Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Punter Baumann commits to N.C. State

Despite a background that has included coaching from two fathers of University of North Carolina players, Wilmington Hoggard High punter Wil Baumann has committed to N.C. State.

The most influential coach in Baumann's career has been Keith Wood, a former Southwestern Oklahoma State kicker recently hired as head coach at Fairmont High after serving as a Hoggard assistant.

But punting guru Bill Renner, the father of North Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback Bryn Renner, helped fine tune Baumann's punting. Baumann also has been helped by Tom Barth, the father of current Tar Heel kicker Casey Barth and former North Carolina player Connor Barth, who kicks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Casey and Connor Barth both played for Hoggard.

"I don't think they will care too much," Baumann said of committing to the Tar Heels' rival. "They've got a really good punter right now [Grant Schallock], and I don't think they've got a spot [for a punter] right now."

Baumann said he is a longtime fan of N.C. State and is eager to enter the school's engineering program. He is 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds and averaged 44 yards per kick as as a junior.

He also had a scholarship offer from Northwestern, but said he chose N.C. State because of its academics (he carries a 3.5 grade-point average) and proximity to home.

Ken Tysiac

Niles withdraws commitment from N.C. State

Thomas Niles, who was the most highly rated player in the Class of 2011 to have committed to N.C. State, has withdrawn his commitment to the Wolfpack.

Niles, a defensive tackle from Gainesville High in Georgia, now also is considering a scholarship offer from Central Florida. Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said Niles plans to think more about his decision for a few days and perhaps longer, but said Central Florida now is the leading candidate if Niles is going to commit.

Miller said N.C. State didn't do anything wrong in its recruiting, and said Niles just has some things he wants to think about.

"N.C. State kind of came in there and saw him first," Miller said. "And then he started sitting back and saying, 'I'm just trying to make a good decision.' And he wanted to make a good, clean decision, and he kind of backed off things [with N.C. State] for a while."

Ken Tysiac

Plumlee gives Duke huge endorsement

Marshall Plumlee probably knows just about all there is to know about the inner workings of the Duke basketball program.

His eldest brother, Miles, is a rising junior for the defending NCAA champions. Another brother, Mason, will be a sophomore with the Blue Devils next season.

So unlike many recruits, who are wooed and courted by college coaches highlighting mostly the positives about their programs, Marshall has an intimate family understanding about how coach Mike Krzyzewski runs his team.

And it’s telling for Duke and Krzyzewski that the third Plumlee brother still committed to the Blue Devils on Saturday. The commitment was as strong an endorsement as Krzyzewski could ever hope to get from any recruit.

The players’ father, Perky Plumlee, spoke frankly earlier this week about what Marshall’s commitment means for Duke.

“I think we do have a unique perspective,” he said, “and I think that any school, when you’re just being recruited by a school, if you haven’t had a personal experience with the program like we have with Duke I suppose it’s human nature that you imagine an environment that’s totally pain free. Actually playing in a program doesn’t mimic the recruiting process. The recruiting process is a courtship and it’s fun and it’s flattering. . . .You can’t actually simulate what it would be like to be there in practice, being pushed to your limits.”

Perky Plumlee said the family has confidence in the way Krzyzewski and his staff coach players. If that weren’t the case, Plumlee said, they wouldn’t send another son there.

He also said Marshall will go to Duke knowing fully well just how hard the Duke staff pushes its players. He said the staff is demanding, doesn’t take shortcuts and requires maximum effort from players, pushing them beyond what they thought their limits might have been.

“I do think that because Duke is such a prominent and successful program, unfortunately there probably is a lot of misinformation that perhaps their competitors like to generate,” Plumlee said. “They maybe try to perpetuate [negative] things, I don’t know, to gain a recruiting advantage. All I can say is that from my perspective Coach K, his program is honest and he has his methods and styles, I don’t suppose that they’ve changed that much over 30 years. Really the burden is on the kid to work hard and make the most of his opportunity.”

While Duke endured a five-year Final Four drought from 2005 to 2009, there was a perception that recruits were reacting negatively to how hard Krzyzewski pushes his players.

Duke lost out on highly rated recruits such as Patrick Patterson (Kentucky), Greg Monroe (Georgetown) and even Harrison Barnes, an incoming freshman at North Carolina, and some wondered if there was something wrong within the program.

By capturing the 2010 NCAA title, the Blue Devils emphatically refuted those doubts on the court. Now, Marshall Plumlee’s commitment reaffirms the direction of the program behind closed doors.

