On Campus: Weekend of Sept. 20

This weekend's crop of visitors features some extremely important visits for high-majors that have yet to notch a big win with the Class of 2015. Along with that, of course, in other scenarios the rich aim to get richer.


Sampson tours hometown Bayou Country

Despite the fact that he plays his high school ball in Baton Rouge, La., the LSU Tigers haven't necessarily struck a chord as the heavy frontrunner for top-60 wing Brandon Sampson (pictured above).

But LSU, which already holds a pledge from elite senior forward Ben Simmons, aims to make a ferocious push up the SEC ladder can't rely solely on Simmons — who, let's be honest, is likely to play just one season — to be responsible for its sustained success.

I wrote earlier this week that the SEC has improved its situation markedly top to bottom thanks to several strong 2015 hauls, and the Tigers must strike now in order to maintain the pace.

Sampson doesn't appear close to a decision, but obviously LSU would love to blow him away and lock up another blue-chip senior this November.

Diallo heads to Lawrence

Among elite seniors, fewer recruitments have been more difficult to track than that of Cheick Diallo. A native of Mali, it's understandable that Diallo's thought process may be more abstract and deliberate than that of your average American hoopster.

Diallo's journey this weekend takes him to Kansas, which boasts an outstanding track record for recruiting — and developing — big man. The slightly undersized (6-9), yet long armed, athletic and very aggressive center fits how Bill Self's Jayhawks like to play, and KU will attempt to make a strong impression and deliver some clarity to a player who's also courting Kentucky and others.

Kansas has yet to strike in the senior class but is deeply involved with several of the country's best prospects, Diallo chiefly being among them.

Illini hoping to break skid

Illinois has experienced some tough luck the past two cycles, missing on Chicagoans Cliff Alexander (Kansas) last year and more recently Jalen Brunson (Villanova).

Well, perhaps John Groce's program can score instead with a highly gifted Texan?

Elijah Thomas makes his way to Champaign in what Illinois will attempt to turn into a decisive weekend. Thomas is down to a handful of schools — after previously sporting a very long list — and would give the Illini an stud interior big man to pair with current 2015 wing pledges Aaron Jordan and D.J. Williams.

Thomas has the skills to produce big as a freshman

Which isn't to say Illinois is finished recruiting the backcourt. Thomas will have company on his official trip, as pure shooter Jalen Coleman will be visiting as well. Coleman might be the best long-range marksman in the class, so it's easy to understand why the Illini are attempting to do some perimeter stacking. They certainly could accommodate all three players.

Other Key Visits

It's been a little quiet for Kentucky recently, but the Wildcats are bringing top-five big man Skal Labissiere to Lexington. Kentucky always poses a threat on the recruiting trail, and they (along with Memphis) have been linked closely with Labissiere.

Syracuse has made inroads with Thomas Bryant and will host the hard-working center for his official visit. Bryant fits the Orange's Northeastern, blue collar ethos and would represent another huge pickup for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.

Skilled power forward Alex Illikainen will tour Wisconsin. The Badgers seemingly eons ago had been considered the leader for elite Henry Ellenson, but that recruitment didn't pan for them. Illikainen, while not as dynamic as Ellenson, is a very solid face-up player who would fit the Badgers' system well and would fulfill a similar role.

Structure scoring specialist Jacob Evans — who's so much better in a team setting than he is at camps — is tripping to Cincinnati. Evans was viewed as a solid player but became a revelation at the Fab 48 in late July.

No. 24 center Josh Sharma travels to Boston College. The Eagles have struggled to compete from a physical perspective versus ACC-level competition, due in large part to an unathletic frontcourt. That said, Sharma possesses exactly the type of mobility and long arms the program needs to improve under first-year coach Jim Christian.

Staying in the ACC, enormous center Tacko Fall ships out to Wake Forest. New Demon Deacons coach Danny Manning obviously knows something about being a great big man, and his work as an assistant at Kansas drew widespread acclaim. Fall definitely is a project, but at 7-5 and very long, he can afford to be.

Former Arizona commitment Tyler Dorsey is headed to Colorado. The Buffs pieced together a nice 2014 class but would love to add a genuine top-50 guard talent such as Dorsey. This weekend, they get their shot.


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