Move Over 2006, Juniors Take Center Stage

A funny thing happened during the early signing period for seniors: three members of the Class of 2007 used the window to announce their decisions.

That's right, more members of Scout.coms's Top 50 juniors made college decisions during the actual fall signing period than seniors. OK, so it's not exactly that cut and dry. Most of the seniors committed well before the commencement of the signing period, but that fact merely fuels the point of this article. Kids are committing at a staggeringly early pace.

The arms race for underclassmen is progressing faster than Chris Paul can go baseline to baseline for a bucket. The secret is out: high-major programs better nab early commitments or its curtains before the curtain on your season goes up.

"Think about it, the times have changed," one power conference assistant said. "There's going to be 50-75 commitments (out of the Top 100) before Las Vegas (in July). Guys are going to be done. Official visits are going to be for guys who are committed. You must have one or two commitments going into July or you'll be scrambling."

When the early signing period for seniors draws to a close on Nov. 16, 13 members of Scout.com's Top 50 from the junior class will have already made their collegiate decisions. Frankly, that's a pretty staggering number but not one that should surprise. In fact, in the last five years, the number of early commitments from underclassmen has been on the rise … steadily. Innovations in technology, in particular the ability to text and personal message kids on a daily basis, stoke the intelligence fires in basketball offices around the country.

"The recruiting world has sped up to a pace – because of text messaging – that the 2007 class will be done before July," the assistant said. "There's a lot (of commitments) and I'll bet you 5 more already know where they're going, they just haven't announced yet."

While North Carolina and Ohio State drew raves for their impressive recruiting hauls last week, Maryland, Arizona and Georgetown were firing off warning shots that not only were they finished recruiting the current senior class but they were ahead of the curve with the underclassmen.

Arizona received the best news when combo guard Jerryd Bayless, before a throng of media, announced that just halfway through his high school career he was ready to lace them up for Lute Olson in the fall of 2007. Bayless, rated the No. 7 prospect in the junior class out of St. Mary's High in Phoenix, picked the Wildcats over Texas.

Here's the thing about Arizona: this wasn't their first commitment from a junior. A month and a half earlier, 7-footer Alex Jacobson out of famed Mater Dei in California got the commitment parade started with his early pledge. While Olson might very well be college basketball's eldest elite statesman, he's full of energetic youth on the recruiting trail.

The Maryland Terrapins have 6 scholarships to award to members of the Class of 2007. After No. 47 junior Braxton Dupree committed this week, make it 5 scholarships to give. Dupree, a 6-foot-8 center with soft hands out of Calvert Hall in Baltimore, was the first – but not expected to be the only – early pledge to Gary Williams' program.

All Dupree's commitment to the Terps proved was that early pledges are contagious. Five days earlier, down the road at Georgetown, John Thompson pulled a 2007 rabbit out of his hat when No. 24 Austin Freeman pledged his Hoya allegiance. The famed DeMatha Catholic wing man was the biggest name to announce his commitment – senior or junior – on signing day.

The times have officially changed.

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