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With top-shelf Texas guard Phillip McDonald becoming UNM's main recruiting focus, the weekend of Sept. 7-9 could be monumental for the Lobos and Steve Alford's mark on the program. McDonald, ranked the 84th-best prospect in the class of 2008, heads to visit Bill Self and Kansas that next weekend, so four Lobos message boards are trying to win over McDonald with online praise. Terrance Hatton, Phillip's brother, said Steve Alford has made it clear to the McDonald family that Phillip will "be the man." Don't know if Kansas can say that.
Check out my story on McDonald in Thursday's Tribune.
In other recruiting news, look out for Las Vegas product Kashif Watson as a Lobos target. The brother of former Tennessee standout C.J. Watson has roamed the prep school and junior college circuit in recent years because of grades, but somebody in the UNM program told me the Lobos have a good chance at landing the talented shooting guard. A West Coast recruiting scout told me Watson, who played for Indian Hills (Iowa) Junior College, has major upside with great athletic and scoring ability. He would be a 2008 signee after playing another year of JC ball.
Chris Walker? Man, I did not see that one coming. That Steve Alford, he's full of curve balls.
Really, there shouldn't be a surprised pair of eyes reading the news of Chris Walker's hiring as the new assistant coach. We've known this since June. Check out my story here.
This is the right move on many levels. Here's why:
1) He'll bring at least one or two top-shelf players with him from Houston. And I think he means it. He's got deep, three-year relationships with guys like Phillip McDonald, Will Brown and others.
2) He's got 12 years of assistant-coaching experience at reputable stops like Villanova and UMass
3) Coaching the T-Mac All-Stars gives you super connections in Texas. With Ryan Miller working on California and Alford and Neal flexing their NBA muscle, this should be a productive staff.
4) He's 37 and single -- that means work, work, work. He'll take plenty of red-eye flights next summer.
Here are some news tidbits I heard about today.
1) Four of the five recruits from the 2007-08 incoming classes have been cleared to play next season, including 6-10 JC center Monquel Pegues, who had to pass 15 summer credit hours. UNM is waiting on Darrington Hobson, but I'm hearing he has passed his classes and must hear back from a clearing house.
2) Will Brown has verbally committed to the Lobos, but he's waiting to make it official, possibly until November.
3) UNM is expending a lot of its recruiting energy on T-Mac guard Phillip McDonald and South Dakota's Colton Iverson.
I really wish I had won this one for the right to brag obnoxiously. Former Lobo David Kanyinda played me in one-on-one at Del Norte Sports and Wellness, and he won 11-6. I was actually up 6-5 when he proceeded to score six straight baskets on me. Stupid make-it-take-it! Kanyinda should be able to score enough in JC ball to get a solid Division-I scholarship in 2008.
What do you need on a dreary, sticky summer day in Albuquerque? Recruiting predictions, of course. In honor of this week's AAU extravaganza in Las Vegas, the Big Time Tournament -- where Steve Alford and his henchmen are probably hamming it up in red-and-black Lobos polo shirts as we speak -- let's really evaluate this. Who will be here from the class of 2008?
Chris Babb is waffling like Billy Donovan. Isaiah Rusher is orally committed, but that seems about as solidified as Tim Floyd only recruiting 17-year-olds. There's the Chris Walker-Houston connection for the T-Mac All-Stars. I keep hearing how hot Alford is on Oklahoma sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke (probably reminds Alford of Alford, which would be a positive for UNM).
If the Lobos are able to sign up to five guys come November, whom would you predict to fill out that list? Here's mine. I'm just going off what I've gathered through reporting on this stuff the last six weeks, so who knows.
1) Isaiah Rusher (6-foot-9, T-Mac...He'll get his grades fixed in time, or so they say).
2) Phillip McDonald (6--5, T-Mac...He's why Babb might be waffling...hmmm).
3) Reggie Jackson (6-2, Colorado product...This is a player many UNM fans are forgetting about).
4) Will Brown (6-9, T-Mac...He seems confused right now, but he and Rusher are boys).
5) Colton Iverson (6-10, South Dakota...This is another Ryan Miller get. Iverson will deflect the attention of the big schools to stay loyal to the guy who recruited him first).
Strong possibility: Rio Rancho's Marcus Williams. Why not take a chance on this dynamic 5-10 point guard. He's a playmaker. Period.