It's not only the Longhorn football program that's hitting the recruiting trail this winter on the lookout for immediate help. Rick Barnes and the Texas basketball staff have been diligently scouring the remaining options in the class of 2012. Despite already inking a four-man class, Texas is looking for at least one more recruit--and a Ridley Hancock--to close out the class.
Is no news good news on Cameron Ridley? The latest from Ridley's camp still toes the company line: "Ridley is committed to playing at the University of Texas." But it's not hard to picture a Frank Lucas-esque figure coolly stating, "I got Harlem Ridley. I took care of Ridley, so Ridley's gonna take care of me."
Ridley's committed to Texas until he's not, but the positive is (1) he hasn't been linked to any other schools, and (2) Texas is staying in communication with the big man. However, the first day of the late signing period is a ways away (April 11, 2012), and until Ridley puts pen to paper, he's game for anyone to recruit.
By the way, against Galena Park last week, the Bush big man posted the following stat line: 52 points, 25 rebounds, 10 blocks. Beastmode.
Perhaps the most troublesome news regarding Ridley is Texas' burgeoning interest in Sampson, a former St. John's commitment. Sampson is doing a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy after failing to qualify for the Red Storm in his graduating class of 2011. Along the way, he opened up his recruitment, and Texas recently went a calling.
Reportedly, someone (or ones) on the Texas coaching staff pulled double duty this weekend, not only coaching a game against Texas State but also taking a Northeast recruiting trip to Brewster Academy, The Tilton School ('13 prospects Nerlens Noel and Goodluck Okonoboh, and '14 Wayne Selden), Cushing Academy ('14 Kaleb Joseph), and Notre Dame Prep (see mystery recruit below!).
Sampson has an NBA 3 body, but as a plus rebounder with post ability, he would very likely play combo forward in college. Texas fans could dream of the next Damion James.
With Ridley, Sampson is a luxury. Without Ridley, Texas is looking at Prince Ibeh starting at center on day 1 (with Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene graduating), and a Sampson-like freshman rotating in the frontcourt with Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond. I have no faith in Connor Lammert being ready to play collegiate minutes three months removed from orientation.
Complicating the Ridley matter is that there's simply no other college-ready center left on the 2012 board. A Ridley-less class probably needs another big forward, and Barnes looks like he's being proactive. If that's the case, there's two other names to keep on the radar. Ricardo Gathers reopened his recruitment after decommitting from St. John's; Texas was in his top 3 along with LSU. So did Savon Goodman with Villanova; he similarly had Texas amongst his finalists.
Aside from waiting with bated breath on an eventual Ridley signature, Devonta Pollard looks like Texas' only other 5* candidate in the 2012 class. As of last week, Pollard was averaging 21 points and 17 rebounds for his team, Kemper County High. He's an uber-athletic small forward who could immediately step into the big shoes left by past Texas swingmen Kevin Durant, Damion James, and Jordan Hamilton.
Pollard recently visited hometown program Mississippi State, which has emerged as the team to beat. After the visit, he told 24/7 that he's looking at Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgetown, and Texas. Kentucky may also emerge as a competitor, though the Wildcats aren't actively recruiting Pollard at this time.
Honestly, dude is a talent (9th overall on Rivals), and it's a wide open recruitment. What Barnes chooses to do in regards to Pollard this spring will speak volumes. If Rick backs off, he's probably pleased with the year 1 development of Sheldon McCllelan and Jonathan Holmes. It would also possibly lead to another year of questions from the peanut gallery, RE: Texas' recruiting strategery.
By the way, Andrew White, who at one point was high on Texas, ended up committing to Kansas earlier this month.
The academically and syallabic gifted Zena Edosomwan recently picked up an offer from his childhood favorite school, UCLA. Texas had made his finalists list, but it was widely believed that the young padawan was waiting on admission to Harvard before making his decision.
Edosomwan is still likely to pick between Harvard, UCLA and USC, with the Horns falling short. Amazingly, Tommy Amaker's Crimson may be the right choice if Edosomwan is interested in athletic concepts like winning, being ranked in the polls, and making an NCAA tournament.
Sam Cassell, Jr
Yes, you read that right. I'm not sure what the bigger deal is for Dr. Kyle Broflovski of DeVry Institute: learning that alien life form Sam Cassell could clone an offspring, or seeing the new Men in Black 3 trailer hit the interwebs. Unfortunately for History Channel lovers, Cassell fils looks almost human--there's been some improvements in version 2.0.
Anyways, Cassell recently was contacted by assistant Rob Lanier, and Texas watched Cassell during its northeast barnstorming tour (along with Sampson, see above). The Longhorns' interest in another guard in the 2012 class is troubling, as it's likely a hedge bet against Myck Kabongo and/or J'Covan Brown going pro.
With the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement settled, Kabongo is a legitimate threat to be one-and-done, and if Brown continues to ball like a Hyperizer, he could play himself into the "draftable" category as well.
Texas doesn't seem to be scouting any other guard prospects other than Cassell, but this is a situation that bears watching. Plus, if there's another candidate I'd rather see carry on the tradition of J'Covan's juevos grandes swagga, who better than the son of the originator?
By the way, I'm on the Twitters. Follow me @JC_Hoops for Horns basketball recruiting and general college basketball ruminations.