NCAA Basketball Recruiting: 1 School Each Uncommitted 5-Star Player Should Avoid
With players at the level of 5-star prospects, NCAA basketball recruiting tends to feature the same traditional powers fighting over the same few high schoolers. One of the key factors in whittling down those lists is the fit between a player and a program, which can sometimes make even the most successful team the wrong one for a given recruit.
North Carolina, for example, is a perennial NBA factory and NCAA title contender, but Roy Williams’ light-speed fast break isn’t for everyone. Fast-rising big man Henry Ellenson is one high-profile youngster who would do well to avoid the Tar Heels as he considers his college options.
Read on for more on the mismatch between Ellenson and UNC, along with one program that each of Rivals.com’s 5-star recruits from the class of 2015 should turn down. All teams are chosen from the list of those schools actually recruiting a given player, per Rivals, ESPN and/or Scout.com.
Brandon Ingram: Clemson
North Carolina native Brandon Ingram has most of the ACC clamoring for his services.
While there are benefits to joining either a traditional power such as North Carolina or a potential up-and-comer such as Wake Forest, Clemson offers the worst of both worlds.
The Tigers’ attacking D tends to favor aggressive, physical defenders, which Ingram isn’t. He’d be able to stand out as a scorer in their offense-by-committee, but not to the face-of-the-program extent that some of the other underdogs on his list could offer.
Dwayne Bacon: Georgetown
As a small forward who thrives on physical play, Dwayne Bacon has good reason to be attracted to Georgetown’s history. Still, the school that once produced Jerome Williams and David Wingate is no longer the right place for a prospect with Bacon’s skill set.
The Floridian’s biggest asset is his scoring punch, and (D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera notwithstanding) the Hoyas’ Princeton offense is not an ideal place for a primary scorer to show off his talents.
The fact that Smith-Rivera might still be on campus to eat up shooting opportunities provides further disincentive for Bacon to head to Georgetown.
Chance Comanche: Kansas
Few schools in the country rely more on traditional back-to-the-basket post players than Kansas. Considering that low-post play is the least promising aspect of Chance Comanche’s game, Lawrence isn’t exactly an encouraging destination.
The 6’11” Comanche has positioned himself to shine in the stretch-forward archetype that DeAndre Daniels embodied so successfully for UConn last year, attacking from the wings rather than grinding in the paint.
That’s not the way KU’s Bill Self uses his big men, so unless the Los Angeles product wants to reshape his game entirely, Kansas is not the program for him.
Caleb Swanigan: Illinois
At 6’9” and 265 pounds, Caleb Swanigan is a bulldozer of a center. While many of the programs targeting him can point to bunches of recent front-line success stories, Illinois doesn’t have that luxury.
Coach John Groce hasn’t yet landed any big-time post players with the Illini, and he didn’t have the opportunity to coach any in his old job at Ohio either.
Considering the caliber of big-man mentor that Swanigan can pick from—Tom Izzo, Bill Self, Sean Miller—it’s tough to see the advantage to him of signing on with a relative novice at a scuffling program.
Tyler Dorsey: Oregon State
According to Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, when Tyler Dorsey decommitted from Arizona, part of his rationale was a desire to prepare for the NBA by playing more point guard. Oregon State may be the school that produced Gary Payton, but its recent pro history is decidedly barren.
Little-used reserve Jared Cunningham is the only Beaver this century to play in the league, a trend that’s unlikely to change after both Roberto Nelson and Eric Moreland went undrafted last week.
With ex-Montana coach Wayne Tinkle taking over the struggling Beavers, Corvallis is not the place to go to appeal to pro scouts these days.
Henry Ellenson: North Carolina
Henry Ellenson is a lot more mobile than most 6’10”, 235-pound forwards. That said, he’s still a far better half-court player than he is in transition, thanks to his unremarkable foot speed and his outstanding jump shot.
Roy Williams’ beloved fast break is what sets North Carolina apart from its ACC rivals, but Ellenson would rarely get to participate with anything other than an outlet pass.
