Over the past summer Niner fans everywhere followed the recruitment of Willie Clayton and Shawn Lester closely. Of course, for us at GTG, that meant keeping track of every recruiting blog on the net looking for new information to share with you. One blog that stood out for Atlantic 10 recruiting news in general was Heard This Blog, which considers itself “Your Atlantic 10 Basketball Connection.”
Heard This Blog was founded by Ben Weixlmann, who, in addition to having a ridiculously cool last name, has been writing about sports since he was in high school. He’s since gone on to write for BillikenReport.com and has managed to position himself as a go-to for Atlantic 10 recruiting news.
In the spirit of intra-conference collaboration (and of course, sharing hits), we caught up with Ben and asked him a few questions about recruiting, the Atlantic 10 and gave him a chance to hate on Dayton.
Green Tinted Glasses: You’ve decided it would be worth your time and effort to blog about the Atlantic 10. Why? Shouldn’t you be spending your valuable resources on things more worthwhile?
Heard This Blog: Ha! I really do enjoy covering the Atlantic 10. In my opinion, the A-10 is the best non-BCS basketball conference out there. Many folks already cover the more well-known conferences, and thus I feel as though I can create a niche following by solely following the Atlantic 10. As you well know, a lot of the fanbases within the conference are just as rabid as BCS schools, and so it makes for a lot of engaging conversations.
GTG: You’ve made it a priority so far to cover recruiting in this conference. What types of opinions do high school prospects have about the Atlantic 10? Are most of them weighing the conference in the decision, or is it strictly based on the merits of the individual schools?
HTB: This is a very interesting question. The answer to this question ranges the entire spectrum. Some recruits I have spoken to are very knowledgeable about the league, and some honestly don’t know anything about it. I would say it’s 50/50 regarding conference and individual schools. Many of the top-level recruits in the league simply know the individual school that is recruiting them. Some East Coast prospects I have spoken to are being recruited by many of the A-10 schools and therefore have a greater understanding of the conference as a whole.
HTB: Just as one would expect, it’s Xavier and then a sizable drop from there. The Musketeers have a Top 25 recruiting class nationally for ’12. I’d argue it’s even closer to Top 15. Semaj Christon and Jalen Reynolds are both players that will have instant impacts in the Atlantic 10. I saw Christon play this past summer, and he’s the real deal. His height, athleticism, and skill set are incredibly advanced. From there, it’s tough to say. Dayton has Jevon Thomas and Jalen Robinson. Both are big-time talents. Temple, Charlotte, and Duquesne all have two members in their 2012 classes. It’s just really difficult to grade them out without having a more full understanding. We’ll know a lot more here in a couple of months. Xavier is the only one of the bunch that has a full 2012 class.
GTG: Going into the 2011-2012 season, everyone has picked Xavier to win it all with Temple being the closest competition. That’s boring. Give us your craziest prediction for how conference play will go. Who will be the biggest surprise?
HTB: I’ll go “crazy” and say that Dayton won’t finish higher than 10th in the conference. They were picked sixth by the media, but this will be an off-year.
GTG: Do you ever get tired of Xavier? Do you think they get tired of winning?
HTB: How could I ever get tired of watching basketball, let alone when it’s very quality. Chris Mack, the rest of his staff, and players would love nothing more than to go undefeated. They’re a motivated and very talented group of guys.
GTG: Since we’re self-absorbed and obsessed with attention, go ahead and talk about Charlotte. Do you think they’re going to finish in eleventh as they’re currently predicted to do so?
HTB: It’s difficult to say. Derrio Green can fill the bucket, but he needs to shoot it at a much higher percentage this season for the 49ers to have some sort of success. I think ninth is a more reasonable prediction for them. Alan Major will do some solid things there in the future, but this season will be another growing year.
GTG: Saint Louis has been pegged as a potential NCAA squad this season. Should we plan on including them in our bracket predictions? If I call them St. Louis do you get angry?
HTB: As it stands now, I think you have to include them, yes. I personally see them as a 12-seed. I don’t get angry at all if you call them St. Louis. The school’s administration insists otherwise, however. Getting All Atlantic-10 guard Kwamain Mitchell back from suspension is huge for the Billikens. The role players will need to perform at a top-level this year in order to smell the Big Dance in March.
So there you have it. Ben, like many others, isn’t expecting much from the Niners this season, but at least he’s predicting Dayton will underperform worse than usual. Heard This Blog is a great place to keep up with Atlantic 10 recruiting; we look forward to leeching off his #scoop in the future. Take some time to visit his site and have a look around.