Even with all of the talent Kansas lost from its title team, the Jayhawks will boast a talented roster of recruits this season, and they are working on a few big-name recruits -- shooting guard Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony) is among them -- from the Class of 2009.
Nascent programs Kansas State and Baylor, with a pair of young coaches who are attracting marquee talent, are making huge recruiting strides. Both programs have lured top 100 talent to their respective campuses.
The state of Texas is the marquee battleground for this year's Big 12 recruiting season. Rick Barnes has the best 2009 recruiting class in the league, led by wing man Jordan Hamilton (Compton, Calif./Dominguez). The Longhorns lost out on a couple of key players with Texas roots -- Keith Gallon (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill, who is from Houston) and Tommy Mason-Griffin (Houston/Madison) -- to the Oklahoma Sooners, who have a top-five national recruiting class. Meanwhile, Texas A&M was able to land a top 25 class by drawing from all over the country.
New coaches Pat Knight and Travis Ford have also been diligent on the trail, bringing in classes that have depth and talent.
Colorado, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska all have head coaches who have been on the job three years or less. Nebraska has made its presence felt around the globe on the recruiting trail by signing players from Angola and Germany. These programs have beaten the bushes attempting to upgrade their talent. Here is a preview of the Big 12 recruiting classes to date.
Big 12 North
Colorado commits: three
Head coach Jeff Bzdelik starts Year 2 of the rebuilding process. The Buffs' lone senior is 6-foot-6 power forward Jermyl Jackson-Wilson. The 2008 class consisted of five freshmen and two transfers. The headliner is Casey Crawford, a 6-9 transfer from Wake Forest, who is a skilled power forward that will need to produce right away. His shooting should be able to stretch the defense for the Buffaloes. Colorado will be extremely young, and success will be determined by how long it takes this young group to mesh.
The 2009 class includes Keegan Hornbuckle (North Hollywood, Calif./Campbell Hall) and Alec Burks (Grandview, Mo.). Hornbuckle is a 6-5 small forward who is an excellent athlete with shooting range beyond the arc. Burks is a 6-4 lefty combination guard who can slash to the rim or hit the midrange jumper. He also has the ability to run the offense and is capable of being a coach on the floor when he slides over to play the point. Shane Harris-Tunks (Sydney, Australia/Institute of Sport) is a 6-11 center who has experience playing against players his size and strength, which will help him right away in the Big 12. He can score on the low block with his jump hooks using either hand and can step out to the arc and knock down the 3 with time and space. Harris-Tunks runs the floor well and is an excellent passer out of the post and from the perimeter. Harris-Tunks will represent Australia as a member of its World Championships team, which will compete in July.
Iowa State commits: two
Iowa State is a program that has had a great deal of player turnover recently and will be very young. But third-year head coach Greg McDermott locked up six new players in the 2008 class that included five freshmen and a junior college transfer, after losing double-figure scorer Wesley Johnson when the forward transferred to Syracuse. Junior-college transfer Jamie Vanderbeken will be counted on immediately. He is a 6-11, skilled post player who can step out to the arc and could be a potential matchup problem for opponents
Former Cyclone player Kantrail Horton, who was on coach Larry Eustachy's championship teams in 2000 and 2001, has been a mentor to Iowa State commit Marquis Gilstrap (Gulf Coast Community College). Gilstrap, a 6-6 wing, originally enrolled at Palm Beach Community College in 2005 but broke his leg nine games into the season. He then left school and worked for two years before deciding to enroll at Gulf Coast. Gilstrap is a talented wing who is very versatile. He is a good shooter to the arc and can create off the dribble. He has post-up ability, as well.
The Cyclones added Chris Colvin (Chicago/Whitney Young) who is a good athlete and a strong combination guard at 6-3 and 185 pounds. He can get to the rim and has an excellent midrange game as well.
Kansas commits: two
The National Champs lost five of their six leading scorers from the 2007-08 squad. Power point guard and junior Sherron Collins and sophomore post Cole Aldrich will be counted on to lead the seven newcomers. Junior college transfer Mario Little will be a stud from Day 1. Little, 6-5, is a versatile scorer who can play shooting guard or small forward.
