- The SEC and the Pac-12 are positioning themselves to be competitive for many years with their recruiting hauls in the 2017 class.
The early signing period for college basketball came to a close on Wednesday, and it concluded with a flurry of action. While numerous top prospects remain unsigned and will take their recruitments into the winter and spring, more than 80 of the Scout.com Top 100 prospects have signed a National Letter of Intent.
There is no question that high-profile late commitments could change things, but right now the big winners for the 2017 recruiting cycle are the Pac-12 and the SEC.
Schools in those two leagues have the top six recruiting classes, and eight of the top 15 overall. For two leagues that haven’t had the on-court success that they would have hoped for in the past few years, they are making a clear play to be more competitive in the future.
Leading the way in the Pac-12 are Arizona and UCLA. The two West Coast powers combined to land eight top-100 prospects, three of which were rated as five-stars. Right now, Steve Alford and UCLA have the top class. UCLA got some of the biggest news of signing week when five-star Indianapolis native Kris Wilkes spurned the Indiana Hoosiers and Illinois to head west and play for the Bruins.
Wilkes’s athleticism and upside should make an immediate impact in Westwood. Also he is joined by a quartet of California products in the UCLA class, headed by five-star point guard Jaylen Hands and four-star power forward Cody Riley.
Arizona inked the nation’s No. 1 prospect, De'Andre Ayton, and then complemented him with a high-level shooter from New York, Brandon Randolph, as well as top-100 players in power forward Ira Lee and point guard Alex Barcello.
While those two schools led the way in the Pac-12, do not sleep on Washington. The Huskies added elite talent Michael Porter and then kept two local stars, Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell, home to complete what is a very talented class for Lorenzo Romar.
In the SEC everyone always expects Kentucky to dominate, and they did a tremendous job on signing week, gaining three top 50 commitments, but Alabama stole the show. Avery Johnson and his staff reeled in what is currently the nation’s No. 3 overall class, and it is headed by top-10 prospect Collin Sexton.
Sexton, who stole the show this summer while play for USA Basketball, is one of the elite scorers in the class. He alone would make for a great haul, but the Crimson Tide took advantage of a great in-state class and cleaned up within the borders. Top-60 prospects John Petty and Alex Reese both decided to stay home and play for Alabama as did forward Herb Jones. The four-man class should have Alabama vying for conference titles before too long.
Alabama’s chief rival, Auburn, also showed very well. Bruce Pearl has always been considered a top recruiter, and his class currently checks in at No. 5 overall. Auburn legacy, and top 15 prospect Austin Wiley leads the way in this class for Pearl. Wiley is a big-time interior player who can dominate on the glass and also has a solid scoring touch. He is joined by top-50 prospects Davion Mitchell, an athletic point guard who can score, and Chuma Okeke, a versatile combo forward who does a little bit of everything.
Of course there is also Kentucky. John Calipari and his staff didn’t have one commitment coming into signing week, but that changed in a big way when a pair of top-20 prospects in Nick Richards and P.J. Washington committed to the ‘Cats on the same day. Washington, a new age power forward, and Richards, a dominant rebounding and shot-blocking center, should fortify the Kentucky front-line. Kentucky also added top-50 point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into the fold, and he is a major piece as the Wildcats are likely to be replacing numerous guards this off-season when players depart for the NBA.
While the SEC and Pac-12 had dominant showings, a few other schools would be classified as big winners as well.
In the Big East, Xavier and Chris Mack came away smiling. For the first time in program history, the Musketeers landed two top-40 prospects, combo guard Paul Scruggs and wing Naji Marshall. The five-person group gives the Musketeers the best class in the Big East and the No. 7 overall class.
In the Big Ten, John Groce and Illinois are big winners. Though five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon made it a stressful signing week by waiting till the final day, he did eventually sign, giving the Fighting Illini their enforcer on the low block. Groce and his staff also inked a pair of other four-star prospects in scoring point guard Trent Frazier and athletic combo guard DaMonte Williams to help land the nation’s No. 8 overall group.
Louisville has the No. 9 overall class headed by power forward and Indiana native Malik Williams. Also Rick Pitino has his point guard of the future in Darius Perry and a pair of intriguing forwards with Jordan Nwora and Lance Thomas.
Duke is currently No. 13 overall, but don’t be fooled, the Blue Devils should finish with a top-five class. At the moment Gary Trent Jr. is the gem of the class, but top-five prospect Wendell Carter announces next week, and Duke is the heavy favorite for the low-post presence.
Finally, in the Big 12, Shaka Smart and Texas did the most damage.Texas has the No. 15 overall class with a trio of top-100 commitments. The best of the bunch is in-state shooter Jase Febres who emerged in a big way this summer. Also Minnesota native Jericho Sims and in-state power forward Royce Hamm give Smart and his staff athleticism and upside up front.
A lot is still left to play out, but some schools are definitely smiling now that signing day is in the rear-view mirror.