John Calipari of Kentucky Wildcats says he's overrated as recruiter

Nov 21, 2018Emailprint

Hours after seeing James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019, choose Memphis over his Kentucky Wildcats, John Calipari called himself "overrated as a recruiter."

The Wildcats still have ESPN's No. 3-rated recruiting class behind Louisville and USC, but missed on Wiseman and are unlikely to land any of the top five prospects in the country.

"I think I'm overrated as a recruiter," Calipari said. "We've had kids that made the decision to come here, and it's played out well for almost all of them. My thing is, I want to be able to sleep at night. I want to make sure I'm telling the truth. I want to make sure I'm sticking with guys.

No. 1 recruit James Wiseman commits to coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis.

How is Memphis' hiring of Penny Hardaway paying off? With James Wiseman now headed to the Tigers, the answer is very, very well.

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Penny Hardaway hits hometown gold with James Wiseman

Nov 20, 2018Emailprint

This is why Memphis hired Penny Hardaway.

Yes, Hardaway will be asked to also win games at some point, but Tuesday, Nov. 20, was the first order of business for him.

And Hardaway answered the bell, as Memphis landed the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, 7-foot center James Wiseman.

Not only did Hardaway convince Wiseman to stay home and play for the Tigers in college, but he also beat out Kentucky and John Calipari -- arguably Memphis' all-time greatest coach and the sport's top recruiter over the past decade -- for the potential No. 1 pick in 2020. Kentucky had been the heavy favorite until March, when Memphis fired Tubby Smith and hired Hardaway, one of the program's greatest players of all time and a legend in the city.

No. 1 recruit James Wiseman commits to coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis.

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From India to Northern Arizona, Sanjana Ramesh makes history during NCAA early signing period

By Katie Barnes | Nov 20, 2018espnW.com

Courtesy NBA Academies

Northern Arizona recruit Sanjana Ramesh was India's captain at the 2017 FIBA U16 Asia Cup.

Sanjana Ramesh grew up playing sports. Outside her home in India's Bengaluru, Karnataka, Ramesh often competed against her older brother in soccer and badminton, honing her competitive spirit. She started playing basketball at 12 as a hobby with friends. By 13, she was playing for her state team. Basketball quickly transformed into her favorite sport.

"You can be creative on the court and make new things," Ramesh said in a phone interview. "It's like an art."

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Everything to know a month from college football recruiting early signing period

Nov 19, 2018

We are four short weeks away from college football's the early signing period in recruiting, so it's time to get caught up on what to expect over the next month. Last year's early signing period, the first in football, saw a large number of prospects sign, and that is expected to happen in this class, as well.

That means that these next four weeks are crucial for coaches and their recruiting classes, because once a prospect signs his national letter of intent, he is off-limits for other coaches to recruit him.

Here is everything you need to know leading up to the early signing period.

When is it?

Prospects in their senior year are able to sign their letters of intent beginning Dec. 19 through Dec. 21. Once they sign, they are locked in to that school and can enjoy the rest of their senior year of high school without fielding calls, texts and messages from coaches all over the country.

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ESPN 300 DT Faatui Tuitele commits to Washington Huskies

Nov 19, 2018Emailprint

Washington landed a big piece for its 2019 recruiting class Sunday when ESPN 300 defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele announced his commitment to the Huskies.

Tuitele is the No. 40-ranked prospect in the country and chose Washington over Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Texas. It's quite the win for coach Chris Petersen and his staff, who currently hold the No. 21-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Hailing from St. Louis School in Honolulu, Tuitele is the fifth prospect to commit to Washington from Hawaii in this class. His school has produced top recruits in the past, including current Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and former Oregon Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Tuitele is the highest-ranked commitment in Washington's class and gives the Huskies four ESPN 300 commitments. He is joined by ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jacob Bandes, ESPN 300 quarterback Dylan Morris and offensive lineman Sama Paama as the top commitments.

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Adidas consultant details payments to influence Dennis Smith Jr., two Kansas players

Oct 12, 2018Emailprint

NEW YORK -- Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola detailed payments he made to the families or friends of Brian Bowen, Dennis Smith Jr., Deandre Ayton, Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa in his testimony Thursday.

Gassnola was questioned by both government and defense attorneys in the federal wire fraud case against Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr. and runner Christian Dawkins. The defense's cross-examination of Gassnola will continue Monday.

Arizona coach Sean Miller has no interest in discussing his school's alleged ties to the FBI bribery trial unfolding in New York right now.

The government alleges defendants defrauded certain NCAA Division I schools by causing them to issue financial aid to players who were ineligible because their families had received illicit payments to sign with Adidas-sponsored teams.

As the first federal trial begins Monday in a corruption scandal that threatens to engulf college basketball, the coaches at four schools mentioned in the indictment are not the only ones nervous. Coaches at a half-dozen other schools could come up.

