Recruiting primer for Late Night 2018: Who's here, why they matter & what's next
The first wave started trickling in late Thursday night and they will continue to make their way to town throughout the day Friday.
It might not be signing day — or even a signing period — but in the world of college basketball recruiting, today is about as big as it gets for the Kansas men’s basketball program.
A dozen or so prospects from the next three recruiting classes will be at Late Night tonight, taking in the scene and getting their first — or sometimes second or third — taste of what Kansas basketball is all about.
The packed house. The adoration from the fans. The wild atmosphere, with lights, fog — or is it phog? — and, of course, a Grammy-winning rapper like 2 Chainz.
All of this, and more, is what makes KU’s season tipoff event one of the most popular and celebrated throughout the country and what makes so many recruits, year after year, put this on their recruitment bucket list. They might not always come their senior years, but most of the top prospects in the country in every class try to get to Late Night at least once, be it on an official visit or an unofficial visit.
Heck, some prospects have shown up for the event even knowing they weren’t coming to Kansas just because they get five official visits and wanted to see what the buzz was all about. It might not have changed their minds, but even those guys leave in awe of the spectacle that is Late Night.
While Late Night is just one part of what goes into recruiting these players, it is among the most powerful tools the Kansas coaching staff has at its disposal for inspiring a recruit to pick Kansas. Sometimes what they experience at Late Night sticks with them for months and becomes a part of a bigger decision down the road. Other times, prospects have been so blown away by the Late Night extravaganza that they have committed to KU shortly after taking in the experience.
It’s unlikely that any of this year’s visitors will make that kind of quick-trigger decision, but there’s no doubt that the KU coaching staff is hoping that Late Night helps push them over the top for a couple of these guys.
Here’s a quick look at some of the top prospects who will be at this year’s Late Night.
• Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – 5-star forward from IMG Academy (and originally Bishop Miege High) is one of KU’s top targets in the class. He’ll get a ton of attention this weekend and even though he has been to Late Night and Allen Fieldhouse before, the vibe and love he feels tonight figures to be a whole new experience.
• James Wiseman – 5-star center from Memphis, ranked No. 2 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com. Wiseman got into town on Thursday night and there’s no doubt that he will get the same kind of love and attention that JRE receives during his visit. Most believe the race for Wiseman is down to Kentucky and Memphis, but the mere fact that he’s in town this weekend gives KU a chance. And there’s no doubt that the coaches are hoping for this year’s Late Night to be one of the best ever to help pull Wiseman closer to considering KU.
• Cassius Stanley – Somewhat quietly, this 4-star shooting guard from North Hollywood, Calif., will be one of the most important prospects in the building tonight. His athleticism is off the charts and he has good size, speed, length and all-around skills. Ranked No. 31 in the 2019 class by Rivals, Stanley is a high priority for a KU program trying to pry him away from the West Coast, where Oregon and UCLA sit as his other finalists.
• Zeke Nnaji – A new name on the visitor list, this 4-star prospect from Minnesota (perhaps best and most relevantly known as an AAU teammate of Top 10 target Matt Hurt) just recently announced that he would be in attendance and he’ll take in the action as an unofficial visitor. That basically means he won’t get as much time with the coaches — to talk about role, tour facilities and feel the love — but you can bet than Bill Self and his staff will do everything in their power to remind the 6-10, 215-pound forward that they sure wouldn’t mind seeing him and his buddy, Hurt, in crimson and blue next season. Nnaji is scheduled to be here Saturday but could make it to Late Night, as well.
• Isaac McBride – The 4-star point guard ranked No. 109 in the 2019 class by Rivals.com is down to Kansas, Auburn and Virginia, and it’s entirely possible that he stands as the most likely prospect to be swayed by the wild and crazy environment that is Late Night. So many of these guys, who are being recruited by the likes of Duke and Kentucky and North Carolina, occasionally can get used to the 5-star treatment from the blue blood programs. But in the case of McBride, as solid as Auburn and Virginia are as programs, those two schools don’t put on anything close to what Late Night can be.
• Chandler and Jonathan Lawson – The youngest brothers of current KU players Dedric and K.J. Lawson will be in town for Late Night as both supportive family members and recruits. Chandler is ranked No. 87 in the 2019 class and Jonathan a tick higher a couple of classes later. It’s still a little too early in the process to truly know where either stands with regard to KU’s spot in their plans, but it’s hard to imagine them leaving town with anything but a better impression of Kansas after taking in Late Night.
• N’Faly Dante – A 5-star, Top 10 target in the Class of 2020, the Sunrise Christian center, who will be on hand with most of his prep teammates, is a huge target for KU in the next class and will have some time to digest what he experiences at Late Night while possibly electing to make a return trip a year from now.
• Speaking of the Class of 2020, 3-star point guard Ty Berry (No. 121) and 4-star shooting guard Bryce Thompson (No. 66) also will be in attendance tonight. Both are definite KU targets more in the mold of the Frank Masons, Devonte’ Grahams and Travis Relefords of the world, as multi-year, program guys, than the Top 10, elite-type talents that may only be in Lawrence for one season. Both are equally important in the recruiting game, however, as Self has shown a strong ability to blend three- and four-year guys with one-and-dones in putting together his best teams.
• Last, but certainly not least, is 4-star shooting guard Christian Braun, of nearby Blue Valley Northwest High. Fresh off of his oral commitment to KU, the local prospect will make Late Night will be his first Kansas-associated event since committing, which should give him a whole new outlook and appreciation for the place and his decision.