As last night's news of another 2013 commitment showed, Grant and staff are hot on the trails of high school players of all ages all over the country to boost the Tide's long-term talent. They're also focusing in on a couple of big-time recruits who can sign as part of the 2011 class and provide an instant talent boost for next season.
I usually refrain from discussing recruiting in the middle of a season, but since it's our bye week and one of those top targets will be announcing in only three weeks, I figured we might as well do a quick recruiting piece on the two elite high school seniors Coach Grant is looking to add to his already solid 2011 signing class that will be suiting up for the Tide next year.
Remember, unlike college football, which has one signing day after the season, college basketball has two signing periods. Most major college recruits sign on the early signing day in early November, just before the season starts. In fact, of the top 100 high school seniors in the nation according to ESPN and Rivals, roughly 90% signed back in November.
Bama signed four players in that early period: top-30 national recruit Levi Randolph, a 6'5" guard from Bob Jones High School in the Huntsville area; top-100 national recruit Nick Jacobs, a 6'8" forward from South Atlanta High School in Atlanta; top-150 national recruit Rodney Cooper, a 6'6" wing player from Russell County High School in East Alabama; and the top-ranked JuCo center in the nation, Moussa Gueye, a 7'0" native of Senegal playing at Lake Land College in Illinois. We'll have more on these players after the season.
With those four signees, Bama has filled its guaranteed allotment of scholarships for next season. The scholarship limit for basketball is 13, and we have 12 players currently on scholarship with 3 seniors. That said, Bama is a finalist for two of the nation's top three uncommitted recruits on ESPN's list, and you can rest assured Grant will make room for one or both of these elite players if we can get their signature (if we then get a Wall Street Journal "expose" article on attrition/over-signing in our basketball program, we'll know we've made it).
The first uncommitted player player Bama is targeting is Angelo Chol, a 6'8" forward from Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego who is ranked as a top-100 national player. What's more impressive than his ranking, though, is his offer list. He has now narrowed his list down to five of the schools that have offered him, none of which are in his home state: Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona and Washington. He has given no indication as to which of those he favors. He made his official visit to Tuscaloosa back in the fall, and Grant has flown out on the UA jet to make an in-home visit as recently as a month ago. He is set to announce his decision between those five schools on February 17th.
The second uncommitted player Bama is targeting is Trevor Lacey, a 6'3" guard from Butler High School in Huntsville who is ranked as a top-40 national player. He has offers from Alabama and Auburn in addition to Kentucky and UConn. As a top-40 national player, it's clear he's pretty highly regarded by the recruiting gurus, but beyond that, long-time Alabama high school basketball observers insist that Lacey is the best scoring guard to come through the state in recent memory, and that he will provide instant offense for someone as a freshman in college. Reportedly, his two favorites are Kentucky and Alabama, so if that's true, Grant has his work cut out for him in a head-to-head battle with one of college basketball's all-time great recruiters. Another obstacle could be grades. Lacey is in serious danger of failing to qualify, but he says he can get the job done in time in that department and will be able to enroll as a freshman. Although John Calipari and the NCAA clearinghouse may be tough to overcome here, it's nevertheless something to keep an eye on. Bama fans from Huntsville swear that Lacey would be an instant game-changer for the Tide if we can get him. Lacey will announce his decision after the season.
For now Chol and Lacey are Bama's top targets, but landing either will be a tough battle. If we don't get either, don't be surprised if we don't add anyone in the late period, unless there is some attrition off this year's team. However if we can land either of these guys, it would be the biggest recruiting coup for Alabama basketball in years and would help speed up the rebuilding process in a big way. Lacey, in particular, would also give us something we've sorely needed the last two years: perimeter scoring.
Hope for the best.
UPDATE: Some reports have it that Lacey will be in Coleman Coliseum for an unofficial visit during the LSU game on Saturday night. If true, let's hope that students and fans provide us with another packed house and lively atmosphere. Actually, let's hope for that regardless.