Published May 18, 2012
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – As the senior high school class of 2012 approaches the end of its academic year, the college basketball landscape for next season will be molded by the incoming group of fresh faces.
Kentucky's John Calipari reached the zenith of coaching success with a young collection of blue-chippers in this year's NCAA Tournament. Calipari's formula for success is heavily influenced by a clause in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement that says incoming players must be at least 19 years old and have graduated high school one year prior to becoming eligible. The "one and done" trend has surfaced among the top freshmen since the age restriction's inception. Four of the last five number one overall picks in the NBA Draft have left after one year, and Kentucky's Anthony Davis is expected to make it five of six this summer.
Davis teamed up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague to headline Kentucky's top recruiting class last season. The trio's immediate impact was instrumental in their team winning the NCAA Championship. This past season was the first time since the NBA's age restricting rule was implemented that a team made up of primarily underclassmen cut down the nets at the Final Four. Calipari's freshmen blended perfectly with the returning Wildcats to form a well-oiled machine. Although a few impact players are still available, the majority of the top incoming high school seniors know where they are headed this fall.
Transfers have been making huge impacts recently as well. This past season, Iowa State surprised many thanks to Royce White and Chris Hill leaving the Big Ten to play for Fred Hoiberg. Lamont Jones and Rakim Sanders left major conferences to make impacts in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The recruited transfers, especially those who can play immediately, can not be ignored when giving a coaching staff an off-season grade.
The following programs are expected to prosper the most from their incoming crop of high school players and transfers.
UCLA: Ben Howland caught grief this year when stories surfaced about his apparent lack of control at one of the country's most historic programs. The Bruins' crop of newcomers will bring instant success to the City of Angels, which should help restore UCLA as a top-tier program. The headliners of the group are the nation's top-ranked prospect in Shabazz Muhammad, and the third- ranked star Kyle Anderson. Muhammad's superior athleticism, natural scoring ability, and relentless approach helped him earn multiple accolades, including the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Award. Anderson is versatile, as he can play multiple positions. Bruins' fans are also excited that big man Tony Parker will be adding depth to the team's already monstrous front line. Jordan Adams from powerhouse prep program Oak Hill Academy gives UCLA another outside threat. Adams made his decision to head west after the program hired Korey McCray, the CEO of Adams's AAU basketball team, as an assistant coach. North Carolina transfer and former McDonald's All-American Larry Drew II is eligible to play this season for Howland and will provide senior leadership for the group of youngsters.
Kentucky: Calipari might have won the lottery two years in a row as the Wildcats' Nerlens Noel is predicted to be just as strong an interior defender as Anthony Davis was in 2011-12. Noel has a cloud hovering over him however, as the NCAA has inquired about his high school career, but no serious allegations have been made to this point. Alex Poythress earned a spot in the McDonald's All-American game after proving to be one of the top power forwards of the incoming rookie class. The Noel-Poythress duo could be the best frontcourt rookie tandem in college basketball since Chris Webber and Jawan Howard entered Michigan together. Calipari added another McDonald's All-American in shooting guard Archie Goodwin, whose style resembles that of former Marquette Golden Eagle and current NBA superstar Dwyane Wade. Kentucky also added a solid complimentary piece in Willie Cauley, who despite being an afterthought to this star-studded class, has the athleticism and size to make an impact. Cauley developed rare speed and agility for a player his size while also starring on Olathe Northwest High School's football team as a wide receiver. NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will be eligible to take over the point guard duties this season after sitting out 2011-12 due to NCAA transfer rules. Kentucky added former Wright State Raider Julius Mays to the puzzle recently. Mays was named the 2012 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year after he led WSU in scoring with 14.1 ppg and more importantly, will be eligible to play immediately for the Wildcats and provide much-needed experience and leadership.