With elite half-court offenses such as Iowa and Michigan State in the running here, Chapel Hill becomes a much less appealing option.
Antonio Blakeney: Georgia
Mark Fox’s tenure as Georgia’s head coach has been thoroughly disappointing so far. What little success the Bulldogs have had has relied largely on individual brilliance from the likes of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, not on any effective structure or strategy.
For Antonio Blakeney, a combo guard whose physical skills are far ahead of his mental game, that environment would be a recipe for disaster.
The Floridian has plenty of other close-to-home options that would provide better coaching to shore up his decision-making skills with the ball in his hands.
Jalen Brunson: UCLA
Jalen Brunson has the most polished game of any point guard in the class of 2015. As an athlete, though, the Illinois-born southpaw is just OK, and that’s not a statement one tends to make about successful UCLA players.
Although the Bruins’ own reputation for uptempo play may or may not persist as Steve Alford puts his stamp on the program, the Pac-12 as a whole would be a nightmare for the comparatively slow-footed Brunson on defense.
A league with more of a half-court focus—say, the Big Ten, where half of the conference is recruiting him—would be a far better showcase for his savvy passing and smooth three-point shot.
Skal Labissiere: Kentucky
Anyone looking for a first-round spot in the NBA draft has to give Kentucky serious consideration. The Wildcats’ stacked roster isn’t for everyone, though, and it’s especially not for one-dimensional centers in the class of 2015.
Skal Labissiere is a sensational shot-blocker—something UK fans know a thing or two about—but the 6’11” Haitian import doesn’t do anything else at an elite level yet.
With the Wildcats boasting four centers good enough to start for most teams in 2014-15, at least two are likely to be back for Labissiere’s prospective freshman year, leaving the new arrival buried on the bench instead of gaining game experience.
Isaiah Briscoe: Rutgers
Rutgers would dearly love to keep New Jersey native Isaiah Briscoe home for college. Briscoe, however, has precious little reason to reciprocate the Scarlet Knights’ interest.
With Rutgers set to join the Big Ten in 2014-15, Briscoe would be arriving to a double whammy: a talent-poor roster fresh off of the morale hit of what’s sure to be a miserable debut season.
If he wants Big Ten physicality, he can head to Indiana, and if he wants to stay close to home, at least Seton Hall has a chance to be competitive in its conference with Isaiah Whitehead arriving next season.
Allonzo Trier: Marquette
Under Buzz Williams, one reliable trait of Marquette’s teams was that Golden Eagles who weren’t playing good defense weren’t playing at all.
New coach Steve Wojciechowski, student of fundamentals that he is, is hardly likely to change that approach to winning in the bruising Big East.
Allonzo Trier, for his part, is a phenomenal pure scorer but largely a non-factor on the other end of the floor.
He has a plethora of options for programs to showcase his offensive talents and proportionally little reason to bother scrapping for minutes in Milwaukee.
Elijah Thomas: USC
Elijah Thomas is a first-class low-post scorer who excels at bullying his way into the paint with his 6’9”, 250-pound frame. When it comes to running in the open floor, though, Thomas can easily get left behind by many of his class' top post prospects.
The open floor, of course, is exactly what earned coach Andy Enfield his job at USC.
The forwards who made his Dunk City offense at Florida Gulf Coast run were tall but slender sprinters, not maulers like Thomas. The youngster would be far more at home in a half-court attack such as Ohio State’s.
Ray Smith: Oregon
Oregon coach Dana Altman’s precision offense favors jump shooting as much as any single skill. For Ray Smith, that’s a skill he doesn’t want to rely on to earn his playing time.
Smith is more of an athlete than a basketball player at this stage, and finding a niche with the Ducks would be a test for which his half-court game probably isn’t ready.
A more wide-open team—UCLA, say, or Louisville—would give him more opportunities to show off his ability to run the floor and finish on the break, not to mention provide a better stage for his defensive talents.
Carlton Bragg: Indiana
Any number of Big Ten teams would love to add a post presence with the athletic ability of Carlton Bragg. Indiana, though, asks its big men to provide more shooting than Bragg is equipped to supply.
