During a season of transition following the loss of the greatest player in VCU history in Eric Maynor as well as the loss of one of the hottest young names in college coaching in Anthony Grant, the Rams have managed to put to rebuild with a 25-win season to this point. They will have a chance at two more in the CBI championships approaching next week in Coach Shaka Smart's first season at the helm. While Ram fans were hoping for a repeat NCAA appearance with surefire NBA first-rounder Larry Sanders leading the way, inconsistencies on the road ultimately were the Rams undoing. The Rams faltered with 7 losses in the conference slate after having a combined 9 over the last 3 seasons prior to this one.
32-year old VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart has gone 25-9 with a trip to the CBI finals in his first year.
While there is some cause for disappointment, the Rams are looking at the CBI as an opportunity to grow as a team and gain experience for freshman such as Darius Theus and Troy Daniels, as well as opportunities for players like Jamie Skeen who will be expected to step up in the absence of Larry Sanders next year. With Larry Sanders leaving early for the NBA, another year of adjustment is only to be expected, especially on the defensive end where Larry was a defensive stalwart (not to mention 2-time Defensive POY). However there is cause for optimism with strong senior leadership and a stellar recruiting class for first-year Rams’ coach Shaka Smart. Here is my breakdown of Smart's impressive recruiting haul and VCU’s version of Michigan’s ‘Fab Five’ (minus the violations of course). I will start with each recruit and do as comprehensive an overview as I can; one post per recruit. Reco McCarter headlines the 2010 class and will be the first write-up coming shortly!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Scout.com Profile:(3-star, #38 SF)
Rivals.com Profile:(3-star, former Rivals150 prospect at #128 (#22 SF) and #147)
ESPN Profile: (91 Grade, #30 SF)
Hoopscoop: (#186 overall in 2010)
Bob Gibbons:(#164 after the summer then #188 after the fall overall in 2010 class)
Reco McCarter headlines VCU’s 2010 class and signed his LOI with VCU in the fall. He is the #9 player out of the state of North Carolina in what is touted as one of the deepest NC classes in a long time. During his recruitment he made it clear that Wake Forest was his #1 choice and that he would commit immediately if offered. Reco waited despite offers from Virginia Tech, Clemson, NC State from the ACC and Georgia out of the SEC. The offer never came and Shaka Smart was able to nab a commitment from the ultra-quick and athletic small forward from Goldsboro, NC. Here’s a highlight video from OneEntertainmentHoops.com showing off a little bit of Reco’s game, including a nasty slam over top-15 national recruit and Kentucky target C.J. Leslie:
Bob Gibbons, who is one of the top talent evaluators in high school basketball, has high praise for Reco and named the most talented overall prospect along with Patric Young (Florida commit) at the 14th Annual Bob Gibbons Fall Evaluation Clinic at Wake Forest University where over 200 young prospects showed up. He also attended the Wake Forest Elite Camp.
“ McCarter is, unquestionably, one of the top 2010 prospects in the talent-rich state of North Carolina. He is blessed with exceptional athletic abilities, including a terrific vertical jump, lightning speed and quickness, the hands of a magician, and superb reflexes. McCarter can explode to the hoop or pull-up and shoot his soft left-handed jumper. He has good ball-handling skills and is an effective passer. He still needs to focus on his 3-point shooting consistency, and becoming stronger. He always plays with high intensity, desire, and confidence, and has a great work ethic. McCarter's potential is virtually limitless. He projects as a high major college prospect.” – Recruiting Analyst Bob Gibbons
Here is the write-up from WolfpackHoops (now PackInsider.com) on Reco’s game. They were covering Reco extensively while he was being recruited by North Carolina State:
Offers: NC State, Clemson, Virginia Tech
The potential for Reco McCarter is limitless and his ceiling is sky high. He is 6'7 and runs the fast break like he is a point guard. In fact the fast break is where McCarter thrives. He has great handles for someone his size and can go coast to coast in the blink of an eye. If this lefty were to be described in one word it would be the word explosive. He loves to attack the rim and is ferocious in his approach. Reco is also a skilled passer on the break and within the half-court offense. He has a well-developed spin move that seems to be his bread and butter. His quickness and length make McCarter a nightmare on defense. Lack of effort is not in his vocabulary: he plays his heart out. Truth be told, this wonderful attribute leads to his weaknesses as well. Reco plays with so much energy that he can at times be out of control and take poor shots. He also needs to work on his perimeter shot. If Reco can harness some of his energy (mentally and physically) and develop his perimeter shot, he will be a nightmare of a mismatch in college. Even though Wake Forest hasn't officially offered Reco yet, most people think that they are a major contender as well. Reco is the #22 SF in the 2010 class and the 128th player overall.
