This week’s edition of McDonald's Nuggets includes discussion about which school will come out with the top 2020 class, an update on his Walker Kessler prediction and the Commitment of the Week.
2021 RANKINGS: Rivals150
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Who will have No. 1 class in 2020?
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We’re moving closer to football season, which means basketball practice isn’t too far away. That in turn means the Early Signing Period in November will be here before we know it. We’re starting to see a lot of visits being taken and set up for the next few months as schools race for the top overall class. So let’s look at some programs with the potential to finish at the top.
1) Shockingly (kidding, of course), Duke sits at the top of the rankings early on with commitments from a pair of five-stars in Jalen Johnson (No. 4) and Jeremy Roach (No. 21). The Blue Devils have a chance to add to their already strong pull as they are in the mix for five-star big man Walker Kessler (No. 17) and five-star small forward Ziaire Williams (No. 8). Four-star scoring guard D.J. Steward (No. 35) is also a strong possibility for Coach K’s bunch. This could be another special class for Duke.
2) Rick Barnes has done a terrific job building Tennessee back into a national power and has the Volunteers right behind Duke at No. 2. With the recent addition of five-star shooting guard Keon Johnson (No. 17), to go along with five-star forward Corey Walker (No. 24), this class has real staying power near the top of the rankings. Five-star guard Jaden Springer (No. 12) is another five-star who could end up in Knoxville and the Volunteers are also right there for four-star big men P.J. Hall (No. 67) and Dylan Cardwell (No. 115). Keep an eye on how Tennessee closes here as the Vols could be a dark horse for No. 1 overall.
3) It’d be hard to have this conversation without including two more blueblood programs. Kentucky added five-star wing B.J. Boston and four-star Cam’Ron Fletcher on back-to-back weekends to get Big Blue on the board in the 2020 class. Cade Cunningham (No. 2 overall) and Jalen Green (No. 3) both have Kentucky on their lists, as do Scottie Barnes (No. 6), Greg Brown (No. 7) and Josh Christopher (No. 11). In the front court, Lance Ware and Clifford Omoruyi appear to be the priorities for John Calipari.
4) Let’s not rule out North Carolina’s chances of returning to the top of the recruiting rankings. The Tar Heels are on the board with an early commitment from Day’Ron Sharpe (No. 13), who had a really strong summer for Garner Roads on his way up the rankings. Roy Williams has cast a pretty big net with scholarship offers to prospects all over the country to fill out the rest of the class. In the backcourt, Caleb Love (No. 32) is a strong possibility to end up in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels are also involved with Cade Cunningham, Bryce Thompson (No. 18), Jaden Springer, R.J. Davis, Earl Timberlake (No. 29), and D.J. Steward.
On the wing or in a bigger forward role, Greg Brown, Ziaire Williams, Isaiah Todd (No. 9), Dawson Garcia (No. 38) and former UNC star Cam Johnson’s younger brother Puff Johnson (No. 43) are all possibilities. In the post, North Carolina has come on strong for Walker Kessler, with a visit date set for next month, but Hunter Dickinson (No. 28) is also a possibility.
We have a LONG way to go, but those are the four schools I feel have the best chance to end up with the top class as of today.
RECRUITING NOTE: Other classes I like in 2020
I’m going to move outside the top five and look at some programs with nice classes early on that I don’t feel will finish at the top of the rankings after other schools fill out their classes.
Let’s start with Xavier at No. 6 overall. The Musketeers struck again on Wednesday with a really nice commitment from Colby Jones (No. 104) out of Alabama. He had a terrific travel season with the Alabama Fusion in the Nike EYBL and had a number of high-major offers. Dwon Odom (No. 50) started the class early last July for Travis Steele and will be the playmaker the program needs when Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs move on. C.J. Wilcher (No. 102), a sharp shooter out of New Jersey, is also on board, giving Xavier a really strong backcourt to build around.
How about what Houston has done at No. 9 overall? It’s really important for programs to build on momentum, and Kelvin Sampson’s program has done just that. The Cougars added a pair of in-state, four-star guards in Tramon Mark (No. 85) and Jamal Shead (No. 95). That’s a really strong duo to go forward with. Sampson dipped back into Indiana earlier this month to land 6-foot-9 big man Kiyron Powell, the No. 30 power forward in the 2020 class.
Lastly, another program building on momentum from last season is Purdue. Matt Painter and his staff wasted no time feeling sorry for themselves after a brutal loss in the NCAA Tournament, as they went right back to work on the recruiting trail and currently have the No. 10 class. Jaden Ivey (No. 87) started it off in late April and Ethan Morton (No. 64) jumped on board a couple weeks later. Those two give the Boilermakers a lot of versatility and good size in the backcourt. I really like the way they complement each other.
PREDICTION: An updated Walker Kessler prediction
I came out with a prediction of five-star big man Walker Kessler ending up at Duke in this column a couple months ago. Since then, he released a top six of Auburn, California, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan and North Carolina and set up some official visits. His next official visits will be Michigan on the first weekend of football season followed by Duke the next weekend. He also has visits set with North Carolina (Sept. 20) and Gonzaga (Oct. 4). Depending on whether his visit to Auburn back in June is determined to count toward his junior or senior year, he could also take an official visit to California.
As for my updated prediction, anybody following this one closely has heard it’s really tight between Auburn and Duke. I believe that to be true as well. If Gonzaga or Michigan were located closer to home, it would definitely help them, but they aren’t. North Carolina has come on really strong lately and could make it interesting down the stretch with a great visit. But not being “all in” like the other schools have been the whole way through could be a problem.
So again, that takes us back to Auburn and Duke. I still think it will be Duke in the end. It’s the type of prestigious program that satisfies his strong academics and has the track record of producing NBA players lately. The uncertainty at Auburn right now with the NCAA doesn’t help either.