Diminutive guards from boys and girls program at small school power ink letters of intent during first day of the NCAA’s fall signing period. Few signing surprises around the state as top two boys basketball prospects to wait until Spring. By Ronnie Flores, Managing Editor
On the eve of the 2012-13 basketball season in California, many of the state’s elite players spent the past 48 hours making their futures official.
Wednesday marked the beginning of the NCAA’s fall signing period for several sports, including men’s and women’s hoops. The fall signing period runs through November 21, giving senior prospects the opportunity to sign a National Letter of Intent with colleges and officially end the recruiting process.
All around the state, schools threw small signing day ceremonies. And for some of the student-athletes, the lure of being a step closer to a potential professional career was not the first thing on their minds.
For Jordan Wilson of small school state power Windward (Los Angeles), education was paramount. He was also grateful for the opportunity to sign with a NCAA D1 program that didn’t have any reservations about offering him a full scholarship.
The 5-foot-7 three-year starting point guard signed with Northern Colorado of the Big Sky Conference.
“Northern Colorado has a great business school,” Wilson said. “I want to major in marketing.”
Wilson had a breakout junior campaign, which included leading Windward to the title game of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic against national power DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.). Surprisingly, D1 colleges didn’t show more interest in Wilson during the summer and fall, likely because of his diminutive stature.
“I didn’t have a lot of other attention,” Wilson said.” “They got scared because of my height. A lot of other schools wanted me to sign in the spring.
“The (Northern Colorado) coaching staff was real supportive and there for me. They hit me up a lot during the summer.”
Wilson decided to stick with the school that recruited him the hardest — instead of waiting for schools from larger conferences to potentially offer him a scholarship later in the season. Besides keeping the state’s No. 20 ranked preseason team in contention for its third state title in five seasons, Wilson now has motivation to show that bigger schools made an evaluation mistake.
“I’ve always took the attitude that it doesn’t matter how small or tall you are; I’ve been playing that way my whole life.”
Jaco Jacked up for Trojans
While Jordan Wilson’s size might have kept him from bigger scholarship offers, classmate Courtney Jaco had no such problem despite her 5-foot-6 frame.
One of the state’s best outside shooters, Jaco played a big part in the Windward girls basketball team spending a majority of the 2011-12 season ranked No. 1 in the state before losing in triple overtime to Serra of Gardena in the CIFSS Div. 4-AA title game.
Jaco inked with USC after considering offers from other Pac-12 schools and Miami (Fla.).
With the pressures of recruiting behind her, Jaco can now focus on her senior year of school — and making sure Windward can play up to its expectations with a talented roster.
Windward is expected to land in the top 10 of the girls’ preseason state rankings despite long-time coach Steve Smith stepping down this off-season. Assistant coach Vanessa Nygaard, a former WNBA player and coach who was all-state at Carlsbad in 1993, is set to take over the reigns.
“This season, I think I need to be a better team leader,” Jaco said. “My motto is to put the team before me. I want to bring a lot of energy to practice.
“I think it’s very exciting, we need a brand new start. I want the focus to be on us, and not have any outside distractions and focus on what we have to do to be successful.”
No Major Signing Day Surprises
Among California’s elite players, there weren’t many surprises with regards to last minute school switches or committed players deciding to wait until the regular signing period which begins April 17.
One notable player who didn’t sign a LOI was Brandon Randolph of Inglewood. Published reports had the returning Div. V State Player of the Year, who played last season at St. Bernard (Playa del Rey), committed to Xavier, but he did not sign a letter of intent. He previously had given a verbal to Pepperdine, but Randolph will visit Missouri this week before making his decision, according to Scott Sommer of AztecReport.com.
The most intriguing prospect to pull the trigger was Mamadou Ndiaye of Brethren Christian (Huntington Beach). A native of Senegal who stands 7-foot-5, national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer of 247Sports.com has Ndiaye ranked No. 14 in the national 2013 class. Other prominent recruiting experts, however, are not sure he warrants a ranking that high.
Ndiaye inked with UC Irvine.
Top Prospects Waiting
The consensus two top-ranked boys basketball recruits in California will both ink in the spring.
Forward Aaron Gordon of Archbishop Mitty (San Jose), the No. 3 ranked team in our preseason rankings, has not decided from among Arizona, Kentucky and Washington.
Gordon, last year’s Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, has already made all of his official visits. According to his mother, Shelley Gordon he just recently trimmed Oregon and Kansas off his list. Shelley Gordon told Cal-Hi Sports there is no set date for his announcement.
Shooting guard Isaac Hamilton of No. 5 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) will decide between UNLV, Baylor and UTEP and in all likelihood will sign in the spring.
Hamilton told Cal-Hi Sports staying on the West Coast is likely although UTEP has made a strong push. He’s reportedly been torn on making a final decision since the Under Armour Elite 24 in August, but he did tell Cal-Hi Sports, “I can’t make everyone happy, I got to do what’s best for me.”
Two all-state forwards off the state’s top-ranked team, Long Beach Poly, inked LOIs. As expected Roschon Prince inked with USC, while Jordan Bell committed to Oregon on Tuesday and signed the next day.
Bell told Cal-Hi Sports he didn’t envision Gordon signing with the Ducks, fueling speculation it’s going to be a two-horse race between between Arizona and Washington in the Mr. Basketball sweepstakes.