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February 6, 2010

Meyer's Mailbag: Kabongo ranked too low?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Feb 1: Miller vs. Barnes
Jan 23: Another top class for UK?
Jan 15: Top teams chasing Ross

Got a question? Click here to send it to Meyer's Mailbag

Is five-star point guard Myck Kabongo ranked high enough?

Could Terrence Jones and C.J. Leslie co-exist on the court?

Is Texas a national recruiting power in basketball?

These questions and more are addressed by National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer in this week's mailbag.


Ranked too low?

Out of curiosity, why do you not have Myck Kabongo ranked higher?

- Walter from Miami

Kabongo is having a stellar year Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's, and he has performed well in several high-profile national games. He is a cat-quick point guard with moxy. He also has solid leadership skills.

He came out of the summer ranked No. 24 nationally (the No. 8 point guard) in the 2011 class. His placement on the point guard list is one of the big questions for Rivals.com this spring. Eighth does seem low, especially given how well he is playing this year. On the other hand, there are some very talented point guards ranked ahead of him.

There were two major questions about Kabongo coming out of the summer, and it looks like he is in the process of answering those questions. Can he shoot the ball well enough from long range to keep his defender honest? This year he is getting more arc on his shot and shooting 3-pointers with more confidence. It looks like once he gets to Texas, defenders will have to honor his outside shot.

Can he finish around the rim in traffic? Kabongo is not an explosive leaper, but he is proving that he's quick enough, crafty enough and resourceful enough to find a way to finish. When you have these qualities to go along with mental and physical toughness, you don't necessarily have to play above the rim. Steve Nash is an example of this in the NBA.

So, it is safe to say that Kabongo has a strong chance of moving up the rankings. Ultimately, it will depend on how he stacks up against the other top point guards in the country on the travel circuit.


Playing together?

I saw Terrence Jones play Josh Smith's team the other night and noticed Jones was listed as a small forward. Could you see UK go after Jones at the three, and sell C.J. Leslie at the four?

- Mark from parts unknown

For one, I wouldn't list Jones as a small forward. He doesn't have the quickness to defend that position. Instead, he is a highly skilled four man with the versatility to play any position offensively.

Although skilled, Leslie isn't as skilled offensively as Jones. However, Leslie does have the ability to defend the small forward position. In fact, Leslie - because of his extreme athleticism - is perhaps the most versatile defender of all the frontcourt players in the 2010 class.

Looking at Leslie and Jones from a Kentucky perspective, they can easily play together. There is no difference between the three and the four in the Dribble Drive Offense. Both positions are looking to penetrate from a variety of areas on the court, and both Jones and Leslie are slashers.

Take note that what you are seeing from Kentucky this year is a tweaked version of the Dribble Drive. Demarcus Cousins is too dominant a low-post player to keep him primarily on the weak side. Cousins' skills demand that you feed him the ball on the block and run a lot of the offense through him. Secondly, Patrick Patterson is not the type of slashing four man for which the Dribble Drive calls.

Defensively, Leslie can guard the three through the five; Jones can guard the four or the five.


Recruiting power

It's safe to say that Texas under Rick Barnes is a national recruiting powerhouse. Year after year Barnes is able to lure recruits from east to west to Austin. I think his recruitment of Kevin Durant was the catalyst for the national recruiting successes. It's true that before Durant Texas was getting blue-chips, but they were mostly either in-state players or from nearby states. Durant and his on-the-court success paved the way. Your thoughts?

- Jeff from Neptune

I agree that landing Durant was a watershed moment for Texas' basketball recruiting. It wasn't just the fact that Texas pulled an elite prospect out of ACC/Big East country. How well Durant played at Texas, his development there and his continued love of the program have been key.

Look at the talent Texas can put on the floor, and it shows that it is a national recruiting power. Texas landed 2009's No. 4-ranked prospect Avery Bradley, who is from the state of Washington. UT also signed the No. 6-ranked prospect, Jordan Hamilton, who is from Los Angeles.

Now, Texas doesn't always have an elite recruiting class year in year out. But year in year out Texas lands a very high percentage of the recruits they target. Texas will pursue a prospect from anywhere in the country (or outside the country), and no one likes to recruit against the Longhorns.


The Bruins' board

I know UCLA has three recruits, but are they going to sign any other players this year.

- Ed from Fallbrook

UCLA is continuing to recruit in the 2010 class. Two four-star guards out of Michigan, Ray McCallum and Trey Zeigler, visited in the fall and are still uncommitted. However, it is looking unlikely that either ends up in Los Angeles. Compton (Calif.) High School guard Deonte Burton is also receiving attention from UCLA but has not been offered.

In the frontcourt, there are three prospects UCLA has offered and is pursuing. Nigerian Moses Abraham, who has exploded onto the high major radar this season, was recently offered by UCLA. The Bruins have been after five-star forward Terrence Jones over the long haul. UCLA is also gaining momentum in the elusive C.J. Leslie sweepstakes.


Jayhawk lock?

What are the chances of Kansas securing an early commitment from Wichita prospect Perry Ellis? Given the closeness to Lawrence, I would like to think this would be a lock. But after Coach [Bill] Self lost out on two somewhat local recruits (Harrison Barnes and Brad Beal), I'm not so sure anymore.

- Joel from Lawrence

The chances are good - maybe great - that Kansas lands Ellis. It is not often that the coach of an elite power is at the first game of a prospect's high school career, but this was the case for Ellis. Self was in the stands for Ellis' first high school game.

But as you point out, at one time it looked like both Barnes and Beal were destined to Kansas. In basketball recruiting, there are few certainties.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.


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