Fresno State Recruiting
by Alex Schwartz
Signing week is now in the books, but a number of other 2013 players made their college commitments since our last Recruiting Notebook on Monday. Some popped before the signing period ended and some after it.
The best senior to come off the board in the past few days is Brandon Austin of Imhotep Charter (PA). Austin is a 6-foot-6 point guard/small forward and he is now a future Providence Friar, per his Twitter account.
A long, versatile player with an impressive skill set, Austin was at one point committed to Penn State. Ranked No. 47 in the NBE Sports Class of 2013 Post-July Top 125, Austin picked the Friars over Texas and UConn.
Manhattan got an incredibly huge coup in landing JUCO stud Chris Thomas of Chipola College (FL). The news was broken by Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. Thomas is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who was at one point ranked amongst the top 10 players in high school in the class of 2012 before opting to take a unique route and enrolling at a junior college.
By Raphielle Johnson
This past weekend the sixth annual Easter Classic was played at multiple locations in Phoenix. It was a good opportunity to check out some of the better talents in the region, with teams from New Mexico and California also taking part.
And with some of the top prospects showing up it was a good opportunity to ask recruits an important question when it comes to basketball on the West Coast:
What’s wrong with the Pac-12?
The league’s been down for a couple of years now, and with 11 of the conference’s top 20 scorers from this past season moving on there will be a lot of pressure on some highly touted newcomers to pick things up (Arizona likely being the team many pick to win the conference next season).
2013 wing Payton Banks, who played at Orange Lutheran with Arizona signee Gabe York, feels that the conference will bounce back in 2012-13 and the Wildcats are a big reason why.
“[This year] was a bad year for the Pac-12, but this year will change a lot,” remarked Banks when I asked him the question.
2014 point guard Brian Beard and 2013 forward Chancey Hill both pointed to recruiting as the biggest problem for the conference, with Beard citing conference teams being outworked by the likes of Long Beach State and San Diego State while Hill said that the conference needs more diversity (geographically speaking) in recruiting.
Personally speaking, the recruiting issue is where the problem lies when it comes to the caliber of play in the Pac-12 in recent years. Lots of teams throughout the country have players leave school for the NBA after one or two seasons, making those recruits expected to spend three and four years on campus even more important.
Look at national champion Kentucky. While one could definitely argue that the Wildcats were talented enough to win with their youngsters this season, there’s no ignoring the role that senior Darius Miller played on that team. And from a recruiting standpoint there’s Kentucky and then everyone else she looking at who’s coming in annually.
Arizona and Indiana both welcome in outstanding classes this summer, but John Calipari and his staff do a good enough job to bring in a new team that can contend for a national title every year.
If you’re not able to do that you’d better be able to get a good mix onto campus, and that hasn’t happened for the Pac-12 outside of Arizona’s Elite Eight run in 2011. Can the conference come back? Sure it can, provided they win some important recruiting battles for the best talent on the West Coast.
But it’s also going to take the development of players who don’t fall into the “one and done” or two-year categories. That can’t be forgotten when discussing what the conference needs to do in order to return to the pinnacle of western basketball while also regaining national respect.
As for the action there were some high-level products on display, and below are updates on their recruitment along with other standouts this weekend.
G Payton Banks (2013)
Banks is a high-level wing who is on the radar of many of the top teams on the West Coast. A versatile guard with size, when Banks decides to attack the basket with authority he’s a tough player to deal with. That’s the key for him: being in attack mode consistently. Banks holds offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Penn State, USC, UTEP, Washington and Washington State.
G Brian Beard (2014)
The 2014 pass-first point guard was solid if not spectacular for the Compton Magic Black. Speaking with Beard on Saturday, he says that his goal this summer is to improve his perimeter shooting and thus become a bigger threat to opponents offensively. Recently the schools who have shown “medium-to-high” interest are Marquette, Oregon State and San Diego State with none having offered.
G Richaud Gittens (2013)
Gittens is one of three players on the Arizona Stars who stood out this past weekend, displaying some very good athleticism in the open floor. A left-hand dominant player right now, Gittens wants to improve his right this spring/summer. He’s looking for a bigger school that plays an up-tempo style of basketball, and currently has received interest from Colorado State, Drake, UCSB and Weber State. Obviously with his goal being to land at a larger institution this is going to be a big summer for him.
