NCAA Basketball Recruiting: 1 School Each Top Uncommitted Player Should Avoid
Elite NCAA bsketball recruits can count on a supply of good teams to join, but not every program is a good fit for every player. Sometimes the issue is talent—too much at the wrong positions or too little—and sometimes it’s a coach whose style won’t mesh with a given prospect’s skill set.
Former UCLA commit Trevon Bluiett, for example, wants to stay close to his Indianapolis home, so Indiana would be an obvious contender for his services. However, compared to other coaches on Bluiett’s list, the Hoosiers’ Tom Crean would make it tougher than anyone for the burly swingman to find playing time.
Read on to see why Bluiett would struggle to keep Crean happy, along with recommendations for programs to pass on for the rest of the 20 most impressive uncommitted prospects in the class of 2014.
20. Zylan Cheatham: New Mexico
Arizona native Zylan Cheatham has a distinct western slant to his list of finalists. Geography notwithstanding, though, the 6’7” point forward would be well advised to stay away from Albuquerque.
The Lobos are a good bet to lose both Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk after this season, leaving them in serious need of scoring.
Cheatham’s iffy jump shot makes him a poor solution to that problem, and without effective scorers to set up, his playmaking chances would be minimized, too.
19. Thomas Welsh: USC
New Trojans coach Andy Enfield loves to have his teams get out and run, as his “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast squad showed last March. As much fun as that style is for many players, though, it would make for an exceptionally bad fit with Thomas Welsh.
At 7’0”, 245 lbs, Welsh is vastly more effective in the half court than scrambling around in transition. His raw athleticism is the least impressive part of his overall game, and that weakness would be magnified by trying to keep up with fleet-footed USC.
18. Joe Burton: Oklahoma
Joe Burton is a good all-around small forward and an improving player, but he’s not the kind of star who can carry a team by himself.
As such, it behooves him to join a team that will already have some other talented players, and Oklahoma has shown little sign of that.
The Sooners are in a rebuilding mode for 2013-14 after losing a brigade of seniors, but there’s not a whole lot of talent for coach Lon Kruger to work with.
Buddy Hield, a competent shooting guard, is the best player likely to be around if Burton comes to Norman, a far cry from playing with Le’Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins at OK State or Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson at Oregon.
17. Jonah Bolden: Michigan
Unless Jonah Bolden enjoys spending a lot of time sitting on the bench, the Wolverines are not the team for him.
In the first place, he’s likely to have at least two years of fighting for minutes with both Nik Stauskas and Zak Irvin, both of whom play his position (small forward) better than he does.
Just as important, the biggest concern about Bolden—an Australian import—is his ability to handle the physicality of the American game at a slender 6’8”, 195 lbs.
Any major conference would be a challenge for Bolden, but the bruising Big Ten would supply more punishment than he's in any position to absorb.
16. Trevon Bluiett: Indiana
Trevon Bluiett is a tremendous offensive weapon with outstanding power for a 6’5” SF. What he’s not, at this stage, is a high-level defender on the perimeter.
Of all the coaches Bluiett might end up playing for, none values defense any higher than Tom Crean.
Worse yet for the Indianapolis native, Crean’s Hoosiers have enough depth on the wings that the coach can afford to sit Bluiett until and unless his D improves.
15. Devin Robinson: Notre Dame
Devin Robinson is going to be fighting for playing time at any of his five finalist schools. At Notre Dame, though, he’d be doing it on a team that has a surprisingly high probability of struggling in the near future.
Although the 2014-15 Irish will have two solid SF candidates to compete with Robinson for minutes—Cameron Biedscheid and V.J. Beachem—the rest of the roster isn’t nearly as strong.
6’6” Bonzie Colson Jr. looks to be the only serious low-post threat, and with the world-class backcourt of Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins set to graduate, Colson won’t be enough muscle to contend in the brutal ACC.
14. Reid Travis: Stanford
Lacking the explosiveness or length of the prototypical one-and-done power forward, Reid Travis has every reason to expect to be in college for several years.
