Now entering his third fall at Huntington Prep, the burgeoning national power he built from scratch, Rob Fulford doesn’t have to worry about talent – he’s got an estimated 10 or 11 Division I prospects on the roster – but squeezing in time for phone calls is another story.
Wiggins is the No. 1 sophomore in the country.
Every day, Fulford keeps a running list of recruiters and reporters who’ve contacted him so he doesn’t forget to respond to inquiries about the players that comprise a roster he hopes will power his program to a national championship. A media-friendly 38-year-old former drug company rep who ribs his players on Twitter and spans the country non-stop each summer recruiting, he’s working to forge a crew that includes natives of Africa, Canada, Michigan, Ohio and various locales in between.
“The tough part early on,” Fulford said, “is that all of these guys dominated the ball where they came from. But they’re buying in.”
In an effort to turn his roster of individual standouts into a cohesive team, Fulford misses no opportunity for a bonding experience. Whether it’s a trip to Rooster’s Chicken Wings or one player’s host family throwing a cookout, all players are expected to show. The team takes frequent outings, like what Fulford called a “whitewater rafting mud obstacle course” – whatever that is – last week.
He’s got the talent to help him through the rocky waters of a national schedule that includes dates with storied St. Anthony (N.J.), Chicago powers Simeon and Whitney Young, Cincinnati Taft and roughly 35 more competitive programs. The headliner is 6-foot-7 forward Andrew Wiggins, a Canadian import who is regarded by most as the No. 1 sophomore in the nation.
“You see it in spurts. He’s an unbelievable talent. But he can be too passive. He’s a little bit too unselfish right now. I don’t want to say disappear, but you won’t see him for five plays, and then on the next four everybody in the rec center is turning to watch him,” Fulford said. “We tell him all the time, you’re the No. 1 player in the country. People expect a lot. It’s scary how good that kid is, but he’s just a laid back kid. But when the lights are on, he gets it done.”
The recruiting battle that ended with Wiggins landing in Huntington may turn out to be more frenzied than his college recruitment; his father is keeping tight wraps on things, Fulford said, and it’s unlikely any schools other than Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida State will be allowed in.
Joining Wiggins in the front court is explosive 6-foot-9 power forward Elijah Macon, a Columbus, Ohio native who has garnered comparisons to former Maryland star Chris Wilcox. The Terps, coincidentally, are among the many schools courting Macon, who has visited Pittsburgh and will likely take a few more trips before practice starts Oct. 3. He also brought in 7-foot-2 Canadian Tanveer Bhullar to replace his departed 7-foot-4 brother Sim (New Mexico State).
The backcourt additions include 6-foot-2 Canadian junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has a bevy of high-major offers, 6-foot-1 combo Evan Payne and springy 6-foot-5 shooting guard Javontae Hawkins (Flint, Mich.), who will visit South Florida Oct. 3 and is being courted by Michigan, West Virginia and others.
Macon is expected to take visits before practice begins on Oct. 3.
Fulford, though, is concerned about the point guard post after another transfer, Detroit native Ray Lee, was arrested and dismissed following an encounter with a college student inside nearby Marshall University’s dorms.
Their big-name holdovers are a pair of seniors who also hail from Canada, 6-foot-10 sharpshooter Stefan Jankovic and 6-foot-6 do-it-all swingman Negus Webster-Chan. Webster-Chan, a former Louisville commit, is an interesting case. Once a top-50 recruit, he struggled to return to form in the spring following a shoulder injury and missed the entire summer with a broken bone in his foot.
Someone may get a steal in Webster-Chan, whose recruiting profile took a hit because of his injuries. He recently visited Iowa State and plans to take trips to Missouri and Clemson.
“It hurt him quite a bit,” Fulford said. “He had a ton of major interest.”
Fulford expects the gym will be buzzing with college coaches today, when the NCAA Contact Period begins. If anyone understands their mission, it’s him.
“We bust our ass recruiting. We don’t just sit back and wait for kids to show up,” he said. “We target kids and we’re at every AAU event of every kid we’re looking at.”
Missouri casting a wide net
When Frank Haith was hired to succeed Mike Anderson at Missouri, he inherited a talent-laden, well-rounded roster for the upcoming season. The caveat, though, was its imbalance. Missouri has seven seniors, a group that includes most of its best players and all of its big men. So Haith began casting a wide net immediately upon arrival, with recruits everywhere listing Missouri among the schools recruiting them hardest.
Missouri is still in the mix for Jankovic.
It remains to be seen whether former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro’s claims that Haith knew of an alleged payment made to secure recruit De’Quan Jones at Miami will tatter his vital ’12 class. The school has obliged with the NCAA’s request to hold off on making any judgment on Haith until its investigation has progressed, leaving Haith in semi-limbo – never an attractive scenario for recruits, but especially dangerous now that we’ve reached the hot point of the recruiting season. In the meantime, the Tigers continue to offer one prospect after another.
