Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hoops Recruiting

Talented Guard Iman Shumpert is set to announce his collegiate decision today. All the internet chatter has him going to Marquette, although nobody knows for sure. In addition, there is word that Ralph Sampson III has a top 2 of GT / Minn (remember Tubby Smith) and that he will announce later this month.

If Shumpert goes to Marquette and Sampson to Minn (or one of those happens), the doomsayers will start coming out of the woodwork. Why? Well, Coach Hewitt has already lost out on other top targets Al Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Sylven Landesberg (Virginia), Trey Thompkins (UGAg), JaMychal Green (Alabama). There are others as well.

Shumpert is the highest profile guy left on Hewitt's recruiting radar for 2008 (that we know of). You can sense that Tech fans are getting antsy as the top 100 players are filling up quickly and we only have a few serious targets of those left. In an era when players are committing earlier and earlier, this year is a bit of a nail biter for Jacket fans.

When you look at our commits the past few years, we had a number of spots full by now:

Recruit and their verbal commit date:

Gani Lawal - 1/20/2006
Lance Storrs - 3/9/2006
Maurice Miller - 9/4/2006

Javaris Crittenton - 7/6/2005
Brad Sheehan - 9/27/2005
Zach Peacock - 10/9/2005
Thaddeus Young - 10/24/2005

Alade Aminu - 5/27/2004
Lewis Clinch - 8/30/2004
D'Andre Bell - 9/28/2007
Austin Jackson - 10/7/2007

Anthony Morrow - 10/2/2007
Zam Fredrick - 10/6/2007
Ra'Sean Dickey - 10/29/2007
Jeremis Smith - 10/31/2007

In fact, the spots have been full by the end of October the last 4 classes. So here we are in mid-October and there are no commits yet. Should we be concerned?

On one hand - yes, we should be concerned. Coach Hewitt and staff have missed out on all his top targets. All of them. That is cause for concern. The kids HE wanted they didn't get. We know it's not for lack of effort - as Coach Hewitt has been living on the road and has pursued his targets as hard as anyone. Heck, he went to more of Landesberg's games than anyone. We know he did everything he could to get Alade's little bro. Just didn't happen. Recruiting has such a huge impact (typically) on the future of a program, and a few guys can make a big difference. So you could be rightfully concerned.

On the other hand, we should not be concerned. There is not much reason to get all worked up over one year where you don't land a top guy. Have some perspective. Coach Hewitt has proven his ability to land top recruits. So if he doesn't land a blue chipper this year, that's no reason to jump ship. These things go in cycles. That's just the way it works. In addition, we're about to lose a bunch of solid senior players after this season - and we need to make sure we have a solid base of "program" players to keep the program on an even keel. Could Gani be a 1-2 year guy? It's possible. Storrs and Mo Miller are likely 3-4 year guys. Zach Peacock, Brad Sheehan, Lewis Clinch, Alade Aminu, Faye and D'Andre Bell are all likely 4 year guys. Do we have a solid foundation of program players to build around with blue-chippers? Hard to say, but you need the Anthony McHenry's and Clarence Moore's just as much as you need the Chris Bosh's and Thaddeus Young's.

What is more concerning than recruiting is the lack of success when we do land the blue-chippers. Chris Bosh / Javaris Crittenton / Thaddeus Young. All in the NBA. All with one mediocre year at GT. Let me clarify - by mediocre I mean team success. I could really care less about how many points they scored or how high they got drafted. We didn't use their talents in a way that resulted in high level on-the-court success. Is this a result of the 3-4 year program guys there at the time? Is it a result of guys who just have too many limitations? Is it an ineffectiveness in integrating highly talented guys into a team framework? Is it the supreme challenge of expecting too much from freshman who will be gone after a season? Maybe all of the above.

Where are you going if you barely make the big dance with two first round draft picks and a lot of upperclassmen to support and compliment that talent? That's what we seemingly had last season. A foundation of experienced blue collar guys to go with the special blue-chipper guys. Just turns out we couldn't put the pieces together into a high level season. So where do we go from here?

It is for this reason that I don't get too worked up over missing out on blue chip guys one particular year. We need them. Don't get me wrong. However, Coach Hewitt has proven his ability to land these guys. What I am most concerned with is what is happening on the court. Coach Hewitt is still the right guy for Georgia Tech, but it sure would be nice to see growth in our on-the-court success.

So if Iman and Ralph want to join the Jacket party - fantastic. We will welcome you with open arms. If not, best of luck to you at those schools in those colder climates.