Pictured: both Harrison twins.
Phew. The second basketball recruiting evaluation is officially over, and with it ends most of the massive series of events that make up AAU basketball. Rankings were made or lost, prospects found or forgotten, and tons and tons of news was made.
Did you miss any? Because I'm here to remind you of everything that happened in the action-packed last ten days.
The Harrisons are very good, and probably Maryland's top priority regardless of class. They showed out at the AAU Super Showcase, taking home the championship and playing better than probably any other prospects at the event. They've been dropping teasing little hints about their future destinations, listing a top 5 - including Maryland - and saying they probably know where they're going to commit. Rumors have been persisting ever since that it'll be a Maryland-Kentucky battle, with Maryland potentially having an upper hand based on their variety of connections to the twins and their father.
That all combines to make them absurdly high-priority targets. Andrew is seen as the best PG in the country regardless of class and a huge name on the circuit; an early commitment could have a massive domino effect in other high-level recruitments like Amile Jefferson and Mitch McGary.
Speaking of Jefferson: he remains important, but it'll be a war. Most recruits are starting to cut their lists. Jefferson had a great summer, though, and a bunch of new schools - like Illinois, St. John's, Miami, and Ohio State - are reportedly working themselves into contention, joining mainstays like Villanova, N.C. State, and the Terps themselves. Maryland landing Jefferson would be a big-time coup, and give them the foundation for a potential top-5 recruiting class in conjunction with Terps lean Shaquille Cleare, but don't count on it.
As for Cleare: he's great, and probably a Terp sometime soon. See video evidence of former, and Duke-hatred evidence of latter.
Meanwhile, Elijah Macon emerges. Macon has really sort of been on the backburner for most Maryland fans behind guys like Jefferson and local SF candidates like Arnaud Adala Moto and Jerami Grant. But he looked great with All-Ohio Red at AAU Nationals, taking home the championship as probably the best player on his team. He'd be a great fit for the team Maryland appears to be building: he's high-energy, can play the 3 or the 4, rebounds extremely well, is extremely athletic, plays strong defense, and even has a nice little jumper. He'd be great coming off the bench to spell or complement Cleare, McGary, Jefferson, Robert Carter, or even Prince Ibeh.
And the good news is that he truly does appear to like Maryland. From NBE:
Macon said that Maryland, Miami, Florida, West Virginia and Iowa are the schools coming at him the hardest. Thus far Macon has taken trips to Xavier, Cincinnati, West Virginia and USC.
"For my officials I'll probably take one to Maryland," Macon said. "Right now that's the only one I have lined up to take an official to. I'd probably take one to Iowa too, but Maryland is the only one I know [about] for sure."
Fingers crossed. I'd love to see him as a fourth member of the class.
Mitch McGary remains very good. Maryland remains hot on his trail. No duh, and no duh. But McGary continued a string of strong performances, and saw Mark Turgeon lurking ominously close to the SYF Players bench to watch him play. If the Harrisons aren't the biggest priority, it's McGary for sure. Much how the Harrisons' domino effect could be big, McGary - a respected name on the circuit - would signal a more immediate changing of the guard, showing Maryland's re-arrival in recruiting at Lefty-era level.
And Jake Layman opens up. Hey, I thought Maryland was the leader. Well, joke's on all of us: he doesn't have one. And after picking up offers from Louisville, Syracuse, and Florida with interest from Texas, would you really expect him to?
Layman had an impressive summer if you listen to the scouts: they love his defensive potential and smoothness on offense. Much like Jefferson's recruitment, Layman's turned into a battle very quickly. Mark Turgeon stands a great chance based on the early leader status, but it may not be enough in the face of heavy pressure elsewhere.
The staff isn't invincible. Both Jerami Grant and Arnaud Adala Moto cut their lists in the open period, and Maryland didn't make the cut for either. That led to a short bout of panic for some, but it probably shouldn't have. Turgeon didn't appear to make either a priority - he wasn't even able to watch Moto - so it shouldn't be a surprise that both of them felt more needed elsewhere.
Nor is a bad thing, necessarily. Each staff has to map out a plan during summer as to who they want (and who they can get). That leads to some tough choices, like not making Jerami Grant a priority. So long as the guys they did make a priority - ie, Jefferson, Layman, potentially Macon - they land, there's no problem. And they haven't been cut out of anyone's list whom they truly want: McGary, Ibeh, Cleare, Layman, Jefferson, Macon, Robert Carter, Christian Sanders - they're all still listing Maryland, which is what's important.
Backup targets are emerging. And their names may be Brandon Taylor, Daniel Dingle, Jamel Artis, and Sam Cassell Jr. I know no-one likes to see backup targets, but it's another facet of the game. No coach thinks they're going to whiff on their big targets, but in case it happens they need to have strong Plan Bs in place to rebound easily. Players like Taylor, Dingle, and Cassell - all of whom claim offers, though a little suspiciously - are those type of guys.
It's looking like a doozy of a class, both in size and in quality. Without Hawk Palsson on the squad, I'm thinking Maryland takes six players in the class pretty easily. They have the space to do it now without sacrificing flexibility in 2013, so I'm expecting them to go for it. Really, I don't know if there's a reason not to do it.
And, strangely enough, it's a possibility - admittedly a slim one - that Maryland could land a class consisting of a group like Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, Mitch McGary, Elijah Macon, Jake Layman, and Amile Jefferson. Okay, more like a very slim chance, but Maryland legitimately has as good a chance at landing every single one of those prospects as any other school, and that's a rare occurrence. And yes, in case you were wondering - that class is tops in the country, regardless of what happens with Kentucky.
More likely, perhaps, is a class along the lines of Allen, Cleare, Prince Ibeh, Christian Sanders, and two of McGary, Jefferson, Macon, Layman, and someone under the radar. That's still a top 15 class, with a strong chance of being top 10 based on who fills those extra spots.
Which means I'm encouraged by the new staff. To make it all matter, they need to land some guys. And, preferably, more than just Cleare, who was always a Maryland lean. But the start here has been superb, and that's a good sign for the future of the program.
And now it's time to expect action. Summer's over, as far as we're concerned. Staffs are finalizing their plans now. They won't be able to watch players again till high school season. Recruits will be cutting lists soon. Recruiting rankings should be updated within days. Now comes the fun part, the part where coaches earn their money (well, part of it) and emerging recruitniks learn what pain is. (Or, hopefully, not.)