When Steve Lavin took over as head coach at St. John's in March, he highlighted the need to "protect your backyard" in recruiting.
Lavin was referring to keeping the Big Apple's best basketball talent at home. But his initial recruiting effort at St. John's suggest he may have been warning coaches in Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to monitor their backyards, as well.
The Red Storm signed players from each of those states in addition to New York City products
, a 6-foot-7 forward from Queens, and 6-9 Dwight Meikle
, a Uniondale native playing this season at Quality Education Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Despite the national flavor of the class, Lavin assigned special importance to the signing of Harkless, rated No. 42 in MaxPreps.com's 2011 Top 100.
"Maurice is the best player in New York City," Lavin said via press release. "In terms of attracting top New York City talent, Maurice is going to be our 'pied piper.' His choice in coming to St. John's will lead other elite local talent back to New York City's college basketball program."
The program will welcome four other Top 100 selections to campus next fall. Three-point specialist D'Angelo Harrison of Fort Bend Dulles (Sugar Land, Texas) checks in at No. 50 followed by No. 57 Jakarr Sampson, who left LeBron James' alma mater – St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) – to play at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) this season. Wings Dominique Pointer (No. 67) and Amir Garrett (No. 95) round out the blue-chip additions.
Lavin tapped his West Coast roots for Garrett, who played at Leuzinger (Lawndale, Calif.) as a junior before moving on to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), and yet another rangy forward in Norvel Pelle (6-9, 200). The latter will be in contention for a Top 100 ranking this winter after sitting out a year ago following a transfer.
Junior college guard Nurideen Lindsey is no throw-in. The sophomore from Philadelphia scored 48 points in his debut at Redlands College in Oklahoma.
It adds up to the fourth-best class nationally for St. John's as Wednesday marked the end of the early signing period. Kentucky remains No. 1, while Duke (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and Arkansas (No. 5) complete the top five.
College basketball's regular signing period runs from April 13-May 18, 2011.
Top 25 Recruiting Classes
* Signed Letter of Intent (as announced by school)
Top 100 commitments/signees: No. 1 Michael Gilchrist * (6-7, 190, F); No. 6 Anthony Davis * (6-9, 185, F); Marquis Teague * (6-1, 170, G); No. 19 Kyle Wiltjer * (6-9, 220, F)
Other commitments/signees: None
The Wildcats are still in the hunt for Alabama shooting guard Trevor Lacey, the No. 22 prospect in MaxPreps.com's 2011 Top 100. Lacey opened his senior season with a 50-point performance against Birmingham Parker, then followed with 39 against Harvest Sparkman.
Top 100: No. 2 Austin Rivers * (6-3, 185, G); No. 12 Quinn Cook * (6-0, 175, G); No. 41 Michael Gbinije * (6-6, 190, G/F); No. 75 Marshall Plumlee * (7-0, 220, F/C)
Rivers is a surefire star as soon as he arrives in Durham, while Cook and Gbinije are ready to contribute immediately. Here's hoping Plumlee joins brothers and current Blue Devils Mason and Miles in a three-Plumlee lineup.
3. Ohio State
No. 7 LaQuinton Ross
(6-8, 200, G/F); No. 17 Amir Williams
* (6-10, 220, F/C); No. 23 Shannon Scott
* (6-2, 175, G); No. 87 Samuel Thompson
* (6-7, 185, G/F)Other:
Trey McDonald * (6-9, 230, F)
With fab frosh Jared Sullinger shooting over 70 percent from the floor and averaging 22.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in his first two games at Ohio State, it's already time for Thad Matta to start looking for a replacement. While Williams won't be ready to make the instant impact Sullinger is, he is a big body with a world of potential.
