CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Willard, Seton Hall could skyrocket if Anderson picks Pirates

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How much better would Kevin Willard look with Kyle Anderson in his huddle next fall? (US Presswire)  
How much better would Kevin Willard look with Kyle Anderson in his huddle next fall? (US Presswire)  

In a time when good and solid recruiting information is more difficult to come by than a part of the country not at risk of an earthquake, hurricane or flood-inducing thunderstorm, Kyle Anderson offers hope. He seems like a wise kid who is committed to going through the process but uninterested in the drama that normally goes along with it.

For proof, consider that Anderson detailed Monday exactly how he'll spend the next two weeks. He told Scout.com's Evan Daniels that he'll visit Georgetown on Tuesday, St. John's on Wednesday and Florida on Sept. 16, then make a decision between those three schools -- plus UCLA and Seton Hall, both of which Anderson has already visited.

"The morning of the 19th, I'm going to make a decision," Anderson said. "On the 20th, I'll release it."

So mark your calendars, recruiting fans.

Anderson is a consensus top-five prospect nationally.

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His commitment will be massive news regardless of the school.

But it could also be a career-changing moment for Seton Hall's Kevin Willard.

Yes, landing Anderson would also be nice for UCLA's Ben Howland, Georgetown's John Thompson III, Florida's Billy Donovan or St. John's Steve Lavin. But Howland, Thompson III and Donovan have all been to Final Fours, and Lavin's incoming class is good enough to inspire hope in the future of Red Storm basketball. Those guys have either been on top of the sport or come close to it. They're not trying to become relevant. They're trying to remain relevant.

Meantime, Willard is on the climb.

He is 36 years old, entering his second season at Seton Hall.

He could be a future Hall of Famer or, in four years, unemployed.

It's impossible to know.

But sources indicate Willard has a very real chance to land Anderson -- a 6-foot-8 point forward from Jersey City, N.J., which is about 15 miles from the Seton Hall campus in South Orange, N.J., -- and history suggests that's the type of in-state commitment a coach trying to establish himself at a new program needs to build momentum and expedite the process.

How different would Howland's career path have been if he didn't land in-state stars Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo a few months after taking the UCLA job? Or Bill Self's if he didn't get in-state star Dee Brown (and out-of-state star Deron Williams) early on at Illinois? Or Matt Painter's if he didn't get in-state stars Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson early on at Purdue? Or Jeff Capel's if he didn't get in-state star Blake Griffin early on at Oklahoma?

Obviously, Capel's tenure ended poorly, but that's because Willie Warren proved to be a Hall of Fame knucklehead while Tiny Gallon's enrollment led to an NCAA investigation that put a cloud over the program during a two-year period when Capel lost more than he won. Griffin wasn't the problem. Griffin is what created an early buzz about the OU program under Capel. Which eventually led to the Sooners being ranked No. 1 in the nation and making the Elite Eight. Which eventually led to Capel signing a seven-year contract extension two years before he was fired.

Translation: Capel is a multimillionaire because he lured Griffin a month after getting to OU.

That's the truth.

And though I'm not pretending Anderson is Griffin -- Anderson is a great prospect with lots to prove; Griffin is already an NBA All-Star -- it's reasonable to suggest the lanky playmaker, who was consistently impressive on the July circuit in both how he played and how he carried himself, could have a huge impact on the trajectory of Willard's career.

So circle the date, Seton Hall fans.

Sept. 20 won't bury your program if it doesn't go well.

But it could be what sparks the beginning of something special if it does.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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