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McDonald's Nuggets: Analysis of first-year coaches' recruiting

Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition looks at first-year coaches and their recruiting, weekend visits and important commitments.

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2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

THREE-POINT PLAY COLUMN: Corey Evans | Eric Bossi

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WHAT’S ON MY MIND: How are first-year coaches faring as the early signing period approaches?

Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard (AP Images)

With the early signing period coming up next month, let’s see what kind of damage first-year coaches have done on the recruiting trail before coaching their first game. I’ve long been a believer that the easiest time for a coach to recruit is before you lose a game and the honeymoon phase ends. Last year, Penny Hardway was able to capitalize on early momentum to haul in the No. 1 overall class at Memphis, while Tom Crean signed Anthony Edwards on his way to the No. 6 overall class at Georgia.

Michigan under Juwan Howard suddenly appears to have great momentum on the recruiting trail and could be the next program with a new coach to make a big splash. The addition of five-star Isaiah Todd, along with four-star point guard Zeb Jackson, gives the Wolverines a great duo to build around. There is some chatter that four-star center Hunter Dickinson could also end up in Ann Arbor.

Mike Young has done a terrific job recruiting since arriving at Virginia Tech. After adding two four-star prospects late in 2019, the Hokies have two more committed already in 2019 with Joe Bamisile and Darius Maddox. Mike Anderson at St. John’s and T.J. Otzelberger at UNLV also have top 30 classes right now.

There are a few programs I could see shooting up the rankings as we see more commitments come off the board. Arkansas locked in an in-state commitment earlier this week with four-star guard Davonte Davis to get the 2019 class on the board. Four-star point guard KK Robinson and four-star small forward Moses Moody head to Fayetteville this weekend as the Hawgs try to build some momentum. Along with those three, keep an eye on four-star prospects Jaylin Williams and Chris Moore potentially staying in-state at the next level.

Nate Oats only has one spot available in first full cycle at Alabama, and he’s swinging for the fences. The Crimson Tide are in deep with five-star big man Isaiah Jackson and five-star guard Nimari Burnett. If either one of those prospects pick Alabama, consider this a highly successful first class.

Lastly, let’s see what happens in Westwood over the next several months with Mick Cronin’s first class. UCLA knocked it out of the park with five-star point guard Daishen Nix, who is the best passer in the 2020 class. Josh Christopher, arguably the best scorer in the 2020 class, has the Bruins in his top five. Oregon gets the most talk, but the Bruins remain in the mix with Makur Maker. I’m really curious to see what type of success Cronin has this year and going forward.

VISITOR TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND: Bryce Thompson heads to Norman

Bryce Thompson
Bryce Thompson (https://rivals.com)

The word around Bryce Thompson throughout the summer was dominated by Kansas, but the investigation into the Jayhawks' program has opened the door for others to potentially sign the five-star guard in November. This weekend, Oklahoma gets its shot at an official visit with the in-state star after hosting him on an unofficial visit back in August.

I currently have a FutureCast pick in for Oklahoma to land Thompson. Lon Kruger has been on a pretty impressive run of signing talented guards from Buddy Hield to Trae Young and now this year De’Vion Harmon. Thompson and Harmon would form a pretty lethal backcourt in Norman should Thompson pick the Sooners.

Lastly, don’t discount Thompson’s relationship with Oklahoma commit Trey Phipps. The two have played together on both their high school team and during travel ball. Keep an eye on this one as we approach the finish line because Kansas and North Carolina are still viable options.

RECRUITING NOTE: Matthew Cleveland update

We currently have 17 prospects in the 2021 class with a five-star ranking. Once you get beyond those 17 prospects in the rankings, there probably isn’t prospect getting more recruiting attention nationally than Matthew Cleveland out of Georgia.

This week alone, he’s been on campus at California, Stanford and Georgia. NC State will have him on campus this weekend for an unofficial visit. Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and Louisville are among the other schools he’s visited already. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas have begun to show interest in the No. 35 prospect in the 2021 class.

Don’t be surprised to see that new interest turn into offers as Cleveland has a very high ceiling and does well in the classroom.

COMMITMENT(S) OF THE WEEK

We had two really big commitments go down and I can’t decide which one I like more, so let’s talk about both. When Michigan made the move to hire Howard earlier this year, I figured it wouldn’t take long for him to have great success on the recruiting trail. If you watched the Fab Five "30 for 30", the Michigan staff that recruited him said he played a big part in recruiting the other members of the Fab Five.

For that reason, I’m not surprised he was able to secure a commitment from five-star forward Isaiah Todd, but I am very impressed. Todd made a great decision because he’ll be playing for a coach that lived the life Todd wants to live as a star NBA player.

We’re over 10 years into the John Calipari era, so nobody is surprised when Kentucky receives a five-star commitment. Again, it doesn’t make it any less impressive. Assuming Devin Askew comes in as a member of the 2020 class, I love the way he will fit in alongside Terrence Clarke, B.J. Boston and Cam’Ron Fletcher on the perimeter. The rich get richer at the point guard spot in Lexington.