November 26, 2007

Kansas in familiar spot in Big 12

Kevin Durant dominated college basketball last season in his freshman year at Texas. Kansas State rookie Michael Beasley is putting up mind-boggling numbers as he begins his young career.

The Big 12 is getting used to having young star power in the conference, but odds are the astronomical numbers from freshmen may be over thanks to a sluggish recruiting haul in the early signing period.

It looks like only two teams – Kansas and Oklahoma – will be in the final top 30 team recruiting rankings.

Kansas' 2008 recruiting class (No. 8 overall in the early period) is coming from the concrete jungle to American's heartland. The Jayhawks went to the Northeast for a two-for-one deal, a rugged power forward and landed the nation's top junior college prospect to highlight the top haul in the Big 12 in the early signing period.

Bill Self inked Philadelphia twins Marcus Morris (No. 37 overall in 2008) and Markieff Morris (No. 74 overall). Also joining the class are Rivals150 prospects Travis Releford and Quintrell Thomas of the famed St. Patrick High School in New Jersey.

Rounding out the class is Chicago native Mario Little and local product Travis Releford. Little, a former AAU teammate of Sherron Collins and former KU star Julian Wright. Little, a 6-foot-6 wing, is at Chipola Junior College in Florida and is considered the top JUCO prospect in the nation according to JucoJunction.com. Releford checks in at No. 70 in the Rivals150.

Every early signing period has one major surprise, and this year's shocker came courtesy of Texas guard Willie Warren. His decision to attend Oklahoma wasn't the surprise. He was long thought to be a Sooner lean. His timing, however, was the surprise. He and his mother maintained Warren was going to wait until the spring to make a decision.

Warren decided he was ready to sign, and did so prior to the Thanksgiving. His decision, along with the addition of junior college forward Kyle Cannon, will put the Sooners into the top 30 team rankings.

Biggest recruiting coup

Best of the Big 12
Best perimeter scorer: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Best low post scorer: Markieff Morris, Kansas
Best passer: Dashan Harris, Texas A&M
Best shooter: Keiton Page, Oklahoma State
Best rebounder: Quintrell Thomas, Kansas
Best shot-blocker: Quintrell Thomas, Kansas
Best defender: Dashan Harris, Texas A&M
Most versatile: Mario Little, Kansas
Best in the clutch: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Best basketball IQ: Travis Releford, Kansas
Best pro prospect: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Best speed: Miguel Paul, Missouri
Best motor: Quintrell Thomas, Kansas
Best strength: Orlando Allen, Oklahoma
Best leaper: Toby Veal, Colorado
Impact player: Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Biggest sleeper: Laurence Bowers, Missouri
Sleeper class: Missouri
Why try and recruit a "package deal" when you can just land top-100 twins? That is what Kansas did.

Marcus and Markieff Morris, four-star forwards from Philadelphia, reneged on their original commitment to Memphis. The twins methodically trimmed their list to two – Kansas and Villanova.

The home ties of Philadelphia weren't enough to keep the two in the city. Marcus, the No. 37 ranked player in the class of 2008, and Markieff, the No. 72 ranked player in the class, give the Jayhawks versatile players who will have an impact from Day One.

Budding rivalry

Oklahoma and Texas may have the Red River Shootout on the gridiron, but the Oklahoma State and Texas grudge match on the hardwood is becoming quite the dandy. The Cowboys have had great recruiting success in the Lone Star State, and last year's triple-overtime thriller has certainly fueled the fire.

This year, the two went at it on the recruiting front for J'Covan Brown. The top-50 guard from Port Arthur, Texas, committed to the Longhorns (and will sign in the spring), but also strongly considered the Cowboys. Think the rivalry intensified at all because of it?

Biggest miss

Baylor has already struck out three times in the class of 2008. The Bears held commitments from Louisiana forward Storm Warren and Australian forward Ater Majok, but both opted to look elsewhere.

Warren, a Rivals150 prospect, said he wanted to stay closer to home and is looking hard at LSU, Louisiana-Monroe or Louisiana Tech. Majok, a 6-foot-10 big man, will likely sign with Maryland.

Even though he was never truly considered a commitment, five-star standout Willie Warren wanted to commit to the Bears. However, he never had his mother's blessing and eliminated Baylor as an option in the summer.

Best storyline

North Dakota native Austin Dufault doesn't exactly bring a big-city mentality to Colorado. In fact, he's one of the roughly 800 people in Killdeer, N.D., a city tucked away in the western part of the state.

The small-town prospect emerged on the national scene in Las Vegas at the Reebok Summer Championships and saw his recruitment heat up shortly thereafter. He visited Arizona State, Colorado and North Dakota State. Colorado won out in the end.

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