Exploring the Class of 2023: Big Ten
The early signing period is here, and HoopSeen has you covered an all you need to know as players put pen to paper and turn verbal commitments into letters of intent.
One of the more fascinating leagues in college basketball has been the Big Ten. It has powerhouse programs, it perennially rates as one of the leagues best conferences, but there hasn’t been a national champion from the Big Ten since Michigan State in 2000.
Maybe one of these classes can help turn the tide and get the Big Ten back to the top. Let’s dive into the league’s recruiting classes.
TOP DOG: Xavier Booker, Michigan State.
When we look at this year’s Big Ten class, there isn’t a better pro prospect than Michigan State’s Xavier Booker. Tom Izzo and company prioritized the 6-foot-10 forward and their efforts were rewarded when the skilled big fella committed to the Spartans. Booker can stretch the floor, he can handle the ball in the open court after grabbing boards, and he can create highlights at the rim on both ends.
Booker likely won’t be a one-and-done, but he has first-round upside without a doubt. After a year to get used to the college game and to add to adjust to some physicality, Booker could be a sophomore riser who plays his way to draft day.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Michigan State.
We’ll just stick in East Lansing here because Michigan State has assembled the best class in the league for 2023. This is a great Michigan State class. I mean, it’s so great that I had to go back to 2016 to find a Sparty class like this one. Do you remember who they signed that year? Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Nick Ward. All of those guys were regarded as top 50 recruits.
Xavier Booker, Jeremy Fears, Coenn Carr and Gehrig Normand aren’t all top 50 guys, but they’re all top 100. What this class shares with that 2016 group is that there isn’t an obvious one-and-done player. This class has a chance to stick around in East Lansing for a couple of seasons at least.
Izzo and the staff did a great job when it comes to roster construction with this group. There’s a player for just about every spot on the floor, and they can all do things to complement each other. Barring any transfers, Michigan State’s 2023 class could form the core that gets the Spartans back to being in the upper echelon of the sport.
We saw Tom Izzo more than any other head coach on the recruiting trail in 2022. We're quite familiar with his incoming class. SHOCKER - We love it. @JustinDYoung & @_joshtec on @RealXman23, @GehrigNormand20, @Coencarr2, @jeremy_fears for @MSU_Basketball. pic.twitter.com/RczlBMpFKy— HoopSeen (@hoopseen) November 9, 2022
THREE CLASSES I LOVE
1. Ohio State
If not for Michigan State, the Buckeyes would have been in the No. 1 spot. Chris Holtmann is keeping the Ohio State machine rolling in Columbis with another deep group coming in.
Ohio State adds three top-50 players in Scotty Middleton, Taison Chatman and Devin Royal, and they add a developable big man in Austin Parks. The Buckeyes have recruited to win now as well as down the line with this squad.
As with Michigan State’s class, there are no clear one-and-done players out of this Ohio State class. Ohio State has been a steady recruiting machine that keeps talented players around, so the Buckeyes could be building something great with the high-level recruits that are stacking up in that program.
One thing has been made apparent during Kevin Willard’s short time in College Park, and that’s that he intends on putting a border around the DMV and keeping area kids close to home. Why not? It’s one of the most talent-rich basketball hotbeds in the country.
This Terrapin class has three players from the area. Jamie Kaiser, DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahnathan Lamothe elected to play for one of the area’s flagship programs, and it could be a sign of more recruiting patterns under this regime.
Justin Young and I talk about it frequently, players from the DMV are winners. If Maryland can own that region, they will be too.
Iowa has been a program that’s a shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament over the last several years. It’s not because Fran McCaffery is pulling five-star recruits left and right. No, it’s because they get guys who fit their system, and they develop them over multiple seasons.
This Iowa class is more of the same. Owen Freeman is going to need time to develop in the frontcourt. Brock Harding is going to need time to develop in the backcourt. Those guys will become the Iowa upperclassmen that we’ve become accustom to in time.
Then, there’s the centerpiece of the class, Pryce Sandfort. The local Iowan is cut from the mold of many a former Hawkeye. Most recently, he reminds me of Joe Wieskamp. As this class grows together in Iowa City, Sandfort will likely become the focal point of scouting reports.
THE OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 100 PLAYER THAT I LOVE
We have future Iowa Hawkeye Brock Harding sitting just outside of our top 100, and I ranted and raved about the guy all summer long. If you were within ear shot of me during a MidPro Academy game, you probably heard me huffing and puffing about how much I loved watching Harding play.
The fit at Iowa couldn’t be more perfect. While I’m not sure that he’ll make an impact right away, I see him being a four-year guy who blossoms into one of the league’s better players. I’m thinking a Jordan Bohannon type of career.
Harding processes the game at a high level and thrives under the bright lights. He brings a swag to the point guard spot that Hawkeye fans will love. Just watch, he’s going to be one of the team’s most important players at some point down the line.
