Fastbreak Firday: Kentucky, Georgia Tech & UNLV host five-star talent

Now that the first signing period is just a few days away, the final weekend prior to it is one that brings a few elite, five-star talent hitting the road to the likes of Kentucky, UNLV, and Georgia Tech.

The final Friday before the first signing period begins on Wednesday and there are still a few notable visits taking place this weekend. While the list of those hitting the road in the coming days is not as exhaustive compared to prior weeks, the star power is still ample and noteworthy enough in giving a solid peek into what is ahead.

Two ACC programs hope to land one of the top remaining big men left on the board, Indiana hosts its own top target in the backcourt, and Kentucky, with the waning number of solid off-ball scorers available, will do their very best in finagling their own commitment from an east coast target along with trying to snag another nearby recruit.

GEORGIA TECH BRINGS IN THE BEST

The best prospect available out of the 2017 ranks, Wendell Carter, a 6-foot-10 center out of the Peach State, won’t have to travel too far from his humble abode this weekend. Georgia Tech, doing their very best during the early stages of the Josh Pastner era in keeping the top recruits close to home, will play host to the Pace Academy star.

Somehow finding a way to get the big man into a Yellow Jackets uniform next year might be one of the biggest steals and coups within the past five years. Hence, the chance for the ACC gang to secure the talents of Carter is very bleak. Although, Carter has spoken on playing close to home and how he could lure other top tier recruits to come and play with him for the brand new staff in Atlanta.

The next 48-hours could be huge for the Yellow Jackets or it could just be delaying the inevitable which is Carter saying no to the two in-state programs and one day soon calling it a day with his recruitment and very likely, committing to Duke. Harvard remains heavy in pursuit, just as well, but getting the big fella onto its campus this weekend definitely doesn’t hurt the publicity that Pastern’s program will receive in the days ahead.

KENTUCKY HOSTS LONNIE WALKER

Heading into the early signing period, believe it or not, but Kentucky sits all of the way at the bottom of the SEC’s class rankings. Why? Well, UK has yet to receive a commitment from a 2017 class member. That is sure due to change in the days ahead but with the looming departures of star freshmen guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, the Wildcats desperately need to find a presence out on the perimeter.

Still waist-deep in the recruitments of John Petty and Hamidou Diallo, it is Lonnie Walker that will visit the Lexington campus this weekend. Word in recent weeks was that Arizona was out in the lead for the Reading High product but Syracuse, Villanova, and UK remain right there with the Pac 12 juggernaut for the signature of the top-25 guard.

What Walker brings to the floor is something that will be needed at Kentucky next year. Similar to Monk during his high school days, Walker is someone that can really score the ball but needs further consistency in producing each time out. He does sport remarkable athleticism and physical tangibles and by getting the five-star recruit on its campus a few days prior to the first signing period, maybe, just maybe, Calipari and his crew can nab the Pennsylvania native’s signature next week.

Along with Walker, the Wildcats went to work quickly by landing an official visit out of Shai Alexander, a prospect that recently backed away from his commitment to Florida. The 6-foot-4 lead guard is a phenomenal playmaker on the ball that makes everyone around him better. While he has struggled in the past with his perimeter jumper, when placed around with elite weapons, like what he would have at Kentucky, the Canadian guard flourishes. A possible commitment could be coming down the line and with the desire to sign early, all signs point towards Alexander becoming a favorite of Big Blue Nation’s in the nearby future.

PJ WASHINGTON STAYS HOME FOR THE WEEKEND

Sure, PJ Washington, a 6-foot-7 power forward that calls Texas his home, is not really a Las Vegas native, though he is finishing out his high school career out in the desert at Findlay Prep. UNLV has had great success mining the school in recent years in the likes of Christian Wood and Anthony Bennett as they hope they could land its next five-star recruit and the first one during the Marvin Menzies era this week.

Kentucky is seen as the heavy favorite for Walker and rightfully so. After taking a few trips to Lexington this fall, all signs point towards an early signing for the Wildcats. However, the MWC gang has made up some heavy ground with the prolific rebounder of the basketball, someone that can step in and immediately become the face of the program, something one has to believe that the staff in Vegas is selling to the top tier power forward.

Can UNLV land Washington? That is a reach but by getting the productive forward on its campus leading up to the signing period beginning just a few days after, could UNLV, just like Georgia Tech with Wendell Carter, steal one with the local recruit?

INDIANA HOPES TO SOLIDIFY ITS BACKCOURT

Tom Crean has been one to rely immensely on his guards and their versatility in the backcourt. Practically everyone that has a ‘G’ labeled onto their position on the floor is expected to be able to shoot it, dribble it, and pass it with efficiency. This weekend, David Beatty, a top-100 recruit out of Philadelphia, a guard that fits the exact mold of an Indiana type of backcourt producer, hits the Bloomington campus.

Beatty, one of the toughest and grittiest guards out of the 2017 class, hasn’t had a ton of media attention this fall. He had narrowed down his list of schools following the travel season but recently decided to open things up. While others such as Temple and Georgetown have been viable threats for the east coast target, the Hoosiers have made up a ton of ground in their recruitment of the Imhotep Charter star.

Already holding commitments from three members of the 2017 class, the highest rated one being top-100 wing Justin Smith, after missing out on top-50 guard Tremont Waters last month, the need for a versatile guard that can play on and off the ball is evidently clear. Beatty, who would immediately buy in and bring a chip on his shoulder to the floor the way that prior Big 10 standouts have shown, would excel nicely within the open faced offense that Crean implores at IU. Now that the signing period is just a few days away, a solid stretch of hours for Beatty could mean a top ranked Big 10 class for the Hoosiers this fall.

VISITS THIS WEEKEND

BUTLER

  • Torrence Watson, 6-foot-6 small forward, Whitfield School (Missouri) 2018 – NATIONAL RANKING: 86

GEORGIA

  • Rayshaun Hammonds, 6-foot-7 small forward, Norcross High School (Georgia) – NATIONAL RANKING: 40

GEORGIA STATE

  • Jeremiah Saunders, 6-foot-2 guard, University School (Florida) 2018

GEORGIA TECH

  • Wendell Carter, 6-foot-10 center, Pace Academy (Georgia) – NATIONAL RANKING: 1

INDIANA

  • David Beatty, 6-foot-3 guard, Imhotep Charter School (Pennsylvania) – NATIONAL RANKING: 95

KENTUCKY

  • Shai Alexander, 6-foot-4 point guard, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Tennessee) – NATIONAL RANKING: 51
  • Lonnie Walker, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Reading High School (Pennsylvania) – NATIONAL RANKING: 24

OLD DOMINION

  • Marquis Godwin, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Hampton High School (Virginia) COMMITTED

NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Elijah Jordan, 6-foot-1 point guard, The First Academy (Florida)

NORTHWESTERN

  • Jared Bynum, 5-foot-10 point guard, Georgetown Prep (Washington, DC) 2018

NOTRE DAME

  • Torrence Watson, 6-foot-6 small forward, Whitfield School (Missouri) 2018 – NATIONAL RANKING: 86

RICHMOND

  • AJ Ford, 6-foot-7 forward, St. Petersburg High School (Florida)

UNC

  • Garrison Brooks, 6-foot-8 power forward, Auburn High School (Alabama) – NATIONAL RANKING: 112

UNLV

  • PJ Washington, 6-foot-7 power forward, Findlay Prep (Nevada) – NATIONAL RANKING: 28

XAVIER

  • Noah Locke, 6-foot-2 guard, McDonogh School (Maryland) 2018 – NATIONAL RANKING: 84
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