Posted on: May 26, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 11:58 am

Shabazz Muhammad continues to protect his turf


Posted by Jeff Borzello

Rankings of the top prospects in the country have different impacts on different players. Some don’t pay attention to them; some live and die by their ranking. Others are cognizant of where they stand and know opponents are gunning for them.

Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top three players in the class of 2012, is in the latter group.

“I think everyone thinks they’re the number one player, but I don’t worry about that,” Muhammad said in a phone interview. “But it affects the way I play, big-time. Having a target on my back, it’s a great opportunity for me.”

The 6-foot-5 swingman from Bishop Gorman (Nev.) has been ranked near the top of his class since he was a freshman in high school. Every game, camp or tournament, Muhammad has had to stand his ground to retain his stature.

Unlike many players who drop in the rankings as their high school careers progress, Muhammad is still in the mix for the top spot.

“That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” he said. “I’m the best player on the court and I have to prove it.”

Muhammad is a lefty scoring machine, using his strength to simply overpower most of his opponents when driving to the rim. He is an excellent finisher in the paint and is deadly in the mid-range. Once he improves his outside shooting, Muhammad could be unstoppable on the wing.

At the high school level, Muhammad can get away with playing inside the arc, but he knows he has to improve his guard skill set at the next level.

“Schools are recruiting me as a shooting guard,” he said. “So I’m working on handling the ball. Schools like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, they have their shooting guards handle the ball a lot. And the most important thing is my perimeter shooting. The athleticism is already there.”

Muhammad has offers from dozens of schools, but he has trimmed some of the fat and is focusing on seven schools: Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UNLV, Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

While he says he has no favorites, he did go through each school to discuss what he liked about each one.

Many people think UCLA is the frontrunner for Muhammad, but he denied it.

“It was a great experience,” he said about UCLA. “I’ve been to California and I love the weather. Coach [Ben] Howland is a great guy; I talked to him for a couple of hours. I got to see how it is to be a Bruin.”

Not surprisingly, Kentucky is also on Muhammad’s list. He said it’s different than the other schools on his list because of the location.

“I can be very focused there, since it’s not a city,” Muhammad said. “It’s a good place for a person who is serious about basketball. There are no distractions.”

UNLV is the closest school to Muhammad’s Las Vegas home and high school, and is therefore still in the mix. Proximity could play a factor.

“It’s a local school, and they have really good match-ups every year,” he said. “It’s only 10 minutes away.”

Early in May, Muhammad and his Dream Vision AAU team took a trip to the Jayhawk Invitational in Kansas. While there, he got a chance to check out the Kansas campus.

“Coach [Bill] Self is a nice guy,” Muhammad said. “I took a visit up there a couple weeks ago.”

What impressed Muhammad the most about Duke was head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it wasn’t his charm or recruiting pitch that opened Muhammad’s eyes.

“Coach K, I talked to him a lot,” he said. “He’s very intellectual, he know what he’s doing. The guy is just smart. It’s a great place to be at.”

The most recent trip Muhammad took was to Arizona, ironically taking place the day after head coach Sean Miller spurned Maryland to stay in Tucson.

“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” Muhammad said. “They have a great coach and a great team. And their system is running, getting up and down.”

He plans on taking a trip to Texas sometime in June; at that point, Muhammad will have taken unofficial visits to all seven schools.

Still, no particular school is standing out.

“Everyone I named is coming at me the hardest,” Muhammad said. “They’re all great [coaches]. I can’t really compare one, two, three.”

Nearly every school on his list is a perennial Final Four contender, making Muhammad’s decision even harder. The main factor in his decision will be program success, both past and future.

“The school’s tradition,” Muhammad said. “I’m looking for the school that has the best opportunity for me to win a national championship.”

Despite going on plenty of unofficial visits and knowing exactly what he is looking for in a school, he has no plans to make a decision anytime soon.

Muhammad doesn’t want to rush into anything.

“I’m taking the process slowly. I probably will take all five of my visits,” he said. “I want to make sure I make the right choice.”