“The fact that we are enthused of Marshall’s choice, I guess, is a good endorsement of their program and the way they run it,” Perky Plumlee said.

Marshall Plumlee, rated No. 40 in the nation in the Class of 2011 by, isn’t the type of recruit with the ability to instantly carry Duke to a Final Four. But those kind of recruits come and go, often spending just one season at a school.

Plumlee’s commitment should have positive implications for the Blue Devils that last much longer.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Duke lands Monroe's Crowder

Jamison Crowder, a speedy rising senior playmaker for Monroe High School, has committed to Duke.

Monroe coach Johnny Sowell said the Blue Devils want to use Crowder as a return man on punts and kickoffs, but are undecided on a position for him. Crowder plays defensive back and wide receiver for Monroe, and might add some backfield duties this season.

"He can take a 5-yard pass and turn it into an 80-yard run," Sowell said. "He can take a punt return at any time and take it the distance, as well as a kickoff return."

Crowder is about 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds and is a good student, Sowell said. Crowder also seriously considered North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest.

Ken Tysiac

Underwood commits to UNC

North Carolina's stellar in-state recruiting in the Class of 2011 continued Tuesday morning when lineman Shaun Underwood of Fuquay-Varina High committed to the Tar Heels.

Underwood, who's 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, is rated the No. 29 prospect in the state by He gives North Carolina eight commitments from among the state's top 30 prospects.
He said the school's academic excellence over a broad range of curricula and the academic support for athletes were among the reasons he chose North Carolina. He also seriously considered Wake Forest and Penn State, but said he wanted to stay close to home.

"I don't like being away from my family," he said. "I want my mom and my grandparents to see me play as much as they can. That would mean a lot to me."

Underwood said that North Carolina's coaches initially were recruiting him as an offensive guard, but later found out that he also plays defensive tackle and asked him which position he prefers.

He told them he likes defense better, but is flexible.

"It’s amazing," said Fuquay-Varina coach Ryan Habich, "they like him on offense and defense, it’s hard to say which side he’s better on. He’s just very special. The thing that separates him from most big guys is that he has so much speed."

Ken Tysiac

Persistent Salisbury safety Rankin picks Heels

The first time Salisbury High's Darien Rankin participated in a one-day camp at North Carolina, he came away without a scholarship offer.

So when Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan was making a trip to Chapel Hill for another one-day camp with running back Romar Morris, Rankin asked to ride along. When he arrived, he was asked if he wanted to participate again.

He paid the camp entry fee, worked out and was offered a scholarship, and he's now committed to the Tar Heels.

"One day wasn't enough for him," Pinyan said. "He wanted to go up there and show them the type of kid that he is."

Rankin is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound player who projects as a safety for North Carolina. He also had a scholarship offer from Utah and had interest in East Carolina and South Carolina, before deciding to play for the Tar Heels.

Pinyan said Rankin has excellent athletic ability, as illustrated by his 6-foot, 8-inch high jump, but still needs to work on his footwork and other safety-specific skills after playing a position that's a combination of safety, outside linebacker and defensive end for Salisbury.

"While he might not be the four-star quarterback like [Marquise Williams] or a top lineman [Landon Turner] that they've gotten out of Virginia, he's that piece that completes the whole puzzle," Pinyan said. "Maybe he doesn't have that glamourous 40 time, but he's a guy, when the lights come on, he plays."

Ken Tysiac

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gastonia LB Bigger commits to Duke

Gastonia Ashbrook High linebacker Zeek Bigger has been exchanging texts with West Charlotte running back Jalen Simmons with big plans for Duke's football program.

"We want to go there and help change things," said Bigger, who said Monday that he has joined Simmons in committing to Duke.

Bigger is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and made 101 tackles with seven sacks last season. He also considered Arkansas, Virginia and East Carolina.

The opportunity for possible early playing time was enticing to Bigger.

"I think I will get to play my freshman year," he said.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe also made a favorable impression on Bigger. Cutcliffe turned down an opportunity to coach Tennessee during the offseason, and that commitment may be helping him and Duke in recruiting.

"He's there for the long run and he's going to bring in a whole lot of talent so one of these days, one of these years, there will be a championship there," Bigger said.

Ken Tysiac

Virginia senior boosts UNC's offensive line recruiting

North Carolina's stellar offensive line recruiting effort has received another boost with the commitment of Harrisonburg (Va.) High tackle Landon Turner.

Turner, who's 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, is rated the No. 3 prospect in Virginia by

"He's so tenacious," said Harrisonburg coach Tim Sarver. "He stays after his block and does what every coach dreams about, he goes until the whistle blows. He's got a mean streak in him."

