CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Let's play Connect Four. Or Five. Or Six.Let's see how many notebook items I can connect in one column. It's sort of like Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Only it's me. And there's no Kyra Sedgwick around.Got it?From time to time you know I like to check in on Huntington St. Joseph Prep, coached by Rob Fulford.
I enjoy it because, well, it's the state's premier basketball program. It's overflowing with the state's best talent, although most don't go on to play in the state.Anyway, after slumping earlier in the year, the Irish picked up steam. Prep is now the nation's No. 12 team, according to the latest USA Today Super 25 poll. It is 18-4 after thumping Cleveland Central Catholic. It will play Cleveland Shaker Heights in the Dunk 4 Diabetes tournament Saturday in Canton, Ohio."We're playing really well," Fulford said Wednesday.WVU "is still in play" with two of Prep's top prospects, Teki Gill-Caesar and JaQuan Lyle. The former is a long shot for the Mountaineers with Kentucky involved, as well as Michigan State. If Gill-Caesar stays a junior, rather than reclassify as a senior, add Duke and Kansas. The latter, Lyle, likes Kansas, WVU, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Florida State and Oregon. He recently said the list will be cut down soon."Both are focusing on finishing our season strong," Fulford said. "We'll dig down in the spring. Teki has to decide whether to graduate in 2014 or 2015. JaQuan wants to cut his list down. He likes the fact, though, that he could go to WVU and be a major contributor early."The Mountaineers already have a commitment from 6-foot-10, 300-pound Irish center Levi Cook, a junior."He's doing well," Fulford said. "He just needs to understand what he needs to do at our level. He's got to bring it every day. Basically, he's backing up a pro."That future "pro" is 6-10 Thomas Bryant, who is one of the nation's most highly regarded juniors. Of course, the nation's top recruit last season, Andrew Wiggins, played ball for Fulford at Huntington Prep. And although Wiggins made the cut when the Wooden Award Top 25 list came out Wednesday, oddly his teammate at Kansas, center Joel Embiid, did not. To say that was a gross oversight on behalf of the Wooden committee is an understatement.The other familiar name to make the Wooden list was former Marshall and current Iowa State standout DeAndre Kane. (See how this "connect" deal is working?)
You may know the Cyclones got off to a whirlwind start, winning their first 14 games, but have lost three in a row. What you might not know about is a bizarre situation in Ames.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg had a 6-foot-1 guard named Bubu Palo on the team. Well, the player was arrested on, but eventually dismissed of, charges of second-degree sexual assault.Palo had been removed from the team, but seemed set to return after having his scholarship renewed over the summer for a final season. In August, though, ISU president Steven Leath removed Palo from the team after deciding the player had violated the school's code of conduct.Last Thursday, though, a judge granted Palo a temporary stay to return to the basketball team. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard countered by issuing a statement disagreeing with the decision.It's a mess. Kane, among others, said he wants Palo back on the team. But does Hoiberg play the kid knowing his bosses strongly disapprove?I mentioned above that Huntington St. Joseph Prep would be playing Cleveland Shaker Heights in that Canton tournament on Saturday.
Well, that indeed is the team on which WVU hoops recruit Esa Ahmad plays. He's a 6-7 forward that Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins went to watch last week.
While on the subject of recruiting, I'm always asked why it's so difficult for Huggins and WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen to land top-flight athletes.
The best answer I've been given is the lack of a recruiting base. And Athlon magazine put that in perspective this week.It tracked the 1,000 most highly regarded football recruits in the nation over the last five seasons. The magazine determined what you would expect, that Florida, Texas and California spawned the most top recruits. It added that all came from 40 states and the District of Columbia."Alaska, both Dakotas, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Montana, West Virginia and Maine are the only states that didn't produce a single top-200 recruit over the last five years," said the publication. "Not surprisingly, all 10 of those states are ranked 38th or worse in terms of overall population."Then again, there is Ryan Switzer . . .Did I mention the state of Texas? Well, if you missed it, Longhorns quarterback David Ash has been medically cleared to participate in offseason workouts and spring ball. If you, well, forgot, Ash suffered and ultimately couldn't overcome concussion symptoms initially suffered against BYU.And finally . . .
This past Sunday I wrote of Delta State, coached by Winfield native Jim Boone, who is assisted by Charleston native Chris Richardson. The Statesmen are now ranked No. 20 among Division II schools.What I didn't mention is the team is a member of the Gulf South Conference. And the team just a game behind Delta State in that conference is West Alabama.Which is coached by former University of Charleston coach Mark Downey.Which is your last connection of the column.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.