Basketball Recruiting - Cassidy's Takeaways: Day 1 at the Circuit League IV
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Cassidy's Takeaways: Day 1 at the Circuit League IV

Marvel Allen
Marvel Allen (Rivals.com)

IRVING, Texas -- Day One of the The Circuit League IV event in suburban Dallas is in the books, and the day that was in North Texas featured a number of highly-touted prospects showcasing their craft and discussing their college futures. Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy was on hand at the event and provides recruiting news and notes from the loaded grassroots event.

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More: Questions prior to 2022 rankings release

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Top 30

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FIVE-STAR DIOR JOHNSON TALKS FINALISTS 

Last year’s 9-16 disaster of a season be damned, the allure of Kentucky not only remains intact, but it seems as strong as ever.

Just ask five-star point guard Dion Johnson, who was set to announce three college finalists last week before a last-minute call from the Wildcats quickly turned a top three into a final four.

“Honestly, I had it all set. I was gonna announce a final four with three colleges [and the NBL], but when Kentucky found out I was making that cut, they called me and I ended up adding them right then. We were already in contact, but it wasn’t too crazy. When I announced I was cutting it down, they reached out and had a good talk.”

And so John Calipari pushed his way in the door and joined Oregon, Washington and Alabama on the list of programs in the running to land the celebrated prospect. So while the professional route will remain difficult to beat, Johnson, who scored 19 points for Vegas Elite in a Saturday afternoon game against a loaded Team Trae Young squad, insists the Wildcats, Huskies and Ducks are all very real options for his future.

“I’ve been in contact with Oregon since [assistant] Chris Crutchfield got there. Ever since he got there, they’ve been on my super hard. With Washington, they have been doing the same thing since Quincy [Pondexter] got there. I have a great relationship with him. Then, with Alabama, those coaches offered me in 7th grade when they were at Buffalo, so I’ve known them. They’ve known me for a long time. I like the way they play and the way they let their guards go.”

According to Johnson, a decision on his future may come before many think, as he pledges not to drag his decision out for the sake of building drama. On Saturday, the California product says he will announce sometime before the late signing period in 2022.

“When I know, I’ll just tell everyone,” Johnson said. “I won’t drag it out or play any games with coaches.”

Recruiting against professional money will be an uphill fight for Kentucky, Alabama, Washington and Oregon. Everyone involved is acutely aware of that fact. So while Johnson is aware of the enormity of the decision before him, he says he also sees how a quick stint in college could improve his eventual bottom line.

“I’m not really into rushing to any money,” he said. “I’m level-headed enough to know that I can go to college, wait six more months and get more money than I would have if I rushed to get the fast money. I’m going to take it slow and be smart.”

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MARVEL ALLEN PUTS ON A SHOW

Florida-based guard Marvel Allen turned in one of the top performances by an underclassman on Saturday, as the class of 2023 star posted a 30-point effort in a comfortable victory for his Each 1 Teach 1 team over Las Vegas Elite.

The top sophomore in the Sunshine State, Allen scored at all three levels in the performance and showed off a devastatingly quick first step and tight handle in the process. Stanford recently offered the budding star and programs such as Illinois, LSU, Virginia Tech and South Florida are heavily in the mix. Allen’s list of offers will almost certainly expand this summer, however, as a handful of other major programs are already mulling making things official.

“I have some heavy interest from Georgia, Oklahoma State and Memphis,” Allen said. For now, however, Illinois seems to stand at the center of things. Allen names no favorites and says he recruitment is open, but the effort the Illini have made in recent weeks has certainly made an impact.

“I talked to coach Chester [Frazier],” Allen said. “They just offered and I like him. Me and my coach hollered at him and he was just telling me how great an option Illinois was for him and could be for me because he played there. He offered me early, so I know they truly see something in me. We're building a relationship.”

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FORMER PITT PLEDGE HAS LONG LIST OF SUITORS 

A one-time Pitt commit, Jalen Hood-Schifino backed off his commitment to the Panthers in July of last year. So while he insists the Panthers remain in the mix to land his letter of intent down the road, Jeff Capel’s program has plenty of company in the race.

“The main schools right now are Kansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Georgetown, Oregon and Pitt,” Hood-Schifino said on Saturday afternoon.

“I like the history of Kansas and all that. They offered me the day I reopened my recruitment. They were the first school to do it. Indiana has been coming hard too. They want me to come in and be me -- you know, play my game, get the ball out and go. Tennessee and Wake, too. They are coming hard.

Recommitments are rare beasts in recruiting. But while they certainly aren’t common, they do happen. And when Hood-Schifino says he’s still very much considering the Panthers despite backing off his original pledge, his words seem sincere.

“I still talk to them a lot,” he said of the Pitt staff. "We keep that relationship. They still want me and we talk, like, every other day. We are keeping that communication open.”