Although the Roanoke Times has long been associated with football recruiting because of its annual ranking of the state’s top 25 prospects, there was a time in the 1980s when coverage of basketball recruiting dwarfed football recruiting here and elsewhere.
Those were the days when Virginia had Ralph Sampson and Virginia Tech landed Cavalier target Dell Curry and there simply wasn’t the interest in football that there is now.
Virginia football was just starting to gear up under George Welsh and while the Hokies had some good teams under Bill Dooley, it would be a long time before Tech would be in a conference of the stature of the Big East and then the ACC.
Also, there was no Internet in those days.
Now, there’s recruiting coverage everywhere you look, but most of it deals with football recruiting. I went on rivals.com today to look for a list of the state’s top basketball prospects for 2014 and there wasn’t one. The signing date for basketball is in November, almost three months before the football signing date, but you’d never know it from the coverage or interest.
(I imagine there’s a lot of basketball interest in places like Indiana and Louisville).
Not to knock rivals.com because that’s one of my go-to sites, but I was looking for a place to look up the top-ranked basketball prospects in Virginia. In the old days, I could have reeled off the top five without looking.
Maybe it’s simply a down year in Virginia.
In its list of the top 100 prospects in the country, ESPN lists one Virginian, 6 foot 8 Devin Robinson from the Christchurch School on the Northern Neck east of Richmond.
He was ranked 74th.
On the ESPN top 60 in the nation for 2015, the highest-rated player is 6-6 Marcus Derrickson from Paul VI in Fairfax. ESPN only lists 35 players for the class of 2016, but 7-foot Thon Maker from Carlisle in Martinsville is No. 2.
While rivals.com doesn’t have a Virginia top 15 yet, it does have a national top 150 that has Robinson listed at No. 24.
He’s joined by No. 37 Bryant Stith, a wing from Brunswick County; No. 42 Romelo “Melo” Trimble from Paul VI; No. 73 Donte Grantham from Hargrave Military Academy, and No. 84 Robert Johnson from Benedictine in Richmond.
It’s not exactly Sampson or Alonzo Mourning, but I’m guessing some of those guys will move up by the end of the year.
Stith has committed to Virginia and Trimble to Maryland, which is unlikely to inflate their ratings. Plus, Stith will be spending his senior year at Oak Hill Academy, where he will face top-flight competition but won’t put up the numbers he did at Brunswick.
Johnson is probably a little bit low based on an offer list that includes finalists Indiana, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Florida State, Miami and Georgetown.
Johnson is headed to Indiana this weekend, with the ACC schools fearing that he might commit on the spot. He plays for the Boo Williams AAU team and his teammates have included Williams’ nephew, 6-6 Troy Williams, who played at Oak Hill last year.
Grantham, a 6-8 power forward from Milwaukee, will play for Hargrave as a fifth-year senior. Rivals.com shows him with 18 offers, including the likes of VMI and Radford, but other suitors include Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, DePaul and Texas.
Robinson has an even more impressive offer list: UConn, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but not UVa.
The Cavaliers are taking a look at Chris Clarke, a 6-5 perimeter player from Cape Henry Collegiate, a former teammate of incoming UVa freshman Devon Hall. Clarke’s only listed offer is from the Hokies.