Turner joins a Class of 2011 offensive line haul that also includes Kiaro Holts of Indianapolis (rated the No. 41 player in the nation by, Jamar Lewter of Washington, D.C., and Jarrod James of Aycock High in Pikeville. The 2010 class also included two prized offensive line prospects in James Hurst of Plainfield, Ind., and T.J. Leifheit of Wilmington's Hoggard High.

The two classes combined have a chance to solidify North Carolina's talent and depth at one of the team's shakiest positions during coach Butch Davis' tenure.

Turner was recruited by schools from coast to coast and settled on North Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia as his finalists. Sarver said Turner's attractiveness to recruiters was enhanced by his high character and strong academic grades.

"He's one of the best to come out of this state," Sarver said. "He was going to be a catch for whoever picks him up."

Ken Tysiac

Charlotte Christian's Brown picks Duke

The opportunity to play with his brother for coach David Cutcliffe has led Charlotte Christian linebacker Kyler Brown to commit to Duke.

Kyler Brown, who will be a senior at Charlotte Christian this season, said he will play outside linebacker and will have both rush and pass coverage drop responsibilities. His brother Kelby Brown will be a freshman on the 2010 Duke team.

"It's going to be sweet because my brother's already there," Kyler Brown said. "I'm going to get to play with him and win an ACC championship with him."

Kyler Brown is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds and had narrowed his list to Duke and Oregon. After visiting Duke last week, he committed to Cutcliffe, who Brown said was critical in his decision.

"He's a great man," Brown said. "He sat down and talked to me a couple times at least for 30 minutes each. He's just a great person, and he's great with all the players and he's really relaxed when you're with him."

Ken Tysiac

Another Plumlee commits to Duke

The Plumlee family has delivered a third highly-recruited big man to coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke.

Marshall Plumlee, a 7-foot rising senior at Christ School in Arden, N.C., will follow brothers Miles and Mason to Duke. Christ School coach David Gaines said Marshall committed late Saturday night.

Miles, the eldest of Perky and Leslie Plumlee's three sons, will be a junior for the Blue Devils in 2010-11 as they attempt to defend their NCAA title. Mason Plumlee will be a sophomore at Duke. Both players were reserves last season, but there's a chance they both will be in the starting lineup in 2010-11.

All three brothers could play together when Marshall is a freshman in 2011-12 - if Mason Plumlee doesn't leave early for the NBA draft. Mason, who's the most highly skilled of the brothers, is considered a potential lottery pick in 2011.

Gaines said the pivotal time for Marshall in his decision to attend Duke was a week he spent with Miles in Durham in June. They worked out together and played pickup games. Marshall visited with Krzyzewski, and also drove to Chapel Hill for a visit with North Carolina coach Roy Williams.

According to Gaines, Williams said he liked Marshall and needs big men in the Tar Heel program, but didn't offer a scholarship and said he wanted to see Marshall play more in July.

Marshall visited with Virginia coach Tony Bennett after the NBA Players Association's top 100 camp in Charlottesville, Va. Then, before July 4, Marshall was at home in Warsaw, Ind., with his entire family - the first time they'd all been together for an extended period since Christmas.

That gave Marshall time to make his decision. Gaines said he expects Krzyzewski to set goals for Marshall for his senior season, and anticipates that becoming a dominating low-post scorer will be part of the plan.

Marshall is a different player from his brothers - about an inch taller than Miles and Mason - and what might be called a "true" center. While Miles and particularly Mason have demonstrated the ability to score on mid-range jump shots and sometimes drives to the basket, Marshall plays strictly with his back to the basket on offense.

He averaged 8.6 points, eight rebounds and almost three blocked shots per game last season while leading Christ School to a state title, and Gaines wants to see the scoring number increase.

"We need a 7-footer who is going to the ACC to be a legitimate 15-, 18-point-a-game guy," Gaines said. "And I think he will work to do that. That's just his natural progression. That's what needs to happen."

Gaines said Marshall plays with enthusiasm and energy and runs the floor quickly, like his brothers, even though he plays a different position on offense. Gaines said Marshall felt comfortable with the coaches, the tradition and the size of the school at Duke.

Marshall is rated the No. 40 player in his class by, and Gaines said his final three schools of top interest were Duke, North Carolina and Virginia.

"Really, Marshall is kind of his own man," Gaines said, "and I think the decision, it didn't hurt that his brothers are there and have had a great experience. But ultimately he made the call on his own."

Ken Tysiac