Open Scholarship Marks Billups’ First Move

DU has just one open scholarship roster spot for the 2016-2017 season. According to sources close to the Denver basketball program, DU has several players under consideration to fill their only remaining scholarship opening by national signing day April 13th.

Will Denver use their valuable pick as a symbolic selection and pick a local urban player? Will the Pioneers pursue the best available athlete, despite geography? Will they try to fill a positional need or select a player best capable of filling Rodney Billups up-tempo ‘vision’? 

My guess is that they either select a one-guard or a center/power forward. Dan Ficke, DU’s recruiting coordinator under Joe Scott, likely has a list of potential recruits. New head coach Rodney Billups was the recruiting coordinator for the University of Colorado, so he certainly has a list of prospects as well. Finally, associate head coach Ricardo Patton may have several leads on prospects that may impact the team’s final decision.

While DU has consistently culled the suburban Colorado high schools for recruits, Billups may want to send a message with this selection. All things being equal, will he select a local urban recruit, especially from the Chauncey Billups Elite Basketball Academy run by his brother to open up a new pipeline for Denver?

At this point in time, the cupboard is nearly bare of local available D-1 recruits but the local market is worth exploring. DU was the worst rebounding team in the country last year (346/346) and DU’s biggest Summit League rival, South Dakota State has a skilled all-league power forward/center Mike Daum that DU will be facing for the next three years.

Basketball Colorado identified the best six local available ‘big men’ and their potential collegiate level. None of these players appear to be ready for D-1 mid-major level competition but could be red-shirted and/or developed over time. These players include: Antonio Capley (6’11 – C – Ralston Valley) D-2 skills, Noe Davilla (6’8 – C- Lincoln) JUCO skills, Devante Antonio Jones (6’5 – PF- Dakota Ridge) JC skills, Antun Maricevic (6’9 – PF – Longmont Christian) Low D1 skills, Jesus Martinez (6’10 – C- Pinnacle) Low D-1, Marc Reininger (6’9 – PF – Regis Jesuit) D-1 walk-on.

With big men in short supply locally, do not expect DU’s sole 2016-17 scholarship to go to any of these players. However, there remains the slim possibility that existing high school commits may change their initial commitments and select DU with the Billups hire. Finally, there may be non-Colorado big men to fill this void as well.

I am more convinced than ever that DU will go with a one-guard to guide Billups up-tempo offense. He will pick a play-making ‘quarterback’ to guide his new offense for the next four years. Getting a true D-1 point guard prospect bringing the ball and running the offense has to be a top priority. This would free up Joe Rosga to play the two-guard where he can apply even more energy  to offense, defense, and rebounding – all strong areas  for Rosga. This move would free him up from bringing the ball up and running the offense. Currently, DU faces a risk by playing Rosga 35-40 minutes per game and expecting him to ‘do it all’ with the obvious risk of injury and fatigue. DU needs a fresh Joe Rosga come Summit League tournament time.

As for local guards, there are three local players that would make excellent point guards for DU.

Jervae Robinson – 6’1 – Overland is a solid available guard. Had a very good run in the state tournament and has earned a number of postseason awards including All Basketball Colorado. Robinson is a scoring guard at heart but can run the point. He does handle the ball very well and has a good feel for the game. He’s a good finisher in the paint and can knock down the 3 pointer. Robinson projects as a low DI guard.

Another small guy? Well, maybe if he is the right person to trigger the offense, especially a proven winner. Reggie Gibson (5’11 – G- Overland) fits the bill.  He has guided Overland to back-to-back state championships. He knows how to use his quick first step to get to the basket, knows how to pick n roll and he hits timely three-pointers. He’s also an excellent ball handler and has great court vision. According to Basketball Colorado , he is a qualifier and would make an impact no matter where he goes.

Could Ladarius Thomas (6’1 – G – Aurora Central) be the answer? According to Basketball Colorado’s analysis, he falls into the best guards available category. Thomas is a four-year high school player. He was co-conference player of the year and was all 5A and All Basketball Colorado. He has already received DII interest and offers. His size, speed, and ability to score the ball could put him at a DI school. He is a scoring point guard that can finish at or above the rim. Sees the floor well and can be a lock-down defender. Oh, and he plays for the Chauncey Billups Elite Basketball Academy.

DU will not gamble on a big man with their only remaining pick unless the prospect is a ‘can’t miss’. Instead, they will rely on Daniel Amigo, Christian Mackey, Abiola Akintola, C.J. Bobbitt, Duke Douglas, and incoming freshman Jake Krafka to work as a committee under the basket. If DU goes local with their selection, look for guard Ladarius Thomas to be in crimson and gold next year. He will be a solid 4-year contributor and establish a new connection to Denver’s urban pipeline of players. DU will have to wait until next year to follow with an anchor in the middle.