4. St. John's
Top 100: No. 42 Maurice Harkless * (6-7, 190, F); No. 50 D'Angelo Harrison * (6-3, 185, G); No. 57 Jakarr Sampson * (6-7, 195, F); No. 67 Dominique Pointer (6-6, 195, G/F); No. 95 Amir Garrett * (6-6, 205, G/F)
Other: Nurideen Lindsey * (6-4, 175, G, junior college transfer); Dwight Meikle (6-9, 185, F); Norvel Pelle * (6-9, 200, F/C)
With 10 seniors on the Red Storm roster, Steve Lavin loaded up with quality replacements, including players from California, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Texas. The former UCLA head coach also sampled the local talent with Harkless and Meikle.
Top 100: No. 43 Rashad Madden * (6-4, 175, G); No. 49 B.J. Young * (6-2, 160, G); No. 55 Hunter Mickelson * (6-9, 205, F); No. 83 Devonta Abron * (6-7, 215, F); No. 90 Aaron Ross * (6-8, 220, F)
Razorback head coach John Pelphrey took advantage of a big year for Arkansas talent, landing in-state stars Madden, Mickelson and Ross.
Top 100: No. 11 Myck Kabongo * (6-2, 175, G); No. 29 Sheldon McClellan * (6-5, 185, G); No. 62 Julien Lewis * (6-3, 185, G)
Other: Jonathan Holmes * (6-8, 190, F)
The Longhorns were stung by the loss of 6-8 California forward De'Andre Daniels (uncommitted), so keeping Kabongo on board after he waffled was huge.
7. North Carolina
Top 100: No. 8 James McAdoo * (6-8, 205, F); No. 10 P.J. Hairston * (6-6, 225, G/F)
Other: Jackson Simmons (6-7, 190, F, expected to walk-on)
Indiana beat out the Tar Heels for Cody Zeller, brother of UNC junior Tyler Zeller, but adding two of the Top 10 seniors in America to a roster without a scholarship senior has to please Roy Williams.
Top 100: No. 15 Wayne Blackshear * (6-5, 215, G/F); No. 51 Chane Behanan * (6-7, 235, F); No. 74 Zach Price * (6-9, 230, F/C)
Other: Angel Nunez (6-7, 190, G/F), Ryan Taylor (6-5, 205, G/F)
Taylor's situation is tenuous but the Cardinal frontcourt has been addressed in a big way with Blackshear, Behanan and Price.
Top 100: No. 18 Nick Johnson * (6-3, 190, G); No. 30 Josiah Turner * (6-3, 185, G); No. 85 Sidiki Johnson * (6-8, 220, F)
The Nick Johnson-Turner backcourt should keep fans at the McKale Center entertained.
Top 100: No. 34 Michael Shaw * (6-8, 225, F); No. 40 Mycheal Henry * (6-5, 220, G/F); No. 82 Tracy Abrams * (6-2, 180, G)
Other: Nnanna Egwu * (6-9, 210, F/C)
For the second straight year, Bruce Weber assembles an elite recruiting class without leaving the state of Illinois.
11. West Virginia
Top 100: No. 44 Aaron Brown * (6-5, 205, G/F); No. 64 Tommie McCune * (6-7, 190, F); No. 68 Jabarie Hinds * (5-11, 165, G)
Other: Pat Forsythe * (6-10, 210, C), Keaton Miles * (6-6, 185, G/F)
Bob Huggins spreads his wings with commitments from players in five different states.
Top 100: No. 60 Myles Mack * (5-9, 160, G)
Other: Kadeem Jack * (6-8, 210, F), Malick Kone (6-6, 185, F), Greg Lewis * (6-9, 215, F/C), Derrick Randall * (6-8, 225, F), Jerome Seagears * (6-0, 175, G), Michael Taylor * (6-3, 185, G)
Even though he isn't listed as a Top 100 player, Jack is the headliner in first-year head coach Mike Rice's class. The former New York City star is using this year to fine tune things at a prep school in New Jersey.
Top 100: No. 4 Quincy Miller * (6-9, 210, F); No. 45 Deuce Bello * (6-4, 175, G)
Baylor basketball fans must think they are dreaming with two Top 50 players on the way to Waco and another already committed in the 2012 class.
