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October 25, 2013

Mailbag: It's Tubby time

THE LIST: Class of 2015 Rivals150

With college basketball season right around the corner, Rivals.com basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi dives into his mailbag.

Tea leaves on Robinson

Devin Robinson is deciding on Wednesday Oct. 30th, Bossi who you got? Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame or Oklahoma State?
Connoregan1 (via message board)

The recruitment of Robinson has been an interesting one to cover. Interesting in that the five-star from Christchurch (Va.) School doesn't discuss his recruitment publicly and that there has only been speculation and behind the scenes talk. By all accounts, the 6-foot-8 small forward has been struggling with this decision but given that he has set an announcement date, it is reasonable to believe that he has pretty much settled on a winner.

Over the last month or so, the Hoosiers, Gators and Cowboys have all been the rumored leader for the No. 20 player in the country while Notre Dame has always been looked at as a darkhorse. Of late, it is Billy Donovan and the Gators who have generated the most buzz. Immediate availability of playing time

Can only go up from here

Texas Tech fans are hoping that Tubby Smith is able to turn things around. What can you tell us about the recruits he's landing so far. Can he get things headed in the right direction with those guys?
-- Reggie, Dallas (via email)

I would think that anybody who follows the Red Raiders' program would understand that Smith has to dig the program out of a pretty massive talent hole. I would also think that anybody who has followed Smith's coaching and recruiting over the years would understand that he has recruited system players, developed them and gotten the most out of them later in their careers. So, if Tech fans are looking for their current trio of three-star recruits Keenan Evans, Justin Gray and Zach Smith to turn things around immediately, then they will be hard to please. But, thinking long term, I think this class is a solid foundation to start with.

A point guard from Richardson (Texas) Berkner, Evans is tough as nails and makes things happen off the dribble. I think he is a natural leader and he is one who received pretty strong consideration for the Rivals150. Another Texan, Zach Smith, is a kid who needs to get stronger but has a high upside and versatility down the road. He's a combo forward who can shoot it a bit and also play as a high post four man. He will allow for some versatility. Finally there is Justin Gray from Florida. The shooting guard hasn't had a tremendous amount of national exposure but is wired to score. In particular, he seems to like one and two dribble pull-up jumpers.

Big East boost

What impact on recruiting has joining the Big East had for programs like Creighton, Butler and Xavier?
-- @doublejayalum (via Twitter)

To start with, I don't think it has a huge impact on Xavier. The Musketeers have been recruiting at a high level for a while now and are regularly in the mix with and landing Rivals150-level prospects and players who fall just outside of it. Thanks in large part to what Brad Stevens was able to start building with back to back trips to the national championship game, Butler has been recruiting at or near a high major level for a while too. They have landed Rivals150 prospects in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014.

Butler and Xavier also sit right in the middle of a talent rich area. Go three or four hours in any direction from either of their campuses and there is no shortage of prospects capable of playing at the Big East level. Yes, there is a lot of competition for them, but both programs have built brand identity and been successful recruiting high major type prospects in their region. I think they'll be fine with their move to Big East and recruiting.

The program that the leap makes the biggest impact on is Creighton. For years, the Jays have been at or near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference and they've regularly made appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Along the way they've recruited pretty well but certainly not at the level they will need to be recruiting in order to be at the top of the Big East. Doug McDermott was a big miss by every rating service and will be a great player as a senior, but remember his father Greg had initially not recruited on him while at Iowa State. It was after the elder McDermott left for Creighton that Doug got out of his letter of intent with Northern Iowa to follow his father. Anyway, I'm rambling here, time to get back on point.

So far this year, Creighton has landed Leon Gilmore and Ronnie Harrell. Gilmore, from Texas, is the first Rivals150 player to commit to the Bluejays since Andrew Bock (who busted badly as a prospect) in 2009. Harrell picked the Jays over Purdue and has a huge upside for a just outside the Rivals150 player. So, so far they are recruiting at the level they will need to going further. With the staff on hand there is no reason to think they won't continue to do so.

However, their work will be cut out for them and I think they have arguably the toughest situation to recruit to. Not because of lack of fan support (they are off the charts there) or facilities but because of geography. Unlike every other program in the conference, Omaha isn't located in the middle of a talent rich area. The state of Nebraska rarely produces high major prospects and there aren't often a lot of options within a three or four hour drive of campus. So, they will have to try and find players before other programs and will likely need to cast a much wider net. They've done a good job in Texas and have started to work the Chicago area hard which will be important moving forward.

Started from the bottom, now I'm here

How did you get started in your job?
-- @KlamontT (via Twitter)

This is probably the question that I get asked more than any other. It is also one with a pretty confusing and winding answer if I were to go into full detail. But, the Cliff's Notes version is this.

I started following recruiting as closely as I could in high school after competing at some camps and seeing some elite players first hand. I would find whatever I could in the newspaper or look at Clark Francis' HoopScoop magazine, a Recruiter's Handbook, a Bob Gibbons list or catch what I could on an episode of Scholastic Sports America. In the early 90s, though, there wasn't a lot available for a kid in Leavenworth, Kan. to keep up with recruiting.

During and after college, I started attending events and tournaments in my spare time. Trips to McDonald's All-American games, AAU Nationals, the KMOX Shootout in St. Louis and then from there I was at more and more events. As time went by I got to know several college and summer coaches, several scouts from different services and so on. Eventually, I started freelancing for different sites. Then I started a scouting service for college coaches which neared 100 D1 subscribers and before you know it I was working with Rivals and worked my way into my current position.

Along the way there was a lot of writing things for free. Writing things for pay but getting stiffed and lots of sleeping on hotel room floors or crashing with friends.

Vaughn's destination

If Rashad Vaughn commits to North Carolina will that lock them into the No. 1 recruiting class spot?
-- @AndreSwagassi (via Twitter)

Where do you see Vaughn landing?
-- @AlexBerngard (via Twitter)

I'm going to go ahead and take these two questions and combine them. First, if Vaughn -- who currently ranks No. 7 nationally -- were to pick UNC then the Heels would have a very good shot at the nation's top class. Adding him to five-stars Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson along with just missed five-star Joel Berry would give them four of the nation's top 26 players. Of course, how they finished would still depend on which players other schools picked up but they would be working with a formidable group.

Now for the second part about where Vaughn lands up. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Minneapolis who is attending Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep for his senior season has been tough to pin down. He visited UNC in the spring but then postponed his official visit there last month and followed up by postponing an official visit to Baylor. He has visits coming up to Iowa State and UNLV in the month of November and Kansas, Arizona and Minnesota are still involved. For now, if I had to handicap it I would say that the Cyclones and Rebels could hold a slight edge over the rest of the field. But, he won't be deciding until the spring so there is still lots of time for things to happen.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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