Ranking the Contenders: Jalen Warley
Jalen Warley announced himself on the national scene over the winter with a breakout season playing with the Westtown School, the same high school that Mo Bamba, Cam Reddish and Brandon Randolph graduated from.
A do-it-all, 6-foot-5 guard, Warley is the face of modern-day basketball. Someone that can pass, dribble and shoot, but is more than capable of guarding all three spots along the perimeter, the top-5 point guard has become a target for some of the more prominent programs nationwide.
After taking official visits to Creighton and Marquette during his junior year, neither team made his final 10 last month. Sorting out who the leaders are and who is in catch-up mode has not been easy, but there is a group that should feel better for where they sit compared to others.
Virginia offered Warley and just a week later, was included within his final list, which goes to show what he thinks of the program. A perfect fit for Tony Bennett’s system and exactly what he looks for in an individual off the floor, there are not better matches in the 2021 class for UVA than Warley.
Now, getting him to see it that way and pushing things over the top is the final objective on the minds of Bennett and his staff. Warley has never visited and may have to commit sight unseen due to the ongoing pandemic. Could Warley be the next Malcolm Brogdon-type for the Cavs? Time will tell, but Virginia is in a prime spot.
The Wolverines have already plugged a number of holes in its backcourt this summer thanks to the commitments of Isaiah Barnes and Kobe Bufkin. However, it would love to add another ballhandling guard, which is why Michigan remains heavily involved with Warley.
The ace up the sleeve is assistant coach Phil Martelli, the former St. Joe’s head coach that tutored Warley’s father and uncle during their own playing days on Hawk Hill. Could Martelli keep the bloodlines intact to an extent and pull Warley out of his old stomping grounds and bring him to Ann Arbor? There is a chance, which is why Michigan is Virginia’s greatest competitor for Warley at the moment.
It all comes down to distance. Is Warley willing to leave his home base in eastern Philadelphia for Eugene, Oregon?
The Ducks have done tremendous work on the east coast with its most recent recruiting win coming in the form of former five-star wing Lou King. Oregon will have plenty of holes to fill along its perimeter after the season, which Warley should be more than capable of helping fill due to his well-rounded approach. The Ducks have a lot of room to make up but they are among the top teams under consideration for the versatile guard.
Earl Timberlake will enroll at Miami this fall and Jim Larranaga would love nothing more than to bring his former travel program teammate to south Florida for his own college career. Distance could be a factor with the ongoing pandemic in mind, which has made things more regionalized of late, but if Warley were to play in the ACC and it not be at Virginia, it would happen at Miami.
The Tigers are playing from behind with Warley, but have picked up some traction with the top-20 standout. Memphis will have a number of needs after the season and while no one is set to graduate, depending upon the type of year they each have, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones and DJ Jeffries could all be gone for the NBA.
Memphis did draw Quinones and Precious Achiuwa out of New Jersey and are hoping to create a stronger pipeline with the region. They are involved with John Camden and Sam Ayomide, two Rivals150 prospects and close friends with Warley, in which Penny Hardaway would love nothing more than to bring the trio to Memphis next fall.
6. FLORIDA STATE
Don’t sleep on Florida State. While the Seminoles have already struck twice in the backcourt with each coming in the top-50 variety, Leonard Hamilton has become known for relying upon his jumbo lead guards to run his FSU outfit. Terance Mann and Trent Forrest were the recent standouts to fill such a role and Hamilton would love for Warley to be next.
There is some ground to make-up on Florida State’s part but with two down, Hamilton and his staff can invest more time in the recruitment of the four-star guard. They may not land him and could go with Josh Minott instead, but it is never safe to count out the Noles with a top target.