Basketball recruiting class ‘talk of the league’

Adam Stern
Sports Editor

VCU’s 2010 men’s basketball recruiting class is big.

Big in more ways than one, both in size and storylines: The five-man recruiting class includes a colossal Californian in 7-foot-0-inch center D.J. Haley, a player recruited by this year’s National Champion runner-ups, Butler, in Rob Brandenberg and highly-touted ACC and SEC recruit Juvonte Reddic (6-foot-10-inches).

“They snatched a couple guys, man” said Dave Telep, National Recruiting Director for Scout.com, a sports publishing company that focuses on recruiting. “I actually thought they were wasting their time with Reddic. I thought he was going to wind up going higher, so for them to pop Reddic was a big deal.”

The recruiting class, which announced Haley, Reddic and Colorado transfer Toby Veal last Wednesday after Reco McCarter & Rob Brandenberg signed in the fall, is also big in substance. Now that junior guard Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, Fla. / Port St. Lucie) has once-and-for-all declared his intentions to bypass his senior season to enter the NBA Draft, VCU will need to fill a void that had long become one of the team’s strongest facets of their game.

“VCU’s primary concern (going into this year’s recruiting) was getting some bodies for their front court and I don’t know if it could have worked out any better for them,” Telep said. “Long, rangy guys that fit in with the style they play, it’s perfect.”

Indeed the class is so skillful on all scales that one may be hard pressed to find the best “steal” (when a mid-major school lands a player being recruited by a more prestigious university) of the lot, although of those there are plenty. Brandenberg, whose status as a late-bloomer kept him under the bigger school’s radars, was first viewed by VCU’s recruiting staff at a tournament last April. Since then, they, along with several other mid-major universities in pursuit of the shooting guard, would show up to his games, hoping he would score less than 25 points so larger schools wouldn’t catch wind of him, according to Telep.

“If (Brandenberg) was available now (rather than already being committed), VCU probably wouldn’t have a chance (of signing him),” Telep Said.

Similarly, Haley, a 4.0 student who was originally recruited by VCU assistant Will Wade when he was an assistant at Harvard, is a late-blooming prospect that may have only ended up at VCU via a combination of resourceful recruiting and a lack of interest from brand-name schools close to his home state.

“I think coach Smart finally has a guy on his team that’s smarter than him,” Telep said jokingly, referring to Haley’s perfect grade point average. “How he wasn’t recruited by some of the Pac-10 teams looking for size will remain a mystery.”

That mystery is a mitigated to a certain extent by VCU’s unusually high profile as a mid-major. The Rams have won by far the most games of any Division I school in Virginia in the last nine seasons with 217, they have the best home winning percentage in the commonwealth at 86 percent and they’ve reached the NCAA tournament two times in the last four years plus this past season won the College Basketball Invitational tournament.

Perhaps most attractive to potential recruits is the school’s newest feather in their cap: Two players drafted in the NBA draft in consecutive years, provided Sanders is picked when the draft is held on June 24 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“If one of these five guys turn out to be as good (as Maynor or Sanders), they hit a home run,” Telap said. “I can’t imagine that’s (two players getting drafted in consecutive years from a CAA school) going to happen again anytime soon.”

Regardless of how the five players pan out in their VCU careers, Smart’s first class has begun a process of solidifying his mark as an unrivaled recruiter.

“Shaka did really, really well,” Telap said. “This is an Atlantic-10 recruiting class in the CAA, that’s what it looks like to me. I think this is going to wind up being the talk of the league.”

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