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December 2, 2011

Mailbag on the Mesa

Editor's note: Every Friday ASR Publisher Edward Lewis will answer some questions from fans about the Aztecs in this weekly mailbag. Send questions to edwardflewis@yahoo.com, @EdwardLewisASR on Twitter, post questions on the message board or put questions on ASR's Facebook page.

Jeff: You reported earlier this week that San Diego State will pass on Oregon SG Jabari Brown. My question is, why on earth would you pass up a five-star kid?

There are a lot of components to the answer to this question. First and foremost, I think a lot of it had to with the recruiting. Does Brown make SDSU a better team? Probably. But is it worth upsetting a kid like Matt Shrigley for? That's what the Aztecs and Steve Fisher had to weigh, in my opinion. Now Shrigley told me he wouldn't have minded too much having Brown join the team, but I don't think it's fair at all to recruit this guy, tell him one thing, have him sign and look good for next year's roster, and then all of the sudden grab a five-star kid who plays the same position. In the business, it's called over-recruiting, and I think SDSU avoids that at all costs, because it's bad business practice. Other recruits see that, and other colleges do too and use it against you.

Plus, now this is strictly my opinion, but I've heard Brown wasn't exactly the best kind of teammate. In reading some reports on Brown, you'll find that not only did he get up and leave on his Oregon team just two games into the season, but also that "he went to three high schools in four years, leaving Findlay Prep in the middle of the season when he was a junior." SDSU has amazing chemistry right now, and that's part of the reason it is 7-2 this year despite only having nine guys. Dropping a bad teammate into that blender could mess everything up.

I think if the Aztecs were 10-20 last year and were 0-9 this year and didn't have this ridiculous 2012 class coming in, then maybe they pull the trigger. But in weighing it all out, seeing what it could do to your current recruits and future ones, and not to mention your current players, I think SDSU decided the risk wasn't worth the reward on this one.


Jon: Will Jamaal Franklin make more "Yes!" plays or more "No!" plays this season? That guy is an enigma.

I absolutely can't stand this whole Franklin thing. I hate that people bash on him, I hate that reporters write stories calling him volatile and polarizing, and I really hate that people debate about him like he's some kind of animal. He makes mistakes, yes. He makes mistakes at critical times too, yes. And sometimes he makes boneheaded plays, of course. But my goodness, so does every other basketball player in the history of the world. Take Wednesday night's game, for example. James Rahon was on a fast break twice in about a 10-minute span during that game against Creighton. And twice he had a guy running with him for a wide open two points. And twice, he didn't pass the ball and things didn't quite work out. I thought those were two silly plays. Then Labradford Franklin got in for two minutes, jacked up a 3-pointer and missed, then got to the line and missed back-to-back free throws. I thought that was pretty ridiculous for a 6-foot-2 point guard to do. Then you had five guys on the court fail to get a rebound off a missed free throw down 85-83 with five seconds left. I thought that was pretty absurd.

Yet all anybody wanted to talk about after the game was "Jamaal didn't get enough minutes … He gets too many minutes. … He's an enigma." It just drives me crazy. Look, he's in his sophomore year playing significant minutes with the Aztecs for the first time in his career and he's second on the team in points per game and third on the team in rebounds per game. He's doing fine. Just because he has a unique personality and says things like, "You go from Little Mario to Big Mario," or has a nonchalant swagger whether he's dunking on somebody's head or fouling with three seconds left in a game, doesn't mean he's any better player than Chase Tapley or any worse than Rahon. Just let him do his thing, let Fisher coach him, and just put the whole "He's an enigma!" thing to bed.



Doug: I readily admit that football recruiting is a mystery to me, but I follow basketball recruiting closely (borderline obsessively) and it seems like there could be a big hit to the program in terms of recruiting to the Big West. Would that be counterbalanced by the ability of the football program to recruit to the Big East? I know this is all about money and TV and keeping up with the Joneses, but can we realistically expect an increase in the level of talent that comes to the Mesa for football? And how bad will the hit be for basketball?

These are great questions. First of all, a move to the Big East wouldn't do anything but help football recruiting. If I've said it once, I'll say it 3,000 more times, kids care about conference prestige. If you're in a BCS conference, that automatically gets your foot in the door with about 99 percent of these kids. Once your foot is there, that's when you show them SDSU, the weather, the facilities, the campus and everything the school brings, and suddenly you're picking up three- and four-star recruits regularly. With the Mountain West Conference, a lot of brand-name recruits kind of brush it off, especially if they have the Pac-12 or Big 10 breathing down their neck. So there's no doubt in my mind the football team would / should see an increase in recruiting.

As for the basketball team, a move to the Big West likely wouldn't hurt them this year or next or maybe even the year after that. But once the Aztecs are firmly planted in that inferior league, and are playing routinely in front of high school-gym sized crowds on the road, I think you'll find SDSU having a harder time recruiting. I've talked to a lot of people "in the know" in this whole situation, and not one of them thinks it's a good idea for basketball. And with the basketball team being the No. 1 ticket on campus for more than a decade now, I just really can't see how you justify saying, "You're going to have to do more with less now so the football team can do better. Sorry."


Stephen: Saw that you're not a fan of moving to the Big East. I think SDSU has to do it. More money, better football recruits, and I think basketball can survive in the Big West. Your thoughts?

I had a fan email me backing up my opinion on this and he used an analogy that was absolute gold. Here's what he said to me: "If they go to the Big East, I'm afraid the TV contract won't be this big sum of money SDSU is hoping for. It's like going to a party because your friend tells you there are a few cute girls (Louisville, Rutgers and UConn) there even though the hot chicks (West Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse) already left. But then, as soon as you get there, the cute girls bail and you are stuck at a sausage party."

How great is that? I don't know about you, but if I'm the Aztecs, and I'm sticking my sensational basketball program in the Big West, my football program better not be hitting up a sausage party. I just think here, like the Jabari Brown situation above, the risk just doesn't outweigh the reward right now. There's a chance the Big East could lose all of its game-changing programs, lose its AQ status and garner a TV deal that may turn out to be not that big of a difference after all between SDSU's current one with the Mountain West. Plus, the Aztec basketball team, the only program that has been consistently great for SDSU, would be ailing in some downtrodden league. Until the Aztecs get some kind of guarantee, in terms of money or teams staying / going, I think it's too risky right now to do that to your athletic department.



Ian: How has Brandon Wright looked as a scout team running back, with the possibility of Ronnie Hillman leaving early, I could see Chad Jeffries and him taking over admirably. What's your thoughts on this?

Brandon Wright is great. The problem is, so is every other running back on this roster. Hillman will be an NFL Draft pick sooner or later, Walter Kazee has proven how good he is, you've seen Adam Muema's ability last month, and Rocky Long has already raved about Chase Price and Dwayne Garrett this season.

It's kind of funny, because when Brady Hoke first got here, he couldn't find a running back to carry the rock for his team no matter who he tried to put back there. Now, all of the sudden, SDSU has about six backs who are capable of it, and they still have Alex Howard on the way for 2012. It's a good problem to have, though. We'll see how it all shakes out in the spring.


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