Conference Call: Surprising 2018 recruiting classes
Things are beginning to speed up on the commitment front, as some of the top programs have nailed down its stars of the future. We are accustomed to Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke owning the recruiting world, but the class of 2018 has already brought in a few surprising winners.
In this week’s conference rundown, we highlight some of the more surprising winners of the 2018 class from each major league.
ACC: NOTRE DAME
Mike Brey has become known for his guard-heavy lineups that include high-effort post play. And while he has had his fair share of wins on the recruiting front, it has been more about finding the right personnel to plug in. The Irish did that this summer, though these so-called ‘fits’ are even more talented than in prior years. Notre Dame kicked off its class with the surprise commitment of Prentiss Hubb, yet another DMV native to pledge to the Irish. He was later joined by fellow top-100 wing Robby Carmody, though that was less surprising because he grew up a giant ND fan. The Irish kept the ball rolling with the commitment of former Ohio State pledge Dane Goodwin. The Irish are not done just yet, as they remain in the mix for Simi Shittu and Nate Laszewski. Either way, the work that they have done this early is a bit surprising but also impressive.
BIG EAST: DEPAUL
There is still much to be done on the recruiting front by Big East members as Xavier, Butler and Georgetown have yet to strike. While they remain in need of a big man, DePaul has cashed in early with a pair of commitments, thanks to the recent reworking of its coaching staff. The first was from John Diener, the younger cousin of former Marquette star Travis Diener. John Diener is one of the top shooters in his 2018 graduating class. The gem in 2018, though, goes by the name of Tyger Campbell, who's one of the more surefire producers in America. While he doesn’t boast ideal upside, Campbell has won at every level that he has played and looks the part of a four-year starter at the point guard position for the Blue Demons.
BIG 12: TCU
Things got a bit stale for both Jamie Dixon and Pitt fans, and the departure of the former Panthers head coach to his alma mater seemed like a good move for both sides. A year later, Dixon has won his fair share of battles, both on the recruiting front and on the hardwood.
While he still needs to get TCU over the hump in its fight for an NCAA Tournament bid, the work that they continue to accomplish on the recruiting front is nothing short of impressive. Last summer, TCU scooped up Jaylen Fisher before he went on to have a solid freshman campaign. This summer, the Horned Frogs sit with the best class in the Big 12, primarily because of its early recruiting efforts with top-150 guard Kendric Davis and New Zealand big man Angus McWilliam. They were also able to keep Russell Barlow in the state.
BIG TEN: RUTGERS
Rutgers, yes, Rutgers, has had an excellent showing on the recruiting front. After taking over a rather empty cupboard last year, Steve Pikiell did a phenomenal job of piecing together the various personnel in producing a respectable product. Rutgers outplayed many teams despite facing talent deficits, so it should be exciting for its fans to see what can be accomplished whenever things are on a more fair playing field. The Big Ten squad nabbed one early with Mamadou Doucoure, a high-effort center and a solid rim presence.
However, they had maybe the best 24 hours on the recruiting trail within the past 10 years last week. First, they landed the commitment of high-flying lead guard Mac McClung. Just a day later, they beat out UConn and bevy of others for top-100 scoring guard Montez Mathis. A three-man class full of talent and immediate value is one of the surprises, not just in the Big Ten, but throughout all of college basketball.
Why be surprised with what USC has done this summer? It is a fair question since the Trojans have done wonders on the recruiting trail following the hiring of former FGCU head coach Andy Enfield. This year may be their best yet, as they hold three top-100 commitments with still more than four months to go before the early signing period.
USC has hit various spots on the West Coast this summer, two of which have come from the Seattle area. Kevin Porter and J’Raan Brooks are tremendous hauls; snatching the duo from the Pacific Northwest was no easy task. Along with the top-100 talents, USC mined the local area by keeping top-50 forward Taeshon Cherry close to home.
The Trojans defeated multiple Pac-12 schools and other powers for each prospect. And while it was a bit surprising that they were able to land all three, it would be the biggest surprise if they could nab five-star forward Marvin Bagley III.
SEC: MISSISSIPPI STATE
Ben Howland has not had issues winning some major recruiting battles in the past dating back to his tenure at UCLA, where he seemingly landed all of the top local talent. Since Howland took over in Starkville, Mississippi State has begun to nail down top-50 talent by the year, and this recruiting cycle is no different.
One of the swiftest commitments came from Reggie Perry last month. Perry is a former Arkansas commit who pledged to the Bulldogs less than three weeks after parting ways with the Razorbacks. In the middle of July, the Bulldogs kept the momentum going thanks to the four-star commitment of D.J. Stewart. A 6-foot-5 do-it-all wing, Stewart along with Perry created major headway for the program. Mississippi State's success has surprised some, but has also created even more buzz about its future.