That being the case, it’ll be to his advantage to look for stability at the head coaching spot, and only one of his four finalists is missing that asset.
Johnny Dawkins is entering his sixth year with the Cardinal and has recorded a total of zero NCAA tournament appearances. Barring a radical change in his trajectory, he won’t last as long in Palo Alto as Travis would.
Even Stanford’s wonderful academic record is little help here, considering that Duke is also on Travis’ list.
13. James Blackmon Jr.: Kentucky
Most players hoping to make it to the NBA should try to get to Kentucky at all csots, given John Calipari’s astounding record of producing lottery picks. James Blackmon Jr., on the other hand, has a better shot at a pro career if he starts elsewhere.
Blackmon’s biggest weakness is a lack of size (6’2”, 175 lbs) and athleticism at the 2-guard spot, qualities that will make it tough for him to earn playing time on a Wildcats team that always has plenty of both at any position.
In addition, Blackmon needs to bolster his defense to make himself a viable pro candidate, and Calipari—for all his brilliance as a recruiter—isn’t a particularly effective teacher, especially on that end of the floor.
12. JaQuan Lyle: UConn
Alone among JaQuan Lyle’s four finalists, UConn has an underwhelming frontcourt that shows no signs of improving by the time he arrives.
In his capacity as a point guard, he’ll be able to use his passing skills more effectively if he has better players on the receiving end.
In addition, Lyle would face stiff competition for shots and minutes in Storrs, where he’d be sharing the ball with Ryan Boatright (a PG himself), Omar Calhoun and Daniel Hamilton.
Lastly, the Huskies don’t offer him a chance to play with his friend Cliff Alexander, and while he’s said that’s not a deal-breaker, it certainly doesn’t make UConn any more appealing.
11. Devin Booker: Missouri
Devin Booker is a dangerous jump shooter and passer who excels at reading the defense. As such, he’s much more at home in the half court than in the transition offense favored by all three of the SEC schools (Kentucky, Florida, Missouri) on his list.
Of that trio, Missouri (Booker’s father’s alma mater) is the worst bet for Booker because he’d be on the least talented team.
The Wildcats and Gators are loaded every year, but at Mizzou—coming off an 11-7 SEC finish and slated to lose Earnest Ross after this year—there won’t be the same surplus of shooters for Booker to feed, nor the same talent at PG to feed him.
10. Dante Exum: Georgetown
If Dante Exum plays college basketball at all—and that’s far from guaranteed—the Australian point guard will want a chance to show off his stuff for NBA scouts immediately.
Georgetown, with its Princeton offense, is one of the worst schools in the country for highlighting an individual scoring (or passing) star.
In addition, Hoyas coach John Thompson III is no great fan of the fast break, whereas Exum has blazing speed and shines in transition.
Georgetown’s defensive prowess is no great selling point either, considering that Exum could learn just as well under Tom Crean at Indiana.
9. Justise Winslow: Texas A&M
It’s not all that surprising that Houston native Justise Winslow would have looked hard at Texas A&M, whose College Station campus is just 90 minutes from home.
However, that’s about the only advantage the Aggies can offer to a player of Winslow’s caliber.
In the first place, with offers from the likes of Duke, Kansas and Kentucky, any player would have to wonder whether A&M (coming off a 17-14 season in Billy Kennedy’s first year at the helm) provides anything like the NBA launch pad that the bigger programs do.
Just as crucial, Winslow is most valuable as a glue guy who does a little of everything, where the Aggies need a No. 1 scorer—a role he’s much less suited to filling.
8. Rashad Vaughn: North Carolina
With his wealth of high-level programs to choose from, Rashad Vaughn has no obvious reason to seek out a battle for minutes.
Of the schools still in the running for the 6’6” shooting guard, only one has already recruited two other elite wings in the class of 2014.
Both Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson are nominally small forwards, but it’s hard to imagine Roy Williams not giving at least one of them some minutes at the 2-guard spot in an effort to keep his best athletes on the floor.
