Who Needs Recruiting? Not Our Two-Star or Less All-Star Team
Grab some pine, John Calipari. Pass the Gatorade to Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Bill Self. Kick your feet up Thad Matta, Josh Pastner and Ben Howland.
Elite recruiters aren't needed here
While Calipari and college basketball's top pitchmen have spent the summer picking up five-star recruits like Justin Bieber adds Twitter followers, the rest of the college basketball world has been left to fight for the the also-ran recruits with fewer stars than a Wayans Brothers movie.
But we've got good news for the programs that don't dabble in college basketball's high-end high-school market. There's talent, and plenty of it among two-star and unranked players, if only your patience matches your eye for talent. We've compiled a team of active players who were two-star or unranked high school recruits that we'd take against any of college basketball blueblood's NBA-ready squads.
As always, let us know who we missed in the comments, then watch us cut down the nets in April.
The fine print: We only considered players currently in college and all rankings are done according to Scout.com's final rankings for the player's high school year. All players must have been rated as either two-star prospects or not ranked/evaluated, though we did not include foreign players or other players that would've been prohibitively difficult to scout. As most of our research consisted of one staff member sticking his head out of his pod and yelling loudly, preferably in a funny accent, whether anyone remember player X as a high school senior, then checking the player against the Scout database, we are all but certain we missed some outstanding candidates.
Lastly, give credit to Dave Telep and his recruiting bunch at Scout. We might've found a heck of a team among the overlooked, but it's a drop in a small lake in comparison to the number of elite players correctly slotted.
PG -- Jimmer Fredette, BYU -- His first name alone should've earned him at least a third star in recruiting circles. After all, naming a kid Jimmer is exactly the sort of career-shaping sobriquet that turns a kid into a March Madness star the way naming a child Jeeves leads him to polishing silverware in the crib . But as a point guard from Glen Falls (best known, we hope, as the home of Hacksaw Jim Duggan) in upstate New York, Fredette was only lightly recruited, receiving offers from BYU, Utah, Siena and UMass. However, the kid who played in the local prison in high school (a great way to prep for the toughness of the NBA or the visiting hours of the NFL) has emerged as the nation's most prolific gunner. Fredette averaged 22.9 points per game last season, scored 37 in an opening-round win over Florida in the NCAA tournament (BYU's first NCAA tourney win since the first year of the Clinton administration) and 49 against Arizona, a school and McKale Center record.
SG – Shelvin Mack, Butler -- Had Gordon Hayward remained in college and Willie Veasley been a year younger, the entire two-star team could've simply been Butler. The Bulldogs' 2008 five-man, all two-star high school class formed the backbone of last year's national runner-up squad. Three players from the '08 class were starters (Mack, point guard Ronald Nored and eventual NBA lottery pick Hayward.) The other starters were Veasley, a two-star recruit in 2006, and Matt Howard, a 2007 three-star (he presumably would've been docked to a two-star as well, had anyone been able to forsee his adventures in mustachery). Meanwhile, UCLA, the nation's top-ranked class of '08 has done much less with much more. Of the Bruins' vaunted five-man class, two left the program acrimoniously (J'Mison Morgan and Drew Gordon), one declared early for the NBA (Jrue Holiday), one developed into a good college player (Malcolm Lee) and the last is still trying to arrive in the college game (Jerime Anderson). UCLA's class has one NCAA tournament win, Butler has one Final Four.
SF- Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame -- Landing Rudy might have been a more difficult recruiting battle for Notre Dame. The schools that recruited Abromaitis were a brainsquad contingent of Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn and Princeton, schools geared to career paths to a CPA rather than the NBA. Abromaitis was on the radar as a high school senior, but played in Connecticut, a state usually light on elite prep talent. His freshman numbers at Notre Dame (40 minutes of playing time) backed up the lukewarm recruiting rap, but Abromaitis exploded after sitting out his sophomore season. The versatile small forward with the nice outside touch averaged 16.1 points per game and carried Notre Dame to the NCAA tournament during the absence of star Luke Harangody. Credit coach Mike Brey for seeing his potential, or at least being smart enough to say something nice about an unheralded recruit. "Tim is a versatile player who can play a couple of different positions for us on the floor," Brey said when Abromaitis signed with the program in 2006. "He's a great fit for what we do offensively, and I think with time, will develop into a very good Big East player."
