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Bossi's Best: The 10 most interesting recruiting battles to track

RANKINGS: 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150 | 2018 Team | 2018 Position

Vernon Carey Jr.

It’s time to start looking ahead to which recruitments will be the most hotly contested and interesting to follow. Today we take a look at the 10 top 50 prospects whose recruitments will be among the most interesting and takes a look at the contenders.

MORE BOSSI'S BEST: Projected NBA first-rounders who have surprised | The 10 toughest beats of the past five years | Teams most impacted by the NBA Draft Combine

1. Vernon Carey Jr.   

What he does: Currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the class of 2019, Carey is a polished big man with tremendous shooting touch. Because of his ability to stretch defenses to the three-point line or score with his back to the basket, he is a fit for virtually any style of offense.

Contender analysis: Carey recently cut his list down to a final five of Duke, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan State and North Carolina. Miami is the hometown team where his father played football and will likely be in the mix down to the end. But as we approach July, Duke should probably be considered the frontrunner.

2. James Wiseman 

What he does: Ranked No. 2 nationally, Wiseman is more of a long-term stock. He’s grown to a legitimate 7 feet, runs the floor very well and is adding to his skill as a back- to-the-basket scorer and somebody capable of facing up from between 12 and 15 feet. It’s all about adding strength and confidence between now and his arrival on a college campus.

Contender analysis: Wiseman says that there are other programs involved, but at the same time he admits that his recruitment is essentially going to come down to Kentucky and Memphis. The intrigue here is whether or not Penny Hardaway - who coached Wiseman last year in high school - can win his first major slugfest with a recruiting titan like John Calipari?

3. Cole Anthony 

What he does: Currently ranked as the No. 4 player in the 2019 class, Anthony has put tremendous pressure on the big men ranked above him. Nobody in the country has been more productive than Anthony during grassroots play. He is an aggressive floor general who scores at the rim, gets others involved, plays great on-the-ball defense and is an elite athlete.

Contender analysis: What makes Anthony’s recruitment so interesting is that he doesn’t speak about specifics and we are left to wonder what he may do. Don’t be surprised if it runs into the spring of 2019 and - given his father Greg Anthony’s experience as an NBA player - any list formed by Anthony is going to be very calculated and will take into consideration his potential NBA future. Many think Duke will be tough to beat but Kansas, Oregon, Villanova, Notre Dame and some others will be in the mix.

4. Matthew Hurt 

What he does: A combo forward who is skilled on the offensive end, Hurt is a scorer who stretches defenses. He can shoot with range, runs the floor pretty well, is capable of attacking other forwards off the dribble and has started to build his low-post game.

Contender analysis: Kansas is considered the leader and Bill Self is Hurt’s coach on USA Basketball’s 18U team. Can somebody like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky or Minnesota (which is in his home state) break through to make Self and the Jayhawks sweat it out?

5. Isaiah Stewart 

What he does: Not saying Stewart is quite as good as Elton Brand was or is the exact same player Brand was as a high schooler, but there are certainly similarities. Stewart is strong as an ox, has long arms and uses his great hands, skill and touch to be a dominant low-post scorer and rebounder.

Contender analysis: Just a week ago, Stewart cut his list to a final 10 of Duke, Georgetown, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Texas, Villanova and Washington. Let’s go ahead and shrink that list and look at Duke, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Texas and defending national champion Villanova as the most viable contenders at this point in time.

6. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Kelly Kline/Under Armour

What he does: Pound for pound one of the most fundamentally sound big men in America, Robinson-Earl plays a very balanced floor game. He has tremendous footwork with his back to the basket, can consistently drill 15-foot jumpers, rebounds at a high rate and is a very good passer out of double teams.

Contender analysis: Given that he’s just 45 minutes or so away from Kansas’ campus, many have pegged the Jayhawks as the team to beat - and Bill Self and his staff have turned up the heat. However, Robinson-Earl has been adamant that he’ll consider all options and he’s proven that by taking unofficial visits to Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA and Wake Forest, among others. Keep a close eye on UNC and Wake, but Arizona could be a sleeper and K State’s Bruce Weber has put in some serious face time.

7. Wendell Moore 

What he does: Moore is a high-level utility player who does many things very well. He’s not going to be counted in to step in and be a primary scorer for a big-time program, but he will be expected to defend at a high level, score in transition and be a jack-of-all trades type of wing.

Contender analysis: Moore is down to a final five of Duke, N.C. State, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wake Forest. Early on in his recruitment, UNC was considered a heavy favorite, but the Heels appear to have faded some. Duke is the current favorite, but don’t sleep on Wake Forest, where Moore has spent an awful lot of time on campus over the past two years.

8. D.J. Carton 

What he does: A throwback to the days of pure, pass-first point guards, Carton is all about getting into the lane and making things happen. He’s always got his head up, surveying the action, has burst off the dribble and is a high-level athlete. Don’t sleep on his scoring, though, because he’s just as dangerous there as he is as a playmaker for others.

Contender analysis: Carton is down to a final six of Indiana, Iowa, Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State and Xavier. Iowa has coveted the local product for some time and will be right in it until the end, while Michigan and perhaps Indiana now appear to be the biggest competition. If the Detroit Pistons hire John Beilein, Carton’s recruitment could change quickly.

9. Keion Brooks 

What he does: Brooks is a prototype college four-man as the game moves more and more towards positionless basketball. The slender product out of Indiana is more athletic than you might first realize and his basketball IQ and skill level is high. Yes, his specialty is scoring the ball, but you won’t find a better passing frontcourt player in the country.

Contender analysis: Indiana is hoping to keep a second straight in-state star home and the Hoosiers are deep in the mix for Brooks and five-star big man Trayce Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers appear to be in a good spot for Brooks, but he’s also very high on Kentucky and Michigan State and this one is going to be a very tight race.

10. E.J. Liddell 

What he does: Though he may be slightly undersized as a four-man, Liddell makes up for it with strength, sneaky explosive athleticism and skill. He can bury three-pointers, has a clever and developed low-post game and he’s also got some of the strongest hands in the class of 2019. What’s most surprising is his ability as a straight-up shot blocker.

Contender analysis: Liddell lives in the St. Louis area and is pretty much right on the border between Illinois and Missouri. He’s a must get-target for each of those schools. The question is whether or not another program can steal him away from the Illini or Tigers. There are plenty of coaches willing to do so, and Ohio State and Kansas State are definitely contenders whike, Florida and Louisville may be among those to watch.