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September 2, 2014

Starting Five: Five-star cuts and more

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

Labor Day weekend brought the start of college football and the unofficial beginning of high school basketball's visit season. Despite the extra day, it was a relatively slow weekend in the recruiting world. This week in our Starting Five we take a look at the cut-down lists of five-stars Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum, Donnie Tyndall's recruiting efforts at Tennessee, preview a few upcoming decisions and get caught up on some other news and notes.

Five-stars make cuts to their lists

Over the weekend, five-star prospects Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum each made cuts to their school lists. A senior, Ingram is much closer to a final decision and has six remaining, while Tatum got his list down to 10 to make his junior season a bit more manageable.

Since he is the older of the two and almost assuredly going to be the first to decide, we'll discuss Ingram's final list first. The 6-foot-9 wing from Kinston (N.C.) High ranks No. 18 in the class of 2015 and narrowed his choices down to Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, N.C. State, North Carolina and UCLA. Obviously, the list is full of heavy hitters.

For the longest time, the expectation has been that Ingram will not make it out of the state of North Carolina. He has seen plenty of Duke, UNC and State, and each of them has been discussed as a possible leader at one point or another over the past six months. Ingram has seen UCLA, and he has plans to visit Kansas and Kentucky for their season opening hoops events -- Late Night in the Phog at Kansas and Big Blue Madness at Kentucky -- so he will be familiar with everybody on his list by mid-October. All throughout, Ingram has maintained that distance doesn't matter, but at least headed into his visits the thought is that one of the out-of-state schools is going to have make a huge impression to get him out of North Carolina.

Currently ranked the No. 4 player in the class of 2016, Tatum is a smooth and versatile 6-foot-7 wing at St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade. On Sunday, he released a group of finalists that included Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, St. Louis and Wake Forest.

The cut to 10 was just the first step in what should be a very thorough process for Tatum. He is in no rush to make a decision and has never talked favorites. Early speculation has put programs like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina in good position, but it is simply too early to make a call or rule out more local programs such as SLU, Mizzou and Illinois. Bottom line, look for there to be a lot of talk about who does or doesn't lead for Tatum, but we wouldn't expect any real movement soon and the feel is that his recruitment is pretty wide open for now.

Going to work in Knoxville

Fair or not, a few of the biggest criticisms that Tennessee fans had with regard to Cuonzo Martin were his style of play and his style of recruiting. With Martin now at California, Donnie Tyndall is working hard to make his imprint on the program now while setting up future recruiting efforts.

Over the weekend, Tyndall and his staff landed their first two commitments from the class of 2016 when three-star wings Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips. Schofield is a strongly built bull of a wing who can shed contact to score and he is a very comfortable three-point jump shooter. Phillips on the other hand is a more athletic, slashing type wing and the Vols feel he might even be able to play some point guard down the road. Essentially, they are very similar to the types of players that Martin had been recruiting in Knoxville, and that shouldn't be looked at as a bad thing.

Tyndall now has his foundation guys in the bag. Every program needs players who fit the core values and Schofield and Phillips do that. They are style fits and will likely have chips on their shoulders and will want to prove that they belong. With these guys in the fold, the Volunteer staff can now focus on more bigger fish like top-five big man Skal Labissiere, five-star wing Dwayne Bacon, rapidly rising wing Chris Clarke, point guard Bryant Crawford and athletic big man Shawntrez Davis. Mixing in instant-impact guys with system role players is best for long-term growth of the program and quick results, and it looks to be the direction that they are headed in Knoxville.

Meanwhile, Tyndall and his staff have been hard at work on the class of 2016. The fact is that when they got the job back in the spring, they were already behind on 2015 so getting good early work in for 2016 was of the utmost importance. So far, the Vols are doing an outstanding job. They have gotten lots of big names on campus, and while it is too early to tell which guys they end up with, they have put themselves legitimately into the mix with players such as Braxton Blackwell, Josh Langford, Abdulhakim Ado, Jarron Cumberland, Romello White, Sedee Keita, Kwe Parker and Lamonte Turner.

Decision coming for four-star wing

Haanif Cheatham is a four-star wing who took a visit over the weekend and will be ending his recruitments soon.

Ranked No. 68 in the class of 2015, Cheatham is a 6-foot-5 wing from Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Charter and he has visited Cal and Marquette over the past few weekends. He is expected to announce his choice on Friday, and the feel at this point is that Marquette looks to be in very good position.

Talking Watson and Wade

Two commitments of note from the weekend that we wanted to take a quick look at were No. 86 Glynn Watson to Nebraska and No. 107 Dean Wade to Kansas State.

A four-star point guard from the Chicagoland area, Watson was a heavy target of Tim Miles and his staff for quite some time. Not only is he a talent, but he is a talent who could perhaps open some doors into a very important Big Ten city in Chicago. A pass-first guard with outstanding quickness, a good feel for the game and a body to grow into, Watson is a true leader on the floor. His summer program the Illinois Wolves produce high-major talent on a yearly basis so the Huskers will only be stronger there. Plus, Watson is well-liked, and if he has a good experience with Nebraska it could really open doors. Since Miles arrived they have recruited Chicago hard and now it is paying off. Keep in mind, another Chicagoan Edward Morrow (a four-star prospect himself) is considering the Huskers, so Watson can only help.

One of the summer's biggest movers, Wade is an in-state kid from St. John (Kan.) who was prioritized by Bruce Weber and his staff during the summer. After showing promise earlier in his career, the 6-foot-8 power forward really took his game to a new level during July. He showed up much stronger than before but was still a pretty athletic big who could run, make jumpers to 17 feet and compete on the glass. Given the chance to play against better competition from all around the country, Wade flourished and proved that he was a legitimate high-major prospect. He should be a very good fit for Weber's motion offense and is a kid who looks to have a lot of room for growth as he gets used to playing against high-level competition on a more regular basis.

UVa dips into 2016

We end this week's Starting Five on a note from the class of 2016 as Virginia received a Tuesday commitment from combo guard Ty Jerome.

A slender 6-foot-3 junior at New Rochelle (N.Y.) Iona Prep, Jerome is currently unranked by Rivals.com. However, that is soon to change as he is set to debut in the Rivals150 for the class of 2016 when it is unveiled on Thursday.

Ranking or not, Jerome looks like the type of kid that UVa fans will absolutely love. Despite a lack of strength, Jerome is a problem for defenders. He handles the ball very well, is a terrific passer and can easily swing between being the primary scorer or distributor for his team.

Playing in the summer for New Heights 16U squad, Jerome developed a reputation as a big-game player. When his team needed plays, he could almost always be relied on whether it was making a big jumper, getting a defensive stop or sneaking in for an offensive rebound and putback. He's got a little bit of that "it" factor going for him and looks like he will be a very good player as he adds weight and adjusts to life in the ACC.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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