Now that the spring evaluation periods are upon us and the coaching carousel is coming to a close, we can peek ahead to the 2018 class and the future of some of the top prospects and programs nationwide.
In this week’s #TwitterTuesday mailbag, we answer questions faced at Illinois and California, the recruitment of top-50 junior guard Elijah Weaver, and where Kentucky might look for its next star at the point guard position.
Orlando Antigua, the former head coach at South Florida and a one-time assistant Pitt and Kentucky, brings a bevy of contacts to his post at Illinois. During his time at Kentucky, Antigua recruited some of the top talent in America, helping John Calipari lay the foundation that has reaped enormous success. While Illinois will not be on the same recruiting platform as the SEC juggernaut, at least not at the time being, Antigua will help Illinois get in a lot of homes that they previously were unable to.
This past weekend, Brad Underwood and the entire staff from Illinois completed an in-home visit with Cameron Johnson, a grad transfer from Pitt. Antigua is the reason that Illinois was able to make the proper inroads with the talented wing.
Besides Johnson, Antigua will get back to his roots within the New York City region. While it may be difficult in 2018, expect for 2019 to be the year that Illinois makes a push for some of the top talent on the East Coast, especially within the talented regions of New York City and New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Illinois needs to remain true to who they are, which would be accomplished by locking down the Windy City and landing the best talent from the state. That's something past staffs have had issues with.
It may be a bit difficult to properly pinpoint Wyking Jones’ recruiting strategy as the head coach at Cal, but by looking at the staff that he has put together we can do our best.
By retaining Tim O’Toole and hiring Theo Robertson, a former Cal standout, on staff as an assistant, keeping the best talent close to home will be very important to the Golden Bears. Outside of the decommitment of Jemarl Baker, a top-100 guard who asked for his release before committing to Kentucky last week, Jones did a fine job of keeping the rest of his 2017 class, a four-man group that call the state of California as their home intact.
Do not expect much to change from prior years as Jordan Brown, a top-five junior, will be their top target this spring and summer.
Jones hired Chris Walker, an assistant who has cut his teeth in the state of Texas, to round out his staff. Texas is always chock full of talent in any given recruiting cycle, and 2018 and 2019 are nothing outside of the norm. Just last week, the Golden Bears offered Gerald Liddell, Charles Smith IV, Grant Sherfield, Devion Harmon and Tyrese Maxey, each natives of the state, making it known that region will be a major focus for the Bears.
Jason is referring to Elijah Weaver, a top-50 guard from the 2018 class who recently narrowed his list of schools down to Oklahoma State, Miami, UConn, Florida, Villanova, Missouri, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Butler, USC, Virginia, and N.C. State.
Weaver is a unique prospect, a 6-foot-4 lead guard built like a linebacker but with the vision of a top-flight quarterback. Oklahoma State could be the wildcard as Mike Boynton, the newly named head coach in Stillwater, has really hit the Sunshine State hard since his hiring. However, it comes down to three schools, in my mind at least.
UConn is a program that has laid down the proper groundwork with Weaver. The Huskies have done good work in Florida, and Kevin Ollie and his staff have been down to see him a number of times in recent months. The local school, Florida, took two of Weaver’s teammates from Oldsmar Christian in the 2016 class, and the Gators really need a great, playmaking guard, something that the 6-foot-4 junior epitomizes. Finally, Villanova may be the leader. Weaver, who has family in the DMV region, grew up a Wildcat fan, and after being pursued heavily by Jay Wright for the past 18 months, it would seem if Villanova really wants Weaver, it may be the last squad standing.
The point guard class in 2018 is top heavy, as there is a group of four or five elite level prospects and a bunch of others that are going to make for excellent, three-or four-year college stars. But at Kentucky it is all about the one-and-done.
The three that Kentucky has made a move on are Immanuel Quickley, Javonte Smart and Quentin Grimes. The latter, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Texas, boasts the best upside of the three, but is also more of a scoring guard becoming a playmaker. He is due to see his stock soar this summer. Quickley has been on the radar for Kentucky for the past several months after his breakout sophomore summer campaign; Calipari will have an in-home visit him this week.
Either would excel nicely within Lexington, but Smart, the second-ranked point guard in 2018, may become the next floor general at UK. The Louisiana native has been to Kentucky a few times within the past 12 months, and while he does need to show that he can consistently make shots, he is a top-of-the-line defender and someone who will have plenty of experience under his belt before suiting up in college. At the end of the day, he is a Kentucky Wildcat.
Robby Carmody is as tough as they come. The well-rounded wing is someone who will immediately infuse whichever school that he picks with grit, versatility and a winning mentality. However, one should not base rankings off of offer lists. The intangibles that Carmody displays are tough to find, and when that same prospect has the talent to match, along with grades in the classroom, it’s going to bring a fair number of suitors to the table.
Ranked in the top-100 of our latest update, Carmody must become a better, more consistent shooter to make that next leap. He also must round out his skillset and make the leap from small forward and into the shooting guard position. At the time being, he is a 6-foot-4 small forward who excels best in 50-50 plays around the basket and on the defensive end. If he can tighten up some of the loose ends, Carmody should see his ranking improve.
On the recruitment front, look for Northwestern, Butler, Michigan, Notre Dame, Purdue, Syracuse and Pitt to be atop of his list all spring and summer long as they chase his college commitment, a decision that should occur in the fall.