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Gillen, Virginia coaches blaze another recruiting trail

Two years after putting together a top-five recruiting class, the Virginia men's basketball program again has an abundance of scholarships to hand out and plenty of talented prospects to pursue.

Seniors Donald Hand, Keith Friel and Stephane Dondon will graduate following this season. The scholarship of Colin Ducharme, who transferred to Longwood College in the offseason, will be free. The Cavs also will regain the scholarship that was taken away this season because of NCAA violations committed under the previous coaching staff.

With five scholarships at its disposal, Virginia is looking to bring in a top recruiting class. The Cavaliers already received two verbal commitments: guards Keith Jenifer of Hargrave Military Academy and Jermaine Harper of the Blue Ridge School.

With a pair of 6-foot-3 guards in the fold, the undersized Cavaliers will focus on frontcourt players to fill the three remaining scholarships. Seven-foot bruiser DeSagana Diop is Virginia's primary target, but Pete Gillen and his staff also are recruiting big men Ousmane Cisse, Jason Clark, Elton Brown, Hakim Warrick and Jamal Sampson.

The success of this year's class may hinge on the coaching staff's ability to reel in a true center like Oak Hill Academy's Diop, who tips the scales at nearly 300 pounds.

Recruiting Trail
  • Seven-foot center Diop emerges as top target among Cavalier recruits
  • Cavs look to plug frontcourt holes after commitments from guard duo
  • CD Online Men's Basketball Coverage
  • men's basketball recruiting
  • Oak Hill Academy basketball home page
  • "They are missing that type of player," said Kurt O'Neil of Atlantic East Hoops. "He's a terrific prospect; he's powerful and has good hands. It's between Virginia, UNC and the NBA."

    Brown, a rugged power forward from Warwick High in Newport News, was in town this past weekend for his official visit. FastBreak Recruiting ranks the 6-9, 240-pounder as the nation's No. 43 prospect. Brown is also considering Temple, Florida State and N.C. State.

    Jason Clark, Brown's AAU teammate on the legendary Boo Williams' summer league team, is another Cav target. At 6-7, 210 pounds, Clark will play at Hargrave alongside Jenifer this season. Tennessee and Virginia Tech also are vying for Clark's services, but Virginia appears to be the clear leader. A commitment could come within the next two weeks.

    "I think he's leaning to Virginia," O'Neil said. "He's real good, a tough player who does the dirty work like [Cav big man] Travis [Watson]. He's a tweener who can play the small or power forward."

    Clark "is a good athlete who is all over the boards," said Brick Oettinger of Prep Stars Recruiting Handbook. "I would compare him to Damon Thornton of N.C. State."

    Cisse, a Mali native currently based in Montgomery, Ala., is ranked in almost everyone's top 10 list. His older brother Daouda plays for Louisville, which may give the Cardinals an edge. Duke and Arkansas join Virginia as other possibilities.

    Cisse's advisor, Don Jackson, is a University Law graduate, and Cisse has visited Charlottesville in the past, but he has not yet set a date for an official visit.

    "I have Cisse ranked No. 1 in the class," O'Neil said. "He played the best this summer. If he doesn't go to Louisville, then Duke is the team to beat. Virginia has a shot."

    Hakim Warrick, a 6-8, 185-pound forward from Wynnewood, Pa., will visit Virginia the weekend of Oct. 27 to take in the North Carolina football game.

    Jamal Sampson, the cousin of former Cavalier great Ralph Sampson, cancelled his visit to Virginia last week and may reschedule for later in the fall.

    The frontcourt of the future may be unsettled, but the Cavs have a pair of backcourt talents in Harper and Jenifer.

    Harper, a 180-pound native of Gardena, Calif., has received solid but unspectacular reviews heading into his senior season at Blue Ridge. Oettinger said Harper "was a hard player to judge," but O'Neil was more enthusiastic.

    "He's a nice player with good ball-handling skills and a good shot," O'Neil said. "He's versatile because he can back up the point and play the two, similar to Roger Mason, except he is not as strong."

    Jenifer, a 160-pound point guard who jumped on board in July, is a native of Towson, Md., but will take a postgraduate year at Hargrave. Like Harper, there are aspects of his game he needs to improve.

    "Jenifer is a good talent," Oettinger said. "He has a beautiful stroke and he is a quick driver, though occasionally he plays out of control."

    Gillen pulled in one of the country's best recruiting classes two years ago when he signed Watson, Mason, Majestic Mapp and Jason Rogers. Last year, Herrion took over as the program's head recruiter and brought in Cavalier freshmen Maurice Young and J.C. Mathis.

    "There are no coaches that are more personable than Gillen and Herrion," O'Neil said. "They are good guys and good salesmen. They will have Virginia competing at the top of the conference for years to come"


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