Huntington Prep’s Fulford said the issue was broached, albeit it briefly, when Jankovic visited recently.
“He brought it up out there with the coaching staff and the athletic director,” Fulford said. “That’s an important thing. You are choosing a school, but you’re also choosing the coach. Everybody has a nice arena and facilities. It was address. I don’t know that anything earth-shattering came from it.”
Jankovic has Wake Forest No. 1 over Mizzou, Syracuse, Purdue and Florida State. He plans to take another visit to MU, possibly joined by teammate Webster-Chan, but woud likely sign a grant-in-aid rather than a National Letter of Intent if he were to commit to Mizzou, Fulford said. Doing so allows signees to leave without repercussion when a coach is fired or other outlook-altering situations arise.
No Football? No Problem for Howard
The nation’s No. 82 2012 prospect ,Twymond Howard of Pearl (Miss.), was every bit as highly recruited as a wide receiver as a small forward. But the 6-foot-6 standout decided to focus on hoops and is watching Pearl’s football team from the sidelines this fall. He’s not second-guessing the decision.
“It’s been OK. I want to play basketball and my mind was made up, so it’s no big deal,” Howard said.
Howard plans to take a visit to UTEP next weekend, and would like to take another to Arkansas. Razorbacks assistant T.J. Cleveland was recruiting him at Missouri before following Anderson to Fayetteville.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari will make an in-home visit with Muhammad on Sept. 13.
Around the Network
The Florida Gators got unofficial visits (Sept. 3) from 2013 prospects Kasey Hill (6-1, 175, Umatilla, FL/Montverde, FL Montverde Academy), Chris Walker (6-10, 200, Bonifay, FL Holmes County) and Brannen Greene (6-7, 190, Monroe, GA Mary Persons). Hill and Walker have been on Florida's recruiting radar since they were ninth graders while Greene played AAU ball with Florida 2012 commit Braxton Ogbueze (6-1, 185, Charlotte, NC United Faith) with the Charlotte Royals. Florida also got an unofficial visit from 2012 prospect Ioannis Papapetrou (6-7, 190, Patra, Greece/Melbourne, FL Florida Air), who played for the Greek National Under 17 team. Papapetrou is a small forward/shooting guard who is considered an outstanding long range shooter.
Florida's short list of small forwards got even shorter when Jake Layman (6-8, 190, Wrentham, MA King Phillip) committed to Maryland. Layman was seriously considering Florida, Syracuse and Louisville, but made the call for Maryland. Florida's top small forward targets are Kyle Anderson (6-8, 210, Fairview, NJ/Jersey City, NJ St. Anthony) and Alex Poythress (6-7, 215, Clarksville, TN Northeast). Anderson will visit Florida on Sept. 17 and announce Sept. 20 (his 18th birthday) between Florida, UCLA, St. John's, Seton Hall and Georgetown. Poythress will visit Gainesville on Oct. 1 along with Brice Johnson (6-9, 200, Cordova, SC Edisto). (Franz Beard, GatorBait.net)
Shabazz Muhammad announced his schedule of in-home visits and is slated to host UK coach John Calipari Sept. 13 - the day Calipari is scheduled to return from coaching the Dominican Republic in the FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina.The 6-foot-5 Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman small forward will also play host to UCLA (Sept. 9), Duke (Sept. 12) and Kansas (Sept. 14).
Little Rock (Ark.) Sylvan Hills 5-star shooting guard Archie Goodwin announced his five official visits via Twitter. The 6-foot-4 guard, ranked the No. 13 prospect in the country, will visit Kansas (Sept. 24), UConn (Sept. 30), Arkansas (Oct. 8), Kentucky (Oct. 14) and Memphis (Oct. 21). Hampton (Va.) Phoebus small forward Troy Williams, ranked No. 13 in the 2013 class, will take an unofficial visit to Lexington following John Lucas' basketball camp in Louisville October 8-9. (Chris Fisher, CatsPause.com
Arizona landing five-star Brandon Ashley came as a big surprise to many coaches on the staffs from his other choices. The Oregon staff had been neck and neck with Arizona for Ashley's services, but the Ducks lost out on a much needed big man.
Oregon has also backed off power forward and NBA Top-100 participant Landen Lucas from Westview High School in Portland, Ore. The Ducks had offered over a year ago, but were not impressed with his development and are now going in a different direction.
That new direction?
Brandon committed to the Seminoles.
Increased attention to the No. 6th rated prospect in 247sports.com's 2012 rankings, Anthony Bennett. The Ducks are very high on Bennett and his Larry Johnson-like game.
