Top 40 PF, Zeke Nnaji, trims list to 5 finalists, will visit KU this weekend
This past weekend was a big recruiting period for the Kansas men’s basketball program, with several official and unofficial visitors making their way to Lawrence for last Friday’s Late Night in the Phog season tipoff.
And while each of those recruits made some kind of news with their presence and reactions, one of the biggest bits of recruiting movement over the weekend came late Sunday night, when four-star big man Zeke Nnaji narrowed his list to five and kept KU on it after an unofficial visit with the Jayhawks over the weekend.
“I’ve visited great schools, been recruited by awesome programs and gotten to know amazing coaches,” Nnaji began in his announcement on Twitter. “But the time has come for me to select my Top 5: Arizona, Baylor, UCLA, Kansas, Purdue.”
The news is significant on the recruiting front for a couple of reasons. For one, the 6-10, 215-pound power forward is a legit Top 40 player (ranked No. 37 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com) and has been a steady riser on the radar of college coaches during the past several months.
For two, Nnaji, a four-star forward, and five-star prospect Matt Hurt (ranked No. 6 overall) played on the same AAU program and some analysts believe that being in favor with one could help with both.
Regardless of what happens with Hurt, who remains one of KU’s absolute top targets in the 2019 class, Nnaji appears to be worth recruiting all on his own. That much was obvious last month, when several programs, including KU, made in-home visits with Nnaji. Here’s what the big man had to say about welcoming KU shortly after the visit.
“Coach Self came in for an in-home visit on the same day Kentucky came through so that was just crazy to have two legendary coaches in my house,” Nnaji told Rivals.com’s Krysten Peek. “With Kansas, coach Self was just telling me how he coached Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid at the same time and made it work. You can have a top recruiting class come in and he was saying how he makes it work every year. They’re a great program...”
With good size, athleticism and length and an offensive game that is continuing to evolve, many believe Nnaji could wind up playing and paying off at a level much higher than he currently is ranked.
According to Peek, the Minnesota native plans to make a decision in late November and will start taking official visits this month. Given the fact that prospects get five official visits, it would make perfect sense for Nnaji to visit all five of his finalists before making a decision.
Outside of which programs are on the list, the biggest news here, at least in my mind, is that Kentucky did not crack his Top 5. For one, Kansas and Kentucky came in on Nnaji a little late and about the same time. For two, I’ve read reports that UK had made a big impression on Nnaji, so seeing that KU made an even bigger impression has to be considered a good sign for the Jayhawks.
There’s still plenty of work to be done and Kansas is still in the mix for a lot of other talented players in the 2019 class. But, at least with Nnaji, the clock is ticking and the next few weeks figure to be huge.
One last wrinkle in the Nnaji recruitment, his sister, Maya, was also in Lawrence over the weekend and she posted on Twitter her appreciation for receiving a scholarship offer from KU along with a picture of her and Kansas coach Brandon Schneider.
Don’t get too excited there, though. Kansas is just playing catch-up with Arizona and Purdue, two of Nnaji’s final 5 who already had offered a scholarship to Maya, a rising prospect in the Class of 2022.
Adam Zagoria Tweeted on Monday afternoon that Nnaji's father laid out for him the dates of the 4-star forward's official visits. It looks like KU is up first.... this weekend.
Kansas - Oct. 5-7
Arizona - Oct. 12-14
UCLA - Oct. 19-21
Baylor - Oct. 26-28
Purdue - Nov. 2-4
Zagoria also said that the plan, as of now, is for Nnaji to make a decision "around" Nov. 24. What's interesting about that is, the early signing period for Division I basketball runs from Nov. 14-21. So if Nnaji waits until the 24th to make a decision, he'll have to wait until April 2019 to actually sign with the school he picks.
He could, of course, sign the papers before announcing the decision, which has happened plenty of places, including KU, during the past several years.
Time will tell. For now, the Jayhawks will focus their efforts on getting him and worrying about the ink and paper at a later date.