NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — When John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski walks into a high school or grassroots game, people take notice.
Lately, it’s the presence of Penny Hardaway that is turning heads. The new Memphis coach has the Tigers involved with a long list of heavy hitters.
The biggest target is James Wiseman, the No. 1 player in 2019. Despite Wiseman saying he plans to cut his list to eight schools, no one believes he’s considering more than two. On Sunday, during the championship game of the Peach Jam event, Wiseman said Memphis and Kentucky were his top two.
The 7-foot center was long considered a lock for Kentucky, but Hardaway, who coached Wiseman on the AAU circuit and at East High School in Memphis, has put the Tigers in play.
“We’ve got a great relationship,” Wiseman said of Hardaway. “Our relationship is still there. Since he [became] the coach at Memphis, we still got that same relationship we did.”
An interesting note on Wiseman: His AAU team, Bluff City Legends, is done playing for July so he plans to play the next two weekends with Hoop City Basketball Club, which is coached by Ernie Kuyper, cousin of Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller and former program director of Miller’s former AAU program, M33M.
Memphis recently hosted five-star forward Trendon Watford for a visit, and the Tigers seem to have overtaken Alabama as the perceived leader for Watford.
The Tigers are also quietly involved with top-10 prospect Matthew Hurt, who is also being tracked by Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina, among others.
Hardaway recently offered top-50 prospect C.J. Walker, who was among the biggest breakout stars at Peach Jam. Memphis immediately gained traction with Walker after offering and will look to build the relationship quickly.
Looking for clues in Cole Anthony’s recruitment
Anthony, the No. 1 point guard in the nation, has kept news of his recruitment quiet. When he acknowledged over the weekend that he had spoken to Kansas coach Bill Self a few times, it was one of the first times Anthony has mentioned a school that was pursuing him.
“I don’t want to single any one college out,” Anthony said.
Anthony, a 6-foot-3 New York native, is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100. He has essentially every power program in the country showing interest.
So who’s really in the mix for him? The best way to tell is by tracking which coaches watched him consistently over the past week or so.
North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Oregon’s Dana Altman have been mainstays at Anthony’s games with the PSA Cardinals program, and sources have told ESPN he’s the backcourt priority for both schools.
Duke and Kentucky have been linked to Anthony, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both schools involved until the very end. Villanova, Louisville and Notre Dame have had coaches at multiple games over the past few months. Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing has watched Anthony. Danny Manning and Wake Forest have had success recruiting the PSA Cardinals program in the past, and the Demon Deacons were at Anthony’s games this week. Then there’s Pittsburgh, where Jeff Capel is hoping his relationship with Anthony dating back to his time at Duke helps the Panthers remain involved.
It’s hard to tell, but we can be sure North Carolina and Oregon will be major factors moving forward for Anthony, whose father, Greg, was a 12-year NBA veteran.
“Me and my dad will probably start to lock in after the summer quiets down a little bit, probably mid-August,” Anthony said. “I’ll be staying with him for a while. So we’ll probably sit down and really start to talk about it.”
Who’s on Duke’s and Kentucky’s boards?
Over the past few years, picking Duke or Kentucky to end up with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country has been a safe bet. And the race started a little earlier this cycle, with Calipari landing five-stars D.J. Jeffries and Tyrese Maxey in the spring.
But there’s still a long way to go to see who will end up on top next spring.
Kentucky is clearly prioritizing the top two players in the country, Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr. The Wildcats had a presence at each of their games all week at Peach Jam. Calipari also spent time watching top-10 prospect Hurt and went to see breakout star Walker.
The Wildcats also had a presence at games involving Anthony, Kira Lewis, Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine and Jaden McDaniels. Keion Brooks and Jalen Lecque continue to list the Wildcats, and Kentucky recently jumped into the Josh Green recruitment.
One interesting potential prospect for Kentucky is Dontaie Allen, who had a huge spring. He’s from Pendleton County High School (Kentucky) and the Wildcats have watched him, though they have yet to offer.
Kentucky is also on the periphery for No. 5 Isaiah Stewart, who has a list of 10 schools but did not include Kentucky, and the Wildcats have yet to offer.
