McDonald's Nuggets: Zion's next move; Team of the Week; more
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. He makes a case for what Zion Williamson should do in the wake of his injury, updates Walker Kessler’s recruitment, predicts a breakout prospect this summer and names his Team of the Week.
HOT TAKE: What should Zion do?
Everybody seems to have an opinion on what Zion Williamson should do going forward at Duke with his injury situation. It’s not personally my style to tell other people how to live their lives, but instead of making this a real Hot Take, I’ll make it more of what I would tell Zion to do.
Whether Zion plays another game for Duke or not, he’s going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. He could come back against North Carolina on Saturday night and suffer a pretty serious injury and still be the top pick. The gap between him and everybody else is fairly significant, not just because of how good he is but also because of his marketability.
Speaking of marketability, the NCAA Tournament would be a great place to build even more on his personal brand. I’ve never seen crowds at travel tournaments like I did with Zion around a couple summers ago, but it seems like it has even grown since he arrived at Duke. If he can carry Duke to the Final Four and win a national championship, that would go a long way toward him getting the biggest shoe deal and the most sponsorship money of any prospect prior to an NBA career since LeBron James in 2003.
As long as he’s healthy, returning for the NCAA Tournament would be a great move for Zion. In saying that, I’m a big believer that he should do whatever he thinks is best and I will support him either way.
RECRUITING NOTE: Walker Kessler update
Walker Kessler has become a really popular name in recruiting circles lately. Offers from Duke and North Carolina have come within the past few months. Those offers, combined with interest from other top programs, have created a buzz around him. There is also the question of whether he comes out in 2019 or stays in the 2020 class.
Now that his junior season is over, I expect some decisions to come out soon regarding his future. I expect by the end of the month he will make a decision on which class he will be a part of, although that decision may not become public right away.
Handicapping his recruitment is a little harder to do without knowing which class he will be in. If he graduates and comes out early in the 2019 class, I would expect he chooses between Duke, Michigan, Virginia and Vanderbilt. I know he and people around him view Michigan as a perfect fit from a basketball and academic standpoint, but I think it will be tough for him to go that far away from home for school. If he comes out in 2019, my personal prediction would be Duke signs him.
If he stays in the 2020 class, all the schools already mentioned remain in play, and Auburn, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee become realistic options. North Carolina could be the one that benefits most from Kessler sticking in the 2020 class. Given how close he is with his family, Auburn’s proximity to home (about 40 minutes) will keep the Tigers in the game. Virginia’s pull is the culture within the program and his relationship with Tony Bennett.
PREDICTION: Breakout 2020 prospect
It’s already starting to happen for him, but I see Jordan Rawls as a prospect who will see his stock rise in a big way over the next four to five months. He most recently added an offer from Georgia Tech after an unofficial visit to the school on Sunday, but he also received offers from Kansas State and Ole Miss earlier this season. Georgia and Tennessee are two others he mentioned showing a lot of interest.
Rawls jumped up to No. 65 in the most recent 2020 Rivals150, and he is ranked as the 14th-best point guard in the class. Don’t be surprised if he improves on that going forward, as I expect he will shine playing for MoKan this summer in the Nike EYBL. He has good size at 6-foot-2, makes good decisions with the ball and can really score it at all three levels. He’ll be in double digits in high-major offers in the near future.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Big week for Vols, Rick Barnes
Tennessee has been on a pretty impressive run the last couple years under Rick Barnes. He and his staff did a terrific job early in his tenure identifying under-the-radar prospects that fit their program and developing them into great players. No two players exemplify this strategy more than Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams. This week, the Vols started by getting revenge on Kentucky from last month’s loss at Rupp and followed it up with a great win over Mississippi State.
Those weren’t the only two big wins for Tennessee this week. Following the Vols' win over Kentucky, four-star small forward Corey Walker decided to commit to Tennessee after taking his second visit to Knoxville in recent months. The No. 29 overall prospect in the 2020 class is really good athlete and a very smooth scorer with a ton of upside. This comes after the Vols snagged a surprise commitment from five-star point guard Josiah James in November. Life is about to get a little easier on the recruiting trail for Barnes due to the hard work he and his staff put in early in his tenure.