Basketball Recruiting - Twitter Tuesday: Duke's '21 class; UNC's next offer; Jaden Hardy
{{ timeAgo('2020-06-23 07:20:07 -0500') }} basketball Edit

Twitter Tuesday: Duke's '21 class; UNC's next offer; Jaden Hardy

In this week's Twitter Tuesday, Rivals.com Basketball Analyst Corey Evans examines Duke’s potential 2021 class, predicts the next sophomore to receive a North Carolina offer, discusses the sweepstakes for Malaki Branham and much more.

Starting Five: Northwestern's 2021 start, more transfer talk

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75


A.J. Griffin
A.J. Griffin (https://rivals.com)

I expect Duke to sign a top-five class in the fall, but I don't think the Blue Devils' 2021 class will be as large as its 2020 haul.

So far, Duke has offered six 2021 prospects and holds a commitment from five-star wing A.J. Griffin.

In the backcourt, the Blue Devils have prioritized Max Christie, Kennedy Chandler and Trevor Keels. If I had to make a prediction, I think Christie will choose Michigan State, Chandler will ink with Tennessee and Keels will either head to Villanova or Virginia. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the fall and it's never smart to count out the Blue Devils, but that's how things stand right now. The good news for Duke is that its need in the backcourt may not be as pressing if Jeremy Roach and D.J. Steward decide to stick around for more than one season.

In the frontcourt, things are promising. Charles Bediako could be the replacement for Mark Williams if Williams decides to depart after his freshman season. Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are among the others heavily involved with Bediako, but I like Duke for now. Pat Baldwin Jr. is far from a college decision but I see it coming down to Duke and Milwaukee with the Blue Devils winning out over his father’s program.

This all leads things to Paolo Banchero. I will side with Kentucky for now, but Duke is involved and I also wouldn't count out Washington or Tennessee.

Griffin, Baldwin and Bediako would be a phenomenal three-man group with one or two others found outside of the five-star territory thrown in along the way.

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MJ Rice
MJ Rice (Rivals.com)

North Carolina does not typically do a lot of look-ahead work for classes that are a year or two down the line. Instead, the Tar Heels tend to focus on what is next. In this case, that's the 2021 class. However, just as we saw with Dontrez Styles, North Carolina will make the top in-state talent a priority.

While the Tar Heels will be investing most of its attention to the 2021 class in the coming months, it is only a matter of time before they pursue MJ Rice.

Granted, Rice decided to leave the state and will attend Oak Hill Academy in the fall, but he is one of the best wing-forwards in the entire class. Rice brings tremendous toughness and versatility to the floor so finding a spot for him on any roster will not be difficult.

Maybe the Tar Heels decide to put things off with the 2022 class until a later date, hand out a bevy of others before getting to Rice, or don’t pursue him at all, but seeing that he an in-stater and possesses the proper qualities and elite talent base that Carolina continually is attracted to, Rice could be the next man up for the blue blood.

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It is not easy to nail down specifics on the state of Malaki Branham's recruitment.

It seems safe to say that Ohio State is in the mix as the Buckeyes are typically very successful with in-state prospects and Branham is from Columbus. Two other regional programs, Louisville and Xavier, are also heavily in the mix. If Branham decides to look outside of his region, Alabama would likely be the spot. The Tide have invested as much attention and interest in Branham as any program, and Alabama was one of the first programs to prioritize him last year.

A commitment date has not been set but it would come as a surprise if he does not select Alabama, Louisville, Ohio State or Xavier.

That is a great question. It is not very often that a prospect surprises everyone and does not choose the clear favorite like Josh Christopher did earlier in the spring when he committed to Arizona State over Michigan.

It is still a bit early to judge with the 2021 class, but there is one prospect that many assume is practically done for Kentucky and that is Jaden Hardy.

If Hardy were to select any program but Kentucky, it would be one of the bigger surprises in the 2021 cycle. Whenever the Wildcats offered last year, Hardy was put on commitment watch. However, here we are in June and he remains uncommitted. While he has spoken openly about his affection for Kentucky, there are more than enough layers to his recruitment that could end up pushing him elsewhere.

A Detroit native that moved to Las Vegas a few years back, Hardy is down to a final 10. He has been a West Coast priority since he began high school. Mick Cronin has made the city of Las Vegas a priority since his hiring at UCLA, while Arizona consistently is involved for the best in its region. Don’t underestimate Oregon, either, which will enroll his brother, Amauri, as a graduate-transfer in the fall. Texas Tech is now a force on the recruiting trail and Michigan, the home-state program, could receive a visit from him in the fall, too.

Add it up and there is enough competition for his services that could pull Hardy away from the Wildcats in the end. I ultimately see the five-star siding with UK, but the door is open for another program to win out.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to catch up with four-star guard Isaac McKneely who has broken out this spring despite the lack of a travel season. Holding 15 offers and counting, the college interest is well-warranted and he showed why on Saturday. Looking the part of one of the best shot-makers in the 2022 class, he is more than just a specialist but rather someone that can play on and off the ball and thinks the game at a high rate. He is reminiscent of former Texas Tech standout Matt Mooney.

I placed a FutureCast for Virginia for McKneely, but that does not equate to an imminent commitment. He is just beginning to enjoy the attention that comes with a pressure packed recruitment and while he has had the chance to visit the ACC program’s campus, there is still some time to go before he shuts things down. However, I have a feeling that he has a strong affection for the Wahoos and seeing that they are one of the closest high-majors in proximity to him, and that his high school program runs comparable offensive sets that UVA does, there are some things working in Virginia’s favor.

In the meantime, look for his suitors to pick things up and try to get McKneely to campus once allowed. Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia is among the early group that have made him a priority.

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