Isaac “Mackey” McBride plans to waste no time making his commitment to the Kansas men’s basketball program official.
McBride, a 6-foot, 180-pound combo guard from Little Rock, Ark., who orally committed to KU last month, Tweeted on Thursday night that he would sign his letter of intent at Noon next Wednesday.
Wednesday marks the first day of the early signing period, which runs through Nov. 21, and the No. 109-ranked player in the 2019 class according to Rivals.com will not even need more than 12 hours to put pen to paper, officially making him a Jayhawk.
McBride said the signing would take place in the Baptist Prep High School gymnasium.
McBride averaged 24.5 points, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a junior and is looking to have an even bigger senior season while fine-tuning his game for the jump to Kansas.
He and Blue Valley Northwest wing Christian Braun, a 6-6, 180-pound, four-star prospect ranked No. 112 in the 2019 class are the lone Kansas commitments to date. But the Jayhawks remain in pursuit of some of the top talent in the class, including five-star forward Matt Hurt (No. 5 per Rivals), four-star power forward Zeke Nnaji (No. 37) and four-star guard Cassius Stanley (No. 31), among others.
KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott reported Thursday that a decision for Stanley, who is down to KU, Oregon and UCLA, could be nearing. And the recruitment for Nnaji has picked up substantially in recent weeks, as well. Both players visited Kansas the weekend of Late Night in late September.
Hurt, who has yet to make an official visit to KU but figures to for a KU home game later this season, almost assuredly will sign in the spring.
The others have until Nov. 21 to make a decision and sign their letters or else they, too, will have to wait until the regular signing period arrives next April.
Nnaji, who is down to a final six of Kansas, UCLA, Baylor, Arizona, Purdue and North Carolina. According to ZagsBlog.com, Nnaji, who already has used his five official visits, will make an unofficial visit to North Carolina on Nov. 16 and will announce his college choice a week later on Nov. 23.
It’s possible that Nnaji could sign his letter of intent on or before the 21st, before announcing his decision to the world.
Tuesday afternoon, seven months after Villanova ended the Kansas basketball program’s 2017-18 season with a 95-79 victory at the Final Four in San Antonio, the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks again.
Five-star prospect Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who played his first three years of high school basketball at nearby Bishop Miege, orally committed to Villanova on Tuesday, picking Jay Wright’s defending national champions over Bill Self and Kansas.
Robinson-Earl told Rivals.com of his commitment to Villanova shortly after 5:30 p.m. and announced it on his Instagram page minutes later.
"It's a small community so everybody is real tight with each other and when I went on my visit I enjoyed how tight everybody is and how much they support the team," Robinson-Earl told Rivals.com's Eric Bossi. "Philadelphia is kind of a pro town but everybody there is down for Villanova and I thought that was cool. I respected them a lot to even offer me as a kid from the Kansas area because a lot of schools held back because of where I'm from."
Earlier this month, Robinson-Earl trimmed his list of finalists to KU and Nova after naming those two programs, along with Arizona, North Carolina and Notre Dame as his final five.
The son of former KU forward Lester Earl, Robinson-Earl has long been at the top of KU’s wish list in the 2019 recruiting class, where he ranks No. 10 overall according to Rivals.com.
The Kansas coaching staff now figures to turn its full attention to forward Matt Hurt, who has been at the top of the team's wish list with Robinson-Earl all along, as a signature piece in the 2019 class.
Hurt, a five-star prospect from Rochester, Minn., is ranked No. 6 overall by Rivals.com in the 2019 class and is known as more of a perimeter forward with an excellent jump shot and elite athleticism. Robinson-Earl is more of a true power forward who does a lot of his damage down low.
Other names who figure to get some added attention from the Kansas coaches now that Robinson-Earl is off the board include: 4-star Zeke Nnaji (6-10, 215), Hurt’s AAU teammate who is ranked No. 37 in the 2019 class; 4-star Chandler Lawson (6-9, 215), the younger brother of current KU players Dedric and K.J. Lawson, who is ranked No. 87 in the 2019 class; and 5-star Precious Achiuwa (6-9, 215), a power player from Monteverde Academy ranked No. 8 in the 2019 class.
KU also remains in the hunt for No. 2 overall prospect James Wiseman, a 7-foot center from Memphis.
It’s too early to tell — and may never be known — what role, if any, KU’s alleged involvement in the recent college basketball scandal played in Robinson-Earl’s decision to pick Villanova. But Self said last week that the subsequent trial and KU’s name being so prevalent in the news had impacted the team's recruiting efforts.
