At the McDonald’s All American Game last week, eight of the 24 players had not yet decided on a college. And even with the start of the spring signing period next week, a number of players are expected to continue to evaluate their options.
USA TODAY High School Sports spoke with Evan Daniels, the director of basketball recruiting for Scout.com, to talk about some of the top players, the spring signing period, potential surprises and programs that could close strong.
Q: Is the fact that so many of the top players are uncommitted at this point an aberration or do you see later commitments becoming a trend?
A: Every year there’s a couple of guys who wait out the process. This year, there has been more than normal – eight of our top 15, six of our top 10. The eight are the most I can remember at the McDonald’s All American game.
I don’t know if you can point to one specific reason. Some of them are just genuinely undecided. Some of these kids took all their visits in the spring and still haven’t come up with a decision. The majority of the group is still looking to take visits. It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks.
Q: Does the April 15 start of the spring signing period even matter to the top players?
A: I don’t think these kids are going to let a date like that push them to make a decision. They’ll decide when they are ready to decide and it’s almost meaningless. When the times comes that’s best for them they’ll decide. They’ve waited this along already.
Q: John Calipari indicated five to seven of his Kentucky players are going to enter the draft. What does that mean for some of the elite undecided players?
A: There might be a group of kids who are waiting to see who goes pro, but I’m not sure any of these players are 100 percent going to Kentucky if someone leaves. Usually you can point to a guy and say, ‘They’re going to get him.’ You can’t point to that guy in this group. Malik Newman is the guy with the best shot at it.
Q: Is there a player who you think might make a surprise choice?
A: I don’t think anyone is making a shocking decision, but Jaylen Brown (Wheeler; Marietta, Ga.) and Brandon Ingram (Kinston, N.C.) are tough to figure out. Jaylen Brown has a wide range of schools and he’s adding schools late. He took a surprise visit to Cal, which wasn’t even on his list. He’s all over the place.
Q: Speaking of Cal, it seems like Cuonzo Martin has a chance to make a late push and really up Cal’s recruiting.
A: Cal has a chance to finish strong. They are considered the leader for Ivan Rabb (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland). I think you can classify them as the frontrunner or in the top tier for Caleb Swanigan (Homstead; Fort Wayne, Ind.). Brown made a surprise visit and that can pull some weight. They have a serious chance to make a splash late. Kansas and Kentucky also could make a late splash.
Q: What impact does the Ben Howland hiring have on Malik Newman’s chances of landing at Mississippi State?
A: I spoke to Malik about this. I think he likes the plan that Ben Howland had for him. They kept George Brooks on the staff and he was the guy who was the lead recruiter under Rick Ray. That was a big deal because it’s a prior relationship and he was the point of contact for some time. It’s going to be a tough, uphill battle with a new head coach, but Mississippi State is definitely involved in that recruitment.
Q: Are there other new coaches who could have an immediate impact on recruiting?
A: I think Shaka Smart will be able to win at Texas relatively quickly. All signs are pointing to him being able to keep Rick Barnes’ commitments, Kerwin Roach Jr. (North Shore, Houston) and Eric Davis (Arthur Hill; Saginaw, Mich.). They are both top 100 players and both able to fit what Shaka wants to do. I don’t think it’s going to take long for Shaka at Texas. … He was a proven recruiter at VCU. Now he has the resources at Texas, the recruiting base and facilities. It’s going to get easier for him.