On the recruiting front, the Jayhawks are going full speed after super athletic point guard John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) and two guard Dominic Cheek (Jersey City/St. Anthony); both are going to sign during the late period. But Bill Self has two solid players on the 2009 board in power forward Thomas Robinson (Washington D.C./Brewster Academy) and combo guard Elijah Johnson (Las Vegas, Nevada/Cheyenne High School). Robinson has good size -- he's 6-8 -- and great athletic ability. He can finish inside with authority and has the ability to step out on the perimeter and be very affective inside the arc. Robinson is good defender and a big time rebounder. Johnson is a very quick and athletic guard who can rebound and take it coast to coast. He is an above-the-rim finisher, and he draws defenders and kicks to the open man. Johnson is excellent in transition.
Kansas State commits: five
Bob Huggins took Manhattan by storm, turning Kansas State into a program that received national attention. Now Frank Martin is trying to put his on stamp on the program and this season will be depending on the play of sophomore point guard Jacob Pullen, Miami transfer Denis Clemente and redshirt forward Jamar Samuels to keep K-State climbing the ladder in the Big 12.
Looking forward, the Wildcats have plenty going for them with the class of 2009. Washington, D.C., native Wallace Judge (Jacksonville, Fla./Arlington Country Day) is a 6-8, skilled power forward; he headlines the 2009 Wildcat recruiting class. Judge will provide K-State with a versatile player who provides strength and high-major athletic ability. Martin also landed another DC native, who will be Judge's teammate at Country Day, in 6-4 wing Rodney McGruder. McGruder brings a scoring mentality and has the ability to get to the rim to go along with a strong midrange game. Shooting guard Nick Russell (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep) is a 6-4 slasher who will give the Wildcats another attacking wing. After signing with the Wildcats in the 2008, 6-11 Jordan Henriquez will join the 2009 class after a year at prep school at the Winchendon School in Massachusetts. Henriquez offers rebounding and shot blocking in addition to having the ability to score with a jump hook. He needs to add strength but has tremendous upside. Shooting guard Devon Peterson signed with Hofstra out of high school, but he is coming from Cloud County Community College (Kansas). The Brooklyn, New York, native is a strong and aggressive scorer who makes plays by attacking the rim and with a good midrange game. Reportedly he is committed to the Wildcats but will not sign early.
Missouri commits: two
Coach Mike Anderson returns two double-figure scoring and rebounding forwards who could make their presence felt this season, as the Tigers claw for a strong Big 12 showing and postseason berth. Six-foot-9 Leo Lyons and 6-8 DeMarre Carroll combined for 26 points and 12.4 rebounds last season. Juco transfer Keith Ramsey is an athletic scorer who should provide immediate help.
2009 recruit Keith Dewitt (High Point, N.C./Charis Prep) committed to West Virginia but had a change of heart. The 6-10 Dewitt is a long and lean post who should be right at home in Missouri's up-tempo style of play. Joining Dewitt is 5-11 point guard Michael Dixon (Lee's Summit, Mo./West) who stayed in his home state to play for the beloved Tigers. Dixon is quick point guard with playmaking ability, and he can score by attacking the lane. Mike Anderson has added talent and built depth in the past two recruiting classes.
Nebraska commits: four
The Huskers lost their most talented 2008 recruit to Memphis when 6-5 swingman Roburt Sallie was declared ineligible to play at any Big 12 school because of academic issues. There was also some doubt about the eligibility of 6-11 freshman Chris Niemann, due to some possible involvement with a German club team that will cost him on year of eligibility and keep him from competing until 2009-10 season. But Doc Sadler has maintained focus on the recruiting trail by first replacing top recruiter Tony Benford, who left for Marquette, with Brazil native Walter Roese, who came to Lincoln from San Diego, to expand the Huskers' recruiting overseas.
Enter Angola native Vander Joaquim (Beckley, W. Va./Mountain State University Academy) a 6-10 center who first pledged for San Diego. He has good size, moves well and has the ability to step out and be productive on the perimeter. He also should provide some scoring in the post with a variety of moves. Christian Standhardinger (Munich, Germany) is from the same school as Niemann and could face the same eligibility issues, although Husker compliance will file waiver papers with the NCAA. Standhardinger gives Sadler another skilled scorer with great size on the perimeter. He also is a hard-nosed competitor and has a high basketball IQ. Standhardinger dropped 37 points and grabbed 12 boards in the Under 19 German national team's final game.
