A little over three years ago, five dozen members of the high school/prep school Class of 2005 were preparing for their initial season of Big East basketball. At the time, most analysts felt that Louisville, Marquette, and Pittsburgh had the strongest incoming classes, while South Florida and West Virginia had the weakest.
Now, three years later, let’s examine how all 16 conference teams’ recruiting classes of 2005 have fared to this point.
Quality Versus Quantity
Looked at from one perspective, the Big East Freshmen Class of ’05 was reasonably strong as 18 of those 60 individuals (30.0%) were listed among the Top 100 recruits in the country according to RSCI – a widely-known composite ranking system. Additionally, at least three other incoming freshmen were included on two or more individual Top 100 lists.
From another perspective, however, the new group of conference players was pedestrian compared to those of a few other conferences. Not a single Big East incoming freshman that year was ranked among the Top 20 on RSCI, and only one – Eric Devendorf of Syracuse – made RSCI’s Top 25 (#22). In fact, only four others Big East newcomers managed to crack RSCI’s Top 50: Notre Dame’s Luke Zeller (#34), Marquette’s Dominic James (#36), Louisville’s Terrence Williams (#44), and Cincinnati’s Devan Downey (#50).
How many members of this initial group of 60 will display their skills at conference schools this season? Many Big East fans may find the answer somewhat surprisingly: only 37 of the original group of 60 are included on this year’s various Big East rosters. Two of the original 60 – Wilson Chandler of DePaul and Joe Alexander of West Virginia –are now in the NBA. The other 21 players, for the most part, transferred to other schools.
In essence, this means that 38.3% of the members of this class – nearly two in five - no longer attend the school they originally signed with. In fact, 13 of the league’s 16 schools have had at least one 2005 recruit leave their program during the past three years.
For the record, the losses were not limited to the “marginal” high-major recruit. In fact, of the initial group of 18 Top 100 recruits, only 13 will play in the Big East this season. Besides Chandler (# 56), former UConn recruit Marcus Johnson (#51), former Louisville recruit Bryan Harvey (#62), and former DePaul recruit Rashad Woods (#78), along with Downey (#50), all transferred to other institutions.
So how has each school’s recruiting class fared to this point? After all, initial rankings are interesting, but meaningless. To answer that question I have endeavored to update the rankings for the Big East recruiting Class of 2005. Only players who were incoming freshmen for the 2005-2006 season are included.
Dominic James (#36 RSCI) – three year starter – Big East ROY as freshman - first-team all-conference as sophomore, second-team all-conference as junior – averaged 12.9 ppg and 4.4 apg last season - ninth in conference in assists, fifth in assist/turnover ratio for conference games;
Jerel McNeal (#57 RSCI) – three year starter – Big East Defensive Player of Year as sophomore – second-team all-conference as sophomore and junior – averaged 14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg last season – nineteenth in conference in scoring, twelfth in assists, second in steals, fourteenth in assist/turnover ratio during conference games;
Wesley Matthews (#61 RSCI) – three year starter – averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg last season – eighth in conference in free throw percentage in league games;
Dwight Burke – part-time starter as junior – last season averaged 2.5 ppg and 2.9 rpg in 11.8 mpg – likely starter this season at center;
Matt Mortenson – played little as freshman – later suspended from team for breaking NCAA rules and left school;
Conclusion: With three certain four-year starters (barring injury), two of whom have already earned all-conference honors twice each, the impact of this class has been enormous: a record of 31-19 in regular-season conference games over the last three seasons and three straight NCAA tournament appearances. James has a good chance of becoming Marquette’s all-time leading scorer, and McNeal could easily end up #2 or #3. Matthews defers to his two high-profile teammates, but he, too, enters his final season having already accumulated more than 1,000 career points.
