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McDonald's Nuggets: Top 2021 class; Jabari Smith prediction

Jabari Smith
Jabari Smith (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

There are several contenders to claim the overall No. 1 class in 2021. Who has the best shot? Also, a prediction on Jabari Smith's destination and the 2021 Commit of the Week.

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2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75

WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Forecasting contenders for No. 1 class in 2021

With so many commitments starting to come off the board in the 2021 class, let’s start taking a look at which schools will be in play for the top overall recruiting class for this cycle in terms of high school prospects.

Villanova, Florida State, Baylor and Louisville currently hold the top four spots in the team rankings. All four schools have done a terrific job nailing down early commitments this cycle, but given that Baylor has one five-star prospect and none of the other three have any, it’s unlikely any of them finish in the top spot. The No. 1 class usually features at least three five-star prospects, and it’d be hard to see any of those programs securing three five-star commitments at this point.

Michigan State is definitely one school to watch for the No. 1 overall class. The Spartans currently have five-star guard Max Christie and four-star forward Pierre Brooks in their 2021 class, but Tom Izzo also holds commitments from top-ranked Emoni Bates and four-star center Enoch Boakye in the 2022 class. If both 2022 commitments decide to move up into the 2021 class, Michigan State will be right there for the top overall class. Four-star point guard Jaden Akins is also considered a Spartan lean at this point and would be another quality addition.

It’s hard to talk about the No. 1 overall class without bringing Duke into the conversation. The Blue Devils are one of five schools with a five-star commitment as they have small forward A.J. Griffin on board. Many also see Duke as the favorite for the top prospect in the class right now, Pat Baldwin. Others to keep an eye on include Charles Bediako, Trevor Keels, Paolo Banchero, Caleb Houstan and Kennedy Chandler.

As with Duke, it’s hard to have this conversation without including Kentucky. The Wildcats are a serious player for both Banchero and Chandler, who have always mentioned the possibility of playing together at the next level. Five-star guard Jaden Hardy is another strong possibility. Kentucky is also heavily involved with Skyy Clark and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield in the 2022 class, and both could potentially reclassify into the 2021 class. Lastly, Hunter Sallis has been fielding phone calls from John Calipari’s staff and he could be a possibility.

Finally, let’s go with a wild card and talk about Tennessee. Rick Barnes put together a terrific 2020 class and the Volunteers are in position to back it up with another top class. The most likely prospect to pick Tennessee at this point has to be Chandler. Again, by being in the mix for Chandler, that puts the Vols on the list to potentially land Banchero as well. Jabari Smith has taken one official visit to date and that was to Tennessee, but the Volunteers likely have some catching up to do here. Others to keep an eye for Tennessee include Daron Holmes, Micawber Etienne and Jahmai Mashack, who likely has the Volunteers on top of his list.


PREDICTION: Jabari Smith’s destination

Jabari Smith’s recruitment has been pretty steady for the past several months, with the exception of North Carolina coming into the mix with a scholarship offer. Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee have been the most consistent in their pursuit of the five-star forward out of the Peach State. On Wednesday afternoon, I put in my Rivals FutureCast pick for Georgia to land Smith.

Over the past month or so, I’ve started to hear more and more about the Bulldogs making a big impression on the No. 4 prospect in the 2021 class. He’s built a really strong relationship with Tom Crean, and the idea of staying close to home could play in Georgia’s favor. I still think there is time for things to change, especially with elite recruiters like Will Wade, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes involved, but I like the Bulldogs to win this one.


2021 COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Tyrese Hunter to Iowa State

I’ve reached the point with Steve Prohm that I trust he knows what he’s doing with point guards. He had terrific success with the position at Murray State with guys like Isaiah Canaan, and that has carried over to his Iowa State tenure, most recently with Tyrese Haliburton, who is a projected top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. So, when I saw Tyrese Hunter choose Iowa State on Tuesday, I trust he made a really good college decision.

I can see why Prohm and so many other schools recruited Hunter. He’s certainly on the small side, but I really like his game. He plays under control, can score it, and he possesses the most important trait for a point guard these days: He plays ball screens really well. He’s going to be a fun one to watch for the Cyclones in front of those crazy crowds at Hilton Coliseum.