Photos: Wildcat Blue Nation, Lawrence Journal-World

Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:29 pm

Perry Ellis taking time with recruiting process

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Wichita Heights (Kan.) has won three consecutive state championships and currently own a 44-game winning streak.

It’s scary to think they could be even better next year given the way Perry Ellis is improving.

“Perry is getting stronger,” said his mother, Fonda. “His shooting has really improved, he is more explosive and more confident.”

Ellis is a 6-foot-8 forward who is ranked among the top-20 players in his class by most services. He can score in a variety of ways, with his back to the basket or in the mid-range while facing up. Ellis runs the floor effectively and knows how to finish at the rim.

He was receiving interest and offers from nearly every big-time school, but trimmed his list in early December. Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma and Wichita State made the finalists for Ellis, who has since heard from Minnesota and Duke.

“I would say that Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State have all shown the most [interest] this spring,” Fonda Ellis said. “We received a call from Duke’s new assistant Jeff Capel on Tuesday.”

Ellis said the perseverance and time each school put in has made them attractive to her son.

“They are all great programs and they all have been recruiting him for a while,” she said. “He has built strong relationships with most of the coaches since eighth and ninth grade.”

Perry visited Wichita State this week, but does not plan to make any other visits until the fall. He will be on the AAU circuit this spring and summer with the Kansas Pray and Play Players.

His mother said there are no favorites yet, but he is looking for a place where he will be “totally comfortable.”

“He is really not ready to do that yet,” Ellis said in terms of leaning one way or another. “He wants to see what happens this summer first.

“He would like to take his official visits this fall and hopefully commit or sign by early signing [period].”

By that time, Wichita Heights will be on the verge of starting a run at a fourth straight state title – led by Ellis, of course.

Photo: MaxPreps

Posted on: May 18, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 5:01 pm

Kansas picks up unsigned Jamari Traylor

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Jamari Traylor doesn’t mind not being a star. He would prefer being on a winning team.

Traylor will have a chance to do that again in the Big 12.

“Jamari just signed his NLI for coach Bill Self and Kansas,” IMG Academy (Fla.) director Andy Borman said.

Traylor, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Chicago who played his high school ball at IMG, chose the Jayhawks over Oklahoma State, Indiana and Texas Tech.

"I know coach Self and his coaching staff, and there's a good group of players," Traylor said. "I envision myself there." 

Traylor has a very good build and body for a player entering his first year of college. He has good strength and is active at both ends of the floor. Traylor is a very solid rebounder who is not afraid to chase down loose balls and mix it up in the paint. Offensively, he finishes well around the rim and also is developing a face-up jumper.

"I'm a high-energy guy," Traylor said. "I can block shots with the best of them. I'm a defensive-minded player."  

With the dearth of inside depth in Lawrence, expect Traylor to step in and produce immediately. He joins a recruiting class that includes top-100 recruits Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe, and combo forward Braeden Anderson from Wilbraham and Monson (Mass.). 

"I have the best chance of being successful there," Traylor said. "As long as I get a diploma from there, it will be a good decision." 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 18, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 3:11 pm

Alabama native Trevor Lacey will stay home

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Arguably the best high school player in the history of Alabama has decided to stay home.

Trevor Lacey, the top guard left on the board, committed to Alabama on Wednesday afternoon during a press conference at his school. Word leaked out about an hour before the announcement that he would sign with the Crimson Tide.

"I just signed with the University of Alabama," Lacey said, putting on an Alabama hat. 

Lacey is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from S.R. Butler (Ala.) who led his high school team to three consecutive state championships. He averaged 31.4 points and 8.0 rebounds last season, putting up at least 40 points on 10 separate occasions. 

He chose the Crimson Tide over Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn. Despite being pursued by some of the biggest powers in the country, the pull of his home state was just too much in the end.

"I felt like it was home," Lacey said. "I had a great relationship with coach [Anthony] Grant and the players." 

