NCAA Basketball Recruiting: The Biggest Bust in Each Class of the Last Decade
Every college basketball fanatic, especially those of the powerhouse programs like Kentucky and Kansas, will tell you until your ears bleed that every recruit at his or her school is a star with NBA lottery potential. That goes double for any player rated by ESPN, Rivals or any other recruiting service.
The objective fan knows that this just isn't true. Recruiting, like a professional draft, is a highly inexact science. Players suffer all manners of misfortunes, some of their own making, during the course of their college careers.
Over the last decade, each season's recruiting class turned out some egregious cases of prospects being overhyped. Some couldn't handle the spotlight and some bounced from school to school seeking more of it.
Now, by "the last decade," we don't actually mean 2003 through 2012. We'll consider the decade of the 2000's, encompassing the years 2000 through 2009.
Why stop there?
Several members of the 2012 class have redshirted and not played a game yet. Likewise, 2011 prospects may only have one season of limited minutes to their credit. In theory, the class of 2009 have all either just concluded their careers or are entering their senior seasons. Therefore, we can evaluate a body of work, even if it's not quite complete.
Let's examine some of the biggest flops of the 2000s. Just hope your team didn't get dragged down with any of these stiffs.
2000: Jerome Harper, Cincinnati/Iowa State
If you don't remember Jerome Harper, you're not alone. After all, Harper was the only McDonald's All-American of the 2000s to never play a minute of college basketball.
Originally committed to Cincinnati, his scholarship was yanked after an arrest for assault in his hometown of Columbia, S.C. Bob Huggins' Bearcat program was already serving NCAA probation and was unwilling to bring any further scrutiny upon itself. The arrest occurred on the very day that Harper was named a McDonald's All-American.
After two years at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, Harper stayed in the area with a commitment to Iowa State. In his sophomore season, Harper was a 14-PPG scorer and added 2.5 steals per night.
Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy took a chance on Harper despite another pair of arrests during his time in Ottumwa. In return, he got a player who could not finish his GED in time to suit up.
Harper fell off the radar after never arriving in Ames, settling for semi-pro ball before turning himself in to South Carolina police in 2008 in connection with a 1999 murder. Another arrest followed this past March for attempted murder.
2001: Carlos Hurt, Louisville
Carlos Hurt at least made it to college, even if he didn't stay at Louisville very long.
The No. 12 prospect in the 2001 RSCI rankings, Hurt scored 12 points in the McDonald's All-American game and backed it up with 20 points and 14 assists as the MVP of the Nike Derby Festival Classic.
He showed some promise when he arrived at Louisville, averaging 8.1 points and 3.4 assists in 14 games as a freshman. Hurt missed 17 games after a January back surgery, but he returned to play in the NIT, contributing six points and eight assists in a second-round loss to Temple.
Immediately after the season, coach Rick Pitino dismissed Hurt from the team for undisclosed violations of team rules. Pitino had salvaged Hurt's commitment after taking over for previous coach Denny Crum, but apparently soured on the player, judging from comments made just prior to Hurt's dismissal.
Hurt wandered through basketball's lower reaches after leaving Louisville, heading to Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC and then joining Robert Morris. Not the Northeast Conference school in Moon Township, Pa. that knocked Kentucky out of the 2013 NIT, mind you, but the NAIA school based in Chicago. He became an NAIA All-American and managed to crack the NBA D-League for one season.
2002: Evan Burns, UCLA/San Diego State
A now-defunct site called SchoolSports.com was part of the 2002 RSCI rankings. That season, SS ranked Fairfax (Los Angeles, Calif.) HS forward Evan Burns 10th in the nation. He came in ahead of players like J.J. Redick, Sean May and a future NBA All-Star named Chris Bosh.
Athletically, Burns was a freak, averaging more than 22 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. Academically, he struggled mightily, failing to clear NCAA eligibility requirements to get into his chosen school, UCLA. Burns regrouped and managed to qualify in time for a December debut at San Diego State.
His lone season as an Aztec was actually quite promising, ending with Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors after he carded 9.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and one block per game. The high water mark was a tremendous scoring duel with New Mexico's Ruben Douglas. Douglas outscored Burns 43 to 31, but Burns added 13 rebounds and the Aztecs took the win.
Still an indifferent student, Burns' grades were already slipping when he tore his ACL in a May 2003 pickup game. SDSU coach Steve Fisher added insult to injury by dismissing Burns for his academic deficiencies in August. After rehabbing his injury, Burns tried to enter the 2005 NBA draft, but was unselected.
The class of 2002 had plenty of McDonald's All-Americans like Burns, players whose collegiate experiences peaked at that game. CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman interviewed a few of them, and Burns was the first to admit that his high school hype had gone to his head.