Vaughn is a better pure shooter than either of his rivals, but he’ll have an easier road to playing time at a program whose strength is up front (say, Baylor or Arizona).
7. Kevon Looney: Tennessee
At 6’9”, 220 lbs, Kevon Looney appears to be headed for a pro career as a power forward. If he wants to learn that position at the college level, though, Tennessee isn’t the place to do it.
Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin has shown a distinct preference for bulldozer-type post players such as 6’8”, 260-lb Jarnell Stokes.
He’d probably use Looney as a small forward, and while the agile youngster has the skill set to be effective there, it won’t do much to advance his NBA hopes.
6. Trey Lyles: Louisville
It’s hard to go wrong choosing between Louisville and Kentucky, the two programs still in the running for Trey Lyles. Of the pair, though, Louisville lags a bit behind when it comes to turning out NBA big men.
Rick Pitino has always had more luck coaching wing players such as Francisco Garcia (most recently a Rocket) or Celtics reserve Terrence Williams.
Lyles, though, is a low-post power forward at 6’10”, 255 lbs, and he’ll get more from playing under UK’s John Calipari (whose list of recent NBA big men includes lottery picks Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel).
5. Stanley Johnson: Oregon
Stanley Johnson has improved greatly in the last year when it comes to his jump shot. However, the punishing 6’6”, 220-llb small forward is still at his most effective pounding the ball to the rim, especially in transition.
That fact leaves Oregon out in the cold as the lone school among Johnson’s five finalists that prefers to settle into a precision half-court offense.
It’s not that Dana Altman’s Ducks never run, but they don’t do so with nearly the frequency or effectiveness of, say, Kentucky or Florida (where Johnson would also get better chances to showcase his dominant defense).
4. Tyus Jones: Minnesota
Nearly two decades ago, Twin Cities native Sam Jacobson led Minnesota to the Final Four. Tyus Jones has a chance to be the best home-grown Gopher since the much-loved Jacobson, but he shouldn’t take it.
Jones’ individual skills are devastating, but he sets himself apart from other great PGs with his ability to make his whole team better.
With the Gophers, that might mean an Elite Eight trip, but with other programs on his list—Duke, Kentucky, Kansas—it would give him a great shot at a national title.
3. Cliff Alexander: DePaul
Chicagoan Cliff Alexander has a pair of hometown options among his five finalists, and DePaul is the one that has no business being in the running.
Any desire to be The Man, or to change the fortunes of a program by himself, can be just as well fulfilled at Illinois, where the Illini have fallen to also-ran status in the Big Ten after their 2005 Final Four appearance.
If Alexander is looking for anything else, he won’t find it with the hapless Blue Demons. DePaul has sent just two players to the NBA in the last decade and has little chance of escaping last place even with the reshaping of the Big East.
2. Myles Turner: Kentucky
No coach is ever going to complain about having multiple seven-footers available, but the seven-footers themselves might.
Myles Turner has plenty of top-level programs clamoring for his services, so he has little to gain by joining fellow pseudo-center Karl Towns Jr. in Lexington.
Like his recruiting classmate, Turner is skinny for his size and loves to play away from the basket (although Turner has more interior skills than the jump shot-happy Wildcat commit).
John Calipari would be hard pressed to keep the pair on the floor together, and while Turner would certainly win that competition, it’s a battle he doesn’t need to fight.
1. Jahlil Okafor: Baylor
With the top three prospects available all playing the center position, Jahlil Okafor’s choice may be made easier by Myles Turner or Cliff Alexander committing before he does.
Failing that, though, the least appealing of several wonderful options for the Chicago star is to head south to Baylor.
Okafor is guaranteed to be an overpowering force wherever he goes, so the fact that he’d be cheered a bit louder by a needier Bears program isn’t really much of a benefit.
Meanwhile, at any of his other three choices—Duke, Kansas or Kentucky—he’d be pretty much assured of a superior backcourt to set him up, relative to what he’d get from Scott Drew’s guard-poor roster.