College Basketball Recruiting: Most Surprising Decisions from 2014 Class
It may seem like the nation’s best college basketball prospects end up at Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina every year, but there are always surprises in the world of recruiting.
Early returns in the 2014 recruiting cycle have already provided us with some “upsets,” if you will. Sure, the usual suspects will be on top of the rankings come national signing day, but some of the nation’s top players will be spreading their talents around.
Read on to see some of the most surprising decisions thus far for the 2014 class.
Emmanuel Mudiay Chooses SMU
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
We all knew that Hall of Famer Larry Brown would shake up things at SMU, but how many expected him to land consensus 5-star studs like Emmanuel Mudiay so quickly?
Depending on your recruiting service of choice, Mudiay was considered one of (if not the) best prospects in the class of 2014. He has the talent to play anywhere in the country and contribute immediately, and received looks from Kentucky and Kansas, among others.
The Texas native elected to stay close to home and could jump-start some recruiting momentum for Brown and the Mustangs. The program hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1993, but if it lands another player or two of Mudiay’s caliber, postseason appearances will certainly follow.
Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones: Package Deal
USA TODAY Sports
Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones as a package deal isn’t a sure thing until both sign on the dotted line come national signing day, but every recruiting update makes it seem more likely that this is going to become a reality.
Package deals are certainly not unheard of when it comes to recruiting, but two prospects of Okafor and Jones’ caliber rarely are so public about their desire to play together. You would have to go back to Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. to find arguably the top center and point guard recruits joining forces like this.
Duke seems to be the favorite right now, but don’t count out John Calipari and Kentucky. Clearly, the destination won’t be unexpected if they end up as Blue Devils or Wildcats, but the fact that they are sticking to their commitment to play together through this whole process is surprising.
Ohio State Struggling to Land a Big Man
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
Perhaps only North Carolina has gotten off to a better start than Thad Matta and Ohio State in the 2014 recruiting cycle.
The Buckeyes have already brought four prospects in, three of which are expected to contribute right away as impact players. However, the Scarlet and Gray have had one goal the past few months on the recruiting trail, and they continue to strike out.
Matta wants desperately to add a big man to round out this class, and offered the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Elbert Robinson, Myles Turner and Goodluck Okonoboh. At one time or another it seemed like the Buckeyes had a good chance to land each of these players, but each one looks like a long shot now.
Robinson and Okonoboh already spurned Ohio State for LSU and UNLV, respectively (would you go to Vegas if your name was Goodluck?), and Turner and Okafor appear to be heading elsewhere.
Considering Ohio State’s early momentum in the recruiting cycle, this combination of decisions that will seemingly leave it without a big man is somewhat surprising.
Isaiah Whitehead Chooses Seton Hall
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The Big East still has plenty of talented teams in it after the dust settled on conference realignment, but it certainly isn’t the juggernaut it once was with the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Louisville.
That means the door is open for programs like Seton Hall to make some noise. The best way to do so long term is by establishing itself on the recruiting trail, and with Isaiah Whitehead’s surprising decision to join the Pirates, Seton Hall is doing just that.
He is an impact scorer who can drive past defenders or post up smaller opponents and finish through contact. He can also hit from the perimeter and is a solid passer and ball handler.
Whitehead may have been the most surprising decision regarding Seton Hall thus far, but the Pirates have already landed four prospects and have one of the best classes in the country. Perhaps a return to the NCAA tournament is in the cards.
Chris Egi Chooses Harvard
photo courtesy of 247sports.com
Make all the jokes you want about the Harvard athletic department, but the basketball program landed a premier impact player in Chris Egi already with national signing day still in the distant future.
Tommy Amaker may have the Crimson poised to return to the NCAA tournament if he continues to recruit at a high level. Along with Egi, guard Andre Chatfield is also part of the 2014 class.
But it is Egi, a native of Canada, that should make the biggest impact early on. He is the type of stretch forward that is becoming all the rage at the collegiate level and should be able to score from both inside and outside the paint. He will open up the floor for his teammates as well if he attracts extra attention from opposing defenses.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.