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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Big Time Recruit and a Big Time Opponent

Still pretty swamped, but several pieces of very big news landed today ...

First off, Mark Miller is reporting on that Bo Ryan has offered a scholarship to J.P. Tokoto of Menomonee Falls. This is the first offer extended by Wisconsin to a member of the the 2012 class.

Because Tokoto is so young -- one of the youngest ever to receive an offer from Wisconsin as Miller points out -- none of the recruiting services have rated him yet. But the 6'5" freshman is a very well known commodity in basketball circles. Expect him to get the same kind of hype as Jamil Wilson got throughout his career (5 stars?). Tom Crean sure knows about him and Indiana will be just one of the household names following in Wisconsin's footsteps here.

Tokoto plays AAU ball for the 15U Wisconsin Playground Warriors, as well as up with the 16U team. He is lengthy, athletic, skilled and intelligent. Think about having Brian Butch's skills in Ryan Evans' body. And according to Menomonee Falls head coach Ben Siebert, maybe a little Kevin Love?

"He’s so very talented and he’s only going to get better. The first thing that you notice about him is his rebounding. Our whole fast break is predicated on him getting the rebound and launching the outlet pass."
Given the new rules about recruiting players in April, it was great to see Ryan and Greg Gard jump on this by getting on-site right away at a Menomonee Falls open gym, just days after keeping close tabs on Tokoto's performance on the AAU circuit via text messaging. They want this kid badly.

Needless to say, this is a pretty nice day for Tokoto's family and Badger fans alike. Since many have been merely counting down the days until this offer was official, Hoops Marinara already has a recruiting open thread ready to go for Tokoto.

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The second bombshell of the day is word that Wisconsin will host Duke on Wednesday, December 2 as a part of next year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Badgers will be looking for a little payback after the 82-58 spanking they received at the hands of the Blue Devils two years ago.

I was so pumped up for Wisconsin's first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium. That team had a lot of good pieces despite the loss of Tucker and Taylor. But the chance to put a Badger stamp on the college basketball landscape was a disaster, thus my tempered enthusiasm this time around.

On the bright side, this is a true home game at the Kohl Center (not any of this Bradley Center garbage). Plus, despite the fact that while Duke has posted great records the past two years, the program has not quite lived up to its old standards of dominance lately, so I do not forsee any potential embarrassment. If junior Gerald Henderson bolts to the NBA as expected, Duke is really the two-man team of Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer. Those are two very good players, but not exactly the swarming winged studs that gave Wisconsin fits in the first meeting. covers all the angles here and here.

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And finally, though it's not Badger-related, one-time Louisville commit Jeremy Tyler has announced he is skipping his senior year ... of high school! Tyler, one of the top-rated juniors in the land, plans to play in Europe for the next two seasons as a professional. The young power forward may wind up in Spain. Dan Wetzel disects the matter over at Yahoo! Sports.

This may end up trumping last year's Brandon Jennings fiasco, especially since it comes on the heels of the bizarre Rick Pitino extortion case. After the departure of Pitino's son from Louisville to the coaching bench at Florida, some think the Cardinal empire is starting to crumble.

Prospect Profile: J.P. Tokoto

J.P. Tokoto, SF
6'6" :: 200 lbs.
Class of 2012
Menomonee Falls (WI) HS [team site]
AAU: Wisconsin Playground Warriors

Scout: 4 Stars * * * * (#7 SF/#26 overall) Previous: 5 Stars (#1/#4)
Rivals: 4 Stars * * * * (#12 SF/#40 overall) Previous: 5 Stars (SF) > 4 Stars (#10 SF/32 overall)
ESPN/Scouts, Inc. grade: 97 (#8 SF/#23 overall) Previous: 97 (#5/#16) > 96 (#3 SF/#10 overall)

