The WDRB College Basketball Notebook begins with a ranking of the Top 10 players in the Class of 2014.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The summer evaluation period is over for college basketball coaches. That means they can head to the first fairway, dump charcoal into the grill and make a million phone calls to find out who is playing well at the adidas Nation event they cannot attend in Los Angeles this weekend.
They can also wait for the post-camp Class of 2014 rankings to be posted by the primary recruiting services. There's no reason to wait. I called several assistant coaches who lived on the road in July. I also talked with a scout whose opinion I value.
I granted everybody anonymity, collected their opinions on the top players in the next class and cooked up my Top 10. Be sure to bookmark the list so you can remind me how badly I whiffed two years from now.
But here goes:
1. Cliff Alexander, Chicago -- Alexander will not be atop the updated lists from any of the major services, but that's OK. Coaches told me that nobody played harder. Alexander is a 6-foot-9, 240-pound beast who can beat you on the block or from 12 feet. Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana all made his final 10 but the word is that Kansas and Michigan State are the schools to beat. "I've got no problem with him being on top," one assistant coach said. "He's an absolute monster."
2. Jahlil Okafor, Chicago -- This is the guy who tops most lists because he's bigger (6-10, 265) – and harder to move – than the Humana Building. He's more dangerous than Alexander around the rim, but not nearly as effective when you pull him away from the goal. Maybe Mike Krzyzewski can change that because everybody is saying he is bound for Duke.
3. Stanley Johnson, Los Angeles -- Nobody had a better summer than Johnson, a fluid, 6-7 ½, 225-pound wing. He's the kind of triple threat most coaches like at point guard – in a small forward's body. The final tug-of-war will be between Kentucky and Arizona, although nobody expects UCLA or USC to surrender.
4. D'Angelo Russell, Montverde, Fla. – I know this is about 20 spots higher than you'll find Russell elsewhere. I also know some will call this a vote for the hometown guy because Russell grew up in Louisville and played his freshman year at Central High School. Fine. Russell has committed to Ohio State, but it was an assistant at another Big Ten school that insisted Russell belonged in the top five.
"He's a pro," the coach said. "He'll have the same kind of career at Ohio State that Evan Turner had. He didn't have a good summer, he had a great summer." Another coach agreed: "I don't remember seeing him miss many shots."
5. Tyus Jones, Minneapolis – Jones is the Must-Have point guard in this class. He's still mentioning six schools, but everybody says that he only has eyes for one – Duke. "When you see his Mom show up wearing Duke gear you know how this is going to turn out," one coach said.
6. Rashad Vaughn, Minneapolis – There are three Top 40 players in the 2014 class from the Twin Cities, and the word is that Richard Pitino's best shot at getting one to come to the University of Minnesota is Vaughn. He's an unrelenting scorer with a great jump shot. Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas are the primary contenders. "He can shoot," one coach said. "I mean, he can really shoot."
7. Emmanuel Mudiay, Dallas – John Calipari usually secures an elite point guard in every recruiting class. Opposing coaches say that with Jones likely bound for Duke, Mudiay, 6-4, 190, will take the baton from Andrew Harrison in 2014-15 at Kentucky. Spectacular athlete. "He flies up and down the court like John Wall," said one assistant coach. "I can definitely see him at Kentucky."
8. Myles Turner, Euless, Texas – At least 21 schools have offered him a scholarship – and the number keeps increasing because Turner knows how to use his 6-11, 225-pound body. Baylor sounds like a good spot, but you never know. "He's got the potential to be as good as anybody in the class, but he's not there yet from a productivity standpoint," one coach said.
9. Trey Lyles, Indianapolis – Lyles didn't play in as many summer events as most of guys on this list because of an injury, but he didn't have to do that. His status as a top power forward is secure. Louisville, Butler and Florida still get mentioned, but most coaches would be shocked if Lyles did not land at Kentucky.
10. Karl Towns Jr., Metuchen, N.J. – Towns has already orally committed to the Wildcats. But Towns did not kick up much extra love in July. In fact, he didn't stir much conversation at all. "He didn't really have a very good summer," one coach said. "But he'll be fine. He's long and really athletic. Cal will turn him into a player."
JUST MISSED: Justin Jackson, Tomball, Texas; Kevon Looney, Milwaukee; Reid Travis, Minneapolis; Chris McCullough, New York; Joel Berry, Apopka, Fla.; James Blackmon Jr., Marion, Ind.; JaQuan Lyle, Evansville, Ind.; Justise Winslow, Houston; Kelly Oubre, Fort Bend, Texas; Quentin Snider, Louisville; Devin Booker, Moss Point, Miss.
