basketball Edit

Florida Man: Early Signing Period thoughts

Each week, Rivals national basketball analyst and very own Florida Man, Rob Cassidy, takes readers around the hoops recruiting world, touching on news, notes and developments that relate to prospects from coast to coast. With the Early Signing Period under way, he makes a prediction that should excite Illinois fans, examines other impending early-period decisions and discusses the buzz surrounding a host of underclassmen.

RELATED: Ranking the Contenders for TyTy Washington


2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team


FUTURECAST OF THE WEEK - Ty Ty Washington to Illinois 


The early-signing window opened on Wednesday morning, and while most of the action will feature players signing with schools to which they’re already committed, there are a handful of situations to watch. Four-star guard Ty Ty Washington’s Sunday announcement is certainly one of those situations.

Washington, who spoke to our Krysten Peek about his finalists over the weekend, is officially down to about eight options, but Creighton and Illinois seem to be the most realistic candidates. Roughly a week before Washington’s announcement date, Illinois seems to hold an ever-so-slight edge, based on a self-funded, self-guided visit the Rivals150 prospect took to the school last month. The Bluejays once seemed to be the favorite here, but the allure of the Big Ten stage was enough to get Washington and his family to pay out of their own pocket for a late visit that featured zero contact with coaches, which certainly feels like a see-the-place-before-I-commit situation.

Things could swing back Creighton’s way before Sunday, so I reserve the right to change my pick. Still, at least for now, I’ll put my chips on the Illini.



More in store for the early period 

There’s some buzz that five-star Bryce McGowens could make his decision during this signing window, but that’s speculation at this point. If he decides to do so, Nebraska is probably the team to beat.

As far as confirmed announcements go, Thursday will bring one from four-star guard Trey Alexander. Arkansas and Kansas remain in the mix, but Auburn has been looking for a guard to pair with prized forward commit Jabari Smith since the Tigers landed the five-star’s pledge, and it’s starting to seem like Alexander may be that guard. The Tigers seem to hold a significant advantage.


This week's whispers 

Most of the focus this week is on the 2021 class, and rightfully so. Still, there's never a bad time to discuss the buzz building around elite talent in the 2022 class. This week, sources indicated Florida State has positioned itself well with top 25 prospect Zion Cruz. And while the bond between Cruz and the Seminoles continues to grow, it's important to note that it’s early in the process for him and things will shift around as more offers arrive. Nevertheless, Leonard Hamilton and his staff have made an early impression. That should count for something, as FSU will likely be involved to some extent until late in the process.

I heard some early, positive LSU chatter this week as it relates to 2022 wing Tyrell Ward, the No. 82 player in the class of 2022. According to somebody close to Ward, the track record and coaching style of Tigers’ head coach Will Wade has LSU out to an extremely early lead in the race to land Ward’s commitment. The same source cautioned that it’s early in the process and expects interest in the four-star prospect to increase during the year ahead, so LSU may not want to start counting their chickens just yet. Still, the outlook is positive for Wade and company as things stand.


Young player to watch 

Here come the 2024s, and one that may sit a bit below the radar (even by 2024 standards) is Roxbury (Mass.) City On a Hill School standout John Kallon, whose improvising jumper paired with his elite-level defense has attracted high-major interest. As things stand, Kallon holds early offers from DePaul and a handful of other mid-majors, but Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia and Providence have recently reached out to his coaches to inquire. Depending on how the year ahead goes, those inquiries could eventually turn to offers. The 6-foot-3 Kallon is definitely worth keeping an eye on as he continues to develop as a scorer and starts to see his offer list grow.


PARTING THOUGHT: FSU is underranked 

Raiquan Gray
Raiquan Gray (AP Images)

The initial AP Poll for what will certainly be a totally bonkers season was released on Monday. And while predicting anything as it relates to this year - including something as simple as how many games each program will play - seems impossible, the thing I feel most certain of is that Florida State is underranked at No. 21.

At least one member of Leonard Hamilton’s staff recently told me he thinks this team is a “special group,” and it’s not difficult to understand why there’s optimism radiating from Tallahassee, even though the program lost three players who averaged double-digit points from last year's ACC championship squad . The fact is, replacing scoring often looks like a more daunting task on paper than it is in reality.

Raiquan Gray seems plenty capable of taking the next step to stardom and leading this team. Five-star freshman Scottie Barnes, the top-ranked wing in the 2020 class, should make an immediate difference for Hamilton and company, while 7-footers Tanor Ngom and Balsa Koprivica will add rim protection. FSU returns eight players from last year’s conference title team, but it’s Barnes and Gray that will be asked to do the heavy lifting. Early games against Florida and Indiana, both of which are unranked but tough early-season opponents, should reveal a lot.

With a few breaks, FSU could carry a 7-0 record into a Jan. 2 meeting with No. 9 Duke, and that game is certainly winnable when you consider it’s set to be played in Tallahassee. My gut feelings have been wrong before. That may well be the case here, but I think FSU is a solid bet to finish higher than 21st nationally.