2010 Second Team All-State (AP)
2010 First Team All-State (Div. 1, WBCA)
2010 First Team All-Area (Journal-Sentinel)
2009 First Team All-Suburban (CNI/NOW)
2009 First Team All-Greater Metro Conference

Recent Press
6/19: Scoreless recruit hopes ratings don't plummet - Lexington Herald-Leader
5/30: Three things we learned at the Bob Gibbons tournament - Fayetteville Observer
4/21: Tokoto auditions at open gym before the elite of NCAA coaches -
4/18: College decision can wait for sophomore star Jean-Pierre Tokoto - Louisville Courier-Journal
3/30: Tokoto's humility, hard work earn him NOW Player of the Year -
3/11: J.P. Tokoto weighs new offers -
1/31: High school hoops superstar Tokoto is the one that got away - Rockford Register Star

The Verbal
No verbal commitment

The Hype
Tokoto's traveling show rolls on its merry way - (12/21/10)
Star on the rise - JSOnline (11/27/10)
2012's Tokoto Ready for a Busy Fall - (8/27/10)
2012 Prospect Receives Kansas Offer - (6/8/10)
Wisconsin extends a scholarship offer to J.P. Tokoto - (4/22/10)
Tokoto Holds Open Gym - (4/21/10)
Indians beat North, to meet Germantown for state berth - (3/12/10)
Hall of Fame coach makes a surprise visit - (9/22/09)
They say the kid can play - WiSJ (6/21/09)
Vet, newcomer powered Falls - (3/31/09)
Lomomba, Tokoto sit on top of initial class of 2012 player rankings - (1/9/09)
10 Faces of the Future - SLAM (11/28/08)
Breakfast of Champions League - NY2LA Sports (11/19/08)
Fresh stuff! - Midwest Future Hoops Report (1/29/08)

Interview: J.P. Tokoto Interview (8/7/10) -
Game: Wisconsin Playground vs. East Troy 16U (7/30/10) -
Highlights: J.P. Tokoto - Hardwood Elite (7/31/10) - YouTube
News Feature: J.P. Tokoto's Recruiting War (5/12/10) - WKOW
Highlights: JP Tokoto Class of 2012 Dominates Spiece Classic (5/10/10) - YouTube
News Feature: Super Sophomore J.P. Tokoto (2/21/10) - WTMJ
Game: Menomonee Falls 88, Germantown 69 (12/19/09) - Falls Cable Access
Interview: J.P. Tokoto Interview (8/7/09) -
Interview: Sports32's JP Tokoto Feature (7/10/09) - YouTube
Highlights: Basketball phenom dunks over stepdad (6/19/09) - Cap Times
Game: Wisconsin State AAU 15U Championship (5/10/09) -
Game: Menomonee Falls 59, Oshkosh North 56 (12/26/08) -

Sophomore: 2009-10 (Falls) - /JSOnline
Freshman: 2008-09 (Falls) -

Additional Info
2009-10 Schedule :: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel :: Menomonee Falls NOW


Monday, April 13, 2009

Early Draft Entrants Create Uncertainty

The worst kept secret when it comes to Bo Ryan's recruiting is that he does not get caught up in chasing after the highest rated high school stars or one-and-done players like a lot of other coaches do.

Wisconsin benefits from that philosophy at this time of the year. Only once in Ryan's tenure has a player left early to play professionally, and that was when Devin Harris was a sure-fire top ten pick in 2005.

Since the end of the season, other college coaches across the country have been awaiting decisions from the top young players about their NBA Draft intentions. As many as 15 sophomores and six freshmen will go through at least the pre-draft process. The "testing of the waters" could last two months, since players who put their name in by April 26 have until June 15 to remove themselves from consideration. Coaches like Roy Williams have already voiced their displeasure over this period of uncertainty.

Like North Carolina last summer, several teams are facing a mass early entrant exodus, sometimes unexpectedly. Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn has thrown his name into the ring along with juniors Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf. Though Flynn has the most potential, he is rumored to be the only one considering a return to the Orange. Southern Cal probably knew freshman DeMar DeRozan was leaving, but the Trojans appear to be losing juniors Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson as well. Wake Forest may lose two sophomores and a freshman if both Marquis Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu think they can sneak into the lottery.

There is only so much room in the lottery -- 14 picks in fact -- but since rookie NBA contracts are slotted, players who talking about wanting to get picked in the lottery are only speaking in general terms. Being picked 13th as opposed to 18th is not a deal breaker since there is no drop-off in money. But only first-round contracts are guaranteed. That's a deal breaker.

Therein lies the catch. The smart borderline players who are projected as later first-rounders or worse will not hire agents, leaving open the possibility to return to the college. Others will just dive right in and sign an agent because they see a golden opportunity with this year's weaker draft class.

Over the past few years, an increasing number are declaring for the draft just to get feedback on what they need to work on to get drafted a year from now. Think Maryland's Greivis Vasquez. Someone like Kentucky's Jodie Meeks may feel their value is at an all-time high. But thanks to the economy believe it or not, this year's batch of players might not get as much value out of the process as their predecessors, according to Draft Express president Jonathan Givony:

"With no NBA pre-draft camp and fewer private workouts for non-lottery prospects being conducted due to budget restrictions, testing the waters may not have the same luster it did in years past."
Luckily for Arizona, which has already lost juniors Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, sophomore point guard Nic Wise may live up to his namesake by not hiring an agent. But the fans and coaches at places like Georgia Tech, Florida, Gonzaga, UCLA, Notre Dame, not to mention Ohio State (Evan Turner), Kentucky (Patrick Patterson) and Oklahoma (Willie Warren), have that anxious feeling, like waiting around for a sad phone call. They must envy programs like Memphis and Louisville, where losing a Tyreke Evans or Earl Clark was a foregone conclusion.

Some schools can reload. Wisconsin cannot. That is why it is a blessing and a curse to recruit the way the Badgers do. When I remember Harris' days in red and white, however, I think it might be worth the occassional anxiety.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Landry at Portsmouth; Bennett on the Radio

At the same venue where his older brother Carl really earned his first NBA paycheck, Marcus Landry is getting one shot to prove his worth too.

No one expects the NBA to start banging down Landry's door. He still lacks a profile on Though the goggled one shot only 5-of-14 from the field in his first action at the Portsmouth Invitational on Thursday night, he did manage 13 points & 7 rebounds (3 offensive) in 26 minutes. He took six 3-pointers, making a pair in the first half. By scouring the play-by-play, I see Landry missed a couple layups but did have a steal + finish in the second half while his team, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, was blowing the doors off the competition.

Landry's teammates include 6'6" B.J. Raymond (Xavier), 6'10" Alade Aminu (Georgia Tech) and another pair of 6'8" forwards. Statistically, Raymond was very efficient with 19 points, 4 treys and 3 steals. Physically, the former Musketeer has been knocked for his athleticism, but is of a similar build as Landry. So Landry will have his work cut out for him trying to outshine Raymond in this setting.

The team will play two more games this weekend. Marquette's Wes Matthews is also in Virginia, while Dominic James declined.

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One tidbit I forgot to post yesterday was an interview Lance Davis did with former Wisconsin head coach Dick Bennett on ESPN Radio's "The Badger Hour" a few days ago. According to Bennett himself, he has not followed the men's basketball team ... at all. He was caught up in watching teams out West, which is understandable, and even lending a hand with the Wisconsin women's team that his daughter Kathi helps coach now.

In the 22-minute interview, Bennett sheds some light on several subjects such as his relationship with both Roy Williams and Bo Ryan, Terry Porter's mental toughness, and Tony Bennett's new gig at Virginia. Bennett obviously supports Tony's move and believes the ACC is consistently the best basketball conference in the country. He also said he "will not rest" until Brad Soderberg gets another head coaching job. In retrospect, he is truly haunted by how his final season in Madison unfolded. For anyone familiar with Bennett, this is old hat, but it is almost scary how heavy that weighs on him to this day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Link of the Night

The Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors had an interesting post today about one guy's behind-the-scenes experience at the Big Ten Network headquarters. Unfortunately Hoops Marinara has no such access anywhere. Sigh.

