College Basketball Teams Acing the Early 2015 Recruiting Period
The recruits in college basketball’s class of 2015 have many months left to decide on a school, but coaches have managed to talk some of the best into very early commitments. Although getting a fast start doesn’t always mean a top-flight class by the start of the season, it certainly doesn’t hurt a program’s chances any, either.
Kentucky’s John Calipari, for his part, has already secured one of the best scorers available in Charles Matthews. Although the Wildcats are sure to land bigger names in the year to come, Matthews puts them squarely on track for another top-five ranking in the recruiting wars.
Read on for more on Kentucky’s early success, along with seven more teams that have wasted no time securing verbal commitments from some high-level high school juniors.
Kevin Ollie’s fast lane to the national championship depended on inheriting a first-class backcourt from mentor Jim Calhoun. Now, the former Huskies point guard is showing that he can do some impressive recruiting on the perimeter in his own right.
Ollie has already landed a pair of explosive guards for his 2015 class, Will “Turtle” Jackson and Prince Ali. Both are prolific scorers, and Jackson (at 6’4”) has shown some potential for running the offense, too.
Chicago’s Simeon High has become one of the most renowned hoops factories in the country, turning out such superstars as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker.
Although Illinois coach John Groce hasn’t yet managed to land any of Simeon’s biggest fish, he’s done a fine job of recruiting the winners who’ve provided the school with a great supporting cast.
With a pair of the program’s guards—Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn—already on his roster, Groce has earned a commitment from high-flying forward D.J. Williams.
The Illini backcourt continues to get stronger as well, with scorer Aaron Jordan (another local product, from Plainfield) also joining the 2015 class.
With their eyes always on the ultra-elite prospects (who rarely declare themselves so early in the recruiting process), the Wildcats can afford to bring in a lower volume of commitments in the early period.
One high-end commitment says more for Calipari than a flurry of lesser names, and Kentucky has that first star in the bag for 2015.
Matthews is a 6’5” shooting guard whose game and body type both evoke UK success stories past (Doron Lamb) and present (Aaron Harrison).
He’s a top-notch slasher and mid-range shooter, and like postseason hero Harrison, he’s shown the potential to become a legitimate three-point weapon as well.
While many college basketball lineups are going heavier and heavier on guards, Georgetown has trended in the opposite direction.
With little requirement for a pure point guard in John Thompson III’s Princeton offense, the Hoyas have been stocking up on mobile forwards who can pass.
For the second year in a row, JT3 is headed for a remarkably deep freshman class, with a trio of new arrivals 6’8” or taller already in the fold for 2015.
Hulking Noah Dickerson is the best of the bunch—think Roy Hibbert minus a few inches—but Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Whatever prospect ranking one cares to consult, the bulk of the national top 10 hasn’t declared at this early date.
That being the case, LSU deserves a lot of credit for landing the biggest star who has committed, even if Ben Simmons is the only player in its class so far.
Simmons, a 6’8” native of Australia, continues Johnny Jones’ remarkable run of success recruiting forwards (see Mickey, Jordan).
The mobile scorer has already shown his ability to shine in elite competition, taking home MVP honors in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament.
One of the biggest early stories in 2015 recruiting was a reversal by 2-guard Austin Grandstaff. Once pledged to Oklahoma State, the Texan decommitted and opted to head farther from home, joining Thad Matta’s class at Ohio State.
The sweet-shooting Grandstaff becomes the new headliner of what’s shaping up to be another of Matta’s bumper crops of standout freshmen.
The coach has his eye on superstars such as Ivan Rabb and Cheick Diallo, but the players he’s already landed—including combo forward Mickey Mitchell and cat-quick playmaker A.J. Harris—are a dangerous bunch already.
After Jim Boeheim’s enviable run of recruiting star point guards, he’s shifted his focus to the other backcourt spot for 2015.
Lanky marksman Malachi Richardson brings serious star power, while slasher Franklin Howard will be a lethal defender in Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
Up front, Boeheim has stuck with his time-tested “long skinny forward” template by landing Tyler Lydon. The 6’8” New Yorker is a lethal jump shooter who can also handle the ball pretty well on the perimeter.
Sean Miller has seemingly recruited as many elite forwards in five years in Tucson as Lute Olson did in 24 seasons, but Arizona’s identity is still Point Guard U.
By the time Miller's latest transfer star (T.J. McConnell) is done running the offense, the coach will have a pair of high-level PG prospects arriving to take over the job as freshmen.
Speedy Tyler Dorsey is more of a combo guard, with a pinpoint mid-range jumper to go with his skills at leading the fast break.
He may well end up at the 2 thanks to the presence of Justin Simon, a pass-first floor leader who’s also a daunting defender at 6’5”.