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September 18, 2009

Meyer's Mailbag: Will Cavs win under Bennett?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Sept 11: Memphis still getting the talent
Sept 4: Competition for top class?
Aug 27: Leslie raises his game
Can new coach Tony Bennett bring success to the Virginia basketball program?

What is the latest with Tobias Harris?

Will the top talent in Memphis fall in step with Joe Jackson and play for the hometown Tigers?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer answers these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Better under Bennett?

What is your opinion of Tony Bennett? As a recruiter? As a bench coach? Do you feel he can keep Virginia in the top half of the ACC?

-- Jim from Orlando, Fla.
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All you have to do is look at what Bennett did at Washington State to know he can coach. Viewed as an almost impossible place to recruit and perhaps the toughest job in the Pac-10, Washington State enjoyed a good bit of success with Bennett at the helm.

Now he is at Virginia, a school with much better resources but with tough ACC competition that it must leapfrog in order to be an NCAA tournament team. Although Bennett hasn't coached a game at Virginia, the early prognosis is quite promising.

Presently, Bennett has assembled a 2010 recruiting class that ranks No. 8 nationally. The only problem is that there are still three ACC schools ahead of Virginia. But it has been a long time since the Cavaliers have had a top-10 recruiting class.

If Bennett can continue to recruit at this clip, or even close to this clip, he can be successful at Virginia. There aren't many doubts about his coaching ability. In fact, many would consider him one of the top practice and game coaches in college basketball.

I expect Virginia to have a rough initial season under Bennett. But as he gets his players into the program and institutes his system of play, the wins will increase.

Methodical approach

What's the latest on Tobias Harris? I understand that he met with coaches from a number of schools this past week. Does it look like he's any closer to making a decision?

-- Rob from Charlottesville, Va.
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Harris is certainly taking a methodical approach to his recruitment. With 11 schools on his list, he had his last in-home visit of the bunch on Wednesday night when he met with the Maryland staff.

Prior to his visit with Maryland, Harris told Rivals.com that all of his visits have been productive and that he will spend a couple of days thinking it over and then cut his list to five schools.

So to answer your last question, it looks like he is at least on the cusp of getting closer to making a decision. At this point, however, he is not naming any favorites.

The plan is to visit all five schools that make the cut and then make a decision. If that can be accomplished before the early signing period during the second week of November, then he will be an early signee. If not, then he'll wait.

The 11 schools presently on his list are Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, St. John's, Syracuse, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Visit specifics

What is the difference between an unofficial recruiting visit and an official recruiting visit? Is it who pays for it? How many official visits are they allowed?

-- Chuck from Lenexa, Kan.
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Thanks for the question, Chuck. So often those of us immersed in the recruiting business take for granted that everyone has a grasp on these issues.

You pretty much nailed the difference between an official visit and an unofficial visit. The difference is who pays for it.

A school cannot pay any of the expenses for unofficial visits. Prospects can take an unlimited amount of unofficial visits. Unofficial visits typically range from a local prospect coming over to play pickup ball with the team to being conjoined with participating in an elite camp to being a prearranged visit basically like an official visit.

Official visits can only be taken by a prospect once his senior school year begins. A prospect can take up to five official visits total with only one per school. A prospect must have taken either the ACT or SAT and have received a score before he can take an official visit. The score doesn't necessarily have to be a qualifying test score.

Grant's plan

Jelan Kendrick was in Tuscaloosa this past weekend. How much success do you think Anthony Grant can have in getting five-star talent to play for the Crimson Tide?

-- Tim from Birmingham, Ala.
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Former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried did a nice job recruiting at Alabama, but he never attracted highly ranked prospects on a national scope. What he did is successfully recruit the Southeast.

Now Grant didn't replace Gottfried because of his inability to recruit. He replaced him more so for the desire to improve the Tide's performance on the court. Based on the success Grant had at VCU, it is likely that will happen.

The desire of Alabama fans for basketball recruiting should be that Grant keeps pace with what Gottfried accomplished - regularly bring in Rivals150-type talent from the Southeast and then sprinkle in a regional five-star prospect like JaMychal Green and, in Grant's case, Kendrick.

A versatile perimeter player at 6 feet 6 and from the Atlanta area, Kendrick did seem impressed with his Alabama visit when I spoke with him on Sunday. The best of the best, however, are after Kendrick, so this will be a tough recruiting battle that could likely drag into the spring.

Local focus

How likely is it for other Memphis products such as Chris Crawford, Tarik Black, Adonis Thomas and Jarnell Stokes to follow the same footsteps as Joe Jackson and commit to Memphis.

-- Stacy from Memphis, Tenn.
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Memphis is in great shape with Black and Stokes. Crawford is a Tennessee lean, and Memphis has already filled that position. Thomas likely comes down to a battle between Memphis and North Carolina. If North Carolina offers, this one will be a big test for coach Josh Pastner as an underdog with a local recruit.

In general, Memphis will always be tough to beat on its local targets. As long as Memphis continues to be a top-10 program and garner national media attention, Memphis will win the majority of its local recruiting battles.

If Memphis falters on the court and the city loses confidence in Pastner, then it is a whole different story.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.




 

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