The two spring :live periods" are behind us now. College coaches won't be able to see high school prospects compete against each other again until July, so decisions have to be made.
With that in mind, the Peegs.com team of Jeff Rabjohns and Mike Pegram along with Scout.com basketball recruiting analyst Brian Snow take on what we think are some of the main topics on the college basketball recruiting and Indiana basketball landscape.
Here is the roundtable Q&A:
Q - What are your general thoughts on the Class of 2018 after these two weekends? Talking nationwide here. Are they in line with what you believed going into April?
SNOW: Well it definitely isn’t the 2016 class in terms of talent, and falls short of the great depth we saw in 2017, but 2018 isn’t quite as bad as I initially thought. The players at the top of the class have really stepped up their game and a little depth is building as well. Still this is a well below average class, but at the same time it is making strides.
PEEGS: For a year or more I had been hearing this was a down class from national guys like Brian. While I have to agree it is below average, didn’t seem as bad as it was made out to be. Probably because you’ve seen several players improve over the last year. Having said that, outside of a few big guys out west, really not much out there in terms of post players.
RABBY: The 2018 class is good at the very tip-top, players 20-40 or so are a drop off from recent years, but the depth from 40-80 or maybe 40-100 is developing into players who can have impact on winning at the major college level. Sometimes the public judges classes on the number of one-and-dones, but the college impact is how many players impact winning in March. The 2018 class is heavy on guards and wings, and that makes power forwards and any post player or anyone close to a post player become a bit overvalued.
Q - Has the number of offers extended by Indiana been a surprise?
PEEGS: I don’t think so. If you are in catch-up mode like Indiana is with its new staff, one way to get a prospect serious about your program is to make an scholarship offer. And in watching all the new offers, it was pretty clear from the get go that each of them can play---all four-star or better type talents.
SNOW: Indiana has a huge class, so you are talking 5-6 spots to fill in 2018. Because of that it is no surprise a lot of offers are going out. You can’t just recruit 10 guys for 5 or 6 spots. Also this is a staff that has to spitball on offers some because of the fact that they didn’t have many pre-existing relationships coming in with specific recruits to feel good about a few quick commitments at certain positions.
RABBY: No. It’s reasonable for a program to offer somewhere around four players for every likely available scholarship when a staff has been in place. This is a new staff. It needs to reach out to players it likes and players with whom there is an an existing relationship, as long as those players can help. My litmus test is this: Can that player help that school at its level? Every player IU has offered to this point I believe can help IU at its level.
Q - Speaking of those new offers, any player or two from that group that you really like?
PEEGS: Considering where he is in the rankings, I really liked Jalen Carey of NJ Playaz. Thought he checked all the boxes - nice length, athleticism, finishes, shoots it okay, can defend.
Also it doesn’t take much basketball knowledge to fall deeply in love with Cole Swider’s jump shot. Close to perfection and he’s 6-foot-8 and plays with some passion.
SNOW: A personal favorite of mine is Race Thompson. He is far from the most talented player that Indiana has offered, but he is tough and productive. He is the type of four year power forward who helps teams win a lot of games over the course of a career.
RABBY: Cole Swider. Tall shooters aren’t easy to find. He’s 6-foot-8, can shoot, has toughness and competes. Skill matters, but competitive nature is a factor, too. I saw Swider get dunked on, keep playing and stick a 3 in an opponent’s grill a few possessions later. I like players who respond. Yeah, he went 7-for-9 from 3 in a game, and that gets your attention. But when guys keep playing when it gets a little rugged, that’s instructive, too. And Eric Ayala. He is a legit combo guard in that he can be a point guard (which he is mainly with his AAU team) and he can be a scoring guard (which he mainly was with his high school team). Another guy who competes, defends.
Q - Don't believe any of the Indiana based shoe circuit teams had a winning record in April. What does that tell you?
SNOW: What you have is the top 5 players in the state all playing on different teams. When that happens no team is going to be outstanding. Two of Indiana Elite’s starters best players are from Kentucky, and Indy Heat has a big Michigan influence as well. For whatever reason kids in this class didn’t want to play on the same team, and because of that all of the programs suffered.