Ohio State has a nice frontcourt coming into Columbus. Devin Royal is the star of it at the power forward spot. He blends physicality and finesse well. I can see him developing into a player like EJ Liddell. Royal will be a mismatch in the league throughout his time as a Buckeye. He has all-league potential.
Then, anchoring the paint is developable big man Austin Parks. At the end of the day, the Big Ten is a big man’s league, and Parks has the potential to thrive in it. He’s got the big, broad frame of guys we’ve associated with the league for years, and he has enough skill to expose some of the more lumbering guys in the league.
It has to be Michigan State. Jeremy Fears is the best guard in the Big Ten’s class. He’s a triple-double machine at the level he’s at now. That won’t last when he gets to college, but he can be a guy who averages double-digit points and over five assists per game.
Next to him, Gehrig Normand adds size at versatility to the perimeter. The 6-foot-5 guard can handle some playmaking duties while being able to reliably knock down jumpers. Izzo can use him as an above-the-rim lob threat at times too.
Moving on to the wing, Coen Carr is a ridiculous athlete in a league not known to excel in that department. He has springs in his legs and should be sending the Izzone into a frenzy with high-flying dunks, blocks and rebounds.
HEY, I HAVE A HOOPSEEN CHAPTER
We can look all over the Big Ten to find HoopSeen chapters. One of our guys over the last coupke of years has been Gehrig Normand out of Texas. The Michigan State signee became an obvious high major prospect to us when we saw him before his junior year while playing with 3D Empire. Whether at The Grassoots Showdowm in Louisville or Best of the South in Atlanta, Normand was a must-see player when he played on our stage.
Josh Tec wrote this about Normand back in the summer of 2021: “It’s safe to say that no player this weekend burst onto my radar like Gehrig Normand. I hadn’t gotten to see him before the Grassroots Showdown, but he showed me a lot in a short amount of time. In two of 3D Empire’s games, Normand was the guy that took either the game-winning shot or the game-tying shot. He’s a solid shooter that thrives in big moments. Normand is also a guy that has a little bounce to his game that allows him to play above the rim some. At 6-foot-5, he handles the ball well and can fill multiple spots on the floor. He has offers from Oral Roberts and Rice, but I imagine that his recruitment is going to take off at some point soon.”
Going into the summer before his senior year, Tec’s prediction came true, and Normand’s recruitment did in fact take off.
Justin Young had this to say about Normand this past summer: “There wasn’t a player who drew more coaches this weekend than Normand. The 6-foot-5 bouncy guard gave the recruiters plenty to think about throughout the Best of the South. His game is founded on competitiveness and his transition to the college game should be seamless. Normand has the goods to be an important player at the next level sooner than later. We had a great preview from him this weekend. The skill he’s adding his game just continues to level up and his confidence anchors his competitiveness. That’s why a host of high-majors have been in to see him here in Atlanta. Normand didn’t disappoint the coaches either.”
THE THREE THINGS I LIKE THE MOST
- Gus Yalden’s fit at Wisconsin. It almost feels like he was born to be a Badger. A 6-foot-8 big who plays with skill? Yeah, that’s a Wisconsin player if I’ve ever heard of one. Yalden could evolve into the kind of forward who almost serves as the primary playmaker in Madison. We’ve seen plenty of those guys go through there in the past.
- Ben Johnson’s efforts at Minnesota. It’s not exactly an easy place to recruit to, but Johnson seems to be building a solid winner for the Gophers. Being able to land 7-foot-1 Dennis Evans was a huge get. Checking in at 23rd in HoopSeen’s 2023 rankings, Evans has to be regarded as Minnesota’s highest-rated recruit in quite some time. I can’t think of one higher off the top of my head.
- I love that Rutgers has turned into a good program under Steve Pikiell, and I love the Scarlett Knights landing 6-foot-7 sniper Gavin Griffiths. He’s so much fun to watch when he gets on a heater from the 3-point line. He’s going to be a guy that rattles home 7 3-pointers in a game to lead Rutgers to an upset win over one of the top teams in the league. He’ll have the RAC—not Jersey Mike’s Arena—going crazy when he does. HoopSeen has Griffiths at No. 49 in the class. How many top-50 players has Rutgers had?
TOP PG: Jeremy Fears, Michigan State
TOP SG: Taison Chatman, Ohio State
TOP SF: Scotty Middleton, Ohio State
TOP PF: Xavier Booker, Michigan State
TOP C: Dennis Evans, Minnesota
TOP CLASS: Michigan State
TOP SLEEPER: Brock Harding, Iowa
TOP SHOOTER: Gavin Griffiths, Rutgers
TOP SCORER: Taison Chatman, Ohio State
TOP REBOUNDER: Papa Kante, Michigan
TOP DEFENDER: Dennis Evans, Minnesota
TOP PRO PROSPECT: Xavier Booker, Michigan State
Ranking the classes
1. Michigan State
2. Ohio State
9. Penn State