Lacey was one of the best scorers at the prep level the past few years. He has outstanding range on his 3-point shot, and has shown the ability to make contested jumpers with defenders in his face. Lacey can take defenders off the dribble and knock down mid-range shots or get to the rim and finish. He’s far more effective when playing off the ball, but is difficult to stop when he gets going.

He joins a very solid recruiting class that also includes top-100 prospects Levi Randolph and Nick Jacobs, as well as Rodney Cooper and Moussa Gueye. 

Photo: Al.com  

Posted on: May 18, 2011 1:18 pm

Bill Self not likely leaving Kansas any time soon

Posted by Matt Norlander

There comes a point in every successful, title-winning college coach's career when he finds his name tossed around for NBA jobs. Most times, even if the coach isn't strongly considering the jump, this is welcomed gossip on behalf of the man in question.

Some coaches inevitably follow that path -- many are unsuccessful and find their way back to campus. (See: Pitino, Rick; Calipari, John as recent, easy examples.)

Kansas' Bill Self is such a coach in this era. He's had incredible dominance over the Big 12 since arriving at Kansas eight years ago. He won a national title with the Jayhawks in 2008, thanks to arguably the biggest/greatest shot in program history. From afar, it may seem like Self is on cruise-control, and some wonder if he'll ever want that next challenge. There's not much else for him to accomplish or go to in college, after all -- Kansas is one of the six best jobs in the game, of course.

So, when's the NBA flirtation and/or transition going to happen, Bill?

“I think I’ve got a better job than two-thirds of the NBA jobs right where I’m at, at Kansas. I don’t see myself being a pro guy,” Self said Tuesday afternoon on 610 KSCP. “I don’t want to say never, but right now, I feel I’m a college guy. I’ve got such a great gig. The last two years, we’ve been good. We’ve been real good, but we haven’t done it (won NCAA title). There’s something inside, ‘We’ve got to do it again.’ That’s my total motivation right now.”

If Self does get that second title soon, then I think it's reasonable to debate he'll consider trying on some NBA slippers. You should know: Self is considered to be on the short list of men who will be looked at to replace Gregg Popovich when the Spurs coach decides to retire. The Oklahoma City job is also an obvious dot to draw a line to, as it's within shouting distance of Self's Kansas residence right now.

But Kansas fans, who have gotten frustrated with Self's bundle of upsets in March (but can't really get too mad because, you know, 2008 happened), can live with the comfort of knowing that, as long as their team is chasing a second title under Self, the head coach isn't likely to go anywhere.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Bill Self, Kansas
Posted on: May 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 1:35 pm

Recruiting Notebook: Griffin is a two-sport star

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Watching Derrick Griffin run the floor and grab alley-oops – over and over and over – you would think he doesn’t even hesitate when going up for a dunk.

Interestingly, the 6-foot-6 forward from Terry (Tex.) does have second thoughts the split-second before he skies over defenders.

“Sometimes, I do get nerves,” Griffin said.

Of course, those thoughts quickly dissipate, turning into a confidence where he knows he can out-leap nearly any opponent.

“Then I just jump,” Griffin said. “If it’s there, I’m going to get it.”

Teamed with two top-10 prospects in twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Griffin was the one who stole the show at last weekend’s Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational. He wowed the crowd with one-handed finishes, alley-oops when he rose high above the rim and big-time blocks on the defensive end.

Although he can certainly make an impact at the next level in basketball, Griffin is also a stud football player. As a wide receiver, Griffin reportedly caught 18 touchdown passes, proving to be an impossible match-up with his athleticism and strength.

Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, Kansas and USC have already reached out to the sophomore for both sports.

He has not made up his mind as to which sport he will play in the future, but Griffin knows his development might be better suited for the hardwood.

“If I get taller, I’m going to play basketball,” he said.

Lee to take it to the next level

Britton Lee understands.

The Roman Catholic (Pa.) sophomore knows he’s 5-foot-10 and isn’t yet a pure point guard or a big-time shooter. He knows he has room to improve and has a lot of work to do in order to reach his goals.

