In one of the most spectacular Early Signing Period afternoons ever in the history of college basketball recruiting, four of the nation’s top six prospects pledged their allegiances on Friday. We break down the commits with some quick analysis.
When the nation’s top ranked prospect announces his college intentions and it isn’t the biggest news of the hour, you know it’s a day to remember in the short-memory world of college basketball recruiting.
Small forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), the No. 1 ranked prospect according to the Hoop Scoop, announced during an early signing period special on ESPNU that he would attend Arizona. Johnson, whose led Mater Dei to three consecutive California state titles and whose performances during the NCAA summer viewing period vaulted him to the top spot, chose Arizona over Kentucky and USC.
“I liked everything about the school overall,” Johnson told a national audience. “They have been recruiting me since my freshmen year. I liked the straight up, genuine nature of their coaches. I wanted a feeling of family and that’s what I got with Arizona.”
Another factor in the decision was Johnson’s mother, Karen, who because of health issues told StudentSportsBasketball.com on more than one occasion she was wary of her son attending Kentucky or another school far away from their home in Fullerton, Calif. It would have made it much more difficult for her to see her son play in person.
Johnson’s choice to attend Arizona also made sense because Johnson has played for the Oakland Soldiers’ grassroots program for two summers and the Arizona staff has done a good job recruiting players from that program. Two years ago it was Brandon Ashley from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) via Oakland and last year it was Mr. Basketball USA finalist Aaron Gordon of Mitty (San Jose, Calif.).
“Playing with Aaron really got me pumped up and helped me improve my game,” Johnson said.”
Tyus Jones of Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), the No. 4 ranked prospect and his good friend Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young (Chicago), ranked No. 6, announced for Duke. It was the least surprising of the four decisions made on Friday.
“We chose together, one really didn’t influence the decision more than the other,” Jones said. “We went to the best fit to make an impact our freshman year.”
Jones and Okafor have known each other since third grade.
“We reconnected our friendship as freshmen, and it went from there,” Okafor said. “This decision gives us the best opportunity to win. He’s like my best friend, like a brother to me, and he’s someone I’d like to go to college with even if it weren’t for basketball.”
No. 3 Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago) chose the University of Kansas over Illinois in what some analysts considered a surprise decision. Alexander is sometimes overshadowed by Okafor locally and on the grassroots scene (they both played for the Mac Irvin Fire), but Alexander might have the most upside of the lot of four.
Kansas coach Bill Self had done a remarkable job of inking his top target as the Jayhawks’ head coach. Alexander has to like the way Kansas has marketed and brought along Andrew Wiggins, last year’s Mr. Basketball USA who will enter next year’s NBA Draft. Alexander would’ve had more pressure to carry the load and make Illinois a major factor, whereas joining Kansas is an easier transition to the college game.
Earlier in the day, Quentin Snider, a 6-2 point guard from Ballard (Louisville, Ky.) and the nation’s No. 20 ranked prospect, decided to commit to Louisville after giving an early commit to the Cardinals then making a decommit. He gave a verbal to Illinois, but then on Friday morning decided to sign with the original school he committed to.
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