Evans Seven: Programs that would love to use 2019 recruits right now
As the college season continues to heat up, basketball staffs across the nation are trying to find ways to deal with their pressing issues. In this week’s The Evans Seven, we take a look at seven programs who would love to use one of their 2019 recruits to bolster their chances of success this season.
Things were sailing along smoothly in Durham until Monday evening, when Tre Jones went down with a shoulder injury that could sideline him for the next several weeks. However, even before that, Duke was masking its shooting deficiencies with the dominant play of its two stud freshmen, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
While the sheer talent of that duo has carried the team so far, there were questions regarding their ability to make shots and produce in games with slower tempos. Sitting at 276th in the nation in 3-point percentage, wouldn’t it be awesome if they could utilize Boogie Ellis tomorrow? The top 40 guard made a name for himself with his shot-making skills this past summer as he made 66 3s in 23 Nike EYBL games, and in eight of those contests he had four or more 3-point conversions. Toss in the fact that he can run his team’s offense, along with his ball-handling abilities, and the services of Ellis could not come at a better time.
Quade Green's transfer might have been a blessing in disguise for Kentucky, because it allowed the Wildcats to define players' roles on the perimeter. Keldon Johnson has taken sole ownership of the alpha-dog role, Tyler Herro has begun to make shots with consistency and Ashton Hagans has settled into the lead-guard position. However, the Wildcats remain deficient in defending the perimeter shot and that has been their primary downfall in each of their losses.
Enter Kahlil Whitney. The five-star forward has become a better shooter in recent years, but he has always been a dominant defensive presence. A potential 3-and-D prospect, Whitney's defensive abilities would be welcomed with open arms in Lexington. Whitney, alongside Johnson and Hagans, would create what would arguably be John Calipari’s best defensive perimeter group that he ever assembled and would push UK even further into the national title conversation.
While the Wildcats had a setback this winter because of the FBI investigation that halted their recruiting momentum in the 2018 class, Arizona is still one of the few programs with a chance of winning the Pac-12 title this season. In a down year out West, Arizona could have a vice-grip on its league if it had better big-man play. Ryan Luther has been a solid stop-gap during his one year stay in Tucson, and Chase Jeter has shown promise as a paint producer.
But Sean Miller leans heavily on his dual big-man lineups, so the enrollment of Zeke Nnaji would certainly boost the Wildcats this year. Nnaji, who is nearly 7-feet tall, has grown both physically and with his game in recent months, and he is one of the top frontline prospects in his class. He is a super-efficient 15-foot-and-in big who would definitely help cure Arizona’s field-goal percentage, which ranks 139th, and the team's offensive efficiency, which is barely in the top 100. Nnaji's rim-protecting abilities would push Arizona well off the bubble and make it a high seed in March’s NCAA Tournament.
While chances of Memphis securing an NCAA Tournament bid in a few months are minimal, the addition of James Wiseman would provide a huge boost. Arguably the most talented prospect in the 2019 class, the local prospect’s commitment was a major boon.
Wiseman’s abilities would immediately mask the Tigers' shortcomings this season. Memphis loves to get up and down the floor and has no issues putting points on the scoreboard, but it struggles on the defensive end. Teams shoot 51 percent against the Tigers, who struggle to clean the defensive glass and sit outside of the top 100 in blocked shots.
Add Wiseman to the roster and his 7-foot-6 wingspan, instincts and timing would immediately make the Tigers a much better defensive team, one that would make scoring beneath the arc a major issue for the opposition. Memphis may have to wait a little longer, but Wiseman will make an immediate impact when he gets to join Penny Hardaway’s crew.
5. OHIO STATE
Chris Holtmann has never had a guy like D.J. Carton in his holster - not at Butler, not at Gardner-Webb and not during his short tenure at Ohio State. That makes Holtmann's illustrious coaching career even more impressive, because point guard efficiency usually directly correlates to wins and losses.
OSU has patched things together again this season in the backcourt, with CJ Jackson, Keyshawn Woods and Luther Muhammad all running the point at various times. But next year, things will be a bit different. Ohio State is in the bottom third in 3-pointers attempted, just 292nd in steals and is among the worst of the power conference programs in forcing turnovers.
Carton’s impact should erase such deficiencies. The lefty guard is the definition of an unselfish playmaker that can make shots, defend his man and cause live-ball turnovers. He would give the Buckeyes their answer at the most important position on the floor.
It is pretty impressive what Indiana has been able to accomplish this season, as the majority of its scoring comes from two players. How good could the Hoosiers be if Trayce Jackson-Davis was already in Bloomington? A model of efficiency on the Nike EYBL circuit last summer, the in-state recruit’s primary assets could be the missing puzzle piece to Indiana's potential success this season.
The Hoosiers sit 314th nationally in offensive rebounding and allow teams to make 48 percent of their shots from the floor. Sure, Jackson-Davis is a tremendous 15-foot-and-in producer, but it is his rim-protecting skills, aided by his toughness and 7-foot-5 wingspan, that helped him average close to two blocks with the Spiece Indy Heat. That would be a major boost to Indiana’s Big Ten chances this winter.
7. TEXAS TECH
There is more than enough firepower in Texas Tech’s backcourt this season. But what would it be like if Jahmius Ramsey was added to the mix in Lubbock? A tenacious defender and arguably Texas Tech’s greatest win on the recruiting trail, Ramsey would add tremendous versatility, and he is the type of player who would help alleviate some of the pressure facing Jarrett Culver.
Texas Tech is a solid top 10 team right now, but there still are questions about the Red Raiders' chances in March. Lack of depth, poor rebounding and assists numbers and shaky perimeter shooting percentages all could ultimately undercut Texas Tech's chances of knocking Kansas off its Big 12 throne for the first time in 15 years.
Ramsey is a do-it-all type who can defend three positions, has become better in the shooting department and is one of the top perimeter rebounders in the nation. He is going to be a Red Raider fan favorite next season, but having him this year would only better the chances of the program’s first Final Four in school history.