Wednesday's Leftovers: JT Thor, Emoni Bates, Shaka's future
Small conference tournaments are about to begin, but the high-majors have another game or two before they can fight for postseason honors. In the meantime, the recruiting world continues to evolve as we answer more of your questions in this week’s Wednesday’s Leftovers. Some of those include Oklahoma State’s chances with JT Thor, early suitors for Emoni Bates, Shaka Smart’s job security, and the many options allotted to five-star junior Harrison Ingram.
I will be the first to say that I am surprised by my response but it is slim. Back in the fall, JT Thor was thought to be all but a done deal for Oklahoma State. The Pokes were on the cusp of landing Cade Cunningham and the lingering belief was that if the now top-ranked senior were to commit to OSU, Thor would immediately follow.
Of course, that has not played out. The discourse between Thor and OSU has dwindled throughout the winter months. They remain in the picture and recent talk of Thor skipping college entirely has dissipated, but it looks like the Cowboys are more enticed by the idea of landing a shot-maker or two before completing its 2020 class. That is not to say they would turn down Thor’s commitment but rather that someone like Donovan Williams, who will visit OSU on March 20, or a transfer, might be the route they take.
Prior to the hiring of Juwan Howard, the Wolverines were not entirely involved with Bates. Michigan State was the primary school that had invested any sort of interest in him. That changed once Howard took over. In the fall, Bates took an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor and last month, was on hand for a Michigan home game. For Bates’ season-opener, Howard and his fellow Fab Five teammate, Jalen Rose, were courtside. They wouldn’t have invested this type of interest in him if there wasn’t a real chance that Bates would be open to the Big Ten program.
What this comes down to is whether the one-and-done rule is actually erased for members of the 2022 class and if he decides he would rather player in college compared to, what some recent prep stars have begun to do, and that is play a year overseas before entering the NBA Draft.
For where things currently sit, Michigan and Michigan State are the likeliest landing spots for Bates thanks to the in-state ties and their early investment in recruiting the phenom.
Recent information that I have been able to gather is that Shaka Smart will remain at Texas and, if that is the case, there is reason for optimism. Not a single member of the program is set to graduate after the season and while there could be a transfer or two this spring, UT will return a collection of talent that could allow for it to compete for a league title next year. Even better, a cooler seat for Smart means an even better chance with top-10 forward Greg Brown.
Throw Brown onto Texas’ squad next year, add a capable shot-maker in the mold of Donovan Williams or Kerwin Walton, and an actually healthy roster, something that UT has not had under Smart since his undertaking, and the Horns might be on the uptick heading into next season. Of course, things could change between now and then, but with his kids playing hard and an NCAA Tournament berth within grasp, Smart could see a sixth year in Austin.
Yes, and the mutual interest was reflected further last week whenever Harrison Ingram took an official visit to Purdue. Not many had invested as much time and attention towards recruiting the five-star prospect before his national breakout than Purdue and that is not forgotten on Ingram’s end.
What boosts Purdue’s chances is Ingram’s desire to not only find an appropriate basketball home, but also one that can afford a strong set of academics. It is also why Stanford is perceived as one of the leaders within his recruitment. He first took an official visit in the fall and has remained in steady contact with the Cardinal’s staff since.
Purdue and Stanford are two of his top suitors, while Kansas, Memphis and Texas Tech are a few others to monitor, but no one has picked up more ground within his recruitment this winter than North Carolina. The Heels first hosted him last month for its game against Duke before offering him a week later. The interest is strong on both ends. If anyone can pull him away from the two highly respected academic schools, it is North Carolina.
Michigan could go a number of ways with how it goes about filling its point guard need in the 2021 class. They will lose Xavier Simpson to graduation this spring and next year, will see Eli Brooks graduate, so it is definitely important that the Wolverines hit the mark at the point guard position in the coming years.
Missing on Khristian Lander last week was a blow but it was not a death curse. Instead, the Wolverines are sneakily in the mix for Kennedy Chandler. Yes, it may be difficult to beat Duke, Kentucky and Tennessee, amongst others, but Michigan will have a chance, though a decision from the top-rated lead guard is not expected until after the travel season but before his high school campaign.
Jaden Akins is another that Michigan has their eye on and it seems that it could be an in-state battle between the Wolverines and Michigan State for him.. There is always Max Christie, too, who Michigan continues to recruit.
Either way, I wouldn’t get too worried about missing on Lander. It would have been a great pick-up, but with what Michigan has been able to achieve of late, it should be more than okay with how it fills such a need.