UK Men's Basketball

College basketball scandal isn’t slowing down commitments from top-ranked recruits

Five-star basketball recruit Devon Dotson committed to Kansas earlier this month.
Five-star basketball recruit Devon Dotson committed to Kansas earlier this month. Under Armour

In the days following the announcement of a federal investigation into college basketball late last month, there were discussions within recruiting circles that the ongoing probe might slow the recruiting process for some of the nation’s top high school prospects.

Several major college programs had been implicated in the scandal, and the language used by federal authorities during the Sept. 26 press conference announcing their findings implied that more schools were likely to get caught up in the investigation.

Media reports predicted that more indictments would be coming soon, and recruiting insiders wondered if the uncertainty surrounding the investigation would lead top recruits to take a wait-and-see approach with their college commitments.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

Fifteen of the nation’s Top 100 seniors — according to the 247Sports composite rankings — have announced commitments since news of the federal investigation broke a little more than three weeks ago. That’s two more Top 100 commitments than occurred during the same time frame last year and just one fewer than the year before.

Rather than wait to see if schools on their recruiting lists might be implicated next, this year’s seniors have decided to move forward with the process.

The schools that have picked up commitments from Top 100 prospects during that time are Alabama, Arizona State, Florida, Georgetown, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Providence, Rhode Island, Syracuse, UCLA and Virginia Tech. The Gators have received two Top 100 commitments recently.

Two five-star players — Nassir Little (UNC) and Devon Dotson (Kansas) — have announced commitments since the federal probe was made public.

No one from any of those 14 schools has been arrested in connection with the investigation, though an Alabama staff member did resign after admitting that he was included in one of the FBI complaints related to the case. The Crimson Tide picked up a commitment from No. 89 recruit Jared Butler this week, and Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said at SEC media day Wednesday that he’s not concerned about the federal investigation.

The wave of commitments is expected to continue.

Barrett
R.J. Barrett is the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2018 class. Mike Fender

Other than the players who have decommitted from schools already implicated in the investigation — and there have been a few of those — the federal probe hasn’t appeared to have altered the decision timeline for any top recruits.

R.J. Barrett — the No. 1 prospect in the class — is still scheduled to announce his college choice on Nov. 10. Duke, Kentucky and Oregon are the finalists.

Fellow UK targets Darius Garland, Quentin Grimes and Keldon Johnson are also expected to announce commitments before the end of next month’s early signing period. Zion Williamson could join them, as he’s said in the past, while Bol Bol and Romeo Langford — never locks to make fall decisions — haven’t announced specific time frames.

The next question: Will the top committed players actually sign with their schools next month?

So far, 68 of the Top 100 prospects in the class have announced commitments, and many more will be added to that list before the end of the early signing period. Four of those players are committed to either Arizona or Southern Cal, two schools that have had assistant coaches arrested in connection with the scandal.

It’ll be interesting to see how many of those players officially sign in November.

One to watch

Four-star recruit Tyler Herro announced his decommitment from Wisconsin this week, and Kentucky has been mentioned as a school that might show more interest in his recruitment moving forward.

Herro
Tyler Herro decommitted from Wisconsin this week. USA Basketball

Herro — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Milwaukee — had been committed to the home-state Badgers for more than a year, and he’s considered a top-40 national player in the class of 2018 by every major recruiting service. (ESPN ranks him the highest at No. 27 overall).

Wisconsin recruiting insider Evan Flood mentioned UK, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina as schools that are expected to reach out to Herro now that he’s no longer committed to the Badgers.

He’d been an intriguing target for Kentucky, and 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer logged a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of UK late Thursday night.

The Cats already have five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley committed for the class of 2018, but they’d like to add a couple of other backcourt players from that group. UK appears to be in good shape with five-star shooting guard Keldon Johnson, and five-star combo guard Quentin Grimes remains a real possibility to ultimately commit to Kentucky (though Kansas has long been seen as his favorite).

The Cats have also extended scholarship offers to five-star point guard Darius Garland and five-star shooting guards R.J. Barrett and Romeo Langford, but other schools are considered the favorites in those recruitments.

It’s expected that UK will return freshman guards Quade Green and Jemarl Baker (and possibly freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) from this season’s team.

Herro averaged 23.9 points per game as a high school junior and shot 39 percent from three-point range. He played his summer ball on the Nike circuit.

Weekend visits

Kentucky won’t be hosting any class of 2018 recruits on campus this weekend, but some of the Wildcats’ targets will be elsewhere.

Duke is expected to host Zion Williamson, who visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness last weekend and also took a trip to Kansas this month. Williamson — the No. 2 player in the 2018 composite rankings — is expected to visit UCLA next weekend.

Houston area combo guard Quentin Grimes will take his final official visit to Marquette after previous trips to Kentucky, Kansas and Texas.

Indiana is scheduled to host home-state recruit Romeo Langford and five-star point guard Darius Garland for its version of midnight madness Saturday night.

▪  UK is expected to have five-star class of 2019 combo guard Jalen Lecque on campus for Friday night’s Blue-White Game. Lecque — a 6-4 prospect from Bronx, N.Y. — is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 10 junior in the country. He plays his high school ball in North Carolina.

Latest on Langford

There’s still been no evidence that UK is showing any renewed interest in five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford’s recruitment.

The 6-5 prospect from New Albany, Ind., has not scheduled any campus visits to Kentucky, and he has already visited or will visit the other five schools on his list: Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Vanderbilt.

Langford — the No. 5 player in the 2018 class — is expected to cut his list from six to three schools next month. Indiana, Kansas and UNC are getting the most buzz in his recruitment.

UK’s ‘pit bull’

John Calipari spoke during last week’s media day about the practice battles this fall between freshmen point guards Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Quade
Quade Green wore a UK shirt during warmups for a high school game last season. Gregory Payan AP

Green was the more highly rated recruit — based on the 247Sports composite rankings — but there’s been a lot of buzz in recent weeks about Gilgeous-Alexander, and Calipari said at SEC media day Wednesday that the Canadian could end up starting games as UK’s point guard this season.

Wildcats shooting guard Hamidou Diallo has watched these battles up close. He called Gilgeous-Alexander a “great player” but Diallo stuck up for Green when he was asked a question about the 6-inch height difference between the two players (Green is 6-0 and Gilgeous-Alexander is 6-6).

“Quade doesn’t worry about height,” Diallo said. “If you know Quade, you know he’s not worried about his height. He chooses his heart over height. Every day. Quade, he’s just a different type of player. He’s a pit bull. So every time he comes out there he’s bringing a different level of energy. If Shai scores, he’s upset. He’s coming down the next play and being aggressive, and we’re all competing. That’s Quade Green.”

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