Monday, June 20, 2011

An Experiment in Modern Recruiting News

I am not Jonathon Paige.

There is no Jonathon Paige. There is no SummerHoopScoop. In fact, there never was. A little over two months ago the college basketball season ended and the long off-season of recruiting events and commitment speculation began. Messageboards and popular basketball news sources began to populate with recruiting interviews, videos, news stories, and rumors. The summer circuit circus began and college basketball fans dug in for the slow rolling waves of recruiting information to parse through. Of course, the real issue is-- who's information can be trusted? Sometimes it feels to fans like recruiting services and "experts" are just sorting through twitter feeds and regurgitating third-hand information.

However, a funny dynamic develops as a result. When a recruiting "source" brings good news to a fan base, it is instantly credible and plenty are willing to defend the source with recollections of previous information provided that proved correct. When a recruiting source brings bad news, it is open season. "Never heard of this guy"... "probably some opposing fan base's blogger" .... "I doubt he knows what he is talking about." In short, fans believe what they want to believe.

So, out of boredom and sincere interest in the relationship between the internet, recruiting services, and consumers, I created Jonathon Paige.

All I did was start a twitter account and a blog. The first blog entry gave a simple back story:

Hey All, 
After a seven month hiatus and brief retirement, I am back. A lot of you followed me last summer on the website and twitter. I originally thought the yearly AAU circuit grind might be a bit much moving forward, but I just couldn't hang up the kicks and notepad.
My methods were simple. 

- Immediately tweet information found on the twitter feeds of proven and credible sources like Dave Telep, Jeff Borzello, Jeff Goodman, and Brian Snow.
- Bounce around the free messageboards of top tier programs and tweet any "breaking" information that trickles down the pipeline.
- Find out what summer tournaments are taking place each weekend, read the tweets and blogs of those attending, and do tournament write-ups that regurgitated all of the information in a slightly different manner.
- When in doubt, use lots of language that appeals to specific fanbases (Example: Carolina fans love the words "family atmosphere" and Duke fans like to talk about "silent verbals"while Kentucky fans love to hear about Calipari "going to work.")
- And if a piece of information seems likely (and hopefully incontrovertible) given the circumstances, just make it up.... 

With hardly any effort... without ever leaving my couch... I was AT the tournaments. I had "well-informed" opinions about recruits. I was a source that people looked to. Don't believe me? As of right now I have over 550 followers.

Jonathon Paige's blog has almost 20,000 views with readers from multiple countries.

... and it wasn't just casual fans interested in my information, my twitter account gained some interesting followers along the way. Recruits, assistant coaches, writers for real recruiting news sources, and college basketball reporters:

While Twitter was helpful in building the "Jonathon Paige Brand," messageboards and team-specific blogs were the greatest instrument. Most of the fan blogs collect any conceivable information (about their team of choice) available on the internet in one place for fans. There is no real filter and this is where fans go for information. Messageboards served much the same function. Here are a few examples:

Kentucky Site
Memphis Messageboard

Kentucky Site following Tweet that Bazz would soon commit

Duke Messageboard

UCLA Messageboard
Carolina Blog

... and so Jonathon Paige grew a small following. This is just a limited sampling of screenshots collected over the last few months, but hopefully it gives readers a sense of how the name spread. 

Throughout it all Jonathon Paige made sure not to predict any commitments before reliable sources had already reported them.... until the end when it came time to finish the experiment with a boom. The last test was to see if anybody would actually believe a fictional twitter account's breaking news that a top tier recruit was choosing a top tier program. Enter the University of North Carolina (the school with a recruit perceived to be closest to a commitment at the time):

First Jonathon Paige tweeted that Kaleb Tarczewski desired to choose UNC while his parents were leaning towards Kansas. This led to a flurry of retweets and messageboard threads (My personal favorite was - "WHO THE FRICK IS JONATHON PAIGE?"... this guy was obviously very invested). 

Then, Jonathon Paige officially called Kaleb Tarczewski to North Carolina... WHILE TARCZEWSKI WAS ON ANOTHER SCHOOL'S CAMPUS!!! Would anybody even entertain the possibility of this being true for even a second.... of course. We believe what we want to believe when it comes to high school recruiting.