Even Noah Vonleh, a far more developed offensive weapon than Bragg, had a rough time producing consistent point totals in the Hoosiers attack.
The Cleveland product would do better on a more uptempo team that would let him outrun opposing forwards in transition (perhaps Kentucky or Maryland).
Chase Jeter: UNLV
As Las Vegas becomes more and more of a hub for high school hoops, UNLV’s recruiting can only benefit. For local power forward Chase Jeter, though, the Rebels are the wrong program to prepare him for a shot at the pros.
Jeter is a terrific athlete in need of low-post polish at 6’10”, 225 pounds.
UNLV’s Dave Rice, however, has struggled mightily when it comes to grooming big men, with horrific NBA bust Anthony Bennett and undrafted Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith among his recent pupils.
Stephen Zimmerman: UCLA
Whether he wants to be a face-up jump-shooting center or a back-to-the-basket scorer, Stephen Zimmerman has the tools to fit pretty much any offense.
That being the case, the biggest factor in his college decision is likely to be which program will set him up best for a pro career.
UCLA, for all of its advantages in terms of notoriety, is working under the handicap of coach Steve Alford’s recent arrival.
The former New Mexico coach hasn’t yet gotten the chance to prove he can develop NBA-caliber big men—his old Lobos protege Alex Kirk just went undrafted—and Zimmerman has no reason to volunteer as a 7'0" guinea pig.
Diamond Stone: Florida
It’s not that big men can’t or don’t succeed under Billy Donovan at Florida. It’s just that the ones who stand out—Joakim Noah, Al Horford—can run like the wind, and that’s not an asset Diamond Stone shares.
Stone, a hulking 6’10”, 255-pound center, would be wasted in Donovan’s uptempo system. He’s a game-changing half-court scorer for whom a more deliberate offense should be a ticket to All-American recognition.
Cheick Diallo: Providence
Defensive goliath Cheick Diallo is improving as an offensive weapon, but the 6’9” New Yorker still needs plenty of work on his scoring. Providence, for all of its gaudy point totals in recent seasons, hasn’t been the place to go for low-post offense.
Friars forwards such as Kadeem Batts (now graduated) and LaDontae Henton have been getting most of their points off of putback opportunities provided by their shot-happy guards.
Henton, in particular, has shown hardly any development as a scorer in three seasons under coach Ed Cooley, providing an unappealing model for a recruit with Diallo’s skills.
Ivan Rabb: California
The Golden Bears have the closest thing to a home-court advantage in landing Oakland’s Ivan Rabb. That’s about all Cuonzo Martin’s new team can muster, though, when it comes to competing with the heavyweights of the recruiting world.
California won’t be able to offer the national-title possibilities that Kansas or Kentucky can dangle, nor the Hall of Fame coaching pedigree of a Mike Krzyzewski or a Rick Pitino.
Not even the Pac-12—admittedly a promising league for the athletic Rabb—can provide a trump card for Cal, which can’t match the deep roster or NBA draft success of conference rival Arizona.
Jaylen Brown: Georgia Tech
Georgia native Jaylen Brown has large swaths of the SEC and ACC hoping to keep him close to home.
The versatile small forward has plenty of opportunities to become the centerpiece of a rebuilding project if he so desires, but one that looks especially unappealing is Brian Gregory’s struggling Georgia Tech program.
In three seasons in Atlanta, Gregory has limped to a 43-52 record with little sign of progress.
A proven coach with a slumping team (Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings) or a novice looking to make a name (South Florida’s Orlando Antigua) would provide a better option than signing on to Tech's nondescript roster in the brutal ACC.
Malik Newman: Arkansas
Mike Anderson is finally getting the personnel in place to run his uptempo, high-pressure style at Arkansas. For Malik Newman, though, that system would be more trouble than it’s worth.
Newman is neither a top-flight athlete (at least by elite 2-guard standards) nor a particularly effective defender. Even with his sensational offensive skills, he’d constantly be exposed as a weak link in the Razorbacks’ press.
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