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A Look at Texas High School Basketball Recruiting

There's a lot of concern and consternation about Texas basketball these days, partly due to recruiting unrest. The argument comes down to:

Rick Barnes should stop recruiting 5* mercenaries that just leave after one year! I don't get any emotional attachment to them, and they're not winning!


Rick Barnes should keep recruiting 5* talents, just make sure they stay for more than one year! I want to get emotionally attached and also win!


Rick Barnes isn't recruiting nearly enough 5* kids! We clearly need more stars! And why can't he follow the Texas football philosophy? Get all the best players from Texas high schools!

On the third point, I was intrigued. I broke down Texas high school basketballers by class, in an effort to show why Texas high school has suddenly become exceptionally important. I've listed high schoolers ranked in the top 25 in their class (generally the cut-off point for 5*). The '13-'14 rankings are via Scout (led by Evan Daniels, it's my favorite scouting service, even if its platform sucks). Rankings from '12 and below are RSCI aggregated rankings.


#7 Emmanuel Mudiay (Arlington Grace Prep...Kabongo’s cousin)
#9 Justin Jackson (Houston HCYA)
#15 Justise Winslow (Houston St. John' played for Phi Slamma Jamma)


#3 Julius Randle (Plano Prestonwood Christian...Blake B calls him the most important UT recruit since KD and I agree)
#4 Andrew Harrison (Fort Bend Travis)
#6 Aaron Harrison (Fort Bend Travis)
#10 Keith Frazier (Dallas Kimball)
#19 Jordan Mickey (Arlington Grace Prep)
#20 Matt Jones (DeSoto / Duke)


#5 Isaiah Austin (Arlington Grace Prep / Baylor)
#9 Marcus Smart (Flower Mound Marcus / OK St)
#11 Cameron Ridley (Fort Bend Bush / "Texas")
#17 Rasheed Sulaimon (Houston Strake Jesuit / Duke)
#26 Danuel House (Missouri City Hightower / Houston)

The aggregated amount of talent coming from Texas high school basketball over the next three years is on par with Saturday Night Live's early '90s cast. Over the next three years, there are 14 total prospects in the top 25 (and I know I'm cheating a bit since House is right outside at 26). If you scroll down the list, you'll notice that is equal to the sum of 2005 to 2011 combined.

I'll give you three reasons why Texas fans should be concerned going forward, and it's three shades of blue. Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. These "blue blood" programs have recently taken a vested interest in the great state of Texas. Coach K's last Texas pull was Daniel Ewing in '01 (TJ Ford's HS teammate), yet he now has commitments from Sulaimon in '12 and Jones in '13, and also possibly leads in Randle's recruitment.

The Tar Heels were on John Henson ('09) early, but have traditionally stayed out of Texas. Now, they're also on the heels of Randle, and have interest in Frazier ('13) and Jackson ('14) as well. And while Kentucky hasn't landed a Texas prospect for as long as I can remember, they should be considered favorites for the Harrison twins ('13), and recently Grace Prep teammates Mickey ('13) and Mudiay ('14) gave glowing reviews about Calipari's player-friendly system.

In Scipio's thread, I commented that Durant's commitment was a game-changer when it came to recruiting. Historically, Barnes' approach to roster-filling hasn't changed. ATJ (after TJ Ford, when Texas basketball really got established), Barnes has looked within state borders for his role players (Connor Atchley > AJ Abrams > Dexter Pittman > J'Covan Brown > This year's freshmen).

I'd argue that it's the star approach that has changed. Prior to Durant, the Longhorns' big-timers were Texas-bred. After Durant, Texas went (inter)national, getting Jordan Hamilton from California and tapping into the Canadian/Findlay Prep timeline. That's not counting misses like DeAndre Daniels (California) or Devin Ebanks (Connecticut).

During that time period ('07-'11), there wasn't much to crow about in Texas. But in 2012, it appears that Texas high school basketball is approaching a paradigm shift to top tier talent. And that has many questioning whether Barnes still has the ability to pull alpha dog status within state borders.

Whether he does or not is a future state issue, but now let's look into the past.


