Three-Point Play: JUCO recruiting, grad transfers, adding talent
BOSSI'S BEST: Former three-star prospects who were studs in college
With 101 prospects in the 2019 RIvals150 already off of the board, programs across the country are looking at others ways to successfully fill out their rosters. In this week’s Three Point Play, we take a deeper look at how this is being done.
1. JUNIOR COLLEGE REALM IS WORTH IT
Last weekend, I was courtside for the JUCO Showcase in Apopka, Fla., watching some of the Sunshine State's top junior college programs. There I sat, evaluating prospects that I had already seen numerous times, both in high school and, in some cases, during their previous stops in college.
The junior college ranks are especially interesting right now as the high school class of 2019 is rather limited and already the crop of high-major prospects has been hit hard. It was therefore not a surprise to see a throng of high-major coaches courtside.
While JUCO recruiting might not make big headlines or have the same cache as blue chip high school recruiting, the treasure trove of talented prospects at the junior college level should not be underestimated.
Oregon may have landed one of the top shooters in America in Chris Duarte. The former Syracuse commit is now at Northwest Florida State and while he has always been regarded as a special shot-maker, he has become much better on the ball and could take on a Tyler Dorsey sort of role in Eugene next year. His teammate, Tyree Jackson, is a one-time Virginia Tech product that has already pledged to East Carolina. He is a sparkplug, tough playmaker that should speed things Joe Dooley's rebuild in Greenville.
Recently committed guard Bryce Williams should be a standout producer at Ole Miss next fall. The Daytona State product is a downhill driver with great size in the backcourt where he can be relied upon for scoring, playmaking and defending. The Rebels have the potential to put together a very strong 2019 class, and Williams’ early commitment should not be overlooked when the early signing period begins next month.
All of this is to say that while Oregon, ECU and Ole Miss have hit JUCO home runs this fall, look for many others to try and do the same. Charles Manning, Doudou Gueye, Jeremy Sheppard, Quenton Jackson and Khadim Sy are just a few other JUCO standouts that will be helping a high-major program next year.
2. BLUE BLOOD GOES GRAD-TRANSFER
A number of programs in recent years have patched their rosters with one-year rentals via the grad-transfer market. However, very rarely have national title contenders gone in that direction in their bid to win it all. That is about to change this winter and if Villanova, Kentucky, Gonzaga or Nevada can cut down the nets next April, the narrative on the grad-transfer route could begin to change.
Villanova added Albany's Joe Cremo after losing four of its top contributors from last year. Gonzaga added North Dakota’s Geno Crandall while Nevada ushered in the services of Old Dominion’s Trey Porter. However, the program getting much of the attention this fall, as is in the case in most years, is Kentucky. The Wildcats didn’t necessarily need Reid Travis, but if John Calipari can integrate the Stanford grad-transfer into the fold and use the graybeard’s past experience to catapult UK to another national title, might more be willing to follow such a blueprint for success?
I sure think so. While the success of the programs relying on grad transfers this winter will be heavily watched, regardless, I expect for Kentucky and/or Duke to tap into the grad transfer market in the coming months. The Wildcats would like up to three bigs in the 2019 class and they have yet to strike in the frontcourt. Kentucky is not the clear-cut favorite for any of its top targets and the same can be said for Duke. The Blue Devils, just like the Wildcats, want to add multiple bigs this fall.
3. OTHERS AVENUES FOR ROSTER COMPLETION
There are other avenues to adding talent outside of junior college recruiting and the grad-transfer market.
College programs average over two outgoing transfers per year, and those numbers continue to rise, so look for the spring to remain a heavy season for transfer additions and subtractions. Another thing to keep in mind is that programs are finding greater success with traditional transfers receiving NCAA waivers for immediate eligibility.
Another way to add talent is the decommitment front. The FBI's investigation into college basketball has led to whispers that this offseason could bring a whirlwind of change on the coaching carousel front. If that does take place, decommitments could come like wildfire across college basketball. Just this past spring, we saw Saddiq Bey, James Akinjo and Emmitt Mathews change college choices; more will do the same next year and that is without considering the ramifications of the pending NCAA investigation.
If not transfers or decommitments, prospect reclassifications have become more common within the sport. In the past, it was more about leaping back a year and using the extra year of schooling to improve one’s game. Now, we are seeing many jump up a year, speeding up their clocks so that they might be more enviable NBA prospects down the line. Pitt inked a pair or reclassified prospects last spring with Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney, while Kentucky did the same with Ashton Hagans. There is already a lot of talk circling around some of the top prospects in the 2020 class considering a similar leap.
Finally, international recruiting is becoming a go-to for some of the nation's best programs. St. Mary’s, Gonzaga and Utah were the catalysts for overseas success but many others have followed suit. Virginia just enrolled a pair of internationals from Australia and Argentina, while Stanford has built its positionless system around a bevy of overseas talents.
Many others are about to do the same. Thanks to the creation of and investment in the NBA Global Academy program, we have seen prospects commit to Virginia, TCU and UNLV. The development that these prospects are receiving before they set foot in the United States’ borders has been ramped up a few levels. This allows for a much more seamless transition for the international prospects, thus creating a more enticing route for college programs.