Playing Fact or Fiction with Buzz from 2015 NCAA Basketball Recruiting Trail
Depending on your interest in college basketball, the 2015 recruiting scene is either a fertile gold mine of excitement and intrigue or something that's just too far off in the future to worry about.
Either way, the information can be hard to sift through for what's real and what is purely speculation dosed with ample amounts of hope. Players can't start making their future plans official for five months, which means a lot can—and will—happen between now and then.
Most players have yet to commit to a program, and those who have aren't bound to stick with that pledge until its accompanied by a signed letter of intent.
To help clear the air a bit, we've pulled out a few key notes from the 2015 recruiting trail to examine how realistic the information is. Click through the slideshow to see what we think.
Diamond Stone and Malik Newman Are a Package Deal
The idea of players being a package deal isn't new to the recruiting trail, as players who have forged bonds on the AAU circuit or at certain festivals often express a desire to play together in college. Does it always happen? No.
But when it does, whether it was by design or not, it draws headlines. As does even the concept of a package deal nowadays, especially when it involves top-tier recruits.
Last year it was Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, both of whom signed with Duke. This year it's Malik Newman, currently rated as the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2015 class, and No. 4 Diamond Stone. In mid-May Stone and Newman announced they would be following the same path.
"Diamond is a great player on and off the court," Newman told Gary Bedore of the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World. "He’s like a brother to me. I look forward to playing with him in the future."
To grab both players would be a huge get, and a dynamic one since Newman is a 6'3" guard who can play the point or the two-guard, while the 6'10" Stone is one of the sturdiest built recruits at the top of the list for 2015 at a solid 246 pounds. And it stands to reason that most schools involved in their recruitment would go after both.
But to think that it's a done deal that you've got to take one to get the other seems foolish, especially if you look at how teams recruited Okafor and Jones.
Yes, both players did commit to and sign with Duke on Nov. 15, 2013 after both visiting the Blue Devils together three weeks earlier. But while Okafor had offers from 18 schools, Jones only had 11 offers. Only nine schools offered both.
The duo went on visits together to Duke, Baylor and Kansas, but Okafor also visited Arizona and Kentucky.
Newman, from Jackson, Miss., currently has offers from 12 programs, while the Milwaukee-based Stone has 17 offers. Between those, there are currently only four common suitors who have extended official offers: Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas and North Carolina.
Both are likely to pick up more offers over the summer, and it's very likely they'll try to schedule official visits together. But to assume that they'll play together in college is a little too much at this point.
5-Star 2016 Recruit Thon Maker Will Reclassify to 2015
You might think it's too early to be thinking much about the 2015 recruiting class, but college basketball coaches don't think that way. In fact, looking ahead to 2016 and 2017, possibly even further, is part of the everyday approach to recruiting.
There are so many classes to worry about, it's enough to make your head spin. Especially when a player from one class may end up shifting to another class, as may be the case with Thon Maker.
Maker, a 7-footer from Virginia (by way of Sudan and then Australia), is currently rated as the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2016. However, according to Zagsblog.com operator Adam Zagoria, Maker is giving serious consideration to reclassifying to the 2015 class.
Zagoria reported this possibility on May 25, after speaking with Maker's legal guardian, Ed Smith. Issues regarding whether Maker will be academically and physically—he's only listed at 194 pounds—ready for college a year earlier than planned will factor into the decision, as well as whether Maker might represent Australia in the 2016 Olympics.
Reclassifying isn't new, but it's not common. In most cases it involves a player moving back a year, rather than forward, often because of academics that necessitate a year of post-graduate prep school before going to college. But Andrew Wiggins did it, going from the Class of 2014 to 2013, and he's set to be among the first players taken in this month's NBA draft.
If Maker moves into the 2015 class, it's unknown how high he'd be ranked. But, considering that class isn't getting as much notoriety as previous recruiting groups (see later slide) it might be a smart decision.
More Players Will Wait Until Spring to Commit
Unlike college football, which has just one signing period, college basketball players are given two separate windows of time during which they can ink their national letters of intent. For prospective athletes who would enroll for the 2015-16 season, the early period runs from Nov. 12-19 and the late period spans from April 15 to Aug. 1, 2015.
Most programs like to lock up their future classes as early as possible, getting those signatures in place during the early period so they can move on to securing on the next recruiting class. The later period can then be used to pick up some extra talent to help offset any unexpected roster attrition that comes from NBA draft early entry or transfers.
This is how it's mostly gone over the years, though 5-star center Myles Turner's decision to wait until April 30 to choose Texas as his destination this fall could lead to a sea change in how the top prospects manage their recruiting calendar.
