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April 9, 2009

Meyer's Mailbag: Big names waiting on Wall

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Mar 27: PG transition at Memphis?
Mar 20: GU's recruiting hurt by offense?
Mar 12: 2009 big men ready for impact
Now that DeMarcus Cousins has committed to Kentucky, which direction will the John Wall domino fall?

How about a comparison for five-star 2010 prospect Joe Jackson?

Who were the most impressive participants in the McDonald's All American practices and game?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer addresses these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
The big decision

With DeMarcus Cousins committing to John Calipari, do you believe John Wall will choose [to stay] close to home and possibly decide on Duke or UNC? Or will he follow Cousins to Kentucky?

-- Josh from Selby, N.C.
Josh, you have the Wall dilemma broken down into its basic components. When it comes down to it, I think his choice will be stay at home or play for Calipari at Kentucky. If he chooses to stay at home, Duke and North Carolina are his two compelling choices.

With Kentucky, he would be able to team up with Cousins and play in the dribble drive offense. Prior to Calipari's transition, Memphis was Wall's favorite. If Wall would play for Calipari in Conference USA, you would certainly think he would play for him in the SEC. The difference now from when Wall was favoring Memphis is that Duke has picked up its recruiting effort and North Carolina has begun its recruiting effort.

As for Duke, Wall had a very productive meeting with coach Mike Krzyzewski a week and a half ago, just prior to Calipari's departure to Kentucky. Wall came away from the meeting with a positive impression. Coach K sold Wall on his opportunity to speed up the Duke offensive attack and the ability to flourish under his guidance.

It has been rumored that Wall has always wanted to play for North Carolina. A rift, however, between UNC coach Roy Williams and Wall's travel team coach Brian Clifton kept Wall and the Tar Heels apart up to this point. But recently it has become more apparent that Wall truly will make his own decision and that he just might prefer to stay close to home and his mother. Hence a phone call from Williams during the Final Four and an eagerness of Wall to meet with Williams.

All three schools share a common denominator. With Wall running the point, each would be a legitimate national championship contender. Without Wall, things get a lot tougher since all three teams lack a legitimate point guard.

PG comparison

My best comparison for 2010 PG prospect Joe Jackson is Ty Lawson. Whom do you compare him to?

-- Davin from Birmingham, Ala.
I'd compare Jackson to Darren Collison more so than Lawson. So much of Lawson's game is predicated on physical strength combined with speed. Jackson has speed, and even more so spurtability, but his ability to finish depends more on his leaping ability than his strength.

Collison and Jackson have almost identical builds and are exceptionally elusive with the basketball. At this stage Collison does a better job of taking care of the ball Jackson is prone to turn the ball over but Jackson projects to be a more explosive scorer than Collison.

Despite the differences between Collison and Jackson, the former UCLA point guard is the best comparison that I'm aware of for Jackson.

And as far as Jackson's recruitment goes, it might end up being as tough for a college to pin him down as it is for defenders. A Memphis native, Jackson appeared to be a lock for Memphis with Calipari at the helm. Now that Calipari is gone, it is a wide-open race. Tennessee will put on the full-court press starting at noon today when the April contact period kicks in. Arkansas and Marquette are pressuring the new Memphis staff as well. Coach Josh Pastner, however, is known for his recruiting prowess, and it will be put to the test in the recruitment of his hometown five-star player.

Two's a crowd?

If DeMarcus Cousins comes to UK and Daniel Orton honors his LOI, would they simply share playing time or could they be used effectively playing at the same time?

-- Gary from Flatwoods
Cousins is coming to Kentucky. Now the question is whether Orton is coming to Kentucky.

Regardless of how this plays out, I just can't see Cousins and Orton on the court at the same time for any significant amount of time under Calipari. For one, it would be extremely difficult to play man-to-man defense and impossible to play pressure man-to-man. On top of that, neither has the foot speed nor motor to play significant minutes on the perimeter as a "4" man in the dribble-drive offense.

Now if the system is a high/low attack or a typical high ball screen attack, then they could play together on the offensive end. Neither of these offensive attacks, though, are what Calipari is going to employ.

As I've been saying. The game is getting quicker and stronger and not taller. Calipari fully understands this, and that is why a potential departure by Orton is not a cause for panic for the Kentucky staff. Don't get me wrong, the Kentucky staff would love to have Orton on the roster next year, and he would be a major contributor. It just would be difficult for he and Cousins to be on the court together.

Options at the point

Jerry, losing A.J. Price and Craig Austrie will leave Kemba Walker as the only true point guard for UConn next season. Can either Jamal Coombs-McDaniel or Jamaal Trice run the point? If not, is there anyone who the Huskies are going after?

-- Michael from Ann Arbor, Mich.
Walker better be ready to log heavy minutes at the point for UConn next year. I'm sure he will be, though. He played many full games deep into almost every tournament he was in on the travel-team circuit with the prestigious New York Gauchos team. Coombs-McDaniel is a talented forward with ball-handling skills, but he is no point guard. And Trice is much more of a shooting guard than a point guard.

UConn does, however, have an incoming freshman who can back up Walker in Darius Smith of Chicago. Smith had a monster senior season and was known as one of the best on-the-ball defenders on the travel-team circuit.

This lack of experienced depth at point guard is why Miami Dade C.C. combo forward Rico Pickett is such an important recruit. Pickett ran the point in high school, on the travel circuit and during his freshman year at Alabama before transferring to Miami Dade. This year at Miami Dade he transitioned to the shooting guard position.

His versatility as a combo guard is just what UConn needs. He can play minutes at the "2" and then also play the "1" when Walker needs a break. Pickett has a great feel for the game as a passer. In fact at the final ABCD Camp, Pickett led the camp in assists. Sometimes he just needs to be stronger with the basketball.

Pickett is scheduled to visit UConn on April 15. If the visit goes well and he is assured that the program won't be hit too hard by penalties for recruiting violations, Pickett will likely be with the Huskies next season.

New order

You mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there are three guys on another level from the rest of this recruiting class who are those three guys (as there appears to be four)? Also, which players were you most impressed with at the McDonald's All American Game?

-- Andy from Overland Park
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors are the three prospects who stand above the rest of the class. Wall is as unique a talent at point guard as you'll find. Cousins has as advanced and complete offensive game as you'll find in a big man. Favors is a potential Dwight Howard type big man.

If there were a fourth, it would be Avery Bradley, but I don't think he is quite in the same category as these three. Bradley impressed me the most out of any of the participants in the 2009 McDonald's All American Game. His focus, attention to detail and competitiveness was exceptional, not to mention his freaky athleticism and high skill level.

Also impressive was his practice combatant Michael Snaer, who was right with Bradley in the intangibles department. Snaer also has a complete game as a shooting guard, although he is not quite as athletic as Bradley.

Finally, impressive in the game as its high scorer and also impressive in the practice was Keith Gallon. "Tiny" is in as good as shape as he as been in the past two years and has an offensive repertoire for a big man that is just second to Cousins in this class. He will be an impact player at Oklahoma if he stays in shape. And he will be an impact NBA player one day if he ever picks it up on the defensive end.

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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