Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson to LSU. Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews to the Cats. Mailk Newman to Mississippi State. P.J. Dozier to South Carolina. Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Elijah Thomas to Texas A&M.
That’s 11 of the top 50 players in the country per ESPN, and all are headed to SEC schools. And get this – Florida, a place that traditionally gets its share of McDonald’s All-Americans – isn’t one of those schools.
It’s no secret that in 2013 SEC commish Mike Slive told his athletic directors he wanted to upgrade the conference’s basketball image.
Yes, Florida and UK have made undefeated runs through the league in the past two years, but look for that upgrade in talent to start next season. In the 247 Sports Top Basketball rankings for 2015, Kentucky still holds the No. 1 ranking, followed by LSU. Texas A&M is sixth, while Auburn is No. 16 and (there you have them) Florida is No. 17.
And this is really just the beginning.
Why? New coaches provide another upgrade, which will equal even more talent. You’re already seeing what Bruce Pearl can do at Auburn – one season translated to a top 20 recruiting class. Frank Martin landed a top 20 talent for the Gamecocks. Be prepared for Tennessee to make a similar leap. New coach Rick Barnes, after 16 seasons at Texas, has never been accused of being the best X’s and O’s coach in the world, but he always gets talent – and the thinking here is he will continue to do so in Knoxville.
Avery Johnson may not have a ton of college credibility, but he will play his NBA experience to the tilt trying to keep those talented Alabama players at home. And he will gets his share – but can he win? It’ll be interesting to watch. And Ben Howland (really? Ben Howland?) has already made his mark in landing Newman.
Along with Calipari, and (I will ask the question here) if Billy Donovan stays in Gainesville, the SEC has some of its most recognized coaches in years. Both Howland and Barnes have made the Final Four, and Pearl knocked on the door with the Vols. On paper, these names are big upgrades, the wildcard being Johnson.
All of this has to make the conference even more attractive to elite recruits, so many of whom come from the South. Get ready for more ballers, SEC fans. And it all starts with more high-profile coaches.
In minutes, the hottest matchup of the KBA EYBL will start, especially as far as Kentucky is concerned – Jayson Tatum vs. Malik Monk. They tip at 6:30 p.m. and it’s safe to say a large contingent of recruiters – with UK leading the way – will be there to watch.
We’ll let you know what happens.
And in other recruiting news, Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader is saying Kentucky is already recruiting top 3 2017 player Troy Brown. Remember that name.
For now, here’s more on Malik Monk’s performance earlier in the day from The Courier-Journal:
— C-J Sports staff (@sports_cj) April 25, 2015