It could probably be said that coming up with recruiting rankings, especially for a small conference, is an exercise in futility. Consider the following:
- Each team has a different number of guys to sign. How do you compare a team like Northern Arizona or Idaho State which signed a ton of guys, with North Dakota, who signed a couple?
- I've personally never seen any of the recruits play before they come to the Big Sky. There are plenty of recruiting analysts out there, but I am not one of them. My rankings are based mostly on things I've read, stat lines, etc. So there is a lot of guesswork involved. Heck, there'd be a lot of guesswork involved even if I had seen them all play!
- It's not always easy to figure out who should be included. If a guy transfers in, I suppose technically that doesn't count as a recruit being signed. But why not? It's a new guy coming to the program. Similarly, would you count him in the year he signed, or the year he is eligible to play?
- It's very possible that I miss some guys here and there. Figuring out who signed for what team takes a lot of time, and it's certainly possible I am missing some people that should be included, or counting somebody I shouldn't be. All I can say is my apologies on that.
So, why would I do a rankings like this? Mostly for fun. Also to familiarize myself with everyone coming into the conference, and perhaps provide a little insight for you guys. As always, feel free to chime in... especially because I know there are a lot of you out there who know more about specific guys than I do. If possible, temper your anger at where a team is ranked... as I said, I am mostly just guessing. If I would look back at this list in a couple years and find that I was completely wrong, the person least surprised would be me.
For the specific recruits, I am using my list compiled here.
1. Northern Arizona
This class had a little bit of everything, but freshmen with solid potential to impact junior college transfers. Two of my favorites are Ako Kaluna in the frontcourt and Kris Yanku in the backcourt. Kaluna is a true big man that plays bigger than his 6'7'' height. He averaged 16 and 10 right away, and has the body to be able to compete for minutes and add depth right away. Yanku is a guy that got universal praise from scouts for his intangibles and ability to lead. Josh Gershon of scout.com said "not too many players out west in 2013 are winners like Kris Yanku," calling it a steal for the Jacks. He could step in and PG from day one.
Yet, I was told privately that Quinton Upshur might be their most talented pickup. He is a 6'4'' guard that will be a junior, and played his freshman year at VMI. Add these three to guys like Zach Reynolds, Travis Meeker, and Chris Miller, I think this is the best class in the Big Sky.
I think PG Mario Dunn will be the jewel of the class. He is a dynamic point guard that will contribute on both ends. His jumpshot is still a work in progress, but he should be able to contribute right away, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him starting by the end of the season. He is far from the only guy brought in. Junior forward Chris Kemp will start at forward, and from all accounts he has looked explosive this preseason. He is their best eligible big man right away. Their best big man might be Martin Bruenig, a transfer from Washington. He has to sit out this year, but will be a big part of the frontcourt next season.
Brandon Gfeller has turned a lot of heads this preseason, and he is a great shooter. He might contribute even sooner than many people expected. Riley Bradshaw will also factor into the rotation when he becomes eligible, and could be a needed scorer off the bench. Jack Lopez is far from a finished product, but the early word is that he will become a solid, polished wing man for them. Upon hearing preseason reports, this ranking was bumped up a couple spots from where I initially had them pegged.
3. Weber State
The star of this class looks like guard Jeremy Senglin, who could start from day one in Ogden. Other teams that were in the final running for Senglin included Nebraska, TCU, Tulsa, Richmond, and Colorado State. He is an excellent shooter with deep range, as well as solid athleticism and a good handle. He could be the Wildcats next backcourt star. Joining him is Richaud Gittens, who excels in transition and is a great athlete. He averaged over 17 points per game last season, and looks like the future backcourt mate along with Senglin.
Josh Fuller is a guy that will be a redshirt freshman for WSU after serving a mission, and he should be ready to contribute in the frontcourt right away. Even in a loaded frontcourt, he should play right away with his versatile game. Freshman guards Christian McDonald and JC Kennedy are walk-ons that will provide practice depth, while McKay Cannon is a recruit that will be serving his Mormon mission. The class isn't quite as deep as NAU's or Montana's (in part because it didn't need to be) but has great talent at the top.
4. Eastern Washington
Jim Hayford grabbed two international guys this signing class, as well as a JUCO PG that should step in and start immediately. Drew Brandon averaged 15.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game last year at Sierra College, and should slot in the one spot. He should add some seasoning and experience to the position that was lacking a bit last year.
Felix Van Hofe (Australia) and Ognjen Miljkovic (from Serbia, but played the last two years in California) hope to follow in the footsteps of Venky Jois and make an impact right away. Both are forwards with versatile inside-out games. Both guys should fit in very well for the Eagles, and potentially will give EWU one of the deepest frontcourts in the league. Sir Washington is a 6'3'' guard that fills the stat sheet and can hit shots from anywhere. He will redshirt this year but should have a nice future in the program.
