clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Predicting where college basketball’s elite 5-star recruits will play

Which schools are poised to pull in the top recruits in the class of 2019?

As the top basketball players in the class of 2019 enter their senior year of high school, a dominant narrative has yet to emerge for the group. Last year’s class was defined by its wings, with the top three (Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish) all choosing Duke. The 2017 class was led by its strong crop of big men (Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr.), while the 2016 class was all about the elite depth at point guard (Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith).

Will a theme emerge for this year’s recruits? It doesn’t feel like it. While the 2019 class is deep and talented throughout the top-100, it lacks the top-end star power of the previous few years. At this point, the upper tier of the junior class — led by Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Green — feels significantly more tantalizing from the perspective of long-term potential.

No matter: there are still some very good players in the class of 2019, and their recruiting decisions will alter the landscape of college basketball in the the 2019-20 season and beyond. To this point, only eight of the top 25 players in ESPN’s rankings have already committed, and the top six players all remain up for grabs.

With a run of commitments likely coming after Nico Mannion’s pledge to Arizona, it’s time to make some predictions for the top unsigned players. This is our best guess at which schools are poised for a big haul on the recruiting trail.

James Wiseman - Memphis

SLAM Summer Classic 2018 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

ESPN Ranking: No. 1

Position: Center

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is in position to land a monster class in its first full year under Penny Hardaway. Hardaway has deep connections throughout the class of 2019 due to his time running the Team Penny program on Nike’s EYBL circuit, and there’s no player he has stronger ties to than its No. 1 player: center James Wiseman, played for Hardaway both at East Memphis High School and on Team Penny.

Wiseman’s recruitment is seen as a battle between Memphis and Kentucky right now. Can Hardaway really keep the top prospect in the class away from John Calipari? If he can, it will be a serious announcement that Memphis has arrived as a major player on the recruiting scene. If Wiseman picks Memphis, expect a few friends to follow. Hardaway is also in good position with top-50 prospects Trendon Watford, DJ Jeffries, and Chandler Lawson.

Cole Anthony - North Carolina

ESPN Ranking: No. 2

Position: Point guard

Hometown: Briarwood, New York

Anthony is only ranked No. 3 in his class by some outlets, but no player will make a bigger impact in college basketball as a freshmen than the point guard from New York. One scout described Anthony’s game to me as a more athletic Jalen Brunson. He was named MVP of Nike’s EYBL circuit after averaging 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.4 steals over 16 games this spring.

Anthony’s recruitment remains wide open, with Duke and then Oregon as the two most popular picks on 247 Sports’ crystal ball. We’re going with North Carolina. Anthony has already scheduled an official visit to Chapel Hill, and the Tar Heels could be an elite point guard away from national championship contention a year from now. After a few down years in recruiting while NCAA allegations hung in the air, the Heels are now back to recruiting at a high level. Nabbing Anthony would cement that.

Vernon Carey Jr. - Michigan State

2018 Spalding HoopHall Classic Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

ESPN Ranking: No. 3

Position: Center

Hometown: Southwest Ranches, Florida

Carey has great bloodlines as the son of former NFL left tackle Vernon Carey. Dad became a first-round NFL draft pick after playing his college ball at Miami, and the Hurricanes are in the mix to land his. Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State are also vying for Carey, who is a polished low post scorer with a developing face-up game that lacks elite explosiveness.

This one feels totally up in the air for now, but we’ll go with Michigan State. Tom Izzo has been recruiting Carey since he emerged as a top prospect. The Spartans are recruiting at a high level in recent years even if their NCAA tournament hasn’t reflected it. It will be fascinating to see if Izzo’s refusal to give super prospect Jaren Jackson Jr. major minutes has any impact on the recruitment another star big man like Carey.

Isaiah Stewart - Duke

ESPN Ranking: No. 4

Position: Center

Hometown: Rochester, New York

Stewart is the most physically developed of the elite big men in this class. He is a man-child in every sense at 6’9, 245 pounds with a 7’4 wingspan. He is the best rebounder in this class, especially on the offensive end. Even with Wiseman and Carey playing on the same circuit, it was Stewart who was named to the All EYBL First Team at center after averaging 17.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

You know Duke is going to land one of the elite centers. If it’s not Carey, Stewart makes a lot of sense. The Blue Devils have recruited better than any school in America the last few years, but don’t have a commitment yet for 2019. That won’t last for long.

Jaden McDaniels - Arizona

ESPN Ranking: No. 5

Position: Combo forward

Hometown: Federal Way, Washington

I’d argue McDaniels has the highest long-term ceiling of any prospect in this class. At 6’10, 185 pounds, he’s the type of oversized wing scorer teams at every level covet. Jonathan Isaac and Brandon Ingram have been thrown out as early comparisons.