“I would say that it hasn’t helped by any stretch, and there’s been a lot more explaining that you try to do concerning what’s transpired in New York,” Self said. “But, with that being said, the explaining is limited because you can’t talk about it in a way that you would like to. So when I say I can’t talk about certain things to you (media), I’m saying the exact same things to other people, also. It’s not like I’m picking and choosing who I’m saying that to.”
It’s logical to think that KU being mentioned in the trial has created questions and uncertainty for a few of the families and players KU is recruiting. And Self said such an environment could open the door for programs in the hunt for the same players as Kansas to paint themselves in a better light and cast doubt on what committing to Kansas might mean.
“I’m not going to run from this,” Self said last week. “If our name comes up, I’ll talk to recruits. Our name came up. (And I tell them) this is how our name came up. Whatever. Without going into specific details of the trial. Because those are facts. It came out. That’s what has been reported.
“I think it does put you in a situation where you need to explain. And it’s been hard because we haven’t been able to explain.”
KU currently has two players committed in the 2019 class — four-star guards Christian Braun (No. 112) and Issac McBride (No. 109) — and figures to be in the hunt for at least two or three more players in the class.
The early signing period opens Nov. 14 and runs through Nov. 21, and the regular signing period hits April 17, 2019.
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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 It’s a wrap, excited to be apart of the NovaNation!!!
A post shared by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (@jeremiahrobinsonearl) on Oct 30, 2018 at 3:33pm PDT
According to a Thursday text message sent from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl's mother, Katie Robinson, to KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott, the No. 10-ranked player in the 2019 recruiting class is down to two programs — Kansas and Villanova.
Robinson-Earl has long been at the top of KU's wish list in the 2019 class and he remains there as his recruitment nears an end.
Earlier this month, Katie Robinson told Scott that her son would make a decision in the next few weeks and many have speculated that it could come on or before his birthday, Nov. 3.
The IMG Academy forward who hails from Kansas City and played his first three years of high school ball at nearby Bishop Miege High eliminated Arizona, North Carolina and Notre Dame from his list of finalists.
In doing so, the race to the finish is down to two programs that have crossed paths a lot during recent years. KU and Villanova met deep in the NCAA Tournament in both 2016 and 2018 and the two will square off on Dec. 15 at Allen FIeldhouse this season in the first installment of a home-and-home clash that will end up being part of the recently announced Big 12-Big East series slated to begin next season.
Beyond that, Jay Wright and Bill Self have led their programs to the most success of just about any program in the country during the past five years, constantly factoring into the national championship picture and winning a lot of games along the way.
While KU has always been a big player in Robinson-Earl's recruitment, Villanova has made its move late.
Kansas assistant Norm Roberts was at IMG earlier this week to check in on Robinson-Earl, who, at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, is the definition of a five-star prospect who can do just about whatever he wants on the basketball floor.
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Eric Bossi recently wrote, "Kansas has been considered the team to beat for some time, but Villanova has made a strong case to get this deep into the recruitment. It’s a closer call than many figured it would be."
While the future of college basketball recruiting as we know it may be changing as a result of what comes from the three-week federal trial in New York City, the NBA’s G League on Thursday announced a move that could change things even quicker.
Beginning with the 2019-20 season, the NBA’s minor league system formerly known as the D League, will offer “Select Contracts” worth $125,000 annually to a small group of athletes who are at least 18 years old but not yet eligible for the NBA Draft.
The prospects who are eligible for these six-figure contracts will be determined by a newly formed group of G League officials who will identify which elite players are eligible for the max contracts. Beyond that, the only requirement is that a player must be 18 by Sept. 15 of the season they would play and, in the case of prospects older than 18, cannot have gone through an NBA Draft in the past.
Cue the one-and-done culture to listen up. These contracts could be aimed specifically at them.
With testimony from the trial alleging that players like former KU forward Billy Preston, one-time Louisville commitment Brian Bowen and former Arizona star DeAndre Ayton were paid between $90,000 and $100,000 just to commit to the programs they did, it’s not hard to see how even more money — the $125,000 offered by the Select Contracts — could entice some prospects to forego college all together and instead start cashing checks while instantly creating an in to the NBA world.
The G League, in a Thursday release, is claiming that these new contracts are merely their answer to the calls for better development for players who might one day become factors in the NBA. But make no mistake about it, the timing here suggests that the G League — and the NBA as a result — are eager and willing to strike during an era of uncertainty for college basketball without creating wholesale rule changes at the NBA level.
“Select Contracts are an answer to the basketball community’s call for additional development options for elite players before they are eligible for the NBA,” said NBA G League President Malcolm Turner in a news release. “The supporting infrastructure surrounding these newly created Select Contracts is designed to provide a rich offering of basketball and life skills developmental tools for top young players to grow along their professional paths from high school to the pros.”
