Evans Seven: Teams with most crucial weekend visitors
There are a slew of trips for heavy-hitting visitors that are crucial to programs as the Early Signing Period approaches. In this installment of The Evans Seven, we look at the schools hoping to put their best foot forward.
It was not a kind month for the Tar Heels as they began it by missing on top-15 guard Josh Green and ended things by not even making the final two for Green’s high school teammate, top-10 forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The new month brings new hope, which the Tar Heels will be using this weekend as they bring to campus two of the best prospects in America.
The top-ranked senior, Vernon Carey, will take his fourth official visit of the fall to Chapel Hill and while the chances of him ending up a Tar Heel is minimal at best, UNC will still do its best to impress the standout big man.
Alongside him will be five-star wing Keion Brooks, a prospect that is a bigger need for Roy Williams for next year compared with Carey. A shot-maker with size and versatility is a must, assets that Brooks exhibits. Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue and UCLA make up his final list as North Carolina remains a threat, though toppling IU and UK may be difficult.
The football scene in Baton Rouge on Saturday is going to be off the charts. With the LSU campus at its best, coach Will Wade will be doing his own part in solidifying the future of his basketball program by bringing in two of his top targets to campus. Trendon Watford, a five-star forward from Alabama, will take his second official visit as Indiana, Memphis, Florida State and Alabama remain in strong contention. He is vocal about signing late, as is Lester Quinones, though the Tigers have gained some momentum in recent weeks with the vastly under-recruited wing. Some believe that the top-50 wing could be near a decision but, either way, expect for LSU to get an even greater leg up on its competition for the premier shot maker.
Others on hand will be Reece Beekman, the top in-state prospect in the 2020 class that has taken a number of unofficial visits to the SEC program in recent months, along with Daeshun Ruffin, a three-star sophomore from Mississippi.
The third official visit is now set for Jaden McDaniels, as the top-five prospect will head to Austin for his first trip away from the West Coast. Kudos to coach Shaka Smart and his staff for getting in early with the Seattle native. While Washington and San Diego State did just the same, each had prior connections with him: McDaniels grew up near the Pac-12 program and his brother, Jalen McDaniels, is plays for the Aztecs. Kentucky and UCLA also remain in the hunt, but UT has garnered more of the talk compared the the Wildcats and Bruins.
A commitment is not expected until McDaniels visits all of his finalists with the chances of his recruitment bleeding into the winter months looking likely. Smart has created in-roads with McDaniels and his family, and will attempt to make an even greater push in adding to what could be his best recruiting class to date.
He may be just a four-star prospect and sit outside of the top 100, but there might not be a bigger, more vital visit for the longevity of the Pitt basketball program than Qudus Wahab. Despite the Panthers entering the season with little hope of an ACC title, not a whole lot is needed in the 2019 class thanks to the work that Jeff Capel and his staff accomplished upon taking over. They will likely see their two freshman guards start from day one but where a hole remains, and yes, it is a big one, is in the frontcourt.
The Panthers missed on Anthony Walker last month, but Wahab was always a priority regardless. He has already visited Virginia Tech, Georgetown, and UConn and could still visit Syracuse and before committing. Either way, Pitt remains a heavy threat for his pledge by offering 20-plus minutes and a starting gig to him once his college clock begins. Capel and his staff continue to track top-35 forward Akok Akok, but Wahab is their guy in the middle that they would love to reinvigorate the program.
What better way to end the week than getting a jump-start on the 2020 class and hosting one of the best guard prospects in America with Jeremy Roach? No, he is not near a commitment but the five-star guard out of the famed Paul VI Catholic program, a school based in the same region as past Nova greats Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, heads to the Main Line for an unofficial visit. Roach has already taken an official visit to Duke where things are beginning to pick up in his recruitment, as Kentucky and UNC remain threats, too.
Along with Roach will be committed senior guards Bryan Antoine and Justin Moore, the latter a prospect that the junior teamed up with on the travel circuit this summer. The Wildcats are feeling great right about now after knocking off Kansas for the commitment of top-10 forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. This weekend will be about gearing up for a potential third national title in four years.
MORE VILLANOVA: NovaIllustrated.com
The final visit on the calendar for Zeke Nnaji, this is a big one for both the Minnesota native and the school that he is visiting. Purdue was stung some by the miss on Malik Hall, a top-50 combo forward that selected Michigan State over the Boilermakers. Purdue will now quickly place even more attention on Nnaji, one of the top breakthrough performers from the travel circuit this summer. A top-35 prospect that has already visited Kansas, UCLA, Arizona and Baylor, much of the talk has surrounded the Wildcats and Jayhawks with Nnaji as each have yet to strike in the frontcourt within the 2019.
However, the Boilermakers, thanks to their recent track record with forwards and the strong academics that the school boasts, creates ideal selling points for the him to attend the school. A commitment is expected shortly after Nnaji returns home.
Coach Chris Collins is hoping to get the program headed back into the proper direction this season but will also be making a push for the future by bringing to Evanston four of the best regional prospects from outside of the 2019 class. On Friday, DJ Steward, a Rivals150 junior from Chicago, will head to the Big Ten program, as will two even more highly rated prospect from the 2021 class, Pat Baldwin Jr. and Max Christie. Both top-25 sophomores nationally, each had a parent attend Northwestern. Another ranked sophomore prospect, Caleb Furst, fresh off of his Indiana offer, will head to campus and get a better feel for what Collins and his staff have brewing as the football team hosts Notre Dame on Saturday night.