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2015 Early Signing Period Breakdown: American Athletic

  • Best Player: Alterique Gilbert, UConn
  • Best Potential: Juwan Durham, UConn
  • Best Scorer: Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati
  • Best Shooter:  Corey Henderson, Tulsa
  • Best Rebounder: Mamadou Diarra, UConn
  • Best Passer: Charlie Moore, Memphis
  • Best Defender: Alterique Gilbert, UConn
  • Best Glue Guy: Elijah Hughes, East Carolina
  • Best Athlete: Troy Baxter, South Florida

1. Connecticut Huskies

Alterique Gilbert | 6′-1″ | PG | Miller Grove (GA)
Vance Jackson | 6′-7″ | SF | Prolific Prep (CA)
Juwan Durham | 6′-9″ | PF | Tampa Prep (FL)
Mamadou Diarra | 6′-10″ | C | Woodstock Academy (CT)

Mamadou Diarra (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
Mamadou Diarra (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Overtures from the NBA notwithstanding, head coach Kevin Ollie continues to do a terrific job recruiting to Storrs, and successfully has replenished the Huskies roster with a strong quartet.

During his tenure to date at UConn, Ollie has presided over a veritable guard factory, and Alterique Gilbert continues that trend. Thought of as one of the most heady lead guards in the country, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Gilbert also attended one of the most prominent public school high school basketball programs in the country at Miller Grove. Gilbert should be a multi-year starter at point guard for UConn.

The Huskies also landed two big men in their haul, Juwan Durham and Mamadou Diarra. Durham is blue chip talent, but will miss the senior season of high school with an injury. Assuming he’s fully recovered, he’s a legitimate big man with the capability to be a top 25 player nationally based on his prior performance. In the pivot, Diarra is brought in to be a rim protector and at least an area rebounder. He’s got the potential to be more than that, but if that’s the starting point it will certainly fill a role.

UConn capped their class by signing SoCal native Vance Jackson, a top 100 prospect. A skilled scorer with good size to play on the wing, Jackson’s best days on the hardwood are ahead of him.

2. Memphis Tigers

Charlie Moore | 5′-11″ | PG | Morgan Park (IL)
Jimario Rivers | 6′-8″ | SF | Southwest Tennessee CC (TN)

Head coach Josh Pastner continued his solid recruiting for Memphis, locking up two touted prospects during the early signing period. Chitown lead guard Charlie Moore was a highly sought-after point guard prospect that Pastner and company wrested away from other significant suitors, namely California. An unselfish pass-first point guard, Moore has played for extremely talented teams on the high school and grassroots levels and could help the Tigers with their ball-movement. Top 25 junior college prospect Jimario Rivers is blessed with length and athleticism and was a nice in-state find. He’ll have two years at Memphis, which beat out several SEC programs for his services.

3. Cincinnati Bearcats

Jarron Cumberland | 6′-4″ | SG | Wilmington (OH)
Nysier Brooks | 6′-10″ | C | Advanced Prep International (TX)

The Bearcats had an effective early signing period that netted two playersJarron Cumberland and Nysier Brooks. Each fills a nice on the Cincinnati roster going forward. Cumberland rates as one of the top incoming scorers to the American. While a capable shooter, Cumberland has the chops to get buckets on the regular, perhaps even as an underclassmen. On the interior, Brooks will likely have time to develop and boasts a solid frame at around 240 pounds.  Brooks transferred from New Jersey to finish out high school surrounded by talent in the Dallas-area, and that could help him get up to speed sooner for Cincinnati.

5. South Florida Bulls

Andres Feliz | 6′-2″ | SG | West Oaks Academy (FL)
Malik Fitts | 6′-5″ | SG | Brewster Academy (NH)
Troy Baxter | 6′-7″ | SF | Oldsmar Christian (FL)

Troy Baxter (Chase Whittington/Under Armour)
Troy Baxter (Chase Whittington/Under Armour)

It’s a rebuilding time period for South Florida, but head coach Orlando Antigua landed a top 100 talent to help jumpstart his efforts in what amounts to a solid class. Troy Baxter is the aforementioned legitimate talent as a combination forward and has the potential to be an early starter in Tampa. Baxter has considerable gifts in terms of athleticism and length and can be an all-conference player down the road for South Florida, as he develops. The Bulls are also bullish on Andres Feliz at shooting guard. He’s a national team member in the Dominican Republic and showed his scoring ability in international events in the past. Bolstering the backcourt with Feliz is Malik Fitts, a California-native who finished out high school in the premier prep school program at Brewster Academy. Fitts has a good frame at 215 pounds and gives South Florida the versatility to play a couple positions and score.

6. Temple Owls

Alani Moore | 5′-9″ | PG | Friendship Collegiate (DC)
Quinton Rose | 6′-5″ | SG | Bishop Kearney (NY)
Damion Moore | 6′-10″ | C | Callaway (MS)

Temple and head coach Fran Dunphy got it done on the recruiting trail in the early singing period, inking three recruits. In Alani Moore, the Owls have one of the most savvy point guards in the East Coast, albeit one who is at a size disadvantage quite frequently. Moore has honed his game playing in several prominent high school programs, and as the playmaker and distributor for one of the nation’s top AAU teams, DC Premier. Moore is an adequate passer who can create offense through penetration. His potential teammate in the backcourt, Quinton Rose,  was a star in the Rochester, New York-area, as a multi-year varsity star. He has the size to be a tall guard, and can score and rebound. The Owls also plucked a big man with potential in Damion Moore from Mississippi. He has strength and size, and was on a state championship team as a junior. With that in mind, he’ll need time to make an impact for Temple.