PEEGS: Besides the top guys being spread out, there seems to be a big drop off after those top five (Langford, Jallow, Phinisee, Hunter, Anderson). There’s almost no size. In one scout’s rankings of players from the state, Gavin Bizeau of Plainfield is the only top 28 player that’s taller than 6-foot-6.
RABBY: I don’t know. I don’t really pay too terribly much attention to the win-loss records of AAU teams. I focus on players and what level they project to in the future. I’ve seen AAU teams stacked with mid-major prospects win tournaments. I think OG Anunoby’s team lost the games I saw them play in Atlanta, but I still came away impressed by him. I guess it’s better when major-college prospects play with other major college prospects to aid in evaluation since they’re playing more as they would in the future. But how many states have NBA players like Eric Gordon, George Hill, Gary Harris, Jeff Teague who all want to sponsor AAU teams in addition to traditional powerhouses like Indiana Elite and Spiece Indy Heat?
Q - How important might it be to land an in-state player in the next class?
SNOW: It is definitely important to land somebody, because they are good players. While Rob Phinisee and Eric Hunter didn’t play their best the last two weeks, they are still quality guards. Also Musa Jallow and Damezi Anderson are talented forwards. Obviously Romeo Langford is a future star, but it isn’t so much their address that makes it important to land them, it is their talent level.
PEEGS: It’s important to back up the “inside-out” talk we heard from Archie when he was announced as the new Indiana coach. While it may not be a great class here in Indiana, there are at least five prospects that have the talent and seem open to play for Indiana. Even just landing one of that group would be helpful in establish a good relationship with basketball people in the state.
RABBY: Insanely — and unfairly — huge from perception and PR standpoint, meaningful from a reality standpoint. After IU went 0-for-4 with nationally ranked in-state 2017 prospects, Hoosier Nation wants evidence Archie Miller can recruit the state. Romeo Langford is the one-and-done star, but Robert Phinisee, Musa Jallow, Damezi Anderson and Eric Hunter are other notable prospects. But if IU landed, say, Darius Garland, Moses Brown, Eric Ayala and Cole Swider, that’s probably a top-10 class. That’s not a prediction, just pointing out that class would be all out of state and would be a top-10 class.
Q - Biggest surprises of the first two eval periods?
SNOW: For me the biggest surprise has been the rise of Cole Swider. Swider I knew had a big year during the season, but I wasn’t expecting him to take his game to this level.
PEEGS: Some of the people I know in Bloomington were building up how Virginia might be tough to overcome with Musa Jallow but we didn’t see Tony Bennett watch him (as far as I am aware) and don’t believe UVa traveled to Minneapolis to watch him play this past weekend. Instead the only high majors making that trip were Indiana and Wisconsin.
RABBY: James Wiseman. The 2019 center has added weight, can score on the move, blocks shots, runs the floor, rebounds, plays above the rim on both ends. Skinny kid last year? Stud this year.
Q - Any thought on how prospects have commented on Archie Miller and his assistants this spring?
SNOW: Archie didn’t get to this point by not knowing what he is doing, and guys such as Tom Ostrom and Bruiser Flint have long track records on the recruiting trail. Because of that I expected the staff to be received well, and obviously that has happened.
PEEGS: There has been a theme that Archie gets straight to the point and that he really knows basketball. I think Ed Schilling’s history in developing players both as a coach and with his clinics and academy background is something that players and coaches in Indiana and adjacent states seem to be aware of in many cases.
RABBY: I’m going in a different direction. The comments that I’ve heard that have been most telling have come from AAU and high school coaches. “I’ve known Archie since …” “I’ve known Ed Schilling since …” “Bruiser and I have been boys since ….” “Lemme tell you about coach Ostrom ….” This staff is really plugged in.
Q - Romeo Langford is obviously the most high profile recruitment that IU is involved with in this class. Any thoughts now on who the major players are here and how long it might go on for?
SNOW: I tend to think this is a long play recruitment. I know Romeo is talking about being closer to home, but so much seems like it could change before it is time to make a choice. Ultimately I think Kansas, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky are the six schools who will have the chance to land his commitment.
