Tuesday, May 6, 2008

2003 Top 20 Recruiting: A Look Back

With Vandy scoring what is potentially a top 20 recruiting class and probably needing them to play and score a fair amount I thought I’d look back at top classes from the past five years to see what kind of success these players had as freshmen. Although not much detail will be given on most teams, I will highlight specific teams from each year that I think relate most to this years Vanderbilt freshmen class.


1. Florida St.
A top heavy class reliant on two top 20 players in Alex Johnson and Von Wafer, they were the 2nd and 3rd leading scorers respectively as freshmen on an FSU squad that went 19-14 while losing in the 2nd round of the NIT.

2. Oklahoma
This is a very similar situation to the current Commodores as well as a cautionary tale. The 2003 Oklahoma recruiting class was built upon quantity of quality but lacked star power with no 5 star recruits. Drew Lavender and Lawrence McKenzie combined to start 51 of the 60 games they played in and together averaged around 20 ppg, both transferred after their sophomore seasons (that was the year before Sampson left to go to Indiana, so that was not their reason). Also coming off the bench to play in almost every game were highly ranked Brandon Foust and not so highly ranked JUCO Jaison Williams. These two averaged about 35 minutes and 12 points a game between them. Foust also transferred after his sophomore year. This Sooner team featured a very good sophomore big man, Kevin Bookout and a future all A-10 guard while at Charlotte, De’Angelo Alexander. In other words, not too different a team from what we’re expecting out of Vandy this year, the big difference being that they relied on a freshman point guard whereas the Commodores will have Beal. Like FSU they lost in the second round of the NIT.

3. Maryland
This was really a loaded class, five guys including two 4-stars and a 5-star player. Ekene Ibekwe, Mike Jones, DJ Strawberry, and Hassan Fofana all contributed in varying degrees off the bench for the Terps, they made the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament before losing to defending champ Syracuse.

4. LSU
Four of the five saw a lot of action as freshmen, with only future Commodore Ross Neltner riding the pine. This again just goes to show that freshmen struggle to contribute right away. As the #11 player overall Brandon Bass was expected to contribute right away and did, he was the SEC Freshman of the Year, another 5-star recruit Regis Koundjia started 20 games and averaged only 4 ppg and eventually transferred to GWU, 4-star Tack Minor played better while averaging about 7 ppg. Darnell Lazare was the fourth to see action averaging around 12 minutes and 3 ppg. These Tigers lost to the aforementioned Oklahoma Sooners in the NIT’s first round. Over the course of their careers most of these guys disappointed, but as freshmen they were thrown into the fire and could not perform well enough for a talented team that featured all-SEC Jaime Lloreda, future all-SEC Darrell Mitchell, and 1,000 point scorer Antonio Hudson to make the NCAA’s.

5. Arkansas
Not much to be learned here as
this ranking was based on two top 30 players in Olu Famutimi and Ronnie Brewer. Obviously these two had different careers, but at least as freshmen both were useful with Brewer being a little more than that.

6. California
All four signees were amongst the top 7 in minutes per game for the Bears and it did not work out well. They went 13-15 and missed the postseason. Leon Powe was going to be a stud and everybody knew it. Marquise Kately offers some hope for Commodore fans, he was pretty highly regarded, #46, and really had a fantastic freshmen year. He averaged 10.5 ppg while shooting over 53% from the field. Ayinde Ubaka and Dominic McGuire both were top 100 recruits, with Ubaka almost cracking the top 50 and while both contributed, neither scored more than 7 ppg. These two got plenty of minutes to show that they could really play, Ubaka played almost 30 mpg, and neither did much to distinguish himself on an extremely disappointing team. Ubaka would go on to be a very good player, but being good as a freshman in a good league is not easy and these two were not up to the task. Also, McGuire would eventually transfer to Fresno St., in what is becoming quite a trend among these highly rated classes.

7. Syracuse
This would be a great comparison for this years Vandy class, but they had the benefit of multiple upperclassmen on the team. Only Demetris Nichols was forced to start games as a freshman. However, to me Nichols seems very similar to Lance Goulbourne. Nichols was a little higher ranked (#30), but was brought in having a reputation as a good shooter with above average athleticism. As a Syracuse fan I remember he was terrible as a freshman and the statistics show it. In 17 mpg he shot 35% from the field including 23.6% from three while averaging 4 points. With the exception of his sophomore year he made great strides every year and as a senior he was one of the best players in the Big East and an honorable mention All-America while averaging almost 19 ppg. There is nothing wrong with this career path and it again shows that really good players can struggle as freshmen. Another transfer as Louie McCroskey transferred to Marist following three extremely disappointing seasons.

8. Kansas
Not much to gain here, this was based on two 5-star recruits, neither of which did anything to help KU. Both David Padgett and JR Giddens transferred.