Turner, Rashad Vaughn (UNLV), Jaquan Lyle (Oregon) and Jonah Bolden (UCLA) were the only players listed in 247Sports' Top 50 composite ranking that signed during the late period. Each of them had the luxury of waiting to see what chips would fall from transfers, coaching changes and pro departures before choosing what school fit them best, while other blue-chip recruits who signed last November saw what back then looked like a great situation become a bit bleaker because of offseason activity.
Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller cited 10 players who signed in the fall who probably wished they'd waited, including Kentucky prospect Karl Towns Jr. When Towns inked his deal in November he likely expected the Wildcats' frontcourt to all go pro early like in years past, thus increasing his chance to start right way, but instead he'll be in a battle with several fellow former McDonald's All-Americans for playing time.
Towns, the No. 5 player in the 2014 class, picked Kentucky over offers from 11 other schools, many of which would have benefited greatly from acquiring a 7'1" center to atone for roster attrition.
Arizona Will Once Again Dictate California-Based Recruiting
Arizona coach Sean Miller signed Josiah Turner as his top recruit for the 2011 class. In 2012 one of his best signees was Grant Jerrett. The jewel of Miller's 2013 class was Aaron Gordon, and while in 2014 his highly touted incoming group is led by Stanley Johnson.
There's something this group of recruits all has in common: They were all the top-rated player from California, traditionally the most talent-rich state west of Texas.
Back in November, after Johnson committed to Arizona on national television, I wrote about how Miller has become the king of California recruiting. And that was before he landed commitments from two more 5-star recruits from the Golden State in point guards Tyler Dorsey and Justin Simon.
Dorsey and Simon are considered the second- and third-best 2015 recruits, respectively, from California, trailing only No. 1 overall prospect Ivan Rabb. And wouldn't you know it, Arizona was listed by Rabb back in February among his top 12 choices, and 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions give the Wildcats a 68 percent change of landing the 6'10" power forward from Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland—the same school that Gordon attended.
Without Rabb, Miller's run of completely owning California would end after four seasons, but that's not a very safe bet to take.
A Top-10 Recruiting Class Leads to Instant Success
With 44 players declaring early for the NBA draft and what seems like a never-ending stream of players transferring from Division I programs during the offseason, it seems like now more than ever there's a premium being placed on a college basketball team ensuring it recruits the best players possible for the upcoming season.
The days of bringing in a class of prospects and sitting multiple freshmen during that first season are long gone. Most of those signees are expected to contribute right away, so make sure to bring in game-ready bodies.
So, in that respect, it would stand to reason that putting together a top-rated class would be the best way to ensure immediate success, right?
Looking at the top 10 recruiting classes for 2013, according to 247Sports, it features many of the usual suspects who routinely contend for conference titles and make deep runs in the NCAA tournament: Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Memphis and Syracuse occupied seven of the top 10 slots.
But then there was Indiana, LSU and Marquette, each of which failed to make the field of 68 and collectively had very disappointing years considering the talent they'd brought in for the 2013-14 campaign.
The 10 best 2012 recruiting classes were even more in line, with UCLA finishing first overall en route to an opening-game flameout in the NCAA tourney and Georgia Tech translating a No. 10 class into a 16-15 record that featured a 6-12 mark in the ACC.
The best classes for 2014 are again mostly from top-level programs, but if past history is any indication it might not guarantee a big 2014-15 season. So with that in mind, fans of programs that are currently rated high for 2015 recruiting—for instance, Georgetown, Illinois, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Washington are among the early leaders—shouldn't get too excited and start planning an April visit to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
The 2015 Class Is a Weak One
As the 2013 recruiting class was coming into form a few years back, you could practically hear the salivating coming not just from college basketball experts but from NBA scouts and executives. The excitement over guys such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon made that class one of the most anticipated in recent memory.
The 2014 class didn't reach that same level of advance hype, though NBADraft.net does list six incoming freshman as lottery picks in its 2015 NBA mock draft, including the top four overall selections.
But when it comes to praising the collective value of the 2015 recruiting class, the opinions are far less encouraging. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports' College Basketball Talk blog wrote that the Class of 2015 is "not considered strong by many in the industry," as none of the names at the top of the rankings are drawing the same kind of awe that other classes' best did.
There's a caveat to this, though: it's June 2014.
Only five of the 25 players rated as five stars by 247Sports have committed to a program at this point, and those ratings are based on an incomplete body of work as we've yet to get into the most critical evaluation period for 2015 athletes. This summer's travel-team competitions and various skills camps and showcases are apt to completely throw the rankings for a loop and before you know it there could be a whole new crop of players at the top of the list.
All recruiting rankings and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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