In doing research for "Recruiting Nation", I stumbled upon a few interesting tidbits regarding the Big 12.
Baylor: Who knew?
The North Carolina Tar Heels had a recent run of four straight years with a top-10 player. That run is likely to come to a halt this season as the Heels yield to another powerhouse recruiting team. No, I’m not talking about Kentucky (UK doesn’t have a top-10 player this year … yet), I’m referring to Baylor.
The Bears are the only team in the country the last three straight seasons to sign a top-10 player. In 2010, Scott Drew roped in Perry Jones. The following season it was Quincy Miller’s turn and this year center Isaiah Austin (Dallas, Tex./Grace Prep) kept the streak alive.
The Baylor Bears, owners of one of the more impressive recruiting stats in the country. Move over Robert Griffin III, it’s basketball season.
Big 12 is remarkably consistent
How’s this for knowing what to expect. In 2011, the Big 12 signed 10 players from the ESPNU 100, including a pair of top-10 players, three top-25 kids and five in the top 50.
Fast forward one year and the numbers are nearly identical. In fact, the league signed exactly the same number of top-10, top-25 and top-50 prospects. There was a subtle uptick in ESPNU 100 prospects since the league has already signed a dozen. However, by next fall, it will be 10. Once Texas A&M moves to the SEC, it takes a pair of signees with it. Therefore, the Big 12’s overall numbers are exactly the same as the previous year.
Two sleepers for Texas?
Cameron Ridley (Fort Bend, Tex./Bush) and Javan Felix (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine’s) are known commodities. With Ridley, you have a likely dominant collegiate big man. Felix is about as tough-minded, intelligent and team-centric of a point guard as there is in his class. Those two guys give the class its “pop” or in analyst speak: the reason for rating the class so high.
There are two other kids in the class who have a chance to exceed expectations. Forward Connor Lammert (San Antonio, Tex./Churchill) is the great unknown. Even in Texas, where they supposedly grow them big and do everything bigger, Lammert managed to keep a somewhat-low national profile. There’s talk about him being the big steal of the group. Either he or Ioannis Papapetrou (Greece/Florida Air Academy) will take home that title once next season begins.
Still, there’s a big guy Rick Barnes signed that has all the markers. ESPNU 100 center Prince Ibeh (Garland, Tex./Naaman Forest) is more mystery man than fearsome recruit. Let’s say for whatever reason Ridley doesn’t sign. That would be unfortunate but if Ibeh is the real deal, maybe it’s not disastrous. This kid can run and block shots. If the offensive side – which is there – comes around, he has the size to play beyond four years in Austin.
The real sleeper?
For good reason, everyone calls Georges Niang (Methuen, Mass./Tilton) of Iowa State the sleeper recruit in the league. Niang approaches basketball like he’s a bouncer at a downtown pub in Boston. The kid goes hard, looks for contact and finishes everything. You want to call him the sleeper of the Big 12; I have no beef with that (aside from the fact he’s in our ESPNU 100).
However, if you really want to make a bold prediction, look at Lon Kruger’s lead guard Buddy Hield (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian). The AAU teammate of Perry Ellis who signed with Kansas, Hield had an incredible run in Las Vegas last summer. He was one of the leading scorers in the adidas Super 64. He’s more likely to circumvent the hype machine and make the biggest splash out of nowhere in the Big 12 next season.