The Steals of 2007
#1 Barry Latham to Bryant – Steal isn’t even the right word for this. The fact that division II Bryant was able to land the talented swingman over a variety of division I programs will likely pay lasting dividends for Head Coach Max Good and his program as they are bound to sit near the top of the NE-10 standings for the next four years. Consider this: Latham is a lefty; he is extremely long and athletic; he has done a tremendous job of sculpting his body in the last 6 months; he has a throw back mid-range game, good athleticism, and above average three-point range; and he is a lock down defender. If you’re still not convinced how about this…Latham was good enough to play Rakim Sanders evenly in both of their late season match-ups, including the NEPSAC Class “B” Finals where his Marianapolis Prep squad fell just short. Maybe now you understand why Bryant has landed such a recruiting gem and why so many division I schools missed the boat.
#2 Deonte Roberts to Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Roberts had already committed to Wisconsin-Milwaukee before Notre Dame Prep’s season had begun and it turned out to be a good thing for the Panthers as Roberts had a tremendous season teaming with Michael Beasley to lead Notre Dame to the first ever National Prep Championship. Roberts was probably the most effective dribble drive player in the NEPSAC this year and when you add a much improved outside stroke to his game it is easy to see that he could have been playing at a wide variety of high major programs next year.
#3 Mehmet Sahan to Sacred Heart – This season Sahan was recruited by the likes of Providence and West Virginia and yet Sacred Heart was still able to land his services by hanging on until the end. The 6’8 Turkish native is a very skilled player who is most comfortable stepping away from the basket where he can either shoot it from deep or put it on the floor. With a starting line-up that will feature rising sophomore Chauncey Hardy, rising sophomore and BU transfer Corey Hassan, along with Sahan, Sacred Heart should be one of the most high scoring teams in the NEC for years to come.
#4 Mike Howlett to Lehigh – While Sacred Heart was able to get Sahan by hanging around until the end, Lehigh was able to get another skilled forward by beating everyone else to the punch. The Mountain Hawks were said to be everywhere that Howlett and his New Hampshire Playerz team went last summer and it paid off as the New Hampshire native committed to the Patriot League school soon afterward. With Howlett’s size and deadly shooting range from long distance he could have easily been recruited at a higher level had Lehigh allowed the process to continue on into his post-graduate year at New Hampton. Instead, Howlett is a likely member of the all-rookie team in the Patriot League next year.
#5 Christian Yemga to Brandeis – When we traveled to Proctor Academy last fall we wrote that Christian Yemga was a low-major division I player, and we still believe that to be the case. 6’7 small forwards who can handle the ball in the open floor and see the court well enough to play some point forward usually are at a high premium. That’s why we still can’t understand why no one offered a scholarship to Yemga. What we do know for sure is that Brandeis is thrilled to have him. And why wouldn’t they be…Do you know of any other division III program in the country that will have a 6’7 point forward?
#6 RJ Rutledge to Monmouth – Late this winter after Rutledge had turned in terrific performances at the Boys Club Tournament in December as well as the Hoop Hall Classic a few weeks later he was rumored to be heading to Manhattan. But Monmouth continued to make a hard push and eventually won Rutledge over despite competing with the Jaspers and several other mid-major programs. In Rutledge, Monmouth gets a player with great size for the perimeter and a deadly outside stroke who should compete for their starting two guard spot next fall.
#7 Papa Dia to SMU – He turned down a scholarship offer from Rick Pitino and Louisville (as well as Oklahoma) to play for Matt Doherty & SMU…enough said.
#8 Josh Last to Keene St. or Plymouth St. – As we first reported this weekend Josh Last is no longer planning to attend prep school next year and is instead choosing between Keene State and Plymouth State. At either school the point guard will have a tremendous career. With his size, floor vision, and ability to pass the basketball it is surprising, to say the least, that no scholarships came his way. But what is one school’s loss is another’s gain as one Little East Conference school is about to get a potential four year starter.
#9 Manuel Cass to UTEP – Manuel Cass was originally headed to DePaul University and the Big East where he would have been perfectly capable of making a valuable contribution. Instead the 6’8 forward is now headed to UTEP where he should be one of the programs cornerstones from his first moment on campus. Before arriving at South Kent, Cass was known as an athletic power forward. But after a year under South Kent Head Coach and Nike Skill Instructor Raphael Chillious, Cass is now a legitimate three man with the game to score from both the interior and perimeter.
#10 Michael Beasley to Kansas St. – He was the best player in New England, and likely the most talented in the country, so this certainly isn’t a case of a player flying under the radar. But whenever a first year head coach can land a player of this stature it has to go down as a steal. And that is exactly what happened for current Kansas State Head Coach Frank Martin. Martin was Bob Huggins’ top assistant this year but was promoted when Huggins left to take the West Virginia job. When that happened every high major program in the country was hoping to get another shot at landing Beasley but Martin, along with his new Associate Head Coach Dalonte Hill, were able to keep the talented forward in the mix giving them a chance to be among the Big 12’s best next season.