“I need to work on my jump shot, need to work on my handle,” Lee said.

With that said, Lee also envisions himself as a major conference player.

“I think I can go high-major,” he said.

For now, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Niagara are showing varying levels of interest.

Other Notes:

- The U-16 group of the Team Final AAU program is one of the top groups in the country, although they also play up an age group in a few tournaments. In addition to Lee and high-major prospects Austin Colbert, Rondae Jefferson and Davon Reed, head coach Rob Brown also has plenty of other players at his disposal.

Yosef Yacob, a 6-foot point guard from Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), is hearing from Canisius, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s and Drexel. Yacob is long and an effective facilitator.

Johnnie Davis might be undersized at 6-foot-4, but the Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) forward is productive. Davis is hearing from schools like Niagara and George Mason, but also has high-majors like Pittsburgh tracking him.

- At the Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational last weekend, the New Jersey Playaz should have run roughshod over Threat 220. One player wouldn’t let that happen, though: Junius Thomas.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 forward from Anacostia (D.C.), was outstanding. He blocked shots, finished above the rim, dominated the glass and single-handedly kept an undermanned Threat team in the game. While they eventually lost, Thomas might have been the most impressive player all game.

If he can get his academics in order, he has the potential to be at least a mid-level player. Thomas did mention hearing from St. Bonaventure and Clemson

Photo: iHigh.com 

Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:03 pm

KU's Robinson still dealing with mother's death

Posted by Eric Angevine

The expression “when it rains, it pours” is a cliché for a reason. Quite often, it’s true.

Look at the life of Kansas forward Thomas Robinson. During the 2010-11 season, he lost his grandmother and grandfather within days of one another. Then, in late January, his mother, 37-year-old Lisa Robinson, passed away from an apparent heart attack. Somehow, Robinson played through the rest of his sophomore season despite a crushing burden of grief that would have laid a weaker man low.

Quite a bit of sympathy and concern coalesced around Robinson’s half-sister, seven year old Jayla Paris. Strangers from around the nation contributed to the Lisa Robinson scholarship fund, which should guarantee that Jayla has a bright academic future. College is still a decade away for Jayla, however, and a more immediate decision must be made on where, and with whom, the second-grader will live.

J. Brady McCollough of the Kansas City Star discovered the details of Jayla’s current living situation, which is anything but settled.

Jayla, now 8, is living with her father, James Paris, in Paris’ sister’s home in Southeast D.C. James Paris completed a five-year prison sentence for distribution of a controlled substance on Dec. 13, 2010, and is now on parole.

On March 2, Lisa’s older step-brother, Willatant Austin Jr., and his wife, Carrie, filed a verified complaint for custody of Jayla in the circuit court for Prince George’s County in Maryland, according to documents obtained by The Star.

Custody battles can cause a lot of pain, most of which settles on the shoulders of the child in question. This is the sort of scenario we see played out on television dramas, where lawyers and doctors debate morality and points of law and wrap it all up in under an hour. In reality, it’s not so cut and dried.

It’s easy to look at James Paris as a parolee and say “unfit”. But, according to McCollough’s article, Jayla’s natural father has provided “documents that show that Jayla’s grades have improved and that she received an ‘A’ in work habits; medical records that show Jayla is receiving medical care through a health-care program in Washington D.C., including dental care and counseling to address the emotional trauma resulting from Lisa’s death; and Jayla’s birth certificate, which features him as her father and her last name as Paris.”

The Austins counter with the following: “they have been married for 33 years, raised two children of their own and two sons of Willatant’s deceased cousin and frequently cared for Jayla. The Austins assert that they would provide a ‘stable and loving home’ for Jayla.”

It’s a game of he-said/they-said that doesn’t offer any easy solutions. Unless the court sees proof that James Paris is unfit, it seems unlikely that a judge will automatically assume that a paroled offender cannot parent. Even the very likely fact that the Austins may provide a more stable alternative probably isn’t enough to sway the verdict in their favor without some evidence that Paris is negligent. Finding proof would seem to be a matter of long-term investigation and observation.

