Basketball recruiting back in full swing as KU turns attention to Class of 2019
Dallas, Texas, became the center of the recruiting universe this weekend, with major AAU events on the EYBL (Nike), Under Armour and Adidas circuits all taking place in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the first live evaluation period of the spring, which opened Friday night.
For college basketball staffs around the country, including the crew at Kansas, that means another opportunity to forge ahead in the 2019 and 2020 classes with an eye on future talent.
With four players signed in the Class of 2018 — and just one spot still to fill in the current class — KU coach Bill Self and his assistants have been on the 2019 and 2020 athletes for a while. In fact, point guard Markese Jacobs, one of the 20 or so top-tier KU targets in the next two classes who will be competing in the Lone Star State this weekend already committed to KU months ago.
According to recruiting analyst Matt Scott, the idea behind this weekend's events — which essentially function as opening day for the recruiting season — is not to find new players, but to further evaluate and break down the targets they've been tracking for a while.
“They already have an idea of guys going into it, from the high school seasons,” Scott said. “A lot of it is they want to see how much guys have improved from the last time they saw them. It's really about who fits what they're looking for and what the program's needs are. Are they looking to fit more bigs or more wings? And personality and style of play also are a big factor.”
Scott said that constant tracking of a player's progress is the reason there are multiple evaluation periods.
“They really want to see how kids are improving and if they're ascending,” he said. While some of that can be done by word of mouth, talking to coaches and watching film, Scott said there is no substitute for seeing it live and that's why weekend extravaganzas like the one happening around Dallas this weekend draw so much attention.
Coaches from just about every major program, and dozens of smaller schools as well, sent huge chunks of their coaching staffs to maximize the opportunity to see all of that talent in roughly the same area.
“When there's a college coach with a shirt that says Duke or Kansas or North Carolina on it, that kind of ramps things up,” Scott said. “It really is different for these kids when those kinds of coaches are there in person.”
With that in mind, here's a quick glance at some of the key names for the 2019 class who Self and company are evaluating this weekend.
• Matthew Hurt – The No. 5-ranked player in the class and a KU target for the past few years, this 6-foot-9, 200-pound athletic power forward from Rochester, Minn., is drawing serious interest from every Big Ten program and all of college basketball's bluebloods.
• Onyeka Okongwu - 5-star power forward ranked No. 18 in the 2019 class stands 6-foot-8, 215 pounds with serious room to grow. Hails from Chino Hills, Calif., and is receiving offers up and down the West Coast. Also has Big 12 offers from KU, Oklahoma State and TCU. His Top 5, as of January, was Arizona State, KU, UCLA, Washington and USC.
Nike EYBL circuit
• Cole Anthony – Ranked as the No. 4 player in the 2019 class, this 6-foot-2, 180-pound 5-star point guard from New York City is drawing major interest from Georgetown, Oregon, Pitt, St. John's, Kansas, Wake Forest and UCLA.
• Chandler Lawson – Ranked No. 73 in the class but holding a 5-star rating nonetheless, the younger brother of KU's Lawson brothers stands 6-8, 200 pounds and is listed as a power forward. His top suitors at this point appear to be Baylor, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Memphis.
• Malik Hall – A local prospect from Wichita's Sunrise Academy, this 4-star, 6-7, 210-pound wing is drawing interest from a wide range of more than two dozen schools, including Kansas. Hall is ranked No. 49 in the Rivals 150.
• Markese Jacobs – KU commitment who orally pledged his services to the Jayhawks after Late Night 2016, is a 4-star, point guard from Chicago who has a strong connection with current Kansas player Charlie Moore and former KU legend Sherron Collins, both Chicago natives, as well. Jacobs is listed at 5-11, 170 pounds and was recruited mostly by KU assistant Jerrance Howard.
• Vernon Carey Jr. – The No. 1-ranked player in the 2019 class, according to Rivals, Carey is a 5-star, 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is wide open at this point and drawing interest from all of the big players.
• James Wiseman – Ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals, this 7-foot, 210-pound 5-star power forward from Memphis is rumored to be eyeing an attempt to reclassify for 2018 class, which would make him eligible this fall. Kentucky and Memphis are two of the major players here.
• Jalen Lecque – Ranked No. 9 in the class, Lecque is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound 5-star point guard who has more than two dozen of the country's top basketball schools pursuing him. KU assistant Norm Roberts is listed as the lead recruiter for Lecque, who hails from Arden, N.C.
• Isaiah Stewart – 5-star prospect from Indiana who is ranked as the No. 10 overall player in the class, Stewart is listed at 6-8, 230 pounds and has more than three dozen schools trying to convince him that they are the right fit. Has been compared to a young Elton Brand, who starred at Duke and in the NBA.
• Kofi Cockburn – Ranked No. 31 overall, this 6-foot-10, 300-pound monster of a man hails from Middle Village, N.Y., and is drawing major interest from more than 30 programs, most of them from back east.
Under Armour circuit
• Bryan Antoine – A 5-star shooting guard in the Top 20, Antoine, who plays for the Mario Chalmers-backed Team Rio, is a 6-4, 170-pound teammate of Scottie Lewis' at Ranney Prep School in Tinton Falls, N.J., who is drawing the same kind of interest as his close friend.
• Scottie Lewis – One of the few shooting guards in the top of Rivals' rankings, Lewis is a 6-4, 170-pound 5-star scorer from Tinton Falls, N.J., who is ranked No. 11 overall and holds 18 offers from all of the country's powerhouse programs. Also plays for Team Rio.
• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – Local prospect from nearby Bishop Miege High, who is the son of former KU forward Lester Earl, the 5-star Robinson-Earl has bulked up during recent months and now stands at a solid 6-10, 236 pounds. Ranked No. 16 overall, JRE has been on KU's target list for years and has continued to improve and impress each year.
• Zach Harvey – Four-star shooting guard from nearby Hayden High in Topeka, Harvey stands 6-4, 170 pounds and has made several unofficial visits to Kansas throughout his prep career.
• Precious Achiuwa – Ranked No. 6 in the class and rising, this 6-9, 200-pound small forward from Newark, N.J. is a 5-star prospect who is drawing heavy interest from several schools back east and Big 12 programs Kansas, Oklahoma State and TCU.
• Christian Brown – Five-star small forward from Columbia, S.C., is ranked No. 27 in the class and has nearly that many offers from schools throughout the south, east coast and Midwest. Stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds.
• Wendell Moore – Another small forward from the Carolinas, this 5-star wing who stands 6-4, 190 pounds hails from Concord, N.C., and has offers from Duke and North Carolina and interest from KU and Kentucky.
• Josh Green – Tall, long shooting guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this 5-star, 6-5, 185-pound scorer ranks No. 19 in the class and is drawing the most interest from the West Coast.
There are, of course, other players who the Jayhawks will be watching and potentially targeting in the 2019 class, but this group represents the best of the best among those that Kansas has its eye on.
One thing worth pointing out is that the Jayhawks don't actually have any scholarship seniors on the 2018-19 roster so, at this point, it is uncertain how many players they will need to/be able to take in the 2019 class.
Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike (if he returns) and Quentin Grimes all could be candidates to leave early. Plus, KU still has one unfilled scholarship in the Class of 2018 — which has been ear-marked for five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford or another shooter if the Jayhawks don't get him — and there is at least a little uncertainty surrounding the status of sophomore-to-be Silvio De Sousa given his status in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.
All of that added together means Self's squad could be in the market for anywhere between 2-4 players in the 2019 class, which already includes one scholarship headed to Jacobs.