Evans Seven: Programs in position to land top talent this spring
The late signing period is just days away and once it completes next month, we will have a better understanding of the national title picture for the 2019-2020 college season. In this week’s Evans Seven, we outline the programs in the best spot to make a run this spring when it comes to landing top talent.
Memphis is going to land someone this spring, it is just a matter of which coveted prospect it will be and if it can secure more than just one. RJ Hampton is a five-star junior that could reclassify into the 2019 class, and the Tigers and Kansas are out in front, although Duke and Kentucky remain in the conversation. Jalen Green could reclassify, too, and the five-star junior has already taken an official visit to Memphis. Three others that we know will be on a college campus in the fall are Precious Achiuwa, Lester Quinones and Trendon Watford. Quinones is the most likely of that bunch to give his pledge to Memphis. Regardless, Memphis will almost certainly celebrate another recruiting win this spring and could finish the late signing period with a top 5 class nationally.
Matters primarily revolve around Matthew Hurt, and Duke is optimistic about securing his commitment next week. The Blue Devils have a major need in the frontcourt, and while Vernon Carey was a major win this winter, replacing RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson is not a task that even the top-ranked player in America can complete single-handedly.
Hurt’s commitment, which is becoming more and more likely, gives Duke another chance to fight for the national title next season. If they landed Hurt, the Blue Devils could back off their pursuit of five-star forward Trendon Watford, who is also considering Alabama, Indiana, LSU and Memphis. Cassius Stanley is a five-star guard out West that the Blue Devils have shown varying degrees of interest in, while Hampton is a top-five junior who could reclassify into the 2019 class. However, their chances with him are not great and the return of Tre Jones makes the need to land Hampton less pressing.
Kansas has some major holes on its roster, due to the departures of KJ Lawson, Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Charlie Moore, and the uncertainty surrounding Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa. The Jayhawks could fill a variety of holes, or swing and miss multiple times.
Formerly the leader for Hurt, the Jayhawks appear to have slipped behind Duke. Precious Achiuwa has visited Kansas, and he could help along the front line, thanks to his size and motor. Achiuwa’s high school teammate, Harlond Beverly, received a KU offer last month and could visit Lawrence this spring, too, as could Tristan Enaruna, a Rivals150 prospect that Creighton, Illinois and Miami are also chasing after.
Lastly, Hampton has the superstar talent that the Jayhawks are desperately in need of, and he could reclassify and be on a college campus this fall, an option that Bill Self hopes he takes, but he would have to defeat Duke, Kentucky and Memphis for his services.
4. NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina has taken it lumps this winter, whether it was at the hands of Auburn in the NCAA Tournament or coming up short for Josh Green, Tre Mann and Keion Brooks. However, the next few weeks could be a change for the better for the Tar Heels. Five-star guard Cole Anthony is nearing his commitment, and it would come as a giant shock to everyone if he were to not pledge to UNC. The Tar Heels are likely to miss on Hurt as Duke is the favorite, and while they made great strides with Previous Achiuwa during his visit to Chapel Hill last month, it remains a guessing game with where he might land. They continue to pursue Isaiah Todd, a junior that could reclassify into the 2019 class this summer, and have shown interest in Virginia Tech de-commit Anthony Harris, a four-star guard respected for his defensive prowess.
Indiana is in major need of help this spring as it prepares for next season. The Hoosiers have some pressing needs on the wings and along the front line, and landing a high school prospect and a transfer would work swimmingly for the Hoosiers. They have a chance to hit it out of the park on both fronts, as they are the favorite for Joey Brunk, a former Butler standout that would be eligible immediately next season. Florida and Ole Miss are two others in a good spot with him. Trendon Watford continues to keep IU in his final five, though the Hoosiers are playing catch-up with him, just as they are with Lester Quinones, who will visit the program in the coming weeks. Harlond Beverly might be their best shot right now and they have also expressed heavy interest in Anthony Harris, a former Virginia Tech commit who would fill a variety of holes in Indiana's back court.
The Panthers suffered through a few misses along the recruiting trail during the fall and early winter months, but since then they have secured three commitments from players who should immediately see playing time next year. More wins could be ahead as the Panthers are in the top two for Ibrahima Diallo and just have to defeat Ohio State for his services. Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua, this winter’s breakout player, is on campus at Illinois this weekend, but the Panthers have a very solid chance with the Finnish-born prospect.
Pitt is also busy over the next few days with a visitor of its own, that being Khadim Sy , one of the top-rated junior college prospects. At the very least, Pitt will snag one of the three, and any of them would help the Panthers next season. The Panthers also have not forgotten about the transfer realm, and they have kept in close touch with Villanova’s Jahvon Quinerly and Cal’s Justice Sueing.
7. Texas A&M
Buzz Williams got the job that he has always had his eye on, and these next few weeks will define just how good he can be in College Station. Texas A&M lost all four of its recruits from the prior regime, but there is a chance that both Sahvir Wheeler and Chris Harris Jr. will revert back to their original commitment. Also, keep an eye on Cassius McNeilly, a four-star Canadian guard that could reclassify into the 2019 class. The Aggies are the team to beat with him.
Yavuz Gultekin, one of Williams’ recruits at Virginia Tech, will be in College Station this weekend, and he could decide to follow Williams to the SEC program. The junior college realm is worth keeping an eye on for future Aggies’ commitments, and Hampton could take a look at the program, thanks to Williams’ long-time relationship with his father, although the Aggies do not sit in his final four.