It seems likely that Thomas Robinson will be called to give testimony should there be further proceedings in this custody suit. Making sure his sister is taken care of is a priority that is likely well above thoughts of basketball in his life right now. It’s quite a burden for a 20-year-old college student, but even more so for an eight-year-old who doesn’t even know where she’ll be allowed to attend third grade next year.

If Robinson can somehow see this through and play well next season, don’t look for him to stick around for a senior year at KU. If an NBA career awaits, and it likely does, the money Robinson can make would instantly give him the leverage and resources he needs to take charge of his life, and the life of his sister. If you need someone to root for next season, keep Thomas and Jayla Robinson on your short list.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:33 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 4:29 pm

DeAndre Daniels still the big prize for 2011

Posted by Matt Jones

Every year, there is one elite high school basketball basketball player whose recruiting process turns into an exhausting, never-ending circus that becomes associated with the kid forever. Last year, it was Terrence Jones, who held a press conference to announce he would attend Washington, only to call John Calipari in tears immediately thereafter. Jones later changed his commitment to Kentucky, but his inability to make a decision in the first instance has given him the label of indecisiveness that has stuck with him ever since. Such recruitments stick with even the best of kids as they make a process that others seem to be able to complete at a normal pace, extend into perpetuity. 

This year's version is DeAndre Daniels, an athletic small forward from the IMG Academy in Florida, who is now entering (we hope) the final moments of his college selection process. For those who have followed Daniels's high school career, the ride has been long and bumpy. Daniels seemed to initially have his process finished in 2009, when he made an early commitment to Rick Barnes and Texas. At that point, Daniels was considered an elite prospect and throughout most of his high school career, his future as an integral part of the Longhorn program seemed certain.

But then, early in his senior season at IMG, Daniels reopened his recruiting process in order to let all of the top programs in America give their sales pitches. Two of the elites, Kentucky and Kansas, attempted to convince Daniels that he should graduate from IMG early and potentially enroll in college during the second semester of the 2010-2011 season.  Daniels considered both options, but ultimately decided to remain at IMG and be recruited throughout the course of the school year. Other top programs such as Duke and Florida then made contact, and for a time period, Daniels was like the final attractive girl sitting at the bar before last call...pursued by all with alone (or holding an open scholarship) with an extra sense of desperation because of the lack of other candidates.

Now we are just a few short days away from the end of the Spring signing period and Daniels still has yet to make a decision. May 18th is the final day in which a player can sign a Letter of Intent and nearly all of the few remaining elite players are planning on picking a school by that deadline. But there is no requirement that a player sign a Letter of Intent to play college basketball and Daniels has given no indication that he is planning on signing or announcing by the deadline.

In fact, Daniels has given recruiting observers little indication of any of his plans at this point. For most of the past month, it had been assumed that Coach K was working his blue devil magic on Daniels and had him headed towards Durham to join an already stacked roster for next season. But then today, Jeff Goodman reported that Duke was no longer an option for Daniels as speculation about potential academic hurdles erased the hastily arranged marriage. Kentucky has basically stopped recruiting Daniels this spring, leading most to assume that Kansas and Texas are the two favorites for his services. Whether Daniels picks either of those schools, signs a Letter of Intent or simply shocks everyone by choosing a path that no one has yet predicted, remains to be seen. Daniels final decision is (along with the reopening on Thursday of former Maryland commitment Nick Faust's recruitment) the final major story of the 2011 recruiting class and will go a long way in deciding the fortunes and playing time of a number of major college basketball programs next season.

For my purposes, I am openly pulling for Daniels to close his bizarre recruiting path by choosing to become a Longhorn. It would be the height of absurdity if two years after his original commitment and following six months of heated pursuit by nearly all of college basketball's elite programs and coaches, Daniels ended up right back where he started, playing for Rick Barnes at Texas. Every recruiting class needs a player whose path is so ridiculous that it becomes memorable. Deandre Daniels is well suited to become just that player.
Category: NCAAB
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