The NCAA's July evaluation periods for college basketball coaches are broken up into three segments, with the first running from July 8-12, the second from July 15-19 and the third from July 22-26. This is the last opportunity of the summer for coaches to get out and see recruits play with their AAU teams.
Here is a look at the top Xavier recruiting storylines heading into the July evaluation periods.
Simpson, Goodin, Winston, and the Michigan Schools
Xavier's pursuit of top point guard targets Xavier Simpson and Quentin Goodin is not only the biggest storyline heading into July, it's also been the most talked about topic on the MusketeerReport message board over the last several months.
The Xavier coaching staff has made landing a point guard in this class a priority from the outset, and for a while now the focus has centered on Simpson and Goodin. The Musketeers seem to be at least among the top three schools in each player's recruitment, but both Michigan and Michigan State could be holding up the process.
Michigan was recently moved back into Goodin's top five list, and Michigan State is rumored to be Simpson's dream school. However, both schools are waiting on those guys as backup plans for if they fail to land Cassius Winston, a four-star point guard out of Detroit ranked No. 27 in the country.
Winston has official visits set to Michigan State on September 13 and Michigan on September 20, so it appears there's still some time before the pieces of this point guard puzzle begin to fall into place. However, Simpson and Goodin both stood out in June at the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp. If they continue to excel on the court in July with college coaches watching, it will be interesting to see if either of the Michigan schools switch up their priorities and start pushing for the first commitment they can get.
Simpson and Goodin aren't the only two guard prospects Xavier is recruiting in 2016. The Musketeers are still in the mix for players like Tony Carr, Shamorie Ponds and Jagan Mosely, but Simpson and Goodin seem to be the furthest along in the process with Xavier's staff. Expect the coaching staff to be rolling deep as often as possible at these prospects' games over the next few weeks.
Markelle Fultz's recruitment seems almost separate from everyone else that Xavier is recruiting right now. There's no way the staff can realistically plan around him in the 2016 class, but they're also legitimately in the mix enough still that they're going to be battling all July to try and land him.
Fultz has been to Xavier more than any other school that is recruiting him (three times). He recently visited Virginia Tech, has an official to Arizona planned for August, and said at NBPA Top 100 Camp that he plans to visit Ohio State as well. In the past, he's also visited Louisville (another school heavily involved), Kentucky (rumored to be his dream school but has yet to offer), Georgetown, Penn State and Virginia. He added that he'd like to "hopefully" make a decision in August or September.
In terms of his play, Fultz has been killing it on the court for a while and plenty of big names are recruiting him already, so it's not like he needs to prove himself. Perhaps a ridiculous performance in Atlanta at the Under Armour Association Finals during the second week of July could lead to a Kentucky offer that might change up his recruitment, but this month will be more about following his quotes and seeing if anything is changing with his top schools.
In addition to Fultz, the staff has been interested in other options on the wing, particularly one that improves the team's overall length and athleticism. This is also the position the staff is recruiting that has the most potential for new names and rapid change over the next month-plus.
Xavier Sneed has been the target that has been on the radar for the longest, and the staff will be front and center at his games this month as they try to land a commitment. Illinois, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri and Creighton are the other main schools the Musketeers will be competing against in his recruitment. He wants to cut his list down this month and then have a final decision in time for the early signing period in November.
Sneed is a long and athletic defender, but there's not an exact mold that the staff is looking for in this spot. Xavier added two super skilled wings in J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett in 2014, so it's likely that they may seek out a more defensive-minded prospect. But, they may also feel their system runs best with skilled shooters that know how to play, and continue to stockpile that type of talent.
Two other wings they've been recruiting - Lamar Stevens and Andre Wesson - are very different players. Stevens is a power driving bucket-getter and rebounder that some believe is more of an undersized four, and Wesson is a utility wing that does a little bit of everything and can defend multiple spots. With Wesson's younger brother Kaleb already committing to Ohio State, it will be interesting to see how much the staff continues to follow him.
The staff doesn't have to land a wing in 2016, but it may be the most fun position to watch them recruit during July.
Finishing the Frontcourt
Xavier filled a major need at the end of June by reeling in 2016 forward Tyrique Jones, an explosive rebounder with a rugged playing style. The coaching staff would like to add another big man to pair with Jones in the 2016 class, and it will be interesting which recruits (on the radar already or not) become a priority after the evaluation periods in July.
Dylan Painter, a 6-10 big man from Hershey, Pennsylvania, is definitely on that list already, and there are a handful of others that the staff has been recruiting heavily for a while now. Players like James Banks, Kevin Marfo, Taurean Thompson, and Sedee Keita will all be tracked closely by Xavier's coaches over the next few weeks.
Painter made an official visit to Xavier on June 19 with his family. They also went and saw Iowa the following weekend. Following the Xavier visit, he listed Xavier, Penn State, Iowa, Villanova, George Washington and Northwestern as the schools that stick out to him. He hasn't ruled any programs out yet. The Musketeers have set their sights on Painter as a top target in this class, but it will be interesting to see if he lands offers from Villanova or any other big-time programs with his play during July.
Banks' recruitment is all over the place right now, and he seems to be very early on in the process still. He recently visited Kentucky and has added interest from Duke and North Carolina, and he holds offers from schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Xavier. There won't be low-majors watching him anymore like during the spring, but there should still be a wide range of college coaches trying to figure out exactly what level he fits at during this month.
In addition to an offer from Xavier, Marfo has offers from Kansas State, Boston College, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, DePaul, Saint Joseph's and UMass among others. He's a player that added offers quickly this spring and could be on the verge of blowing up, so his performance at Peach Jam will be huge this week.
Clemson, South Carolina and Xavier are the three main schools that have offered Keita, however there are major concerns about his academic status and ability to qualify. While attending school in Greenville, South Carolina, he's been able to visit both South Carolina and Clemson, and he said at the NBPA Top 100 camp that he wants to visit Xavier in the future. He's planning on narrowing his list at the end of July.
At the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Thompson said that he's been talking to Old Dominion, Rutgers, Temple, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arizona State and Xavier a lot. He added that he and his mother talk to Xavier's staff every day and he'd like to visit XU's campus in August. He's hoping to develop a defined list after Peach Jam this week.
With Jones and senior transfer RaShid Gaston in the fold, there's less pressure on the staff to land another immediate impact big man. Coach Mack and his assistants can afford to be picky with this spot. Also, they can be a little more focused in finding the best player to pair with Jones' skill-set going forward.