Oregon is also getting a visit on the first weekend of October from Las Vegas, Nev. prospect and four-star comboforward Ben Carter. Carter's dad told DuckTerritory.com the Ducks have made a big impressionon his son, and the fact that Oregon also has an ex-teammate of his from Bishop Gorman high school is also a big drawing factor. (Matt Prehm, DuckTerritory.com)
Prized Jamesville-Dewitt (Syracuse, N.Y.) big man DaJuan Coleman (No. 18 in 2012) is due to visit Ohio State Sept. 24 and Kentucky Oct. 15. Syracuse is his other top choice. Ohio State is looking long and hard for an impact big man in the 2012 class to replace Jared Sullinger, who most expect will bolt to the NBA – if there is one to bolt to – after the upcoming season.
Beyond Coleman, OSU is still trying to lure Georgia big man Tony Parker and various other big men. Parker is also considering Duke and Memphis. (Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts.com)
Indiana also hosted a pair of in-state 2014 prospects over the last week: Perry Poindexter and Trevon Blueitt. The former enjoyed a nice summer with Eric Gordon All-Stars 15s and could develop into a nice prospect as he matures physically. The latter, a teammate of 2012 blue-chip Indiana commitment Yogi Ferrell at Park Tudor, has the ability to score in bunches, and has picked up a lot of local interest, and has been taking visits to a number of Midwest schools, including Purdue and Butler. He's held an IU offer for some time.
Prized guard Gary Harris' parents took a short trip to Bloomington on Wednesday, where his mother got to check out some of Indiana's individual workouts. Harris' father, Gary Harris Sr., had to make the trip for business, and his wife came along and stopped by campus. Harris has three official visits scheduled: Oct. 1 at Purdue, Oct. 15 at Indiana and No. 5 at Michigan State. Louisville might soon be added to that list as well. (Zach Osterman, InsideIndiana.com)
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton got a commitment from four-star guard Montay Brandon out of North Carolina on Friday afternoon. The Seminoles also hosted 6-foot-11 big man Joel James over the weekend, and from all indications, things went well. Florida State probably leads here, with Florida and a few others also in the picture.
The Seminoles did miss on Orlando (Fla.) First Academy guard Dillon Graham last week when Graham committed to in-state rival Florida. (Corey Dowlar, Noles247
Gonzaga (D.C.) point guard Nate Britt, the No. No. 12 junior in the nation, recently visited Arizona, North Carolina and Maryland and may take a visit to Georgetown soon. Britt is enamored with ‘Zona coach Sean Miller, who’s promised Britt he will stop recruiting other junior guards if Britt commits, but location may be a factor. North Carolina hasn’t offered and may be waiting for a decision from Wisconsin junior Bronson Koenig, who also likes Kansas and Wisconsin, before doing so. Maryland is very much in the hunt as well.
Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep power forward Anthony Bennett cut Missouri from his list and is now down to nine schools: Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, UNLV, UConn, Washington and West Virginia.
North Houston Baptist (Tex.) point guard L.J. Rose (No. 77) committed to Baylor, a major score for the Bears and a blow to Virginia, which continues to search for a 2012 point guard with its options dwindling.
Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy 2013 point guard Kasey Hill has added North Carolina to his list of schools and his now considering the Tar Heels along with Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, N.C. State and South Florida.
Brooklyn (N.Y.) Christ The King 2013 point guard Isaiah Lewis, who originally narrowed his list to seven schools, has added Arizona to his list, joining Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Miami and North Carolina.
Senior 7-footer Blaise Mborgaba of The Peddie School (Highstown, N.J.) is considering offers from Vanderbilt, SMU, WVU, Cincinnati, Marquette and Northwestern. He’ll visit Vandy next weekend and said he could commit if all goes well.
Texas Tech may have an inside track for Arlington Country Day (Fla.) power forward Junior Etou, a consensus top-100 prospect in 2013. The Red Raiders are likely to hire – or have hired -- former ACD assistant Renard Phillips, who has a strong relationship with Etou, a source said.
Chris Reyes, a power forward from La Verne, Calif., will visit Boston College, Gonzaga, Cal-Santa Barbara and St. Mary’s.
Harvard Westlake power forward Zena Edosomwan will visit Wake Forest and Southern California.
Point guard Jordan Potts of Columbus, Ohio, power Northland High will officially visit Radford this weekend and UNC-Greensboro next weekend. His teammate, 6-3 wing guard KeChaun Lewis will visit Wagner, Fairleigh-Dickenson and Bethune-Cookman.
Fresno 7-footer Robert Upshaw has several in-home visits scheduled: Louisville today, Georgetown (Sept. 11), Oklahoma State (Sept. 15), Kansas State (Sept. 18), USC (Sept. 19) and Arizona (Sept. 22).