The transfer portal season gave way, finally, with Emoni Bates Unexpected Commitment to Eastern Michigan the last major announcement of the offseason.
It’s time for traditional high school recruiting in men’s college basketball. College coaches are hitting the road this month to watch the top prospects of the Class of 2023 (and beyond) in action at major massive recruiting events hosted by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.
here AthleteThe experts answer some key questions about the state of recruiting and what to expect this month.
Where are the main events of July?
The three major shoe companies schedule their events for open windows, when NCAA coaches are allowed to go and watch the best basketball. The first is from July 7 to 10. Nike’s EYBL is in Kansas City, Adidas’ 3SSB is in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Under Armor’s UAA is in Emerson, Georgia.
The final window of the summer is July 20-24, with each circuit hosting its own championship. Nike’s famous Peach Jam is back in North Augusta, South Carolina, Adidas is back in Los Angeles, and Under Armor is back in Chicago.
Who is the No. 1 prospect in the country?
This is still a matter of debate, although it centers around two names. The first is guard DJ Wagner, who is the No. 1 prospect in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite and the No. 1 prospect by ESPN.com. The other three major services (247Sports, Rivals and On3) have him ranked No. 2. GG Jackson ranks 1st; the 6-foot-8 forward plays for North Carolina.
Wagner is the most famous prospect with a famous pedigree. His grandfather, Milt, played in the Louisville in the 1980s, and father, DaJuan, was a star at Memphis and a top high school recruit himself. The youngest Wagner, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, is a star in Camden, N.J., and looks like Kentucky vs. Louisville (more on that in a minute).
Some of the other top players in the country are Mackenzie Mgbako (6-8 forward), Justin Edwards (6-7 wing), Mookie Cook (6-7 wing), Robert Dillingham (6-2 point guard) and Matas Bouzelis (6-9 wing).
Which schools are off to a good start?
It is notable: duke went from the winningest coach in the history of men’s college basketball, the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, to John Scheier, who was recruiting with no prior experience — and why was his recruitment better? Yeah. Scheier first gained notoriety as a recruiting specialist when he was an assistant coach for K, helping Blue Devils get top talent like Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson. But in the year(s) since he was announced as Krzyzewski’s successor, he took Duke’s recruiting to a new level, landing the No. 1 class in 2022 and on track to do the same in 2023. Big men Mackenzie Mgbako and Sean Stewart are ranked No. 3 and No. 9, respectively, in the 247Sports Composite, with 6-5 point guard Caleb Foster ranked No. 20 and 6-2 guard Jared McCain ranked No. 24. It’s a ridiculous waste for a man who has only coached 2.5 games, and with all that experience is replacing Krzyzewski, who can’t do otherwise.
Scheier’s next step is to prove not only that he can accumulate talent, but that he can develop it. Duke NBA the pipeline is well established, but keeping it going is critical for the program to continue landing elite-caliber freshmen. Where much of college basketball has pivoted to experience, Duke hasn’t because it hasn’t had to — yet. If Scheier shows that he can quickly and effectively get groups of terrific freshmen to settle in (and win) like his predecessor, then this whole machine should keep humming. The only danger is if the draft pedigree starts to wane, or if Duke starts losing five-star players to the transfer portal instead of the pros. However, neither seems likely due to the sheer amount of talent Scheer has taken on so far. It’s hard to be better than #1 outside of maintaining that metric.
Hubert Davis just welcomed his first full roster to Chapel Hill — last year doesn’t really count, as he was promoted to head coach in April with two already signed — so we’ll see what kind of impact this foursome can make. Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, Tyler Nickell and Will Shaver (who signed up in January and was with the team during the national title game), Davis has four players who can contribute immediately, but none of them are guaranteed to be good enough to leave after the season. Getting guys in that middle is increasingly important as they become experienced players that contenders depend on, but ideally you’d like to have elite five-star guys as well. Especially at a blue blood like UNC.
