Brian Gregory and staff assembling solid '18 class for USF
Brian Gregory's six-month anniversary as USF men's basketball coach came and went last Thursday, when most of us were too consumed with football and post-Irma recovery to observe it.
So instead, we'll observe this: His 2018 recruiting class -- a trio of three-star commitments -- currently is ranked first in the American Athletic Conference by at least two major scouting services.
Quite inconspicuously, Gregory and his staff have scoured Gregory's old recruiting turf (Georgia) and his native neck of the woods (Chicago) to land three prospects far more solid than spectacular. Considering the mess these coaches inherited, it might rank as USF's biggest upset since the 2014 SMU victory.
"Overall, there might not be any superstars here," Rivals national hoops analyst Corey Evans said, "but there (are) three good pieces that USF should be able to build upon and build with."
All three commitments, naturally, are non-binding at this point. The NCAA's weeklong early signing period starts Nov. 8.
The centerpiece so far is 6-foot Chicago PG Xavier Castaneda, who also has offers from Kent State and Wichita State, but said Sunday his commitment to USF is solid and he plans no more visits.
"When I went to USF it felt like home," said Castaneda, who visited Labor Day weekend. "Me and (Gregory) have developed a great relationship. It's the perfect fit for me and I can't wait to get down there."
Considered more of a table-setter than scorer, Castaneda has played on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit; and for Illinois powerhouse Whitney Young High, which won a state title last winter.
"Castaneda is definitely the steal of the group," Evans said. "A lot of people worried about his size as he is just barely over 6-feet tall, but he does boast a 6-foot-6 wingspan and is unbelievable off of the greatly-used high ball screen."
The Georgia prospects, 6-6 Calhoun County SF Rashun Williams and 6-11 Atlanta native Michael Durr (currently at Oldsmar Christian), could need a bit more time to blossom, but nonetheless figure to join the rotation as freshmen.
Justin Young, Atlanta-based editor-and-chief of HoopSeen.com, is especially high on Williams. During HoopSeen's "Best of the South" that attracted roughly 200 teams to north Georgia in July, Young said Williams was "probably one of our top 15 guys."
"He's kind of a junkyard-dog player," Young said.
"The thing I like about him though is, he makes winning plays, where I think a lot of kids now with travel ball and...social media are trying to make those quick...video clips, and Rashun's not that guy. And that's a compliment. He's a guy that plays the way you want basketball players to play."
Which is to say, he seems just the kind of recruit -- more scrappy than sleek, more gritty than glitzy -- upon which Gregory will try to rebuild USF.
And the rebuilding is off to a riveting start.
"I think that's what Brian Gregory does," Young said. "He does a pretty good job of going and getting kids that are a little under the radar, and he does a good job of coaching them up."
What they're saying
National basketball recruiting analysts offer their take on USF's three verbal commitments from the Class of 2018
PG Xavier Castaneda, Chicago Whitney Young
"More of a table setting point guard, he can score it but is most valuable for his playmaking skills and just how efficient he is. Very steady." -- Corey Evans, Rivals
SF Rashun Williams, Calhoun (Ga.) County
"I think with him you're getting a kid that's a really small-town kid, very humble, very coachable. Really has got a nice physique for a college player, can come in and play some minutes right away, and I think he's getting better too. I thought he had a really, really good (high school) junior season; a bit of an up-and-down travel season, but finished it really well. ... I think they've got a player there that can develop into a guy that -- for their first class -- will be pretty important moving forward." -- Justin Young, HoopSeen
C Michael Durr, Oldsmar Christian (by way of Atlanta)
"He does have to get into better shape but he is tough, big, has good hands and comes more in your throwback center variety. He won’t be a go-to threat in the post but he can score when he has the chance and will be leaned upon for his interior defense and rebounding." -- Evans