So, theoretically, there is still a good bit left in the 2011 recruiting cycle, as the second signing period for 2011 isn't until April, but that's a vestige of an earlier time. Most recruits (95 of ESPN's Top 100) are already committed, with the vast majority of them officially signed in the early signing period.
Vanderbilt's 2011 class is already finished, and all three recruits are signed. Meanwhile, top recruits are already making verbal commitments for 2012 (15 of ESPN's Super60 have already made announcements).
2012 will be a big year for Stallings and Co. on the trail and will go a long way to determining whether Vandy continues to rise, levels off, or starts to drop off.
Full disclosure, I really know very little about basketball recruiting, and I'm not going to have any answers, but I think we can all benefit from getting some ideas out there about what where we might be headed.
Currently of our 9 man rotation, six are juniors including all four of our PFs and Cs.
We have 3 current rotation players returning, 2 guys currently redshirting, and 3 players in the Class of 2012. I'd expect Kedren and Dai-Jon to play right away, and that Moats will probably redshirt.
So this is how our roster looks headed into the 2012 recruiting cycle, with their 1-5 positions and expected class level when the 2012 season starts:
Now, I think that's a great start for a lineup. I think our team will look pretty different then, very guard heavy, with most of our front-court being more offense minded. I think we'll score a lot, but as the team stands, we'd be pretty defensively vulnerable to a talented big man. It's also only 8 scholarship players leaving 5 scholarships available.
The immediate needs in 2012 would be almost entirely down low frontcourt, especially at center.
All of our 3 true 4/5 guys will still be very young.
- Henderson, a true C, tall, skilled, but the question will be his ability to defend a big man down low which depends a lot on how much size he can put on, and if he can learn to use that size to play more physically.
- Moats is 6'8", he plays physical, but he'll need to spend next season bulking up so he has the body to go with that style. He's probably more of a PF, but I guess could play 5 if needed if he bulked up quite a bit.
- Siakam is very athletic and we'd love for him to be similar to Lance in the end, but he will likely be a bit of a project. Still Siakam will likely contribute quite a bit by 2012 as a good defender and rebounder off the bench. He can defend the 3 or 4, but is pretty limited offensively.
Given that Vandy will be a very guard-driven team by 2012, the young front-court will probably be OK, but it definitely is thin, and especially lacking in ability to defend a big, talented post player. Odom could contribute some time at the 4, but given that we'll be small already, it's not ideal. Rather we should try to add a couple more players at low post positions, with Odom at the 3 unless absolutely necessary.
Vandy has done very well recently with top 100 talents. According to Rivals (which has records going back longer than ESPN), Parker and Johnson are both top 100. We've had at least 1 top 100 player every recruiting class going back to 2006, and of our current 9 man rotation, 6 were top 100 recruits (and Steve was 4*, but not top 100).
However, in the past 2 years, we've added 4 3* players. If those guys pan out, it will be great, but to compete with UK, UT and UF every year, teams that tend to be loaded with 4 and 5* players, I'd feel much better if we could load up on top 100 guys going forward.
The team as it is set up, will be very young in 2012. I think that the youth really increases the need for true freshmen contributors in 2012. I think that with such a young team, we need a solid 10-man rotation to allow CKS to pick and choose between the young kids based on effectiveness.
The one recruit who Vanderbilt is definitely after for 2012 is Alex Poythress. Poythress is a 6'7", 215 lb junior from Clarksville, and plays on the same travel team as Kedren Johnson. Originally having been thought of as a SF, Poythress is now considered by all 3 recruiting services as a high 4* PF, and could end up as a 5*, especially if he continues to grow.
Poythress is a great rebounder, can defend both the 3 and 4, is a solid shooter, runs well, and is a good passer.
Poythress would be one of the best recruits ever for Vandy, and the success or failure of Stallings in 2012 recruiting depends on large part on landing Poythress. If he does land at Vandy he'll probably play alongside Odom and may start from day 1, giving us a great 3-4 punch, with lots of length and ability to score.
Poythress at the 4 would go a long way to filling out a really solid 2012 team. Still, for 2012 and beyond, the Dores have got to have more than Josh Henderson capable of playing the 5. I hope that we can find that piece in 2012, and in a perfect world, he'd be able to play as a freshman.
That would give us 10 scholarship players. I'd add in a redshirt guy or two for the future, But I think, unless there are 5 guys that are perfect fits in next year's class, I'd want to leave least 2, maybe even 3, scholarships open for 2013.
I think that the youth of the team allows the staff to be very selective in 2012. We have enough passable players at every position, that other than some low post help, all we don't have to take anyone we don't love.
I think we need at least 1 PF and 1 C in 2012. Beyond that I think we should just cast a wide net for top talent at any position. Over the course of the two years we'll probably need 1 guard, a SF, and 2 or 3 post players, but if I were CKS, I would be shooting for the stars here, and not worrying about the positions.
In the last couple of years, (as far back as I know anything) there are two things that have been really typical of Stallings recruits: locality and brains.
For locality, Stallings has landed 4 ESPN Top 100 players in the last 3 years. Of those four, two have been from Tennessee (Johnson and Jenkins) and one from near Atlanta (Parker). There is no doubt, Vandy's best bet for landing top prospects seems to be guys from nearby. Hopefully, that will continue with Poythress, but it's worth noting remembering that when thinking about dream candidates, we don't spread a wide net.
As for brains, when looking at our recruits, some words that turn up pretty often in scouting reports from non-local guys are "basketball IQ" or "cerebral." This includes Odom, Moats, Henderson. This may be because CKS targets smart players, or more likely because the kids who are smart on the court, are also smart in the classroom and that helps get them to Vandy (Example of this is Fuller, though not noted for his basketball IQ, also had Stanford and Cal among his finalists). In any case, we do well with the smart kids. (Not for nothing, I'm pretty sure Poythress is supposed to be pretty intelligent).
The only other really common factor in Vandy commits is heart. When picking his projects, Stallings likes guys with a lot of heart like Fes, Steve and Siakam. These guys also tend to be really high character, but that seems to be a pretty common theme with all our people.
In any case, if the player you want isn't local and/or pretty smart, the odds probably aren't great.
The next two recruiting cycles will be big for the Dores. With 5 scholarships in 2012, plus another in 2013, CKS will need to fill in the holes from our terrific current junior class. So feel free to talk up whoever you think might be a target.
(Note: As much as I'd love to know what it says on the Rivals and Scout sights I can't afford, remember not to share any premium stuff.)