... and I am not going to go in to the message boards. At least the recruiting handicappers qualified their reports of "buzz" with the helpful statement that it is all unconfirmed. 

Lessons Learned

I found that the easiest fanbase to sway was Kentucky, followed closely by UNC, Duke, and UCLA. This was unsurprising as all three programs have huge fanbases with passionate fans that take a sincere interest in recruiting. Also unsurprising was the reception given to different sorts of recruiting news. If Jonathon Paige tweeted that a recruit was "leaning towards" school X, there would be multiple re-tweets and messageboard posts by fans of that school about the news. If another school in the race for the same recruit saw the tweet and it was brought up on a messageboard, the source and news would be summarily dismissed in short order... until something more positive came out a week later of course.

Perhaps what was most surprising of all was how little effort this all took. Whenever I sat down at my computer I would do a few searches on twitter, browse my timeline, and I would be done in 3-5 minutes. Ultimately, this experiment has taught me a few lessons that I hope you can also take away from this:

(1) Only trust PROVEN sources that have a track record and accountability. 

For my money, Jeff Goodman is the best overall source in the business. He has tons of contacts, breaks more stories on college basketball than anybody else, and does so in a responsible way. Similarly, Dave Telep might be the best when it comes to contacts and breaking news in the recruiting world. Services like ESPN Recruiting and Scout (and Rivals on occasion) are often panned by college basketball fans, but they remain a valuable resources. Those guys hit the road hard every week during the summer and collect tons of information. Their jobs are not easy and they are likely underpaid. Sure some of them have slight biases that might bother you, but their information is sound 95 times out of 100. They should be your primary resources on national recruiting news. Here is a rough list:

Dave Telep
Brian Snow
Jeff Borzello
Jeff Goodman
Paul Biancardi
Evan Daniels
Eric Bossi

(2) Keep your ears open to bad news as well as good news. When you hear negative news about your school's chances with a recruit from a trusted source or all the facts don't add up in your favor, don't go in to denial about it. Just accept what you are seeing and hearing. A analyst is not wrong just because he brings bad news. A random recruiting twitter account is not right just because it tells you what you want to hear. Be smart about what information you hear and where it comes from.

(3) Recruiting is about choices made by 16 and 17 year old kids. They change their minds all the time. When they do that doesn't mean a previous piece of information given by a source was wrong.... just that it is no longer correct.. Accept this fact and move on. Remember, these are kids.

If you want to look through the pretty simple and fast way Jonathon Paige built a following, just scroll through the blog or the twitter feed. All anonymous or fictional sources.... all innuendo or general information. All a joke.

Thanks for Reading. Yours Truly,


UPDATE: Tarczewski to Carolina


SummerHoopScoop has learned that Southborough (MA) recruit Kaleb Tarczewski intends to commit to the University of North Carolina. The St. Mark's seven-footer first visited UNC last summer while attending Bob Gibbons' Tournament of Champions in North Carolina. He returned to Chapel Hill last week for a 2-day unofficial visit and came away impressed with the campus, staff, and culture. A source close to the situation confirms that, after some disagreement about the timing, Tarczewski and his parents are on the same page. Tarczewski is expected to formally accept his scholarship offer shortly following his unofficial visit to Arizona which ends tomorrow.

_________________**UPDATED INFORMATION ABOVE**__________________

4:17 PM ET

Per a source close to the situation:

Kaleb Tarczewski is on an unofficial visit to Arizona today and tomorrow, but the visit to Tucson almost never happened. This weekend Kaleb Tarczewski sought to cancel his trip to Arizona altogether  but was convinced by his father to keep to the original schedule. Tarczewski and his parents are apparently of two minds regarding the rising high school senior's pending commitment. While Kaleb felt more at home on campus at Chapel Hill, both of his parents feel more comfortable with the Kansas program which has been involved for a far longer period of time. A decision has yet to be made. Tarczewski will finish his unofficial visit to Arizona and focus on Sean Miller's program for the next day and a half.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tarczewski Race Tightens: Is There a New Leader?

