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Evans Seven: Prospects closing in on end of their recruitments

NFaly Dante
NFaly Dante (https://rivals.com)

August is here, and this is usually the time when prospects narrow their school lists and schedule official visits, but this year seems to be different so we'll see how it plays out. In this week’s Evans Seven, we take a look at which prospects are closest to ending their recruitments and where they might land.

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2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150

1. N'Faly Dante 

Dante has been the talk of the industry lately. The 7-footer is a game-changer on the defensive end who can be labeled as an elite shot blocker. His offensive game has come along nicely, too, but the reason why he has garnered so much attention is because he could reclassify into the 2019 class and be on a college campus in the coming weeks.

The primary hold-up is academics. If he does receive the proper test scores, Dante will be part of a college program in November. He has taken official visits to Kentucky, LSU and Oregon, but it seems as if LSU is out. Tennessee has hung around for a bit, but this is more of a battle between Kentucky and Oregon. Expect a decision to be made in the next two weeks, and if Dante does enroll this fall he would immensely raise his new program’s ceiling.

2. Keon Johnson 

This timing on this one is not a guess. Johnson will make his college commitment official on Aug. 6. Virginia was under consideration for some time, but after the Cavaliers took Jabri Abdur-Rahim last month their scholarship count was full. That narrowed the field to two contenders: Ohio State and Tennessee. The Vols have been the leader for some time and much respect has to be given to Rick Barnes and his staff for prioritizing the in-state prospect so early in the process.

However, the Buckeyes made up major ground in recent weeks and the hiring of assistant coach Jake Diebler, who recruited Johnson when he was at Vanderbilt, definitely helped. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, it seems as if Johnson is a UT lean and will make it official next week, giving Tennessee an uberly athletic, elite defender who is also a much-improved shooter.

3. Cam'Ron Fletcher 

Fletcher, one of the top breakthrough performers this summer, is down to a final five. The 6-foot-7 small forward has never lacked in the athleticism department, but he needed to work on his consistency and his half-court skill set. He put it all together in recent weeks, which quickly resulted in offers from Kentucky and North Carolina. Each made his final list, along with Alabama, Michigan State and Missouri.

The Tigers had an upper hand earlier in the process and the Spartans were not lagging too far behind, but Kentucky’s offer changed things. Fletcher is currently on an official visit to Lexington, and the feeling is that he could be close to ending things in favor of the Wildcats. It may not happen this weekend, but momentum is definitely on the side of John Calipari.

4. Shaife Cooper 

Sharife Cooper
Sharife Cooper (Bob Blanchard / Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame)

Cooper has continually ascended the Rivals150 in recent updates – and for good reason. He might not possess tremendous size at the point of attack, nor is he an elite level athlete, but he makes up for those shortcomings with his polished skill set, feel for the game and his ability to dominate the final stat sheet. His resume is elite, thanks to his winning ways on the high school and travel circuits, along with his continued showings at various USA Basketball events.

Not much has been said about his recruitment despite his five-star cache but that doesn’t mean that Auburn hasn’t worked its way squarely into the pole position. There has been smoke in recent months that he was close to ending his recruitment, but a commitment never came. Maybe Kansas, Kentucky or a wild card is holding things up. Or maybe Cooper is ready to give his pledge to Bruce Pearl, which would give the Tigers even more of a chance at continuing their SEC supremacy for the foreseeable future.

5. Matt Cross 

There was some who thought that Cross, one of the more discussed names in college coaching circles, was going to make his decision before July, thanks to the four official visits he took to Butler, Indiana, Miami and South Carolina. Obviously, that was not the case ,as Cross played things out through July. Just last week, he took another official visit, this time to Florida. Maybe a commitment was imminent? Not so fast, as he has scheduled an official visit to Texas A&M for the weekend of Aug. 27.

Much of the talk prior to his trip to Gainesville had surrounded Indiana and Miami, but it does seem as if Florida has nudged its way into the mix. Could the Aggies do just the same? They will be the only school to host him during a football weekend, which could turn the tide. Cross has become a bit fatigued by the recruiting process and will likely end things shortly after his trip to College Station.

6. Anthony Leal 

Leal has had a meandering recruitment that really didn’t pick up until the summer of his junior year. Xavier was the first to jump into the picture, followed by others such as Cincinnati, Northwestern, Ohio State and Stanford. Indiana has always been the perceived favorite, and once the Hoosiers offered in June some expected a commitment to follow. Instead, Leal remained patient with the process.

He just narrowed his school list to the in-state Hoosiers and Stanford. Will he stay home and play with his good friend, Trey Galloway? Or will he decide to head westward to the elite academic institution? Likely, Leal will remain loyal to his state and suit up for the Hoosiers in the fall of 2020.

7. Jonathan Aku 

Just like N’Faly Dante, Aku could be on a college campus this fall, as long as his grades allow it to happen. Down to a final five that consists of Houston, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech and Tulsa, he will decide in the coming weeks. Next week, Aku will take an official visit to Texas Tech. Both Houston and Texas A&M were perceived as two of the top landing spots for him earlier this summer, but much has changed since.

While each could take Aku late in the year, it seems that the Red Raiders have some momentum in their favor. They have one more scholarship to fill late in the year, which could potentially be taken by Aku. Seeing that Texas Tech is in line to host Aku in the coming days – and if his grades work in his favor – Aku could be on the Lubbock campus before the end of the month.