Reco’s most significant weakness at this point is perimeter shooting. Although he has range to the NBA 3-point line, he is not as consistent as he needs to be at this to be effective at the college level. He has committed to improving his perimeter shot and is working on it. When he is on, he is quite deadly and impressive. The key for him is to maintain that level of consistency throughout. For a peak at how good Reco can be from the perimeter, check out this video clip from his 31-point performance against a Greenfield team that featured Brian Richardson (2010 South Carolina commit) and Jeremy Jeffers (2010 Drake commit):
All in all, Reco is a high-flying athletic recruit with a great deal of upside and potential. His skill-set is a great fit for the Rams up-tempo ‘Wreak Havoc’ system. ESPN.com’s Director of Recruiting Paul Biancardi agrees:
"Reco is a long, athltletic and wiry strong lefthanded perimeter player who's blessed with exceptional talent," Biancardi said. "He's smooth and he scores in a variety of ways.
"He excels in an up-tempo transition game where he can go from defense to offense efficiently. He's a finisher with flair in transition."
McCarter's athleticism allows him to do a variety of different things on the court.
"He's a versatile scorer who can make 3's as knock down mid-range jumpshots with ease," added Biancardi. "On his jumper he elevates and see's over his defenders for easy buckets.
"Reco also handles the ball well for a small forward and is capable of putting up big numbers with more physical maturity and coaching."
McCarter also has the defensive skills that the VCU staff covets, according to Biancardi.
"He really shows his versatility on the defensive end of the floor with his athleticism. HIs quickness combined with his outstanding length allows him cover a lot of ground on the court in a fullcourt press situatuion. He can also close out on shooters in the blink of an eye making him very difficult to shoot over.
"He does need to get stronger and be a more consistent plyaer but that should come once he physically matures."
Biancardi cannot help but notice the terrific start Smart and his staff are off to in Richmond.
"The new VCU staff have landed a kid who can really fit into their future plans. He'll thrive and produce in the Rams' fullcourt pressing style of play. McCarter's athleticism and versatility give them a weapon on both ends of the floor.
Reco needs to put in some time in the weight room and work on his perimeter game, but he’s a tantalizing prospect and is one of the more highly touted prospects in recent VCU history. Coach Shaka Smart during one of his weekly broadcasts mentioned that Reco committed to VCU after visiting Georgia out of the SEC and Oklahoma out of the Big 12. The kid is a player and his above-the-rim athleticism should entertain Ram fans for years to come.
Scout.com Profile:(2 star, offers from Butler, Ohio, Marshall, Akron, Wright St., and Appalachian State)
Rivals.com Profile: (unranked, offers from all of the above plus Loyola (IL))
ESPN.com Profile:(86 Grade, #92 SG)
Hoopscoop:(#256 overall in 2010)
Rob Brandenberg was the first commitment in the Class of 2010 for Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams. He committed after exploding over the summer after being relatively unknown as a junior playing in the shadow of Rivals150 recruit Stevie Taylor at Gahanna Lincoln in Ohio. His play over the summer garnered him recognition from Rivals.com as the #11 overall prospect in the talent-rich state of Ohio. Several Division 1 offers followed including Butler and John Groce's Ohio Bobcats who recently knocked off Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a 14-seed. Brandenberg is a long and athletic 2-guard with a relatively large wingspan (6'7) to his height (6'2). He is one of the biggest risers on the Ohio hoops scene, coming from virtually nowhere as a JV player who burst onto the Varsity his junior year. He stars along with 2 other Division I prospects in Stevie Taylor and Anthony Jackson.
Anthony Jackson, Stevie Taylor, and Rob Brandenberg have led Gahanna to a #9 National Ranking
Rob Brandenberg played for a new AAU program called the Mustang Ballers unknown to most Coaches outside Columbus and as a result he was not exposed to many college coaches. All that changed when Brandenberg blew up at the Adidas Take 5ive Classic in Cincinnatti. His high school team Gahanna Lincoln runs the Princeton offense so it does not get to showcase his explosive athleticism as much, but on the AAU circuit, coaches got to see it first-hand, including one Shaka Smart. Here's highmajorscoop.com's take on Brandenberg at the Take 5ive Classic:
I will be the first to admit, I didn’t see the flash at first either, but my mind changed on Wednesday, July 8th at 2pm when he caught flame like a Columbus Wild Fire against Ricardo Johnson in the Silver Championship game. For 10 minutes I saw something that very few and far between witness and that was something we like to call in the business as “The Zone”.
He was slicing, dicing, cutting the opposition apart like a Billy Mays infomercial! He is blessed with the ability to blow by guys with a quick first step, he can create his own shot off the bounce and plays with a sudden burst and gear that most are not given at birth. He can keep you honest from 19 feet, but then hurt you if close out hard and gets to the rack and finishes above the rim in a half court set or transition. His High School team runs the Princeton style offense so you don’t get to see much off the bounce, but you see the fluidity in the break when he runs the lanes like a thoroughbred.
His name you ask? Rob, Rob Brandenberg.From where you wonder? Gahanna Lincoln High School.What year? He’s a 2010. What position? Scoring Guard. How tall? 6-foot-2.
His skillset is perfect for a full-court pressure system and his 6'7 wingspan will be an excellent asset in the VCU press. Here is ESPN's evaluation of Brandenberg prior to his blowing up over the summer:
May, 2009: This long and athletic guard plays with great energy. He sprints the lane in transition and can get to the rim and finish before the defense can set. Brandenberg does a good job of making scoring plays of the dribble in the half court and can finish with good touch and body control. He is also athletic enough to get the ball in the hole with some impressive athletic finishes. He is streaky but respectable from behind the arc and can finish above the rim off the vertical with a clear path. Brandenberg also puts forth excellent effort on the offensive glass. Brandenberg needs to add strength but has great upside and could be a player on the rise in the state of Ohio.
Brandenberg has had a solid senior season for Gahanna and though they were undefeated at 25-0, they were not getting much respect nationally since they had not played any big-time teams and were playing in shadow of Columbus Northland who not only shared the same city, but were ranked #1 in the entire country. The Northland Vikings were led by the #1 overall recruit in the 2010 class in Jared Sullinger (Ohio State commit) as well as JD Weatherspoon (Ohio State commit) and Trey Burke (Penn State). Northland had beaten such national powers as Oak Hill and Findlay Prep while Gahanna had played relatively lesser known opponents. When the 2 undefeateds met up in the regional finals, Gahanna was expected to be little more than horse fodder for the Vikings on their way to their second state championship in a row. Rob Brandenberg and Gahanna Lincoln had other ideas. Here is footage from the game (Brandenberg is #1):
Rob Brandenberg led all Gahanna scorers with 19 points as the Lions shocked the high school basketball world and thrashed the #1 team in the country by 26 points by a score of 71-45. Taylor, Brandenberg, and Jackson led Gahanna to a hot shooting night and ended the Vikings' season. Subsequently Brandenberg's team was named the #9 team in the nation by ESPN RISE. Brandenberg has had a stellar season and is a recruit that Shaka could just not pass on. His combination of speed, athleticism, and shooting touch make him a very intriguing prospect.
Scout.com Profile: (3 star, offers from Colorado, Auburn, Colorado St., Florida St., and UNLV)
Rivals.com Profile: (3 star, #39 PF, #18 Georgia Prospect)
ESPN.com Profile:(88 Grade, #25 SF, #109 in 2008 ESPN Top 150)
Hoopscoop: (#91 overall player in 2008 class)
JUCOJunction.com Profile: (#49 JUCO in 2010 Junior College Top 150)
Toby Veal is an interesting example of how maintaining relationships with players you have recruited before pays off. Both VCU (when Anthony Grant's staff was around) and Shaka Smart (while he was an assistant at Clemson) recruited Veal when he was a highly-touted high school senior with offers to several major colleges. Veal chose to go to Colorado and play for former NBAer Jeff Bdzelik in the Big 12 conference. Upon coming there Veal did not get much playing time and was disappointed with the lack of burn he was getting. Toby also had a child back in Georgia which strained on him as he was across the country in Colorado. This led him to transfer to Northwest Florida State, a junior college in Niceville, Florida last year to be closer to his young family.
Toby Veal giving NWF State hoops big inside presence
Toby Veal: Colorado's loss is NWF State's gain
"I went to play for (Bzdelik) because he coached in the NBA for a long time," Veal said. "I wanted to see how that was, but it didn't work out too good. He said playing time relied on me. I just didn't understand why I wasn't playing because I did everything he told me to do."
Veal was named Newcomer of the Year in the Panhandle Conference in which the NWF State Raiders play. He helped lead the Raiders to a 5th place finish in the NJCAA national tournament. His exploits are all the more impressive considering he had been battling knee injuries for much of the conference season. He is quite explosive athletically and runs the floor well, throwing down dunks on the fast break with authority.
Veal is reportedly not a firm commitment as he is still being courted by at least one SEC school. Although Veal had verbally committed in January it appears his recruiting situation is still fluid. According to his junior college coach he will be visiting VCU this week and is expected to commit then. Veal will provide valuable experience with the departure of senior players TJ Gwynn and Kirill Pischallnikov as well as the likely early departure of Larry Sanders to the NBA draft. Veal's bulk and low post moves will be a welcome addition to this recruiting class.
Scout.com Profile:(2 star, #8 Center on the West Coast, offers from Iowa State, Drake, VCU)
Rivals.com Profile: (unranked, offers from Iowa State and Wyoming)
ESPN.com Profile: (78 Grade, #96 C)
Hoopscoop:(#289 overall in 2010 class)
Darrell is a very intriguing 7-foot prospect with a great frame and athleticism for his size. The knock on him has been that he is still very mechanical in the post and raw offensively. His positives are that he has soft hands and runs the floor exceptionally well for a guy of his size, an attribute common to all the big men in this recruiting class. He is a highly intelligent young man, boasting a 4.0 GPA with aspirations of one day working as an engineer for NASA designing rockets that disintegrate in space to reduce space and atmospheric pollution. He is pursuing an engineering major at VCU in order to pursue this goal. His father played at California in the PAC-10 during the early 80's. Assistant Will Wade was recruiting Haley when he was at Harvard last year and continued to stay on him when he moved to VCU. While Haley is a stud in the classroom, he is no slouch on the court either, averaging a double-double (12 points, 10 boards, and 4 blocks per game) with impressive athleticism for a 7 footer. His greatest attribute is his speed getting up and down the floor for his size. He also has a decent elbow jumper and mid-range game. The video from Palmdale's Midnight Madness shows Haley (#33) displaying a variety of dunks and showing impressive elevation:
While he hasn't put it all together, it's easy to see why Haley might be a monster in-waiting with his combination of athleticism, size, and intelligence. Scout.com's Dave Telep agrees:
"It's kind of mind-boggling to think the guys out west missed on him," Telep said in an e-mail. "After all, he is [6-11¾], smart and has natural ability and talent. When I saw him last June I thought he might be a late bloomer."
Palmdale also had to forfeit several of their games due to playing with a 5th year senior who was not declared eligible, so although Palmdale's won-loss record is not especially impressive, it is mainly due to the use of the ineligible player. Haley was also nominated to the McDonald's All-American game out of Palmdale (as Rob Brandenberg was). ESPN's Joel Francisco states that rebounding and defense are his primary strengths at this point. Once his offensive game catches up to his defensive game, he should be at the very least a big body that can eat up space in the post in a big-deprived CAA, and at the most may follow the progression of another ESPN 78 recruit that we all know well enough; Larry Sanders.
ESPN.com's Joel Francisco describes Haley as "one of the more intriguing late-blooming bigs on the west coast.
"Darrell has a very nice frame with long arms and overall very good length. He isn't very bouncy, but he runs well and has solid instincts around the basket," Francisco added.
"At this stage his rebounding at both ends is his strength. He has soft hands and he knows how to pass out of double teams and he can knock down jumper's out to the elbow. Darrell has some intangibles (length and heart) that coaches look for in a big, and he plays with passion and plays hard."
Haley was offered by Iowa State and Colorado from the major conferences, Drake from the MVC and a plethora of Ivy Schools such as Penn and Harvard due to his academic background. By all accounts from the coaching staff, he is a polite and classy young man. Watching him develop over the next four years will be a treat to watch and his progression as a big man from year-to-year will be exciting as his skill-set and athleticism are rare for a player of his size at a school like VCU.
