Evans Seven: What's next for teams without 2021 commits?
As the month of September looms, there are some teams that have yet to land a single commitment in the 2021 class. In today’s Evans Seven, we look at some of those programs and how they can still set themselves up for success once next fall arrives.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
We have written extensively about Kentucky and its inability to land a 2021 talent. This is the longest that John Calipari has gone without a senior commitment in recent years, and it doesn’t appear that one will be coming anytime soon. The Wildcats have offered just three members of the 2021 class, which will change. Does Kentucky finally offer Bryce Hopkins and/or Hunter Sallis? The latter of the two is the likeliest.
Kentucky may be the leader for Jaden Hardy, but don’t discount Arizona or UCLA, and the G League is another possible route for him. Skyy Clark is the likeliest pledge, but he remains a member of the 2022 class. Much work has to be done over the next few weeks, whether it is offering another handful of top 50 prospects or reallocating roles to a coaching staff that is still coming together.
Suitable replacements will be needed, which is why it is crucial that Alabama lands some players from a group that includes JD Davison, Darius Johnson, Wesley Cardet, Mike James, Johnathon Lawson, Jusaun Holt and Charles Bediako. Davison, Cardet and Bediako would be the ideal class for the Tide, and that goal is attainable. It is also a group that checks all the boxes for Alabama's immediate and long-term future.
3. OKLAHOMA STATE
It remains to be seen whether Oklahoma State will have the chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament, considering the penalties the NCAA has levied against the Cowboys. Regardless, Mike Boynton will have major work to do for next year as he sits without a commitment and faces the potential losses of Cade Cunningham and Isaac Likekele in the spring. Ferron Flavors will graduate, and while Boynton has become known for securing top transfer talent, landing a few high school targets wouldn’t hurt.
Malachi Smith, Jalen Lake, Mike James, Matthew Stone, Alex Fudge and Ramses Melendez are among the players on Boynton's radar and hold an OSU offer. If the Cowboys do not hit on their top targets, chances are they wait things out and see what damage they can make in the spring.
The Ducks could be disqualified from this particular list, since they will enroll Isaac Johnson next year. But since he was actually a member of the 2019 class and will be completing the second year of his two-year LDS mission this winter, Oregon should go about filling its roster with the idea that it is sitting empty-handed. Oregon has become one of the most dominant programs on the recruiting trail out west, so having nothing to show for itself in 2021 after landing only Jalen Terry last year is cause for some concern.
That doesn’t mean that Oregon is not in a great spot with some of the elite prospects in the 2021 class, including Ben Gregg, Nathan Bittle, Caleb Houstan, David Jones, Jaden Hardy, Hunter Sallis and Franck Kepnang. The Ducks are always going to work wonders via the transfer market, but if there is one wild-card program that could finish with a top-five high school class this year, it is Oregon.
After enrolling one of the best classes in America a year ago, Tom Crean opted to go the experienced route in 2020, and he will enroll several junior college players and graduate transfers this fall. That could change next year, and it appears that he has his program on stable ground in terms of a mixture of quality upperclassmen and intriguing underclassmen.
The Bulldogs are sitting with a goose egg in the commitment category, but that doesn’t reflect all of the arduous work they have put in with some of the best prospects along the East Coast. Things begin and end with Jabari Smith. The top in-state talent has pitted the Bulldogs against Auburn, LSU and Tennessee for his services. Nisine Poplar, Lucas Taylor, Kok Yat, Sean Durugordon, James White, Kaleb Washington and Jusaun Holt are some of the other players the Bulldogs have in their sights. If the G League is not the route that Michael Foster takes, then maybe he'll team up with Smith in Athens? The options are endless for UGA, and chances are a strong class will be on the docket for 2021.
6. ARIZONA STATE
If Bobby Hurley doesn’t want to see a giant drop-off in the quality of play at Arizona State, then a big-time 2021 class is needed. Remy Martin, Holland Woods, Kimani Lawrence and Allonzo Verge are four of Arizona State's top five likely contributors this year, and all will graduate. Add to that the likely one-and-done campaign from Josh Christopher and it's clear the Sun Devils will have five spots they must replace with ready-made producers.
Luther Muhammad is waiting in the wings, but he is going to need some help. Could it come in the form of Zaon Collins, a four-star guard that ASU is in a great spot for? Beyond Collins, TyTy Washington, Lucas Taylor, Arthur Kaluma and William Felton are a few others that the Sun Devils are involved with. If Hurley can land three of those players and secure a top talent via the junior college or transfer market, then smooth sailing should be ahead for Arizona State.
Bruce Pearl is no stranger to winning high-profile recruitments, whether we're talking Chuma Okeke, Davion Mitchell, Isaac Okoro or Sharife Cooper. He is looking to extend that streak in the 2021 class, but so far he is sitting without a single commitment. Granted, there isn't a graduating senior on his roster, so the need doesn't seem as pressing. Still, there is a chance that Cooper and fellow freshman JT Thor decide to leave after the season.
If that is the case, then star power is a must, which is why the Tigers have to be relieved they made the final list for JD Davison, a five-star guard and the top in-state prospect. The Tigers need a true wing that can play a variety of spots, which is why David Jones, Nisine Poplar, Kok Yat and Sean Durugordon are top priorities. Don’t count the Tigers out for Jabari Smith, because quality is a bigger concern than quantity for 2021.