2003: Shagari Alleyne, Kentucky
2003 was the Year of LeBron, but among the other RSCI top-20 recruits, the ones who actually went to college were all at least serviceable players.
Down the list a bit at No. 48, the biggest player in the class turned out to be the biggest misfire. Shagari Alleyne was a 7'3", 275-pound center from the Bronx who would go on to start a grand total of two games in his three seasons in Lexington.
His sophomore season turned out to be his best, sporting averages of 2.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Alleyne and Polish classmate Lukasz Obrzut were only the fourth and fifth seven-footers to suit up for the Wildcats, and neither ever averaged more than 10 minutes per game in a season.
Alleyne transferred to Manhattan, but left for the NBA draft before taking the court for the Jaspers. After going undrafted, he attended training camp with the Philadelphia 76ers, spent a season as "Skyscraper" of the Harlem Globetrotters and signed to play in Norway.
CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel touted Alleyne's "signs of dominance" after the then-sophomore scored 10 points and blocked four shots against Indiana. Those signs were very—extra emphasis on VERY—few and far between.
2004: Josh Wright, Syracuse
Finally, a player who made it all four years in college.
Utica, N.Y. product Josh Wright was a top-40 RSCI prospect, a speedy 6'0" point guard who had averaged 33.3 points per game as a senior. At Syracuse, he started slowly, thanks to the presence of upperclassmen like Josh Pace and Billy Edelin in the Orange backcourt.
In his second season, Wright's playing time increased to almost 13 minutes per game as the primary backup to star guard Gerry McNamara. Games like a November win over Manhattan (19 points, eight assists, four steals) gave Orange fans hope for the post-McNamara era.
As a junior, Wright started 27 of 35 games, but often found himself on the bench late in games, at least until his playing time totally dwindled late in the season. Wright ended the season with more turnovers than field goals, and coach Jim Boeheim finally threw up his hands and moved Eric Devendorf over from shooting guard. Wright averaged 9.3 minutes over the season's final nine games.
A case of the flu got his senior season off to a bad start, and Wright finally left school after playing only 19 minutes in four games. He played out his senior season at the University of Ottawa, then some pro ball in Europe, but largely disappeared from the radar until being arrested in a 2011 prostitution sting.
2005: Keith Brumbaugh, Oklahoma State
Yes, a picture of Keith Brumbaugh exists on NBA.com. No, he never played in the Association, just a season in the D-League. And no, he never made it to college.
The DeLand, Fla. native originally intended to enter the 2005 draft, but withdrew to commit to Oklahoma State. Brumbaugh was cited for an "incident at a local retail store," according to an OSU statement, that was later reported as a minor case of shoplifting. After that, his ACT score was called into question. When he couldn't equal his qualifying score, he was ruled ineligible for competition.
After leaving Stillwater, six arrests in 26 months bounced him through Chipola Junior College, where he never played, to Tampa's Hillsborough Community College, where he regained his superstar form.
At HCC, Brumbaugh poured in 36.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 4.8 steals per game, putting his talent back on the page next to his legal woes. He decided to quit college ball while he was ahead and enter the 2008 draft. He was undrafted, but averaged 11 points and four rebounds in 79 career D-League games.
Various recruiting analysts had Brumbaugh ranked ahead of players like Mario Chalmers, Andrew Bynum and Danny Green. Almost a decade on, the only statistic in which Brumbaugh leads those players is an unfortunate number of mugshots.
2006: James Keefe, UCLA
Forward James Keefe was a McDonald's All-American, believe it or not. Most UCLA fans never saw many signs of that talent level during his four years in Westwood.
The 6'8" Keefe played less than seven minutes per game in his freshman year, doing little of renown aside from pulling six rebounds in the Bruins' Final Four loss to Florida. That summer, he tore the labrum in his left shoulder and went for surgery, expecting that the coaching staff would redshirt him in the 2007-08 season.
That redshirt was burned when other injuries cropped up on the Bruins' roster, and Keefe was forced to play his way into shape through the Pac-12 schedule. He finally hit a stride in March, carding eight points and three rebounds in the Pac-12 tournament final against Stanford.
In the NCAA tournament, UCLA needed production from unlikely sources in its Sweet 16 encounter with Western Kentucky, and Keefe stepped up. He hung 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks on the Hilltoppers, keeping the Bruins on track to reach their third straight Final Four.
Keefe started 14 games as a junior, but never scored in double figures. His shoulder betrayed him as a senior, dislocating on three separate occasions before he opted for season-ending surgery in February.