5. Northern ColoradoI really like the Bears class. The most important thing that they did was to shore up the point guard spot. Junior college guy Corey Spence looks like the frontrunner to start, and he brings a level of ballhandling and defense that they haven't had the last couple of seasons. Freshman Jordan Wilson is a good recruit, and he will have a bright future with the program. He has great quickness.
Forward Dominique Lee was the exact type of guy they needed in the frontcourt. He is versatile, athletic, and can defend multiple positions. He will sort of be like Derrick Barden Lite. Lee is the type of guy they didn't have off the bench last season, and will be a big help. Jeremy Verhagen is a developmental guy, but looks to have good potential. He will make an impact in time on the program.
6. Idaho State
It was hard to know how to rank the Bengals class, because it was huge. They signed eight guys, though one of them is still qualifying, and a couple will be redshirting this year due to NCAA rules. The guy they might need most right away is big man Ajak Magot. He is 6'11'' and still a little bit raw, but can help defensively and on the glass. The Bengals are dying to have someone step into that role, since it was lacking for them last season. Elsewhere in the frontcourt, Scotty Tyler could play early, after picking ISU after an offer from Penn State. Justin Smith has played on talented teams, and should be able to fit in as soon as Bill Evans wants to put him in there.
Andrej Slavik won't be eligible this year, but will have a big role in the future of the program. The class will look even better if Marcus Bradley becomes eligible, as he could play right away. Another immediate factor might be Jeffrey Solarin. He is 6'4'', but plays forward and is an excellent rebounder, as he nabbed 8.9 boards per game last year. He is a junior that has a chance to start right away. I like ISU's depth, but not sure if there is a top-line player in the class.
7. Portland State
The guy I am most interested in is Tiegbe Bamba, who looks like a great athlete and could fill the undersized four man role that has been so good for the Vikings over the past few years. He should get a chance to play early and often. Kyle Richardson is a transfer from Long Beach State with one year remaining, and his experience should be valuable this season for Tyler Geving. Kyle Benton and Zach Gengler are two freshmen signed by Geving, after he signed no freshmen last season. Benton in particular looks like he could grab some early minutes, with some athleticism and positional versatility.
In the backcourt, DeShaun Wiggins is a JUCO guard that looks like he could play either guard spot and could be dangerous for a team that likes to get up and down the court. He has a chance to be a really good scorer. Rounding things out is wing man Sebastian Suarez, who could be one of the best shooters entering the conference.
8. Southern Utah
The Thunderbirds signed six guys, and it will be interesting to see who contributes right away. Juwan Major should play a lot of minutes right away, after leading Las Vegas Prep with over 14 PPG. He will be counted on to score right away, as he can create some things off the dribble. He might have the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster. Another early contributor will be guard Trey Kennedy. He can do a bit of everything, and should be one of the team's best players from the get go. Race Parsons in the backcourt averaged 27 PPG last year, and could be a sparkplug for them throughout his career. McKay Cannon is a pass-first PG that is a solid defensive prospect. Finally, Casey Oliverson should provide some frontcourt depth as he enters as a sophomore.
9. North Dakota
I like the guys they got, it just wasn't a big class (since they didn't lose many guys). The jewel of the class is guard Quinton Hooker. UND was very excited when they got him, and the word is that he will be tough to redshirt even in a crowded and experienced backcourt, because he simply is playing so well. Either way, he will be one of the leaders once the current crop of seniors graduates, and will be a huge part of the bridge after they are gone. Big man Chad Calcaterra is a transfer from Colorado State who could get immediate minutes in the rotation. Then there are two transfers... Estan Tyler will not be eligible next year, while they are hoping Cole Stefan will be eligibile. Both players provide offensive firepower with their ability to shoot the basketball.
10. Sacramento State
The best guy in this class looks like Eric Stuteville, who could have a chance to contribute right away in the post. He put up big numbers in high school, and has a versatile offensive game. Zach Mills is a junior college guy that can play the three or the four, and should put up solid numbers as a versatile guy for Brian Katz. He should play a lot of minutes, whether he is starting or quick off the bench. Another guy that can play multiple positions is 6'5'' Nick Hornby. He is a freshman that might see time at the two, three, and four, and can do a lot of things well. Rounding out the class is guard Case Rada, who will have three years of eligiblity. He is an excellent shooter who originally committed to Boise State.
11. Montana State
It was a small class, and I am not sure how much instant impact they will have. Junior college wing Terrell Brown should be in the mix to start right away, and could provide some quality minutes. Their other signees were guards Stephan Holm and Vance Wentz. My guess is Holm will have a better chance to play right away, but I'm not sure either guy is ready for big minutes. Both could develop into solid role players for the Bobcats.
Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball