An early look at Big Ten's Class of 2014
The July evaluation period is in full swing for college basketball.
The first chance for Class of 2014 prospects to sign their letter of intent with their respective schools is roughly four months away.
So what better time to take a look at how the Big Ten schools look like so far than now?
Commit: Forward Michael Finke (6-9, 205) from Champaign (Ill.) Centennial
Comment: If it seems like the lanky stretch forward has been committed for a while, it's because he had. John Groce secured his first commitment in this class seven months ago. No other high school player has joined Finke yet, but the additions of Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby through transfer will benefit Illinois during the 2014-15 season. Finke needs to improve his strength and decision-making at times on the court. And he will work on those areas. That's a no-brainer.
Commit: Guard James Blackmon (6-2, 170) from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers
Comment: The only prospect to give Tom Crean a verbal yet, Blackmon is a dynamic scorer and talent. The four-star recruit is a stellar outside shooter, something the Hoosiers will need help in replacing. He's been committed to Indiana for almost a year now, so Hoosier fans will know plenty about him before he arrives on campus.
Comment: Fran McCaffery has been active on the recruiting trail, even if no players are locked up yet for the Hawkeyes. Iowa can sell its program to recruits much better than it could a year ago based on its improved showing during the 2012-13 season. Look out for Tyler Ulis to possibly land here. The point guard from Marian Catholic has long been an Iowa target before other schools became involved.
Commits: Forward Ricky Doyle (6-9, 232) from Fort Myers (Fla.) Bishop Verot and guard Austin Hatch from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Canterbury
Comment: The NCAA runner-ups from 2013 aren't stocked yet with potential McDonald's All-Americans. That might change, of course, in the next four months. The Wolverines showed they could appeal to any recruit with their deep tournament run last spring. Hatch, you might recall, has survived two plane crashes so far in his life, but lost his father and stepmother in one during 2011.
Comment: Tom Izzo will inevitably get some studs. It always seems to work out that way for the veteran Spartans coach. Michigan State was in early on Cliff Alexander. Expect the Spartans to still be a player late in his recruitment.
Comment: New coach Richard Pitino had to do some catching up when he lost a few recruits in the Class of 2013 after he replaced Tubby Smith. If he can keep Minnesota from faltering late like it seemingly did every year under Smith, the possibility exists of Pitino luring top-notch recruits to the Gophers. Much like his father has done throughout his esteemed college coaching career.
Comment: Tim Miles seems like more of a players' coach than his predecessor in Doc Sandler. And a new arena could bolster recruiting efforts for the Cornhuskers. Then again, the play on the floor is still lagging behind the rest of the Big Ten, so it could still be a while before Nebraska hauls in a stud recruit like its football program has a tendency to do.
Commit: Forward Vic Law (6-6, 185) from Chicago St. Rita
Comment: This type of recruit heading to Evanston doesn't happen if Bill Carmody is still roaming the sidelines. New coach Chris Collins brings an instant credibility factor to recruiting at Northwestern. Law is a top-100 player, the likes of which the Wildcats haven't seen much in their program history. Could this be the start of elite players deciding on Northwestern? Stay tuned.
Commits: Forward Keita Bates-Diop (6-7, 190) from Normal (Ill.) University High, center David Bell (6-9, 225) from Garfield Heights (Ohio), guard D'Angelo Russell (6-4, 185) from Montverde (Fla.) Academy and forward Jae'Sean Tate (6-5, 200) from Pickerington (Ohio) Central
Comment: Hands down, the top Big Ten class. So far. Not only does Thad Matta have more commits than every other team, he has high-caliber players. Bates-Diop is a five-star recruit while Russell and Tate are four-star recruits who could find their names all joined together next spring at the McDonald's All-American game. Matta once again shows recruiting is still one of his best traits.
Commits: Guard Shep Garner (6-2, 170) from Roman Catholic (Pa.) and guard Isaiah Washington (6-3, 175) from Williamsport (Pa.)
Comment: Always good for coaches to lock down in-state players. Pat Chambers has done that. The addition of Garner should benefit the Nittany Lions. He had offers from Arizona, Florida and Maryland, among others, yet committed to Penn State a month ago. If Chambers can keep landing players like that, Penn State might find its way out of the Big Ten basement.
Commit: Guard Dakota Mathias (6-4, 190) from Elida (Ohio)
Comment: Matt Painter has three four-star recruits coming in with the Class of 2013. Adding a solid player like Mathias, a three-star recruit who chose the Boilermakers ahead of offers from Boston College and West Virginia, can help. Purdue always seems to have those pesky-type players (D.J. Byrd, Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, to name a few) that don't look like much, but then beat your team. Mathias might fill that role in the future.
Commit: Forward Ethan Happ (6-7, 175) from Rockridge (Ill.)
Comment: Happ bought in to Bo Ryan's system early on in the recruiting process, giving the Badgers a verbal commitment last June. Happ comes from a small school near the Quad Cities, so he doesn't get the notoriety or recognition other prep players in Illinois do. And his offer list before he committed to Wisconsin (Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wisconsin-Milwaukee) didn't constitute the big names of college basketball. He'll head to Madison underrated, but has the size and skill set to develop into a solid contributor playing in Ryan's system.