My friend Jason calls the other day complaining there wasn't enough recruiting drama locally leading up to signing day this November.
For basketball junkies who love their college hoops and spend their winters following the high school hoops scene--like Jason--recruiting is like another sport to follow. But it's like a drug for them. Even when there are some intriguing recruiting headlines to follow, like Jabari Parker's final five, Ben Moore's rapid ascent, etc., they need and want more.
They want rumors. They want drama. They want conspiracy theories. They want to have something to be joyous about (their college team nabbing the high-profile recruit) and disgusted with (is Kentucky REALLY going to land four of the top eight players in the country AGAIN?).
They want a recruiting upset. "How cool would it be if Jabari Parker chose BYU!?!?!" my hoops junkie friend Jason says. "Nah, forget that. I want to see Jabari Parker playing on a basketball court with volleyball lines [at Stanford's Maples Pavilion]."
Recruiting is fluid, changing daily. The recruitments of the top three uncommitted prospects left on the board in Illinois--Parker, Proviso East's Sterling Brown and Bolingbrook's Ben Moore--are all winding down. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at their respective recruitments as of today, Friday, Oct. 12, while offering up some fun percentages of where they might land.
Jabari Parker, Simeon
Along with Julius Randle out of Texas, the Parker recruitment is the one with the most eyes watching nationwide. That's what happens when you've been the most talked about recruit over the past three-plus years. That's what happens when you've been ranked the No. 1 player in the country, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, carried yourself the right way and your recruitment is on the level.
This one is down to the final stages, with a final five of BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford. However, the all-important official visits have yet to be taken. Those visits could prove to be pivotal. Imagine all the bag of tricks, royal treatment and red carpet these schools will pull out with Parker on campus. I mean Stanford pulled out Condoleeza Rice for Rock Island's Chasson Randle, which according to those close to the sharp, mature, education-first Randle, made a big impact as an example of the type of people Stanford has in its network.
What will be thrown Parker's way? Ironically, Parker is a lot like Randle in many ways, with interests way beyond just basketball. He's a kid who doesn't really get into the all the hoopla; he'll be listening to the pitch, examining the fit, the staff and the roster, looking at things differently than most and beyond the frills.
The difference, however, is that it's assumed Parker will be a one-and-done, playing college basketball for one season and then wait and see if he's the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Thus, making the most of a quick trip to college--with an exit as early as eight months or two years at the max--is imperative.
There has been a tug-of-war among analysts, fans, media and prognosticators as to who leads for Parker. Many have given Michigan State a slight edge. Others have said at the end of the day it will be Duke. This much we know: It's close at the top.
Last spring while doing a radio show with David Kaplan on WGN and pressed as to where Parker's recruitment stood, I indicated that Florida is the sleeper among the mass number of schools that were in the hunt at that time. While recruiting is fluid and the visits in the coming month will matter and it will be a battle down to the end, Florida is my slight out-of-the-box pick.
Florida ... 36%
Michigan State ... 28%
Duke ... 28%
BYU ... 4%
Stanford ... 4%
Sterling Brown, Proviso East
This has not been the easiest recruitment to handicap. The recruitment has moved at a slower pace, with very few unofficial visits leading up to the official visits that have been planned. Even those original official visits that were set (i.e. Missouri, to name one) have changed, with different programs moving in and out of the mix. Brown and his family have taken their time sorting out the schools, wanting to know and see what programs truly want the talented 6-5 senior wing and who would be there in the end.
Brown left early Friday morning for his official visit to SMU, with a trip planned to Miami later this month. The Hoops Report gives SMU a slight edge. Coach Larry Brown and his staff closed the gap quickly once the Mustangs jumped into the mix, with Brown and assistant coach Jerrance Howard making an impression.
The Sterling Brown-SMU connections and relationships run deep, with Larry Brown having coached Sterling's brother, Shannon, in Charlotte. Howard is tied in with the Chicago area through his days recruiting while at Illinois. And there is a connection with Eric Snow, SMU's Director of Player Development, who, like Shannon Brown, played at Michigan State and was a bit of a mentor at one time for Shannon.
Miami, with persistence from head coach Jim Larranaga and assistant coach Eric Konkol, has done a terrific job of getting in the mix and staying there. The Hurricanes were on the original list of official visits and the trip is still on. Northwestern and DePaul continue to keep their fingers crossed that playing close to home will resonate with Brown.
Brown has been slow to close the door on certain programs, leaving all on this list with a glimmer of hope. But the Hoops Report believes, at this point in time, SMU is the one to beat.
SMU ... 40%
Miami ... 26%
Northwestern ... 12%
DePaul ... 12%
Other (Providence, Xavier, Minnesota) ... 10%
Ben Moore, Bolingbrook
This recruitment has been a wild one. Moore sat with one offer in the middle of his junior year, courtesy of IPFW. By the time the spring AAU circuit concluded and summer rolled around, Moore had racked in a few mid-major offers. That's where it appeared his recruitment would settle in at.
When July came to a close, there were a few mid-major plus programs on board, along with an offer from SMU, a rebuilding program headed to the Big East in a year. Then fall open gyms turned the kid's life upside down, with Illinois, Missouri, DePaul, Northwestern and Minnesota all offering the rising 6-8 forward in the month of September.
While on a Champaign-based radio show earlier this week, the conversation quickly turned to how it appeared it would be just a formality that Ben Moore is "all but a done deal to Illinois." Yes, on paper it may appear Illinois would be a clear frontrunner. It's the local state school. It's in the Big Ten. It's the more established program of the three left standing on his list. While Moore is currently on his official visit to Illinois this weekend--and he certainly may end up giving a pledge to coach John Groce and the Illini at some point--anyone paying close attention to his recruitment would know it's not a done deal. Illinois will need to do its job on this official visit to distance itself from Colorado State and SMU, his other two finalists.
Moore has established a strong relationship with the coaching staffs at both SMU and Colorado State. Both legendary coach Larry Brown at SMU and Larry Eustachy at Colorado State have made a huge impression on Moore and his family. He came home from the respective campuses in Fort Collins and Dallas feeling great about both, which is why he matter-of-factly eliminated several other schools. These two are certainly right there.
Plus, Moore is a different kid than many of the attention-seeking youths out there today. He's not starry-eyed, looking only to play in the biggest venue or for the grandest name. He wants to play. He wants the right feel. He wants to see where he best fits.
This one is close. The advantage Illinois has right now is it's the last visit for Moore, it will be fresh on his mind. Knowing the job John Groce and his staff have done on their official visits with prospects, the Hoops Report can see Illinois making the splash it needs to and pulling ahead of the other two at the conclusion of this weekend's visit. But regardless of what people think or view the three finalists, it will be a tough decision for Moore.
Illinois ... 36%
Colorado State ... 32%
SMU ... 32%
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport