Evans Seven: Programs poised to add some key additions
We saw Arizona, USC and Villanova dominate the early signing period, but there are a number of five-star and Rivals150 members still available so the team rankings remain fluid with spots available for the taking. In this week’s Evans Seven, we take a look at seven programs that could achieve the greatest success from now until the end of the late signing period this spring.
Could the season-ending injury to Udoka Azubuike be a blessing in disguise? He'll likely return for his senior season, and that erases one of Kansas' primary concerns regarding next season’s roster. More frontcourt help is still needed, and the Jayhawks have been a favorite for Matthew Hurt dating back to his freshman season, and not much has changed since. Precious Achiuwa is another player that KU is involved with, as is Anthony Edwards, a five-star guard who recently reclassified a year up and has kept the Jayhawks on his school list. And don’t forget about Cassius Stanley. He is down to a final three, though UCLA is almost out of it because of its coaching change. That leaves KU and Oregon battling for his services. The Jayhawks did offer three-star forward Tristan Enaruna in December, and Kansas could be a landing spot for N’Faly Dante, who might choose to reclassify into the 2019 class. The Jayhawks have also been a very active member in the transfer waters, which is how they landed the Lawson brothers and Charlie Moore. So don’t be surprised if they hit the transfer market again.
2. NORTH CAROLINA
The Tar Heels have been the ultimate bridesmaid in the 2019 class, coming up short with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Josh Green and Tre Mann. Could a new year be just what is needed for UNC to land not just one, but two five-star prospects? Roy Williams sure would love to think so. and with the likely departures of Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Nassir Little and Coby White, the Tar Heels need to strike in the coming months. Their top target, Cole Anthony, is down to a final six, but this race is more of a duel between Oregon and UNC. It seems as if the Anthony camp is split as to which spot is best for him, but UNC remains the team to beat. Matthew Hurt is another that the Tar Heels have their eyes locked in on. Duke, Kansas and Kentucky must be overcome, but the Tar Heels do have a chance. Precious Achiuwa just received an offer from the blueblood program, but UNC has some work to do. Anthony Edwards could surprise and give his verbal to Williams and his staff, but Florida State and Georgia sit ahead of the pack. The likeliest get of them all is Keion Brooks, as UNC sits in a good spot as it battles Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan State for a commitment, which likely isn't that far off.
The Wildcats desperately need to answer their frontcourt issues. Depending on how the season plays out, they could lose all of their big men. Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery will likely return, but that still leaves at least two holes. Keion Brooks is not far off from his decision, although he doesn't necessarily produce that much in the paint. Still, his commitment would be a great get, but defeating Indiana, Michigan State and UNC will be difficult. The Wildcats would love to add Matthew Hurt, and they have picked up some momentum with him, and they may have made up the most ground with Jaden McDaniels in recent weeks as compared to his other finalists. Anthony Edwards has UK on his final list but his commitment wouldn't help the Wildcats down low. A player who could help Kentucky down low is N’Faly Dante, and he has the chance to reclassify into the 2019 class. Landing at least one five-star is a must, and making a strike in the grad-transfer realm again could really help the Wildcats.
We have led the crusade for months now, and it seems as if everyone else is beginning to catch on that Washington is not just window dressing for Isaiah Stewart but rather a legitimate contender for his commitment. This decision is expected to be made within the next few weeks, and the Huskies are battling Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Syracuse for his pledge. Mike Hopkins has done the best at not just establishing a relationship with Stewart has he transitioned from Syracuse assistant to the head coaching job in Seattle. The five-star center is not just the only target that could catapult the Huskies. Local prospect Jaden McDaniels could do wonders for Washington, but the latest whispers have him leaning toward Kentucky. But what if Stewart came on board? And you added him to the mix with recently committed UK transfer and former five-star guard Quade Green? The next few months could change the complexion of the Washington basketball program.
Coach Penny Hardaway has hit the ground running, but his primary wins on the recruiting front have come with the top local talent. This is not a slight, because the Tigers just defeated Kentucky for five-star James Wiseman. But if the Tigers are going to make another push, they will have to look outside of their city limits. One of those targets has some familiarity to the program, as Trendon Watford was a one-time standout for Mike Miller’s travel program. However, LSU has begun to pick up the most talk with Watford. Precious Achiuwa is another premier talent that the Tigers have silently slid into great positioning for, even though his commitment is far off. Matthew Hurt is more of a long shot as Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and UNC must be overcome. Still it would be difficult to see the Tigers missing out on all three of those prospects. Four-star guard Damion Baugh, another Memphis native, is available and his pledge would address a few backcourt concerns. Keep tabs on Jalen Green, too, because the top-ranked junior could reclassify into the 2019 class and Memphis is seen as one of the favorites.
Archie Miller has done phenomenal work in Bloomington so far, but he needs to make at least one more move this winter before he could feel good heading into the offseason. He has done a tremendous job of shutting down his state’s border, and his latest win was five-star Trayce Jackson-Davis. Miller would love nothing more than to add Jackson-Davis’ former travel teammate and good friend Keion Brooks. The small forward would be the heir apparent to one-and-done wing Romeo Langford after this season, and IU has shown that it doesn't have a ton of depth in the scoring department outside of the freshman sensation. Indiana will likely win out, but Kentucky, Michigan State and UNC remain in the battle. Another prospect on the Hoosiers’ radar is Trendon Watford, the younger brother of former IU standout Christian Watford. Indiana isn't the top candidate for the Alabama native but the Hoosiers will get his final official visit, one that will likely be taken in late February. Still, Alabama, LSU and Memphis may be difficult to beat. But even one more five-star victory could mean a major breakthrough for the Big 10 program.
While it has been a middling year in Eugene, help is on the way in the form of two four-star prospects and five-star forward CJ Walker. However, with the potential losses of Bol Bol, Kenny Wooten, Lou King, Paul White and Ehab Amin, a variety of holes will need to be filled. Cole Anthony would be the ultimate game changer, and he might create one of the more entertaining teams in college basketball next season. Beating out North Carolina for Anthony will not be the easiest of tasks, but the top-five guard is rather high on the Ducks. Cassius Stanley is well within reach, too, as the Ducks are primarily battling with another blueblood for his pledge: the Kansas Jayhawks. A commitment could come at any time for the athletic guard from California. Lastly, just as they did last year with Francis Okoro, the Ducks could make a giant push for the commitment of top 10 junior N’Faly Dante or five-star Addison Patterson. Either could reclassify and make an immediate contribution.