Predicting Where the Top Uncommitted 2019 College Basketball Recruits Will Land
Most players from college basketball's 2019 recruiting class have already decided where they will be playing next season, but plenty of the top-notch prospects are still free agents.
Only two of the top nine players in the 247Sports composite rankings have chosen a school. No. 1 James Wiseman is going to Memphis and No. 8 Kahlil Whitney is headed to Kentucky.
What about the other seven studs?
No. 2 Vernon Carey is announcing his decision this week, but there's no telling when the others will do so. But don't worry, because we've got predictions and brief scouting reports for each of the uncommitted recruits who will eventually be taking the world by storm.
Players are listed in descending order of their composite ranking.
2. Vernon Carey
The Basics: Vernon Carey, C, 6'10", 275 pounds
Five years ago, Carey would have been perfect just the way he is. He is a big, strong, mountain of a man with great footwork and the ability and willingness to pass out of double-teams in the post. He has a lot of great moves on the blocks and is more than capable of scoring with either hand.
He could be the second coming of Jahlil Okafor—though let's hope his NBA potential is brighter than that.
But it's not five years ago, so the lefty has been working to expand his range and face-up game in order to become the total package. He does have a nice-looking stroke for a player his size, and he is capable of hitting three-pointers when given the time and space. However, it's an inconsistent and slow-developing shot, so there's a lot of room for improvement there.
But when "isn't the greatest perimeter shooter" is the biggest knock against someone built like an old-school center, you're really picking at nits. Carey is going to be special for his one year of college hoops.
The Prediction: Duke
Carey is a left-handed big man who throws down thunderous dunks and who might be elite if he can keep his weight under control. I'm not saying he's Zion Williamson 2.0, but he's certainly the closest that Mike Krzyzewski is going to come to replacing Williamson this summer.
Plus, Duke has signed at least one top-three recruit in each of the last five years, and it still has a lot of work to do to fill out the 2019 class. It's possible all five starters leave for the NBA, and the Blue Devils only have two guys signed for next year so far—and neither one is a big.
Carey is deciding between Duke, Michigan State and North Carolina, and he will make his decision on Thursday, according to Evan Daniels of 247Sports. Expect him to be headed to Durham.
3. Cole Anthony
The Basics: Cole Anthony, CG, 6'3", 184 pounds
Jerry Meyer has been scouting high school talent since recruiting websites first became a thing back in the early 2000s, and the 247Sports director of scouting said in July that Anthony is the best point guard he has ever scouted.
He plays like he has a chip on his shoulder, but in a good way. He dunks angrily with explosiveness and leaping ability that is uncommon for a man his size. He's a tough defender and it's nearly impossible for opposing defenders to lock him down because of his combo of acumen and athleticism.
It just seems like he's playing the game in slow motion, or like he has eyes in the back of his head. And he is a legitimate combo guard with range beyond the three-point arc. There won't be a more dangerous player from the triple-threat position in the country.
The Prediction: North Carolina
In late October, Anthony tweeted his top six: North Carolina, Georgetown, Oregon, Miami, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. He's good enough to thrive anywhere, but UNC seems like the best fit for a guy who wants to come in and immediately shine.
The Tar Heels roster is going to get gutted this offseason. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams all graduate, and there's a strong possibility Nassir Little leaves for the NBA after just one season. Coby White might join him on that one-and-done path.
If White does stay, though, goodness gracious would this be a fun dual-combo-guard backcourt. And they would still have two capable, veteran big men to work with in Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley.
Roy Williams doesn't often get the guys who are looking to just make a five-month pit stop before the NBA, but Anthony could be an exception.
4. Anthony Edwards
The Basics: Anthony Edwards, CG, 6'5", 215 pounds
If there is an RJ Barrett in this year's class, you're looking at him. (That doesn't mean he's necessarily going to Duke, though.)
Like Barrett, Edwards opted to reclassify so he could start his career one year earlier, and the decision instantly made him one of the most coveted players in his new class. Also like Barrett, there's a hint of James Harden in Edwards' game. He has ridiculous range on his jumper, but he's also an excellent driver and finisher in the lane.
Wherever he lands, expect to see a lot of iso possessions, because he's so dangerous with the ball in his hands.
The Prediction: Florida State
We don't often think of Florida State as a potential landing spot for top recruits, but Leonard Hamilton did sign Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon in recent years. And the way the Seminoles played for two seasons with the latter on the roster figures to be a great fit for Edwards.
Per KenPom, Bacon ranked in the top 150 nationally in percentage of possessions used and top 65 in percentage of shots taken in each of his two seasons. Even though he never became a particularly accurate three-point shooter, the 'Noles were content to live and die with the ball in Bacon's hands.
Replace Bacon with a guy who can shoot better than 31 percent from distance and you've got the recipe for a pressure-cooker scorer. Provided M.J. Walker, Trent Forrest and Mfiondu Kabengele all return, Florida State could have a mighty dangerous rotation with Edwards.
5. Jaden McDaniels
The Basics: Jaden McDaniels, 6'11", PF, 185 pounds
One must always exercise caution when comparing a high school kid to Kevin Durant, but it's hard to not go there when you're talking about a rail-thin power forward with good handles and three-point range for days.
At his current measurements, though, McDaniels is two inches taller and 30 pounds lighter than Durant's listed playing weight at Texas. As far as body type goes, the more appropriate comparisons might be Jonathan Isaac or Skal Labissiere, each of whom was more of a finesse forward than a contact-craving center.