The remainder of the 2009 class includes combination guard Rayes Gallegos (West Jordan, Utah) and 6-9 Brandon Ubel (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West). The 6-2 Gallegos is a good scorer with 3-point range. He is an excellent ball handler and passer, which allows him to help at the point guard position. Ubel is a versatile power forward adds more size to the roster. He is a great shooter to the arc and has excellent touch around the basket. All four new Huskers must focus on improving strength and conditioning as they prepare for life in the Big 12.
Big 12 South
Baylor commits: three
Now in his 6th year at Baylor, coach Scott Drew led the Bears to a 21-11 record, and their first trip to the NCAA tournament as a member of the Big 12 Conference a year ago. Baylor lost to Purdue in the first round of the NCAAs. This year coach Drew's outstanding recruiting efforts should result in an even stronger season for the Bears. Heading the list of returnees is All-American candidate shooting guard Curtis Jerrells.
So far this fall the Bears have signed three recruits, including two ESPNU 100 players. Drew reached into Arkansas to sign point guard A.J. Walton (Little Rock/Hall). Walton is a strong, efficient, sweet-shooting lead guard, and an excellent playmaker. He has the talent to play both backcourt positions, and will definitely earn significant minutes as a freshman. The Bears grabbed one of the top prospects in Texas, and top all-around athletes in the nation in 6-9 power forward Cory Jefferson (Killeen, Texas). Jefferson now plays the center position, but, at 185-pounds, he must bulk up and get stronger to be effective in the low post at the collegiate level. He utilizes his speed, quickness and high vertical jump to beat opponents to the hoop and to play shutdown defense. Jefferson will be a key contributor for the Bears next year.
The sleeper of the class is Maryland native Givon Crump, who is one of the nation's top prep school players. Crump is now in his second year at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.). He can play both forward positions and is an accurate outside shooter with 3-point range. His versatility gives Drew valuable options and should create more playing opportunities for him next year.
The unsolved mystery for Baylor's recruiting is the status of undecided PG John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God). Wall, rated the No. 6 senior by ESPNU, is the best point guard in the Class of 2009. He has the ability to dominate games from the backcourt, and is a virtual jet with his incredible speed and quickness. Baylor appears to have a great chance to get Wall, especially since his D One Sports travel team coach, Dwon Clifton, is now on the Bears' basketball staff.
Oklahoma commits: five
Oklahoma added six newcomers last year -- including McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren -- all of whom could start in the near future for coach Jeff Capel. In its 2009 class, OU will add another five standouts, including a strong post presence who could replace All-American Blake Griffin if he goes pro.
The Sooners have signed the No. 4-ranked fall recruiting class; it has four players who are rated in our top 100. Now in the fold are PG Tommy Mason-Griffin (Houston/Madison); PF Andrew Fitzgerald (Wolfeboro, N.H./Brewster Academy); SG Steven Pledger (Virginia Beach, Va./Atlantic Shores Christian); C/F Kyle Hardrick (Norman, Okla.) and C/F Keith Gallon (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill).
Mason-Griffin will become Capel's future team leader, and, ultimately, an All-Big 12 performer. Fitzgerald is a monster on the boards, and a very physical power player. Pledger provides reliable outside firepower, and can get to the rim. If he can fully recover from the knee injury that he suffered as a junior, Hardrick has the potential to become a good college player.
But the best of the bunch is the 6-9, 300-pound Gallon. He could be among the nation's premier interior scorers by his sophomore year.
Oklahoma State commits: six
New coach Travis Ford's initial recruiting class at Oklahoma State has quality and quantity, with six signees, and is now rated No. 16 by ESPNU. The newcomer with the highest rating, PF Karron Johnson, (Durham, N.C./Mount Zion) is also the most controversial. Johnson has superb talents and upside; he could become a standout college player. However, he has had numerous off-the-court problems. Hopefully, Ford and his staff can keep him under control and guide him in a positive direction to fully utilize his talents as a college basketball player.
Wing Roger Franklin (Duncanville, Texas) is an inspirational team leader. He is always smiling and encouraging teammates. He will become the "glue guy" for the Cowboys, and an immediate impact player next year.
Oklahoma State also signed underrated C Torin Walker (Columbus, Ga./Northside) who could challenge for a starting assignment next year; prolific combo guard Ray Penn (Richmond, Texas/George Bush); former Arizona commit, SG Reger Dowell (Duncanville, Texas); and another under-rated quality prospect, 6-2 PG/SG Fred Gulley (Fayetteville, Ark.).