F Chauncey Hill (2013)
The Fairfax product had a good weekend in Phoenix, showing off a high-level motor and finishing ability above the rim. The key for Hill will be how he goes about expanding his offensive repertoire, something than can also be said for club teammate Jordan Bell (who played with ICP in a different event this week). Speaking with Hill, who said that he tries to model his game after Kenneth Faried, he’s looking to become more of a wing player skill-wise as he spends the majority of his time in the paint. Boasting a mohawk that’s dyed blonde on top, Hill has received interest from Colorado, Fresno State, Marquette, San Diego State and Washington but no offers as of yet.
G Jaron Hopkins (2013)
Hopkins is one of the best perimeter prospects on the West Coast; how he’s been unranked by multiple scouting sites is one mystery that’s difficult to explain. If Hopkins gets a step on his defender he’s going to the rim and he’s going with authority. He says he’s been attempting 500-600 jumpers a day in hopes of improving that aspect of his game. Hopkins currently holds offers from the likes of Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Pennsylvania, Penn State, San Francisco and Washington State, with interest from Harvard, Stanford and UCLA. Hopkins is aware of the coaching situation at Colorado State (Tim Miles moving on to Nebraska) but that’s something he’s left to his father, also noting that Miles has been in contact with his father since taking over at Nebraska.
G Dorian Pickens (2014)
Pickens is a smooth wing who was able to score in a variety of ways for the Arizona Stars. The recent recipient of an offer from Arizona State, Pickens knocked down perimeter jumpers while also showing off his mid-range game. He’ll need to get better at attacking the basket so opponents can’t play him too close, and he says he’ll also be working at becoming a better defender. He’s looking for a school with good academics that provides a family atmosphere while playing an up-tempo style of basketball. In addition to the ASU offer, Arizona, Boston College and Indiana have shown early interest. When asked if the high number of transfers at Arizona State (12 in three years) would affect how he viewed Herb Sendek’s program Pickens said no, stating that he’s just going to focus on how he meshes with the coaching staff.
F Pablo Rivas (2014)
Rivas is a 6-6 forward with very good athleticism as he’s also a wide receiver for his high school’s football team. And despite his wiry frame Rivas showed off some of the physicality gained from playing football, as he was more than willing to bang with opposing big men. Rivas runs the floor well and has room for growth from a skill standpoint; another summer spent working on his game could yield positive results when it comes to what he’ll be able to do offensively. Looking to major in engineering in college (mechanical and computer being the two disciplines he’s most interested in), Northern Colorado has shown some interest in Rivas. He did say that his “dream school” is Memphis, but this is going to be a big summer for him in terms of improving his skill set if he wants to draw the attention of the future Big East member.
F Paul Watson (2013)
Watson was solid but had a tough weekend due to the fact that he had to play center. To say the least the wing prospect who has received offers from high major programs is not a center. Watson’s a good scorer from multiple areas on the floor but for his sake hopefully they can get some size to help him out. But that doesn’t mean that Watson isn’t’ using this as an opportunity to add to his game, as he’s working on a turnaround jumper and a sweep-through move. Watson currently holds offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Fresno State, Oregon State and Texas Tech, and Arizona, Duke, New Mexico State, UNLV and USC have shown varying levels of interest.
Other Players of Note
G Bryce Alford (2013)
The New Mexico verbal commitment may be known by many for his famous lineage, but he’s a very good player in his own right. Alford played off the ball for much of the weekend, doing a good job of finding looks on the perimeter. Needs a little more work creating off the dribble but to be fair he didn’t man the point much for the Danny Granger Hurricanes.
G Malcolm Allen and G Marcus Allen (2013)
Twins from Las Vegas, these two played well this weekend alongside Jaron Hopkins and Paul Watson. Both are good athletes, with Malcolm showing a little better when it came to getting to the basket. Keep an eye on these two as the spring/summer rolls on, and that should be easy to do given the attention being heaped upon Hopkins and Watson from a recruiting standpoint.
G Sedrick Barefield (2015)
A member of the Compton Magic’s 2015 squad, Barefield is going to be one of the best guards in the country regardless of class by the time he’s a senior. Already ranked among the best guards in his class, Barefield is very good at finding quality looks. Good handle, good shooting form and a solid defender as well.
