In listing off colleges currently in the running for Charles Bassey, arguably the top basketball recruit in the 2019 class, the player’s guardian Hennssy Auriantal named Kansas, UCLA, Cal, Wake Forest …
… and Western Kentucky.
Could Bassey, a native of Nigeria and 6-foot-10-inch star center at Louisville’s Aspire Academy, ultimately wind up in Bowling Green with the Hilltoppers?
“Why not?” Auriantal said. “If they’re here recruiting him, you have to consider it. If Cal is here recruiting you, you’ve got to consider it. If Kansas is here recruiting you, you’ve got to consider it. If UCLA comes multiple times already, you’ve got to consider it.
“Because they are making the effort to get to know him, to come and watch his game — how does he fit in their system — he gets to interact with them.”
Yes, WKU at this point is very much in the running for Bassey, more so than other area powers like the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky or Indiana University.
Bassey is a game-changing talent who is averaging more than 20 points per game against prep-school competition as a junior for Aspire. And he is the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2019 class, according to the composite rankings used by 247 Sports.
Bassey and Auriantal attended a game at WKU earlier this season prior to Aspire playing a tournament earlier this month in Bowling Green.
While Bassey has said he “probably” won’t seriously narrow down his choices until his senior season of high school, during which he’s planning to still be with Aspire in Louisville, there are several connections that suggest Bassey and Auriantal could seriously consider WKU.
For starters, WKU coach Rick Stansbury has reportedly been recruiting Bassey — who played previously at a Catholic school in San Antonio before transferring to Aspire prior to this school year — since Stansbury was an assistant coach at Texas A&M before becoming WKU’s head coach for the 2016-17 season.
Bassey, along with several current Aspire teammates, was brought to San Antonio as a part of Auriantal’s Yes II Success, an organization that brings international basketball players to the United States while also sponsoring an AAU team.
Auriantal was employed by the school in Texas up until this past summer, which prompted the move of Bassey and other players to Louisville, where Auriantal now is Aspire’s vice president of international affairs.
Current WKU sophomore Moustapha Diagne, a native of Senegal, was also tied to Auriantal’s organization. Diagne, who attended high school in New Jersey, told the Bowling Green Daily News that Auriantal paid his tuition at WKU when he was without an athletic scholarship last year.
“He brought me here, so he’s like family to me,” Diagne told the Daily News. “… He brought a lot of kids from everywhere in the world, to help kids get a better education. He’s not looking for anything back.”
Diagne missed WKU’s first 16 games this season while the NCAA investigated his eligibility. He was cleared to play last month.
Auriantal, a former player at the University of Wisconsin, has experience as a college assistant coach, having been hired in 2013 to the coaching staff at Jackson State before working at the Texas high school that Bassey previously attended.
Meanwhile, WKU has an open assistant coaching position, with only two full-time coaches listed on the Hilltoppers’ current staff. Auriantal is expected to at least be considered for a position on WKU’s staff, said a basketball industry source who asked to not be named.
How about Kentucky? Are the Wildcats showing interest in Bassey, who reportedly made it to Lexington on an unofficial visit during his time as a high school player in Texas? Bassey said at the time that UK was “a good program.”
Nonetheless, Auriantal said this past weekend that he “never got a call from Kentucky,” an indication the Wildcats are not recruiting the Louisville-area star.
Amid a current scandal that has hindered recruiting efforts for Louisville, the Cardinals have not been mentioned in Bassey’s recruitment either.
NCAA rules don’t permit college coaches to comment publicly on unsigned prospects.
“Different schools talk to my parents and stuff like that,” Bassey said. “My parents just let me know which schools.”
Bassey is expected to return to Texas for summer league AAU games, Auriantal said, and could offer more updates on his recruitment then.
“We’ll see how he feels during the summer,” Auriantal said. “Recruiting, you can’t put a timetable. He might feel it today. It’s the interest. He’s got to see those coaches coming in, talk to them.”