Sam Young (#58 RSCI) – became starter as junior after being solid reserve first two seasons – first-team all-conference as junior – averaged 18.1 ppg (second in conference for conference games) and 6.1 rpg last season – legitimate candidate this year for Big East Player of the Year;
Tyrell Biggs (#71 RSCI) – solid reserve all three years – averaged 5.4 ppg and 4.1 rpg last season – would have been a starter at either the 4 or the 5 on most other conference teams;
Levance Fields (#93 RSCI) – solid reserve as freshman – starter last two seasons though missed much of last year with broken foot – second-team all-conference as sophomore – averaged 11.9 ppg and 5.3 apg last season – third in assists per game for conference games;
Trevor Ferguson – signed with Panthers and attended school in the summer of 2005 – left school before start of fall semester – eventually transferred to North Carolina State;
Conclusion: With three Top 100 RSCI recruits, a great deal was expected from this class. Both Young and Fields have become legitimate all-conference candidates, and Biggs is one of the most reliable frontcourt reserves in the league.
Sharaud Curry – starter as freshman and sophomore – missed almost all of last season with foot injury – reclassified as fourth-year junior – averaged 15.3 ppg and 4.4 apg overall as sophomore – earned honorable mention all-conference that year;
Geoff McDermott – three year starter – averaged 10.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.9 apg overall as junior – in league games ranked fifth in conference in rebounding, fourth in assists, tenth in steals - honorable mention all-conference as sophomore and junior – one of league’s most versatile players;
Weyinmi Efejuku – averaged over 22 mpg as a freshman, over 30 mpg as a soph, and over 25 mpg as a junior – averaged 11.6 ppg and 3.7 rpg overall last season - has all-conference potential but has been plagued by inconsistency;
Jonathan Kale – solid three-year reserve – averaged 4.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg overall in 13.8 mpg last season – was ranked #93 by Hoopmasters' coming out of high school;
Conclusion: McDermott is one of the best returning players in the conference, and Sharaud is a major scoring threat at point guard. Given the fact none of these players was even close to a consensus Top 100 recruit, they have carved out pretty nice college careers so far. This class has yet to participate in the NCAA Tournament, though it might have last season had Curry been healthy. That’s the next step.
4) Notre Dame:
Ryan Ayers (#97 RSCI) – became a starter as a junior after seeing limited time as a freshman and double-digit minutes off the bench as a sophomore – averaged 7.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg overall last season – strength is his perimeter shooting (45.1% of three-pointers);
Luke Zeller (#34 RSCI) – three-year reserve whose mpg has dropped each year – averaged 4.5 ppg and 2.2 rpg in 11.8 mpg overall last season – despite his height (6’11”) is primarily a perimeter player – nearly two thirds of his shots last year were from behind the arc;
Kyle McAlarney – was not Top 100 RSCI but was ranked #66 by Rivals, #91 by Scout, and #92 by Hoopmasters coming out of high school – averaged 22.4 mpg as frosh, missed most of sophomore season following dismissal from school, evolved into one of most dangerous offensive players in the conference as junior – averaged 15.6 ppg (fourteenth in conference games) and 3.8 apg (thirteenth) and led the league in both three-point shooting percentage at 46.3% and three-pointers made per game (3.4) – earned first-team all conference as junior;
Zach Hillesland – hardly saw the court as a freshman, then became solid reserve as a soph and part-time starter as a junior – averaged 6.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg in 22.4 mpg overall last season – will probably start this season;
Conclusion: Zeller was supposed to be the star of this class, but he’s fallen far short of fans’ initial expectations. Ayers, another Top 100 recruit, is basically a complementary role player. McAlarney is the star of this group and could end up in the NBA despite his lack of height. Hillesland may be X Factor this year as he is a much better player than most non-Irish fans give him credit for. Ironically, the highest-rated recruit, Zeller, may be the only one that does not start as a senior.
