While most of his peers — we’ll call them that for now — in the 2018 recruiting class will be playing in front of college basketball coaches at various camps this weekend, Marvin Bagley will be touring Duke’s campus as part of his first official visit.
The trip to Durham is the next step in what appears to be an expedited recruitment.
Late last week, the buzz began to grow that Bagley — the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2018 class — was contemplating a move to the 2017 class, meaning he’d be playing college basketball this coming season with an eye on next year’s NBA Draft.
Bagley and his family haven’t said much about the possibility of reclassification, but the timing of his first official visit indicates that they’re seriously considering the move.
“I think there’s one telling thing in the Marvin Bagley recruitment. He’s taking an official visit to Duke in the middle of July,” Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week. “I can’t confirm that Bagley is going to go to 2017 — that’s the scuttlebutt — but if he was going to wait and stay in ’18, why would he take a visit like that in the middle of July? It doesn’t make sense.
“So, the visit is telling me that it is a serious thing.”
Official visits are rare this time of year. July features three “live” recruiting periods, when college coaches are permitted to watch high school players compete against each other, and it’s typically the busiest time of the summer for those prospects.
Most rising seniors play through July — often cutting their recruiting lists at the conclusion of the summer basketball schedule — and then start taking their official visits in the fall. Some wait until the winter or even the end of their senior year to take such visits.
Bagley — a 6-foot-11 power forward from Arizona, now attending high school in the Los Angeles area — also mentioned last week that he could take official visits to Arizona and Southern Cal in the near future. If he’s able to get academically cleared to attend college this fall, these summer visits would make a lot of sense.
No matter what he ultimately decides, it appears that two leaders have emerged.
“Whether he’s 2017 or 2018, I think that USC and Duke are the two that I would guess are in the best shape,” Daniels said.
Bagley’s list also includes Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA.
The Cats — once thought to be in OK shape for Bagley — are no longer getting much mention in his recruitment.
“I haven’t heard a lot of talk about Kentucky and Marvin Bagley recently,” Daniels said.
If Bagley does end up in the class of 2017, Daniels said “there would be a discussion” about moving him into the No. 1 spot in that group. The No. 1 ranking is currently held by Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton, with Missouri signee Michael Porter Jr. at No. 2.
Degrees of the ‘package deal’
The past several recruiting classes have been peppered with the talk of “package deals,” where two or more prospects bring up the idea of playing together in college.
Some pan out, most don’t.
The likelihood of package deals can often be predicted by the manner in which the players involved talk about them.
Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson, for instance, appear serious about teaming up in college — and UK would be the favorite if that happens — with their recent social media posts, and, more importantly, their assertions that playing alongside each other at the next level would be mutually beneficial to their growth as players.
Quickley and Williamson have moved beyond the, “We’re friends, so it would be cool to play together” talk to the, “Our games will shine brighter if we’re teammates” talk.
That’s an important step for a package deal to ultimately happen.
Cameron Reddish, another major UK target, has been linked to several other five-star prospects in the 2018 class.
He said this spring that he’d like to team up with point guards Darius Garland and Tre Jones in college. Quickley told the Herald-Leader last week that he’s talked to Reddish about playing together in college. And there’s friend, Nike teammate and fellow USA Basketball U19 squad member Louis King, who has often had his recruitment tied to Reddish’s as a possible package deal.
Reddish — a 6-7 wing from Pennsylvania — might end up playing with some of those players in college — Duke and UK are thought to be the current favorites — but wherever he lands, it won’t be primarily as a result of who’s going there with him.
“I have to do what’s best for me,” Reddish said last week. “I’ll make my decision based off of what I’m feeling. Not what anybody else is feeling.”
Player to watch
UK fans should remember the name Cole Anthony, who has emerged as arguably the best point guard in the 2019 class and was dynamite on the Nike circuit this summer.
Anthony — the son of former UNLV star and NBA point guard Greg Anthony — led the Nike league in steals and was named the circuit’s defensive player of the year during the regular season, despite being a year younger than most of his fellow competitors. At last week’s Nike Peach Jam finals, Anthony averaged a league-high 25.6 points and shot nearly 60 percent from the floor. He also averaged 5.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
The 6-foot-1 prospect attends Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, N.Y., and UK coaches John Calipari and Kenny Payne both watched him play at Peach Jam.
Off to a good start
The top three committed players in the 2018 class — according to the Scout.com rankings — are all pledged to Southeastern Conference schools.
Five-star power forward Reggie Perry became the latest to (re)commit to the SEC this week. Perry recently decommitted from Arkansas — and told the Herald-Leader at last week’s Adidas Finale that UK’s Kenny Payne reached out to his father following that decision — but he didn’t stay available long.
Perry committed to Mississippi State on Monday. Ranked No. 14 nationally in the 2018 class, he joins Auburn commitment E.J. Montgomery (No. 13) and Louisiana State commitment Javonte Smart (No. 18) as five-star SEC commitments.
That group will grow in the coming months, especially once UK gets rolling.
Kentucky has now extended scholarship offers to eight players in the 2018 class. Here’s a recap of what 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer is predicting for each of those players on the website’s Crystal Ball page: Marvin Bagley (Duke), Bol Bol (Southern Cal), Darius Garland (Vanderbilt), Quentin Grimes (Kansas), Romeo Langford (Louisville), Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky), Cameron Reddish (Duke) and Zion Williamson (Kentucky).
Meyer and fellow 247Sports analyst Andrew Slater are also both predicting that UK will land five-star small forward Louis King, though he is still waiting for a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.