basketball Edit

Early signing period: Which new staffs made the grade?

Wednesday marks the end of the first signing period, and for those who changed employment this year, it was the first official chance they had at impressing their fan base and administrators. We assess how the new staffs at each power conference program fared upon the completion of the early signing period. N.C. State, Indiana and LSU passed their first tests with flying colors.

MORE: Long-range forecast for 2018 early signing period | Tyler Herro & Kentucky

Javonte Smart
Javonte Smart

LSU - Grade: A+

Will Wade has never faced many issues luring talent to his school of employment, but this year might be his best yet. He shut down the borders as he signed the top in-state prospect, Javonte Smart, and then went to New Jersey for five-star center Nazreon Reid. Darius Days, a top-60 forward, is one of the more underrated pickups this fall. The Tigers may be at the bottom of the barrel in the SEC this season, but that shouldn’t last much longer after Wade's run of success during the early signing period.

NC STATE - Grade: A+

Kevin Keatts did a phenomenal job in his three years at the helm at UNC-Wilmington, and the success that the Seahawks enjoyed on the hardwood is similar to what he has enjoyed on the recruiting front. Holding the signatures of four Rivals150 commitments (though they did miss on Keldon Johnson and David McCormack), the Pack lured Ian Steere, Immanuel Bates, Jericole Hellems and Saddiq Bey, a group that should be the foundation to an upstart in Raleigh.

OHIO STATE - Grade: A-

The Buckeyes sit with one of the sneaky-good classes. They checked many of the boxes, thanks to the signing of elite defender Luther Muhammad, a high-upside and versatile forward in Jaedon LeDee, a top in-state prospect with shot-making and athleticism in wing Justin Ahrens, and one of the more underrated players nationally in Duane Washington Jr. The reason for an A- is the fact that Ohio State desperately needs a facilitating agent at the point guard spot. If Courtney Ramey were to sign in the spring for the Buckeyes, they would receive an A+.

INDIANA - Grade: A-

This will be an A+ if Archie Miller can find a way to land the commitment of Romeo Langford later this year. The Hoosiers currently sit with a top-20 class nationally, and while they did miss on Darius Garland on Monday, there is reason to be excited in Bloomington, thanks to Miller’s immediate success on the trail, holding four signatures from Rivals150 prospects, three of whom are four-star prospects.


Wyking Jones moved over a seat at California this past spring and has hit the ground running on the recruiting trail. Landing Matt Bradley before his national emergence in June was a giant win for the Pac-12 program, and he should be aided by fellow Rivals150 wing Jacobi Gordon and high-upside center Andre Kelly. If the Golden Bears can land either top-75 forward J’Raan Brooks or five-star center Jordan Brown in the coming months, Jones could receive an A for his first go-round as a head coach.


There was some pessimism about how Patrick Ewing would do as a head coach within the college realm, especially in connecting with the power brokers on the recruiting trail. He has surpassed expectations already with the signings of Rivals150 forward Josh LeBlanc, a versatile and hard-nosed small-ball power forward from Louisiana, along with high-flying guard Mac McClung and skilled power forward Grayson Carter. The next step is for the Hoyas to show that they can nab some of the top talent from the constantly loaded D.C.-area hotbed.



Illinois fans have clamored for the best talent within the state or, better yet, the best talent from Chicago, to take the two-hour trek southward and play for the Illini. Brad Underwood answered the bell with the commitment of senior guard Ayo Dosunmu, the first pledge of the five-star variety since Dee Brown in 2002. That alone might deserve an A, but the first-year staff has missed on some of its frontcourt targets, as it needs to bolster its frontline if it hopes to push the program higher up in the Big Ten pecking order.


It was going to be difficult to secure nationally ranked talent during the first year in Tampa, but Brian Gregory has enjoyed success this fall, thanks to the signings of three likely instant contributors at South Florida. Rashun Williams could be the steal of the fall, as the versatile and hard-nosed wing brings a great motor and upside to USF. Xavier Castaneda is one of the top playmakers from the Midwest, and Michael Durr, a local talent, should supply size and strength in the frontcourt. It's a group of three that the Bulls can build upon in the coming years.



Mike Hopkins is back on the West Coast, and while he was originally slated to take over for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, he kept his East Coast ties intact with the commitment of high-upside Brewster Academy forward Nate Roberts. Planning to play more versatile wings and forwards catered around a low-post center, the biggest target remains on the board for the Huskies. If they can nab the commitment of Rivals150 center Bryan Penn-Johnson this winter, Hopkins could earn an A for his first full recruiting class in Seattle.

MISSOURI - Grade: C 

Cuonzo Martin made major noise upon his move back to the Midwest this spring, as he made a power move with the commitments of top-ranked 2017 phenom Michael Porter, and Martin then was able to reclassify his brother, Jontay Porter, as both have now enrolled in Columbia. The elder Porter is likely to leave in the spring, and replacing him is a must. Torrence Watson is a solid plug-in on the wings, as is Javon Pickett, a shot-making wing from the area. Expect the Tigers to remain active this winter and within the transfer realm.


Not only was Mike Boynton sliding into the head coaching seat for the first time of his life, he was also losing his star-studded backcourt of Phil Forte and Jawun Evans and was hit with the FBI sting that saw his lead assistant, Lamont Evans, arrested. And now he is facing the suspension of his top returning player, Jeffrey Carroll. In all, OK State has still been able to grab two intriguing frontcourt options this fall in Yor Anei and Duncan DeMuth. The latter could turn into a building block for the Cowboys.

BUTLER - Grade: C-

It has not been the easiest of months on the recruiting trail for first-year Butler head coach LaVall Jordan. The Bulldogs have missed on several of their top targets and are facing the need of replacing two longtime producers in the frontcourt: Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman. Kamar Baldwin is a solid string of games away from breaking out as a capable early entrant into the NBA Draft, but all that Butler has to show for itself is the commitment of 6-foot-6 wing Markeese Hastings. The Bulldogs are one of the best at molding under-the-radar talent into college stars, so, despite their shortcomings, it would be difficult to remain down on what Hastings could accomplish in Indianapolis.

LOUISVILLE - Grade: Incomplete

It would be criminal to give David Padgett, the recently named head coach at Louisville, a failing grade right now. On the surface, the decommitments of top-50 guards Anfernee Simons and Courtney Ramey does not help, but the focus remains on the season at hand. The Cardinals and the new coaching staff have done a good job of kicking the tires with a few under-the-radar prospects from the 2018 ranks, but most of that work will be done in the spring after the naming of Padgett as the full-time head coach - or by hiring another from outside of the program.