Eric Devendorf (#22 RSCI) – starter as freshman and sophomore – missed most of last season due to torn ACL – received medical red-shirt status – as sophomore averaged 14.8 ppg and 4.1 apg overall and earned honorable mention all-conference;
Arinze Onuaku – played limited minutes as freshman – was a medical redshirt sophomore year – last year as starter averaged 12.7 ppg and 8.1 rpg overall – in conference play averaged 8.4 rpg, which ranked seventh in the league;
Andy Rautins – missed all of last season after tearing his ACL the previous summer – as a frosh he saw little playing time – then averaged 7.2 ppg in 21.2 mpg as a sophomore;
Conclusion: The odds of all three members of this class receiving a medical red-shirt year have to be extremely long, but that’s exactly what has happened. Back in the fall of 2005, Devendorf was the consensus pre-season pick to be Big East Rookie of the Year, but he fell a bit short. Still, he is one of the most dangerous and most versatile scorers in the league. Onuaku may well be the biggest surprise of the entire class still playing in the league. He became a major force both offensively and defensively last season and should vie for all-conference honors this year. Rautins is a terrific long-range shooter who is the perfect complement for the rest of the Orange’s slashers and interior players.
Jeff Adrien (#53 RSCI) – averaged 16.0 mpg as frosh, then started as sophomore and junior – in conference games averaged 15.4 ppg (fifteenth in league) and 9.0 rpg (fourth in league) – earned second-team all-conference as sophomore and first-team as junior;
Craig Austrie – started first semester freshman year until Marcus Williams finished serving his suspension – has been solid back-up the rest of his career – averaged 7.5 ppg in 22.3 mpg overall last season playing both the 1 and the 2;
Marcus Johnson (#51 RSCI) – played limited minutes as a freshman - part-time starter as sophomore but still averaged only 16.7 mpg – transferred to USC during junior year;
Robert Garrison – limited role player in first two seasons at UConn – transferred to Niagra and sat out last year;
Conclusion: This class has fallen short of its considerable promise because Johnson never lived up to the expectations that come with being a near-Top 50 recruit. Adrien, however, has proven to be a beast, especially on the glass, despite being described as “undersized.” Austrie has developed into a reliable back-up, while Garrison was a last-minute insurance policy following Laptopgate.
7) West Virginia:
Alex Ruoff – played only 83 minutes as a freshman, then started as sophomore and junior – averaged 13.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg overall last season – dangerous long-range shooter (41.0% on treys);
Joe Alexander – played only 36 minutes as a freshman, then started as sophomore – blossomed into first-team all-conference junior year – in conference games averaged 16.8 ppg (seventh in the league) – also ranked seventh in blocked shots in league games - drafted in first round of NBA draft by Milwaukee Bucks;
Conclusion: This two-person class far exceeded expectations. Alexander was almost certainly the biggest surprise of the original group of 60 as I’m sure no one predicted an NBA career for him, let alone his being an early-entry first-round pick. Ruoff has also become one of the better all-around guards in the league and should be an all-conference candidate this season. Had Alexander stayed for his senior season, this ranking would have been considerably higher.
Terrence Williams (#44) RSCI) – three-year starter averaged 11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 4.5 apg overall last season – in conference games ranked ninth in rebounding at 7.3 rpg and sixth in assists at 4.8 apg – earned second-team all-conference both sophomore and junior years – extremely versatile offensive player;
Andre McGee – (#76 RSCI) – occasional starter who has been primarily a solid reserve his first three years – last year averaged 6.5 ppg and 1.9 apg overall in 20.3 mpg;
Bryan Harvey – ((#62 RSCI) – averaged only 9 mpg as freshman – transferred to Fresno State – last season declared academically ineligible after first semester – did not return to the program this year;
Chad Millard – averaged 12.2 mpg as freshman – transferred to Creighton;
Jonathan Huffman – averaged only 4.2 mpg over first two years at Louisville – transferred to Iona;
Conclusion: Aside from Cincinnati’s one-and-done class, this has to be the most disappointing 2005 recruiting class in the conference. It was generally ranked higher than Marquette’s and Pittsburgh’s classes even though all three had three consensus Top 100 recruits. Harvey, Millard, and Huffman contributed little in their brief Cardinal careers, and McGee has averaged only 18.8 mpg over his three year career. Were it not for Williams’ evolution into a second-team all conference performer, Louisville’s rank would have dropped even lower.
