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2015 Early Signing Period Breakdown: Big 12

  • Best Player: Kameron McGusty, Oklahoma
  • Best Potential: Emmanuel Malou, Iowa State
  • Best Scorer: Jacob Young, Texas
  • Best Shooter: Thomas Dziagwa, Oklahoma State
  • Best Rebounder: Solomon Young, Iowa State
  • Best Passer: Darrion Strong, Oklahoma
  • Best Defender: Sagaba Konate, West Virginia
  • Best Glue Guy: Chase Harler, West Virginia
  • Best Athlete: Mark Vital, Baylor

1. Oklahoma Sooners

Darrion Strong | 6′-2″ | PG | Coffeyville CC (KS)
Kameron McGusty | 6′-5″ | SG | Sunrise Christian (KS)
Kristian Doolittle | 6′-8″ | PF | Edmond Memorial (OK)
Matt Freeman | 6′-9″ | C | Westlake (NZ)

Kameron McGusty (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
Kameron McGusty (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

The Sooners took a fairly eclectic route to put together their quartet of early signing period newcomers, but it rates as the top class in a Big 12 haul was which lacking in comparison to other high-major conferences. Two high school prospects and a international and junior college signee comprise a solid haul.

The two high school prospects include the current highest-rated newcomer to the Big 12 in shooting guard Kameron McGusty. He has great size and is considered a do-it-all prospect, while in-state power forward Kristian Doolittle was an important addition to bolster the post ranks. Unsurprisingly Doolittle became a priority recruit after averaging a double-double as a high school junior.

Physically mature point guard Darrion Strong will be able to create off the dribble and minimize mistakes from day one. He was an All-American performer in the junior college ranks as a freshman and as a result the Minnesota-native is considered a top-25 junior college player nationally. Up front, Matt Freeman of New Zealand looks promising down the line in the paint, and will get an early jump start in Norman by enrolling in January, 2016. Freeman turned some heads by averaging almost 18 points per game in the 2015 adidas Nations Global event.

2. Iowa State Cyclones

Donovan Jackson | 6′-2″ | SG | Iowa Western CC (IA)
Jakolby Long | 6′-4″ | SG | Mustang (OK)
Solomon Young | 6′-7″ | PF | Sacramento (CA)
Emmanuel Malou | 6′-8″ | SF | Yuba College (CA)
Cameron Lard | 6′-9″ | PF | Landry-Walker (LA)

Solomon Young (Vernon Bryant/adidas)
Solomon Young (Vernon Bryant/adidas)

Iowa State is expected to have significant losses from the 2015 roster, and new head coach Steve Prohm’s class will certainly go a long way into determining if he can maintain the talent-level his predecessor Fred Hoiberg was able to incorporate into the program.

The early returns are positive with five solid newcomers. Perhaps the most touted of the prospects is junior college transfer Emmanuel Malou. Hailing from Australia, Malou was a double-double performer in the junior college ranks and may have as much potential as any current newcomer to the Big 12.  Another solid two-year transfer, Donovan Jackson, has already proven himself against college competition. He can provide scoring and also has the ability to nail 3-point shots with regularity. He could play from day one.

Three high schoolers provide balance to the programs depth chart, forwards Solomon Young and Cameron Lard, and wing Jakolby Long. Young is a power player who is known from his toughness and ability to rebound and defend, along with scoring in the paint. Like Young, Long was a balanced player at the high school level and rebounds well for his position. Long is versatile enough to help in both the backcourt and frontcourt. While Young and Long are both physical players, Lard has perhaps has more upside. He is still a bit thin at 220 pounds on his 6′-9″ frame, but he has been an effective interior performer on the grassroots circuit and his best playing days are certainly ahead of him.

3. Texas Longhorns

Jacob Young | 6′-0″ | PG | Yates (TX)
James Banks | 6′-10″ | C | La Lumiere School (IN)

The Shaka Smart-era in Austin will require a transition and remake of the roster, and the 2016 recruiting cycle is the first effort to that end. In-state guard Jacob Young is the brother of former Oregon standout Joseph Young, and hails from one of Houston’s most prominent high school programs at Yates. His scoring nature and explosive bounce should allow him to see time in both guard slots. The Longhorns also nabbed James Banks as a true big man to help off-set graduation losses in the paint. Banks is far from a finished project, but is a run and jump athlete who can provide a defensive force on the inside. Banks may be pressed into service before he’s ready, but the talent level is there for him to be a good starter in the Big 12.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Thomas Dziagwa | 6′-4″ | PG | Tampa Catholic (FL)
Lindy Waters III | 6′-6″ | SG | Sunrise Christian (KS)
Cameron McGriff | 6′-8″ | PF | South Grand Prairie (TX)
Gorjok Gak | 6′-11″ | C | Victory Rock (FL)

