The NBA draft has come to an end, and that means that it is time to look forward to the following season. College basketball will be preparing for the start of the season, and that means that the draft classes of the past season will be looking for new destinations to play. One frequently overlooked area of the college game is the high school talent pool.
The NCAA is just around the corner and the college hoops landscape is fresh off of a strong recruiting class. The final weeks of March and early April are the time of the year when kids decide on where they will spend their years on the hardwood. As of this point, Texas A&M has the most commitments of any school in the country with eight of its own and three from Memphis.
It’s one of the most anticipated offseasons in college basketball, with all the top players—some will no doubt stay in school, others will declare for the draft.
College basketball recruitment has resumed its normal pace. Coaches spent much of July on the road, attending events sponsored by major shoe companies and scouting prospects for the next classes. Prospects visited several schools in June, reducing the need for hectic official visit days in the autumn, but teams continue to welcome prospects every weekend. Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, two of the top prospects from the 2022 class, have reclassified and will play for Penny Hardaway and the unexpectedly stacked Memphis Tigers in 2021, but the trail has officially shifted to the 2022 cycle.
For the first time in 18 months, coaches may go out on the road and observe players at their high schools and do in-home visits starting today, Sept. 9.
On the recruitment front, it’s business as usual. Four of the top five talents in 2022 have already committed, but a dozen of the top 20 remain undecided after No. 1 overall recruit Shaedon Sharpe pledged to Kentucky on Tuesday night. Dereck Lively, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the class, is now the uncommitted headliner, but who are the other must-know names in 2022 — and which programs are pursuing them?
2. Dereck Lively, C, Westtown School, 7-foot-1, 215 lbs (Pennsylvania)
Duke, Florida State, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Penn State, and USC are among the contenders.
Lively doesn’t seem to be as keen to wrap up his recruiting as the other top-five candidates. In June, he visited Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Penn State, narrowing his choice to the seven colleges listed above. This may turn into a Duke-Kentucky showdown, with the winner determining whether school has the best recruiting class in the nation. Penn State, where Lively’s mother works, is still a contender, and Michigan is also a strong contender.
6. North Little Rock High School SG Nick Smith, 6-4, 170 lbs (Arkansas)
Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis, Kansas, and Oklahoma are all in the mix.
Smith visited Kansas, Alabama, and Auburn on official visits in June, returned to Arkansas-Pine Bluff in August, and has official visits planned to Arkansas and Oklahoma over the next two weekends. Smith, one of the summer’s breakthrough stars, was also being pursued by Kentucky, but his visit to Lexington was postponed last weekend, and the two sides have parted ways. (I’ll get to it later.) Following the next visits, we should have additional information.
Jordan Walsh, SF, Link Year Prep, 6-7, 195 lbs (Missouri)
Arizona State, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Oregon, TCU, and Oklahoma are all in the mix.
Walsh’s recruiting efforts have stepped up in recent weeks, with Kansas and Texas making significant advances. In the following weeks, he’ll be making trips to both Big 12 institutions, with Arizona State hosting him this weekend. Oregon has also requested a visit. Walsh has already visited Arkansas, Oklahoma, and TCU. Coming out of July, the Razorbacks were considered the team to beat, but Kansas and Texas have narrowed the distance. On Thursday, Walsh and his family will meet with Chris Beard, then on Monday, with Bill Self.
8. Jaden Bradley, PG, IMG Academy, 6-2, 190 lbs (Florida)
Alabama, Arizona, Florida State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky are among the contenders.
Bradley was traveling in Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina in June. The Wolverines and Tar Heels have now been removed off his list, leaving Alabama, Kentucky, Florida State, Gonzaga, and the Crimson Tide. Alabama was said to be making a push around the end of July. It’s doubtful he’ll wind up in Lexington since Kentucky currently has two five-star guards and is emphasizing Cason Wallace. Bradley visited Florida State last weekend and will visit Gonzaga this weekend.
Cason Wallace, PG, Richardson High School, 6-3, 180 lbs (Texas)
Kentucky, Texas, and Tennessee are among the participants.
Wallace’s recruitment will come to a conclusion before the start of the college season, with an announcement scheduled for Nov. 7. Over the last several months, the apparent leader in his recruiting has shifted, with Texas, Tennessee, and Kentucky all seeming to be in the driver’s seat at one time or another. The Longhorns, who visited Wallace last weekend, want to team him with fellow in-state guard Arterio Morris, while Tennessee, which will host him next weekend, has a good connection with Wallace and assistant coach Rod Clark. However, Kentucky seems to be the favorite going into the final stretch. On the perimeter, the Wildcats have made Wallace their top goal, and Nick Smith’s canceled visit to Lexington last weekend solidified Kentucky’s position as the favorite.
Vincent Iwuchukwu, C, Montverde Academy, 7-0, 215 lbs (Florida)
Baylor, Kansas, UCLA, USC, and Texas are among the contenders.
Iwuchukwu has long been considered a Baylor favorite. He paid a formal visit to Waco in June, and the Bears have developed a strong bond. He also visited Kansas in June, and his last five schools were UCLA, USC, and Texas. There are currently no scheduled visitors for Iwuchukwu.
12. Chris Livingston, SF, Oak Hill Academy, 6-6, 190 lbs (Virginia)
Kentucky, Tennessee State, Memphis, and Georgetown are all in the mix.
Only four colleges remain in contention as Livingston is scheduled to make his choice on Oct. 15. He’s already visited Kentucky, Tennessee State, and Georgetown, with a trip to Memphis planned for next weekend. The city of Memphis generated the greatest excitement in July, and there were even whispers of a potential Livingston reclassification. But for the time being, Kentucky is the center of attention. Before he makes his choice, the Wildcats may welcome him for another visit, but John Calipari’s program is in the driver’s seat.