So enter 2023, when Davis already has two five-star commitments: H.G. Jackson and Simeon Wilcher, the former of whom could become UNC’s first No. 1 recruit since Harrison Barnes in 2010. These two aren’t just an influx of talent; they’re the caliber of recruits who — if successful — make North Carolina a viable (and cool) place for five-star classes again. It’s not something to say Tar heels don’t get five stars as is; Art Armando Bacot and Caleb Love, the current list has two. But if Davis’ first class and then his first five-star class in 2023 make more of an impact than last year’s duo of Dontrez Styles and D’Marco Dunn, we could very soon see UNC at the top of the national recruiting rankings. It didn’t hurt that Davis won a national title in his first season in a half. — Brendan Marks
Kentucky probably best suited to catch Duke — if anyone does — for the No. 1 class this cycle. John Calipari and his staff have already committed to the No. 1 point guard (Robert Dillingham) and No. 5 combo guard (Reid Sheppard) in the 247Sports Composite. These guys are ranked #7 and #22 overall. The Wildcats are also heavy favorites to land 7-foot-5 Aaron Bradshaw, the No. 2 center and No. 15 overall prospect in the class, any day now. This is especially notable because Bradshaw is in high school and is a teammate of Wagner’s. Landing Bradshaw would give UK three former teammates of Wagner, including his half-brother, as well as Calipari, who coached his father Dajuan in Memphis. It’s a solid response to rival Louisville, which has become a major player in this once-preordained recruitment, hiring Wagner family friend Kenny Payne as head coach and Milt Wagner in an off-court role.
Both the Kats and the Cards expressed confidence backstage that they would find DJ, making this one of the most interesting recruiting battles in the rivalry’s history. But Kentucky could still get a monster class even without Wagner. Calipari tries to fend off Tennessee behind Justin Edwards, swoop and steal Oregon, shut out Mookie Cook and win Arkansas for forward Ron Holland. Those three rank Nos. 4, 5 and 11, respectively, among rising high schoolers. The Cats are also favorites to land center Ugonn Kingsley Onyens, a top-25 player who can reclassify and enroll this fall. Calipari, who traveled to Spain to watch Wagner, Holland and a handful of UK 2024 targets compete for the USA Basketball team at the FIBA World Under-17 Championship, clearly wants to send that message. What else does he have. — Kyle Tucker
What about G League Ignite?
The NBA’s developmental division remains a player in space, with an existing commitment to Bouzelis, who is currently the No. 6 prospect in the country.
The G League Ignite is far from over, and there’s also the Overtime Elite, which debuted last year and could have two top-five picks in the 2023 NBA draft.
There are questions about Jackson’s path forward. He will reportedly be eligible for the draft in 2023 if he chooses to pursue something other than college basketball. Mikey Williams is another big name in the field: he’s an INCREDIBLE dream with 3.7 million Instagram followers, an existing shoe contract with Puma and is keeping his options open, including attending HBCU North Carolina Central. Williams recently took an official visit to Kansas.
What other storylines are worth watching this month?
- There is intrigue surrounding Brony James, son of LeBron. Broney, a four-star recruit who plays on the EYBL circuit for the Striving for Greatness. He’s been playing his recruiting very close to the vest, but as he enters his final high school season, it will start to become clearer which way he’s headed.
- Cook just got out of Oregon. Many coaches will be lining up to watch him this month at the Oakland Soldiers EYBL.
- Notable first-year coaches hitting the road this month with a new polo or title include: Scheier, Payne, Shaheen Holloway (Seton Hall), Matt McMahon (LDU) and Todd Golden (Florida).
- Wagner and Stewart lead the U.S. U17 World Cup squad, but many coaches will fly to Spain to check out some others, including Holland (No. 10 in 2023), center Dennis Evans (No. 18 in 2023), quarterback Ian Jackson (No. 2 in 2024), wing Carter Knox (No. 10 in 2024) and wing Cooper Flagg (2025 prospect).
- Oklahoma State got some good news to start the week: Coach Mike Boynton signed up for center Brandon Garrisian. The Oklahoma City product is a top-60 prospect in the 2023 class.
(Top photo of Simeon Wilcher: Courtesy of John Lopez/Nike)