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McDonald's Nuggets: Tennessee, Clemson, Commit of the Week

Rick Barnes
Rick Barnes (AP Images)

Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition includes thoughts on what Rick Barnes has built at Tennessee, a big week at Clemson, a visitor to watch and the Commit of the Week.

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2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Tennessee is building a top class

Nobody is surprised to see Duke sitting at No. 1 overall in the team recruiting rankings for the 2020 class, and it isn’t really a shocker to see Kentucky and North Carolina right behind the Blue Devils. The school that comes next might catch some off guard, however, as the Tennessee Volunteers are putting together one of the best classes in the country.

If you have been reading this column from the start, you know I’m a big fan of how Rick Barnes has gradually built up Tennessee. It started with signing under-the-radar talents such as Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone. The Volunteers identified them as prospects with room to grow that also had the toughness they desire in their players. Their development took them from a 16-16 team in 2016-17 season to a 25-8 team in 2017-18 and one that finished 29-5 last season.

Now that Tennessee has been built back up to one of the top programs in the SEC, Barnes and his staff are back to being in the mix for some of the best players in the country, but they haven’t changed the type of player they are targeting. The Volunteers have commitments from five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson and four-star forward Corey Walker Jr. While those players are more talented and highly recruited than the prospects Tennessee signed in Barnes’ first couple classes, they still possess the toughness that fits the program. Good times are ahead for Tennessee’s basketball program.

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RECRUITING NOTE: Huge week for Clemson

Brad Brownell and his staff woke up Wednesday morning with two scholarships to fill and no commitments in the fold. They went to bed Thursday night with both scholarships taken and in a big way with the additions of four-star, in-state big man P.J. Hall and four-star Canada native Olivier-Maxence Prosper.

For the majority of his recruitment, many thought Hall would end up at Florida. His sister is currently playing for the Gators volleyball team and Mike White’s staff locked in on him early. Clemson stayed in the mix, though, as Florida filled up and also fended off a long-standing relationship between Hall and the Virginia Tech staff. Hall’s combination of size and skill will make him an early impact player for the Tigers. Prosper is more of a combo-forward type who brings a ton of versatility to the table.

The big advantage here for the Tigers is the coaching staff can now turn its focus to competing in the always-tough ACC. From a recruiting perspective, they can get a head start on filling the three scholarships they will likely have in the 2021 class.

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VISITOR TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND: Isaiah Jackson visits Alabama

Alabama’s new staff under Nate Oats has arrived in Tuscaloosa looking to recruit some of the best players in the country. With only one scholarship, the Crimson Tide are swinging for the fences with that spot. This weekend, five-star big man Isaiah Jackson takes his official visit to Alabama and the Crimson Tide appear to have some momentum in his recruitment.

Jackson has been focused on Alabama, Kentucky and Syracuse for some time now. Kentucky and Syracuse already hosted the Michigan native for official visits, so Alabama gets the last shot at swaying him its way. Don’t sleep on Oats’ connections in the state of Michigan. He was a highly successful high school coach in the state before moving up to the college level. If he’s able to lure Jackson to Tuscaloosa, it would be one of the bigger upsets in the 2020 cycle and one of the more impactful commitments in the class.

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COMMIT OF THE WEEK: R.J. Davis to North Carolina

Roy Williams has been on fire on the recruiting trail for the past month. The Tar Heels locked down three five-star recruits coming into this week in Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler and Caleb Love. On Monday, North Carolina scored once again with a commitment from four-star guard R.J. Davis. He might be the lowest ranked of the commitments, but don’t discount the impact he’ll have in Chapel Hill. The 6-foot lead guard is a really talented scorer and also a capable distributor. I love the idea of pairing him up with Love in the back court like the Tar Heels did with Joel Berry and Marcus Paige. North Carolina has four-star wing Kerwin Walton coming in this weekend for an official visit this weekend to potentially fill out a really solid class for Williams.

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