#8 LeBryan Nash (Dallas Lincoln / OK St)

Horns: The last of the Canadians? Texas headlined the class with Myck Kabongo (Findlay Prep via Canada) and complemented him with a trio of Texans: Sheldon McClellan (Houston Bellaire), Julien Lewis (Galveston La Marque), and Jonathan Holmes (San Antonio Antonian). Nash was offered, but Texas really wanted DeAndre Daniels from California, who decommitted from the Horns and eventually chose UConn. After Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph left, Texas picked up two players released from their LOIs: Jaylen Bond (PA / Pitt) and Sterling Gibbs (NJ / Maryland).

State: Nash has disappointed so far, but he's opened the door for a Stillwater re-emergence along with the football program. Head coach Travis Ford will add another 5* recruit, Marcus Smart, in 2012. From a depth perspective, three of the six recruits ranked in the 25-100 range picked Texas. D'Angelo Harrison (Sugar Land Dulles / St. John's) looks like he'll become a potent college scorer.


#8 Perry Jones (Duncanville / Baylor)
#20 Tony Mitchell (Dallas Pinkston / Missouri – Did not qualify; North Texas)

Horns: This was the Tristan Thompson/Cory Joseph class (Findlay Prep via Canada). Joseph was a late replacement for Avery Bradley, who unexpectedly declared for the NBA Draft.

State: McDonald's All-American Jones jumped aboard the Scott Drew Recruiting Express train that has kept chugging with Quincy Miller ('11) and Isaiah Austin ('12). Mitchell was always a grade risk. The Horns pretty much avoided Texas like the plague this year, with Phil Pressey (Dallas Episcopal) the most notable non-5* recruit; he followed his brother to Missouri.


#5 John Henson (Round Rock / UNC)

Horns: Texas had little shot at Henson, who committed in his junior year. The Horns did get Jordan Hamilton (CA), Bradley (Findlay Prep via WA) and Shawn Williams (Duncanville) in the fall and effectively closed recruiting. Bradley was Texas' first Findlay Prep commit; Hamilton likely envisioned himself following in the footsteps of Durant. If I recall correctly, Texas was also hot after Tommy Mason-Griffin (Houston Madison / Oklahoma), which would have been a far worse alternative to Bradley.

State: Most of the in-state talent like Ray Penn (Fort Bend Bush / OK St) fizzled, but this was the class that torpedoed Oklahoma. Mason-Griffin, along with Keith Gallon (VA), earned ex-HC Jeff Capel his walking papers. Capel migrated as an assistant to Duke...where he's now ardently recruiting...the state of Texas. Great.


#13 Willie Warren (Ft. Worth North Crowley / Oklahoma)
#25 J’Mison Morgan (Dallas South Oak Cliff / UCLA)

Horns: Texas got J'Covan Brown (Port Arthur McAllen) in the fall, then went into panic mode when it became clear he wouldn't qualify. I remember Devin Ebanks (CT / West Virginia) and Wes Witherspoon (GA / Memphis) being targeted, but the Horns were lucky to come away with anyone. That turned out to be Varez Ward (AL), since transferred to Auburn.

State: It was basically a lost year for Longhorn in-state recruiting. Baylor ended up with a decent haul, getting Anthony Jones (Houston Yates), Quincy Acy (Mesquite Horn), and eventually J'Mison Morgan (who transferred from UCLA). Say what you want about Scott Drew, but he's done a good job of unearthing talent from Texas high schools to basically overtake Texas A&M's position within the conference.


#14 Anthony Randolph (Dallas Woodrow Wilson / LSU)
#15 DeAndre Jordan (Houston Christian Life / Texas A&M)
#25 Gary Johnson (Houston Aldine / Texas)

Horns: Barnes must have watched extensive Sydmill Harris footage this year, because Rick ended up with international fever, plucking Doge Balbay and Alexis Wangmene. Clint Chapman (OR) was also in this class, and the trio's development (or lack thereof) is one of the major reasons for current fan frustration. Don't forget eventual Horn Jai Lucas (Houston Bellaire), who transferred from Florida and fit right into a disappointing class. Johnson turned out to be the bright spot, overcoming a heart condition to have a solid career in Austin.

State: Randolph and Jordan have both made millions in the NBA based on size and potential without actual positive productivity. '07 was one of the few years that Barnes didn't recruit his role players in-state, and in retrospect, it was a correct decision. It just so happened his out-of-staters didn't pan out.


