The July evaluation period began Wednesday, which means coaches from every program in the nation will spend the next three weekends crisscrossing the country to scout top prospects at the summer's most prestigious grassroots events.
Here's a look at some of the most intriguing storylines as coaches hit the road to begin assembling their 2015 recruiting classes and to get an early look at future targets:
1. Will the Malik Newman-Diamond Stone package deal come to fruition? One year after Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones stuck to their word and both chose the same school, another potential package deal featuring two top 10 recruits has emerged. Six-foot-3 shooting guard Malik Newman and 6-foot-10 center Diamond Stone have been adamant about wanting to play together in college in recent weeks even though one is from Mississippi and the other is from Wisconsin. Most potential package deals like this one eventually fall apart when the players decide different schools appeal to them, but the fact that the Okafor-Jones one did not may force schools to take the possibility seriously. UConn, Kentucky and Kansas are among the programs recruiting both Newman and Stone, while other schools have wooed the coveted class of 2015 prospects separately.
2. Can Bruce Pearl recruit without being on the road? Since Bruce Pearl's three-year show-cause penalty runs through late August, Auburn's new coach is prohibited from being on the recruiting trail during the most crucial month of the offseason. That means he'll have to rely on his assistants to make in-person evaluations and put in face time with the Tigers' top targets for the next three weeks. Pearl has already landed coveted transfer guards Kareem Canty (Marshall), Antoine Mason (Niagara) and K.C. Ross-Miller (New Mexico State), but he needs a strong 2015 class to fuel a speedy rebuilding process. Achieving that despite having to remain home in July will be a big challenge.
3. Which other new coaches will make an early splash? Cal's Cuonzo Martin and Missouri's Kim Anderson are well positioned this month thanks to some of the assistant coaching hires they made. Yanni Hufnagel, one of Martin's new assistants, has thrived in his previous stops at Harvard and Vanderbilt by luring academic-oriented West Coast prospects to those well-respected institutions. Hufnagel should have an even easier time finding success with that strategy at Cal, another excellent academic school in a more geographically friendly location. As for Anderson, by retaining Tim Fuller and hiring former Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford, the ex-Division II coach has a staff that should easily make up for his inexperience recruiting at the highest level. Fuller is a former Rick Pitino aide at Louisville with a reputation as an elite recruiter, while Fulford coached Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and others at Huntington and is extremely well-connected across the country.
4. Will family ties help Oregon State? To ensure an impressive recruiting class next year, all Oregon State must do is cajole the sons of two members of its coaching staff into playing for their fathers. Tres Tinkle, the son of new Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle, is a 6-foot-6 small forward rated the No. 124 recruit in Rivals.com's class of 2015 rankings. And Stephen Thompson Jr., the son of newly hired Oregon State assistant Stephen Thompson Sr., is a 6-foot-3 shooting guard rated No. 70 in the 2015 class. Snaring the younger Tinkle and Thompson would be a huge score for a talent-starved Oregon State program that lost all five starters to transfer, graduation or the professional ranks this offseason. Of course, it's no shoo-in Tinkle and Thompson will come to Corvallis. Tinkle recently told Rivals.com he has scholarship offers from USC and Utah and has spoken with the likes of Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Stanford and Cal. And prior to his father's hiring at Oregon State, Stephen Thompson Jr. told Rivals.com he had been hearing from San Diego State, Arizona State, Stanford, Gonzaga and UConn, among others.
5. Who will Kentucky get? History suggests it's a near-lock that Kentucky will land at least a couple of the elite prospects in the Class of 2015, but so far it's unclear which of next year's elite recruits the Wildcats have the best chance to sign. They already have a commitment from four-star shooting guard Charles Matthews and they're also heavily involved with numerous other prospects including top 10 guards Newman and Jaylen Brown and top 10 big men Stone and Cheick Diallo. They also would be considered a top contender for Thon Maker, an athletic, perimeter-oriented 7-footer who may reclassify from the class of 2016 to 2015. Something that will be interesting to follow with Kentucky's recruiting is whether playing time concerns impact the decisions of the 2015 class. With Kentucky boasting nine former McDonald's All-Americans and first-round hopeful Willie Cauley-Stein on next season's roster, there's a good chance some talented players return in 2015-16, meaning starting jobs will not be a guarantee for top recruits at Kentucky the way they might be at other schools.
6. How healthy is Harry Giles? Before tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee while playing for the U.S. U-16 team last summer, Giles was considered a contender for the No. 1 ranking in the class of 2016. The highly touted 6-foot-10 forward has since been cleared medically and returned to game action in May at a Nike event in Virginia, but he played limited minutes. July will represent another chance for Giles to prove he has regained his explosiveness as he'll play with the CP3 All-Stars at the Peach Jam July 16-20 and will participate in training camp for the U.S. U-17 team the following week in Colorado Springs. Monitoring Giles' progress will be numerous high-profile coaches. The Winston Salem, N.C. native had interest from virtually all of the nation's top programs prior to his injury.
For up-to-date recruiting news, please visit Rivals.com.
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