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,
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
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
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
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.
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
Part II: Marquette,
Georgetown, DePaul, Cincinnati, St John's, Syracuse
Part I: Notre Dame,
Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Florida