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Recruiting Rodeo: Breaking down big three, top AAU teams

Andrew Wiggins is the No. 1 overall prospect, and the recruiting process is weighing on him. (AP)

As we enter the stretch run for the class of 2013, there are only a handful of top-100 prospects still on the board. At the top are the three prizes of the group: No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins, along with top-five forwards Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon. All three are potential lottery picks and could have a monster impact on the college game next season.

Yet all three are still undecided. To get a better idea of where they might end up, we talked to multiple people close to each player’s recruitment, whether it be a high school or AAU coach, a parent or adviser or a college coach looking to get the player’s letter of intent. We’ve gathered all the intel and break everything down.

— Andrew Wiggins (6-foot-7, SF, Huntington Prep)

List: Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas

Details: Took an official visit to Florida State in early December, has tripped to Kentucky unofficially on two occasions

Breaking it down: Talk about a player who has clearly been affected by the decision-making process. Multiple people with knowledge of Wiggins’ recruitment have made it clear that the stress is weighing on him and affecting his play. Yet Wiggins doesn’t seem close to making a decision — this one is going until the spring. Word is that his official visit to Florida State in early December wasn’t perfect, especially since the Seminoles got blown out and there was a minor stir when photos from that night appeared on social media. That said, the Seminoles might still have the edge. Sources indicate Wiggins’ parents have a heavy influence in his recruitment, and the fact they went to Florida State is a major plus. If his parents would prefer to see him not go to a certain school, Wiggins won’t go there. Kentucky is appealing to Wiggins, though the pressure that comes with going to Lexington doesn’t fit with his personality. More than one person with knowledge of his recruitment said North Carolina could be more of a factor than people think. The Tar Heels have been a presence at Huntington Prep throughout the season.

Leader: If Kentucky adds him, the Wildcats would have the greatest recruiting class of all time. But it seems Florida State has the edge.

— Julius Randle (6-foot-9, PF, Prestonwood Christian)

List: Florida, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Oklahoma

Julius Randle loves Jayhawk tradition . (USA Basketball)

Details: Took official visits to Florida and Kentucky in the fall, plans to take trips to Kansas and Texas in February. Expected to trip to NC State this weekend.

Breaking it down: Randle has played his cards close to the vest since the beginning with no school seeming to jump out as the clear leader. Florida was confident about its chances at one point, though it looks like the Gators have fallen back in the race. Kansas and Texas have the momentum. Sources indicate Randle loves the Jayhawks’ tradition and wants to play for Bill Self. As for Texas, multiple sources pointed to the close relationship that Randle has with his mother as a major factor in his recruitment. Being from Texas, his mother would love for him to don a Longhorns jersey. It’s only three hours from their house — and the mother-son relationship is tight enough where he might look to stay close to home. Kentucky is also in solid shape, Randle does visit North Carolina State this weekend, but the Wolfpack have plenty of ground to make up. Kentucky seems optimistic, but people close to the situation think the Wildcats are chasing Kansas and Texas.

Leader: At the end of the day, the winning tradition of Kansas might be too much to pass up. The home-state pull of Texas is strong, though.

— Aaron Gordon (6-foot-9, PF, Archbishop Mitty)

List: Washington, Arizona, Kentucky

Details: Has taken official visits to all three schools but plans on waiting to make a decision.

Breaking it down: Although it looks like Gordon is going to wait until the spring to make an official decision, some people in his camp seem to think he already has a good idea of where he’s going. Washington has been involved the longest, as head coach Lorenzo Romar developed a relationship with the family through the father and older brother, Drew. That relationship has left the Huskies as one of the favorites throughout Gordon’s recruitment. That said, Arizona feels very confident about its chances with Gordon. The Wildcats have a connection with the Oakland Soldiers AAU program as Brandon Ashley is already on the roster, and Gordon feels comfortable with the situation in Tucson. It remains to be seen whether he wants to join such a loaded frontcourt. Kentucky was behind the Pac-12 duo several months ago, but a home visit to California and Gordon’s official trip to Lexington opened his eyes. However, among the sources that we spoke with, there are some questions as to his interest in playing alongside the Harrison twins at Kentucky.

Leader: Going into the week, I felt it was Washington. After discussions with multiple people, though, Arizona seems to be in good shape.


On the trail: Top AAU teams of the decade

Travel-team basketball just isn’t the same these days, and that’s not really up for debate. The CIA Bounce and Oakland Soldiers teams of this past summer were good, as were the 2011 versions of Team Takeover and Houston Defenders. But how do they stack up to the top teams of the past decade?

According to a poll of coaches and scouts from around the country, it’s not even close.

Here are the top-three AAU teams of the past 10 years:

1. 2006 SoCal All-Stars: Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love, Daniel Hackett, Taylor King, Renardo Sidney, Malik Story

Jennings’ 2006 AAU team was loaded. (Courier-Journal)

The year before, this group had Chase Budinger in the mix. The only two losses that they took in the spring and summer of 2006 came when Love wasn’t available. Would love to see them go head-to-head with the Celtics.

2. 2003 Atlanta Celtics: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Randolph Morris, Javaris Crittenton

This team also had Brandon Rush up until the summer, completing a dynamite backcourt to combine with a dominant frontcourt. Just think about getting a layup or rebound against that front line. Not happening.

3. 2004-2005 Spiece Indy Heat: Mike Conley, Eric Gordon, Daequan Cook, Josh McRoberts, Greg Oden

This was a heckuva two-year run for the Indianapolis-based AAU program. The future Ohio State trio was joined by Gordon and McRoberts in 2004 but might have been even better in 2005.

Honorable mention:

2006 Mean Streets: Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon

This group could make a case as the best AAU backcourt in recent memory, as Rose and Gordon simply steamrolled opponents.

2009 All-Ohio Red: Jared Sullinger, Adreian Payne, Aaron Craft

This team lost only nine games over a three-year span, winning a variety of tournaments.


Top-30 Whitehead looking to visit three

Isaiah Whitehead has 10 schools on his list, but he could only name six over the weekend at the Hoop Hall Classic.

“I can’t remember the rest,” the four-star junior said.

That’s probably not a great sign for the schools not mentioned, but Louisville, Florida, St. John’s, Syracuse, Kentucky and Rutgers have to feel a little more optimistic.

Whitehead, a 6-foot-4 guard from Lincoln (N.Y.), is one of the better perimeter scorers in the class of 2014. He can make tough shots as well as anyone in the country, and his ability to get his own look is impressive.

Whitehead likes up-tempo play. (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

After the season, he wants to check out three schools: Louisville, Syracuse and Kentucky.

Louisville’s up-tempo style is attractive to Whitehead. “They get after it,” he said. “I think I would fit perfectly with them. Up-and-down, my game is right for their system. They offered two months ago and are keeping in contact. They came to my school.”

Syracuse has long been considered the leader for him, and the Orange are very familiar with Whitehead and his game. “They’ve been there since seventh or eighth grade,” Whitehead said. “They’re always recruiting me hard. I’ve been there twice.”

As with any top recruit over the last few years, Kentucky is always an attractive option. “Kentucky is just Kentucky,” Whitehead said. “You don’t have to say anything else. John Calipari and those guys just play hard, up-and-down, play defense.”

Whitehead is ranked No. 30 in the 247 Sports rankings.


Sophomore Charles Matthews expands game and recruitment

The class of 2015 is shaping up as a solid one, but it’s one without too many star point guards. Charles Matthews could fill that void.

At 6-foot-4, Matthews has great size for the position and his vision and command of the game continue to get better. He also has the ability to play off the ball because he knows how to score from the perimeter and off the bounce.

“Charles does so many things that go unnoticed,” St. Rita (Ill.) coach Gary DeCesare said. “He gets double-doubles with points, rebounds, assists.”

Ohio State, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona, Seton Hall and SMU are all on him, while Matthews visited Illinois recently.

“I was there for their homecoming game,” he said. “It’s the in-state school. They’re recruiting me hard.”

Matthews is ranked No. 17 in the 247 Sports rankings.


Lists and the latest intel

Jermaine Lawrence will visit St. John’s this weekend. The Red Storm might be the favorite for the unsigned five-star forward. … We had heard New York City guard Shane Rector wanted to go high-major — and he committed on Thursday to Rutgers. … Four-star junior Paul White is hearing from Marquette, Arizona, Florida, Notre Dame, Illinois and Kentucky. Indiana offered but hasn’t had any contact with him. … Penetrating guard Ja’Quan Newton listed Cincinnati, Arizona, Temple, Xavier, Villanova, Rutgers, Penn State, La Salle, Georgetown, Miami and Pittsburgh. … Therence Mayimba boosted his stock during the summer, and it will only go up as he develops more. Right now, George Washington, George Mason, Texas, VCU and Indiana are on him. … The next star from Huntington Prep (W.Va.) could be Montaque Gill-Caesar, a 2015 prospect who already has offers from Baylor and Ohio State. … Keith Frazier, one of the top players left on the board, recently visited Texas and should be going to SMU next weekend. … Five-star junior Theo Pinson will take an official visit to Indiana on Feb. 3. … Here’s the USA Hoop Summit team that was announced this weekend: Jabari Parker (No. 2 in 247 Composite), Julius Randle (No. 3), Andrew Harrison (No. 4), Aaron Harrison (No. 5), Aaron Gordon (No. 6), Kasey Hill (No. 8), Noah Vonleh (No. 9), Rondae Jefferson (No. 14), Bobby Portis (No. 15), Demetrius Jackson (No. 30).

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