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Recruiting: SEC Class of 2006 Breakdown

June 6th, 2006  recruiting, sec, kentucky wildcats, florida gators


By Ken Cross


Pearl Jam: Tennessee's Stellar Recruiting Class Highlights SEC Offseason

(This is Part I of Ken's two part SEC recruiting update.  Part II is on the SEC West.)

When Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton scooped up coach Bruce Pearl from his successful stint at UW-Milwaukee, he hit an immediate home run with the visibility and persona that Pearl could apply to the floundering program.  Little did Hamilton or anyone else within an echo of Rocky Top realize that Pearl would take essentially seven or eight players who had enjoyed minimal success and roll to 22 wins, an SEC East title, and a second round appearance in the NCAA tournament.

If Hamilton's hiring is a home run, then Pearl's first recruiting class is a rocket shot off of the moon.  The classy second year coach has amassed a top-10 recruiting class that is highlighted by Hampton, Virginia forward Duke Crews and Detroit point guard Ramar Smith.  Smith seems like a prototype in Pearl's electric, up-tempo scheme as he pushes the basketball up the floor and at 5-10, is a slasher inside the offense that can break down a defense in the half court.  In addition to his ballhandling and shooting prowess, Smith has been hailed as a defensive stopper. 

Meanwhile, the 6-7 Crews is ultra-athletic as he can play on the wing or go inside and score the ball over bigger players with his athleticism.  He has risen to the 14th-rated player in the nation after being around number 28 a year ago.  Like Smith, he will come into the scheme and see lots of playing time with his passion and work ethic.  Crews and forward Wayne Chism of Bolivar Central High School in Memphis could actually start in the post as Major Wingate in the lone returnee to the interior of the Vols' attack.  The 6-8, 220-lb. Chism  will help the Volunteers on the boards immediately and will be a matchup problem for most coaches because of his inside/outside shooting ability.

Pearl also signed a pair of highly rated guards in Marques Johnson of Fort Wayne, Indiana and Cincinnati's Josh Tabb.  Both players can expect to see time in the backcourt with super shooter Chris Lofton as they have offensive dimensions that can complement Lofton and make him even more effective.

Last season was the first in many years where the Volunteers were actually a foil for Kentucky as they picked up a key win in Lexington.  Wildcats coach Tubby Smith watched his offense struggle mightily although they made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing a nail-biter against Connecticut.  Signing Norcross, Georgia's Jodie Meeks is a step toward righting the offensive woes as Meeks can put the ball on the floor or he can stroke the three consistently.  The 6-4 Meeks is tough when the game is on the line as he led his 5-A high school to a state championship and 60 wins in 65 games.

Fellow guard Derrick Jasper of Paso Robles, Calif. will join Meeks in Lexington.  Jasper shot nearly 40% from three-point range as a high school senior as he averaged 16.2 ppg., 8 apg., and 7.5 rebounds per game in leading his high school team to a 24-4 record and the Division II-A CIF-Southern Section semifinals.  His points average fell about five points per game this past season, due to the fact that he dished 74 more assists than in the 04-05 season.  With Rajon Rondo gone to the NBA and Patrick Sparks' finished eligibility, Meeks and Jasper could see time in starting roles in Lexington.

Smith added the 6-9 Perry Stevenson to the mix as an option in the paint.  Stevenson, of Lafayette, La., is tough around the basket with his long arms and quick launch; however, he will see lots of time with the Wildcats' strength and conditioning coach who will try to help him chisel his 192-pound frame.

Although the Florida Gators return their top eight players from this season's national championship squad, coach Billy Donovan was able to maximize his scholarship allotment by signing 6-5 shooter Doneal Mack of Statesville, N.C., Mount Vernon, N.Y. forward Jonathan Mitchell, Memphis guard Brandon Powell, and center Marreese Speights of St. Petersburg, Fla.  Mack is a top-100 player who excels on the defensive end of the floor as well as inside an offense.  He averaged 21 ppg. as he will add to Donovan's already strong three-point arsenal. 

The 6-9, 245-pound Speights prepped at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. and will add depth in the post behind Joakim Noah and Al Horford.  Speights has a powerful physique and is at his best around the basket.  Ultimately, he needs to improve so he can step into these two spots once Noah and Horford move on to the NBA.  Powell and Mitchell will be nice additions to Donovan's three-point game.  Powell could also see some time in backing up Taurean Greene on the point.

At South Carolina, establishing depth is a key issue for coach Dave Odom as the Gamecocks will receive transfers in Devan Downey from Cincinnati and former Georgia Tech guard Zam Frederick for the ‘07-08 hoops campaign.  Downey, Mr. Basketball in South Carolina in 2004, left the Bearcats due to coaching staff changes.  He averaged 12 ppg. and led UC in steals and assists.   For now, the veteran coach will look to replace leading scorer and team leader Tarence Kinsey as well as role player Rocky Trice and Antoine Tisby, who Odom dismissed during the Gamecocks’ NIT run.

South Carolina signed a top-150 performer in 6-2 Brandis Raley of Gastonia, N.C.  Raley liked his relationship with the coaching staff at USC plus he could step into a starting role in his freshman year.  Raley is a scoring machine who set a Gaston County scoring record with 900 points in his junior year.

The Gamecocks always seem to be in need of more post depth and 7-0, 275-pound center Mitchell Carter and 6-8 power forward Austin Steed will provide a true post threat.  Carter, of Milwaukee, averaged a double-double at Rufus King HS in his junior and senior seasons.  Steed, from Butler High School in Augusta, Ga., is well familiar with the Columbia area as he played AAU basketball with the Columbia-based Hoopsters.

South Carolina also added firepower in the backcourt with a pair of swingmen in Lithuanian Evaldas Banilius and Chad Gray. Banilius is a good three-point shooter as he and Gray are also adept at slashing to the basket.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings inked a pair of recruits who look like they can play right away in 6-3 PG Jermaine Beal and 6-7 F JeJuan Brown.  Beal could assume the starting duties when he arrives in Nashville in the fall as at 6-3, he will be an upgrade in size over departed Mario Moore and 5-11 Alex Gordon.  Beal, universally is looked at as a top-100 player, is DeSoto (Tx.) High School’s all-time leading scorer and led the team to the District 7-5A title this past season. 

Brown is a rebounder who can score around the basket as he prepped at Biloxi High School in Biloxi, Ms.  He should add depth to the front court where inside/outside threat Demarre Carroll transferred.  Stallings will also welcome redshirts to the post in 6-9 LSU transfer Ross Nelter and 6-10 Kyle Madsen. 

Georgia coach Dennis Felton featured a roster in 2005-2006 that included 11 freshmen and sophomores, so adding a piece here and there was the goal for the Bulldogs this spring.  To improve depth in the post, Felton added one of the top JUCO prospects in the nation in 6-8, 245-pound Takais Brown from Flint, Mich.  Brown led Southeastern Illinois College to a regional final appearance in last season’s NJCAA tournament. 

Felton likes Brown’s strength and athleticism and the prospects of him providing a consistent frontcourt scoring threat.  Felton also inked 6-10 F Albert Jackson of traditional power Oak Hill Academy in November.

Check out Pat II, Ken's breakdown of SEC West Recruiting.




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