Three-Point Play: Checking in on the top three 2020 classes
We are in the heart of conference play for the 2019-20 season and it’s a great time to look at top recruiting classes and how they will help to address needs that have become even more obvious. Today in Three-Point-Play, a look at the current top three classes in the country, if they’re adequately addressing needs and who the most important player in the class is.
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Currently ranked as the top class in the country, there is no shortage of firepower headed to Lexington next year. Future Wildcats Terrence Clarke, B.J. Boston, Isaiah Jackson and Devin Askew are all currently ranked as five-star prospects while Lance Ware and Isaiah Jackson are each near the top end of the four-star spectrum. By any measure it is a tremendous class.
Does it address all the needs that John Calipari’s program has? Yes, for the most part.
What’s difficult with assessing any Kentucky class at this point is that we still don’t know exactly who is going pro or who will be back. This year is even tougher because the NBA decisions don’t appear to be as cut and dried as usual. We know Nate Sestina is gone, he’s a senior. It’s fair to assume freshman Tyrese Maxey is gone and junior big man Nick Richards is helping himself out quite a bit of late. Those guys leaving clears room for the six guys coming in, but who else will go? After all, the Cats are surely still recruiting – five-star forward Greg Brown was in town over the weekend -- like they’ll have more spots open up.
The biggest need I see for Kentucky is more shooters and they get that with this class. Askew, Boston and Clarke are all dangerous shooters from deep. They also get a rim protector in Jackson who can really run the floor. Maybe what is still most lacking is a physical post to take up space, provide more rim protection and to gobble up tough rebounds on the interior. A guy like target Cliff Omoruyi could be perfect for that type of role.
As for the most important player in the class? In my opinion it’s Boston. He’s been brilliant during his senior season and the fact that he can stretch defenses, plays with superior confidence on the offensive end and now handles the ball well enough to create for others makes him the most indispensable guy in the class.
The owners of the second-ranked class in the country, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are in a position where they could still have some work to do. They have a six-man class that features a pair of five-stars in Jalen Johnson and Jeremy Roach along with four four-star prospects who rank between No. 32 and No. 45 nationally in D.J. Steward, Jaemyn Brakefield, Mark Williams and Henry Coleman.
However, the Blue Devils may still have work to do. Depending on who stays and goes, they could be looking at returning as few as four scholarship players next season. Notably, though, it’s highly unlikely that either sophomore point guard Tre Jones or freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. is back next season, so they could easily add at least one more if it is the right guy. The No. 1 prospect in 2021, Jonathan Kuminga’s name has been getting thrown around with them quite a bit as has another 2021 prospect, four-star center Charles Bediako.
Now fully healthy, Roach has been terrific as a senior and looks like a good replacement for Jones. Replacing Carey, well, that’s not going to be so easy. Williams is a seven-foot shot-blocker who has made strides, but he’s not near the offensive force Carey is and with Javin Delaurier leaving too, the Blue Devils are going to have to get post scoring by committee next season. So, if there’s one big need remaining it could be another big.
Most important player in the class? At the beginning of the year I would have debated between Roach and Johnson. However, now after getting multiple looks at Steward, I think he’s the guy. He is lightning quick, will be a good secondary ball-handler and has turned into a deadly three-point shooter. However, he’s got leaderships qualities and does so many other little things. I also expect that he should be on campus for at least a couple of years and big time talents who bring stability like Steward should, are worth their weight in gold and it’s why he’s the guy who is their most irreplaceable piece.
3. NORTH CAROLINA
Thank goodness for a No. 3 recruiting class being on the way. Because without five-stars Day’Ron Sharpe, Caleb Love and Walker Kessler along with four-stars R.J. Davis and Puff Johnson headed to North Carolina next season, things might be looking pretty bleak in Chapel Hill.
A little bit of a dip in their usual talent level and injuries – particularly to freshmen guards Cole Anthony and Anthony Harris – have proven too much to overcome as Roy Williams and the Heels have fallen to 8-8 overall and just 1-4 in the ACC after losing seven of their last nine.
Basically, the Heels need a little bit of everything. They will be loaded on the front line next year when they add Sharpe and Kessler. Assuming guys like Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot are back, few will be able to match their size. A sniper from deep, Davis will absolutely help address their need for a shooter and both Johnson and Kessler should be valuable in that regard too. They could use another wing scorer, but there would have to be a departure for them to add another player.
Pretty clearly, there is no player more important to the class than Love. With Anthony out, somebody to handle point guard duties and create for others has been a major issue for the Heels and Love is going to have to be ready to step in and play. It’s going to be an interesting transition for him too because as a senior, he’s spending much of his time off the ball due to the makeup of his high school team. He can defend the point, he can handle and he can get to the rim, but no matter how talented he is there’s going to be a learning curve to playing the one full-time. How quickly he adapts is going to be massively important.