13. Brandon Miller, SF, Cane Ridge High School, 6-7, 190 lbs (Tennessee)
Alabama, Tennessee State, the G League, and the National Basketball League are all in the mix.
Miller, one of the most interesting prospects in the 2022 class, has just two schools left to choose from. Taking the professional path is also an option. In June, he paid formal visits to Alabama and Tennessee State, although he skipped the three colleges he visited before July (Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky). If he attends college, Alabama is expected to be his first choice, but Tennessee State is also a viable possibility. Penny Collins, the Tigers’ head coach, is a close friend of Miller’s. Professional leagues may also make lucrative offers that are difficult to refuse.
Julian Phillips, SF, Link Year Prep, 6-7, 210 lbs (Missouri)
Alabama, Kansas, LSU, Florida State, Tennessee, UCLA, Clemson, Florida, Virginia, and USC are among the contenders.
Phillips’ recruiting has been rather quiet since he narrowed his selection to ten candidates soon after the July live period ended. In June, he made several trips, and Florida State seemed to be gaining traction. It’s now more difficult to obtain a clear read. He has paid visits to Clemson and LSU, and USC has generated some interest. This weekend, he will pay a visit to the Trojans. Phillips was one of the summer’s biggest stock climbers, and he just moved high schools, from South Carolina to Missouri’s Link Year Prep.
17. Adem Bona, C, Prolific Prep, 6-9, 225 lbs (California)
Arizona State, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky, NBL, Miami, UCLA, and USC are among the contenders.
Bona is one of the busiest five-star prospects in the coming months, with five scheduled visits. He was supposed to visit USC on an unofficial visit this weekend, but that trip has been postponed. For the next several months, he has official visits planned at Kansas (9/17), Baylor (9/24), Kentucky (10/1), and UCLA (10/22). Kentucky has long been considered the frontrunner for Bona, but Dereck Lively is the Wildcats’ first choice at center. Bona, on the other hand, may make a choice ahead of Lively.
Dillon Mitchell, SF, Montverde Academy, 6-7, 195 lbs (Florida)
Auburn, Ohio State, Florida State, Tennessee, and Overtime Elite are all in the mix.
In July, there was a lot of speculation that Mitchell might make a commitment shortly. That hasn’t happened as of yet. Mitchell visited Auburn, Tennessee, Ohio State, and Florida State before the live period in July, and then returned to Tallahassee for an unofficial visit this past weekend. Coaches engaged in his recruiting believe there is no obvious favorite, but a return to Florida State wouldn’t harm the Seminoles. It’s also possible to pursue a career in the field.
19. Jarace Walker, PF, IMG Academy, 6-7, 220 lbs (Florida)
Alabama, Texas, Auburn, Houston, Maryland, LSU, and the G League are all in the mix.
Walker has narrowed his choices down to Alabama, Texas, Auburn, Houston, Maryland, LSU, and the G League. He’s visited three of those schools, including Auburn, Houston, and Alabama, and it’s worth mentioning that he was probably Nate Oats’ top priority in July, with Oats constantly front and center at his games. However, according to industry insiders, Houston and Auburn are the two colleges generating the most excitement, with the Cougars being the presumptive favorite heading into his fall visits.
Is Kentucky’s John Calipari ready to land another No. 1 recruiting class? Harold and Carole Pump Foundation photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images
The No. 1 class is up for grabs.
From 2014 through 2018, and again in 2020, Kentucky and Duke have the No. 1 and No. 2 recruiting classes, respectively. Memphis’ stacked 2019 and 2021 classes, as well as Michigan and Gonzaga in 2021, have halted some of the Wildcats’ and Blue Devils’ recruiting progress.
However, it seems that in the 2022 cycle, order will be restored.
Duke and Kentucky each have two of the seven five-star players already committed in 2022. The Blue Devils boast the top-rated class, while the Wildcats are placed third. Kansas is ranked No. 2 with two top-25 commitments and a third in the ESPN 100.
However, Duke and Kentucky seem to be vying for the top position, with Calipari’s team presumably having the upper hand going forward.
Cason Wallace, a five-star point guard, and Chris Livingston, a five-star big, have been getting a lot of attention from Kentucky fans in recent weeks. Adem Bona, a five-star center, is also a Kentucky target… unless the Wildcats get No. 2 prospect Dereck Lively. Keep in mind that Kentucky already has five-star guard Skyy Clark and overall No. 1 recruit Shaedon Sharpe.
Dariq Whitehead (No. 5) and Kyle Filipowski (No. 10) are two of Duke’s top-10 commits, while top-50 guard Jaden Schutt is also on board. Some people consider the Blue Devils to be Lively’s leader. A commitment from Lively would very certainly put Duke in a position where it couldn’t lose. J.J. Starling and Mark Mitchell, both top-30 talents, are on incoming head coach Jon Scheyer’s 2022 recruiting board.
Other schools may be in the race for a top-tier recruiting class, particularly if Baylor, Texas, or UCLA add another five-star recruit, but the top of the rankings is shaping up to be Duke vs. Kentucky.
With just over two weeks to go before the early signing period, the chase for athletic scholarships still has several prospects remaining out of reach. Although no prospects will be able to make it official until Wednesday, Nov. 13, the likely prospects who will be leaving the summer to sign for college basketball include:. Read more about espn basketball recruiting 2021 and let us know what you think.
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