The recruiting world is constantly evolving. So, when the early signing period came to a close in late November, the player movement did not slow down. With numerous quality holiday basketball events behind us, the turn of the calendar signifies a chance for players to move up or down in the national rankings. Most importantly, college programs will have a chance to strengthen their position on the recruiting trails or drastically improve their standing by adding a monumental commitment from a talented uncommitted player.
With the late signing period now in sight, a number of significant developments could alter the recruiting landscape early in the new year. Here are nine bold basketball recruiting predictions for 2009.
1. With top prospect Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City) bound for Memphis, PF Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South) is the most sought-after player yet to commit. Florida State, Memphis and North Carolina State are some of the top-notch out-of-state programs competing against Georgia and Georgia Tech for his services. A chance to team up with fellow Atlanta Celtics alumnus Trey Thompkins to form a dynamic frontline duo and a chance to play in front of family and friends will ultimately lure Favors to Athens.
2. Baylor coach Scott Drew made a bold move in hiring John Wall's AAU coach, Dwon Clifton, but there's no guarantee Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) will follow. Familiar foes Kansas and Memphis are also after the No. 6 player in the 2009 class. With the possible departure of freshman phenom Tyreke Evans and the Tigers' needing a point guard, the opportunity to form a dream backcourt with the nation's top prospect, Xavier Henry, will prove too difficult for Wall to pass up.
3. UAB coach Mike Davis demonstrated his recruiting skill by gaining a commitment from DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore), the nation's No. 2 center. But before officially signing, Cousins wanted assurances Davis would be UAB's coach next season. The school, reportedly, balked, and chaos ensued. With newfound life, schools such as Memphis and Kentucky have joined the fun. Cousins likely will jump at a second chance to play at a big-time program, especially if he feels jaded by this process and by UAB.
4. In recent years, none of Conference USA's second-tier teams has challenged league juggernaut Memphis or made much noise on the national scene. With a stellar recruiting class, 2009 will be the year Rice, which has the No. 2 recruiting class among mid-majors, makes a move toward the top of the conference. Players such as guard Tamir Jackson (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) and forward Arsalan Kazemi (Lenoir, N.C./The Patterson School) should have Rice postseason-bound in March 2010.
5. 2008 prospect Brandon Jennings made headlines and history when he decided to bypass college for the rigors of professional basketball in Europe. Reportedly, touted 2009 prospects Renardo Sidney (Los Angles/Fairfax) and Lance Stephenson (New York/Lincoln) are considering following in his footsteps. Understanding that Jennings has had difficulties adjusting to playing professionally and playing in Europe may not help his draft status this season (though it will help him become a better player in the long term), Sidney and Stephenson will instead opt to take their talents to a top college program.
6. National champion Kansas wasted no time parlaying its success into recruiting victories. In the early signing period, KU secured commits from super-athletic guard Elijah Johnson (Las Vegas/Cheyenne) and interior force Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy). The Jayhawks, however, missed out on a few top-notch guard prospects; KU was a runner-up for guards Henry, Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde) and Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony). These near misses don't mean that Bill Self has lost his recruiting fastball. Expect Kansas, which is getting interest from Wall and Stephenson, to end its 2009 recruiting with an elite-player commitment.
7. With all the tumult in Tucson, Arizona will struggle to lure 2009 recruits. Don't expect this recruiting downturn to last; Arizona is a major program with the facilities and tradition to recruit nationally. Arizona AD Jim Livengood wants to ensure that the Wildcats will once again rock the McKale Center. He will do so by selecting a coach to restore order for this proud program. Once a full-time coach takes the reins, Arizona will have a huge impact in the Class of 2010 and beyond.
8. Because of the Internet and because almost every Division I conference has a TV contract, more college programs are getting exposure than ever before. That has led to a larger number of elite-level prospects heading to mid-major programs. With 2009 ESPNU 100 prospects such as Terrell Vinson (Baltimore/St. Frances) bound for Loyola Marymount and big man Aaric Murray (Concordville, Pa./Glen Mills) opting for LaSalle, this trend will continue in the new year.
9. With players committing earlier and earlier, the next step might be that prospects will opt to leave high school and enroll early in college. For instance, Rutgers big man Greg Echenique, originally part of the Scarlet's Knights' 2009 class, chose to enroll and play this season. Georgetown signee Hollis Thompson (Concordville, Calif./De La Salle) recently left high school early and enrolled for the spring semester -- though he will not suit up this season. Schools will keep trying to get their players acclimated to college life as quickly as possible by using early enrollment to their advantage.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.