The fall signing period is officially over and some programs will singing praise while others might be worried for their future. The Cinderella story of this year would have to be the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Despite going 18-15 in 2015-2016 (8-10 in the conference), 2nd year coach Avery Johnson scored two 5-star commits in Collin Sexton and John Petty. Sexton and Petty joined 4-star Alex Reese and 3-star’s Herb Jones and Galin Smith. The Kentucky Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils also scored big, but that’s expected.
Here is my breakdown of (some of) the top recruits that committed this fall and what this means for their programs:
DeAndre Ayton: University of Arizona
The Phoenix native decided to stay in the Grand Canyon State despite getting offers from top programs Kansas and Kentucky. This kid is putting up numbers most players only ever dream of. However, there’s still speculation over Ayton’s eligibility so hopefully the Wildcats don’t miss out on such a stellar athlete. He’s also a very young guy; if he were to enter the 2017 Draft-as many still think he would because he is a Bahamas native and would be eligible- he would be a month away from his 19th Sure, entering the draft at a young age benefited some players, but not everyone is LeBron; they’re not born dunking on a 10-foot hoop right after coming out the womb. I see Arizona being a place for DeAndre to shine.
Gary Trent Jr.: Duke
With the great possibility that Grayson Allen enters the draft after this season, Duke picked up a great recruit in this shooting guard. Once a UK target, Trent is trying to bring a few other UK targets, Mohamed Bomba and Kevin Knox, to Cameron Indoor, in hopes of lifting them to the No. 1 recruiting class of the year. Even if he succeeds, it’s going to be hard to reach his goal of getting a national championship if Duke doesn’t get a solid point guard.
Wendell Carter: Duke
Oh, Wendell. The Duke commit from Atlanta released a James Bond-style video to announce his commitment to the rest of the country. If you haven’t seen it and you enjoy unnecessary theatrics, then I suggest giving it a look. Regardless, the kid is good and easily the best that Duke could get. He played for Team CP3, an AAU team sponsored by the Clippers and Chris Paul, alongside future teammate Harry Giles III. Carter is also, for lack of a better term, a genius. He’s taking honors calculus this year and has a 3.6 GPA while trying to defend his two-time state titles. To put this in perspective, I took pre-calc when I was his age and cried every day because it was too hard.
Collin Sexton: Alabama
The Georgia native now bleeds Crimson and the Tide of Alabama gained their second 5-star commit to round out their 2017 recruiting class. In my opinion, this could easily be the best class Bama has had in a while. Back in May, Sexton scored 44 in an EYBL Atlanta game against Auburn commit Davion Mitchell. But here’s the thing: he wasn’t even a ranked recruit then. His experience with the USA U17 team is how he got his name out there. He received a late invitation and barely stood a chance of making the team but eventually went on to win MVP during his first international competition. If he can improve that much over the course of a summer, I can’t imagine what he can do when he joins his teammates in Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide
Billy Preston: University of Kansas
The only five-star pickup by the Jayhawks and the Los Angeles native is ready to shine under Coach Self. Per Bill Self himself, he has “guard-type athletic ability and skills but…he can be a force inside as well.” He’s also going to be the tallest guy on the roster, adding a little depth to a team that seems to be struggling this season. Coach Self has been recruiting Preston since his 8th grade year so they developed a relationship over the years, which played a role in his decision. There are a few questions regarding his eligibility but as Kansas proved last year, they have no problem with getting those resolved.
Nick Richards: University of Kentucky
One of Kentucky’s two five-stars, this New York native turned down offers from Arizona, Villanova, Oklahoma, UCLA, Indiana, UCONN, and Syracuse so he could call Rupp Arena home. Kentucky was the only school he visited, so it was a no brainer that he was going to follow in the footsteps of numerous great Kentucky centers like DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. In the Peach Jam AAU Tournament (where numerous of these recruits played), he averaged 12.2 points and 12.8 rebounds. His scoring is low compared to other players but his defense is going to be key for Kentucky’s success. His 7’3” wingspan will help this team reach new heights.
PJ Washington: University of Kentucky
UNLV fans were disappointed when the Findlay Prep senior committed to a school they could never compete with. The UK commit plays for his father, Paul Washington, at Findlay, and there was potential for the two to become Rebels together. Washington got his list down to UK, North Carolina, and Arizona, but the Wildcats won out. Like Richards, I’m sure he simply wanted to play at a school that produces talent after one season. I just hope he’ll consider staying for a second year.
Kris Wilkes: UCLA
Hoosier fans were devastated to hear that the Indianapolis native was headed out west to another historic program. Yet another Mr. Basketball that IU has missed out on for the past five years (the last commit being Cody Zeller in 2011). However, coming from a Hoosier fan, the state of Indiana is excited to see what this kid can do. Not only is he playing for Coach Steve Alford, 1983 Mr. Indiana Basketball, but he’s playing for Coach Steve Alford, 1986 National Champion for the Indiana Hoosiers. These two will be bleeding Cream and Crimson and UCLA Blue and gold while honoring the history of both Bob Knight and John Wooden. With UCLA freshmen TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball (who, by the way, is AWESOME), and sophomore Aaron Holiday, and now Wilkes, the Bruins are shaping up to be the best they have in years.
Jalek Felton: UNC
The Tar Heels are going to be excited about this four-star commit, especially with losing seniors Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Nate Britt after this season *fights back tears*. With these guys leaving, it feels as though the Marcus Paige era is truly over, but that means one thing…who will step up and fill the gaps left behind by these Tar Heel greats? My magic eight ball tells me that Felton is going to be the guy. He committed over two years ago, and has one goal: to win a national championship. He told USA Today that he’s been donning the Carolina Blue since he was five and felt a family atmosphere during his first unofficial visit; looks like we have that in common. I can tell that this kid chose to be a Tar Heel not because it would be a pit stop on his way to the NBA but because he truly loves the program. Also, he responded to my tweet to him so he automatically tops my list.
John Petty: Alabama
He was the first from the Class of 2017 to receive an offer from Coach Calipari but it turns out this kid likes the Crimson Tide over Big Blue Nation (so would I, but that’s a story for another day). The Hunstville native is the reigning Mr. Basketball and is just one of the many positives to Alabama’s future as a top men’s basketball program. This is not the only in-state commit for the Tide, he’s joined by Alex Reese and Herb Jones, a good sign for Coach Johnson and his ability to keep guys close to home. I see a great relationship building between Petty and Coach Johnson, one that could lead to numerous benefits even after Petty is gone.