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Evans Seven: Top programs with recruiting needs this winter

RANKINGS: 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150 | 2019 Team Rankings

Jaden McDaniels
Jaden McDaniels (

While many programs celebrated their sparkling classes last month, further work must be done for some of the top teams. In this week’s Evans Seven, we take a deeper look at whose winter could define their 2019-2020 seasons the greatest, and in doing so could change the complexion of future national title races.

MORE: Vernon Carey chooses Duke | Three-Point Play on Pac-12, Villanova, more


How much is on the line this winter for the Wildcats? If Kentucky does not strike in the frontcourt, a return to the Final Four would be one of John Calipari’s greatest coaching feats. Reid Travis, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards and PJ Washington could all be gone - with no replacements in the wings. Sure, the Wildcats could go the ultimate small-ball route with Dontaie Allen or Kahlil Whitney at the four, but that still leaves a giant void at the five.

Keion Brooks, Jaden McDaniels or Matthew Hurt would answer some of their issues, but they are more perimeter-based, shot-making forwards and not the rough-and-tumble types that want to get dirty in the paint. Kentucky needs to land at least one of the three and also hope that it can either reclassify a member of the 2020 class, work its way into the mix for someone in the mold of Kofi Cockburn or hit the grad-transfer realm (similar to what it did last spring with Reid Travis). Regardless, many questions must be answered before the Wildcats can be seen as serious national title contenders.


The past few months have not treated the Tar Heels well, as they missed on Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and they could see freshman guard Coby White leave early for the NBA Draft. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they are heavily in the mix for five-star guard Cole Anthony, but so too are Georgetown, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon and Wake Forest. They need to check the point guard box with the commitment of Anthony or they are looking at a lesser talent.

Another spot of concern is the combo-forward position, thanks to the likely departures of Cam Johnson and Nassir Little. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Minnesota all want Matthew Hurt, too. Keion Brooks is another one high on the Tar Heels' board, and Indiana seems to be the program between him and a commitment. If some recruiting success is not achieved this winter, the misses will be felt next season in Chapel Hill.


While much of the talk has surrounded the lack of success that Kentucky and Duke endured earlier this fall on the commitment front, Kansas has quietly had its own difficulties. The Jayhawks do have two Rivals150 guard commitments, but neither can be found in the upper half of the rankings. That means that the Jayhawks must win the winter months or else their Big 12 dominance could come to a screeching halt. The biggest issues remain in the frontcourt, and with the potential of both Lawson brothers and Udoka Azubuike departing after this season, the value of Precious Achiuwa and Matthew Hurt can't be overstated.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was expected to help a potential void in the Jayhawks' frontline, but he's headed to Villanova, so getting Hurt or Achiuwa is imperative. That will not come easy - and neither will the commitment of Cassius Stanley - who is down to a final three. Top-three guard Anthony Edwards or Stanley would be awesome for Kansas, but Hurt and Achiuwa remain greater priorities.

4. UCLA 

While the Bruins are sporting one of the younger teams on the hardwood this season, there are several spots that might need to be filled, thanks to the potential of Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Moses Brown leaving early early for the NBA Draft. Jaden McDaniels, the top-ranked West Coast prospect, has kept the Bruins on his final list for the past two months, as has Keion Brooks, a five-star small forward that would be the ideal replacement for Wilkes. Neither player is a slam dunk for the Bruins.

Anthony Edwards, a recently reclassified guard that has UCLA on his final list, in another question mark. However, the one prospect that the Bruins might have the best chance with – and also someone who would answer many of their needs – is Precious Achiuwa. The five-star forward is far from a decision, but his decision – and some of the others mentioned above – could determine the fate of Steve Alford's success next season.


This all comes down to Isaiah Stewart. A month ago, all signs pointed toward Vernon Carey replacing Kenny Goins and Nick Ward down low. Carey could have cemented the Spartans’ chances of another Big Ten title run and further damage in March. After missing on Carey – and last week’s pledge of Trayce Jackson-Davis to Indiana – much is on the line for Michigan State in its continued pursuit of Stewart. If he does ultimately decide that East Lansing is his next spot, then the past two weeks’ misses would be erased quickly.

However, if Stewart decides that Duke or Washington is where he is meant to be, then Tom Izzo will face some big questions about how he will complete his roster. Xavier Tillman should help and Ward could return for his senior year. But a third miss on a top frontcourt prospect would be a major blow to Sparty’s national title hopes.


Florida State is a sleeper team that could make some major noise this winter, but everything begins and ends with Anthony Edwards. The Seminoles were the heavy favorite early on, and not much has changed in recent months - even after his reclassification. Winning out will be difficult, since Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, UNC and UCLA are involved, but the commitment of the five-star guard would give Leonard Hamilton one of his greatest wins on the recruiting trail and the type of game-changing guard who could lead the Seminoles to a Final Four berth.

Kofi Cockburn is another that FSU is in the hunt for, as is Rivals150 wing Terrence Shannon. If things go the Seminoles’ way with these players, we could be talking about not just a top-four ACC unit, but one that could go blow-for-blow with anyone in the nation next year.


Mike Hopkins has hit the ground running in the Pacific Northwest, and Washington has become one of the flag-bearers for the Pac-12. After more than doubling its wins last season, UW has the chance to win its league. But could that just be the tip of the iceberg? Jaden McDaniels, a five-star prospect who lives less than a 30-minute drive from the Seattle campus, is near a college decision, and the Huskies are one of the favorites. A friendship with Isaiah Stewart could put Washington in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 and give the Huskies one of their best rosters in recent memory – if the duo decides to call UW home. Duke and Michigan State may be difficult to beat for Stewart, but Washington is a legitimate contender for him.

McDaniels and Stewart to Washington would result in one of the more phenomenal classes in recent years for a non-blueblood program and a one-two punch that would be one of the fiercest in America.