Evans Seven: Programs riding a wave of momentum into the fall
The July evaluation periods have come to an end, and the next few weeks will lead to the majority of the Rivals150 players coming off the board. In this week’s Evans Seven, we assess the programs riding the greatest momentum into the fall, the ones that have the chance to finish the early signing period atop of the national rankings.
Kentucky will remain a major threat on the recruiting front as along as John Calipari is the head coach in Lexington. The Wildcats lost the commitment of top 50 forward DJ Jeffries on Monday, but they filled that hole with Thursday’s commitment of four-star Dontaie Allen. More could be to come, as they will host five-star wing Kahlil Whitney this weekend and the Wildcats sit as the favorites in his final eight.
In the end, however, all things lead back to James Wiseman. Memphis has picked up some ground there, and no one should ever discount a Calipari priority. If Wiseman declines the UK offer, could Vernon Carey become a Kentucky Wildcat? Many believed that it was a done deal for Duke, but Kentucky has made up major ground with the top 2019 prospect and should be deemed a legitimate contender for his commitment.
The Wildcats remain a threat for five-stars Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine, Matt Hurt and Keion Brooks and if they do decide to pursue Jaden McDaniels, they could leapfrog into the favorites category for him, too. Throw in the already-secured commitment of top 10 guard Tyrese Maxey and it is clear that there are sunny days ahead for the SEC flag-bearers.
While most of the talk will be about its potential, USC already has celebrated the commitments of four top 75 prospects this summer. The gems of the class are five-star big men Onyeka Okungwu and Isaiah Mobley, teammates on the loaded Compton Magic program. They should immediately stabilize the Trojans’ frontcourt.
The incoming pool of talent doesn’t stop there, as the Trojans have reeled in one of the top upside wing prospects out West in Max Agbonkpolo and a dual-sport athlete in Drake London. The two bring loads of versatility and immediate production to USC’s backcourt.
The four-man class has allowed head coach Andy Enfield and his staff to prioritize its final need this summer in the backcourt. They sit in a good spot for Josh Green, Cassius Stanley, and Boogie Ellis, four-star guards that have become known for their playmaking and scoring. Look for the Trojans to ride out the next few months with a top five class nationally.
Penny Hardaway already holds the commitment of four-star big man Malcolm Dandridge, and more is to come for the first-year head coach. The former NBA All-Star hit the ground running as Memphis patched together a top-25 class this spring and rode the momentum into the July evaluation periods.
Five-star James Wiseman's recruitment is going down as one of the more interesting the industry has seen in recent years. Wiseman suited up for Hardaway’s former travel team during the spring and completed the summer with assistant coach Mike Miller’s former travel team. Alongside Wiseman was five-star forward Trendon Watford, another potential top-tier prospect that could call Memphis home. The new Tigers staff was also a consistent presence at games featuring Jaden McDaniels, Matt Hurt, Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes’ games, proof that they are not afraid to go after the big fish. Much is riding on Wiseman and where he eventually lands, but the month of July did not hurt the Tigers' chances with the big man that Hardaway formerly coached on the travel and high school circuits.
While the Blue Devils have yet to strike in the 2019 class, they still sit in a great spot for some of the best in the Rivals150. Five-star guard Josiah James will take an unofficial visit to Durham next weekend, and Coach K and his staff were a consistent presence at most of his games in July. If it's not James in the backcourt, it could be top-ranked guard Cole Anthony. While he and his family have kept things close to vest, many believe that the Blue Devils sit among the teams to beat.
Bryan Antoine is down to a final five, but it looks as if it is a battle between Villanova, Florida and Duke for him. Meanwhile, Duke remains among the top contenders for Nico Mannion and Wendell Moore. Keep tabs on RJ Hampton, too, as the five-star 2020 guard could reclassify into the 2019 class, and Durham could be his college landing spot.
The Blue Devils are not struggling to find traction in the frontcourt, either, because Vernon Carey, Matt Hurt, Armando Bacot and Isaiah Stewart see the Blue Devils in a good light. Chances are good that Duke lands two of the four, and that would reflect a solid month spent on the road for the Blue Devils.
5. OHIO STATE
Chris Holtmann worked wonders in the coach’s box last winter, and he did the same on the recruiting trail in Ohio State's fight for a premier 2019 class. He began with Alonzo Gaffney, a tremendously talented forward and the best in-state prospect. The momentum of the program got ramped up another few levels when the Buckeyes defeated Michigan and Indiana for five-star guard DJ Carton. Many believed that OSU was the third horse in the race, and Carton’s commitment was a boon for Holtmann’s crew, one that gives the program the chance to place even greater attention on completing its class earlier than many others.
The Buckeyes' top target is EJ Liddell, a top-50 forward. He will visit Columbus in September, and while Ohio State will have to defeat Illinois, Missouri, Kansas State and a handful of others, Liddell could end up in Columbus. OSU also used July to gain greater in-roads with Omar Payne, Zeke Nnaji, Trayce-Jackson Davis, Isaac Johnson, Malik Hall, Brandon Newman and Sam Williamson. Chances are the Buckeyes land at least one of those Rivals150 prospects, which would equate to a top-tier class this fall.
The administration in Storrs hired Dan Hurley not just to win ballgames but also to win some of the bigger recruiting battles. The Huskies are in a prime spot to do just that. While they have yet to strike in the 2019 class, their chances of doing so - and in a major way - are clear.
Their top target, Precious Achiuwa, is a top-10 forward that many believe is a recruiting battle between UConn and St. John’s, with the Huskies in the slight lead. Akok Akok, one of the top performers in July, is a highly coveted prospect that Hurley’s bunch is definitely atop of the pecking order for, along with Syracuse, Providence and Georgetown. Kofi Cockburn is another name to keep tabs on, as is Tre Mitchell. They are two interior prospects that think highly of UConn.
The backcourt remains a bit of a mystery, but the Huskies have a solid chance with Rivals150 guard James Bouknight and they have begun to actively recruit Lester Quinones, Rocket Watts and Al-Amir Dawes. Three months from now, UConn could have a top 10 class nationally. That's something Huskies fans have not been able to say since their Big East days.
Jay Wright has been unable to be a part of the final evaluation period because he is a staff member for the United States senior national team. But Villanova has come out of July with tons of momentum, and could end up with its best class in recent years.
Villanova has already secured the pledges of four-star seniors Justin Moore and Eric Dixon. However, the best could still be to come, as the Wildcats are the dark horse for top-10 big man Isaiah Stewart, though defeating Duke and Michigan State may be difficult. But the Wildcats also have a more-than-solid chance with either Scottie Lewis or Bryan Antoine. Nico Mannion, a recent reclassified guard into the 2019 class, is down to a final 10, though many believe his commitment will come down to Arizona, Duke or Villanova.
Isaiah Wong, a travel teammate of Dixon’s, has kept Villanova high on his list. Josh Green, a travel teammate of Mannion’s, has not said much about his recruitment, but rest assured that the Wildcats sit in a good spot.