Recruiting season never ends. Even during a pandemic, coaches are still working the recruiting trail and trying to land the top players in the 2021 class, potentially adding the future stars of their programs.
While some top 2021 recruits have made college commitments, many of the top prospects have not yet made their decisions. So this can be a crucial time for programs as they put in the recruiting work that will hopefully pay dividends further down the line.
Although it's still early, here are some predictions for where several of the top recruits in the 2021 class will be heading to college to continue their basketball careers.
Chet Holmgren, C, Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, MN)
A 7'0" center who can shoot from the perimeter, protect the rim and rebound effectively? There's no wonder why Chet Holmgren is one of the most highly coveted recruits in the 2021 class. And there are a lot of top programs battling to try to land the Minneapolis native.
Holmgren is the No. 2 recruit in the 2021 class, per the 247Sports composite rankings, and one of 22 5-star recruits. While he holds plenty of offers, it's too early to tell where he'll be heading to college, as his 247Sports profile lists Gonzaga, Minnesota, Purdue and Texas as schools he has "warm" interest in.
It's not a surprise that Minnesota is near the top of the list, as the Golden Gophers will try to get him to stay in-state. However, Gonzaga is a perennial NCAA tournament contender and could be an intriguing destination, especially because the Bulldogs added point guard Jalen Suggs, Holmgren's former teammate at Minnehaha Academy, in the 2020 recruiting class. And although Suggs could be in the NBA by the time Holmgren is playing college ball, he could put in a good word for the program with his former teammate.
"That's my guy, and I'm going to be closely tuned in to see his successes—especially because I'll miss playing with him," Holmgren told ESPN's Jeff Borzello, who has Gonzaga, Minnesota and Ohio State as the current top tier of schools currently most likely to land Holmgren.
Borzello wrote that Holmgren wants to take all five official visits and "will likely take his time going through the process." The early prediction here is that that will lead Holmgren to Gonzaga, where he can continue to get better and try to help the Bulldogs win the program's first national title.
Prediction: Holmgren goes to Gonzaga
Patrick Baldwin Jr., SF, Hamilton (Sussex, WI)
The 247Sports Crystal Ball currently gives Duke a 100 percent chance of landing Patrick Baldwin Jr., the No. 3 recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for the 2021 class. However, it's not quite a done deal that the 6'9" small forward will be playing his college ball for the Blue Devils.
Duke is one of the four schools that Baldwin has visited, according to Borzello. Others on that list include Milwaukee, where his father is the head coach, and Northwestern, where both of his parents attended.
Kentucky, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the other top-tier college basketball programs that have given Baldwin an offer and will be pushing to land. With the opportunity to potentially play for one of the best teams in the country on the table, it's tough to imagine Baldwin chooses Milwaukee or Northwestern, even if there's sentimental value behind those schools.
Duke already has a commitment from one 5-star recruit (New York small forward AJ Griffin), and adding Baldwin would give it a pair of dynamic freshman wings for the 2021-22 season. Baldwin recently told Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com that he enjoyed his visit to Duke and getting to experience the "different energy" that Cameron Indoor Stadium brings to games.
When the time to sign gets closer, the Blue Devils are going to find a way to turn that into a commitment from Baldwin. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been landing top recruits for decades, and Baldwin will eventually be added to that list.
Prediction: Baldwin goes to Duke
Paolo Banchero, PF, O'Dea (Seattle, WA)
Paolo Banchero wasted no time cutting down his list of potential colleges. In April, the 6'9" power forward announced his top six schools on Twitter, and he'll be deciding between Kentucky, Washington, Gonzaga, Arizona, Tennessee and Duke in the months to come.
There are reasons to think each of those schools has a legitimate chance of landing Banchero, the No. 4 recruit in the class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He could stay in state to play for Washington or Gonzaga, a pair of strong programs. But the other four are top schools that could persuade him to go farther away from home.
"It's hard to find a true favorite, but Kentucky is in a strong position, while Gonzaga and Tennessee likely make up the next tier," Borzello wrote. "I wouldn't count out any of the six, though."
Kentucky hasn't yet landed any commits in the 2021 class, but it will have some top-tier prospects by the time the cycle is over. The Wildcats have the No. 1 class in the 2020 247Sports composite rankings, and head coach John Calipari has consistently been one of the best recruiters for more than a decade.
Banchero would be a great centerpiece for Kentucky's 2021 class. And while the other programs on his top-six list are strong, the Wildcats are likely going to be the ones to land the 5-star power forward.
Prediction: Banchero goes to Kentucky