The Deep Three: Indiana, Kentucky, Miami have spring in their steps
The month of April featured two spring evaluation periods, a slew of transfers and the commitments of a handful of five-star prospects. Assessing what went down and what may be to come, we bring you April’s Deep Three.
Hoosier fans have clamored for the best players to remain in the state and call Assembly Hall their college home. The stakes were even higher than usual this recruiting revolution, as one of the greatest scorers in the past 30 years from Indiana was set to graduate in the spring. Would Romeo Langford grant Archie Miller and his staff the opportunity to coach the five-star guard in college, or would he - like recent Indiana standouts - take his talents elsewhere? It was not heartbreak city this time around, as Miller and his staff hit the ultimate grand slam by securing the commitment of Langford on the final day of April. His pledge not only gives Miller the most talented prospect that he will have ever coached, but it provides notice that he can go out and beat the best for the best.
The Wildcats entered April with their fair share of criticism. They came up short in March. They didn't have the talent on the floor that fans are used to. Duke had begun to dominate the top of the recruiting rankings.
Well, questions surrounding John Calipari’s demise on the recruiting trail were squashed in April. The Wildcats secured two five-star talents, as they defeated a slew of bluebloods for EJ Montgomery. A day later, they nabbed the best defensive guard in America, Ashton Hagans. They also gained major ground with five-star junior Tyrese Maxey, who could reclassify into the 2018 class this summer. Whether they can land the Texan or not doesn’t really matter much when it comes to naming UK as a top winner from April.
There was a lot of anxiety in the wake of the ongoing FBI investigation. But not only were the Hurricanes cleared of any wrongdoing, they also hit the transfer market hard with the commitments of three prospects who should contribute immediately.
No high school prospects were going to commit to Miami, a program that was battling through questions about the longevity of Jim Larranaga and his coaching staff when it came to potential NCAA allegations headed their way. While the Hurricanes will lose Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker and Jaquan Newton to the pros, the commitments of Zach Johnson, Kameron McGusty and Anthony Mack reflect a giant W for the Hurricanes in April.
The Cardinals have some more work to do with their 2018 roster as they remain involved in the transfer market this spring. They did recently haul in the grad-transfer commitment of Samford standout Christen Cunningham, who should fill some holes in the backcourt next season. Beyond that, Chris Mack and his staff have been diligently working the 2019 recruiting class, as they have gained traction with a slew of Rivals150 prospects. Good times might be ahead, as a commitment of one-time pledge, David Johnson, the top prospect in the city’s borders, could happen. In addition to the four-star wing, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Jahmius Ramsey, Greg Gantt and Isaiah Stewart are just a few of the others to keep tabs on by the Cards’ faithful.
The Tigers easily could have been found in the winner’s column here after picking up the commitments of a trio of Rivals150 senior guards in Tyler Harris, Antwann Jones and Alex Lomax, along with the pledge of Jayden Hardaway, the son of newly named head coach Penny Hardaway. However, could even better things be on the horizon? No one knows what may happen with the ongoing recruitment of second-ranked junior James Wiseman, but the five-star is not the only person of interest in Memphis as his travel teammates - four-star juniors Chandler Lawson and Malcolm Dandridge - could be the next to call the AAC program their future home. In doing so, Hardaway would have captured more Rivals150 prospects in a three-month span than the previous three years combined at Memphis.
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3. WEST VIRGINIA
The month of May could be one that severely damages the immediate future of WVU basketball - or it could be one that catapults the Mountaineers into contention for a Big 12 title. The Mountaineers did graduate two standout defensive guards in Dexter Miles and Jevon Carter this spring. But let's see what happens with Sagaba Kontate and Esa Ahmad. Both have entered their names into the NBA Draft but if they end up staying, next season would already be a success. If both do return, WVU has arguably a top-five frontcourt in college basketball and could also add to it in the coming weeks with Emmitt Matthews, a top available senior this spring that is taking an official visit to the Big 12 program this week.
1. LOW AND MID-MAJOR PROGRAMS
Another spring, another tumultuous time for low and mid-major programs ravaged by out-transfers that have quickly erased their potential ceiling for the upcoming season and beyond. Robert Morris said goodbye to Dachon Burke, Albany did the same to David Nichols and Joe Cremo, South Dakota lost Matt Mooney and Dru Smith made his exit from Evansville. Some players left due to coaching changes, while others yearned for the opportunity to play on the biggest stage that the sport can afford. While the name brand schools have continued to resupply their cupboards through the transfer wire in hopes for greater success in March, the low and mid-majors continue to take a step back, even though they were the ones who invested the time, energy and resources in putting the prospect in the best spot to succeed.
2. PLAYERS' RIGHTS ADVOCATES
The Commission on College Basketball was ready to introduce the rules that it felt were best for the sport on April 25. The primary hope was for more freedom on the transfer market and ultimately, some sort of payment scale for the players - the group that creates such a hefty cash flow to the universities and their coaches. Instead, Condoleezza Rice and her committee discussed no such payments, resorting to the notion that this is amateur athletics and should continue to be viewed as such, equating to no money transferred into the players’ hands. Did any good come from the review? Yes, but the ultimate scenario of the players themselves receiving some sort of kick-back was thrown into the shadows once again.
As great as the first three months of the 2018 calendar year were for Auburn, things backfired in April. Its most well-rounded producer, Mustapha Heron, decided to hire an agent and leave two years early for the NBA Draft. For a non-blueblood such as Auburn, the pill to swallow was especially bitter. Things could be worse if Austin Wiley, the former five-star center, keeps his name in the draft. Piling onto Heron’s decision was do-it-all wing-forward DeSean Murray’s abrupt transfer to Western Kentucky. Murray is a glue guy, and filling that role may be difficult for Auburn. Luckily for the Tigers, they will bring back practically everyone else from last year’s SEC championship team and they also boast the commitment of Rivals150 junior Babatunde Akingbola this spring.