College basketball’s regular season is still a month away, but there are already victories to be scored on the recruiting trail. The best prospects in the country are zeroing in on their top few schools, and the future health of some notable programs will rise and fall based on those decisions.
Rashad Vaughn, for example, has set his list of official visits, and there’s a glaring omission from the star shooting guard’s quintet. The Minnesota native won’t be making a trip to the Twin Cities to see the Golden Gophers, a decision that can’t make new coach Richard Pitino happy.
Read on for more on where Vaughn might be looking instead, along with the latest news on 19 more of the most coveted undecided recruits in the high-school senior class.
Unsurprisingly, as Australian import Jonah Bolden is adjusting to the American game, he's in no hurry to narrow down his list of schools.
Also unsurprisingly, the final 10 that he announced via Twitter have very little in common when it comes to geography.
One common thread for the slender power forward is that he’s emphasizing teams—Louisville, UCLA, Michigan—that play up-tempo offense, a logical move given his ability to run the floor and his promising jump shot.
Don’t be surprised, though, if he lands at one of his least expected suspects (Oregon State or Auburn, perhaps) in the hopes of getting playing time a little sooner.
Briefly a UCLA commit, Trevon Bluiett reopened his recruiting last week. As reported by ESPN, a major issue for the Indianapolis native was the school’s distance from home, leaving the Big Ten in the driver’s seat for his services.
Bluiett’s shooting touch (especially from beyond the arc) would make him a great fit with either Michigan or Indiana, two of the leading contenders to land him.
That said, don’t count out the hometown Butler Bulldogs, who nearly earned a commitment from the 6’5” SF before coach Brad Stevens jumped to the NBA.
Halfway through his official visits, Devin Robinson has played it close to the vest as to whether he’s leaning toward one school or another. There’s no doubt, however, that he got a hard sell in his most recent campus trip.
Robinson was the only notable 2014 recruit in Bloomington for Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria this weekend.
The lanky SF has the jump shot Tom Crean covets (not to mention the defensive versatility), and if he liked what he saw from the current Hoosiers, he’d certainly be a nice fit on that roster.
With Reid Travis down to four schools—Duke, Gonzaga, Minnesota and Stanford—any little advantage for a given school in landing the bruising power forward could be decisive.
However, the prospect of reuniting with an AAU teammate doesn’t appear to be one of those advantages.
As Jerry Meyer of 247sports notes (via Twitter), Travis’ decision is likely to be independent of the destination of more-heralded Minnesotan Tyus Jones.
As such, the Zags and Cardinals (who aren’t in the running for Jones) shouldn’t lose any ground, especially considering that either of the programs would be a terrific fit for Travis’ physical style.
Given that Ahmed Hill has only scheduled two official visits, it’s not hard to guess where his priorities lie. Marquette and Missouri appear to be ahead of the rest on his top five list, and one of his final quintet looks to have been cut already.
As Hill himself tweeted, he’s “sorry [he] couldn’t be a player” for Indiana, which had been one of his finalists.
Although Florida and Florida State are still nominally in the running, look for the Georgia native to pick either the Tigers or the Golden Eagles following his November 1 visit to Mizzou.
As if Malik Pope didn’t have enough to deal with heading into his senior year of high school, the explosive small forward is battling injury again. A leg fracture cost Pope much of his junior season, and now he’s back to rehabbing another broken leg.
Pope was just starting to clarify his final three schools when he went down, but he did announce one official visit (to Gonzaga).
Whenever he’s healthy enough to head to Spokane, he’ll be welcomed by a program that can always find a place for an offensively gifted SF.
James Blackmon Jr. isn’t letting on where he might be headed next fall, but it sounds like the combo guard may have figured it out already.
He tweeted last week that his decision was “coming soon” as he picks from Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Michigan State.
Considering that his only official visit prior to that comment was to Ann Arbor, it’s hard not to posit that the Wolverines may have the inside track. It will be interesting to see if Blackmon holds off on committing until after his scheduled visit to Kentucky on October 18.
Decommitting early in the school year, as JaQuan Lyle did from Louisville, compresses a lot of recruiting into a short time frame in the fall. The smooth-shooting point guard reportedly plans to make four official visits: Arizona, UConn, Kansas and Memphis.
The trip to Memphis is scheduled to coincide with Memphis Madness, as well as with the visit of his friend Cliff Alexander, one of the top centers in the class of 2014.
The pair aren’t officially a package deal, but as they’ve expressed interest in playing together at the college level, the Tigers (along with Kansas, the duo's other shared school) appear to have the inside track for Lyle’s services at this stage.
Fittingly for a player with his reputation for on-court smarts, Devin Booker is getting all the information he can before making his college decision.
After many unofficial visits to each of his four finalists, the 6’5” shooting guard is in the midst of his official visit schedule, with Michigan coming up next weekend.
Booker has already taken his official trips to Michigan State and Kentucky, with Missouri (his dad’s alma mater) slated to finish off the set.
It’s unlikely the youngster will tip his hand before his final visit, but his length and his knowledge of the game would both make him a terrific fit in East Lansing.
Whether Dante Exum will ever play college basketball is a major question mark. The celebrated Australian guard is easily talented enough to jump straight to the NBA, but according to a September interview with NBADraft.net, that’s not a sure thing.
Exum, who says “it’s always been [his] dream to play college ball,” isn’t ruling out a year on campus, though most estimates put the chances of his skipping college at 50 percent.
