A quick look at some top KU basketball recruiting targets as July continues to heat up
When it comes to recruiting the Class of 2019, it has long been evident that local prospect turned IMG Academy senior Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is at the tippy top of the Kansas basketball wish list.
But with more uncertainty surrounding who will stay and who will go following the 2018-19 college season, the KU coaching staff continues to recruit the 2019 class with intensity, hoping to add Robinson-Earl and a couple of other elite prospects to go with him.
Kansas already has a commitment from Class of 2019 point guard Markese Jacobs — a Chicago prospect ranked No. 91 by Rivals.com — but could add as many as three or four more players before things are finalized next spring.
With the recently wrapped-up Peach Jam, Adidas Gauntlet and Under Armour Challenge in the rearview mirror and a couple of AAU weekends on the docket for Lawrence on the horizon, let’s jump into a little game of who’s hot and who’s hottest on the college basketball recruiting trail as it pertains to Kansas basketball.
First, a look back.
According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Corey Evans, it was 5-star, Class of 2019 forward Precious Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound power forward from St. Benedict’s in Newark, N.J., who took home the title of “most impressive” player at last week’s Peach Jam.
Currently ranked No. 8 overall on the Rivals’ Top 150, Evans wrote that Achiuwa cemented his status as a Top 10 player in the class with his play at the UA Challenge. According to Evans, Achiuwa shot 60 percent for the weekend, got to the free-throw line more than 40 times in five games and also showed great body control and the ability to slash as much as he used his size and comfort inside to do damage, as well.
According to Rivals, the Jayhawks have offered Achiuwa, joining a dozen other schools in hard pursuit of the five-star forward to this point. Others who have offered include: UConn, UMass, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pitt, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Syracuse and VCU.
Speaking of a player who impressed at the UA Challenge, five-star shooting guard Josh Green, a 6-5, 185-pound wing from IMG Academy, also delivered a solid showing, particularly from the perimeter.
“Green's talent has never been questioned, but his ability to consistently make shots has,” Evans wrote. “Those concerns were put to bed quickly Thursday morning as he made three consecutive perimeter jumpers during a personal 13-point run. Green is the total package on the perimeter as there is not much that he cannot do. Whether you want dunks, dimes, boards or steals, Green can do it all, which makes him one of the best that the 2019 class can offer.”
Green is currently ranked No. 10 in the Rivals 150 in the Class of 2019 and Kansas has offered and continues to pay close attention to his progress.
Five-star point guard Josiah James, of Charleston, S.C., also had a good weekend at the UA Challenge, which was well timed given KU coach Bill Self’s appearance at a couple of his games.
James, a 6-6, 190-pound point guard, plays an unselfish brand of basketball and is long and strong like a handful of KU’s best guards from the past.
According to Evans, James is likely on Self’s radar for one reason.
“Where his greatest value comes to light is on the defensive end,” Evans wrote. “A multi-positional defender to the core, James has the chance to guard up to four spots at the college level. He has the awareness, length, strength and smarts to (be) an immediate all-league defender candidate that remains one of the best in his 2019 class.”
James is ranked No. 11 overall by Rivals.com in the 2019 class, and it's not hard to visualize him in a future KU backcourt as one of two or even three combo guards playing major minutes the way Frank Mason III, Devonte' Graham and Wayne Selden Jr. did in recent years.
Over at the Peach Jam event in North Augusta, S.C., Rivals analyst Eric Bossi offered up insight on some of the most elite players in the 2019 class.
Cole Anthony, a 6-2, 180-pound, five-star point guard from New York, who is the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony and also played for Self on the U18 USA Basketball team last month, continued to establish himself as one of the top point guards in the 2019 class.
Ranked No. 2 overall, Anthony wowed with his burst, speed, athleticism and competitiveness.
“I don't need to remind everybody how good Anthony is,” Bossi wrote. “We all know it and nobody is disputing it. What we all want to know, is who has a legitimate shot at landing him?”
Kansas certainly would like to be in that mix and Self’s time with Anthony and USA Basketball certainly did not hurt. Self played Anthony a ton — the third most minutes of any player on the team at the six-game tourney — and started him in five of the six games Team USA played en route to winning gold.
Anthony, meanwhile, was Team USA’s third-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game and was second on the team with 25 assists, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and getting to the free-throw line 21 times.
“I’ve talked to Bill Self a few times, I love the program,” Anthony told Bossi last weekend. “He’s obviously done a really good job, he’s a Hall of Fame coach. I’m a fan, I’m a fan of his right now.”
So where does Bossi see Anthony’s recruitment headed?
“Kentucky and Duke get thrown around as possible teams to beat,” Bossi wrote. “Oregon, North Carolina, Kansas, Wake Forest, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Louisville and pretty much anybody else that you can think of is also thrown out there. … The best myself or anybody else can do right now is speculate and that's all it is for now because the Anthony group is running a tight ship with no leaks. Don't look for a decision anytime soon either and look for his recruitment to last into the spring of 2019.”
Of Anthony, Bossi added: "During his final run in North Augusta, Anthony was good for 26.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game to back up his status as the most productive player in the class of 2019. The recruiting world can't wait to see who he ends up seriously considering because he'll be a difference-maker wherever he lands."
And then there’s Matthew Hurt, the five-star versatile forward who also played for Self on Team USA, finishing as the team’s fourth-leading scorer, a tick behind Anthony and just ahead of Robinson-Earl on the balanced gold medal team.
Hurt was in New York playing in the Adidas Gauntlet event last weekend and he continued to show the things that have made him one of the hottest targets in the class during the past several months.
He fills up a stat sheet with his ability to score all over the floor and continues to showcase something new just about every time he takes the floor. That’s what has coaches so excited about his potential at the college level, as evident by the lineup of guys who watched him last weekend.
According to Bossi, Self was joined by Coach K and John Calipari to watch Hurt last Sunday and that power trio was flanked by assistants from North Carolina, Indiana, in-state hopeful Minnesota and Memphis.
“Though Hurt has never announced a true list, those seven plus UCLA are likely the most viable competitors for his services at this point,” wrote Bossi, who added that Hurt has not scheduled any official visits and plans to get through July, take a family vacation later this summer and begin plans for visits in September after his family’s trip.
While very few of those players — if any — will be in Lawrence the next couple of weekends for the two-session Hardwood Classic, several other KU targets in the next handful of classes will compete at the event July 19-22 and July 26-29 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence in Rock Chalk Park.
In all, more than 250 teams — including five from the Nike EYBL circuit — will attract coaches from all of the country’s major programs during the next two weekends, making Lawrence as hot a spot as any in the country for college basketball recruiting for the rest of the month.