Fastbreak Friday: Kansas hosts the future
It is October! Close to it at least and as the colors of the leaves change and the morning frost appears on your car windows, it just means that we are one step closer to the college basketball season. Less than 40 days away from kicking things off, balls will be hitting the hardwood this weekend as college practices will officially kick off. Hence, a few midnight madness festivities will commence and with it, visitor lists will be intense.
This weekend, it is the Late Night at the Phog in Lawrence, Kansas that will take center stage as some of the top prospects throughout the land will hit the Big 12 campus. Bill Self and his staff won’t be the only squad playing to host to some of their top targets as the likes of Texas Tech, Stanford, Maryland, and Alabama will also attempt to eke out a commitment. Speaking of commitments, we have now hit on five of our six predictions of the week this fall; who gets the nod this week? Look for Georgia to wrap up a visitor with a few others that could squeak in their own quality landing.
KANSAS BRINGS IN THE BEST OF THE BEST
Every year, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Arizona, and several others run their own midnight madness festivities as their visitor list is off the charts when it comes to talent levels. This year at Kansas, things are no different as Bill Self and his staff will bring in five-star recruit after five-star recruit. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if they are nearing a college decision or just beginning their own high school playing careers, if you are good and if you’re being recruited by the Jayhawks, chances are that you might be in Lawrence this weekend.
Focusing first on the official visitor tour, Kansas, in need of a lead guard, someone that can replace the heart and grit, along with the gusto of soon to be graduate Frank Mason, will play host to top-10 guard Trevon Duval and Collin Sexton, along with top-50 floor general Tremont Waters. While Waters will be difficult to be had as Kentucky and Indiana stand firmly as the leaders for the Connecticut native’s signature this November, Duval is someone that the Jayhawks could instantaneously jump into the lead for. At one time, UCLA was thought to be the leader but now that the Pac 12 gang is out of the mix, a good weekend in Lawrence for the Delaware native could be an even better weekend for Kansas’ staff in hopes of landing the best point guard in all of the land. Right with him, it is Sexton that the Big 12 bunch has an even better shot at. Sure, Alabama still sits good with him and so does NC State and Oklahoma State, but the longer the process goes, the better the chances are for KU.
Taking things a step further, Troy Brown, the most versatile prospect from the 2017 class, will hit the Big 12 campus for a 48-hour stay. The Vegas native recently visited Alabama and Oregon and while others such as Arizona, Georgetown, and Cal remain in the mix, KU could get a step ahead of the pack this weekend for a prospect that can play all three spots on the perimeter and would excel nicely within Bill Self’s system.
Going big, two jumbo playmakers that are better facing the basket out of the power forward position, head to Kansas for their own official tour of the blueblood program. Kansas recently jumped into the mix for Billy Preston and the Jayhawks seem to have made up a ton of ground in the recruitment of the 6-foot-8 forward that is exceptionally skilled and gifted as a scorer of the basketball. USC remains the school to beat and it is another Pac 12 program that is the favorite for Kansas’ fifth official visitor this weekend, Cody Riley. The 6-foot-7 lefty forward has been a Bruins lean for some time now but if anyone can jostle with Steve Alford and land the Sierra Canyon product, it would be Kansas.
Outside of the seniors hitting up KU this weekend, the unofficial visitor list is off the charts good. Led by five-star lead guard Brandon Williams, the junior from California is joined by the likes of Bol Bol, the son of the late Manute Bol that has been seen as a Kansas lean, another local big man in Keenan Fitzmorris, stretch 5-man Connor Vanover, and top-five guard Immanuel Quickley. All members of the 2018 class, Kansas goes a step further in hosting a handful of top shelf sophomores as travel teammates Zach Harvey and Jeremiah Robinson, along with Grant Sherfield, Matthew Hurt, and Markese Jacobs all will set foot onto the Lawrence campus for the festivities.
In all, expect for at least two or three of those in attendance to one day suit up for the juggernaut of a basketball program that we call the Kansas Jayhawks.
OTHERS OF NOTE
The place to be on Saturday, that is if you’re a football fan, is in Death Valley as Clemson and their top-five squad led by Dabo Swinney face off with another top-five team as Louisville comes to town. With the spotlight on the ACC program, the basketball program will be bringing in some of the top 2018s from the area led by Zion Williamson, the top east coast recruit out of the junior ranks. Along with the 6-foot-7 forward, the South Carolina native will be joined by such others as top-100 lead guards Devon Dotson and Rasir Bolton, along with the top junior from the state of Alabama, Trey Jemison. Others such as Josh Nickelberry, Sharone Wright Jr, and Hunter Tyson will also hit the campus for what should be an unbelievable day in Death Valley.
