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FSU among national leaders in basketball recruiting class for 2016

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While the 2015-16 college basketball season has just begun, coaches are already looking toward next year and beyond. The early signing period for recruits began on November 11 and will conclude on Wednesday.

While Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky have the top-ranked classes so far, Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton has much to smile about. The Seminoles have landed some quality players who might make an immediate impact on next year’s squad.

Florida State has signed the eighth-ranked class so far according to Rivals.com. Power forward Jonathan Isaac of Bradenton is the No. 14 rated player in the Rivals’ national rankings, while shooting guard Trent Forrest of Chipley is ranked No. 56.

Point guard C.J. Walker from Indianapolis is the 118th best player according to Rivals. The Seminoles are still under consideration by some of the top players yet to commit.

FSU had the 13th-ranked class for 2015. Two of those players, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley, led the team in scoring in their first college game; Sunday’s 109-62 win over Nicholls State in the Seminoles season opener.

It will still be difficult to reach Duke’s level of sustained excellence. So far, the defending National Champion Blue Devils have the top recruiting class for 2015-16 seniors.

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has verbal commitments from Rivals’ second and third rated prospects and has four of the top 41 high school players in the nation slated to come to Durham next fall. While Coach “K” hopes all four players will sign by Wednesday, they can still make it official between April 13 and May 18, 2016.

Michigan State has verbal commitments from four of the top 45 players, while Kentucky is third with three of the top 26. Two Kentucky recruits have signed Letters of Intent, while Jamal Murray from Canada, ranked No. 9, may sign this week.

Florida has verbal commitments from Oldsmar (Fla.) Christian High School teammates Dontay Basset and Eric Hester. Hester is ranked 87th by Rivals.

Troy Baxter, Rivals’ No. 90 player and a teammate of both Bassett and Hester at Oldsmar, has verbally assured Coach Orlando Antigua he will play for the South Florida Bulls next season. USF has two other verbal commitments from unranked players

Miami has one verbal commitment, center Rodney Miller from Oak Hill Academy, Va. Miller is the 114th ranked player in America.

The ACC is looking to regain its status as the top basketball conference in the country. After falling behind the Big 10 in recent years, the addition of traditional powers Louisville and Syracuse has brought more talent into the league.

It is already showing in recruiting. ACC teams have 5 of the top 10 recruiting classes so far. Along with Duke and FSU, Virginia has the seventh-best recruiting class so far, with North Carolina and Syracuse ranked ninth and tenth, respectively. The Big 10 has only Michigan State in the top 10.

Kentucky, as usual, is the top SEC team with Mississippi State boasting the sixth-best class with 5 top-100 players committed to play for the Bulldogs.

The rankings may fluctuate as some players who verbally committed may later change their minds. This can happen through general soul-searching or the result of dirty tricks by other coaches.

At the present time, three of the top 10 national recruits – including No. 1 Josh Jackson of Napa, California – have yet to make their college choice known. The schools landing players like that can only move up.

What we do know is that some outstanding talent will be playing their college basketball in the state of Florida. Others will make visits as members of the visiting team.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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