#11 Darrell Arthur (Dallas South Oak Cliff / Kansas)
#15 Damion James (Nacogdoches / Texas)

Horns: I'm still amazed that Texas was able to land Kevin Durant (MD), the class' first commit and class pied piper. I don't know that DJ Augustin (Louisiana native, but due to Hurricane Katrina played ball at Fort Bend Hightower) or Damion James (Oklahoma commit who chose Texas after the Sampson scandal) play at Texas if Durant wasn't in this class. Harrison Smith (Houston Jones) was the only miss, as Dexter Pittman (Rosenberg Terry) and Justin Mason (Amarillo Palo Duro) had productive, if also frustrating, careers in Austin.

State: It was actually a really good year in Texas. This was Billy Gillispie's last signed class at Texas A&M, and he landed Donald Sloan (Seagoville), Derrick Roland (Seagoville) and Bryan Davis (Grand Prairie). It was also a good year for big men, with Hasheem Thabeet (Cypress Community / UConn) and Josh Lomers (Boerne / Baylor) representing the class. Arizona head coach Lute Olson, long a fixture in Texas, pulled his last good Lone Star commit in Nic Wise (Kingwood).


#12 CJ Miles (Dallas Skyline / Texas…then NBA)
#16 Gerald Green (Houston Gulf Shores / NBA)
#20 Byron Eaton (Dallas Lincoln / OK St)

Horns: This was the last class where high schoolers could jump directly to the NBA, and Texas got burned by Miles. AJ Abrams (Round Rock McNeil) was identified early, but Barnes made a major mistake by going the quick-fix JuCo route with JD Lewis (Amarillo / Midland CC) and Craig Winder (MD / Cecil CC).

State: Miles and Green haven't exactly lit the NBA world on fire. It's a shame that Texas didn't further pursue Eaton, a great college player. Eaton also went to the same HS as Nash ('11), which might have contributed to Nash's decision.


#12 LaMarcus Aldridge (Seagoville / Texas)
#17 Jawann McClellan (Houston Milby / Arizona…Sheldon’s cousin)
#19 Daniel Gibson (Houston Jones / Texas)

Horns: Barnes reaped the benefits of the TJ Ford era with this stellar class. He also landed Mike Williams (AL), Dion Dowell (Texas City), and Connor Atchley (Houston Clear Lake) in a class that was supposed to win a National Championship. The best they did was the Elite 8, while a lesser heralded class--Florida's--ended up cutting down the nets twice.

State: The Longhorns basically cleaned up in-state this year, though enemy of the 40 Acres Joseph Jones (Normangee / Texas A&M) was a less heralded recruit in the class.


#4 Ndudi Ebi (Houston Westbury Christian / NBA)
#5 Kendrick Perkins (Beaumont Ozen / NBA)

Horns: Texas missed on Ebi (Arizona), Perkins (Memphis), and Cartier Martin (Houston Nimitz / K-State), but stumbled into PJ Tucker (NC) and picked up transfer Kenny Taylor (Sugar Land Willowridge) as a Baylor transfer from the Dave Bliss fallout. Does one year from Edgar Moreno (Lon Morris CC) merit a mention?

State: The NBA Draft stuck its grubby paws into Texas' top tier again. But LeBron James (OH) blew both Texans away...and then some.


#5 Chris Bosh (Dallas Lincoln / GA Tech)
#12 Bracey Wright (The Colony / Indiana)
#15 Daniel Horton (Cedar Hill / Michigan)
#22 Brad Buckman (Austin Westlake / Texas)
#25 Bryan Hopkins (Dallas Lincoln / SMU)

Horns: Texas targeted local product Buckman, its second consecutive McDonald's All-American recruit after Ford. Californian Kenton Paulino turned out to be an underrated pickup.

State: This was the state's deepest class in the '00s. Amazingly, the two best college Texans weren't as heralded in high school as the list above: Deron Williams (The Colony / Illinois) and Ike Diogu (Garland / Arizona St).


#17 TJ Ford (Sugar Land Willowridge / Texas)

Horns: The originator.

State: It was another stacked class. Ford's Willowridge program featured Ewing (Duke) and Taylor (Baylor), but this class had Keith Langford (Ft. Worth North Crowley / Kansas), Jason Maxiell (Carollton Smith / Cincinnati), and Lawrence Roberts (Houston Lamar / Baylor). The best of them all--but also the lowest rated--turned out to be Emeka Okafor (Houston Bellaire), who won a championship with UConn and was drafted #2 overall.