It’s hard to know today exactly what kind of impact these new contracts could have on the college game. Not all elite prospects are going to (a) be eligible for these new contracts or (b) desire to sign one. Some prospects — perhaps several — still will desire the college basketball pit stop, where they can receive top-tier coaching, immeasurable marketing opportunities (mostly via so many of their games being on national television and, of course, the NCAA Tournament) and a bridge between their high school lives and basketball as a full-time job.
But there’s no doubt that some will not. Heck, just this year, Darius Bazley, a five-star recruit ranked No. 18 in the 2018 class by Rivals.com, opted out of his commitment to Syracuse to jump straight to the G League. And that was before the creation of the Select Contracts and at a much lower annual salary. Bazley instead elected to sit out the entire year to prepare for the 2019 draft, but the move still spoke loudly.
The Select Contracts are merely the latest move in an ongoing effort by the G League to make their roster spots more attractive — read: more profitable — and improve the status of the league while also offering younger players currently prohibited from the joining the NBA until they turn 19 a path outside of college basketball.
In addition to higher salaries in general, the G League also recently has increased the number of two-way contracts it can offer, which not only adds money to a player’s potential earnings, but also creates a cleaner, easier path to playing time in the NBA.
It’s too early to speculate too much, either way, about what these new contracts might mean. But it’s not hard to imagine a player like former KU forward Cliff Alexander signing a Select Contract, taking the money and trying his hand in the G League before entering the draft and less likely that future Top 5 picks and multimillionaires Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson would go this route.
For the latter, the year at Kansas was as much about building a brand as it was the basketball.
One class of 2019 prospect was in Lawrence on an official visit. Another top KU target opened up about his recruitment at a USA Basketball event in Colorado Springs. And yet another hinted about making a commitment this fall instead of waiting until the spring.
It was that kind of weekend on the action-packed recruiting trail for the Kansas men’s basketball program, which welcomed four-star Minnesota forward Zeke Nnaji to town for an official visit after conducting an in-home visit with the power forward a couple of weeks ago.
Nnaji, an AAU teammate of Top 10 forward Matt Hurt’s, and the No. 37-ranked player in the 2019 class per Rivals.com, is down to a final five of Kansas, Arizona, Baylor, Purdue and UCLA and is smack-dab in the middle of his visit process.
Nnaji is scheduled to take official visits to his four remaining finalists, starting with Arizona this weekend, through the first weekend in November. His father recently told Adam Zagoria, of ZagsBlog.com, that Nnaji plans to make a decision “around” Nov. 24.
Speaking of Hurt, the five-star forward from Minnesota was in Colorado Springs over the weekend, participating in yet another USA Basketball event — the USA Basketball October Minicamp — and Rivals.com recruiting analyst Eric Bossi caught up with him for a conversation about his otherwise quiet recruitment.
As expected, Hurt — who was joined in Colorado Springs by another player at the top of KU's 2019 target list, five-star forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — said he’s in the process of trying to nail down some official visit dates and wants to take them on a weekend when he can visit each school for a game and get a true feel for each program.
“Like on a Saturday, when I can come down and see the real atmosphere and environment for a game,” he told Bossi. “I want to see how they prep a team before a game and stuff like that because I’ll consider a lot of that in my decision. Football games are probably more fun type visits because you are there with the team and the students having fun. But I think I will get more out of it by going to a basketball game.”
Although the 6-foot-9, 200-pound, do-it-all forward has yet to announce any kind of cuts to the enormous list of schools pursuing him, Hurt provided Bossi with a de facto final seven over the weekend, naming Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Minnesota and North Carolina while saying those programs “are primarily the ones who are contacting me a lot. I probably wont’ cut any schools, but it’s really seven or eight.”
Because prospects are allowed just five official visits, Hurt will not be able to officially see all seven schools on that list. While that might not have a bearing on his decision, the way he sets up his visits could end up being a quiet way to trim a couple of schools from the list.
Finally, there also was weekend news from James Wiseman, the 7-foot center from Memphis ranked No. 2 overall in the 2019 class by Rivals.com.
Wiseman, who also was at the USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado Springs, offered up an update on a timeline for his decision.
“The commitment is probably going to happen at the end of this year,” Wiseman told Bossi. “Me and my mom and my sister are still talking about it. Soon though.”
As for what has stood out to him about his recent interactions with Kansas, Wiseman pointed to KU coach Bill Self.
“Just him not selling himself like the other coaches do,” said Wiseman of Self’s approach. “He was being real with me and telling me what I need to work on and really just really saying about how he would like to develop me into a great player some day.”
Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans caught up with five-star forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl this week and posted an update on Robinson-Earl’s recruitment on Thursday afternoon.
The former Bishop Miege standout who transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior season, has long been at the top of KU’s wish list in the 2019 recruiting class and he is fresh off of an official visit to KU for Late Night last weekend.
“It was good,” Robinson-Earl told Evans of his Late Night experience. “I felt like I got a different perspective because it was more laid back and they showed me a lot more. They have told me a lot of stuff in the past, but this time I was really able to see it during practice and watch some film on who they have had in the past and how they like to run stuff through the four, as well. Versatile 4s are very successful there, being able to rebound, push the ball and shoot it.”
Robinson-Earl joined Evans to break down all five of his finalists, but was asked specifically if leaving the area has made him long to return to Kansas for college.
“It would be cool being able to play where my dad (Lester Earl) played and also having my family there and all of my friends that I have back in Kansas City,” he told Evans. “So it would be pretty much home and be a very good fit.”
On our latest Recruiting Trail podcast, KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott said, “Kansas is sitting just fine with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.”
In his recent interview with Evans, Robinson-Earl hinted at a timeline for a decision. “At least before the season starts in late November,” he said. “And if I know where I want to go, I will just commit.”
The early signing period is scheduled for Nov. 14-21. If JRE does not sign by Nov. 21, he will have to wait until April to make his commitment official.
To almost no one’s surprised, five-star Class of 2019 guard Josh Green on Thursday orally committed to the University of Arizona via one of those social media videos that have become oh so popular.
Green, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard from IMG Academy and the No. 11 overall prospect in the 2019 class per Rivals.com, chose Arizona over a final six that included North Carolina, Kansas, USC, Villanova and UNLV.
In reality, though, this was a decision that came down to Arizona and North Carolina, as Kansas had been unofficially eliminated several weeks ago.
With his size, length and serious athletic ability, Green would have been a nice addition for any roster. But the Jayhawks already have added two guards in the 2019 class — 6-f5 Christian Braun and 6-1 Issac McBride — and still are in serious pursuit of four-star freak Cassius Stanley, the No. 31-ranked player on Rivals’ board.
Long ago, there was some talk about Green exploring a reclassification and moving into the 2018 class — at least considering it has become the in thing these days — but it never came to fruition. Had he, that might have put him higher on KU’s priority list given the fact that the Jayhawks are currently operating with one open scholarship in the wake of Sam Cunliffe’s decision to transfer.
It’s a moot point now. And just because they had space does not mean Green would’ve have become a Jayhawk. He’s a Wildcat now and the Jayhawks will continue their pursuit of Stanley as the premiere shooting guard they want in the 2019 class.
His visit to KU for Late Night and subsequent good time made Wednesday’s news less surprising.
But it is official nonetheless.
Class of 2019 five-star center James Wiseman, of Memphis, narrowed his list to a final five on Wednesday and Kansas made the cut.
Joining the Jayhawks in Wiseman’s final five were: Kentucky, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Florida State.
It’s still too soon to know when a final decision might come. And, yes, most recruiting analysts out there believe this one is destined to come down to a showdown between the hometown Memphis Tigers and John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats.
But Kansas is still putting in plenty of work and would not be doing so if the coaching staff did not believe they were still in the mix.
In addition to welcoming Wiseman to town for Late Night, KU’s coaching staff made a visit to Memphis to see Wiseman in early September.
To date, Wiseman has taken two of the three official visits he had scheduled (Kentucky on Sept. 13 and KU last weekend) and he is expected to be at Vandy this weekend.
Naturally, the 7-foot, 210-pound prospect has made several unofficial visits to Memphis but may add an official trip to both his hometown program and Florida State in the future.
Wiseman recently spoke with Pat Lawless of PrepCircuit.com about the status of his recruitment and he talked a lot about Late Night, some big picture stuff about the process in general and even hinted at a time table for a decision.
“I’ve been thinking about it and I think it will probably be around the end of this year or maybe the beginning of next year,” Wiseman told Lawless. “It’s a really hard decision so I have to be cautious, but I still make sure to trust the process. I pray every night that I go to the right school. I think it’s going to be soon and not too far down the road.”
As for his trip to Late Night, as if the joy on Wiseman's face was not enough to prove how much fun he had, his words to Lawless certainly backed that up.
"I went to Late in the Phog and it was amazing," he told Lawless. "It was a really fun atmosphere, I had a great time and I just created a great relationship with Bill Self right away. As soon as I walked in the gym everyone was screaming my name from the student section. (Class of 2019 SG) Cassius Stanley was on the visit with me and I thought we connected pretty well. We just had a great time and I thought the players were great to talk to. They spoke about everything including things that would be helpful behind the scenes. I interacted with the coaching staff and the players so I had a great time over there.”
