Evans Seven: Programs hoping to impress players on big visits
It is a lighter slate for visits this weekend, thanks to the USA Basketball Minicamp that will attract over 80 of the top high school prospects to Colorado Springs for the next three days. However, Kentucky, Pitt and Texas A&M are among the programs that will host some of their top targets. In this week’s Evans Seven, we address the situations in Lexington, Pittsburgh and College Station and spotlight a few others that will be hosting talented players.
The headliner for Kentucky’s annual Big Blue Madness will be Cade Cunningham, the top available senior that holds the keys to next season’s national title picture. He has already visited Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma State and has a visit set to Washington next weekend, so a decision shouldn’t be too far away. Cunningham wants to play alongside the best and compete for a national title, which is what UK consistently offers in any given season.
Joining him will be Paolo Banchero, who will be taking his second official visit of the fall as he was actually at North Carolina the same weekend as Cunningham last month. Terrence Clarke, who committed without taking his UK official visit, will do so this weekend, with an unofficial visit list headed by JJ Traynor, Brandon Miller, Trey Kaufman, Paul McMillan and Moussa Cisse.
Illinois has a major need to fill at the lead guard position, and while the Illini remain heavily involved for Andre Curbelo, who is expected on campus next week, they will first get the chance to host KK Robinson. The four-star guard has already visited Kansas and TCU and a trip to his home-state program of Arkansas is the final one scheduled for next weekend.
Illinois has never been perceived as a serious threat for the Rivals150 standout, but a good weekend in Champaign could change things. Robinson plans to commit later this year, but is also open to putting off his signing until the spring, which could allow another program to snatch his final official visit.
3. NORTH CAROLINA
While the Tar Heels have already added the talents of Caleb Love to their 2020 class, they remain in need of a shot-maker. They have grabbed some momentum with Ziaire Williams, but the feeling is that a commitment will not occur until at least the winter, if not later. They will host Puff Johnson next month and are also slated to have Kerwin Walton on campus at the end of the month.
In the meantime, the Tar Heels' focus will be on R.J. Davis this weekend. The top 65 guard will almost be done with his official visit tour following his trip to North Carolina, and while the Tar Heels may be in catch-up mode, the opposition still has to be concerned about what UNC can offer. Marquette and Pitt have been the most discussed landing spots for Davis, with Georgetown also in contention, but with this being his final visit before his fall commitment, might the Tar Heels be able to pass by their competitors and land the premier shot-maker?
4. OLE MISS
Kermit Davis’ complete attention will be on Matt Murrell this weekend. The top 50 guard will take his fourth official visit of the fall, as has already been to Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt. The Gators had been in major contention until they took the commitment of Niels Lane earlier this week, which all but fills their backcourt needs and knocks them out of the race for him. Vanderbilt currently employs Murrell's former high school coach prior to his transfer to IMG Academy, and Auburn should never be discounted.
However, location and Breein Tyree’s graduation would provide a giant opportunity for him at Ole Miss. Texas will receive his final visit next weekend before a decision is made, and the Longhorns could be a dark-horse suitor, but Ole Miss is in a good spot with the two-way standout.
Jeff Capel has some holes to fill in the frontcourt, and while I expect the Panthers will get the upcoming commitment from John Hugley on Oct 18, more help is needed. That is exactly why this weekend’s visit from Max Amadasun, a three-star center that holds offers from Penn State and St. John’s, is so important. Just beginning to tap into his potential, the Irish big man is an athletic, big body that possesses tangibles that Pitt currently lacks. The Panthers have picked up ground with him, and it would come as no surprise if they were to go on a frontcourt run in the coming weeks.
While Capel and his staff will be gearing most of their attention to Amadsun, Wiz Khalifa will be entertaining a slew of unofficial visitors for Pitt's Midnight Madness festivities, including Rivals150 juniors Jordan Hawkins and Erik Reynolds.
6. TEXAS A&M
College Station will have plenty of buzz Saturday, thanks to the battle between Alabama and Texas A&M on the football field. Buzz Williams’ focus, though, will be on the visitors that are slated to be on campus.
Hassan Diarra is his main priority as the four-star guard fits the ethos of exactly what he is looking for in a point-of-attack playmaker. Diarra has already visited Georgia and Indiana, and a commitment is not too far off. LaDamien Bradford, a three-star wing out of Louisiana, might not be too far off from deciding either. Texas A&M has been fairly active in recruiting Bradford since the new staff took over back in the spring and their work could ultimately result in his commitment to the Aggies.
Hayden Heffner, the Aggies' lone 2020 commit, will be on campus attempting to give his first assist as a member of the program. He will be joined by a slew of unofficial visitors, including Daimion Collins, Lee Dort, Noah Shelby and Rylan Griffen.
7. VIRGINIA TECH
There are important weekends - and then there is what Virginia Tech has in store. The Hokies have already nailed down the backcourt of their future in Darius Maddox and Joe Bamisile, but the frontcourt remains of even greater importance. The Hokies currently don't have a single player who stands over 6-foot-8 and has played a meaningful minute of high-major basketball.
Keve Aluma, who is sitting out this season, should help but the player who could really address their needs is PJ Hall. The four-star prospect was thought to be a Florida lean until the Gators took Samson Ruzhentsev last week, which might give the Hokies a better chance to land Hall. Hall's father played for Mike Young at Wofford, and the relationship there is apparent. Georgia Tech and Tennessee are also involved, but this could be a battle between the Hokies and Clemson, with this weekend going a long way toward whether Hall chooses Virginia Tech.