Southborough (MA) St. Mark's product, Kaleb Tarczewski, first visited Kansas last summer for the Jayhawk Invitational, and then again for Kansas' Elite Camp, and then again for a game in the 2010-2011 season (Kansas State), and then yet again last week with his family in tow. It is safe to say that Kansas and assistant coach Joe Dooley got in early with Tarczewski and a close relationship has formed. Throughout the process, Tarczewski has relied on the input of both his family and former Boston Celtics coach (and current AAU coach with the NE Playaz) John Carroll. The 5-star big man's AAU coach has similarly formed a relationship with Dooley and with the Kansas program over the years. Carroll has been active in the recruiting process throughout, and this summer has both publicly and privately stated that he expects Tarczewski to commit to a school by the end of August.

With all of these facts in mind, it would seem that Tarczewski is a virtual lock to commit to Kansas. Or, at least it seemed that way until this week.

On June 13th and 14th, Tarczewski finally made his way back to Chapel Hill for an unofficial visit after trying numerous times in the preceding months to schedule the trip (including at or around the time of Bob Gibbons' TOC which was sadly gutted this year). Tarczewski came with his parents so that they could see the campus and speak with the coaches. He was hosted primarily by Tyler Zeller and got to meet a host of team alumni in town for camps and other engagements. He and his family received a full tour of the facilities and campus and spoke, in some depth, about his potential academic focuses should he choose Carolina. In addition, the coaching staff laid out for him the opportunities he might see on the floor as the UNC front court projects to be depleted if or when the big man might arrive on campus. In short, Tarczewski received the full treatment.

However, the real news lies in reports that have trickled out in the last 24 hours about how Tarczewski reacted to the visit and how the players reacted to Tarczewski. The big man reportedly "fell in love" with Chapel Hill. According to multiple sources, Tarczewski fit in perfectly with the personality and culture of the team, and by the end of the visit both recruit and players were talking to each other as if his commitment was no longer a question, but an eventuality. Finally, Tarczewski was reportedly "very impressed" with the "family atmosphere" around the basketball program.

While Kansas has long been the widely acknowledged frontrunner for Tarczewski's services, recent rave reports about his visit to Chapel Hill quite possibly indicate that the race has tightened, or even that there is a new leader. About a month ago one source stated quite plainly of Tarczewski recruitment, "UNC is in the game now. Roy has turned his head," and now the question is whether his visit to Carolina was enough to turn the tides.

Tarczewski will be one of the few top prospects not at the NBAPA Top 100 Camp this week and will be taking an unofficial visit to Arizona on June 20th-21st. No official timeline for a decision has been set by Tarczewski, but consensus on the summer circuit is that a decision will come this summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pangos All-American Camp

Top Performers

This is pretty much the easiest top performers entry I have ever written for a camp as there were really three guys who stood out from the rest...

Shabazz Muhammad

I have said this before and I will say it again-- when the final rankings come out, Shabazz Muhammad should be the #1 overall prospect for the class of 2012. The camp MVP dominated the entire weekend, and by the Top 25 game the crowd was holding its breath every time he touched the ball-- expecting another dunk. Muhammad's outside shot wasn't even falling this weekend, but it didn't matter as he took the ball to the rim time after time. When he got to the rim he finished with the kind of violence that mixtapers dream of.

Andre Drummond

Drummond had plenty of opportunities to go up against other quality bigs and each time he took the challenge head on. The marquee matchup pitted Drummond (the top big man in the class) vs Isaiah Austin (the #2 big man in the class) against each other. While Austin impressed at times, Drummond won the matchup with room to spare. Drummond converted on a number of right hooks, but when he spins baseline... GET OUT OF THE WAY, cause he might just throw the ball down on top of you, over you, or around you.

Anthony Bennett

No other prospect has raised his stock as quickly as Anthony Bennett has in the last two weeks. He is quite simply a matchup nightmare and has finally realized that fact. The light has gone on. He is too physical for opposing threes but too quick for opposing fours. When he has a bigger defender on him, he will pull up and hit the three, but when he finds himself with the size advantage, he uses it. At 6'7" 235 lbs of pure muscle, it can be difficult to stop him from getting to the hoop and finishing strong.

