Rivals Roundtable: Commit watch; Calipari, Boeheim in headlines
This week in the Rivals Roundtable, basketball analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald give their opinions on a number of topics. Should anybody be on commitment watch this weekend? Is John Calipari ahead of the game? Plus much more.
1. Who do you have on commitment watch this weekend?
Bossi: I’m going to go ahead and put athletic four-star guard Mario McKinney on commitment watch. Everybody recruiting the St. Louis native has been apprehensive about what could happen once Missouri really decided to turn things up and it looks like that’s happened.
The product of St. Louis had initially been expected to visit Kansas State this weekend but he’ll instead head to see Cuonzo Martin and Mizzou. He’s got family ties to the program, has been to campus before and has long been rumored to be high on the Tigers. If Missouri can land him, it will likely happen quick and I’m sure they are hoping they can parlay that into some momentum with top 50 forward E.J. Liddell, who played with McKinney during the summer and will be visiting this weekend as well.
Evans: The time could be now for Jaelyn Withers. The Rivals150 wing will head to Louisville this weekend for an official visit and while there was talk about an early commitment this summer following an unofficial trip to the ACC program, Withers might be ready to call it a day with things.
It will only help even further that he will be seeing Chris Mack’s program with already committed Rivals150 guard Josh Nickelberry. If Withers commits, Louisville will have added an impressive wing prospect that can play a variety of spots and also make shots, each a valuable asset in today’s game.
McDonald: Kyle Sturdivant. He won't be taking an official visit, but he's very close to committing. He VERY briefly committed to Georgia a couple weeks ago before deciding he needed a little more time before coming to a final decision. The Bulldogs remain in the mix, but USC is also a serious player here. His decision will be made between those two schools after Florida received a commitment from Tre Mann.
2. On Friday, Kentucky announced they have promoted Brady Kennedy from within to serve as the program's "recruiting analyst". Is John Calipari ahead of the times? Are other programs doing this? If not, should they be? Or, is it just slick marketing by one of the best in the business?
Bossi: No, Calipari and Kentucky aren’t the first to do this, but not enough programs are taking a position like this seriously. Yes, Kentucky and Calipari are a bit ahead of the time in that they promoted the heck out of it and made it a conversation piece, just another example of coach Cal being coach Cal.
The spot is there to have a recruiting coordinator and football programs make excellent use of it. More basketball programs should as well. And I’m not talking about hiring some guy for $35-40,000 a year to monitor Twitter and Instagram for cool trends. I’m talking pay real money for somebody to really be on top of things, get feet in doors and help to take things off of assistant and head coaches' plates. That every major program hasn’t gotten serious about this yet blows my mind.
Evans: Calipari is not ahead of the times with the hiring of a recruiting analyst, though it is a smart move. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful program and I am actually a bit shocked that he didn’t create such a position until now.
Calipari is known for his forward-thinking approach, point in case his telethon events for fundraising events and his NBA pro days prior to the kick-off to the college season. I would expect for many others to follow suit in the coming years.
Practically every power conference program on the football side has such a position so why shouldn’t the basketball end, too? There is a lot that goes into succeeding on the recruiting trail; hiring someone like Kennedy just makes it that much easier for the three assistant coaches and the head coach to navigate the trail accurately, especially during the season whenever time becomes even more sparse. To me, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creation of a recruiting analyst position.
McDonald: Several college basketball programs already have positions like this. The title can be anything from "Director of Recruiting" at Clemson for example to "Director of On-Campus Relations" at Houston. I'm honestly a little surprised Kentucky didn't already have a position like this on their staff, but it's not like it's been hurting their recruiting efforts.
3. Which program do you get the feeling is about to go on a recruiting run between now and the November signing period?
Bossi: Kansas doesn’t have any commitments, but it is starting to fire up on the recruiting trail and is anybody really going to bet against it making a run? Top 35 Samuell Williamson was on campus last weekend (he sees Texas A&M this weekend) and while he didn’t commit, the Jayhawks are still in a good spot.
