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Recruiting: Big East Class of 2006 Breakdown

June 20th, 2006  recruiting, big east, uconn huskies, villanova wildcats



By Ken Cross

Recruiting: Big East Class of 2006 Part III

Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun may have signed his most talented and heralded recruiting class in his 21 years in Storrs, Conn. as he brought in eight basketball players who could all figure in the Huskies' '06-07 scheme as freshmen.  The crown jewel of that class could be 7-3, 260-pound Tanzanian center Hasheem Thabeet, who averaged 16 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 bpg. 

Thabeet joins 6-9 Stanley Robinson, 6-9 Gavin Edwards, 6-9 Curtis Kelley, and 6-11 Jonathan Mandeldove to comprise one of the most amazing collections of post players ever accrued in one recruiting season.  Thabeet is very fluid in movement and will be the UConn center, which will allow his four teammates in the post to concentrate on the power forward and swing positions.

Kelly comes from Harlem's Brother Rice High School where he notched 21 ppg and 11 rpg in leading his squad to the NYC and state Catholic championships.  Kelly needs to get better in using his right hand as he is a lefty and the UConn staff will look to see him work hard on the defensive end in the preseason practices.

The athletic Robinson was Mr. Basketball in Alabama and skipped the SEC to land at UConn.  He could be even more athletic than Rudy Gay or Hilton Armstrong which makes him a threat to leave for the NBA after one or two years. Edwards hails from Gilbert, Ariz. and chose UConn without having ever visited Storrs.  He could fit into Josh Boone's spot since he has officially headed into the pool for the NBA draft. 

Calhoun's backcourt offering may be just as impressive as he netted 6-3 Jerome Dyson, 6-6 Ben Eaves, and 6-0 Doug Wiggins.  The trio will allow Calhoun lots of versatility in the backcourt as they could easily supplant sophomores Craig Austie and Rob Garrison.  Wiggins is from East Hartford, Conn. as his skills should complement Dyson, Eaves, and A.J. Price, who was ineligible last season. 

While this Huskies' team will be very in experienced early, it will only be a matter of time until they make a splash in 06-07.  They will be young and hungry and when they get the much needed experience of the Big East wars, these Huskies may have more bite in March than the group that lost to George Mason in last year's Elite Eight.

Louisville's Rick Pitino had a cast in mind during last fall's early signing period as 6-9, 275-pound Derrick Caracter of Notre Dame Prep became the centerpiece of a group that includes highly touted 6-8, 200-pound Earl Clark of Rahway, N.J., 6-2 Brother Rice (N.Y.) point guard Edgar Sosa, and Wauwatosa, Wis. guard Jerry Smith.

Pitino's recruiting class has a distinct northeastern flavor that should allow him to return the Cardinals to the NCAA battles after Louisville finished in the NIT's Final Four, losing to South Carolina.  Caracter was a force inside for St. Patrick's HS in Elizabeth City, N.J. as he consistently exhibited premiere post skills with his moves and hands.  Pitino likes his passing ability out of the post, which could ultimately play a big role in setting up the veteran coach's three-point offense.  He also has a consistent outside jumper which has moved him up the ladder as he is one of the top five post players in the upcoming freshman class. 

Clark has really good ball skills in finishing off the dribble as his explosion makes him a threat to play the 3-guard, although he is 6-8.  Sosa, who averaged 15 ppg, and 6 apg, in teaming with  is a quick guard from the Dominican Republic, as he played on the Dominican national team with former Cardinal Francisco Garcia.  Pitino will look to his leadership skills from the point as Sosa's engine never seems to run down.  The 6-3 Smith is a great shooter and good at driving to the hoop.  His skills are so that he can efficiently play both the point and shooting guard. 

These four recruits are going to allow Louisville to be the deepest team in the Big East as they should develop a chemistry that will also make them a viable threat in March. 

Youth will also be a bi-word at Villanova where coach Jay Wright has inked a class that should allow for an easier transition as the Wildcats have to replace vets Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, and Alan Ray.  Like Pitino, Wright jumped to a head start on the competition by also inking his class in November. 

Wright wasted little time in fortifying the post as he inked a pair of 6-10 big men in center Casiem Drummond and forward Andrew Ott.  Drummond prepped at Bloomfield Tech in N.J. as his 275-pound frame will give Wright a dominant figure at the 5-spot.  Wright likes Ott's guard skills, as at 6-10, he is adept at putting the ball on the floor.  He prepped at Germantown Academy near the Villanova campus.  

Wright looks forward to coaching 6-8 forward Antonio Pena, who averaged 21 ppg and 11 rpg at St. Thomas More in Connecticut as a junior.  Pena is probably the most complete player in the class as he combines his athleticism with size and pure basketball skill.  Wright inked another local product in 6-4 combo guard Reggie Redding of Saint Joseph's prep in Philly.  He averaged 22 ppg. and 9.4 rpg. in 2004-05.  Redding was coached by former LaSalle Explorers' boss Speedy Morris for the past two seasons.

Wright's fifth signee in the early period was 6-8 forward Kraidon Woods of Pocono East High School in Henryville, Pa.  Woods will enroll at a prep school for the 06-07 season and will be eligible for the '07-08 campaign. 

Finally, the exclamation mark on Wright's class came in mid-May when he signed coveted 6-1 point guard Scottie Reynolds, who was released from his commitment to Oklahoma after coach Kelvin Sampson's departure to Indiana.  Reynolds, of Herndon, Va., chose the 'Cats over Michigan and LSU.  He could see lots of playing time with sharpshooter Mike Nardi in 'Nova's backcourt before the upcoming season's end. 

West Virginia will look to restructure in an emphatic way as the Mountaineers add eight new players for '06-07.  Coach John Beilein returns only five players from the Sweet 16 team that lost to Texas at the buzzer in March.  The most celebrated could be 6-3 guard Jonnie West, son of Mountaineer legend Jerry West.  The 6-3 guard received Beilein's final scholarship in April and could be red-shirted. 

Five of the seven players are ranked in the top 250 by recruiting guru Bob Gibbons as Winnebego, Ill. product Devan Bawinkel seems to be the most heralded.  He averaged 25.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.5 apg in finishing his career with 2,165 career points.  Beilein adds another leader in the backcourt in 6-2 Joe Mazulla of Hendrickson, R.I.  Mazulla led Hendrickson H.S. to three consecutive state championships.

Beilein also signed a Bloomfield Tech alum in 6-7 forward Da'Sean Butler, who averaged 15.1 ppg and 11 rpg last season with a pair of 6-7 3-guards in Wellington Smith and Cam Thoroughman.  Jacob Green, a 6-9 center from Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. could contribute right away with his size. 

Complete Big East Recruiting Review:

Part III: Connecticut, Louisville, Villanova, West Virginia

Part II: Marquette, Georgetown, DePaul, Cincinnati, St John's, Syracuse

Part I: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida





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