7. Tulane Green Wave

Collin Slater | 6′-0″ | PG | Clovis East (CA)
Justin Moore | 6′-4″ | SG | Mission Bay (CA)
Maxwell Starwood | 6′-8″ | PF | Reno Prep (NV)

Tulane eschewed its Louisiana roots to head west and ink three players during the early signing period. Green Wave fans should be particularly excited about their potential future backcourt of California-natives Collin Slater and Justin Moore. Slater is a skilled point guard with the ability to both score and distribute. Moore can play in either guard slot and was considered by at least one source to be a top 150 player nationally.  He had a standout four year varsity career in San Diego and will be hard to keep off the court for Tulane. Starwood may be playing at a prep school in Nevada this year, but is a native of Louisiana. While at University Lab (LA), Starwood was on back-to-back state championship squads, and a year of post-graduate hoops should only enhance the basketball IQ that head coach Ed Conroy remarked on in a press release. Starwood is considered a versatile inside-outside forward.

8. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Corey Henderson Jr. | 6′-3″ | SG | Blinn College (TX)
Travis Atson | 6′-5″ | SG | Notre Dame Prep (MA)
Lawson Korita | 6′-5″ | SG | Pulaski Academy (AR)
Martins Igbunu | 6′-9″ | PF | Covenant Christian (GA)

The 2016 Golden Hurricane squad will feature plenty of new faces as head coach Frank Haith and his staff are charged with replacing eight scholarship players. Adding some experience right off the bat is scorching outside shooter Corey Henderson Jr. A native of Dallas, Henderson Jr. started college at Wichita State before leaving find a better fit. He’s also capable of playing point guard and could start from day one. Travis Atson and Lawson Korita have good size on the wing, are savvy, and can hit from long range. Korita also has enough guard skills to pitch in at point guard in a pinch. Originally from Nigeria, Igbunu can be a solid foundation piece for the frontcourt. With size and some perimeter skills Igbunu is a promising addition who reportedly continues to develop.

9. SMU Mustangs

Tom Wilson | 6′-5″ | SG | AIS (Australia)
Dashawn McDowell | 6′-5″ | PG | Southeast (OK)

Backcourt size and versatility is the name of the game in the 2016 recruiting cycle for SMU. The Mustangs dipped into their neighboring state, Oklahoma, to nab high-octane scorer Dashawn McDowell, and trekked to Australia to pop Tom Wilson. McDowell can put up points frmo the backcourt slot and could see time in both backcourt slots according to a release from head coach Larry Brown. Wilson heads into Dallas with an impressive international resume, as he was the captain of the U17 and U19 Australian national teams. He score and rebound from the backcourt and clearly has already been recognized for his leadership.

10. East Carolina Pirates

Shawn Williams | 6′-0″ | PG | Southwest Christian (AR)
Elijah Hughes | 6′-6″ | SG | Kennedy Catholic (NY)

East Carolina expects to replenish their backcourt talent with a pair of signees, Shawn Williams and Elijah Hughes. Williams has been well-traveled at the high school level, and is known as a scorer who can hit 3-pointers. Williams can create off the bounce and can get buckets in a hurry when his team needs it. Hughes is arguably the more touted of the duo, and was widely considered a national sleeper due to his size and athleticism at the two-guard position. Hughes didn’t get much exposure nationally, but head coach Jeff Lebo noted he believes Hughes has “unlimited potential” with exceptional versatility.

11. Central Florida Knights

Jeremy Carter-Sheppard | 6′-1″ | SG | John Marshall (VA)
Clayton Hughes | 6′-5″ | SF | University (TN)
Brachen Hazen | 6′-8″ | PF | Columbia City (IN)

Despite the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida, Central Florida left its borders to sign three players from elsewhere. Head coach Donne Jones noted he believes the group boasts strong basketball IQ and will help build the program. Jeremy Carter-Sheppard can play in both guard slots and has winning experience with a state championship under his belt. Central Florida had to beat out Cincinnati, East Carolina and others for his services. Clayton Hughes had SEC interest but picked the Knights for college basketball. He can develop into a solid scorer on the wing as time moves on. On the interior, Brachen Hazen was an all-state selection as a junior and has the size and rebounding ability to increase the Knights’ paint protection.

12. Houston Cougars

Armoni Brooks | 6′-4″ | SG | McNeil (TX)
Valentine Sangoyomi | 6′-11″ | C | Northern Oklahoma JC (OK)

With a pair of newcomers expected to bolster the roster, Houston did a solid job on the recruiting trail. Size is always at a premium, especially in the American and Valentine Sangoyomi can help in that regard. A near 7-footer with 250 pounds on his frame, Sangoyomi will convert on high percentage shots and could be a top rebounder on the 2016 team at Houston. In-state guard Armoni Brooks was also an important addition, as he was considered a top-15 prospect in the loaded Lone Star State and can hit 3-point shots with regularity. Brooks has good size to help on the wing.

About K.J. Hassenstab

K.J. Hassenstab is the publisher of the College Basketball Newcomers Guide book and Hoopniks.com. He founded Hoopniks.com in 2009, and has contributed to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine's HighSchoolHoop.com, and NBCSports.com, along with other publications in the past. Hassenstab has covered grassroots, high school and basketball recruiting for over a decade. Follow on Twitter, @Hoopniks.

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