PF – Kenneth Faried, Morehead State -- That Kenneth Faried isn't a household name is just an indictment that households don't watch enough college basketball. The power forward with the kind of motor NASCAR would toss a restrictor plate on bullied his way to 16.9 points and 13 rebounds a game this season, the latter the second highest total in Division I. Faried was also the only player to finish in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and won both player of the year and the defensive player of the year awards in the Ohio Valley Conference. Even though he played high school basketball in Newark, N.J., Faried received no attention as a high-major prospect.
C – Mike Davis, Illinois -- The Big Ten's leading rebounder was a tad thin in high school, which is to say he could've worn a rubber band in place of a belt. Davis, who was a three-star recruit by Rivals but not ranked by Scout considered prepping for an additional season after high school to bulk up. However, the spindly forward opted instead to attend Illinois, which had been the the first major program to come after the Northern Virginia product. Auburn, Charleston and South Florida offered him scholarships after a big senior season, and nearby Maryland reportedly kicked the tires on the late-blooming big man. A power forward at Illinois, we're sliding him over to the center spot. Unlike in high school, he's certainly big enough.
Darius Johnson-Odom, G Marquette -- Johnson-Odom took a circuitous route to Milwaukee as a two-star high school recruit out of North Carolina, but he quickly became one of the nation's finest sharpshooters. "DJO" hit 47.4 percent of his long-range shots, which would've ranked him third in the nation had he made 12 more attempts to meet the 2.5 3-pointers made per game cutoff. If he can improve at attacking the rim, he'll be one of the Big East's top threats.
John Shurna, F Northwestern -- Kevin Coble missed all of the 2009-2010 season, but the Wildcats got even better production out of this surprise sophomore star. The second-team all-Big Ten forward averaged 18.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game and might do the near-impossible this season -- lead Northwestern to its first NCAA tournament berth.
Jimmy Butler, G/F Marquette -- Butler didn't attract much notice out of Tomball, Texas as a high school senior, but after a standout year in junior college and a developmental season at Marquette, Butler bloomed in 2010. At his usage level last season, the Texan posted the highest offensive rating in the nation (slightly ahead of our starter, Tim Abromaitis). Interestingly, though his recruiting profile was limited as a high school senior, we did know all the way back then that his favorite television show was "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."
Seth Curry, G Duke -- The right last name can get you a lot in life, but apparently not a three-star rating. Though he was well written of as a high school senior and projected as a late-bloomer, the undersized heir to the Curry throne (He was listed at 6-feet and 155 pounds in high school, roughly the dimensions of Shaquille O'Neal's left leg) wound up at Liberty where he scored 20.2 points per game as a freshman. Now, one blueblood is with another. Curry will play for Duke this season after transferring in 2009.
Joe Trapani, F Boston College -- Another underrated Connecticut player, Trapani first committed to Vermont before transferring to Boston College and playing himself onto the all-ACC third team.
Kevin Anderson, PG Richmond -- Anderson led the Spiders to their first national ranking since 1986 and won player of the year honors in the Atlantic 10, a league which was arguably the sixth-best conference in the nation this year. Anderson may not have the size to compete in the NBA, but he may be the best pound-for-pound highlight reel in college basketball.
Cory Higgins, G Colorado -- The third-team all-Big 12 guard is not only an elite scorer (18.9 points per game), but is one of the league's best perimeter defenders. Higgins led the Big 12 in steals with 1.9 per contest.
DeAngelo Casto, F Washington State -- The Pac-10's leading shot blocker attend more high schools (three) than he managed recruiting stars (two). An excellent defensive player with an emerging offensive game (10.7 points per game), Casto ups the toughness quotient and the athleticism of our 13-man squad.
Honorable Mention: Marshon Brooks, Providence; Aaron Fuller, USC (transferring in); Damian Lillard, Weber State