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Evans Seven: Contenders that used every avenue to build rosters

RANKINGS: 2019 Rivals150 | 2019 Team rankings | 2019 Position rankings

2020 Rivals150 | 2020 Position rankings

Top 75 of 2021

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson (AP Images)

Which national title-contending programs have gone about completing their rosters in the most unconventional way? In this week’s Evans Seven, we look at seven schools that could cut down the nets next month and how they won their recruiting battles by not just winning the bluebloods but also succeeding via the transfer, junior college, early-enrollment and decommitment fronts.

MORE: Prospects make NCAA title predictions | Top recruiting finds in each NCAA Tournament region


The Tar Heels, despite their recent shortfalls on the recruiting trail, have heavily coveted prospects Coby White, Nassir Little and Rechon Black, on their roster. But Luke Maye was a walk-on recruit who worked his way into becoming an All-American. Cameron Johnson was thought to be barely good enough to play at Pitt before transferring to the ACC program and now climbing up a number of NBA mock drafts. Don’t forget about Kenny Williams, who was formerly committed to VCU before Shaka Smart left for Texas, or Garrison Brooks, who was a one-time Mississippi State commit before backing off his commitment and adding more bulk and toughness to the Tar Heels’ front line.


Rui Hachimura
Rui Hachimura (AP Images)

Mark Few is expected to enroll the best recruiting class that the WCC program has ever celebrated next fall. But before that happens, he will be attempting to win his first national championship, relying on a handful of foreign-born prospects and transfers.

Rui Hachimura has been the face of the program, as the Japanese forward has brought some notoriety to a country not known for its basketball. Despite lingering injuries, French import Killian Tillie remains a weapon in the frontcourt, as does potential NBA first-round pick Brandon Clarke. The San Jose State transfer has blossomed in Spokane and he has become the ideal complement to Hachimura as a rim protector and rebounder. Geno Crandall hasn’t had the season that he had hoped for, but he still is a nice player off the bench. He transferred into the program after scoring 28 points against the Zags as a member of the North Dakota program a year ago.


Ashton Hagans
Ashton Hagans (AP Images)

While John Calipari remains the don of the recruiting world he should also be thought of as a killer on the decommitment front. A quick look at his roster reveals four members that were not supposed to be there. Ashton Hagans was set to attend Georgia. Jemarl Barker was a California commit. EJ Montgomery committed to Auburn early in the process. Lastly, Tyler Herro was expected to be the next Wisconsin native to carry the in-state Badgers back into national contention. Instead, all four backed off of their original intent and now are major reasons why the Wildcats have a chance to cut down the nets next month. Also, Reid Travis was thought to either be headed to the NBA Draft or returning to Stanford for his senior season, but instead left for Lexington. Add it all up and what you have is one of the better rosters made on the fly by Calipari.


Jack Salt
Jack Salt (AP Images)

Virginia is on one of the greatest, if not the greatest, runs in school history. That says something for all that Tony Bennett has achieved in Charlottesville, and he has had just one McDonald’s All-American in his time at Virginia.

The Cavaliers have had no issues relying on Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Mamadi Diakite, each of whom were solid wins on the recruiting trail. But they have also worked the transfer market and international landscape. Braxton Key made the swift move from Alabama and has fit in seamlessly this season, just as New Zealand native Jack Salt has remained an interior force that no one wants to mess with inside. Kihei Clark was viewed as a nice pick-up for UC-Davis. He then broke out his senior summer, backed off his pledge and immediately pounced on the Wahoos’ offer. Don’t forget that if it wasn’t for a yearlong injury to De’Andre Hunter in high school, Virginia might not have had a chance with him.


Dedric Lawson
Dedric Lawson (AP Images)

Despite still earning a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament it has been a harsh season in Lawrence. Those shortcomings would have been multiplied tenfold if it wasn’t for Bill Self’s work on the transfer front. Dedric Lawson is currently the face of the program, as the former Memphis standout has etched his name into the KU single-season record books. His brother, KJ Lawson, has had his own quality moments this season as the pair has created for a strong backbone in what is now a depleted frontcourt. Another transfer by way of California, Charlie Moore has provided a spark off the bench, which is the exact role that Mitch Lightfoot, a one-time Arizona State commit, has filled during his stay in Lawrence. Without any of the four, who knows where the Jayhawks would be?


Matt Mooney
Matt Mooney (AP Images)

Look up and down Texas Tech’s roster and you find competitive and driven ballplayers who maximize their abilities. Chris Beard found an under-the-radar gem in Jarrett Culver, but it has been his staff’s work in hitting the transfer world that has really shaped the Red Raiders' roster. Matt Mooney was one of the most sought-after grad transfers last spring and all that he has done in Lubbock is make over 38 percent of his perimeter attempts while chipping in close to 11 points per game. Brandone Francis and Tariq Owens, each one-time members of the Rivals150, left their original starting spots at Florida and St. John’s, respectively. Lastly, Deshawn Corprew has brought a gritty mindset from the junior college ranks, helping patch together Texas Tech’s roster that could deliver the program its first Final Four appearance.


Ahmed Hill
Ahmed Hill (AP Images)

The top three names on Virginia Tech's roster each came with great resumes, and Justin Robinson, Nickiel Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear have all delivered during their time in Blacksburg. But without a supporting cast, how effective would they have been? That is where the genius recruiting efforts of Buzz Williams come into play. Ahmed Hill was set to play for Williams at Marquette, but once Williams left for Virginia Tech, Hill was willing and able to follow. Ty Outlaw was a major win on the junior college side and without his perimeter shot-making, the Hokies might not be in the spot that they currently reside. The same could be said for Isaiah Wilkins, who is one of the more underrated glue guys for a top-seeded team. If it were not for his July commitment and enrollment immediately thereafter, the Hokies would be without one of their best bench contributors.