Josh Pastner has his first blue chip recruit, with Latavious Williams committing today to play for Memphis. Not only is Williams a good recruit, but he also increases the chances that Memphis will land Lance Stephenson, a player who Williams has encouraged to come to Memphis, and who I continue to feel is a logical fit at Memphis, despite reports to the contrary.
I think it can be argued that Latavious is a slightly lower risk and slightly lower reward than Stephenson. He is not rated quite as highly as Stephenson, but he is a 6'7" wing forward who has tremendous athleticism and upside. The player I have seen him most commonly compared to is Shawn Marion. And I'm unaware of any major personality issues and legal issues, like those surrounding Stephenson. But that said, it's not even a certainly that Latavious will play next season. He has major academic woes, which is a fact which greatly reduced his number of suitors right off the bat. It's being reported all over the place that he might play the full season, that he might miss the first semester, or that he might not play at all next year. Williams himself says that he is enrolling in summer school programs and believes he has a 75 percent chance of playing next year.
But even if Latavious doesn't play, the signing will mean a lot for Memphis, because it means that there will be at least some life after Calipari. While nobody knows yet whether Pastner will be as good at handling personnel and in-game coaching as Calipari, there appear to be no doubts that he's an outstanding recruiter. And at least for the time being, Memphis should continue to out-recruit the rest of the Conference USA and stay a perennial Tournament team. I'm dubious about whether they will ever be a national power again, but they won't completely disappear from the national stage.
This is a great sign to 2010, 2011 and 2012 recruits that they can still consider Memphis a serious destination where they'll be able to play with top talent and compete at the highest level. And assuming that nobody else transfers out, Memphis should be a near-lock to take Conference USA again and to collect a solid seed in the Tournament in 2010. Even without Lance Stephenson or Shawn Taggart, I see them in the 8-11 seed range (assuming Latavious can play at least the second semester). If Lance signs or Taggart returns, I might move them up closer to a 5-7 seed.