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April 25, 2012

In review: Hoops recruiting



Frank Martin and his staff did not take long to make an impact on the recruiting trail for Gamecock basketball. The Gamecocks landed four new commitments who will join the 2012 class, and the staff's work may not yet be complete.

Martin inherited in the 2012 class Miami (Fla.) Dr. Krop forward Tyrone Haughton, who signed with the Gamecocks when Darrin Horn was still the head coach in Columbia. The 6-foot-10 Haughton is coached by Shakey Rodriguez, who coached and mentored Martin when he played at Miami Senior High.

The new Gamecocks

The first of Martin's verbal commitments as the Gamecock head man was Brooklyn (N.Y.) Jefferson's Thaddeus Hall. Rated as a three-star small forward by Rivals.com, Hall is also capable of playing two-guard at the collegiate level. He pledged to USC last Thursday.

The biggest question surrounding Hall and his future is his academic situation. The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder has not yet received a qualifying test score, but is slated to take his standardized test on May 5. NCAA rules prohibit prospects from making official visits until they have a test score to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, so Hall has not yet made his official visit to Columbia.

Martin made Hall one of his first recruiting visits in early April, and the talented wing player came away from the initial meeting impressed. Hall claimed offers from Maryland, Miami, NC State, Providence, St. Johns, Texas Tech, and West Virginia, among others.

More thoughts from Glenn Elrod on Hall: Hall should be considered the player most likely to make a splash in the Gamecock lineup next fall should he become academically eligible. After watching his film and talking with people in the know about Hall's game, it is obvious to see why Coach Martin and his staff were so interested in the New York guard. Hall can score the basketball from a variety of ranges on the court. He slashes to the rim and plays with a confidence level not reached by many players on the high school level. Hall also impacts the game on the defensive end and takes pride in covering the opponents best offensive threat. Hall's difficult past has been well documented. He was in and out of school the first couple years of high school and as a result, he struggled in the classroom. Hall is back on track now and his basketball talents have benefited from a more stable home life. Hall turned heads in the New York state playoffs. In one game in particular he reeled off 41 points. He's now using the same work ethic he showcases in basketball to prepare for the SAT in hopes of suiting up for the Gamecocks next season.

The next domino to fall for USC, also last Thursday, was Wichita (Kan.) Word of Life forward Mindaugas Kacinas.

The 6-foot-7, 205-pounder committed to Martin while on campus for an official visit in Columbia.

GamecockCentral.com basketball recruiting analyst Glenn Elrod gives an in-depth report of what Kacinas is all about on and off the court in this batch of inside notes for premium members.

The next day, a player very familiar to Martin and his staff joined the USC fold. South Kent (Conn.) 7-footer Laimonas Chatkevicius had previously signed to play for Martin at Kansas State. However, the three-star big man was released from his letter of intent to the school.

Chatkevicius joined his friend Kacinas on the official visit to USC and also pulled the trigger on a pledge. In a one-on-one interview with GamecockCentral.com afterwards, he broke down why he made the decision.

Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi also gave his take on Chatkevicius' game:

"Chatkevicius is a big and strong kid who has been making significant strides over the past eight months. He already has SEC level strength and likes to play physically on both sides of the ball.His skill level is improving and while he is a bit mechanical at times in the post, he has become a much more fluid scorer around the rim. Frank Martin wants his teams to play with physical toughness and Chatkevicius has the strength and mindset to do so."

The final piece of the puzzle last week was Charlotte (N.C.) Queen City Prep guard Tarik Phillip. The 6-foot-2 guard first came onto the radar for Gamecock fans when Glenn Elrod mentioned him as a possibility on April 15. The next week, Phillip was on campus in Columbia visiting and became a commitment to South Carolina. He talked with GamecockCentral.com about the choice right here.

More thoughts from Glenn Elrod on Phillip: Phillip is more of an unknown than any of the previously mentioned commits. He was described by his coach as a long, crafty guard that can make things happen with the ball in his hands. He's every bit of 6-foot-2, if not closer to 6-foot-3. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder like friend, and fellow Gamecock commit, Thaddeus Hall. Phillip is said to have averaged over twenty five points per game at Queen City Prep, but I am told a more accurate number is somewhere in the upper teens. It's hard to say without seeing any film on Phillip if he will be able to contribute immediately or if he will need a little more time to develop. But what is known about Phillip is that three SEC programs (South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss) were well aware of his talents on the court and he ultimately landed with the Gamecocks.

Still on the board

A few possibilities still remain as candidates to fill another spot in the 2012 class for USC.

As things stand, the best bet is Cincinnati (Ohio) Aiken guard Willie Moore. The 6-foot-3 product was originally committed to Duquesne, but after head coach Ron Everhart was fired at that program in March, Moore started looking around again.

South Carolina and Virginia Tech emerged recently as the two biggest factors for Moore. USC watched him play in a tournament over the weekend and have been in contact recently as well.

Moore was on an official visit to Virginia Tech this week during the same time that head coach Seth Greenberg's firing was being announced. That caused some confusion and disappointment on Moore's part as the Hokies were a big factor for him. He left the visit early yesterday.

As previously reported by GamecockCentral.com, Moore is scheduled to begin an official visit to USC on Wednesday around 3:00 p.m. and the Gamecocks are the leader to nab a commitment from him at this time. Oregon has become involved with Moore this week but sources have told GamecockCentral.com that the Ducks shouldn't be considered a major player at this point.

Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton forward Tevin Glass was watched last Tuesday in a workout by Gamecock associate head coach Brad Underwood and will make an official visit to USC on May 5.

Glass is being recruited heavily by the Gamecocks and Memphis and is also scheduled to visit the Tigers in the coming weeks.. A new school, Xavier has entered the picture this week after Musketeer guard Mark Lyons announced he was not returning to the school. Prior to the Gamecocks receiving four commitments over the past few days, I would have called Glass a very heavy lean to South Carolina. Now I feel confident in saying that Glass will weigh his options a bit more before deciding what school is best for him. The Gamecocks are still a big factor but will likely have to fight a bit harder for the Georgia forward.

Another prospect still in the mix for USC is Pennyslvania's Sheldon Jeter. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward has already made his official visit to USC, when Horn was still on staff and was set to ink with the Gamecocks before a change was made.

Vanderbilt and Wisconsin have also received official visits and all three programs have had in-home visits. Jeter made an unofficial visit to Penn State this weekend.

Jeter and his inner circle have kept things tight-lipped the past two months and seem to have a lot of people in the dark about which program he will select. At one point in the process, South Carolina led for Jeter's services but that was two months ago. Since then, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt have put the full court press on here. The Badgers in particular are a team to watch out for in his recruitment. One factor working in the Gamecocks' corner is the relationship Jeter's father has with USC assistant head coach Brad Underwood. Still, there is not enough information at this time to call either of the four schools in contention (Penn State, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt) a frontrunner. May 3 has been set up as Jeter's official announcement date.

Stay tuned to GamecockCentral.com for more developments on the hoops recruiting trail.

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