By Jon Rothstein
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– Rutgers‘ expected hiring of Eddie Jordan also means that Scarlet Knights associate head coach David Cox will likely remain on the coaching staff, per multiple sources close to the situation. The decision to retain Cox would lessen the chance that Jordan will have an excess of player defections. We’re also hearing that Jordan will hire New Jersey native and former NBA assistant Mike O’Koren as part of his staff. It is unclear if Jordan will retain assistant Van Macon, who was the lead recruiter a few years ago when Rutgers signed Kadeem Jack. Macon also was the point man in the recruitment of 2013 prospects Shane Rector and Craig Brown. Rector has reopened his commitment after the firing of Mike Rice.
– The Atlantic 10 may have lost brand schools like Butler, Xavier, and Temple, but the conference is positioned to remain extremely competitive moving forward. VCU is the clear flagship program for the league, while La Salle and Saint Louis are set to be borderline Top 25 teams next season. Rhode Island will have a massive turnaround next year under Danny Hurley, and the addition of George Mason gives the conference another quality program with a winning tradition. Umass, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, and Richmond are other schools that have strong bases of talent and should be perennial contenders in the league on an annual basis. The Atlantic 10 may be look different than it did at the start of this season, but the product is still very strong.
– Louisville coach Rick Pitino told me this past week that he could have easily started both Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell during the last month of the season, but didn’t want to mess with the Cardinals’ chemistry. Hancock broke out during the NCAA Tournament, and has the look of a player that could have a special senior season in 13-14. Harrell, meanwhile is set to be a menace in the paint once he takes over for Gorgui Dieng as Louisville’s starting center. If Harrell plays 25 minutes a game next year, he’ll average at least eight points and eight rebounds per contest.
– Former Seton Hall assistant Chris Pompey is expected to join Reggie Theus’ staff at Cal State Northridge, per multiple sources. Pompey’s move to the West Coast opens the door for former Rutgers coach Freddie Hill to join the Kevin Willard’s staff as an assistant. This is a major coup for the Pirates. Hill is a relentless recruiter who knows New Jersey better than anyone. In his time at Rutgers and Villanova, Hill signed Randy Foye, Mike Rosario, and Gregory Echenique. Seton Hall is still in play for 2013 point guard Jaren Sina, who Hill signed while he was an assistant last season at Northwestern. Sina is also considering Alabama and Indiana.
– Incoming Cincinnati guard Kevin Johnson had 21 points and was the MVP of the Ohio/Kentucky All-Star game this past weekend. The Bearcats are counting on both Johnson and fellow freshman Troy Caupain to anchor Cincinnati’s back court as Mick Cronin’s team moves on without Cashmere Wright. The Bearcats’ offensive struggles this past season will hopefully be addressed with their latest recruiting class. Cincinnati’s incoming recruits are Johnson, Caupain, JUCO big man Jamaree Strickland, 6-4 wing DeShaun Morman, and Jermaine Lawrence, a 6-9 face-up forward who is arguably the most talented player Cronin has signed since he’s been at his alma mater.
– Phil Martelli got an absolute steal in St. Patrick’s wing Deandre Bembry. The 6-6 Bembry should have an immediate impact for Saint Joseph’s, and will likely be one of the better first-year players in the Atlantic-10 next season. Bembry doesn’t have a set position, but makes winning plays and has an unbelievable IQ. This is a great get for the Hawks.
– Steve Masiello is beefing up Manhattan’s non-conference schedule for the second consecutive season. The Jaspers open in November at La Salle and will also travel to South Carolina, while returning home to play Fordham, George Washington, and George Mason before MAAC play begins. Masiello did an admirable job last year leading the Jaspers to the MAAC title game without star guard George Beamon, who missed practically the entire season with a medical red shirt. With the return of Beamon, point guard Mike Alvarado, big man Rhamel Brown, and Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey, Manhattan will likely be the favorites to win the MAAC next season.
– Harvard could very well be one of the best teams in the history of the Ivy League next season. The Crimson have five potential all-conference players in Siyani Chambers, Brandyn Curry, Wesley Saunders, Kyle Casey, and freshman Zena Edosomwan. The 6-9 Edosomwan picked Harvard over several high-level programs and should give this team a bonafide presence in the post. Tommy Amaker’s team will play UConn, Boston College, and Fordham as part of their non-conference schedule, while also participating in the Great Alaska Shootout.
– Newly minted New Mexico coach Craig Neal said he isn’t going to tweak too many things with the Lobos next season, but did admit he’d like to play a little faster. “We want to get up and down the floor a little more if we can,” Neal said this past week. “Playing a little faster will create more opportunities for our guards, especially Kendall Williams.” The 6-4 Williams was a big reason why New Mexico won 29 games as well as the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles. “He deserves legitimate consideration to be a preseason All-American,” Neal said of Williams, who averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. The Lobos return four starters from last season, but will have to replace Tony Snell, who opted to leave school early for the NBA Draft. Two prime candidates to compete for Snell’s position are Kansas transfer Merv Lindsay and 6-7 wing Devon Williams.
– The Mary Kline Classic is Sunday, January 2nd at Philadelphia University. Come support a great event with an even better cause, and watch some of the best high school prospects in the country. For more information, go here: http://t.co/eAE7c8M7mo.
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