Rumors and Tidbits

(1) Anthony Bennett- Findlay Prep prospect Bennett has been hearing from west coast schools Oregon, Washington, UNLV, and Arizona for a little while, but some of the East Coast powers have started to express interest. UConn has reportedly shown more interest of late and Duke has made contact to gauge interest.

(2) Kaleb Tarczewski- Tarczewski will take 3 visits this month to Kansas 6/10 (again), North Carolina 6/13-14, and Arizona 6/20-21. Arizona will reportedly be playing catch-up while many feel that Kaleb's week-long swing from Kansas to Carolina could be crucial as both sit at the top of his list-- Kansas being the long-time frontrunner and Carolina being the quickly rising major player for Tarczewski's services.

(3) Shabazz Muhammad- I heard from multiple sources this weekend that Muhammad is "sorta pissed off" that he is being considered a "UCLA lock" at this point in his recruitment. That is not to say that he is not leaning towards UCLA or any other school, but for a prospect that has been careful to build his brand and appear open to many high-major schools at every step, talk of being a "lock" has gotten tiresome for him.

(4) Dave Miller- ESPN announcer Dave Miller did an excellent job this weekend and gave an inspiring speech to the campers about using basketball and not letting it use you. When talking about NBA players mismanaging finances, he pointed to the value of degrees and education at Virginia, Stanford and Duke. He also listed a number of coaches that would not touch recruits, regardless of talent, if said recruit was known to be close with any drug users or dealers (Rick Barnes, Roy Williams, and Coach Krzyzewski were mentioned).

(5) Shaq Goodwin- Earlier this month Shaq Goodwin was rumored to be down to UCLA and Memphis (while also listing Miami, Georgia, and Tennessee). Memphis was looking good as Goodwin has been rumored to prefer a school closer to home and had previously expressed an interest in playing with his teammate (and Memphis commit) Damien Wilson. However, last night it was announced that UCLA has hired Atlanta Celtics (Goodwin's AAU team) coach Corey McCray on as an assistant coach. McCray is known to be very close to Goodwin (and teammate/ Top100 UCLA recruit Jordan Adams).

(6) Tobacco Road Tidbit- Marcus Paige (UNC commit) and Tyler Lewis (NC State commit) went at each other hard over the weekend. I polled five writers/evaluators in attendance to score the matchup. Paige came out on top 3-2 with almost all claiming it was too close to call.

(7) Video of Pangos Action- Can be found HERE

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Duke Hot on the Recruiting Trail

In the past week, there has been plenty for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski to get excited about. First, 2014 #1 overall prospect Theo Pinson made his way to Durham for a second unofficial visit (his first was at Duke's Countdown to Craziness before the 2010-2011 season). While Pinson's recruiting journey is still in its infancy, the talented youngster has been in regular contact with Duke's staff of late and has gone on record numerous times in stating that he grew up a Duke fan and has a "very good" relationship with the program.

This morning, top ten 2012 recruit Rodney Purvis made his way to Duke's campus as well. After decommitting from Louisville earlier this summer, Purvis has cut his schools of interest to five (Duke, Memphis, NC State, Kentucky, and Louisville). Numerous sources have indicated that this will be a two horse race between local schools Duke and NC State. Purvis has spent ample time this summer playing pick-up ball with CJ Leslie and other State players. However, Purvis has made no effort to hide that the coach with which he has the best relationship is Coach Krzyzewski.

Pinson and Purvis have not had your typical summer unofficial campus visits as Duke has been running their annual K Academy this week (a fantasy camp for Duke fans). Each summer between 20-40 former Duke players make their way back to Durham to coach, network, and reminisce. Frequent participants include Elton Brand, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Jay Bilas, and others. The camp didn't fail to leave an impression on Pinson who was reportedly "blown away" by how many former players and NBA stars were involved with the yearly ritual.