McDaniels is from Washington state and he’s the younger brother of San Diego State star sophomore Jalen McDaniels. This recruitment is taking on a distinct West Coast vibe so far, with Washington, Arizona, and SDSU all in tight. It’s possible Duke or Kentucky makes a big push late to change the complexion of this recruitment, but we’ll go with Arizona for now. The Wildcats just landed a five-star guard in Mannion to prove the FBI allegations won’t have a dramatic impact on the 2019 class. With McDaniels, Sean Miller would likely have one of the best groups of incoming freshmen in the country.

Matthew Hurt - Kansas

ESPN Ranking: No. 6

Position: Big

Hometown: Rochester, Minnesota

Hurt might have the most advanced offensive repertoire of any big man in this class. What he lacks in length and athleticism he makes up for with skill and IQ. There are other big men in this class with brighter long-term outlooks, but it’s possible Hurt is the most productive of the front court players in this class as a college freshmen.

Hurt hails from Rochester, Minnesota and his brother plays for the Golden Gophers. The hometown pull with Minnesota is alluring, but it’s hard to pass up a blue blood when they’re all chasing you. We’ll go with Kansas here after Hurt started every game for Bill Self’s U18 team during a gold medal run at the FIBA Americas Championship this summer.

Josh Green - North Carolina

ESPN Ranking: No. 8

Position: Wing

Hometown: Australia

Green came over to the U.S. early in his high school career and has developed into one of the toughest wings in this class. At 6’6, Green projects as a two-way swingman with the length and mentality to defend multiple positions and the shooting stroke to eventually become a spot-up threat from three-point range.

North Carolina offered Green at the end of July, and have been viewed as the favorite since. A Carolina team with Cole Anthony and Josh Green would be immensely fun.

Precious Achiuwa - UConn

SLAM Summer Classic 2018 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

ESPN Ranking: No. 10

Position: Wing

Hometown: Bronx, New York

Achiuwa is brimming with long-term upside if his skill level can ever match his physicality. At 6’9, 210 pounds, Achiuwa can bring length, athleticism, and defensive versatility to either forward spot. There are few prospects in this class who have a more solid physical foundation of valuable long-term traits that can be built upon.

Achiuwa played his high school ball at St. Benedict’s in New Jersey before deciding to transfer to Florida powerhouse Montverde for his senior year. Who else spent time at St. Benedict’s? New UConn coach Dan Hurley, who coached the basketball program there for nine years. Also of interest: Achiuwa’s older brother plays for St. John’s, another school that’s been heavily invested in him. Don’t discount Kansas or Syracuse either, but for now we’ll go with the Huskies.

Scottie Lewis - Florida

ESPN Ranking: No. 13

Position: Wing

Hometown: Hazlet, New Jersey

Lewis has been a staple in the five-stars territory since this class started being evaluated. At 6’4, Lewis is one of the most explosive leapers in the country and is able to leverage his athleticism on the defensive end. He’s the prospect in this class most likely to end up on SportsCenter with a ridiculous dunk or block.

Florida has emerged as the favorite to land Lewis, though Kentucky is also in the mix. The director of Lewis grassroots team on the Under Armour circuit is Brian Klatsky, who is a Florida alum. Klatsky’s son Alex committed to the Gators over the summer. Florida also has a commitment from five-star point guard Tre Mann, putting the Gators in position to land one of the country’s most impressive recruiting hauls if it can sign Lewis.

Bonus predictions for some other 5-stars

Jalen Lecque, point guard: Hyper athletic, late blooming lead guard is down to six schools. He’d remind Wolfpack fans of Dennis Smith Jr. Prediction: NC State

Josiah James, point guard: A 6’6 lead guard who NBA teams will be watching closely. Clemson is in tight. This recruitment might come down to whether or not Tre Jones opts to be a one-and-done. Prediction: Clemson Update: James picks Tennessee

C.J. Walker, wing: Athletic 6’8 combo forward who skyrocketed up the rankings this summer. Florida and LSU are fighting for him. Prediction: LSU

D.J. Jeffries, wing: Former Kentucky commit is a scoring wing with a strong relationship with Penny Hardaway. Prediction: Memphis

Trayce Jackson-Davis, big man: The son of former Pacers center Dale Davis is an athletic center who won a gold medal with USA Basketball this summer. Prediction: Indiana

Wendell Moore, guard: It’s a Duke vs. UNC battle for the dependable scoring swingman. Prediction: Duke

Trendon Watford, wing: Christian Watford’s younger brother is an even better prospect as a scoring combo forward any program could use. Prediction: Memphis

Cassius Stanley, wing: Big-time athlete who has been a five-star since he was a freshman. He’d fit Andy Enfield’s up-tempo, free-styling attack well. Prediction: USC

Will Baker, center: Massive, rising center with great touch around the basket. Prediction: Texas