As we explore teams during the early signing period, the Big 12 has an interesting group of players coming to campus next fall. Kansas is, well, Kansas and Baylor is coming off a year where they ended the season as the champions of the college world. How will Chris Beard take care of business and Texas? There are so many storylines to discuss, so let’s dive right in.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Kansas
Kansas messed around and landed one of the premier classes in all of college hoops. The Jayhawks added some grown man strength to its lineup with three of the strongest players in all of high school basketball - MJ Rice, Ernest Udeh and Zuby Ejiofor - and one of the best shooters in the class of 2022 in Gradey Dick.
This group has great balance and give the KU lineup some major depth at key positions. Rice has all-conference star power. We saw a preview of what’s to come when he shined at the Border League in Las Vegas last month with Prolific Prep. He was unstoppable and played like a guy ready to thrive at the collegiate level.
Udeh and Ejiofor - as we note below in the top frontline section - are a problem down low.
Dick has some star power to him, too. He’s a dead-eye shooter and will thrive off of the ball screens that he can work around thanks to this frontline he’s about to play with. Don’t sleep on his athletic ability either. There’s a wow factor to him that doesn’t get talked about enough.
TOP DOG: Keyonte George to Baylor. Perhaps the biggest recruiting win for the league was the Bears ability to hold off the professional leagues - G-League/Overtime Elite and the like for George. He’s more than likely going to be a one-and-done type of player and one of the premier scorers in college basketball. His production comes easy and the way Baylor likes to run their guard play, George could be in store for an All-American type of year as a collegiate rookie.
Can @keyonte1george, the newest @BaylorMBB guard be an All-American as a freshman in year one in Waco? @JustinDYoung and @_A_Smith dive into on the first day of the early signing period. #NSD21 pic.twitter.com/W0jgp7pduA— HoopSeen West (@HoopSeenWest) November 10, 2021
BEST FRONTCOURT: Kansas. There’s no question about that. With two of the biggest and strongest guys coming into the league in Ernest Udeh and Zuby Ejiofor, the Jayhawks continue to keep the roster loaded up with tough guys inside. The two should be a granite wall to drive into for the guards that face off against KU. What a duo to try and score on. Both players still have plenty of room to grow as interior defenders, too.
Consider this...MJ Rice is so strong and versatile that he can handle any switches that puts him in the paint. He’s one of the premier power wings in the prep ranks. The trio coming to Lawrence has value that gives the rotation strength that you tend to find in upperclassmen.
BEST BACKCOURT: Oklahoma.
One of the biggest recruiting wins of the class of 2022 was OU’s ability to pluck Uzan out of the West. The Las Vegas native also strongly considered Utah, Cal and UNLV. Uzan decided on the Big 12 instead and pledged to coach Porter Moser.
His steady, game-management and passing will be a nice compliment to the bully ball style play that New Jersey guard Otega Oweh plays with. The 6-foot-6 strong-bodied wing is a problem because of his physicality and his perimeter shot. This 1-2 punch will be a fun one to watch in Norman in the years to come.
THE OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 100 SLEEPER
TCU scored a major sleeper out of Indiana when Desmond Bane picked the Horned Frogs after a relatively quiet recruitment. He’s now turned out to be one of the nice steals in the draft for the Memphis Grizzlies after a great development in Fort Worth. That pitch to young guards is certainly there and a path has been provided for growth in a game.
So, who can be the next recruiting win for TCU? Try homegrown guard PJ Haggerty. The 6-foot-3 from Crosby, Texas is a major pickup for the program and, arguably, the biggest steal coming into the Big 12. He’s a scorer, a winner and a guy with a proven history of production. Haggerty can slide between both guard positions and the smart basketball eyes in Texas have good things to say about him. Coming out of a strong basketball city like Houston, Haggerty is battle ready for the Big 12.
HEY, I HAVE A HOOPSEEN CHAPTER
Ernest Udeh was awesome at the 2021 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. Just awesome.
We wrote: “How do you win a championship at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions? You have a man in the middle that is immovable, tough on the block, great above the rim and a closer in a big moment. That’s how. The big man made a monster play down the stretch in the semifinal win over JL3 in one of the best games of the entire tournament to seal the victory and advance them to the title game. Udeh was terrific from tip to finish at the 2021 Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. He was one of the premier post players in the field and downright unstoppable when it mattered most.”
Big fella @ernestudehjr brings a big power game to Lawrence when he suits up for @KUHoops. We saw that from him at the famed Bob #Gibbons Tournament of Champions. 🎥: @ost247 @HoopSeenFL pic.twitter.com/QQpRlDCw2u— HoopSeen (@hoopseen) November 9, 2021
THE THREE THINGS I LIKE THE MOST:
1. Consider this for a moment: Baylor took a commitment from big man Joshua Ojianwuna and not one from Adem Bona (UCLA), Ernest Udeh (Kansas) or Vince Iwuchukwu (USC). The 6-foot-10, 230-pound center from the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia is a major presence in the middle and, according to international sources, is one of the bright young players in the NBA Global Academy program. Keep an eye on Ojianwuna in Waco. He could be a name we hear much more about down the road as a pro level prospect.
2. Texas Tech is going to love Robert Jennings. Absolutely love him. He is the kind of player that shines in Lubbock. An active, athletic and aggressive forward, Jennings will be the Montrezz Harrell of the Red Raiders. He’s a force to be reckoned with and a player that opposing teams don’t get too excited about facing. His commitment may get lost in the shuffle nationally but it is one of the most important ones for the Big 12 Conference this recruiting season.
3. Texas has a star coming to Austin in Dillion Mitchell. The Florida native has elite defensive capabilities inside and out. He can guard out to the wing and be a problem as a shot-blocker. Chris Beard has built programs around players who can guard all over the floor and do so with max energy and effort. Mitchell should be ready to play a lot of minutes right away as a freshman after his time spent at Montverde. Don’t be suspired to see him draw a lot of attention from NBA scouts during his time in Austin.
TOP PG: Arterio Morris, Texas
TOP SG: Keyonte George, Baylor
TOP SF: MJ Rice, Kansas
TOP PF: Dillon Mitchell, Texas
TOP C: Ernest Udeh, Kansas
TOP CLASS: Kansas
TOP SLEEPER: PJ Haggerty, TCU
TOP SHOOTER: Gradey Dick, Kansas
TOP SCORER: Keyonte George, Baylor
TOP REBOUNDER: Dillon Mitchell, Texas
TOP DEFENDER: Dillon Mitchell, Texas
TOP PRO PROSPECT: Keyonte George, Baylor