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Hot Board - Midnight Madness for Kentucky Wildcats, Duke Blue Devils

Oct 12, 2018

The two biggest recruiting powers in the game the last several years are obvious: Kentucky and Duke. And the next two weekends, both programs will look to flex their muscles at Midnight Madness events. Kentucky kicks things off this weekend with Big Blue Madness, while Duke will host Countdown to Craziness next weekend. Both weekends generally feature a long list of high-profile prospects, and this year is no different.

Moreover, in a surprising twist, neither school features the No. 1 class in the country right now. These two weekends will go a long way toward determining whether either of them ends up atop the rankings once again.

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Florida State Seminoles, Oklahoma Sooners, Nebraska Cornhuskers, USC Trojans, Tennessee Volunteers have recruiting help on the way

Oct 12, 2018

Through six weeks of the college football season, math tells us that some teams are struggling. No need to look that up; I did the research and it's true.

The season isn't over yet, but whether it's the overall record or just one side of the ball, there are quite a few teams that could use a little help.

Through the magic of recruiting, help is on the way in the form of talent and hope. Landing that one piece of the puzzle can be make or break for a team on the verge of pushing to the next level. Landing an entirely new 25-piece puzzle and starting over is an option for some teams, too.

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Georgia Bulldogs land Lewis Cine, No. 3 ranked safety in 2019 class

Oct 10, 2018Emailprint

The Georgia Bulldogs continue to be a dominant force on the recruiting trail under Kirby Smart.

On Wednesday, safety Lewis Cine became the latest highly coveted prospect to announce that he will play college football in Athens.

The 6-foot-2, 181-pound No. 3-ranked safety in the class of 2019 selected Georgia over Penn State, Florida, Michigan and Texas after making official visits to all five schools.

"I committed to Georgia because I felt comfortable there," said Cine. "I always wanted the best of both worlds, which is football and the educational aspect, and they provide that."

Cine began the process favoring Penn State, but Georgia made a move in the spring and summer with a Sept. 28 official visit for the Tennessee game pushing the Bulldogs over the top.

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Canadian women's basketball star Laeticia Amihere returning from knee injury stronger than ever

By Walter Villa | Oct 11, 2018Special to espnW

Courtesy Canada Basketball/FIBA

Laeticia Amihere, the No. 10 prospect in the 2019 class, is explosive on both offense and defense. And now she's healthy.

Laeticia Amihere glanced up at her opponent. Way up.

The 6-foot-3 forward was representing Canada at the 2017 U19 World Cup in Italy, and she had drawn the assignment of defending China's 6-9 star center, Xu Han. There was reason to believe that, despite the height difference, Amihere was up to the task. Months earlier, Amihere got credit for being the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game. The video of the 15-year-old slamming it down on a fast break went viral.

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Daxton Hill commits to Michigan Wolverines

9:41 AM ETEmailprint

Michigan landed a huge piece to its 2019 recruiting class Tuesday when ESPN 300 athlete Daxton Hill announced his commitment to the Wolverines.

Hill is the No. 14-ranked prospect overall in the class and is the highest-ranked commitment for Michigan since the 2016 class, when Rashan Gary, ranked No. 1 overall, signed with the Wolverines.

Hill, a 6-foot-1, 187-pound athlete out of Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Oklahoma, chose Michigan over in-state Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, among others, but the primary thought was that Hill had been down to Michigan and Alabama. Hill took official visits to only those two schools, and he felt as though he had enough information to make a decision after taking an official visit to Michigan for its game against SMU this past weekend.

Michigan landed its highest commitment of the 2019 class with the addition of No. 14 overall Daxton Hill.

From rivalry games to the battles that will decide the College Football Playoff, these are the biggest contests for the nation's top teams.

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Guard James Bouknight commits to Connecticut Huskies

Sep 18, 2018Emailprint

First-year Connecticut coach Dan Hurley scored an important verbal commitment Tuesday, with four-star guard James Bouknight pledging to the Huskies on his 18th birthday.

The commitment comes less than three days after he completed his official visit to UConn after having previously visited Virginia Tech and Miami officially in recent weeks.

Bouknight, ranked 87th in the ESPN 100, was sidelined by injury last spring but was nonetheless an immediate priority for Hurley and his staff when they arrived in Storrs.

The 6-foot-4 guard rejoined his PSA Cardinals AAU program in time for the EYBL Finals in July and continued to emerge through the remainder of the recruiting period with strong performances in Pennsylvania and Las Vegas.

"I had already built a relationship with [assistant] Coach Kimani [Young] when he was at Minnesota and that continued when he came to UConn with Coach Hurley," Bouknight told ESPN. "He stayed in touch with me throughout my injury process and that meant a lot to me and my family. We trusted him.

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Women's basketball prospect Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo commits to North Carolina

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Women Basketball Recruiting

Sep 14, 2018espnW.com

Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo, niece of former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and one of the top women's basketball recruits in the 2019 class, on Friday committed to North Carolina.

The 6-foot-3 senior post player at St. John's College High School (Washington, D.C.) and the No. 56 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 chose the Tar Heels over Notre Dame.