Regardless of the comp, McDaniels is a guard trapped in a frontcourt player's body. He uses his size to rebound and block shots, but his true value is as a mismatch on offense. Opposing teams will almost be required to put their best 6'7"-6'9" perimeter defender on McDaniels, or else he's going to score at will.
The Prediction: Washington
Several years ago, this would have been the obvious choice. Lorenzo Romar always recruited well, and he would've been the frontrunner to land this 5-star recruit from the state of Washington. But now, it's just a guess for lack of better information.
The McDaniels family isn't saying much, so all we really know is that there have been visits to Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA and Washington. And we know that Jaden's older brother (Jalen) is currently a sophomore playing at San Diego State.
But in addition to the geography factor, Washington's 2019-20 roster situation seems like the best fit of the bunch. The Huskies are going to lose most of their starting rotation to graduation, but they should still have Jaylen Nowell, Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright, and a reasonable expectation that Jamal Bey and Bryan Penn-Johnson will make freshman-to-sophomore leaps. The cupboards aren't bare, but there is plenty of room for him to come in and immediately thrive.
6. Isaiah Stewart
The Basics: Isaiah Stewart, C, 6'9", 245 pounds
Stewart is like a second coming of Julius Randle.
He's a bit undersized to be a pure center, but he doesn't have enough range on his jumper to be a modern 4. However, the forward-center tweener makes up for it by being aggressive, bouncy and strong. He's going to get a lot of double-doubles, and he's going to block more than his fair share of shots into the seventh row.
For most top-10 guys, all of the skills are there and the only potential concerns are motor and strength. But with Stewart, he's so physically gifted and so driven to succeed that he feels like a can't-miss prospect, even with a limited offensive game.
The Prediction: Michigan State
247Sports has Duke, Michigan State and Washington as Wright's three likeliest destinations, and he best fits the mold of a Tom Izzo center.
Neither Draymond Green nor Adreian Payne had much proven shooting ability when they got to Michigan State. Combining their freshman and sophomore years, the pair shot 3-of-20 from downtown in more than 2,000 minutes of action. But by the time they graduated, both players had blossomed into legitimate three-point weapons.
Wright has too much NBA potential to stick around for four years, but perhaps Izzo can get him on the accelerated path to that same destination. If not, Wright could simply abandon the perimeter shot and settle into the Nick Ward role of dominating in the paint, and then let his future NBA team decide if it wants to work with him on adding a jumper.
7. Matthew Hurt
The Basics: Matthew Hurt, PF, 6'9", 215 pounds
Just about every scouting report on Hurt begins with lavish praise of his three-point range before eventually questioning his toughness in the paint. But this stretch 4 is so much more than just some Ethan Wragge clone who is going to fire up threes and not do anything else.
Hurt isn't going to be the most athletic dude on the floor, but he can handle the ball surprisingly well for his size. He also has guard-like vision and passing instincts. In a major pinch, he could play some point-forward. But whichever lucky coach signs Hurt is going to want him off the ball, because his catch-and-shoot jumper is so pure.
Hurt is also going to make noteworthy contributions as a defensive rebounder and shot-blocker. He should be a slightly more perimeter-oriented version of Gonzaga's Killian Tillie.
The Prediction: Duke
Most of the recruiting experts seem to expect Hurt to sign with Kansas, but I don't understand that potential marriage. Neither Dedric Lawson nor Udoka Azubuike is a lock to declare for the 2019 NBA draft, and it seems a safe assumption that David McCormack, Mitch Lightfoot and K.J. Lawson will all return. Why would a top-10, potential one-and-done talent want to sign up for that logjam?
If he doesn't stay close to home to play at Minnesota with his older brother, Michael, the obvious choice is Duke, where stretch 4s have been thriving on an annual basis for decades.
My actual prediction, though, is that Hurt is going to be the last top-100 recruit to make a decision. He should wait to see how the draft declarations play out with the blue bloods, and if nothing seems like an obvious fit once the roster situations are more set in stone, he could always make the 11th-hour decision to play for the Golden Gophers.
9. Precious Achiuwa
The Basics: Precious Achiuwa, SF, 6'9", 190 pounds
A lean, tough combo-forward, Achiuwa is going to immediately draw comparisons to Brandon Ingram.
Like the former Blue Devil, Achiuwa has the size, coordination and range to play any position 2 through 4—and defend them, too. He's also stronger than he looks. You'd think that a guy as tall as Caleb Swanigan and as light as Kyrie Irving would get pushed around like a rag doll, but he can hold his own.
Achiuwa's agility helps out a lot with that. He's a great slasher and rebounder thanks to his body control. He's a solid shot-blocker, too.
The Prediction: Straight to the G League
We're wrapping things up with a bit of a curveball, but did you realize that one top-10 recruit in four of the past five years never played college basketball? For Emmanuel Mudiay and Mitchell Robinson, it was a decision fueled by eligibility issues. But Thon Maker and Anfernee Simons found loopholes and opted to go straight to the NBA.
If anybody in this year's class is going to go that route, it's most likely Achiuwa, since he is already going to be 20 years old before the start of the 2019-20 season. The NBA loves to draft guys as young as possible, and even one season of college hoops would put Achiuwa at 21 before he plays a single NBA game. Even if he's outstanding in that one college year, he would get drafted behind a lot of 18- and 19-year-old kids.
And with next summer being the first year the G League will be offering that (up to) $125,000 incentive to skip the NCAA and go pro right away, we've got to at least see one elite prospect take the bait, right?
This is all speculation. There's been no evidence that Achiuwa is even considering this alternative option, but he should. If he does go to college, though, Connecticut seems like the frontrunner to acquire him.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.