Arizona: UCLA is not the only Pac-12 school that was busy in the off-season. Coach Sean Miller recruited Mark Lyons for a second time. Miller lured Lyons to play for him at Xavier before he left to take over at Arizona. Lyons was a crucial component of the Musketeers teams that reached the Sweet 16 in 2010 and 2012, and he will most likely make his way into the starting lineup immediately. Lyons will benefit from Miller's prized incoming freshmen front line of Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. The 7-0, 220-pound Tarczewski was ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting experts, but might have flown under the radar because he was not eligible for premier all-star games since he was in his fifth year of high school competition. The 19-year old is still the most heralded Arizona recruit since Derrick Williams. Forwards Jerrett and Ashley were both McDonald's All-Americans and will team up with Tarczewski to give the Wildcats one of the most talented front courts in the country. Miller also convinced Gabe York, a high-scoring shooting guard, and juco transfer Matt Korcheck to sign with Arizona. T.J. McConnell, who started at point guard for the Duquesne Dukes last season, decided to transfer to Arizona but will need to sit out a season. McConnell should be able to slide into the starting point guard role after Lyons graduates, which gives the program stability at the position for multiple seasons.
Providence: Coach Ed Cooley had a tough inaugural season in the Big East as his squad finished in 15th place. However, he clearly does not envision his team as a Big East bottom dweller, and his incoming recruiting class will immediately make the Friars a tough out in conference play. Providence welcomes a pair of blue chip guards in Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn. Ledo passed up offers from top programs such as UConn, Georgetown and Marquette to remain in his hometown. Ledo has great size for a shooting guard and might be the best scorer among all freshmen next season. There is no question Dunn is an elite point guard. Cooley's fresh backcourt combo will give Providence a dangerous one-two punch. Swingman Joshua Fortune is also headed to Rhode Island to provide his services as a knockdown shooter. PC also added a valuable piece for the future by landing 7-0 Wake Forest transfer, Carson Desrosier, who will add much-needed depth to the front line when he is eligible to suit up in 2013-14.
Baylor: Scott Drew has made Baylor into the top basketball program in the Lone Star State since taking the reins of what was a sinking ship back in 2003. After Perry Jones and Quincy Miller from the 2011-12 Elite Eight team elected to depart early for the greener pastures of the NBA, and senior Quincy Acy's eligibility expired, the Bears appeared like they might be headed for a drop off. Coach Drew has to be optimistic of his team's continued success behind incoming freshman Isaiah Austin. The 7-0 center has a rare combination of size and skill that is apparent at both ends of the floor. Forward Ricardo Gathers is expected to complement Austin inside with a more physical and athletic style of play. Baylor's incoming class is rounded out by steady point guard L.J. Rose and center Chad Rykhoek, who will add depth to the front court.
Pittsburgh: The disappointing 2011-12 season by the Panthers will drift into the rearview mirror once coach Jamie Dixon's band of newcomers join the fold. Fans in the Oakland Zoo have to be excited that New Zealand import Steven Adams will be roaming the front court next season. He may only stick around for a year though as he has the talent to be a one-and-done prospect. Point guard James Robinson demonstrated toughness and leadership while leading DeMatha Catholic during his high school career and will certainly be an asset to the program. Small forward Chris Jones might not make an immediate impact, but has the tools to develop into a quality player. Although Adams is clearly an excellent signing, he might not outshine Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler, who opted for a change of scenery after his father and head coach, Ernie Zeigler, was fired by CMU after six straight losing seasons. Trey Zeigler turned down offers from Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA and Arizona State out of high school, and scored 1,011 points in his first two seasons of collegiate competition. He will try to steer Pitt in the right direction as the Panthers look ahead to their transition into the ACC the same season (2013-14) Zeigler becomes eligible to return.
