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January 13, 2012

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.

Krish: With only one basketball scholarship left for 2012, and three primetime recruits (Winston Shepard, Norvel Pelle, Anthony January) still on the Aztecs' radar, how do you see the rest of the recruiting cycle playing out? Do the coaches pressure Pelle and Shepard for a decision, or wait them out given it looks like January would commit right away with an offer? Now that we landed Johnson it is not nearly as pressing we sign another big, so does that move January up the priority list?

I see San Diego State waiting as long as possible for Pelle or Shepard. Shepard is such a dynamic talent that at 6 feet 8, 206 pounds, SDSU is actually recruiting him to play the point guard position. With Pelle, he's a near-7-footer with tremendous athleticism and the ability to go to the league in a very short period of time. So you have two guys there who the Aztecs would do just about anything to get.

As for January, I love his game, and I think the Division I basketball world does too. But his grades and eligibility issues are just so concerning, and with the Aztecs' supreme depth at the 2 / 3 positions in 2012, I see him as the fallback for if Pelle and Shepard go elsewhere.

Now this whole thing gets really interesting if one of them commits and then the other wants to as well. First of all, I think I would take Shepard over Pelle if you gave me the choice, because while you can't teach size with athleticism, I just think Shepard is such an unreal talent, and he doesn't come with nearly the baggage Pelle would bring (the ineligibility issues, the grades issues, the St. John's decommitment, etc.). Now if they both wanted to come, I really think you could see SDSU taking both. That would mean the writing could be on the wall for sophomore guard LaBradford Franklin. Contrary to the popular belief, scholarships are awarded on a year-to-year basis, and while it is unbelievably, exponentially frowned upon to revoke a player's scholarship based on performance, SDSU has done it before (see Tyrone Shelley) and I don't think it would hesitate to do it again if you're talking about Pelle and Shepard as the reward. I don't think the Aztecs appreciate anything Franklin does (neither do the fans nor the media, for that matter), as evidenced by walk-on Narbeh Ebrahimian averaging more minutes per game than him this season. So things could get a little hairy here if everything does indeed play out this way.

Lloyd: Why in the world would Norvel Pelle and Winston Shepard wait so long to commit as teams are running out of scholarships? Is it a question of qualifying academically; or do they plan on not going to college; or do they just have that many options that they don't have to commit before signing day? For the life of me I don't understand the delay in their respective commitments.

Every player is going to have their different reasons for doing what they do during the recruiting process. For some, it's just a matter of it wasn't enough time to see all of their favorite schools. I know that was the case with Shepard, who only took one official visit (to New Mexico) over the summer. He was just so dialed in with AAU ball and then prepping for his senior year of high school ball that he decided to postpone the recruiting process until after this season. With Pelle, I think a lot of it is indeed trying to get his NCAA eligibility, but I also think he's trying to explore more of his options right now. He's been a bit radioactive in terms of media and coaches and grades lately, and he hasn't had the opportunity to showcase his skills in a while, so getting back on the positive side of things could help him with more schools.

Ultimately, though, I think it might be better in the long run for recruits to take more time with all of this in general. Some, of course, probably should not wait as schools do run out of schollies. But with bigger names, picking the right spot is so important, especially if there are NBA dreams. I'll always think back to Jabari Brown's dad telling reporters that his son was only 17 years old when he made the commitment to Oregon. That always stuck with me. I didn't even wear shirts that fit me when I was 17 years old, let alone pick a basketball coach that was going to mold me into the next NBA shooting guard. So while coaches would like everybody to be Matt Shrigley or Skylar Spencer and choose in October, some recruits just need more time.

Wayne: There seems to be a lot of pub about RBs and QBs in future recruiting classes, but what about the beef? How are we set for O- and D-lines next year and beyond?

I can't fathom an SDSU offensive line class ever being as good as this 2012 one the Aztecs are about to bring in, and it's still not done yet. Three-star tackle Kwayde Miller might be the best of the bunch, but you still have three-star Austin Maass and two-star Arthur Flores committed. Then of course you have three-star JuCo tackle Marc Pouvave, three-star Nico Siragusa, four-star Zach Hemmila and even three-star Eduardo Middleton still in the mix for all of this. This class should ultimately give the Aztecs an O-line that will be more than solid in the Big East in a few years.

As for the D-line, this is where people get their undies tangled up a bit, because SDSU hasn't brought in a Godzilla to play nose tackle yet. But people need to come off the ledge a little bit here. Alex Barrett looked much, much bigger than his listed weight of 245 the last time I saw him at Qualcomm Stadium. And defensive ends Darien Barrett and Daniel Kottman have a serious knack for getting after the passer. Plus SDSU is returning some athletic guys along that front three with Sam Meredith possibly coming back (if he doesn't head on his mission), and Dontrell Onuoha and Jordan Thomas all in. If there's one position I'm going to trust Rocky Long on, it will be athletic defensive linemen. SDSU is in good shape here for the future.

Fencecutter: Considering we already have 17 orals (and only giving 25 schollies in total) the recent influx of transfers, both announced and expected, there doesn't seem to be many scholarships left this year for the highly recruited guys the coaching staff is going after (Nico Siragusa, Zach Hemmila, Jonavaughn Williams, Chanceller James, Robert Lewis). Who is going to be left out in the cold?

If Siragusa and Jonavaughn Williams aren't careful, it could be them. I know both had legit interest in Colorado, but it appears the Buffs have backed off of both. And like you said, with SDSU filling up schollies fast, those two could be locked out of the house by the time signing day comes. Don't forget SDSU still believes it has a chance with Devian Shelton as well, and it really wants Jevaris Little in this class too. So the schollies are filling up really quickly, and some of the Aztecs' recruits need to start pulling the trigger before that ship sails completely.

Tommy: Do you have a prediction for the UNLV game this Saturday? I don't have the best feeling in the world about it.

Unfortunately for Aztecs fans, I'm not having the best feeling in the world about SDSU's chances for winning this one either. If Xavier Thames were 100 percent, I would feel a bit better about the Aztecs' odds, but Steve Fisher didn't sound too positive about him on Thursday, and he didn't look too great playing on Tuesday. And playing Vegas with Narbeh, Alec Williams and LaBradford Franklin isn't going to fly so much this weekend.

So I think the Aztecs will put up a good game at home, but I say Vegas takes it 76-71. The rematch in Las Vegas in February, with all of SDSU's players presumably at 100 percent (including James Rahon who's very close after fracturing his foot earlier this year), will be more indicative of who the champion of this Mountain West Conference will be.

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