A hard worker during his Bruin career, Keefe would have simply faded away if not for the weight of McDonald's-induced expectations. Career marks of 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game rate among the lowest of any All-American in history.
2007: Taylor King, Duke/Villanova
Before Ben Howland coached his first game at UCLA, he already had a commitment in hand from Santa Ana, Calif. baller Taylor King. King, however, had just finished eighth grade at the time, and he would later change his mind.
He backed out of the UCLA commitment as a sophomore, signed with Duke, then played in the McDonald's All-American game. At Duke, he failed a drug test before even taking the court. When he did, though, he showed streaky scoring ability, putting up 15 or more against opponents like Michigan, Wisconsin and Temple. In fact, in those three games, he scored a total of 48 points in only 52 minutes.
Playing time dwindled in ACC play, and King bolted Durham rather than sit behind Kyle Singler for the rest of his career. He transferred to Villanova, where his pattern looked quite similar: superb results in the non-conference slate (six double-figure scoring games, including a double-double against Delaware) followed by diminishing returns in the Big East.
A growing marijuana habit resulted in a suspension for the regular-season finale, and he played a mere two minutes against Marquette in the Big East tournament. He scored 10 points in a narrow NCAA win over Robert Morris, but coach Jay Wright still demanded after the season that he enter rehab to kick the weed.
Another transfer followed, this one to USC, but King never made it there. Instead, he settled at Concordia, an NAIA school in Irvine, Calif. He played at an All-American level there, but flunked out after the season ended. Attempts at pro ball in Canada failed, and the Catholic-raised King even researched how to convert to Judaism while trying to chase a contract with Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Most recently, the boy who was good enough to get an offer from UCLA at 14 averaged a double-double in Taiwan.
2008: J'mison Morgan, UCLA/Baylor
A top-25 recruit out of Dallas, J'mison Morgan was the largest member of a five-man recruiting class expected to be the West Coast's answer to Michigan's legendary Fab Five.
The 6'11", 275-pound brute struggled with his weight, the occasional injury and off-court conduct issues. Both of his UCLA seasons featured suspensions for missing team meetings. Finally, coach Ben Howland booted Morgan from the team after his sophomore season, ending a Bruin career that spanned only 40 games over his two seasons.
Morgan left with only two games of more than five points to his credit and no games of more than five rebounds. He averaged a mere 2.1 points and 1.1 rebounds as a Bruin.
Heading closer to home, Morgan transferred to Baylor, where he was allowed to suit up immediately for Scott Drew's Bears. There, he started 14 games and played 12.5 minutes a night, watching his other numbers bloom accordingly. That is, if you call three points and 2.4 rebounds per game blooming.
After a redshirt year in 2011-12, Morgan started this past campaign with a string of Did Not Plays, recorded four points and three rebounds against College of Charleston, and then was gone. Drew gave Morgan the same heave-ho that Howland had two years prior.
That illustrious UCLA class got four pedestrian years from Jerime Anderson, a couple of solid years from Malcolm Lee, one from Jrue Holiday and watched Drew Gordon become a star at New Mexico. That definitely was not what Ben Howland expected from all that talent.
2009: Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State
Any college basketball piece detailing infamous recruiting busts is contractually obligated to touch on Renardo Sidney.
Sidney was a top-10 prospect whose family moved from Jackson, Miss. to Los Angeles in an attempt to increase his exposure and level of competition. The NCAA began looking into his family's L.A. living conditions, and the ensuing investigation led to the governing body suspending Sidney for a year and nine games.
Once he was finally eligible, the 6'10" 280-pounder looked every bit of it, showing great skill but poor conditioning. He scored 12 points in his debut, then incurred a suspension for a fight in practice. He returned for a tournament game in Hawaii, scored 19 points in 20 minutes against San Diego, then found himself right back in the doghouse.
A fight in Hawaii's stands with teammate Elgin Bailey made national news and earned Sidney another suspension. The rest of his season quieted down a bit, and the gifted sophomore even managed to record four double-doubles.
Sidney's numbers dipped in his junior season, and he scored only 12 points in his final three games of college basketball. He finished with averages of 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Strictly by the numbers, his career wasn't a total waste, just a colossal letdown.
When Sidney declared for the NBA draft, the combine made clear just how profound his lack of conditioning had been. Draft Express editor Jonathan Givony tweeted Sidney's 304-pound weight and 22.35 percent body fat, later noting that the latter measurement even exceeded noted round baller Oliver Miller's percentage.
Some recruits fail because of injuries or other circumstances beyond their control. Renardo Sidney failed because he could never put the same effort into improving his own body that he did into attacking Elgin Bailey's.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.