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Southern Conference recruiting: Ranking the top five classes and top 10 recruits

The Southern Conference has been busy on the recruiting trail.

Mohammad ‘Mohamed’ Abdulsalam
Photo Courtesy of UNCG Athletics

The season concluded a month ago, and it’s time to start taking a look ahead to the Southern Conference’s 2018-19 campaign.

Let’s rank the top 10 individual recruits and top five recruiting classes for the upcoming season. Rankings are subject to change as teams add transfers throughout the offseason.

The top five recruiting classes:

  1. Chattanooga — No one hit the recruiting trail quite as hard as Lamont Paris. The Mocs added two extremely talented players to a quartet of solid signees. In the early signing period, Paris added a pair of transfers in Jerry Johnson Jr. (Fairfield) and Ramon Vila (Arizona State). Both will be available to play at the end of the fall semester.

Johnson will be an immediate impact player. He started 14 of 55 games in two seasons with the Stags, averaging 9.8 ppg and 3.0 rpg. Vila will add some European flair underneath; the 6-8 native of Barcelona, Spain transferred out of Arizona State prior to the 2017-18 season. Vila started four out of 33 appearances during his lone season in Tempe.

The third transfer the Mocs will add to their latest class is seven-footer Thomas Smallwood from UAB. Smallwood will be available for action immediately next season, and averaged 2.0 ppg and 1.3 rpg during his three seasons as a Blazer.

Freshmen Maurice Commander and Donovann Toatley also committed during the early signing period, along with Keigan Kirby, Jonathan Scott (JUCO) and ESPN four-star recruit Kevin Easley.

Easley is the prized gem of this recruiting class. The 6-6, 220-lb product of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, IN was ranked the No. 6 player in Indiana and No. 35 small forward nationally. He had originally committed to former Mocs coach Will Wade at VCU prior to his move to LSU.

The Mocs are coming off a 10-23 record, finishing last in the Southern Conference. Chattanooga returns three of its top four scorers for the 2018-19 season, but must replace leading scorer Nat Dixon, who transferred.

2. Samford — While Samford lost plenty of players due to transferring, head coach Scott Padgett has put together a solid class so far. Steven Fitzgerald leads the group, who comes to the Bulldogs out of Padgett’s home state of Kentucky. Fitzgerald played his prep hoops at Pulaski County High School, and his 6-4, 175 lb frame slots him as a two-guard.

Keep an eye on Georgia prep standout Stanley Henderson, Jr., who was recently added by Padgett and staff. Henderson averaged 16 ppg and 13.5 rpg during his time at Middle Georgia Prep. Samford’s staff nabbed him from SoCon rival Mercer.

3. East Tennessee State Steve Forbes has put together one of the SoCon’s top recruiting classes. Carlos Curtis appears to the best of the freshmen additions to the class thus far. Curtis is a 6-2, 170-lb guard out of Riverside University High School, averaging 19.0 ppg and 6.4 apg as a junior, committed to ETSU during the early signing period.

JUCO transfer Tray Boyd III is another a big pickup for Forbes and the Bucs. Boyd, a 6-4 guard out of Northwest Florida State College, brings athleticism and scoring versatility to the fold. He averaged 14.8 ppg this past season, and was ranked the No. 35 JUCO player in the nation.

Rumors abound about a potential visit from Khwan Fore, a graduate transfer out of Richmond, who is looking to play his final season of eligibility closer to his home state of Alabama. Fore, who averaged 11.2 PPG last season for the Spiders, is also looking heavily at the University of Tennessee.

4. UNCG — The reigning Southern Conference champions don’t have many roles to replace, but the big news surrounding the Spartan program is the addition of four-star recruit Mohammad Abdulsalam.

Abdusalam is a 6-8, 268-lb center out of Greenforest Christian Academy in Decatur, GA. He chose Wes Miller’s UNCG Spartans over Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Providence and UAB. Abdulsalam appears to be best recruit in the SoCon.

5. Furman — By losing three starters, Bob Richey’s first official recruiting class at Furman should be a dandy, led by Corbin High School and Corbin, KY., product Andrew Taylor. Yes, in case you were wondering it is the same Corbin High School that produced former college basketball and Furman legend Frank Selvy, who scored 100 points in a game in February of 1954.

While Taylor might not be the “Corbin Comet,” his proficiency as a scoring point guard as a prep can’t go unnoticed: Taylor scored an amazing 3,000 points in his prep career.

Taylor joins a class that includes some other impressive talents such as three-star forward Jalen Slawson, combo guard Mike Bothwell and guard Jaylon Pugh. Slawson is another freshman to keep an eye on this season; he averaged 15 ppg and averaged three blocks per game in high school.

Top 10 individual recruits:

  1. Mohammad ‘Mohamed’ Abdulsalam (UNCG)

2. Steven Fitzgerald (Samford)

3. Kendrick Easley, Jr. (Chattanooga)

4. Carlos Curtis (East Tennessee State)

5. Andrew Taylor (Furman)

6. Stanley Henderson, Jr. (Samford)

7. Carlos Dotson (Western Carolina)

8. Ramon Vila (Chattanooga)

9. Tray Boyd III (ETSU)

10. Jalen Slawson (Furman)