He cites his dad’s experience playing for North Carolina as a major draw for the college option, an observation that can’t help but encourage head coach Roy Williams (and legions of Tar Heels fans).
High-scoring forward Kelly Oubre is pretty much down to two schools, and it’s hard to go wrong picking between Kansas and Kentucky.
The Jayhawks made their case this weekend during Oubre’s official visit, and they seem to remain in good standing.
Oubre, who attended KU’s Late Night in the Phog festivities, tweeted “#Love” during his visit to Lawrence.
Cryptic though that statement is, it’s tough to imagine any bad interpretations from Bill Self's perspective as the coach pursues a potential immediate replacement for presumed one-and-done Andrew Wiggins.
With a slew of official visits taken or planned, Justise Winslow is obviously keeping his options open for a college destination. One of those visits, however, can easily be read as tipping off a front-runner in the pursuit for the defensively dominant SF.
According to assorted recent reports, Winslow has scheduled his visit to Duke for October 25, meaning he will be on campus at the same time as his friends Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.
The trio has shown interest in playing together in college (with Jones and Okafor officially coming as a package deal).
It’s hard to imagine that the two Midwesterners won’t try to sell their Texan buddy on joining them in Durham if they like what they see from Coach Krzyzewski’s program.
When Rashad Vaughn left seven schools on his list in a late-September culling, he made it obvious that his recruiting wouldn’t be a quick process. His schedule of official visits (which already extends as far as November 25 at UNLV) confirms that impression.
Vaughn, a Minnesota native, won’t be making an official visit to his home-state program, which would appear to be bad news for new Gophers coach Richard Pitino.
The versatile shooting guard expects to visit North Carolina and Kansas during the season, and his having separated those two programs from the pack could well mean that they hold an edge (however slight) in signing him.
Since naming his six finalists back in August, Kevon Looney has stuck to his guns. He’s not giving any program an advantage over the others, telling ny2lasports.com, “It’s an even playing field.”
That field includes a pair of relative lightweights (Tennessee and Wisconsin) in with heavy hitters Duke, Florida, Michigan State and UCLA.
As a combo-forward type, the versatile Looney would seem an especially good fit at Duke, which could certainly use another talented 6'8" option up front.
Even though Trey Lyles has eliminated all but two schools from his list, he’s in no hurry to make his ultimate decision. That’s not hard to understand when the two schools in question are the last two national champions, Kentucky and Louisville.
The multitalented PF has already made an official visit to the Cardinals, and he’s due to join the Wildcats for Big Blue Madness in two weeks.
He’s said that he hopes to add an unofficial visit to each school on top of those trips, a plan that serves to emphasize how hard it will be for the Indianapolis native to turn down either elite program.
As if Stanley Johnson didn’t already have enough to offer the colleges chasing him, now he’ll get to show off his versatility. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Johnson (a 6’7” small forward) is slated to start at point guard for his towering high-school squad.
The physical youngster is known mostly for his defensive acumen, so learning to run an offense won’t hurt his long-term resume any.
Although Oregon has the most use for a point-forward type among Johnson’s five finalists, the youngster's rise in the recruiting rankings suggests that head coach John Calipari and Kentucky may have the best shot at adding him to their roster.
Tyus Jones, the top remaining point guard in the class of 2014, has every intention of being his program’s No. 1 option when he arrives on campus.
In a related story, Jones has cancelled a visit to Kentucky, presumably eliminating the Wildcats from contention for his services.
John Calipari just landed 2014 PG Tyler Ulis, which likely sparked Jones’ decision.
With Jones and big Jahlil Okafor aiming to arrive in college as a high-powered package deal, many projections have seen Duke as the foregone conclusion to land the duo, but don’t count out Kansas, which also remains on both players’ lists.
Chicagoan Cliff Alexander is still considering Illinois among his list of candidates, but you wouldn’t know it from most discussions of his recruiting.
Although the hulking center/forward has an official visit scheduled to Champaign later this month, it’s likely that a program with more recent success will gain the benefit of his size and athletic ability.
Alexander has discussed the possibility of coordinating his decision with that of PG JaQuan Lyle, a fact that puts a premium on schools being considered by both players.
At this point, that’s a list of two—Kansas and Memphis—and with Alexander’s girlfriend headed to Lawrence for her own college hoops career, the Jayhawks seem like the best bet here (assuming they lose out on the Tyus Jones-Jahlil Okafor package).
The rapid change in Myles Turner’s recruiting fortunes has given him good reason to cast a wide net when it comes to cutting down his list of schools.
Eight programs are still in the running for the agile 6’11” center, ranging geographically from Duke to Arizona.
The Texan standout has yet to schedule any official visits after canceling a planned trip to Kansas due to U.S. national team conflicts.
He’s got three Big 12 programs among his finalists (Texas and Oklahoma State along with the Jayhawks), so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay relatively close to home, especially if he likes what he sees when he visits Lawrence.
Jahlil Okafor has cut down his list to four finalists, and it’s fairly obvious which one wouldn’t normally belong.
Although Baylor can’t approach the hoops tradition of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky, the Bears do have a key advantage that the Wildcats, at least, lack.
Baylor (like Duke and Kansas) is still in the running for Tyus Jones, the standout point guard who plans to make his college decision as a package deal with Okafor’s.
Duke has been perceived as the clear favorite, but Bill Self is a top-notch recruiter who can sell one advantage not available to Coach K: a comparatively familiar environment for two Midwestern kids, Chicagoan Okafor and Minnesotan Jones.