F Joe Boyd (2013)
The former New Mexico State verbal has bulked up some to match his 6-9 height, and he’s got the strength needed to bang inside. Still has to work on his mid-range jumper and free throw shooting, but he’ll be a good get for someone at the low to mid-major level with a solid spring/summer. At last check (a couple of months ago) New Mexico State remains high on his list, although depending on what happens with Marvin Menzies and the Colorado State opening maybe that changes.
F Kendall Lauderdale (2015)
He’s with Barefield on a Compton Magic 2015 team that recruiting fans are going to want to keep track of in the coming years. Already standing at 6-7, Lauderdale displayed a very good motor in the paint and good athleticism as well. Having his jersey ripped to the point where it looked like something Tarzan would wear didn’t slow him down either (they eventually gave him a new jersey. He’ll be one of the many high-major products on this roster with continued growth and development.
G Dikembe Martin (2016)
Martin can get to the basket off the dribble and while he’s got some work to do on his perimeter shot he was able to knock down a few jumpers as well. His best work may have come in the distribution area, where he set up fellow 2016 prospects Jace Rivera and Martin Tombe inside. This was as part of a Compton Magic 2016 class team that managed to beat a 17U squad on Saturday, and they’re only going to get better.
G Bubba Mears (2012)
Mears hasn’t been able to drum up enough interest scholarship-wise but the 5-9 point guard is a good athlete who also played football in high school. To describe Mears as a “bulldog” defensively would be more than accurate, as he helped lead the Tucson Heat seniors past the Compton Magic Black on Saturday afternoon. Offensively he did a good job of running the show, setting up teammates for quality looks while also using his quickness to get to the basket. Not sure if he goes D-1 due to the height, but he’d be a good late addition for a team in need of a point guard.
G Cullen Neal (2013)
Like teammate Bryce Alford, Neal’s the son of a coach (UNM assistant Craig Neal) who can also get the job done on the court. Neal, a Saint Mary’s verbal, was on the ball for most of the weekend for the Danny Granger Hurricanes and while his shot selection left something to be desired at times there’s no doubt that he can make plays. He’s got good size for a point guard, and he’ll be a very good addition when he steps onto the SMC campus next summer.
G Jeff Van Dyke (2013)
He was one of the good perimeter shooters on a tough Gamepoint 17U Black squad. Very good in catch and shoot situations this past weekend, Van Dyke was also able to create some good looks off of the dribble as well. High-major 2013 big Kameron Rooks didn’t play with them this weekend, which likely opened some things up for Gamepoint’s other 2013 prospects. 2012 wing Nathan Wright spent most of his time inside as a result.
F Arren Wells (2012)
While Alford and Neal are the headliners for the Danny Granger Hurricanes they’ve got some good 2012 big men who are still on the market with Wells being one of them. A good athlete who can finish above the rim, Wells had no problem getting physical inside. Not sure what level he ends up playing at as a college freshman, but with the first open evaluation period coming up in less than two weeks western teams in need of some late size should make it a priority to check in on the Hurricanes.
The pool of quality big men available in the 2012 recruiting class continues to shrink, however Fresno (CA) Memorial High School product Robert Upshaw remains on the board and will take his time as he sees the recruiting process through.
Upshaw replied “No” when asked if any school would currently be considered a leader or favorite.
Over the weekend Upshaw was one of several impressive prospects to take a visit to Louisville for the festivities kicking off the Cardinals 2011-2012 season. This trip was just the beginning of the visit process for the 7-foot, 2700pound big man.
“First school so far is Louisville,” Upshaw said of official visits. “Three more to go.”
At Memorial this season Upshaw is looking to take on a leadership role and he is having fun this fall as his senior year is underway. On the court expect the big man to continue to show his improvement as he continues to develop into one of the top big men in the class. This summer at the Pangos All-American camp Upshaw showed he has developed by leaps and bounds over the last two or three years. Upshaw combined a solid skill set inside with his determination to give max effort when out on the floor. Those traits should help him accomplish the goals he hopes to achieve this season at Memorial.
“School is great, [I'm] really enjoying taking on leadership and having fun,” he said, adding that “winning a section championship and going on to state” are the goals he is looking forward the most to accomplishing this season.
On his visit tour of his four finalists Upshaw will take in the full environment of each program as he carefully navigates the recruiting process to find the right fit. As one of the top big men still available in the class, expect the recruitment of Robert Upshaw to be closely watched and contested by the four finalists right to the end, which might not even come until the spring, possibly.