Top Storylines Headed Into the NCAA’s Early Signing Period

Jason Jordan

While the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports for months, the college basketball recruiting season never really took time off.

The NCAA’s Early Signing Period kicks off on Wednesday and from player announcements to the top spot in the team rankings there, as always, are major questions ahead.

Here are a five.

1. Where is Roddy Gayle headed?

Gayle, one of the top players left on the board in 2021, announced his top six schools on Monday and on the same day the Lewiston Porter (Youngstown, N.Y.) shooting guard announced his commitment date for four days later. That likely means he knows where he’s headed. Ohio State, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Syracuse and Georgetown round out his list.

RELATED: Michael Foster considering G League, overseas options

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Juwan Howard has been on a roll on the recruiting scene. 

2. Can anyone dethrone Michigan?

The last 10 days have been great to Juwan Howard and his staff, first, they landed Montverde (Fla.) Academy’s elite shooting guard Caleb Houstan and on Monday they reeled in a commitment from IMG Academy’s (Bradenton, Fla.) elite forward Moussa Diabate. The pair joins Coronado’s (Henderson, Nev.) elite point guard Frankie Collins, Simeon’s (Chicago) elite wing Isaiah Barnes and productive Stewartville (Minn.) forward Will Tschetter.

That collection of talent seems to make the lead insurmountable at this point, but stranger things have happened.

3. Will family ties win out with Patrick Baldwin Jr.?

Last month, the Hamilton (Sussex, Wis.) wing joked with Sports Illustrated about giving his father and UW-Milwaukee head coach Patrick Sr. a fair shot in his recruitment. Most believe that Baldwin will ultimately pick a blue blood program like Duke or Kentucky, but he’s maintained to SI that he’s “far from” knowing where he’ll suit up in college. Conventional wisdom says that the longer his recruitment plays out the better for dad and the Panthers.

RELATED: Pandemic summer was productive for Patrick Baldwin Jr.

4. Will top tier players come off the board?

Baldwin is just one of the top tier players in the 2021 class who have yet to make a decision on a college. Minnehaha (Minn.) Academy center Chet Holmgren, Coronado (Henderson, Nev.) shooting guard Jaden Hardy, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) forward Michael Foster, Millan North (Omaha, Neb.) shooting guard Hunter Sallis and other SI All-American nominees are showing no indication that they’re ready to make the call.

Why?

Most of the reasons they’ve given SI are COVID-19 related, from concerns about depth charts with the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to the need to build stronger relationships with the elimination of visits.

Still, with pressure mounting from coaches to come aboard, will any of the top players succumb?

RELATED: Pitt coach Jeff Capel passionate for change

5. How does the G League option effect the Early Signing Period?

The G League stole all of the attention in the 2020 class, snatching top tier stars like SI All-American Player of the Year Jalen Green, Daishen Nix, Isaiah Todd and Jonathan Kuminga from the college game, offering contracts that reportedly reached $500,000. As a result, a handful of elite players in the 2021 class have expressed interest waiting to see how the pro option pans out for their peers. That would mean more uncommitted top tier players waiting until the Late Signing Period in the spring to decide.

Still, there’s growing concern about the G League even having a season due to the pandemic, which could potentially have the opposite effect.

Time will tell. 

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