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Is the Class of 2013 The Greatest in UTEP Basketball History?

Earlier today, UTEP received word that small forward Vincent Hunter signed a letter of intent to play for the Miners. The addition of Hunter capped off an unbelievable early signing class for head coach Tim Floyd. Hunter played prep basketball with current Miners center Matt Wilms, and chose UTEP over DePaul and Long Beach State. Rivals.com ranked him as the 19th best small forward in the country and the 98th best player in the nation.

Hunter joins a class that includes Isaac Hamilton, ranked 16th overall by Rivals.com and Jacob Thomas, one of the top junior college players in the nation. Thomas will have two years of eligibility with the Miners starting with the 2013-14 season.  He is currently a sophomore at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, the third-ranked JC squad in the country.  He averaged 14.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals as a freshman. He was one of three freshmen voted to the Western Junior College Athletic Conference All-League Team.

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Hamilton is rated as one of the top high school seniors in the country by a number of publications and chose UTEP over UCLA, UNLV, and San Diego State. The Miners’ head coach had nothing but great things to say about his prized talent.

“This is a great day for UTEP,” Miner head coach Tim Floyd said in the official press release. “I feel like we have just signed a young man who will play in the NBA.  We intend to play Isaac at the point guard position.  We see a lot of Seth Curry in him – a big guard who can score. Isaac is not only a really capable scorer and shooter, but has the instincts to make players around him better.  We feel like with Isaac and McKenzie Moore, we’re returning to how our teams looked at USC with big point guards like O.J. Mayo [Dallas Mavericks] and Gabe Pruitt [Boston Celtics) who can play together and play off of each other.”

The Miners also announced that shooting guard Andre Spight and small forward Jake Flaggert will play for UTEP beginning in the 2013-14 season. While both might not have Hamilton’s upside, they will bring more athleticism and scoring to the team. Spight is ranked the 18th best player in the state of California and Flaggert’s 6’6 size and 35-inch vertical should make him a dynamic swingman for Coach Floyd.

In the 1960s, Don Haskins built a reputation for recruiting some of the best players in the country. He landed Jim “Bad News” Barnes, the best junior college player in the country and a future #1 overall NBA Draft pick by the New York Knicks in 1964. He also was successful recruiting top players in New York City and Texas, and his hard work paid off with the 1966 National Championship. Twenty years later, his UTEP teams were loaded with talent, but many of them were not always highly sought after players in high school or junior college. Billy Gillispie landed Fili Rivera and Omar Thomas in the same class, and both junior college stars led the Miners back to the NCAA Tournament. Tony Barbee also had some outstanding recruiting classes, especially his Memphis connection featuring Randy Culpepper, Jeremy Williams, Arnett Moultrie, and Gabe McCulley. However, he could not boast landing two Top 100 prep players in the same signing class. Add a junior college star in Thomas and the early signing class of 2013-14 could go down as the best ever in UTEP history.

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