Evans Seven: Programs with a lot on line during signing period
The Early Signing Period is just days away, and while Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina will celebrate top-five recruiting classes, many others have work to do throughout the fall and winter months. In this week’s Evans Seven, we examine which programs have a lot on the line in the immediate future.
Nate Oats did a tremendous job of keeping John Petty and Kira Lewis in Alabama’s stable this spring, as each had originally planned to transfer elsewhere. How they might go about replacing the talented duo down the road remains up for debate. While many of their primary targets have yet to make their college decisions, the next few weeks could be vital to the immediate future of the SEC program.
On Nov. 16, Isaiah Jackson will make his college decision. Kentucky and Syracuse are involved, too, but the Tide need to nab him. The same can be said for Nimari Burnett, who is down to a final four and has been Alabama’s top priority dating back to Oats’ hiring. Keon Ambrose-Hylton is another player that is nearing his commitment, and Arkansas, Dayton, NC State and USC are also involved. Alabama needs to strike, especially in light of the recent infusion of coaching talent into the SEC.
Arizona struck early in the 2020 class with top local talent Dalen Terry. Others were expected to follow, but it has been crickets since that July commitment. Puff Johnson’s UNC commitment was a gut punch to the Pac-12 program, which puts even great emphasis on Kerwin Walton’s upcoming decision.
The Wildcats will lose four contributors to graduation and they might see both Josh Green and Nico Mannion leave for the NBA. That could also be a route that Zeke Nnaji takes. How they resupply their cupboard in Tucson is a much-monitored topic.
Ziaire Williams just visited last week, and Adam Miller has kept the Wildcats among his finalists. Can they push a 2021 prospect into reclassifying (Frank Anselem, for example) and where might they strike via the transfer market? They will have Jordan Brown and Brandon Williams at full strength next year, but more talent is needed if Sean Miller wants his Wildcats to remain among the top programs out West.
3. ARIZONA STATE
Arizona State began its 2020 class this summer by landing four-star wing Marcus Bagley. While he was a good start, the Sun Devils need to add more to the roster. Rob Edwards is the lone contributor who is expected to graduate, and the Sun Devils have gone big-game hunting this fall.
Josh Christopher, whose older brother is now a freshman on their squad, is a top target for ASU, as it continues to try to fend off Michigan, Missouri and UCLA for him. Another top-tier talent is Adam Miller, who will decide between Arizona State, Arizona, Illinois and Kansas. Lastly, keep an eye on Cliff Omoruyi, arguably the most intimidating center in the 2020 class. The Sun Devils have gained some traction with him in recent weeks.
Christopher, Omoruyi and Miller will not sign until the spring, so the short-term ceiling for the program won’t reveal itself for another few months.
Granted, Arkansas will replenish its roster after the season with the transfers of JD Notae, Connor Vanover and Bebe Iyiola, but Eric Musselman also wants to show that he can win with top-end high school talent. Davonte Davis was a good start, but much more talent is needed if the Hawgs want to feel good about taking the next step.
Fortunately, Arkansas is in a great spot with a handful of the top in-state prospects. Saturday, Moses Moody will commit and all signs point towards him selecting Arkansas over Michigan. KK Robinson could join him, and Jaylin Williams, a four-star center who will sign late but will likely commit next month, could join his in-state peers. Chris Moore and Keon Ambrose-Hylton are two others in the mix for Arkansas.
Arkansas will need to replace Jimmy Whitt, Adrio Bailey and Jeantal Cylla after the season, and Isaiah Joe could test the NBA waters. So, if Arkansas wants to ascend the SEC’s pecking order, the Razorbacks need to keep the in-state talent close to home.
It's not often we see a program finish the late signing period with the best recruiting class in America and then not have a single commitment entering the Early Signing Period, but that is the situation Memphis finds itself in. The good news for the Tigers it that outside of James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa no one else jumps off that page as a one-and-done type. The Tigers have Isaiah Stokes sitting out this winter due to transfer restrictions, and Malcolm Dandridge should help when he receives a clean bill of health.
However, missing on Devin Askew, who went to Kentucky, Gethro Muscadin (Kansas) and playing catch-up with Dawson Garcia hurts. Chris Moore is in Memphis' sights, and good news could be on the way when Jalen Green makes his Christmas Day decision. The Tigers are also gaining ground in the Greg Brown sweepstakes. Green and Brown would help place Memphis among the national title contenders next fall.
Five-star commitments have become the norm in recent years at Oregon, but the Ducks have failed to nail down a single class of 2020 commitment so far. That is due to change and could happen soon, but they have a lot of work to do before they move on to the 2021 class.
Star senior Payton Pritchard will leave a giant hole at the lead guard spot after this season, and the losses of Anthony Mathis and Shakur Juiston will hurt some, too. Will N’Faly Dante and/or CJ Walker test the NBA waters after this season? What about Addison Patterson? Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams will see their eligibility begin again next year, but the Ducks need to hit it big in the high school ranks.
Give credit to where it is due: In the spring Providence did a phenomenal job of pin-pointing select prospects that they coveted but opposing programs did not. Unfortunately, the name-brand programs finally began to smell the scent, and it became too difficult for the Friars to hold off rival programs for their top targets.
They’re still in pursuit of Shakeel Moore and John Ogundele, who is going to commit on the first day of the signing period next week. Providence will see the graduations of Maliek White, Alpha Diallo, LuWane Pipkins, Emmitt Holt and Kalif Young after the season, and depending on how the season goes budding sophomore wing AJ Reaves could test the NBA waters.
Jared Bynum and Noah Horchler are each sitting out due to transfer restrictions, and Alyn Breed will be a good one out of the 2020 class, but the Friars have much more work to do if they want to remain among the top contenders for the Big East title.