Soon to be four-stars Isaac McBride and Christian Braun both look to be pretty high on the Jayhawks and the big fish like Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Matthew Hurt, James Wiseman, Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji and others are getting ready to roll through Lawrence. Maybe it won’t be today, maybe it won’t be tomorrow but it would be surprising if the Jayhawks don’t hit Signing Day with a top 10 or top five class.
Evans: I am going to play it safe and go with Duke. The Blue Devils have yet to establish themselves in the 2019 class while many others, including its consistent rivals on the recruiting trail.
The miss on Bryan Antoine earlier this week does sting some, but all is not lost in Durham. Chances are pretty good that they land at least one of Josiah James and Wendell Moore as I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see the Blue Devils grab both of the five-star prospects.
Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey remain high on the program and while Carey is planning to sign in April, Stewart might be willing to speed up the process and sign in November. The Blue Devils, along with Michigan State and Villanova, seem to be the three to beat for the five-star Stewart. While Duke may take a step back from its peerless classes in recent years, a Moore-James-Stewart early signing crop would fit the bill and give Duke major momentum headed into the college season.
McDonald: Michigan State could be one to watch here. The Spartans are one of the finalists for Carey, although it could be really tough to pull him from Florida up to East Lansing there is no doubt they’ve done a great job with him to this point. Stewart is very interested and five-star combo forward Keion Brooks is definitely in play for the Spartans. Top 50 Malik Hall is another one to keep an eye on. Tom Izzo could be on the verge of a major recruiting haul in the 2019 class if the ball bounces the right way.
4. Earlier this week, Jim Boeheim was asked about 2018 five-star Darius Bazley who backed out on Syraucse to attempt playing in the G-League before deciding to focus on simply training for the 2019 Draft. He didn't hold back telling Syracuse.com, "I mean, he made a mistake. It doesn't do any good to talk about it," he said. "Everybody thinks I'm criticizing him. I'm not. I'm just telling it like it is. He made a mistake. He should own it. He's just not ready. He's just not physical. They're not letting him play in the G League because he'd get killed."
Could this type of blunt honesty hurt Boeheim and the Orange's efforts on the recruiting trail? Should it?
Bossi: I guess it depends on how you look at it. Do the comments play in favor of those who want to portray Boeheim as a grumpy old man? Yes. Especially because in many of the early stories I read on his Bazley comments, the comments weren’t presented fully and given proper context.
But, how could any player possibly be considering Syracuse and not know what they are getting in Boeheim? I mean seriously, if you can’t handle his personality, then it’s on you for getting serious with Syracuse and having a problem with his matter-of-fact style.
Personally, I’m all for Bazley blazing a new path and doing what he thinks is best to achieve his goal of making the NBA. I’m not going to judge him or talk down on him for that. But, I’m not going to get mad at Boeheim for speaking his mind either.
Evans: It could hinder Boeheim some on the recruiting trail, where some might take it as the case of sour grapes but this is what makes him who he is and I like it.
Boeheim is as genuine as they come. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is going to tell you what he thinks and if you don’t like it, then so be it. Some might be put off by such behavior while others, including parents that want their kids to be held accountable, might actually like it.
There is no act with Jim Boeheim. He is what he is. He is a Hall of Fame coach and one of the best to ever to lead a high-major program. If this is going to affect whether or not he actually lands a top target on the recruiting trail, then I do not know what the sport is coming to.
Should he have parsed his words a little better? I guess so but again, this is who he is; I would rather have a genuine Boeheim rather than the majority of others that say one thing but feel something totally different.
McDonald: I don't see it hurting him one bit. Brutal honesty actually plays pretty well with most kids. He didn't make it personal between him and Bazley. He just shared his honest feelings as a long-time, highly successful college basketball coach, and a lot of prospects and their inner circles will respect that.