New England forward has visits lined up

Two years ago, Jesse Bunting was a complete unknown on the basketball radar, playing his high school ball mostly off-the-grid at Plymouth North (MA) and running with a fairly nondescript AAU outfit. After transferring high schools and switching up AAU teams, Bunting has seen his stock soar. Hawk Hill Hardwood spoke with Tabor Academy (MA) head coach Chris Millette about his high-flying forward.

Jesse Bunting, a 6’7 power forward out of Tabor Academy (MA), entered the 2013 AAU season as a near-complete unknown. However, playing alongside the likes of Abdul-Malik Abu, Aaron Falzon, and more last spring and summer, that changed quickly.

“There was a game last summer where Jesse grabbed a rebound, pushed it down the court, and then just rose up, put it between his legs and dunked it,” Tabor head coach Chris Millette explained. “After that, coaches took notice. It went from nothing, and I mean nothing, to schools like Maryland calling. Before that, he really only had a Division II offer, and that was more of a favor to the coach. Now obviously those higher schools like Maryland and Purdue that were calling backed off and now he’s being recruited at the right level, which is mostly the Atlantic 10.”

For players to fly under the radar in this day and age is increasingly uncommon. It takes a special set of circumstances like Jesse’s, where both his high school ball and AAU ball as a high school underclassman were played well out of the spotlight.

“Jesse was playing for a mom-and-pop type of AAU program when Expressions Elite plucked him out. He played for them, and then he also transferred here to Tabor,” Millette stated. “In New England, playing prep is really common because you can reclassify and you also get to play against great competition. Jesse had great battles last year against Alec Brennan, Matt Cimino, and Bonzie Colson.” All three of those players are continuing on at the college level this year, with Brennan at Princeton, Cimino at George Washington, and Colson at Notre Dame. Bunting also took advantage of the ability to reclassify at Tabor Academy, repeating his junior year there and becoming a member of the 2015 class.

Bunting erupted on the scene in 2013, had a strong 2013-2014 high school season at Tabor, and then continued to impress this past spring and summer with Expressions Elite and also at the Ty Lawson camp in July where he turned in several high-level performances. With that being said, Millette feels like Jesse is still just scratching the surface. “It’s all about upside with Jesse,” Millette began. “And listen, I know that’s such an overused word, I do, but it’s the word to describe him. He’s just so athletic, but it’s controlled athleticism. He’s smooth and athletic. He’s one of the rare kids that can rebound the ball and push it coast-to-coast and I don’t cringe.”

Over the past two summers, in three separate viewings, two specific things stood out about the strong 6’7 forward: his athleticism and his motor. “He plays so hard all the time, just has a motor to him,” described Millette. “There’s no plays off with him, and that’s one thing college coaches always bring up, that motor. And his athleticism, I mean, I don’t really react to dunks anymore. But when Jesse dunks you notice. He dunks so hard and his dunks are game-changers. A dunk can swing momentum and really be worth more than two points. That’s what his dunks are.”

Going into last summer, Jesse Bunting didn’t hold a Division 1 offer. His offer list swelled this past summer, with a bevy of mid-majors calling and extending offers his way. Per Chris Millette, Jesse is now nearing a point where a decision isn’t too far away. “He has four visits lined up the next four weekends,” he said. “Fordham this weekend, then Quinnipiac, Duquesne, and St. Joe’s. He didn’t want to take visits in August because he wanted to see the schools with students on campus. He’ll take these four visits and then make a decision soon.”

With three of the four schools receiving visits from Jesse Bunting in the Atlantic 10, there is obviously a very strong possibility that the New England power forward will be playing his college ball in the A10. St. Joe’s is in the market for a skilled forward in the 2015 class, while both Fordham and Duquesne appear to be in a similar boat. In the next several weeks, Jesse Bunting’s recruitment could come to a close. In just over a year, he went from a lone Division II offer to dozens at the D1 level. Now it’s just a matter of picking the right fit.

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