9. Pittsburgh
Chris Taft had a monster freshmen year, averaging 11 pts and 7.5 rebounds, while none of the other freshmen did anything of note. Taft was a 4-star recruit who had the benefit of all kinds of upperclassmen help. Aaron Gray would eventually become a star, but did absolutely nothing as a freshman.

10. Arizona
Ndudi Ebi declared for the draft, while Mustafa Shakur turned out to be a monumental disappointment.

11. Kansas St.
Yes, KSU played basketball before Michael Beasley. Jeremiah Massey was the key to this class and as a JUCO was more ready to play than most and it showed, he led the team in scoring his first year. Cartier Martin, like Nichols was a top 50 recruit who played significantly and poorly as a freshman only to blossom into a stud by his Junior year. A third freshman, pg Dez Willingham played significant minutes and also struggled.

12. Florida
This team had plenty of upperclassmen, but three freshmen managed to crack the rotation. Lee Humphrey started 11 games and scored a little less than 4 ppg. Chris Richard had a hilarious recruiting picture and was highly ranked (#45), but he too scored a little under 4 ppg, finally, Mohammad Abukar (#40) scored slightly under 3 ppg. Both Abukar and Ryan Appleby would transfer to the west coast.

13. Michigan St.
Not much to say here, two man class and Shannon Brown (#3) was thought of highly enough for this ranking. Drew Naymick was also pretty highly thought of (65), but he barely played as a freshman.

This class would undoubtedly been ranked higher had everyone known Charlie Villanueva would have gotten on-campus. The eventual national champions obviously didn’t rely on freshmen too much, but Josh Boone (ranked #54) had a very promising rookie season while starting every game and averaging a respectable 6 pts and 6 boards and managing not to embarrass himself anywhere except the free throw line. Marcus Williams (#61) did well in the non-conference before getting hurt (I think) and not playing much after. Villanueva was ranked in the top 5 and we shouldn’t expect any of Vandy’s incoming crop to duplicate what he did.

15. Iowa St.
Will Blalock (#74) and Curtis Stinson (#127) would combine to become the face of the Cyclone program for the next few years. They both were quite good as freshmen with Stinson leading the team in scoring and assists and Blalock also having a big contribution to the teams NIT semi-final run. However these two show what happens when teams rely on freshmen to run the point as Stinson barely had a 1:1 assist to turnover ration and Blalock was also under 2:1. A third freshman, Damion Staple played significant minutes on his way to averaging 4 ppg. Stinson’s year, to’s not included, represents about the best that could be hoped for from a freshman guard in a big conference. He shot almost 48% from the field, while averaging 15 ppg, about 4.5 apg, and 5 rpg, overall a very good freshman year for a guy outside the top 125.

16. Wake Forest
Chris Paul.

17. Virginia
JR Reynolds had an almost perfect career path. He was a top 100 recruit (94) who got his feet wet as a freshman, 9.4 ppg while playing almost 25 mpg, who blossomed as he got older and eventually became one of the best players in the ACC. He’s another example of a guy who became a star, but as a freshman was just a role player. The star of this class was Gary Forbes who transferred to UMASS and became a star. Donte Minter would also transfer and none of the other freshman played much as rookies.

18. Kentucky
Four 3-star recruits, the best of which, Shagari Alleyne, was ranked high based on potential rather than current ability and wound up transferring to Manhattan. Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas barely saw the court as freshmen.

19. Illinois
Richard McBride and Brian Randle were both 4-star guys who came in a saw some playing time, about 10-15 mpg each, but this team was loaded with what would become the 2005 runner-up and the freshmen were not really needed to provide much more than couple ppg they each contributed.

20. Mississippi St.
Jackie Butler was academically ineligible and Travis Outlaw declared for the NBA Draft or this class would have been a contender for #1. Considering this team was a 2-seed, #48 ranked Gary Ervin held his own in averaging 5.5 pts and 2.5 assists, he would transfer to Arkansas after his sophomore season.

Vandy signed one guy in the 2003 class: Dan Cage. He was a 3-star recruit who was mostly being recruited by mid-majors, I’d say he performed slightly better than anticipated. Score one for Vandy players being “special”.

My first thought was that there are less basketball powers on this list than I anticipated. No UCLA, Duke, UNC, Texas, or Indiana. I was also stunned by the amount of transfers, which leads me to believe that at least one of Vandy’s incoming four will be gone within two years and it will have nothing to do with the draft. Finally, overall, there are a ton of guys who become really really good college players who do not come in and play well right away. For every Marquise Kately there’s a Demetrius Nichols. Yea, a few guys play well right away, but many future stars come in and contribute (6-8 pts) as freshman before really stepping up in their games as upperclassmen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

recruiting gets tricky because some guys are told they are really good from the age 14 on, and then at the D-1 level they just aren't. i heard on the radio today someone say imagine if these AAU perked kids had to do the traditional john wooden first practice ritual of learning how to put on socks and tie your shoes. it wouldn't work today. so a lot of kids can't handle a lack of being the feature guy once they get to college and can't adjust.