J. R. Inman (#87 RSCI) – three-year starter – averaged 12.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg overall last season - potential second-team or honorable mention all-conference this year;
Anthony Farmer – three-year starter – averaged 10.2 ppg, 2.3 apg overall and shot 40.0% on three-pointers last season;
Jaron Griffin – solid reserve as freshman – starter as sophomore and junior – averaged 7.5 ppg and 3.2 rpg overall last season;
Zack Gibson – played in only 10 games for total of 45 minutes as freshman – transferred to Michigan;
Conclusion: While both Inman and Farmer are three-year starters and have put up decent stats, neither has improved substantially since his freshman year. As for Griffin, he would have come off the bench on almost every other team in the conference the past two years instead of starting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his minutes decrease substantially this season given the Knights’ incoming recruiting class. But the bottom line is still wins and losses, not individual stats, and from that standpoint this group has not managed to accumulate many Ws to this point.
Dante Cunningham – solid reserve as freshman – starter as sophomore and junior – averaged 10.4 ppg and 6.5 rpg overall last season;
Shane Clark – solid reserve as freshman – part-time starter as sophomore and junior – averaged 7.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 22.3 mpg overall last season – was ranked #79 by Scout and #87 by Hoopmasters in Class of 2005 coming out of prep school;
Dwayne Anderson – played only 55 minutes total in 14 games as freshman and averaged only 9.2 mpg in 23 games as sophomore – became part-time starter as junior and averaged 6.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg overall in 21.0 mpg;
Frank Tchuisi – in three years has played a total of 69 minutes in 30 games;
Bilal Benn – averaged only 5.3 mpg as frosh and 9.6 mpg as sophomore – transferred to Niagra;
Conclusion: For the Wildcats it’s a case of quantity over quality. Only Cunningham has become a regular starter. He’s a consistent, solid contributor, but he falls far short of all-conference/impact player status. Clark has been a mild disappointment given the fact he made some Top 100 rankings. Anderson did little for two years and Tchuisi is virtually a non-factor.
11) St. John’s:
Anthony Mason, Jr. – starter all three years – averaged 14.0 ppg and 4.4 rpg overall last season – honorable mention all-conference as junior – ranked #83 by Scout and #97 by Hoopmasters coming out of high school;
Tomas Jasiulionis – averaged 7.0 mpg as frosh, 10.4 mpg as sophomore, and 11.0 mpg as junior – has averaged only 1.8 ppg so far over his three-year career – not likely to see more playing time this season;
Ricky Torres – played little as freshman and sophomore – transferred to Maryland – Baltimore County and sat out last year;
Conclusion: The reality is that Mason, who is a versatile inside/outside threat, is the only one out of this group who has contributed beyond the minimum over the past three years. Given that fact, it’s somewhat surprising that five conference teams’ 2005 recruiting classes rank below this one at this point.
Jabari Currie – playing time has decreased each season, from a high of 22.2 mpg as a freshman to 15.0 mpg last season – averaged only 4.4 ppg and 2.5 apg overall as junior – despite being demoted from part-time starter to reserve, should vie for starting point guard position again this year;
Wilson Chandler (#56 RSCI) – started as frosh and earned second-team all-conference as sophomore – declared for NBA draft after sophomore year – played in 35 games for Knicks last season;
Rashad Woods (#78 RSCI) – played in only eight games as frosh – transferred to junior college after freshman year – played at Kent State last season;
Conclusion: For a Top 100 recruit Woods was a complete bust his single year with the Demons. Chandler had two respectable seasons, but the key word here is “two.” More was expected from Currie than he’s shown. The fact that Cliff Clinkscales – a guy who was a virtual non-threat to score – beat him out for the starting point guard spot a year ago pretty much says it all. With two Top 100 recruits, DePaul fans had visions of an auspicious run in the Big East. Now all that’s left is a guy who will have to battle to be a starter as a senior.
