Mid-Majors Attract Their Share of Talent
Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Senior Writer
The mid-major programs are catching up with the high-majors on the recruiting trail.
A number of nationally ranked players in the class of 2007 found homes outside of the power conferences.
A number of players heading to the mid-majors will be bracket busters come March.
Mid-major rank (National rank)
1. Memphis (10)
2. Gonzaga (17)
3. New Mexico State
5. Va. Commonwealth
10. Jackson State
12. New Mexico
19. Colorado State
Memphis, Gonzaga lead the charge
The Memphis Tigers claim the top spot in the mid-major team rankings. Already boasting the nation's No. 10 recruiting class overall, we realize John Calipari's club isn't necessarily a mid-major program. However, Conference USA – the league in which his team competes – is not a major power.
Derrick Rose, the nation's best point guard, is the headliner for Memphis' class and should shine from the outset. The Chicago-area star is the most dynamic guard to come out of the prep ranks in some time. Conference foes won't have the speed, athleticism or size to defend Rose. He should thrive in Conference USA.
Rose isn't the only big-time player coming to Memphis. New Jersey wing Jeff Robinson fits perfectly with the Tigers' style of play. He's big, strong, athletic and really improved as a perimeter threat.
Gonzaga checks in at No. 17 nationally and second overall in the mid-major recruiting rankings. Mark Few and his staff reeled in a trio of standout high school players. Five-star prospect Austin Daye is a sharp-shooting wing from California. He picked Gonzaga over offers from several Pac-10 schools.
In-state guard Steven Gray is one of the top sleepers in the West despite being ranked 61st overall in the class of 2007. Four-star center Robert Sacre is a force down low and compares well with Gonzaga big men of the past.
Jerry Meyer's take: Not only do Memphis and Gonzaga have talented classes, but their recruits fill needs as well. … Reggie Theus makes a first-year recruiting statement by landing a deep class that includes top-50 prospect Herb Pope. … P'Allen Stinnett should bring some excitement to the Creighton program. … Lon Kruger beat out Kentucky for five-star center Beas Hamga. … While everyone thought four-star prospect Jenirro Bush was reclassifying, Jackson State convinced him to stay close to home. … Although Middle Tennessee doesn't have a prospect in the Rivals150, the Blue Raiders landed three three-star players who were just on the outside of the Rivals150.
Best of the Mid-majors
Best perimeter scorer: Tyrone Shelley, Pepperdine
Best low post scorer: Herb Pope, New Mexico State
Best passer: Joey Rodriguez, Virginia Commonwealth
Best shooter: Austin Daye, Gonzaga
Best rebounder: Beas Hamga, UNLV
Best shot-blocker: Beas Hamga, UNLV
Best defender: Lance Kearse, Virginia Commonwealth
Most versatile: Jenirro Bush, Jackson State
Best in the clutch: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Best basketball IQ: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Best pro prospect: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Best interview: P'Allen Stinnett, Creighton
Best speed: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Best hands: Kenton Walker, Creghton
Best motor: Matt Howard, Butler
Best strength: Robert Sacre, Gonzaga
Best leaper: Chris Wright, Dayton
Impact player: Derrick Rose, Memphis
Biggest sleeper: Zach Hahn, Butler
Five top incoming mid-major prospects
Despite signing with a mid-major conference school, Rose would have likely been the top prospect in whichever conference he picked. Rose oozes pro potential, and with the athletes around him at Memphis he should continue to shine.
Daye, the son of former NBA player Darren Daye, has the prototypical pro length at the wing. He'll need to improve his body, but in terms of raw skill Daye is one of the best players on the West Coast.
Five-star center Beas Hamga surprised many when he chose UNLV.
UNLV snagged a big-time recruit in Beas Hamga. The 7-footer picked the Running Rebels over the likes of Kentucky, Indiana and New Mexico. Hamga is a defensive specialist and will only improve over time.
New Mexico State landed a surprise commitment when Pittsburgh-area forward Herb Pope picked Reggie Theus's program over a number of high-major schools. The four-star wing forward was shot in the spring and is still recovering from his injuries.
Robinson, a four-star athlete from New Jersey, was lured away from Big East country. His quick springs, physical game, defensive ability and perimeter shot make him a major coup for Memphis.
Keep an eye on us
Gonzaga has long been the powerhouse in the West Coast Conference, but don't be surprised to see Pepperdine make a push in conference play. The Waves inked a class perfect for Vance Walburg.
San Diego native Tyrone Shelley is a scorer supreme. He could be one of the best scorers in the nation in the near future. He has that kind of potential, and the program will help him in that regard.
Virginia Commonwealth fans can breathe easy now because Anthony Grant is coming back to Richmond. The Rams inked a strong group, and most of the recruits hail from Florida. Point guard Joey Rodriguez, scoring guard Ed Nixon and Myk Brown form a tremendous backcourt trio.
Dayton inked one of the premiere athletes in the nation in high-flyer Chris Wright. He'll be on a number of highlight reels while in college. Butler has a great 1-2 punch in Matt Howard - a Rivals150 forward - and point guard Zach Hahn.
Inside the numbers
There are 20 players inside the Rivals150 headed to mid-major conference schools. Three five-star players (Rose, Daye and Hamga) opted for non-power conference schools. Ten four-star players are bound for mid-majors, while six Rivals150 three-star prospects inked with those programs.
The Atlantic 10 claims five teams in the top 20 mid-major rankings. Conference USA stakes claim to four. The Mountain West has three teams in the rankings, while the West Coast Conference comes in with a pair. The WAC, Colonial, Missouri Valley, Horizon, SWAC and Sun Belt all have one team in the rankings.