14. Mississippi State
Top 100: No. 26 Rodney Hood * (6-8, 190, F); No. 61 Deville Smith * (5-9, 180, G); No. 72 David Gardner * (6-6, 185, G/F)
This All-Mississippi trio should help extend the Bulldogs' run of four-straight 20-win seasons.
Top 100: No. 36 Rakeem Christmas * (6-9, 225, F/C); No. 52 Michael Carter-Williams * (6-5, 175, G); No. 88 Trevor Cooney * (6-3, 190, G)
The Orange quietly landed three solid role players. Carter-Williams committed over a year ago, Cooney in February and Christmas in August.
16. Virginia Tech
Top 100: No. 25 Dorian Finney-Smith * (6-7, 190, F); No. 80 Marquis Rankin * (5-11, 170, G); No. 92 C.J. Barksdale * (6-7, 190, F)
Other: Robert Brown * (6-4, 180, G)
Led by Finney-Smith, this quartet could finally help put Seth Greenberg's NCAA Tournament bubble woes behind him.
Top 100: No. 56 Levi Randolph * (6-5, 185, G/F); No. 65 Nick Jacobs * (6-8, 235, F/C)
Other: Rodney Cooper * (6-6, 210, G/F); Moussa Gueye * (7-0, C, junior college transfer)
Anthony Grant continues to stock the Crimson Tide roster with talent.
Top 100: No. 58 Dai-Jon Parker * (6-3, 185, G); No. 100 Shelby Moats * (6-9, 225, F)
Other: Kedren Johnson * (6-3, 200, G)
Parker teams with Ohio State-bound Shannon Scott and Georgia Tech-bound Julian Royal at Milton High School in Georgia, ranked No. 2 preseason nationally.
19. Michigan State
Top 100: No. 16 Branden Dawson * (6-6, 205, G/F)
Other: Dwaun Anderson * (6-3, 195, G), Brandan Kearney * (6-6, 180, G/F), Travis Trice * (6-0, 170, G)
Dawson averaged more than 14 rebounds per game as a junior at Lew Wallace High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.
20. Oklahoma State
Top 100: No. 13 LeBryan Nash * (6-7, 220, F)
Other: Karron Johnson * (6-8, 225, F, junior college transfer)
Johnson, one of the nation's top junior college prospects, averaged 22 points and nearly eight rebounds per game as a freshman at Moberly Community College in Missouri before moving on to Midland College in Texas this season.
Top 100: No. 24 Tony Wroten Jr. * (6-4, 195, G)
Other: Andrew Andrews * (6-2, 175, G), Jernard Jarreau * (6-10, 190, F), Hikeem Stewart * (6-3, 180, G)
Lorenzo Romar is the perfect coach to handle Wroten's brash style – and maybe even help him find a consistent jumper.
Top 100: No. 14 Jabari Brown * (6-3, 200, G)
Other: Bruce Barron * (6-3, 185, G), Brett Kingma * (6-1, 170, G), Austin Kuemper * (6-9, 220, F/C)
New Duck coach Dana Altman pulled off a shocker by gaining Brown's commitment. Must have been the new court.
Top 100: No. 76 Wesley Saunders (6-6, 185, G)
Other: Max Hooper (6-5, 200, G/F); Corbin Miller (6-1, 170, G); Steve Moundou-Missi (6-7, 215, F); Kenyatta Smith (6-7, 270, F); Jonah Travis (6-6, 215, G/F)
Tommy Amaker has upped the recruiting profile in unimaginable ways at Harvard.
24. Boston College
Top 100: No. 97 Kyle Caudill * (7-0, 265, C)
Other: Ryan Anderson * (6-8, 215, F); Dennis Clifford * (6-10, 215, F/C); Lonnie Jackson * (6-3, 170, G); Eddie Odio * (6-7, 185, F)
Eagles went to California to land Caudill, Anderson and Jackson.
Top 100: No. 53 Tyler Adams (6-9, 255, F/C); No. 84 Mikael Hopkins (6-9, 210, F)
Other: Jabril Trawick (6-4, 180, G)
Big men Adams, a former Duke commitment, and Hopkins look to continue Hoyas' frontcourt tradition.