13) Seton Hall:
Paul Gause – solid reserve all three years – played in only 16 games last season due to injury – averaged 7.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, and 2.8 spg overall last season – terrific defender – could earn starting slot this season;
John Garcia – played limited minutes as frosh due to knee injury suffered at end of high school career – granted medical red-shirt year – played in only13 games as red-shirt frosh – started at center last year but averaged only 20.1 mpg – averaged 6.9 ppg and 7./0 rpg overall – in conference games averaged 6.2 rpg good for twentieth in the league – Scout ranked him #58 in the Class of ’05;
David Palmer – averaged 9.7 mpg as frosh – transferred to Iowa when Coach Orr was fired – sat out one year – averaged only 3.4 mpg in 14 games last season;
Conclusion: Gause is one of the best ball hawks in the conference and provides an immediate energy boost whenever he enters the game. He could end up starting alongside Harvey this year. Garcia is a tough rebounder and can score down low, but he’s often a liability on defense, and he can’t play at the pace his coach prefers. It’s a shame injuries have undermined his college career to such a great extent.
Jessie Sapp – started the past two seasons after being a solid reserve as a freshman – averaged 9.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 3.2 apg overall last season – made 41.1% of three-pointers – Rivals ranked him #69 nationally coming out of high school;
Marc Egerson – saw limited action as frosh – transferred to Delaware after first semester sophomore year;
Octavius Spann – limited role player for two years – transferred to Marshall and sat out last season – Rivals ranked him at #95 in the Class of ’05;
Josh Thornton – played in only six games as freshman – transferred to Townson after frosh season where he was team’s leading scorer last season – HoopScoop ranked him #77 in the Class of ’05.
Conclusion: This was originally viewed as a respectable (though not spectacular) recruiting class. Losing 75% of the class, none of whom contributed anything of substance during their brief stays at Georgetown lowered the rank to #14. Sapp is a solid Big East guard, but he’s a role player, not an impact player. He’s better than Howard at USF but not as good as Mason.
15) South Florida:
Chris Howard - missed his entire first season and first half of his second season with knee injuries (torn ACLs) – last season as a red-shirt sophomore averaged 8.4 ppg and 4.8 apg overall – was eleventh in assists in conference games with 4.2 apg and twelfth in assist/turnover ratio;
Zaronn Cann – viewed as quality recruit out of high school but sat out his freshman season due to injury – played little as a sophomore, again plagued by injuries – Coach Heath did not renew his scholarship – transferred to D-2 Eckerd College;
Frane Markusovic – played in only four games as frosh – transferred to junior college, then to American University – played little last season.
Conclusion: This was a non-descript group in 2005. At least Howard should end up contributing for three and a half years. But he is probably a below-average point guard for this conference.
Devan Downey (RSCI #50) – started for the Bearcats as a freshman before transferring to South Carolina – would certainly have been an all-conference candidate had he stayed;
Domonic Tilford – hardly played as a freshman before transferring to junior college and then South Alabama – has become a very good player;
DeAndre Coleman – barely saw the court as a freshman before transferring to junior college and then, like Tilford, to South Alabama;
Abdul Herrera – ranked #87 by Scout after his senior year of high school but never played a minute for Coach Cronin – sat out frosh year per NCAA directive – left the program and ended up in junior college before signing with Kansas State for the upcoming season;
Conclusion: Downey gave the Bearcats one good year, which is more than they got from anyone else in this class. Enough said.
All-Big East Honors (Class of 2005)
2006-07 All-BIG EAST First Team
Dominic James, Marquette
2006-07 All-BIG EAST Second Team
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut
Wilson Chandler, DePaul
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
Levance Fields, Pittsburgh
2006-07 All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Sharaud Curry, Providence
Geoff McDermott, Providence
Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
2007-08 All-BIG EAST First Team
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
Sam Young, Pittsburgh, Jr
Joe Alexander, West Virginia
2007-08 All-BIG EAST Second Team
Terrence Williams, Louisville
Dominic James, Marquette
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
2007-08 All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Geoff McDermott, Providence
Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John’s