landing Lyle.
Indiana fans can feel good about their chances, but the decision is by no means a slam dunk. Let's examine each team's pros and cons, presenting the schools in alphabetical order.
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A former point guard himself, Gators coach Billy Donovan knows a little something about coaching the position. He has led his share of playmakers who were given free reign over the offense and carved out solid college careers in the process. Names like Jason "White Chocolate" Williams, Taurean Green, Nick Calathes and Erving Walker.
The Gators are also entering a rich vein of recruiting, with the 2013 class highlighted by top-10 prospects Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. Lyle could potentially team with a pair of All-Americans as a freshman, should both stay for a second year (and if Walker's eligibility can get worked out in time).
Both of those advantages, strong as they are, could easily work against the Gators as they seek Lyle's services.
While Donovan can coach productive college point guards, Williams was the only one of the aforementioned names to produce in the NBA. Donovan has turned out many more pro forwards than guards, though he's been able to land blue-chip studs at every position. Raise your hand if you foresee former top-15 recruit Kenny Boynton being a long-term NBA prospect.
Now, Hill could change Donovan's fortunes in that regard, but he's also more likely than Walker to return as a sophomore. That would put him on the same depth chart with Lyle. Since Lyle stands 6'5" to Hill's 6'1", Lyle could start at a wing position, showing off combo guard skills.
In that scenario, though, Lyle's development as a point guard will be dependent on Hill's. If Hill is a three- or four-year player, Lyle will miss out on time to show the scouts that he can run an offense.
Finally, there's distance. Lyle told CBS Sports that UCLA was dropped from his list because Los Angeles was too far away for his mother and grandmother to travel to watch him play. Gainesville is a drive of nearly 11 hours from Evansville.
Donovan will need to sell ice to an Eskimo if he's going to talk Mom and Grandma into blessing JaQuan to play for Florida.
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Lyle is an Indiana prospect at a time when Cody Zeller and Yogi Ferrell made it cool for in-state stars to become Hoosiers again. Players can get excited about developing into pros like Zeller and Victor Oladipo, while their families can rest assured that their son's education will be a point of emphasis as well.
Speaking of families, if we consult the Grandma Proximity Scale (GPS for short), the Hoosiers rank well there. Bloomington is 120 miles and just over two hours from Evansville. Mom and Grandma can go watch a weeknight game and be home right around midnight, if they so choose.
Lyle has already singled out IU coach Tom Crean and Louisville's Rick Pitino as the coaches with whom he's cultivated the best relationship during his recruitment. Crean beat everyone else to the punch, offering Lyle his first scholarship in late 2010.
AAU teammate James Blackmon Jr. is already holding down a spot in Indiana's 2014 class, and he's not shy about trying to woo Lyle to join him. Chemistry would not be a concern for that backcourt tandem.
It is possible, but not very likely, that Ferrell will be a pro prospect after his sophomore season. More likely is a scenario similar to Florida's, in which Lyle competes for a position off the ball until Ferrell moves on. The difference is that Ferrell will be a junior when Lyle would arrive, as opposed to Kasey Hill being only a sophomore.
IU has a lot of other irons in the 2014 combo-guard fire and only one scholarship to offer before veterans need to be pruned. The likes of Dante Exum (Australia), Ahmed Hill (Augusta, Ga.) and Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, Fla.) aren't rated quite as highly as Lyle, but one of them jumping the line and committing early would herald some tough decisions for Crean down the road.
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The celebration pictured here is of a national championship. Of these four schools, Louisville is the only one to even make a Final Four since Lyle was in the sixth grade.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Lyle enjoyed a visit to Louisville in early June. Perhaps just as importantly, so did his mom. “She liked it a lot," Lyle said. "Coach (Rick) Pitino and (assistant) coach (Kevin) Keatts showed us a great time. It was a great visit.”
The player himself has made multiple visits to campus and speaks very highly of both Pitino and Keatts. “That’s my guy," the C-J quoted Lyle on Keatts. "I can talk to him about anything. If it’s not basketball, just anything. It’s real (good) being comfortable with a school, but I’m just going to wait it out and take my time.”
Plugging U of L into the previously mentioned GPS shows that the trip to Louisville is actually about 10 minutes faster than the one to Bloomington, give or take traffic. Perhaps Lyle's mother and grandmother would have time to stop for a bite on the way home from a Cardinals game.
Louisville already has a foothold in the 2014 point guard rankings, landing local top-10 prospect Quentin Snider. That's in addition to this year's incoming guard prospects, Terry Rozier and Anton Gill.
Also, Kevin Ware, juco transfer Chris Jones and possibly Wayne Blackshear will be seniors by then. Thus, Lyle committing to Louisville will further crowd an already loaded backcourt.
Pitino's Louisville tenure, while heavy on wins and now adding some bling, has produced precious few NBA talents. Francisco Garcia is the only Pitino-era Cardinal to reach 400 NBA games, or slightly less than five full seasons. Before him, we have to go back to the likes of Samaki Walker, Felton Spencer and Pervis Ellison, all of whom were drafted before Lyle was born.
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Much like his professed respect for Louisville's coaching staff, Lyle has nothing but praise for Tennessee boss Cuonzo Martin and assistant Tracy Webster. "I love those two guys," he said in CBS Sports' report of his announcement. "I think it's a great program. I think I fit in real well."
Another big nugget for the Vols in that report was the mention that Lyle will take an unofficial visit to Knoxville June 22 for the school's Elite Camp. This will mark his second trip to said camp, and he also visited to watch the Vols' 88-58 humiliation of Kentucky in the Cats' first game without Nerlens Noel.
With the women in Lyle's life being an integral part of his recruitment decision, look for Vol fans to cling to a hope that Mom and Grandma will be swayed by Martin projecting a cleaner image than Rick Pitino. The words "Italian restaurant" will fly around message boards like mosquitoes.
UT's successful recruitment of 2013 guard Robert Hubbs could present an incentive for Lyle to come to Knoxville and play distributor next to a potential All-SEC performer. There would be very little chance Lyle would have to fight with other touted recruits for minutes.
The GPS shows us that Knoxville is about a five-hour drive from Evansville, which could be a haul for Lyle's mother and grandmother.
When stacked up against the other coaches on Lyle's list, Martin is a complete neophyte, without even an NCAA tournament bid on his resume, let alone a Final Four or championship. Tennessee's basketball tradition is equally barren in comparison.
Courtesy of 247 Sports
This slide contains how this writer would rank Lyle's candidates. Feel free to discuss in the comments.
--The combination of in-state geography, a connection to an AAU teammate and the Hoosiers' resurgence both athletically and academically adds up to a tough sales job for the other three coaches.
--Lyle can be a program-changing recruit for Cuonzo Martin. If Jarnell Stokes stays for one more season, a nucleus of Stokes-Hubbs-Lyle could propel the Vols to lofty national status.
--Lyle has the ability to play multiple positions, which may mitigate the overloading in the backcourt. Still, he'll have a lot of other talented prospects to battle for minutes and shots.
--On Inside the Hall's video of Lyle discussing his final four, he nearly forgets Florida altogether. If he wants his mom and grandma to be frequent presences at his games, the Gainesville commute will be a rough one.