Officially listed as a point guard on various recruiting websites, recent KU commitment Issac McBride, who officially chose KU over Auburn and Virginia on Monday, views himself in a slightly different light.
“I feel like I can play the 1 or the 2,” McBride said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. “Combo guard. I feel like I can come off screens, but I can also play on the ball some and get everyone involved.”
Sound familiar? Kansas coach Bill Self has made a living — and put together some of his absolute best teams — with players who perfectly fall under that description. And the 6-foot-1, 180-pound McBride appears to be capable of making an impact at Kansas as soon as he arrives.
Self, who actually compared McBride to former KU star Frank Mason III during visits with the guard and his family, said as much while targeting the Little Rock, Ark., prospect during the past several months.
“Coach Self was very excited for me (when I told him I was committing to Kansas),” McBride said. “And he told me if I come in and work my butt off, I can make an impact on the team. They’re going to need guards that are going to consistently stay there three or four years. Coach Self was honest with me and the promises that he made, if I work hard, they will be fulfilled.”
So now that we know McBride can play both positions, we might as well find out which one he prefers, right?
“It doesn’t matter,” he admitted. “Once you really get out there, it’s just playing basketball. True players, they just get out there and react. It’s not whether, oh, I’m playing the 1 or I’m playing the 2. If you’re a basketball player, you’re just out there playing and having fun.”
Having fun does not sound like a problem for McBride, who said he was overjoyed at KU’s interest in him, which reached its peak when Self and his staff saw him in Las Vegas this summer. After learning that Self had spoken with his father and KU had, in fact, offered him a scholarship, McBride, who goes by the nickname “Mackey,” which also was his grandfather’s nickname, said he felt, “a sense of excitement and relief.”
“I was shocked at first,” he added. “But just having that on the offer list was great.”
Despite the big-time offer from the blueblood program, McBride took his time and vetted all of his potential suitors to make sure of three things: 1.) That he felt a connection to the people and the place; 2.) that he believed he could develop his game at his chosen school; and 3.) that he picked a school with strong academic programs to his liking.
After visiting KU for Late Night and checking all three boxes, it came down to McBride believing in himself and his game.
“There are some more parts to it that, of course, I can still work on,” he said. “But I feel like I can do it all.”
Asked to describe his game, McBride began and did not stop for a while.
“I feel like I’m a pretty strong guard, poised,” he said. “I try to make the right decision and, through the statistics, I got better from my sophomore to junior year, concerning AAU, making better decisions and not turning it over a lot.
“I feel like I can score on all three levels. I can shoot the deep 3, shoot a 3, mid-range, get inside, draw contact and finish. On the defensive end, I can pick up and guard your 6-5s, 6-4s, and I can also get into your quicker guards and try to speed them up.”
Did he forget anything? Doesn’t sound like it. Instead, he sounds like a player for which Self will find plenty of uses in the years ahead.
A source with knowledge of Issac "Mackey" McBride's recruiting plans told KUsports.com on Monday afternoon that the four-star prospect from Little Rock, Ark., will make an announcement regarding his college choice at 5 p.m. Monday.
McBride, a 6-foot, 180-pound, rising guard who exploded onto the recruiting scene with a strong summer, is ranked No. 109 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com.
He has a final three of KU, Auburn and Virginia.
In addition to making a visit to KU over the weekend for Late Night, McBride recently talked with Rivals about his three finalists.
McBride on Kansas: “I feel like it’s a very high-caliber program. They just picked up two really talented guards in Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson. They are always recruiting good guards and good big guys. They always have a team good enough to make a run in the tournament.”
McBride on Auburn: “Auburn is a great school. Coach (Bruce) Pearl definitely lets their guards go. They all can shoot it and they have a lot of options. What they lack in size they make up for in heart. Coach (Wes) Flanigan recruited me at UALR and he kept recruiting me when he went to Auburn.”
McBride on Virginia: “Virginia is one of the best basketball programs in the country. They are known for their philosophy on the defense. Coach (Tony) Bennett is a great coach and an even better person. He develops great players and knows what he’s doing.”
When asked about his visit to KU on Sunday by KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott, McBride said: "The visit was amazing. The atmosphere was crazy. Truly something you can only experience if you are in the Fieldhouse."
He added that his decision would be coming "soon," and we now know that soon meant about 24 hours later.
Stay in touch with KUsports.com throughout the evening for McBride's decision and reaction to whatever move he makes.