Head coach Travis Ford is rightly excited about the versatility and depth this class can add to the roster in Stillwater. Things were kicked off when two promising high school prospects committed to Oklahoma State within days of each other in the Fall. Guard Thomas Dziagwa has ball skills and is considered a top notch shooter. His best chance at early time is probably off the ball as a defense stretcher. The Cowboys also hit a familiar stomping ground in the Dallas-area to pluck Cameron McGriff, a borderline top 100 player nationally. He needs to add strength but has the skill-level and agility to help out as he adjusts to the physicality of D-1 play. Also in the frontcourt, Gorjok Gak is originally from Australia and had a bevy of high-major suitors before picking the Cowboys. He is known as a good athlete who can run the floor. Oklahoma State also plucked Norman-native Lindy Waters III as a key addition. Waters III is known as an all-around player, and like Dziagwa can really stroke the outside shot with regularity. His size, athleticism and handle make him capable of impacting in several roles.

5. Baylor Bears

Mark Vital | 6′-5″ | SF | Advanced Prep International (TX)
Numi Omot | 6′-8″ | PF | Indian Hills CC (IA)

Mark Vital (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
Mark Vital (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Strong wing Mark Vital was one of the first prominent pledges in the 2016 class and he held firm to play college hoops in Waco. Vital has a frame built to withstand the rigors of high-major basketball and is experienced by playing against a high-level of competition on the grassroots circuit, in addition to at the now defunct Prime Prep (TX). A consensus top-75 prospect, Vital is a true power player. Baylor also added a promising junior college big man in Nuni Omot. Hailing from the basketball factory at Indian Hills, Omot took an interesting route in that he starred at D-II Concordia University prior to transferring to a junior college in anticipation of jumping a level. He’s reportedly an outstanding shooter for his size.

6. Kansas Jayhawks

Mitch Lightfoot | 6′-8″ | PF | Gilbert Christian (AZ)

Kansas has three senior big men on the roster, and Mitch Lightfoot projects as a four year program player who can be brought along slowly. Given the way the future roster maps out, Lightfoot could challenge to start as a junior. Lightfoot reportedly averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior. He is considered the top high school prospect in Arizona, and a top 100 player nationally.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers

Brandon Knapper | 6′-1″ | PG | South Charleston (WV)
Chase Harler | 6′-3″ | SG | Central Catholic (WV)
Sagaba Konate | 6′-8″ | C | Kennedy Catholic (PA)
Maciej Bender | 6′-10″ | PF | Mountain Mission (VA)

Head coach Bob Huggins and his staff went way off the radar during the early signing period, picking up two players with international roots, and two in-state signees. Perhaps the most-touted player in the quartet is Sagaba Konate, a native of Mali who has the size (240 pounds) and athleticism to bolster the frontcourt. While not an offensive dynamo, Konate gives West Virginia a rim protector. There’s also reason to be excited about Maciej Bender as a prospect. He is a skilled big man who drew rave reviews from Huggins as a passer. Bender’s experience with Poland’s U18 national team also is promising. A strong in-state prospect, guard Chase Harler was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015, after setting his school’s record for points scored. Harler has a strong all-around skill set. At point guard, Brandon Knapper reportedly has two tenets of West Virginia basketball lately, toughness and scoring from the guard slot. Like Harler, Knapper hits campus after tearing up in-state competition.

8. Kansas State Wildcats

Xavier Sneed | 6′-5″ | SG | Hazelwood Central (MO)
James Love | 6′-10″ | PF | American Heritage (FL)

The Wildcats nabbed two key targets during the early signing period – including a prospect who can contribute early, and another with an eye towards the future. Head coach Bruce Weber is stockpiling size on the Kansas State roster, and James Love is certainly part of that effort. Described as a late bloomer who has only played basketball for three years, it’s clear Love is on a developmental upswing. Xavier Sneed should be ready to hit the hardwood before Love, as he hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers as a high school junior and has ideal size for the wing slot. Sneed could be a solid scorer in the Big 12 with time.

9. TCU Horned Frogs

Josh Parrish | 6′-4″ | SG | Seguin (TX)

It never hurts to have a player on a roster with a skilled younger brother, and that connection enabled the Horned Frogs to sign Josh Parrish, the younger brother of Brandon Parrish. A shooting guard who can get buckets, Josh Parrish was an important prospect for TCU to sign and not let go elsewhere. Head coach Trent Johnson remarked he expects Parrish to establish his versatility and make an impact on the perimeter.

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Keon Clergeot | 6′-1″ | PG | Auburndale (FL)

Texas Tech has dipped into Florida on the recruiting trail as of late, and Keon Clergeot continues that trend. The Red Raiders believe they have a player who can play in both guard slots in Clergeot, and importantly Clergeot has the billing of a combo guard who can be a strong defender of opposing guards.

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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