Scout.com Profile:(2 star with offers from VCU, JMU, and Oral Roberts)
Rivals.com Profile:(unranked, offers from VCU, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Mississippi)
ESPN Profile: (90 Grade, #20 C)
Hoopscoop: (#234 overall in the 2010 class)
Juvonte Reddic is the latest commit in the Class of 2010. He's a true steal for Shaka Smart and staff. With offers on the table from Maryland, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, and visits to the latter 2 on tap, Reddic cancelled both visits and made his pledge to the Rams last weekend in Richmond. Juvonte plays on a stacked Quality Education team that boasts the #2 2011 prospect in the nation in Quincy Miller (who is being heavily pursued by Kentucky), as well as point guard Stargell Love (headed to Baylor).
Like a number of players in this class, Reddic is a late bloomer who until this spring only boasted offers from JMU and Oral Robers, although Georgetown had been involved with his recruitment earlier as well. Over the course of his senior season, his game expanded tremendously and his high major athleticism and shot-blocking had several major college coaches vying for his services. As with Haley, assistant Will Wade played a big role in the initial recruitment and Shaka developed a very strong relationship with him as well. Reddic's comfort with Shaka and the coaching staff was what made the Rams tough to beat, even despite the level of competition vying for his services. Dave Telep described him as 'one of the top uncommitted post men in the country':
Reddic, a late blooming big man, is athletic and has a motor. He was one of the top available post players in the country. Reddic cited the overall structure of the program as a selling point.
His game will remind many of current Ram Larry Sanders with his ability to run the floor, block shots, and rebound. He has a couple of highlight videos online and subsquent lengthy threads on major college conference message boards across the nation such as Georgetown and Maryland. His athleticism and motor has people buzzing and he was a very popular name in recruiting circles for teams looking for a big man with upside and athleticism.
With Juvonte's athleticism and quickness, SLAM magazine suggested that Reddic may be the next in the growing line of NBA prospects to come out of VCU after Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders. While he's nowhere close to either player at this point, his raw potential certainly puts him in a similar place as Larry was when he first came to VCU. Juvonte has more of a high major body than Larry did coming in, as Reddic is a solid 215 (while Larry was 200 soaking wet). His wingspan is not as large as Larry's but he is more explosive athletically. Here is an interview with Juvonte and Quincy Miller (#2 2011 prospect) to gauge his height as it is listed anywhere from 6'8 to 6'10. Here he is less than half an inch shorter than Miller, who is well-publicized as 6'10.
Reddic's commitment to the Rams had fans at Maryland and Georgetown non-plussed and back-pedaling after raving over Juvonte's game. He certainly looks like an impressive player and Brian Snow from Rivals.com agrees, stating that Juvonte Reddic will garner strong consideration for a Rivals150 spot after his impressive senior season:
One of the faster rising forwards in the 2010 class is Juvonte Reddic. The Quality Education Academy (N.C.) power forward opened eyes in a big way with his tremendous senior season, and attracting high-major attention. Over the weekend Reddic made an official visit and subsequently his commitment.
At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Reddic has the look of a high-major basketball player. He also has the game of one. Reddic is capable of hitting shots from the mid-range, has athleticism around the rim, and he knows how to rebound.
With that skill set schools like Maryland, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, and Virginia Commonwealth came calling and offered him a scholarship. While all four did a great job, according to Quality Education Coach Isaac Pitts, the Rams were especially impressive and gained Reddic’s commitment.
One reason why Reddic was still available is because of the fact that he burst onto the scene late. A classic late bloomer, Reddic had a great senior season, and now is scratching the surface of his potential.
On the strength of his senior year, Reddic will earn definite consideration for a Rivals150 ranking when they are updated after the season.
Juvonte is a heck of a player to end recruiting for the 2010 season with. "VCU's outstanding recruiting class got a lot deeper over the weekend. North Carolina native Juvonte Reddic popped for Shaka Smart's team this weekend." says Dave Telep, national director of scouting for Scout.com. "The Rams have an excellent class coming next fall. Rob Brandenburg just helped beat the nation’s No. 1 in the Ohio regional finals. Bigs D.J. Haley and Toby Veal join wing Reco McCarter and now Reddic."
The future looks very bright for VCU basketball and Shaka Smart has left no doubt in anyone's mind that if there is one thing he definitely does well, it is recruiting. The fact that he is a first-year coach makes this haul all the more impressive. With this new influx of fresh, new, and exciting talent, and the experience and skill of a talented senior class led by Joey Rodriguez, 2010-2011 will be a very exciting season that will hopefully result in improvement of an already successful 25-win campaign so far this season.