Of  course, unofficial visits weren't the only reason for optimism in Durham this week. The coaching staff received news that 2013 #2 overall recruit Jabari Parker narrowed his list down to 5 schools, including Duke (Illinois, Kansas, Michigan St., Duke, Washington). Furthermore, one source at the EYBL in California this weekend stated quite simply, "at this rate, Duke is going to win the Parker race," while another stated, "well, he has at least one family member waving the Duke banner every day and that can be a powerful influence." There is a long way to go here, but Duke appears to be well positioned for now.

To top things off, Duke has recently been getting very positive feedback regarding their chances with 2013 #1 overall recruit Julius Randle. Randle views new Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel "like a big brother" and already had shown some interest in being recruited by the Blue Devils before Capel jumped on board. For more reading material, see Randle's recent journal entry for ESPN RISE.

Also of note-- Coach K and assistants have spoken to Randle, Parker, Alex Poythress (2012), and Jarnell Stokes (2012) on the phone this week.

More News and Notes from the AAU Circuit

- Northern California Prospect Richard Longrus is expected to narrow his list of schools later this summer, but rumor is that UCLA is pretty much guaranteed to be near the top of whatever list he comes up with

- Memphis commit Damien Wilson is rumored to be in a number of guys' ear about joining him at Memphis.

- Despite rumors to the contrary, Mitch McGary will not be reclassifying to the 2011 class and UConn is not in the lead for his services.

- New Schools in on the Deandre Daniels saga? Yes, of course. UConn, Oregon, and Oklahoma State. Decision has been pushed back again.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nike EYBL (Memorial Day Weekend)

With another major recruiting event comes another entry, so lets rundown the top performers before jumping in to the numerous recruiting tidbits SummerHoopScoop learned this weekend in California.

Top Performers

Brandon Ashley (2012)

Brandon Ashley's game is expanding at an alarming rate. At times he becomes an unstoppable physical animal. The phrase "bull in a china store" can be apt, but he never quite loses control. Throughout the weekend he helped his team, the Oakland Soldiers, with a variety of face-up moves and midrange jumpers to compliment his ability inside the paint. His game on day one against Howard Pulley was one of the top performances of the weekend.

Jarnell Stokes (2012)

Stokes doesn't demand the ball a lot, but it never seems to matter as he is dominant on the glass at all times and always manages to get to the free throw line on broken plays and rebounds. His effort level is off the chart. One area for improvement is free-throw shooting given how much time he spends on the line. However, the steps he has taken forward far outweigh his charity-stripe woes. All weekend long I heard him described simply as "beast" ... I can't disagree.

Julius Randle (2013)

Randle is just starting to understand how to use his superior body and physicality and it is downright scary for opponents. Randle struggled at times throughout the weekend, but on Day Three when pitted against Nerlens Noel, he lit up. He dropped midrange jumpers in from all over the floor, while using the shot fake to make space and attack the rim. He got to the foul line consistently and kept the best defensive player at the event, Noel, on the bench most of the game. It was a dominating display.

Brian Bridgewater (2013)

On Sunday, Brian Bridgewater stole the show. It is often hard to escape the shadow of Houston Hoops' backcourt of LJ Rose, Rasheed Sulaimon, and J-Mychal Reese, but the undersized PF managed to do just that at times this weekend. Bridgewater has incredible strength and displayed it when he launched himself past/over defenders for the dunk of the weekend on Sunday. Once he had everybody's attention, he started dropping jumpers. If Sunday was a sign of things to come for Bridgewater, a lot of high-major schools will be standing up and taking notice.

Tidbits and Rumors

(1) Shabazz Muhammad- For a little over a month now I have felt that those handicapping the Shabazz Muhammad sweepstakes might be wrong regarding Muhammad's timeline for deciding on a school. While most feel his recruitment will drag out in to the spring, I remain confident that this race will be over much sooner.

Muhammad has been savvy in talking about schools that have expressed interest and spreading his attention around, but after essentially ending his flirtation with Carolina, the buzz is growing louder and louder that UCLA will be his choice.