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Playing in Texas gives teams chances to recruit Texas

Sep 14, 2018

When Texas plays host to USC at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, the Longhorns won't just be competing against the Trojans. They'll also be competing with Ohio State, which takes on TCU in Arlington, Texas, at the same time only 200 miles north of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

They'll be competing for the attention of in-state recruits with the Buckeyes and other programs who have seen success recruiting Texas in the 2019 class.

The momentum the Longhorns and coach Tom Herman seemed to be gaining from a top-three 2018 class has dwindled in a short period of time. From the excitement of Jimbo Fisher joining Texas A&M to the lingering questions about the Longhorns, recruiting is seeing another shift within the state.

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Basketball prospect Mir McLean of Roland Park and Team Takeover soars on court, in classroom

By Walter Villa | Sep 13, 2018Special to espnW

Courtesy Jayla James

Mir McLean averaged 18.6 points and 13.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Baltimore's Roland Park Country Day.

Every time Mir McLean hears a referee's whistle, she thinks of her dad, who officiated and coached basketball games.

Every time she sees someone wearing blue and orange -- her father's colors when he played wide receiver for Morgan State -- she thinks of her dad.

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Bryan Antoine commits to Villanova Wildcats

Sep 4, 2018Emailprint

Five-star guard Bryan Antoine announced his commitment to Villanova on Tuesday.

Antoine chose the Wildcats among a final five that also included Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Kansas. Duke was long thought to be the favorite for Antoine, but Villanova came on strong recently and got Antoine to commit before he began taking official visits.

Antoine, ranked No. 12 in the ESPN 100 for 2019, is the highest-ranked recruit to commit to Villanova since point guard Corey Fisher pledged back in the Class of 2007.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Ranney School (New Jersey) is among the best scorers in the class, averaging 16.6 points and shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range on the Under Armour Association circuit for Team Rio National.

The defending national champions added a third player to their 2019 class.

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Scout's Take safety Nick Cross to Florida State Seminoles

Sep 3, 2018

A few hours before Florida State kicked off its 2018 season, ESPN 300 safety Nick Cross gave his commitment to the Seminoles. Read below to see what Cross adds to head coach Willie Taggart's first complete class.

What he brings: Cross possesses a wealth of physical tools that can allow him to be a productive, versatile player. The four-star safety has a good blend of height and length and is an excellent overall athlete. He has the speed to be a sideline-to-sideline defender and flashes explosive ability to close. With a good blend of speed, quickness and size, he can be a scheme-versatile player in both man and zone coverage. He also is strong and physical enough to develop into an in-the-box safety. Cross demonstrates that he can be a good wrap-up tackler who can make plays in space.

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Tennessee Lady Volunteers dismiss Anastasia Hayes for violation of team rules

Aug 31, 2018Emailprint

Anastasia Hayes, a member of Tennessee's top-ranked recruiting class in 2017, is no longer with the team.

"Anastasia Hayes has been dismissed from the Tennessee women's basketball team due to a violation of team rules," coach Holly Warlick said in a statement Friday morning.

Hayes, a 5-foot-7 guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season for the Lady Vols. She didn't start but averaged 24.3 minutes per game and was named the SEC's sixth woman of the year. Hayes hit her season high of 17 points twice, against East Tennessee State on Nov. 12 and in the SEC tournament quarterfinals against South Carolina on March 2.

Her exit means that Tennessee will return only one of its four top scorers from last season. Tennessee went 25-8 in 2017-18, falling to Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee opens the season Nov. 11 by hosting Presbyterian.

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From Ethiopia to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a difficult but quick trip for Ajulu Thatha

By Katie Barnes | Aug 30, 2018espnW.com

Courtesy DeeEllen Davis

Ajulu Thatha learned how to play basketball and already has accepted a scholarship to play in college.

Basketball tucked under one arm, Ajulu Thatha steps out of her Indianapolis apartment and into a hot and humid July day. Her long braids flop over her shoulders as she hops into the front seat of the car. She's quiet. Until the topic turns to her newfound passion: basketball.

Thatha has played the sport for only five years, and she has been in the United States for only six. She was inspired to give basketball a try after attending an Indiana Fever game within months of her plane landing from Ethiopia.

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No. 15 USC debuts freshman QB J.T. Daniels vs. UNLV

9:46 PM ETEmailprint

LOS ANGELES -- Southern California head coach Clay Helton walked up to quarterback JT Daniels, looking into his eyes for confirmation the second freshman to start a season opener in the program's storied history was not overwhelmed by the moment.

"They're either that big," said Helton, holding his hands wide open, "or they're like, `All right, let's roll.' "

Daniels was ready, throwing for 282 yards with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown to help the No. 15 Trojans overcome a sluggish performance and defeat UNLV 43-21 on Saturday.

Outside of an early gaffe where Daniels turned the wrong way trying to hand the ball off to running back Stephen Carr, forcing the 2017 Gatorade national player of the year to scramble for a 5-yard gain, there were no apparent nerves from the 18-year-old.

Daniels did admit to feeling goosebumps coming down the tunnel for the first time before joining Matt Barkley in 2009 to start in his USC debut.

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