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November 10, 2008

What to watch: Early signing period storylines

MORE: 2009 Team Rankings | BEST OF THE REST: PG | SG | SF | PF | C

Wednesday marks the first day high school senior basketball players can sign a national letter of intent, binding them to a college they will call home.

So what are the story lines to watch over the next 10 days? Rivals.com knows.

Big timers waiting

Eight of the top 25 players have yet to decide on a college. None of the eight appear to be in a big hurry to sign during the early period.

1. John Wall See below.
3. Xavier Henry Two-horse race between Kansas and Memphis.
4. Derrick Favors See below.
9. Lance Stephenson Could be looking at non-college options (see below) as well as St. John's.
10. Renardo Sidney LSU, Mississippi State, UCLA and USC are in the hunt.
11. Michael Snaer Florida State, Kansas and Marquette are all hoping the California star signs early instead of in the spring. Snaer recently cut Missouri and UCLA out of the picture.
15. Latavious Williams Fifth-year prep is looking at Florida State, Baylor and Memphis.
16. Dominic Cheek Kansas, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Villanova are on his current short list. Will waiting to sign change the dynamics of his list this season?

What about the rest?

Ten four-star prospects (ranked 26 to 100 nationally) and six three-star prospects (ranked 101 to 150) have not committed to a school as of Monday morning.

28. Solomon Hill He will sign late, and USC, Arizona, Kentucky and Georgetown are strong as of signing week.
31. Keith Gallon Mississippi State and Oklahoma are the front-runners for now. He will sign in the spring, however.
41. Durand Scott Three schools (Connecticut, Miami and Pittsburgh) still remain. There is a very strong chance he signs early.
50. Terrence Boyd Will sign late. Expect his recruitment to change quite a bit because of it.
67. Eric Bledsoe Alabama, Ole Miss and UAB are all in the hunt as he works on his academics this year.
75. Kyryl Natyazhko Russian import will wait to sign. Expect him to be one of the most recruited players in the country this high school season.
83. Mike Moser He visited UCLA last weekend. Washington, Oregon State and Oregon are all in the mix. He could sign early.
86. Jason Calliste The Canadian guard will sign late. VCU, Tulane, South Carolina, Charlotte, Marshall, Chattanooga, Marquette, Fresno State and Providence are in the hunt.
92. Chris Colvin Once thought to be a late signee, the Chicago native will commit on Wednesday and sign on Nov. 19, his birthday. Iowa State, Providence, Illinois, Marquette, USC or Connecticut will be the winner.
93. Jamil Wilson The Wisconsin star visited Oregon last week. Michigan State and Texas are also in the mix. He's one of the few truly undecided players regarding an early sign or not this week.

Will Wall sign early?

What will John Wall do? This story line has been one recruiting addicts have been following since the spring. Any sort of real answers regarding what direction Wall, the nation's top player, will go remain unclear.

Wall has visited Kansas officially. He has been to nearby NC State multiple times. Duke, after losing Kenny Boynton to Florida, is moving in quickly on the local superstar.

He has yet to visit Baylor and Oregon officially. Both schools are high on his list. Memphis has always been a player in the race for Wall, and, most recently, Miami has thrown a line to the nation's top player and he's taking the bait.

With the nation already watching Wall because of his seat at the top of the national rankings, even more eyes will be on him as he waits to make his decision.

It is looking likely he will wait until the spring period to sign.

Do me a Favor(s), sign already

No one knows when Derrick Favors will actually decide on where he will go to school. His South Atlanta coach doesn't know. His AAU coaches don't know. His mother doesn't know. The coaches recruiting him don't know.

That is why he is one of the most interesting stories to watch over the next 10 days.

Favors is down to Georgia, Georgia Tech, NC State and Memphis, he says, but when he will officially announce his decision is still a mystery. Now throw in the angle that Favors, the No. 4 overall player in the nation, could commit but not sign until the spring.

Those close to him think Favors knows where he is going, but the always quiet and reserved teenager isn't letting the cat out of the bag.

"Oh, he likes to keep people guessing," South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick said.

The Brandon Jennings factor

Last year, Brandon Jennings signed with Arizona on signing day. Wildcats fans were ready for another star at Point Guard U. A lot changed over the last year. Jennings is now playing in Italy, and Arizona is on its second interim coach in the past 12 months.

Jennings, a Compton, Calif., native, decided to take his game to Europe rather than play in college. He signed a guaranteed $1.2 million contract with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian Serie A League. He also signed a $2 million contract with Under Armour.

Many have wondered what kind of spillover Jennings' decision will have with the class of 2009 and beyond. Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln shooting guard Lance Stephenson, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax forward Renardo Sidney and Compton (Calif.) Dominguez wing Jordan Hamilton have all been mentioned as possible preps-to-Europe players. None of the five-star prospects has publicly said Europe is a possibility after high school.

Non-"Big Six" programs landing big men

The big men in the class of 2009 are doing something that no other class in recent memory has done they are going against the norm.

Instead of signing with a high-profile, on-national-television-every-week type of team, players are finding their perfect fit elsewhere.

Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore big man DeMarcus Cousins, the nation's second-ranked player, is the pied piper of the group. The 6-foot-10 future pro is taking his game to UAB.

His addition gives the Blazers a major force for the Conference USA club. He will be a big-time player to throw at Memphis, which has had a stranglehold on the league for quite some time.

Georgia State locked up Rashanti Harris of Mississippi via Patterson (N.C.) School. The top 30 prospect's decision was one of the major surprises of the year. If he can do the work needed in the classroom, he is an instant-impact player for Rod Barnes at Georgia State.

La Salle may have the steal of the entire class in center Aaric Murray of Concordeville (Pa.) Glen Mills. The top-40 prospect turned down a number of high-major offers and should prove to be a difference-maker for the Atlantic 10 school.

Seven-footer Zeke Marshall, a top-40 prospect, was one of the first highly ranked players to spurn the high-majors in the class of 2009. He committed to Akron, citing the school's computer program.

Charlotte landed Chris Braswell, a top-80 prospect who committed to Georgetown last year. The 6-8 forward should be an instant starter for the 49ers.

Greg Smith, a top-90 prospect, is a major coup for Fresno State. The 6-9, 240-pound center originally committed to Arizona.

UNLV is one of the top powers in the West, and the Runnin' Rebels are doing it with local products. Findlay Prep in nearby Henderson is the home of Puerto Rico native Carlos Lopez. The versatile forward has the tools to be a star for Lon Kruger.

Gonzaga continues to prove itself as a national recruiting power, luring Minnesota big man Sam Dower. The top-120 prospect could be the next star big man for coach Mark Few.

Things change

The top 10 signing classes changed quite a bit from the early signing period to the final team rankings for the class of 2008. Wake Forest was the winner last November. In the spring, however, UCLA sat atop the team rankings.

Of the top 10 teams in the early rankings last November, only six were left in the final top 10 team rankings. The reason? The individual rankings change. Teams add commitments. Coaches get fired. Coaches get hired. Players are released from their letters of intent.

With eight five-star players yet to decide on a school, the top 10 will certainly change at the end of the year. Which team or teams will make a move come April? That is the big question.

Misc. notes

Of the current top 10 teams in the rankings, eight of them were not in last year's final top 10 rankings. Only Kansas and Louisville are repeat teams ranked in the top 10.

Only five five-star players signed late last year. This year eight will likely wait to ink a letter of intent.

Eleven players ranked within the top 100 individual rankings will sign with a school outside of the "Big Six" power conferences during the early period.



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