Before I delve into the offseason in the coming weeks, I wanted to note how happy I am that Trevon Hughes' Game-winner against Florida State was named the tournament's Pontiac Game Changing Performance. The American voters got it right. The Siena and Villanova clips were equally deserving, maybe even Oklahoma State, but I would have rolled my eyes a bit if the Gonzaga or Pittsburgh clip had won (the Missouri entry was a joke).

I am always afraid that these contrived contests will end up like those episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos, where the clip of the dog in a life jacket wins the money over the only finalist video that actually made you laugh.

In the context of the whole tournament, I though Scottie Reynolds' game-winner (sent 'Nova to Final Four) and Kalin Lucas' three-point play (regional semis against defending champs) were the two most important shots on the list. But Pop's shot was the only one that combined four essential elements: 1) it was an upset, 2) his team was trailing, 3) it was overtime, and 4) it left little to no time for the opponent to get another good chance to score.

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Other old news:
- Gopher-to-be Royce White was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball over Badger signee Mike Bruesewitz. Tubby fans rejoice.

- I did not stick around for the montage after the butt-whippin' UNC served up to Michigan State. But after hearing Wisconsin got two clips into this year's One Shining Moment reel, I finally watched the thing. Nice memories ... - Kirk Penney was named the 2009 MVP of the Australian NBL. He led the league in scoring at over 24 ppg after finishing second in scoring last season.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Give the Big Ten a Gold Star

I was impressed with Penn State's perseverance tonight in digging out the NIT championship against Baylor. Just another example of the Big Ten's strength this year. Can you believe the Nittany Lions finished with 27 wins?!

More specifically, I was impressed with Jamelle Cornley. The undersized, injury-plagued senior forward was a great representative for the Big Ten Conference. He must have gotten the memo. Cornley turned in some gritty performances in the NIT after hurting his shoulder. Penn State will miss his game enormously next year.

Penn State also loses two other seniors who logged a lot of time in Happy Valley in Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey. The team loses almost half of its scoring and a third of its rebounding with those three, so I am not sure where the Nitts will fall in the conference pecking order next season. Battle returns of course, and Penn State also has a pair of big, long bodies in Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks that flashed potential.

As for the real tournament, the Big Ten would have been expected to post a 6-7 record based on seeding alone, but has already secured a winning record thanks to the run by Michigan State. Add an 8-7 record (or maybe even 10-6 if MSU gets crazy) in the NCAA Tournament to Penn State's postseason success, and you almost forget about Indiana's epically embarrassing season and Iowa's impending disaster.

The future looks bright for the conference despite not having any incoming McDonald's All-Americans. The all-conference team was littered with sophomore stars, so keep an eye on April 26 -- the deadline for early entrants to declare for the NBA Draft. Purdue's JuJuan Johnson has already announced he will be back (as expected), while Ohio State's Evan Turner seems the most likely to bolt.

Marcus Landry is in Detroit as I type this, awaiting his chance to display his skills in the NABC College All-Star Game on Friday night. After that, Landry's next stop will be the Portsmouth Invitational event out in Virginia next week to see if he can get any indications that an NBA team might want to take a chance on him. Best of luck to him. Joe Krabbenhoft must settle for getting bashed (along with his father) in the comments section on a hometown newspaper site. Unbelievable ...

So the question is, can I root for Michigan State this weekend? In a word, yes. With conference pride. And also because it helps my ridiculous bracket.

Do you like the NCAA tournament's new 8-team "first-round" format?

What should Wisconsin do with the newly vacated scholarship?

Poll: Who will win the Big Ten?

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