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May 14, 2010

Roundtable: Late signing period winding down

We're almost to the end of the late signing period. As such, we decided to get with our basketball recruiting analysts for a recruiting roundtable.

Q. Which freshman played better than you expected this past season? Which one disappointed you the most?

Eric Bossi: For me, the freshman I wasn't expecting to contribute as much as he did was Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe. Frankly, I just wasn't as much of a believer as others were when he was coming out of high school. For a disappointment (and I hate to use that word because these guys were freshmen), I'll go with Washington guard Abdul Gaddy. I was really surprised by how lost he looked after always being so poised as a high school player.

Jerry Meyer: I knew Marshall's Hassan Whiteside was talented and had a lot of upside, but I didn't expect a player with so little experience playing the game to have such a significant immediate impact. Averages of 13.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.4 blocks are eye-opening stats for any freshman post player. John Henson went to North Carolina with a significant amount of hype and was thought to be a player who could have a similar impact as Brandan Wright as a freshman. But Henson struggled to find his niche at North Carolina and actually played behind some less-regarded players in the rotation. Toward the end of the season, Henson had more positive moments. But his averages of 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds are well below what an elite prospect is expected to produce as a freshman.

Q. Which coach hired this offseason do you see having the most long-term recruiting success?

Eric Bossi: I really like the situation that Brad Brownell is walking into at Clemson. He's at a school where there is plenty of local talent, and thanks to his previous experience at UNC Wilmington, he already has a good feel for the region that he'll need to recruit.

Jerry Meyer: Tony Barbee at Auburn. Barbee already has signed two quality recruits this spring in Luke Cothron and Josh Langford, and I expect him to continue to have success as a recruiter. He did a great job recruiting at UTEP, and he has really taken advantage of his strong ties in Memphis. Barbee has been able to sign high-level prospects who have somewhat toiled in obscurity because of the plethora of talent in Memphis. With the new facilities at Auburn and the positive momentum around the program at the moment, Barbee should be able to turn Auburn into a legitimate recruiting threat throughout the South.

Q. Is there any new coach whose recruiting ability might be underrated?

Eric Bossi: Auburn has been a notoriously tough job for a while now. In Tony Barbee, school officials have hired a guy who has proven that he can recruit regionally - he's especially plugged into talent rich-Memphis - and he's a young, energetic guy. If anybody can get things headed the right way on the recruiting trail for Auburn, Barbee is the guy.

Jerry Meyer: I wouldn't be surprised if Dana Altman recruited at a higher level at Oregon than many might expect. Altman's success at Creighton is well-documented, and you don't win there like he did unless you have quality players. Altman did a great job of finding hidden gems who ended up being great players for him, and he also periodically landed nationally ranked prospects at Creighton. If Altman can succeed in recruiting at Creighton, think of what he is capable of doing at Oregon.

Q. How about a coach who might have some trouble recruiting at his new school? Eric Bossi: This one is a tough call between Jeff Bzdelik at Wake Forest and Steve Donahue at Boston College. The ACC is among the most competitive recruiting conferences, and each of these new guys is coming from a vastly different environment. They will have to prove they can recruit against some of college basketball's most proven recruiters on the crowded Eastern Seaboard.

Jerry Meyer: It will be interesting to see if Wake Forest's Jeff Bzdelik can recruit at the level that is necessary to be successful in the ACC. Bzdelik never has been known as a high-powered recruiter. Instead, he is known for recruiting cerebral and skilled prospects who fit his structured system. I'm not so sure this approach will get it done against such strong competition in the ACC. And I'm not so sure that Bzdelik will be willing to change - or is capable of changing - his recruiting approach, either.

Q. St. John's, Rutgers and Seton Hall have hired new coaches this offseason. Much is made of those schools being in fertile recruiting areas. Is that talk overrated? If not, what is it going to take for those schools to keep the bulk of the top players at home? Can all three be good at the same time?

Eric Bossi: There is plenty of talent within a three-hour drive in any direction from each of these programs. But there are a ton of other programs who have established - or are in the middle of establishing - deep ties in those areas. St. John's and Seton Hall have some tradition, which could help. The bottom line, though, for any of these programs is that if they start winning, the locals will take notice.

Jerry Meyer: I definitely believe the talent in New York City is overhyped and overrated. The talent in New Jersey is better. These three schools could achieve a certain level of success if they can lock down their area, but that just isn't realistic. The top prospects are going to look outside the area for college unless one of these schools dramatically improves its performance on the court. Going to St. John's, Rutgers or Seton Hall to rebuild the programs just isn't that appealing to high-level prospects in the area. Perhaps one of these schools can upgrade its recruiting and play, but I just can't see all three being successful at the same time.

Q. Is there an area of the country that is undervalued when it comes to the talent it produces?

Eric Bossi: A few years ago, the answer might have been either Memphis or the Pacific Northwest (specifically Seattle and Portland), but both of those areas have been getting plenty of credit lately. Strange as it may sound given how many players they've been producing lately, I still think Florida and Texas are a bit underrated. Football still rules in each of those states, and there still seem to be an awful lot of sleepers emerging from each place despite the more intense recruiting efforts of numerous programs.

Jerry Meyer: Almost anyone who follows college basketball recruiting acknowledges that Memphis produces a lot of talent, but I don't think the city comes close to getting the national recognition it deserves as a producer of high-major talent. There isn't the media presence in Memphis that is dedicated to hyping recruits like there is in other major metropolitan areas. But coaches know how populated Memphis is with basketball talent. Coaches from practically every conference in the country are spending a lot of time in Memphis mining the talent.

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