Wednesday's Mailbag: Going pro, UK, Michigan, Oklahoma
Players who are opting to go the professional route rather than taking the traditional college approach is a major talking point in this week’s Wednesday’s Leftovers. Will Makur Maker, Jon Kuminga and other potential basketball stars choose college or not?
2022 Rankings: Top 75
Update on Makur Maker & Johnathan Kuminga? And have you heard anything on Mike Miller replacement?— rodney holmes (@rodneyholmes7) June 28, 2020
It might have been crazy to say this 12 months ago, but there is a far likelier chance that Makur Maker plays in college than Jonathan Kuminga. Maker has entered his name in the 2020 NBA Draft and is waiting for feedback about where he might be selected. If the answer is not to his liking and college eligibility is granted for next season, then Auburn, Howard, Memphis and UCLA are seen as potential landing spots.
As far as Kuminga goes: For those hoping that he will play in college, I hate to tell you but the chances of that happening are very, very slim, as in 1%. If anyone can make it happen, it is going to be Texas Tech, but there is a far greater likelihood that Kuminga will be playing overseas in the NBL in Australia or in the new G League initiative alongside Jalen Green and Daishen Nix in the fall. A reclassification into the 2020 class should be announced shortly, along with his professional decision.
Finally, Penny Hardaway has major shoes to fill on his coaching staff after Mike Miller’s decision to leave the profession last month. Miller was seen as one of the best assistant coaches in the sport, and he was the primary recruiter for Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones and Precious Achiuwa. Miller also paved the way for Memphis’ top 25 defensive numbers last season.
Hardaway is not in a rush to make a hire. There is a chance Hardaway makes two hires, one for an assistant opening and another in an administrative capacity for organizational purposes. In-person recruiting remains off limits until September - at the earliest - so Hardaway is more likely to thoroughly vet the candidate pool rather than make a quick hire.
In the foreseeable future will we see a number 1 recruit commit to a blue blood and play college basketball or are those days seemingly over with the emergence of the G league/professional options— be excellent to each other (@ZachDavisShow) June 28, 2020
Really, we are seeing this play out this year (except the blueblood angle). Cade Cunningham decided to decline large sums of money from the professional realm and will instead suit up for Oklahoma State and play a year of college basketball. And he made this decision despite the penalties levied against the Cowboys.
Now, there are many layers to Cunningham’s decision to play in Stillwater, one being his brother’s presence on the staff. The No. 1 player in the 2020 class is a unique prospect, but his decision shows that all of the gloom and doom geared toward the college game is a bit much. Sure, the G League is going to lure some of the best prospects away from college basketball. Does that hurt the visibility of the college game, detract viewers and perhaps take the talent level of college hoops down a notch? Yes, but the G League won't corner 40 or more of the best high school seniors in any given year but rather a select group of five to seven players. Even then, don’t be surprised if some turn down the invitation to play professionally and choose to take advantage of what the college game can offer: a larger platform, a more competitive setting and, really, the entire college experience.
The college game will roll on. The loss of Jalen Green and Daishen Nix will hurt, but not all prospects will pursue what the G League has to offer. For example, look for Pat Baldwin, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren to eschew the G League experience and opt for college.
Who would you say is the most likely to commit to UK for 2021-22: Hardy, Bachero, Huntley-Hatfield (assuming a reclassification)— Allan Baldwin (@Allan_Baldwin) June 29, 2020
Jaden Hardy committing to anyone but Kentucky would be one of the bigger surprises I could see happening in the coming months. However, that doesn’t mean the competition for his services has dwindled in recent weeks. In fact, the very best along the West Coast remain involved, including Oregon, where his brother will be a graduate transfer this winter. Michigan also remains very involved. However, Hardy is my selection for the likeliest 2021 Kentucky commitment.
Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is not too far off, but he does need to move into the 2021 class for it to happen. Huntley-Hatfield is still just 16 years old, so he is the proper age for the 2022 class. But the talent, size and need for someone of his pedigree is evident at each program nationally, and that could push him into the 2021 class. I am not counting out any of the other bluebloods - or the in-state Tennessee Vols - but Kentucky is my pick for him, too.
Lastly, Paolo Banchero has often discussed playing in college with Kennedy Chandler. Believe it or not, Tennessee has the best chance of making such a package deal happen. UK is definitely a suitor for both, but if the two go their separate ways chances are Banchero picks Kentucky.
So, I actually think Hardy, Huntley-Hatfield and Banchero will all end up picking Kentucky, but Hardy is the likeliest.
After landing Isaiah Barnes what could be Michigans next piece to the puzzle?— Wolverine SZN〽️〽️〽️ (@Bossinyourface1) June 28, 2020
Michigan got off to a great start with its 2021 class last week when four-star wing Isaiah Barnes - one of the Midwest’s top spring stock boosters - gave his verbal commit to the Wolverines. Juwan Howard and his staff will now push for even greater traction in the coming months with some of their top targets and they have made the best in the class a priority.
Needing a big class (even if Chaundee Brown receives a waiver to play immediately in the fall), Michigan must land a lead guard, and the Wolverines also need another ball-handling guard-wing, a versatile forward and, potentially, a low-post threat. In the backcourt, Jalen Warley, Angelo Brizzi and Jaden Akins could play on the ball for Michigan. On the wing, Matthew Cleveland, Peyton Watson, Harrison Ingram, Kobe Bufkin and Quincy Allen come to mind.
The Wolverines have continued to make a hard push for Will Tschetter and they just made the final seven for Chet Holmgren. Keep an eye on Efton Reid, a 7-footer they have picked up some ground with. He was a travel teammate of Hunter Dickinson and Terrance Williams a year ago. Charles Bediako is another prospect for whom the Wolverines have made a push.
Oklahoma making a hard push for d Collins and trey Alexander?— BRIMM (@CoachBrimmer) June 29, 2020
Yup, no doubt about that. Daimion Collins and Trey Alexander are probably Oklahoma’s top two targets in the 2021 class, and the fact that the two have shared the floor together on the Team Griffin travel program only helps their cause.
Three-star guard Bijan Cortes was a good start earlier in the year, but Collins and/or Alexander is a must. I am much more optimistic about the Sooners' chances with Alexander, though it is not outlandish to say that they can land both players. Alexander has a number of connections to the Big 12 program and the work that the staff in Norman has invested into his recruitment should make Oklahoma difficult to beat.
For Collins, count LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M among the Sooners’ toughest competition. I will say Alexander picks the Sooner and that OU will be among the few that will have a chance with Collins when it is time for him to decide.