August 4, 2006

Fastbreak Friday

Whew. July is over.

200 games watched, 400 teams evaluated, 150 players interviewed, 5,500 miles flown, 1,000 miles driven, seven days of 110-plus degree weather in Las Vegas, a torrential down pour in Orlando, 400 dollars lost at the blackjack tables, three hours of sleep a night, two cancelled flights, one missed flights, one luggage lost and one set of keys locked in the trunk of a rental at 5 a.m. in Sin City later, the summer is finally over.

Believe it or not, recruiting continues to roll forward. In this week's edition of Fastbreak Friday, we cover the latest goings on in college basketball recruiting.


AROUND THE RECRUITING HORN


Chandler Parsons started school on July 31, a day before his last AAU game of the summer. Since starting his senior season at Lake Howell High School in the Orlando area, the Florida native said he's fielded every imaginable question about his college future. There is one question that he just can't escape.

"Are you going to be a Gator?"

Everyone asks him. The teachers. The students. The cafeteria ladies. Maybe even the janitor. Quietly, his best friend and Gator commitment Nick Calathes even has to wonder. Will Parsons, one of the hottest players in the country, commit to Billy Donovan?

"Everyone in school has asked me. I probably heard it 10 times today," Parsons said on Thursday afternoon. "They all remind me that they won the National Championship. Everyone around here are Gator fans."

Parsons said he's still chewing on his next move. With over 30 legitimate offers from schools from coast to coast, he told Rivals.com that he will trim his list to six or seven in a couple of weeks and proceed forward from there.

The Gators will be on the list, he said. So will LSU. The rest? That is still up for debate, Parson said.

"I'm trying to take it all in," he said. "Florida isn't necessarily the leader right now. They just offered me and I have to think about that. They offered some guys that I feel like I'm better than earlier in the year. I understand that kind of because I blew up in July. It just makes it all so much harder."

Florida is in good shape with five-star forward J.J. Hickson, another prospect with an offer list that extends over both coasts and everything in between. The Marietta, Ga., big man revealed his top seven schools to Rivals.com shortly after returning home from Los Angeles.

The Gators sit atop Hickson's list while Arizona, Tennessee, NC State, Georgetown, Kentucky and Illinois all try to make their respective pitches to the 6-foot-9 forward.

George Washington is one of the top mid-major programs in the country because they know how to find the athletic wings. They struck again via Oregon in forward Jared Cunningham. The 6-foot-9 prospect is originally from Virginia and struck it big in July with the Hoop Booth AAU club. Cunningham was the ninth leading scorer at the Reebok Big Time at 24.3 points a game.

Since backing out of his commitment to Colorado, Houston wing forward Dale VanWright has been looking for a place to call home in college. On Thursday, he found one. The 6-foot-6 perimeter player is headed to UTEP to play for Doc Sadler, according to his father.

"He loves what Coach Salder has done at UTEP and he is looking forward to join a winning tradition, and to join a basketball program that has fan support," Mr. Van Wright said."

Georgia Southern landed a major sleeper late in the period in guard Jontavious Rucker. The 6-foot-2 combo guard shined in July but didn't make too many radars because he committed to a junior college in Illinois and never budged when schools came knocking at his door. Rucker shined in Orlando at the AAU Super Showcase and the Nationals. Georgia Southern jumped in, had him in town for a visit and the rest is history.


RECAPPING THE RECRUITS


Just in case you missed them, there have been a flurry of committments on the recruiting trail since the AAU madness ended.

For starters, Billy Gillespie continues to bring in the top talent to College Station.

After landing a top 25 class in 2006, the Aggies are off to a strong start with the verbal pledge of future Rivals.com top 15 prospect DeAndre Jordan.

The 6-foot-11 athletic center is a major coup for the Aggies. For starters, there aren't many big men in the class of 2007 that can impact the game like he can. When it comes to pro prospects in the rising senior class, Jordan has to be considered one of the best around.

Jordan isn't the only player to pick the Big 12 school from Houston recently. Point guard B.J. Holmes joined the party shortly thereafter. For those keeping score, that is eight straight commitments from the Lone Star State that have picked the Aggies.

Florida State went north and landed big man Julian Vaughn, who is headed to Oak Hill Academy in September. The Seminoles have an intriguing big man with set of the longest arms around that can step out and bury the long ball at a consistent rate. Vaughn said he picked FSU because of the chance to play early and often.

Miami head coach Frank Haith saw Julian Gamble at the Breakdown Hoops Festival in mid-July, liked what he saw in the Durham, N.C. native and stayed on him until he popped. Gamble, a 16-year-old 6-foot-9 center, picked the Hurricanes at the end of July. He's starting to see the light on just how good he can become.
Chalk this one up as one of the big surprises of the year. Marquette dipped into the Bible Belt and snagged Alabama guard [d]Nick Williams[/db] from the SEC. The 6-foot-4 guard from the class of 2008 committed to the Big East school shortly after returning home from the AAU Nationals.

Another 2008 prospect that picked his future college home after making the trip to Orlando is J.T. Thompson from North Carolina. The 6-foot-6 high-energy forward committed to Virginia Tech.

Gonzaga struck again, this time in the class of 2008. Mark Few and his staff secured a pledge from Andy Poling, a 6-foot-11 center from Portland, Oregon. Pacific Northwest prospects continue to make the trek to Spokane for hoops.

Pepperdine is jumping into the high stakes recruiting world. The Waves crashed into Tyrone Shelley, a dynamic 6-foot-6 scorer from San Diego. The top 65 prospect picked the WCC school over interest from a number of high-majors.

Fastbreak Friday will run every Friday in the fall as prospects begin their cross-country tour of universities and colleges for official visits. The column will officially begin on Sept. 1 and run until the early signing period in November.

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