PEEGS: Tend to agree this one may stretch until next spring. Saw all those schools Brian mentioned at his games although I am not as convinced that he’s a big priority for Duke.
RABBY: With Ed Schilling moving to IU, I don’t see UCLA in as deep as it was a few months ago. Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, Duke, UNC and IU are the legit players at this point. If he goes anywhere other than one of those, I’ll be surprised. But this is likely to take some time. Anyone making a prediction right now is spinning a ball on a six-numbered roulette wheel.
Q - Both Duke and Indiana are hot on the Darius Garland trail but also heavily involved with another point guard. Duke with Tre Jones, Indiana with Robert Phinisee. You think those two schools would be willing to take both? If Duke or IU land one, could that push the other player to another program?
SNOW: I think the schools would be willing to take both, but I don’t see Phinisee wanting to do that with IU and no way Garland would want to do that with Duke, so while the schools might like it, it’s highly doubtful either players is involved in a two point guard class.
PEEGS: It’s easier to be a great team in my opinion if you have more than one capable point guard and I think against most teams you could get away with playing both Garland and Phinisee. The problem is convincing two point guards to commit to the same program. Prospects want to see a clear path to playing time opportunity.
RABBY: I don’t think Darius Garland would go to Duke if Duke takes/lands Tre Jones, and Duke did spend a lot of time in Hampton (three coaches deep) on Jones, younger brother of former Duke point guard Tyus Jones. I don’t think Robert Phinisee would go to IU with Garland. Philosophically speaking, two recent NCAA champions have had basically two point guards. It matters. But I don’t see these guys going together.
Q - What else might be out there for the post? Seems like post depth could be issue for IU down the road and not a lot of the new offers were post players…
SNOW: There just aren’t many post players in this class to recruit who are of quality. Moses Brown is going to be a longshot, and the entire Midwest is very short on size. I could see Indiana working to get involved with Michigan native Trevion Williams.
PEEGS: As I stated above, very few post players and the better ones are out near the West Coast. Franklin Agunanne is from Dallas but plays in Indiana at La Lumiere in LaPorte. He checks in at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds and had some big games in EYBL.
One move here might be to look for a shot blocker that can run the floor and hope you can develop his offensive skills over time. Couple possibilities there worth mentioning. One might be Dimon Carrigan out of the same Cambridge, Massachusetts school that produced Patrick Ewing. Completely off the grid but leads the entire EYBL in shot blocking. Another in that vein might be Immanuel Bates from North Carolina. Purdue and UConn just offered Bates. Both these guys are long 6-foot-9 athletes.
All these guys are terribly raw but not sure what else you can do for big man insurance. That's why IU fans should be extra happy that Archie convinced Clifton Moore to say with the Hoosiers.
RABBY: The 2018 class lacks high-major post players. IU watched Moses Brown and he told Peegs.com he noticed IU is back involved, but that’s two runs down in the bottom of the ninth. You’re still in the game, but it’s not going to be easy to win. I do think that’s why IU is jumping in with 2019 post scorers like Wiseman and Isaiah Stewart. The best big man recruit for the new staff was getting 6-foot-10 Clifton Moore to keep his commitment.
Q - Outside of the in-state players, which prospects from 2018 seem to be the best bets for Indiana to become major players for come late summer and early fall?
SNOW: While it isn’t going to be easy for IU to get him, they are putting in a ton of effort with Cole Swider, and the Hoosiers are seeming to get involved quickly. Because of that I think IU could be making up a lot of ground, and could be right in the mix at the end of the day.
PEEGS: I was struck by how Archie Miller stayed and watched Jalen Carey for a full game in one of his final games of April. No other head coach did that, as far as I remember. There were other prospects on the IU radar playing at the time in the building. Plus he’s out of the the Bronx, an area that is more of a free for all.
RABBY: Cole Swider. IU is playing catchup, but if IU gets him on campus, that can change things. Louis King. He’s waiting for a Kentucky offer, but if that doesn’t happen, IU has ties that could make things interesting. Eric Alaya. He has legit interest in IU, and is another player with existing IU knowledge. Jalen Carey. He’s gotten some notable IU attention. And the only three campuses he’s visited are UConn, Seton Hall and Rutgers.