Conference call: Primed for fall recruiting success
The travel basketball season is now complete, and the next step is for schools to lock down official visits from their top 2018 targets in the hopes of eventually landing commitments.
We now take a stab on predicting which programs are set up for a successful string of weeks on the recruiting front.
As always, Duke is expected to come through with a giant haul this fall. While the Blue Devils didn’t enjoy the fruits of their labor until later in the year in the 2017 recruiting cycle, it seems as if most of their top 2018 targets are leaning toward fall commitments.
There is nothing more that Duke would like than to solidify their backcourt with a point guard tandem of Tre Jones, the younger brother of former Blue Devils star Tyus Jones, and Darius Garland, a five-star guard that recently cut his list to a group of six. Duke should be seen as the favorites for each, and they also remain out in front for top-five 2018 wing Cameron Reddish. Landing each is not totally out of the question.
BIG EAST: XAVIER
Villanova, Marquette, Providence and Creighton have already struck gold on the recruiting trail this summer, and while Xavier has been left out of the party, expect that all to change this fall.
The Musketeers sit in a great spot with five-star guard Ayo Dosunmu, and as they continue to battle Illinois and Kansas along with a handful of others, a commitment to the Musketeers should come as no surprise. They do need to add further ammunition to its backcourt and on the wings; they remain in the recruitments of Noah Locke, Isaiah Mucius, Aaron Henry and Talen Horton-Tucker.
Finding a true big man wouldn’t hurt the cause, either, and Xavier recently hosted local product Jaxson Hayes for an unofficial visit on Thursday.
BIG 12: TEXAS
Five months removed from the worst year of Shaka Smart’s stellar head coaching career, there is loads of optimism in Austin thanks to the Longhorns' marvelous 2017 recruiting haul. Led by five-star center Mohamed Bamba, Texas should have a giant bounceback season in 2017-2018.
Before that, however, they should be able to hit another home run in recruiting this fall. They are in the top three for Louisiana native Jared Butler, as they continue to battle Alabama, Virginia and a slew of others for him. Thanks to their quick-paced playing style and reliance on multi-positional defenders, versatility on the wings is vital. Texas is in a great spot with four-star forward Brock Cunningham along with Keldon Johnson, Kaden Archie, Gerald Liddell and Kamaka Hepa; Hepa will visit UT the first weekend of September. Texas also made the final seven for Quentin Grimes, one of the best scorers in the 2018 class, on Thursday.
BIG TEN: OHIO STATE
No conference boasts more commitments from 2018 prospects than the Big Ten, and while Michigan, Michigan State and several others are expected to hit again this fall, Ohio State could be the program that has the best string of weeks on the recruiting front.
It is important that first-year head coach Chris Holtmann puts together a deep and talented 2018 haul. Having already missed on most of the top talent in the state, the Buckeyes have looked elsewhere and gained traction with Elijah Weaver, Luther Muhammad and Robert Phinisee. Jaxson Hayes, an emerging name from Cincinnati, will visit campus Monday. Meanwhile, others including Aaron Henry, Talen Horton-Tucker, Justin Ahrens and Mike DeVoe remain high on the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has already nailed down the commitment of top-150 wing Torrence Watson. They also secured a pledge from Musa Jallow, a versatile wing who will reclassify and enroll this fall, and the Buckeyes could add another late one this summer with Eric Ayala, a top-100 guard that could also reclassify into the 2017 class.
Just like the Big Ten, the Pac-12 as a whole has gotten a leg up on its competition in the 2018 recruiting cycle as Oregon pounced early thanks to the commitment of Miles Norris. The Ducks should change that this fall, as they are heavily in the mix for five-star forward Simi Shittu. North Carolina recently offered the Canadian forward, but thanks to the Pac-12 program’s recent recruiting efforts with those from north of the border and the relationship that they have built with Shittu, Oregon remains the favorite.
Besides Shittu, the Ducks remain a top landing spot for Eric Ayala, a 2018 guard that could reclassify into 2017 within the coming weeks. A few others to keep tabs on include top-50 guard Luguentz Dort, another Canadian target, Gerald Liddell, Jordan Brown, Isaiah Mucius, Keldon Johnson and post Bryan Penn-Johnson.
Kentucky has been atop the SEC and the college basketball universe when it comes to locking down the best talent nationally. While it may be difficult to push John Calipari from that perch, Will Wade, the new head coach at LSU, has the Tigers in a prime spot to make some noise this fall.
They sit as the favorite for Nazreon Reid, a five-star center from New Jersey, and should also be perceived as the leader for top-100 forward Josh LeBlanc. Having already landed one of the best point guards in the 2018 earlier this year in JaVonte Smart, the focus remains on the frontcourt. Underestimating LSU's chances with top-100 forward Darius Days and five-star forward Emmitt Williams would be a poor decision. It is a new day in Baton Rouge, and this fall will reflect it.