RJ Barrett Picks Duke:
For the third time in four years, Coach K was able to land the number 1 overall prospect in high school basketball, RJ Barrett.
I predicted Oregon for Barrett, so his commitment to Duke was rather surprising. During this summer’s U19 FIBA World Cup, RJ carried the Canadian national team to a gold medal and defeated Team USA in the semi-finals. From the start of the tournament it was evident that RJ Barrett was the best prospect in attendance, as no one else could match his unique blend of skill and athleticism. If this summer was any indication RJ Barrett will be very exciting to watch in Durham, especially given how wing players are featured in Duke’s offense i.e. Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker, Kyle Singler, Rodney Hood etc.
Barrett’s commitment is also significant because it is yet another example that Coach K is beating John Calipari at his own game. Duke has successfully used the NCAA’s one and done rule to their advantage and in recent years has produced a similar number of pros as Kentucky. In fact, Coach K has recently got the better of Coach Calipari, in head to head recruiting wars. Duke’s 2018 recruiting class of: Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones, and RJ Barrett combined with expected returnees should make Duke a favorite to cut down the nets in Minneapolis at the 2019 Final Four.
Better Late than Never:
Usually, many of the top high school prospects in the country use the early signing period to permanently end their recruiting process. However, the class of 2018 went against the grain. Many of the top seniors in the country such as: Bol Bol, Zion Williamson, Jahvon Quinerly, Moses Brown, Romeo Langford and Anfernee Simons remained uncommitted. To further complicate matters, none of the aforementioned prospects seem to be favoring one school in particular.
The trend of players signing late should continue to linger for the foreseeable future. By signing late, players will have a much clearer picture of what opportunities will be available to them for the season, ultimately making it easier to achieve their end-goal. Most importantly players who delay their commitments have more time to ensure a school is the right fit for them.
The Rise of Vandy:
The Bryce Drew era is off to a hot start in Nashville. After taking the Commodores to the NCAA tournament last season, Coach Drew was able sign Darius Garland in the early signing period. Darius Garland is the highest ranked prospect to ever sign with Vanderbilt, and it appears that the Commodores are not done recruiting. They are heavily involved with Romeo Langford, the top shooting guard in the country. They are also recruiting PF Simi Shittu very hard.
If Vandy can land even one of these two studs, Bryce Drew will have successfully landed the best recruiting class in school history. Assuming Bryce Drew keeps this pace up I believe he will turn Vandy into a legitimate NCAA tournament threat each season, similar to what Ed Cooley has done at Providence. All signs point to Vanderbilt becoming a serious threat in the SEC, as long as Bryce Drew remains at the helm.
Despite missing out on RJ Barrett, the Kentucky Wildcats were able to make a quick recovery and land two other highly ranked perimeter players. Keldon Johnson committed to UK to kick-off the early signing period; although this was not all that surprising as he was considered a heavy Kentucky lean. Kentucky was also able to sign former Wisconsin commit Tyler Herro. Herro de-committed from Wisconsin after a huge summer on the AAU circuit, and signed with Kentucky a day after his official visit to Lexington concluded.
He will bring some much needed shooting and versatility to Kentucky’s backcourt in 2018, and should do well in his debut season. Herro reminds me of Jamal Murray with his shooting touch and craftiness off the dribble. If Murray’s lone season in Lexington is any indication, Kentucky got a good one in Tyler Herro. With: Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro all signed for 2018 Kentucky should look to add a big-man, and finalize another top ranked recruiting class.
On the court, things couldn’t be going more perfect for Arizona this season. They are heavily favored to win a national championship, and USC appears to be their only competition in the PAC-12. The core of this year’s team will be lost to the NBA or graduation, which is where things start to get complicated. The FBI’s investigation into the program and the potential NCAA punishments has already cost them the commitment of Jahvon Quinerly.
Furthermore, 2018 commits Shareef O’Neal and Brandon Williams have ONLY signed a financial aid agreement with the school. This means they are not legally bound to U of A at all, and would be free to sign elsewhere if the NCAA and/or FBI decides to punish Arizona. The amount of uncertainty surrounding the Arizona basketball will make recruiting an interesting story to follow moving forward.