Beginning on Sunday — the same day the NFL season officially began and the U.S. Open officially ended — college basketball coaches fanned out across the country to check on and meet with their top recruiting targets in the classes of 2019 and beyond.
Here are five burning questions as the fall recruiting period heats up:
1. Which recruit has drawn the most heavy hitters so far?
Imagine spending your Sunday at home and having Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky's John Calipari, and Kansas' Bill Self all come pay you a visit. Imagine you go to bed, wake up, and then have North Carolina's Roy Williams, Minnesota's Richard Pitino, and Villanova's Jay Wright come see you the following day.
Well, that's how it went for Matthew Hurt, the 6-foot-9 class of 2019 forward from John Marshall (MN) High. He hosted four of the six active Naismith Hall of Fame coaches in two days (Coach K, Calipari, Self, and Williams), and a fifth (Wright) who surely will be. Meantime, Penny Hardaway of Memphis and Archie Miller of Indiana are due in next week.
Hurt currently has no official visits planned and it remains unclear when he will commit. It could happen during the November signing period, but may also extend into the spring.
His Crystal Ball prediction on 247Sports.com — if you believe those sorts of things — favors Kansas by over 80 percent. Hurt played for Kansas' Self in June on the USA U18 team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, and Self started him in every game.
“Matt can really, really shoot and he’s known by some as a great shooter, but he is athletic,” Self said then. “He can play on the perimeter. We haven’t even posted him but he’s good on the post. From a skill set he’s very equipped to be able to do a lot of things. I think that Matt will be a terrific guard. He’s close to pure.”
2. How quickly will Kentucky be able to replace its frontcourt losses?
Kentucky big men P.J. Washington and Nick Richards both played well in front of a slew of NBA scouts during the Wildcats' August trip to the Bahamas, as we reported here on FloHoops. Both are on NBA radars and both are likely to go pro after this season.
So what will Calipari do? Reload, of course.
After meeting with Hurt on Sunday, Calipari turned his attention to Hurt's AAU teammate, 6-11 Hopkins (MN) forward Zeke Nnaji, meeting with him and offering him a scholarship. Calipari then flew East to meet with several New York/New Jersey targets, including 6-10 center Aidan Igiehon of Lawrence Woodmere (NY) Academy. Both players are now being courted by Kentucky and are expected to take official visits in the coming weeks.
Nnaji and Igiehon are now top Kentucky frontcourt targets along with James Wiseman, who is thought to be deciding between Kentucky and Memphis, and Vernon Carey Jr., who lists Miami, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and North Carolina.
Kentucky obviously can point to guys like Boogie Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, and others in the NBA as successful examples.
“That’s the attraction, is the fact that they’ve been there, done that,” Apham Nnaji told ZAGSBLOG of Kentucky. “They’ve been able to produce top-level, high-level big guys that can stretch the floor, post you up, take you off the dribble. They’ve done that. You can’t argue with the numbers — that’s the thing about their program.
“Coach Cal even said that himself. You are every day practicing with NBA prospects and that’s going to get you better, so it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
3. What's the latest on Cole Anthony's recruitment?
The 6-2 Anthony is the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2019 and recently made news by announcing his transfer to famed Oak Hill Academy (VA) from Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.). Anthony has long said that he will wait until the spring of 2019 before making a college decision, so this process figures to last into April or even May.
Late last month, Anthony issued a list of 12 schools, covering a who's who of high-major programs.
Anthony has taken unofficial visits to North Carolina, Wake Forest, Miami, and UCLA, and now coaches are beginning to check in on him at Oak Hill.
Pittsburgh head man Jeff Capel saw Anthony and fellow New York transplant Kofi Cockburn on Monday, as did Notre Dame assistant Ryan Humphrey. On Tuesday, North Carolina's Williams and Hubert Davis were due in, as was Oregon's Dana Altman. Those schools appear to be going full throttle for Anthony at this point.
It will be interesting to see which programs involved in his recruitment take point guards in the fall. If, for example, Duke or Villanova lands a floor general in November, you can probably cross those schools off the list for Anthony. Schools that don't land a point guard in November and are still looking to hand someone the reins in April figure to be strong options for Anthony, the son of former NBA point guard and current analyst Greg Anthony.
Update: Anthony has just scheduled visits to Notre Dame and North Carolina.
4. Does Marquette have a shot at Nico Mannion?
The 6-3 red-headed point guard from Pinnacle (AZ) High has been in the headlines since earlier this summer when he told me he planned to reclassify to 2019 from 2020. He is now taking online courses to do so, and he expects to be on a college campus next fall.
Mannion initially issued a list of four schools: Arizona, Duke, Marquette, and Villanova. Earlier this month, he stunned a lot of folks by trimming that list in half, to just Arizona and Marquette. How often do Duke and Villanova get cut from a kid's list at the same time? Not often, that's for sure.
He plans to take official visits to both schools in October, but Arizona is now at more than 90 percent on his Crystal Ball. (Villanova somehow still has eight percent despite being cut.)
As for a commitment timeline, he told ZAGSBLOG: “I really don’t have a set date. If I have a feeling like I really want to commit, I probably will but I’m trying to get it done by January for sure. But it could possibly be earlier since I’m going on my visits in October.”
5. How quickly can Dan Hurley get it going at UConn?
After leading Rhode Island to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances at Rhode Island, Hurley took what he called his "dream job" at UConn, a program that has won four NCAA championships since 1999.
He quickly installed a staff of guys who have proven track records recruiting in New York/Jersey, New England, and the DMV.
UConn is targeting a slew of 2019 guys, including guards Jalen Gaffney, James Bouknight, Mark "Rocket" Watts, Al-Amir Dawes, and Isaiah Wong. They're also in the mix for bigs like Kofi Cockburn, Qudus Wahab, and Akok Akok. Their whole staff saw Akok on Monday after watching Bouknight Sunday. Bouknight is due on an official visit this weekend.