Each spring, when the conference games of winter finally give way to the championship hopes of the Chosen 64, college basketball fans around the country fuel the frenzy that is March Madness and witness the crowning of a new National Champion.
It’s also the time of year when fans, players, and coaches alike bid farewell to departing players, and see the potential of all that can be in the upcoming season when top high school prospects make their school choices known. Here are a few of the top recruits and how they announced the school they’ll be playing for next season.
For University of Kentucky fans, 2012 could be a year to remember, and that’s saying a lot considering all the great years they’ve had as a college basketball powerhouse. This year is particularly sweet because coach John Calipari guided the Wildcats to their 8th national championship, and just learned, by way of an awesome haircut, that top high school prospect Nerlens Noel has chosen Kentucky as his next stop before NBA stardom.
The 6’10″ center/power forward was torn between Kentucky, Georgetown, and Syracuse. Say what you will about these storied basketball programs, two of the three mentioned didn’t just win a national championship, which surely played heavily into Noel’s decision.
“Coach Cal recruited me hard,” Noel told ESPN.
In totally awesome fashion, and a trendsetting move, the Tilton School standout announced his choice by turning the back of his head to cameras to reveal the “UK” logo shaved into his tall, signature flattop hairstyle.
Noel is a defensive force and will be called upon right out of the gate to protect the basket against some of the nation’s top college big men. On offense, he dunks at will and has a wicked hook shot he can deliver with either hand. In short, he’s the kind of player who will make immediate impact, and could help Calipari and the Wildcats repeat as National Champions.
For a while coach John Calipari had to be wondering if he was going to be the luckiest guy in college basketball. That’s because Shabazz Muhammad, the 6’6″ phenom forward from Las Vegas had the University of Kentucky listed as one of his top three choices along with Duke and UCLA.
Many college basketball analysts said they wouldn’t be surprised if Kentucky got both Nerlens Noel and Muhammad, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be. The Bishop Gorman High School superstar ultimately chose UCLA.
Muhammad is largely regarded as the best finisher among all the top prospects, which raised his stock enormously. Being left-handed doesn’t hurt either, as it gives him a crossover advantage on offense, particularly when he can get his defender moving in the opposite direction.
Expected to make an impact immediately at UCLA, we’re forced to consider the team from Westwood as a potential Final Four contender next season, particularly with the addition of 6’8″ playmaker Kyle Anderson.
Kyle Anderson, the #3 high school prospect in the nation, committed to UCLA last September and had to wait until last week to find out if any other to prospects would make their way to the West Coast. Anderson was actually in the ESPN studios when Shabazz Muhammad announced he was going to UCLA.
“I was right behind the cameras,” Anderson said. “Once I heard, I had to step outside the room because I was so excited.”
Anderson, out of St. Anthony High School in New Jersey, is expected to be the starting point guard for the Bruins. His early commitment to UCLA is what ultimately led Muhammad to the same school.
“That’s the main reason why I came to UCLA, to play with him,” Muhammad said. “I know he’s going to make me look good next year.”
The two played together at the Adidas Nations camp and became friends. Largely cited as the best playmaker among the top high school prospects, expect Anderson to rack up huge assist numbers as he feeds to ball to his new Bruins teammate.
Other Top Prospects
• Isaiah Austin, the 7’0″ center from Grace Prep in Arlington, TX committed to Baylor.
• Steve Adams, the 6’10″ center from Notre Dame in Fitchburg, MA will attend Pittsburgh.
• 6’5″ guard Ricardo Ledo from South Kent in Providence, RI will stay at home and attend Providence.
• Kaleb Tarczewski, 7’0″ center from St. Mark’s in Southborough, MA, committed to Arizona.
• Yet to make a commitment is the highly recruited Anthony Bennett out of Findlay Prep in Henderson, NV. The 6’7″ forward has Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, UNLV, and Washington on his list.