UNLV: Dave Rice was a member of the Jerry Tarkanian coached 1989-90 UNLV team that won the national championship. Now sitting in Tarkanian's former chair, Rice has his alma mater headed back to the glory days he was a part of as a player. Rice led UNLV to a 26-9 record and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament this past season, his first as a head coach. Although his first season was successful, Rice made a statement that he wanted more, and on May 12 news broke that blue chip power forward Anthony Bennett was coming to Sin City. The 6-7 stud, who is the top-rated player out of Canada, resembles former UNLV great Shawn Marion in that he can do a little bit of everything. Bennett fits well with the Runnin' Rebels' style and his presence might be enough to propel UNLV to the top of the Mountain West Conference. Bennett will not be the only newcomer to make an impact for Rice's squad, as combo guard Katin Reinhardt exhibited refined skills during his high school career which he finished with an unbelievable 30-point performance in a winning effort while wearing a cast on his shooting hand. Center Demetris Morant might have found a perfect match in UNLV, as the incoming freshman center is a big-time athlete who can make an immediate impact on the glass and at the defensive end for the fast-rising Runnin' Rebels. Finally, Khem Birch, who was the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with Pitt under Jamie Dixon's watch, will be eligible to play in the second semester and will only add more firepower to the already intimidating UNLV roster.
NC State: The Wolf Pack shocked many in the 2011-12 postseason, but they won't likely sneak up on anybody next winter. Coach Mark Gottfried made the difficult task of contending in the ACC a little easier by scoring a pair of major commitments from guard Rodney Purvis and small forward T.J. Warren. Both are local products and both are highly ranked on just about every list of high school prospects. Purvis has the ability to play both guard positions at an exceptionally high level and gave NC State fans something to get excited about when he earned the MVP Award at the Jordan Classic. Gottfried also inherited Sidney Lowe's recruit Tyler Lewis. The point guard had an excellent prep career at Oak Hill Academy and will be a huge help to the suddenly poised Pack. All three prospects participated in the McDonald's All-American game.
Michigan: The Wolverines already have the son over former NBA great Tim Hardaway on their roster, and now they will add another talent with significant basketball bloodlines. Glenn Robinson III will look to follow in the footsteps of his father, Glenn Robinson II, who attended Purdue before being picked first overall in the 1994 NBA Draft. Robinson III has the potential to become a star at the collegiate level and highlights John Beilein's 2012-13 recruiting class. Michigan also added big man Mitch McGary, who at one time was ranked in the top five of this recruiting class. Although the power forward has dropped in the rankings, McGary is still a blue chip addition. Beilein might experience deja vu while coaching newcomer Nick Stauskas. The Canadian guard has a style of play very similar to former Mountaineer Mike Gansey. Stauskas could develop into an All-Big Ten performer after going toe-to-toe with the talented Michigan backcourt in practice everyday.
Indiana: The Hoosiers not only have nearly everyone back from their strong 2011-12 campaign, but they also added depth at each position. Five-star point guard Kevin Ferrell and swingman Jeremy Hollowell both made Tom Crean a happy man with their decisions to remain in the Hoosier State for college. Hollowell is not a flashy superstar who commands much attention, but he consistently does all the little things which makes him a great addition to a team that might just be one piece away. Power forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, guard Ron Patterson and center Peter Jurkin will also play their college home games in the history-rich Assembly Hall, which seems to have been given new life with the program's resurgence. Mosquera-Perea is going to be especially valuable as his presence as an able backup will give IU star Cody Zeller the ability to play more aggressively at both ends of the floor.
Notable transfers this year include forward Alex Oriakhi, who averaged 9.7 points and 8.6 boards for UConn during its national title run two seasons ago, who is headed to Missouri with one year of eligibility remaining. Oriakhi is eligible this coming season and will play a big role for the Tigers in their initial foray into the Southeastern Conference.
Freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith has decided to leave Virginia Tech and has Florida and Memphis at the top of his list of potential new schools. Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points per game in his rookie season after being a highly-rated recruit for then Hokies' coach Seth Greenberg.
Guard Trent Lockett, Arizona State's leading scorer in 2011-12, will transfer to Marquette for his senior season to be closer to his mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Lockett averaged more than 13 points per game and shot 50 percent from the field in each of the last two seasons for a pair of low- scoring Sun Devils' squads. Lockett's ASU teammate Chanse Creekmur is also set to transfer. However, Creekmur is headed to Iowa State with hopes of making a career with the Cyclones' football team.
Jarrod Uthoff made national news when Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan blocked his attempt to transfer to 26 schools, including in-state rival Marquette. Ryan eventually reduced the block to just Big Ten rivals, and Uthoff has shown interest in Creighton, Florida and Marquette.