The Terps have remained silent this summer and fall as they have yet to land a 2017 class member. This weekend, the Big 10 gang will look local as they host one of the top guards from the east coast, Darryl Morsell. Having already visited Villanova and Notre Dame, the Baltimore native was one of the best stories from the month of July. A 6-foot-4 guard that is deceptively explosive at the basket but is growing nicely into the lead guard spot, could College Park be the eventual landing spot for the Mount St. Joseph star? The Terps sure would like to hope so. In the meantime, Mark Turgeon and his bunch will also play host to five-star and top ranked 2018 center, Moses Brown. The New York native has seen his stock soar and getting the big man on campus for a day is a great start in the right direction for the Terps.
A giant 48 hours are in store in Palo Alto as Stanford hosts its top two targets at the guard position this weekend. Matt Coleman, a 6-foot-1 lead guard and top-50 recruit out of Virginia, takes the cross country flight to California. Duke and Texas are seen as the heavy favorites for the Oak Hill star, though the Cardinals have done phenomenal work in impressing the floor general. Daejon Davis, a former Washington commit, will also be on hand. A member of the USA Basketball family, the west coast recruit has been talked about landing at either Arizona, Gonzaga, or Oregon, but then again, the fact that the Pac 12 gang got involved so late in the process and landed a visit of his speaks volumes about how serious the 6-foot-3 guard is about attending the high end academic institution.
The culture that Chris Beard hopes to implement in Lubbock could get ramped up to another level depending on how this weekend’s visits go. Hosting top-20 guard Trae Young and Victor Bailey Jr, if the Red Raiders could land any of the two, it should be seen as giant coups for the new staff of the Big 12 program. Young, whose father once suited up and starred for Tech, is seen as someone that would likely play for Kentucky, Kansas, or Oklahoma, though the bloodlines and the sell could open the eyes of the sharpshooting and super talented Norman native. Joining him will be top-100 guard and a fine athlete off of the ball, Victor Bailey Jr. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is a phenomenal athlete thanks to his dad’s time in the NFL and his mom’s time on the Olympic track. Nearing a college decision in the coming weeks, the Red Raiders have come on strong, though Tulsa, Oregon, and Texas A&M are also in the mix.
Sitting already with a top-five recruiting class within the 2017 ranks, UCLA will attempt to make things even better as they host two potential producers next year. Charles O’Bannon Jr, the nephew of former Bruins star Ed O’Bannon, hits the Westwood campus for two days. The 6-foot-5 swingman is a giant scorer of the ball off of the jumper and while there is still some time to go with the Bishop Gorman product, UCLA has gained momentum with the Vegas prospect. Branden Carlson, another west coast recruit calling the state of Utah his home, gets a glimpse of Steve Alford’s program. Programs like Utah, BYU, and Stanford stand on firm ground with him but UCLA could sell the hole needed to be filled that Thomas Welsh could leave upon his departure at the five.
How big of a weekend is it for Wake Forest? Ginormous. The top recruit of the Danny Manning era thus far in Winston-Salem, things are down to Kansas and the ACC bunch for top-25 guard Chaundee Brown. Wake Forest has done the most work with the Sunshine State native but it is always difficult to decline an invitation to play at a place like Kansas. Still though, Wake might have the biggest opportunity to sell to Brown. Look for a commitment to ensue in the coming days as the 6-foot-4 shooting guard has already visited KU where the Deacons gets the last shot at impressing the five-star recruit.
PREDICTION OF THE WEEK
NIC CLAXTON COMMITS TO GEORGIA
Things haven’t gone too well thus far for the staff in Athens in luring prospects to a college commitment from members of the 2017 class. That all could change in one quick swoop this weekend as the Bulldogs brings into town two of their top targets in the frontcourt. While Garrison Brooks, an official visitor in the days ahead, has spoken about committing after his UNC visit next weekend, it is Nic Claxton that could call it a day with his college recruitment.
A 6-foot-9 power forward that is still more of a prospect than a ballplayer at the time being, the upside and potential out of the Legacy Charter product is very intriguing. Sporting a sinewy body type and one that is far from developed, the dimensions from the long power forward are still very impressive.
Capable of spacing the floor with the perimeter jumper but skilled enough in converting on mid-post and short corner moves, Claxton is already fairly polished within the half-court setting. What sets him apart further is the fact that the senior big man can protect his basket and rebound his area. Finding prospects that can stretch the floor with the jumper but also protect his own basket is difficult to find, hence making Claxton an anomaly within the rankings and if he gets ‘it’, could turn into an NBA Draft prospect.
With bloodlines that lead back to the SEC program, Georgia has been a strong suitor for Claxton and this weekend, we expect for the Bulldogs to shut things down. Sure, Clemson, South Carolina, and Florida State would also love to have him but this could be the time for the high upside piece from Legacy Charter to end things in favor for Mark Fox’s bunch.
OTHER POSSIBLE COMMITMENTS
Alex Reese commits to Alabama
Thomas Allen commits to NC State