Notebook: Isaac’s Ascent

In our weekly Notebook feature, the national team explores creative and broad topics from the grassroots hoops realm. This week, we lead off with highly promising 2015 forward Jonathan Isaac.

Isaac’s exploding rep

After growing three inches and showing off a much-improved game this spring with E1T1 Elite, Jonathan Isaac, a 6-foot-9 combination forward, has reeled in new scholarship offers.

Isaac confirmed to Scout early Tuesday morning that he’d picked up new offers from Louisville, Kentucky and Pittsburgh. Those schools join a long list of suitors that also includes Miami, Texas, Florida State, LSU and Wake Forest.

Did Isaac see all this coming?

“Honestly, no,” he said. “I’m surprised and excited.”

To date, Isaac has taken unofficial visits to Florida State and South Florida. Isaac, who is due a big bump when we update our 2016 Top 100, is ready to plan more trips.

“I plan to take some soon, but I don’t know where yet,” Isaac told Scout.

The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy standout is currently regarded as a four-star prospect and the No. 45 overall prospect, but look for that to change significantly soon.

— Evan Daniels

Battle for Winston becoming fierce

The battle for Cassius Winston is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing storylines in the 2016 class. You have the two in-state schools, Michigan and Michigan State, and then also Ohio State, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Iowa State strongly in the mix.

While the Buckeyes and Hoyas are especially real threats right now, most with knowledge of the situation feel that Winston ends up with the Wolverines or the Spartans, and both schools, who have been recruiting well lately, have gone all in. Both Tom Izzo and John Beilein have seemingly moved on from other targets and are consumed with getting Winston — which always makes for an interesting battle — as no one in the state seems to have a strong consensus on which way the five-star floor general is looking.

Making things even more intriguing is that Winston appears to be in absolutely no hurry to make a decision. Right now he seems to want to take many of his official visits, if not all, meaning that his timeline will be extended and the loser ultimately could end up having to look to 2017 for point guard help.

— Brian Snow

McLaughlin recruitment still open

On Monday, reports surfaced that JaQuori McLaughlin had narrowed his school list down to Arizona, Stanford, Wisconsin and Washington, days after he reopened his recruitment following an early commitment to Washington.

However, according to the father of the 6-foot-3, 170-pound combo guard from Gig Harbor (Wash.) Peninsula, Jason McLaughlin, the four-star prospect does not have a final list.

McLaughlin isn’t quite ready to commit to a list of finalists

"His recruitment is still open," Jason said. "He's open to the possibility of being recruited by other schools."

Scout's No. 52 prospect in the 2016 class does have a high interest in those schools, his father said, but the family doesn't want to close off all other possibilities at this point.

"Those were the schools he was recruited by before he committed and he's very interested in them," said Jason. "But his recruitment is open."

— Josh Gershon

Mack makes for “Smarter” transition

Coaches typically face initial struggles when they move to a new program, and Shaka Smart almost definitely will contend with chemistry issues as he takes the mantle at Texas and fundamentally alters the program’s style of play. After all, the Longhorns operated with the No. 300 tempo this past season, while VCU ranked No. 24.

That’s why Tevin Mack’s announcement for Texas looms even more critical than many may realize. Mack, a 6-6 forward at Columbia (S.C.) Dreher and Scout’s No. 65 senior, will boost the program’s talent level and help ease the transition from Rick Barnes to Smart.

Mack originally chose VCU largely due to the presence of Smart, and for good reason: He’d enjoy an opportunity to play in his ideal tempo for an up-and-coming coach, at a program set to suffer multiple graduation losses following the 2014-15 season.

Even as he adjusts to Big 12 competition, Mack should make frequent plays in spontaneous fashion

Of course, all that changed when Smart departed Richmond for Austin, and thus Mack’s plan suddenly was ripped asunder. He regained equilibrium quickly, however, and ultimately he proved what most recruitniks already know: Players typically choose schools based on the coach.

Yes, factors such as distance from home can apply as well, but Smart’s reputation and persona transcended any points of concern in this case and the Longhorns became the beneficiary.

Mack is an outstanding run/jump athlete who boasts immense versatility as a transition scorer and defender. He also hustles on the glass and has displayed a capable, if streaky, jump shot.

Moreover, he understands how Smart likes to play because he has become highly familiar with his future coach’s recruiting pitch — twice over — and should help ease the sometimes painful process by which players transition from one system to another.

His commitment also was one of the final unresolved major recruitments remaining the Class of 2015, and thus UT’s new boss emphatically punctuated his initial, very abbreviated, recruiting effort.

— Rob Harrington

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