Tide gets commitment from state's top junior hoops star

A lot of the focus will remain on senior target Devonta Pollard, but Friday's announcement by junior Jimmie Taylor provides further evidence that Anthony Grant is slowly but surely upgrading the basketball talent in Tuscaloosa.

Anthony Grant and the Crimson Tide basketball team received a huge commitment on Friday from 6'9" forward Jimmie Taylor of Greensboro. Taylor is considered to be one of the top 30 juniors in the entire country, and if his rating holds through his senior year, he would be the highest rated player to come out of the state since former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins.

Taylor had already received offers from most SEC schools in addition to Georgetown and Miami, and is also being recruited by Kentucky and North Carolina among others. The key term there is "is"--even though most top high school basketball players sign before their senior season begins, that date is still six months away for Taylor and other juniors, and undoubtedly these same schools will continue to recruit him until that date, so nothing is guaranteed here.

Still, the commitment is a great sign, and helps to shape up what will be a very important 2013 class for the program. Another forward, 6'8" Shannon Hale of Johnson City, Tennessee, has already committed to being a part of the Tide's 2013 class. With as many as four or five scholarships to give in that class, and the staff still recruiting several highly-regarded prospects, there is sure to be more news to come between now and November's early signing period regarding the 2013 basketball recruiting class.

Whatever happens in that class, however, none of those players will be eligible to suit up next season. It's a different story for the 2012 class, though. As usual, most top high school players signed before the season began, but since the Tide had only one senior on this year's roster, Anthony Grant and staff held off during the early signing period and didn't sign anyone, continuing to hold a spot for the staff's top target, 5-star forward Devonta Pollard of Portersville, Mississippi.

Pollard is considered to be among the top 25 seniors in the county, and his signature would probably signify the biggest Alabama basketball recruiting coup since Mo Williams was signed out of the same state a decade earlier. However, Pollard has dragged his recruitment into literally the final days of the late signing period. Remember, most seniors sign before the season, and most of those who don't sign toward the beginning of the month-long late signing period that runs from mid-April to mid-May. The late signing period ends on Wednesday, and at this point only three of the nation's top 60 seniors have yet to sign--and Pollard is still one of them.

Again, Pollard has seemingly been the staff's #1 target all along to assume the scholarship spot vacated by the expected graduation of senior JaMychal Green, and as such they have been heavily recruiting him literally for years at this point. However, many believed the 6'7" wing player to be a Mississippi State lean for most of his recruitment, but the departure of coach Rick Stansbury following last season's debacle seemingly removed them from the picture.

Pollard is now reportedly down to four finalists for his signature: Alabama, Texas, Georgetown, and Missouri. Pollard has kept extremely tight-lipped and to this date has still not even announced when he will make his decision public. Many recruiting experts believe Alabama to be the favorite, especially after Missouri filled their final scholarship spot and Georgetown lost the assistant coach who had been most involved in Pollard's recruitment, but Texas and ace recruiter Rick Barnes may still pose a major threat.

If Pollard signs a letter of intent anywhere, he'll have to do so by Wednesday's deadline. However, as some have pointed out, a player doesn't technically have to sign a LOI. If a school still has scholarship spots (and Alabama has not just one but now three of them after the somewhat unexpected departures of Tony Mitchell and Charles Hankerson) then a player could conceivably just enroll at that school in the fall and use one of the scholarships without ever signing anything or even making a decision fully public. If Pollard takes the usual route and signs with a school, we'll all find out by Wednesday at the latest if Anthony Grant has indeed inked a major talent to boost next year's squad, or if all this effort will have been for naught. But if Pollard elects to go the unorthodox route of sidestepping the LOI process, who knows how long this saga could drag on.

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