This class gives Ford superb depth at virtually every position, especially in the backcourt.
Texas commits: Two
Now in his 11th year as head coach at Texas, Rick Barnes has transformed the Longhorns into one of the nation's elite hoops programs. The sustained success Barnes has experienced in Austin is largely based on his exceptional ability on the recruiting trail.
Always a master recruiter, this year Coach Barnes brought in the ESPNU No. 2-ranked recruiting class with three signees all rated in the ESPNU 100. The top recruit is 6-7 wing Jordan Hamilton (Compton, Calif./Dominguez). Hamilton is a terrific scorer with excellent shooting accuracy from all ranges. He can drill 3-pointers, or use his stellar athleticism to slash to the hoop.
Shooting guard Avery Bradley (a resident of Tacoma, Wash., now at Nevada's Findlay Prep) is a very complete guard. He exploded on the national scene this past spring and summer. He is a prolific scorer, somewhat in the Jerryd Bayless-mold, and plays excellent man-to-man defense. He could fill the void left by A.J. Abrams for Coach Barnes next year.
Guard/forward Shawn Williams (Duncanville, Texas) can play either wing position, and is a deadly perimeter marksman. Coach Barnes has the good problem of being loaded with talented incoming wing scorers. He most certainly has a plan for that next year.
Texas A&M commits: four
This year, coach Mark Turgeon and his staff had an excellent four-member recruiting class, rated No. 24 by ESPNU. This group includes three players rated in the ESPNU 100. The top-ranked prospect is shooting guard Naji Hibbert (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha). Hibbert has been well schooled at one of the nation's best high school programs, and is a highly skilled shooting guard with a compete arsenal of scoring weapons.
Turgeon reached into South Carolina to lure another skilled perimeter marksman, Khris Middleton (Charleston, S.C./Porter-Gaud). Middleton, like Hibbert, can play either wing position, and he was one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the nation on the summer circuit. He will be a key contributor for the Aggies as a freshman.
Needing more depth at the post position, Texas A&M signed 6-9 center/forward Kourtney Roberson (Arcadia, La.). Roberson is a strong, physical athlete with outstanding speed and quickness for his size. He is an effective rebounder, and appears to have the toughness to become a future Joseph Jones-type player for the Aggies.
The final signee for Texas A&M is unheralded forward Ray Turner (Houston/Jones). Turner is still relatively unknown nationally and very underrated. However, do not be surprised if he turns out to be one of the best college players in this class. Turner is an outstanding all-around athlete and a capable perimeter shooter. He is one the nation's top sleepers. He likely will become a key contributor for Turgeon's program as a freshman.
Texas Tech commits: four
Now in his second year at the helm of Texas Tech, coach Pat Knight is now more prepared to succeed his famous father, Bob Knight, who unexpectedly stepped down after 20 games last season. Last year Knight brought in talented five newcomers -- SG Nick Okorie is among them; he's an outstanding shooter and could start this year.
In this recruiting period, after having only one 2009 early commitment from athletic, but nationally unknown, 6-6 guard/forward Jaye Crockett (Clovis, N.M.), the Red Raiders have added three talented signees. Crockett can play three positions, and his forte is shooting from virtually every range. He played power forward last year at Clovis High, and shot 68 percent from the field. He has a very quick, explosive vertical jump and will likely become a wing player at Texas Tech. Do not be surprised if Crockett becomes a major player in the Big 12 during the next four years.
Heading the list of recent signees is preseason Junior College All-American G/F Brad Reese from Gulf Coast Community College (Fla.). Reese is an incredible shooter, and considered by many to be the premier 3-point marksman in the junior college ranks. He projects as an immediate starter for Texas Tech. Another potential Junior College All-American is wing Theron Jenkins, from Itawamba Community College (Miss.). Jenkins is a skilled wing player, and can score from all ranges. He has a high vertical jump, and could team with Reese next year to give Knight a stellar pair of wing players.
The Red Raiders were pleased to sign one of the top-rated guards in Texas, SG Mike Davis (Houston/Wheatley). Davis is yet another accurate deep shooter, and he has a very complete backcourt skill set. Texas Tech received a verbal commitment from David Tairu of South Plains College (Texas). However, he does not plan to sign until April.