“I’m not sure if an offer’s going to come from Kentucky or not, but I keep hearing their name jump in the mix, talking to my coaches about me, so I’m not sure,” Stewart said. “I would definitely start to look into that, but right now I’m just focused on the schools on my list.”
Calipari has also spoken with five-star center Kofi Cockburn.
“They’ve had some good bigs come through there,” Cockburn said. “I just know it’s a really good program and it’s good for playing in the pros.”
As for Duke, the Blue Devils currently have a clean slate in 2019 and seem to be aiming for a big class.
The priority down low appears to be Stewart, and Duke is in good shape for the top-five big man.
“Coach K definitely been calling me and my family a lot more, and [assistant coach Jon] Scheyer as well,” he said. “Coach K really thinks I’m a Duke kid, I have Duke traits. He really feels I can come in and be a leader. He always tells me he always gets a feeling when he recruits certain recruits, and he has that feeling with me and he feels I can do great things here. It’s definitely great, especially hearing that from Coach K.”
Carey is also a top target up front. Duke is still involved for Hurt, and continue to show interest in Aidan Igiehon. The Blue Devils have also increased their attention on ESPN 100 center Drew Timme, who turned some heads at Peach Jam. Duke had coaches at McDaniels’ games this week as well.
“If you have Duke interest, it’s like, you’re somebody,” McDaniels said. “You’re not just a regular player.”
One seemingly new target for Duke this week is ESPN 100 forward E.J. Liddell. Krzyzewski had two assistants watch him Friday, and he’s clearly rising up the Blue Devils’ interest board. Liddell said he has spoken to Krzyzewski twice, and Duke has been recruiting him since hiring assistant Chris Carrawell in the spring.
“He loves how hard I play,” Liddell said of Krzyzewski.
In terms of perimeter targets, Krzyzewski watched Wendell Moore and Antoine this week. Duke has remained in a good position for both five-star wings. The Blue Devils are also involved with Nico Mannion, a five-star in the class of 2020 who is expected to reclassify to 2019.
Duke also had coaches to watch Josiah James and Anthony this week. A couple other names to note: Duke briefly watched Peach Jam breakout guard Rejean “Boogie” Ellis on Friday and Saturday, and ESPN 100 power forward Jaiden Delaire recently visited Duke’s campus.
Will top-five prospects follow in family members’ footsteps?
Top-five prospects Carey and McDaniels are being recruited by some of the biggest schools in the country. Carey has a top five of Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Miami. McDaniels was arguably the fastest-rising prospect in the spring and is a priority for the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington and San Diego State, with Kentucky also in the mix.
Both players can essentially play for any school in the country. But there is one school for each that is hoping to push a unique angle: playing at the same school as a family member.
Carey’s father played football at Miami before spending eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The Hurricanes have made Carey a priority since he began high school, and it’s not a surprise to see three or four Miami coaches at each of Carey’s games. Head coach Jim Larranaga traveled to Argentina recently to watch Carey play for the USA Basketball under-17 team.
“Recruiting me since Day 1 in ninth grade,” Carey said. “They’ve just always been on me.”
The No. 2-ranked prospect in 2019 has visits set for Kentucky and Duke in October, and already took an official visit to Michigan State.
Meanwhile, McDaniels went from unranked to No. 4 in the country after an impressive spring, and his stock continues to rise. But one school that hasn’t wavered in its interest is San Diego State, where his brother, Jalen McDaniels, will be a sophomore. Could the Aztecs have the inside track for the younger McDaniels?
“I like them a lot,” McDaniels said. “I always go down there when I go visit my brother. I just talk to them all the time. It’s like a family. They come up here and see me, I go down there and see them.”
Washington could be one school to watch for McDaniels, as Mike Hopkins and the Huskies are hoping to keep the Federal Way High School product home.
“I talk to them a lot. I see them all the time,” he said. “It’s like a family up there because I’ve known [assistant coach Will] Conroy since I was little and stuff. It’s a good relationship with them, too.”
“That would be fun. Just putting on for the city, that would be something I’d like to do.”