(2) Kaleb Tarczewski- The big man was not at the event, but several sources at the EYBL confirmed what I had heard a number of weeks ago. Specifically-- While Kansas is still in the lead, Roy Williams turned Kaleb's head and has transformed this affair in to a real race for now. Tarczewski expressed privately, and somewhat publicly, his desire to visit Chapel Hill over Memorial Day Weekend, but the NCAA's decision to essentially gut the Tournament of Champions meant that Kaleb was unable to make the trip. This might be a serious blow to the Tar Heels' chances as he is currently working to set up another visit to Kansas this summer. However, for now at least, Carolina remains in good position and is making up ground fast.

(3) Tony Parker- Parker has dropped North Carolina from his list and added Memphis. His current list includes Ohio State, Duke, and Memphis. Although Parker maintains that OSU's courting of other big men such as Dejuan Coleman has not affected his interest, perhaps a bigger question is whether OSUs recruiting tactics might say something about their interest in Parker.

(4) LJ Rose- One rumor I heard more than any other this weekend is that LJ Rose has UCLA firmly out in front and the Bruins will be hard to catch.

(5) Rodney Purvis- The CP3 star has recently expanded his list to include Memphis along with Duke, NC State, Louisville, and Kentucky. However, most feel that the competition for his services will come down to State and Duke. Purvis has been reportedly playing a lot of basketball with NC State players this summer while Duke was widely understood to be a close 2nd after his first commitment to Louisville. This was reportedly in large part due to the close relationship he had formed with Coach K in the preceding months.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Jayhawk Invitational

Top Performers

Note: Last summer we gave a starting five for top performers of each tournament, but this year we have decided to mix things up again and just go with the guys who really stood out. The Jayhawk Invitational saw three players really stand out from the rest.

Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad might just end up the #1 player in the class of 2012. He has something that few other players have, a killer mentality. When Muhammad smells blood in the water he takes his game to another level and does so intelligently. When most wing players feel the momentum change and are feeling hot, you can bet that a long jumper is coming. When Muhammad is feeling it he does one of two things-- (1) gets to the line, or (2) gets to his sweet spot on the floor (left elbow of the lane). Shabazz thrives in isolations situations on the left side of the court where he frequently hits the pull-up off the drive or spins baseline and finishes with his dominant hand, the left. He was clearly the best player in the event.

Mitch McGary

Has any player improved as much from one summer to the next as Mitch McGary? The answer is a clear and resounding NO. McGary dominated every big man that went up against him in the Invitational. He is exceedingly physical down low on the block but has the ability to take slower big men outside and face up for the jumper or drive. He has a rapidly improving offensive repertoire on the block as evidenced by his up-and-under and drop steps all weekend. In an absolutely loaded class, I would not be surprised to see him end up a top 3 big man.

Marcus Smart

If there is one word to describe Marcus Smart it is "strong." His shot is still a work in progress but nobody is stopping him from getting to the rim. As readers from the last few summers know, I am not one to focus on the intangibles of a player, but I would be remiss if I did not make mention of Smart's leadership skills. When his team was down, he pulled his guys together and refocused them. He just exudes a winner's mentality and it rubs off on everybody he plays with. Some kids just have that aura and Smart is one of them.

Tidbits and Rumors

(1) Kaleb Tarczewski- A few weeks ago I stated that Kaleb Tarczewski is more wide open than most seem to think. Now I can report that multiple sources have heard that Tarczewski is intrigued by the idea of playing in, what projects to be, a very uncrowded Carolina frontcourt. While those sources still feel he is a Kansas lean, one source stated that Roy Williams has "turned his head."

(2) Shaquille Cleare- Houston product Shaquille Cleare has been hearing from lots of schools of late, but  rumor is that two have separated themselves from the pack-- Maryland and Baylor. With the retirement of Gary Williams, Scott Drew's school might be sitting in pole position for the power forward's services.

(3) Deandre Daniels-  Little has changed on Daniels' side. Multiple sources on the trail have confirmed over and over again that Daniels and his father both want Duke. The newest wrinkle, however, is that Duke has slowed down the process to make sure that all of Daniels' academic affairs are in order. While Daniels is a good student, he has attended a number of schools and Duke is in the process of doing its due diligence and collecting all the requisite paperwork.