Calipari Number One, Pitino Number Four
You love lists. You love college basketball. You'll love the next two items. (You can also vote in my poll at the top of this story.)
Jeff Goodman is hard-wired into the world of hoops, taking his talents from CBSSports to ESPN this summer. Goodman kicked up a ton of chatter this week because he ranked the Top 20 head coaches to recruit against as well as the top 20 assistants to fear when they walk into a gymnasium.
Plenty of local names showed up on the list – about where you expected them to rank.
The head coaching conversation began with John Calipari of Kentucky. Two guys separated Calipari and Rick Pitino of Louisville – Bill Self of Kansas and Sean Miller of Arizona.
It's impossible to argue against Calipari. It's difficult to argue with Self. Miller has done good work, but I'm not ready to put him ahead of Pitino, Billy Donovan of Florida, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Thad Matta of Ohio State. Not yet.
The list of assistant coaches also has a local flavor, including the first pick. Kurtis Townsend works for Self at Kansas, but he played point guard for Gene Keady Western Kentucky from 1978-80.
Kevin Keatts has helped upgrade Louisville's recruiting in the two seasons since he arrived from Hargrave Military Academy. That explains why Goodman ranked him third, behind Mike Hopkins of Syracuse.
Calipari's top recruiter, Orlando Antigua, made the list at Number Five. And Goodman recognized the work Kenny Johnson has done at Indiana for Tom Crean by ranking Johnson 11th. Crean ranked 17th on the list of head coaches.
Who's Number One? John Wall says John Wall
If I am making a list of the best point guards in the NBA, I begin with Rajon Rondo. Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose belong in the discussion, if they are healthy. Most people are gaga about Chris Paul. Don't forget Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker. Especially Parker.
Former Kentucky star John Wall wants to add another name to the list – John Wall.
Wall signed a five-year, $80 million maximum contract to remain with the Washington Wizards. Wall appeared with Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix, who was serving as the guest host on the Dan Patrick Show. Mannix asked Wall where he ranked himself among NBA point guards. Wall didn't need to check Basketball Prospectus. Wall said he ranked himself first.
I'm not sure if Mannix was surprised or simply wanted to make certain he had the necessary soundbite because he followed up by asking Wall if he really ranked himself Number One?
"Yeah," Wall said. "I rank myself the best."
Wall was very good last season after returning from an injury to play the final 49 games of another dismal season with the Wizards. So Mannix asked Wall if he deserved the ranking because of the way he has played during his first three seasons or because of his potential to improve.
"Just basing it on what I can do in the future, what I feel like I have at stake ahead of me," Wall said. "I mean, I feel like I always can improve, and it's a lot of talented point guards out there. But I feel like I can hold my own."
Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and the rest of the NBA will be watching.
Welcome to the Hot Seat, Kevin Stallings
Kevin Stallings has done excellent work at Vanderbilt. From 2007-through-2012, the Commodores averaged better than 23 wins. Think about that. Vanderbilt. The Commodores won the SEC Tournament in 2012 and put three players into the NBA. Vanderbilt.
But Vandy slipped to 16-17 last season. Stallings is losing nearly as many players as John Calipari – and they aren't headed for the NBA. They're just leaving the program.
Forward Kevin Bright, the team's top rebounder, has signed a contract to play pro ball in Germany. Point guard Kedron Johnson, Vandy's top scorer, has been dismissed from the university. Don't forget that top freshman Sheldon Jeter announced that he intended to transfer to Pittsburgh, even though Stallings will not grant him a release to Jamie Dixon's program.
Looks like another winter in the second division of the Southeastern Conference for the Commodores. Stallings is starting his 15th season at Vandy. Maybe that will help him overcome The What Have You Done For Me Lately talk. But I wouldn't count on it.
Morehead State: Have Team, Will Travel
Morehead State coach Sean Woods knows the way it works in college basketball. If you're not a member of one of the power conferences, you embrace life on the road in November and December, chasing difficult victories and generous guarantee checks.
The Eagles will play at UCLA, Wright State, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee and Xavier.
"I like to talk about playing anyone, at any time, using any location -- and that's what we're doing again this year," Woods said. "Our strong non-conference schedule will help our RPI and prepare us for a very challenging league schedule."