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Basketball Recruiting

Weekend Mailbox: Illinois targets, Bryce Hopkins, UNC's guard targets

September 27, 2020
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Another week, another Weekend Mailbox.

I’ll answer three major questions this morning. Let’s dive into it.

This is an interesting one. Brad Underwood has been, in my opinion, one of the nation’s most underrated recruiters over the past few seasons. He’s brought in guys like Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn, Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, and so many other top guys.

So, the question says how would I rank the program’s top targets.

I’ll start with who I believe has the best chance of landing with the Illini, that’s Mac Etienne. The Brewster Academy big man has proved himself as one of the top-rated centers in the entire country. With Kofi Cockburn likely out of Champaign after this season, Etienne would be able to come in right away and have instant impact minutes as a true freshman.

The Illini are competing with programs like Miami and Marquette, who I believe are the two programs heavily competing with UI for Etienne’s talent. Brad Underwood, Jim Larranaga, and Marquette’s staff all recently completed zoom calls with him and he told me that he doesn’t have any others scheduled.

Next up, Jordan Nesbitt. I’m placing him in between because my prediction for him is up in the air, it’s really anyone’s ball-game. He has a final-three of Memphis, Saint Louis, and the Illini. My current prediction for the 6-foot-5 guard goes in favor of Penny Hardaway and the Tigers. As much as you’re hearing about SLU and Illinois, I wouldn’t be surprised at any choice he was to make come to his October 1st commitment date.

Finally, the local kid, Bryce Hopkins. The Top-40 prospect is from the state and the Illini have made him a major priority. He was originally slated to release his final-five programs this afternoon but due to some conflicts and not being able to cut any schools, he will just choose from his nine. He took a campus visit to Kentucky two weeks ago and I think in doing that they became a favorite for him.

I wouldn’t count out programs like Indiana, Providence, and of course the Illini. I think Michigan could also make a major push here after missing out on Harrison Ingram. The Wolverines are also awaiting the decisions of Chet Holmgren, Efton Reid, and Charles Bediako who all don’t have any current plans on committing soon.

Yes, Providence has a shot with Bryce Hopkins. I believe the Friars had an excellent shot at making Hopkins’ final-list that was supposed to be released today. Hopkins has built quite a  relationship with Ed Cooley and his staff. He told me last week, Ed Cooley is one of the most real coaches he’s dealt with, and with the fit and being able to come in and have instant impact minutes, I wouldn’t count out the Friars who would be landing a program-changing player.

The Friars obviously have some competition but they’re a sleeper for me.

Roy Williams has prioritized his guards over the past few years bringing in guys like Coby White, Cole Anthony, RJ Davis, Caleb Love, and now, he is looking to land one or maybe two five-star guards to bring into Chapel Hill for 2021.

Skyy Clark was always seen as a Kentucky favorite even before they extended a scholarship offer. Recently, the Tar Heels have gained more traction. Clark will announce his commitment on October 22nd and I think as of right now I can confidently say that Roy Williams could pull this one-off. Kentucky has a very young roster and he’d come in and be an instant impact with them as well but I think the relationship with Roy Williams could win Clark over.

As far as the possible jump into the 2021 class, Clark is definitely ready for the next level and a reclass wouldn’t shock me but if he didn’t I wouldn’t be surprised either.

Now, Hunter Sallis. The Tar Heels are definitely in a good spot with him and I believe he’s become one of the program’s top priorities in such a short amount of time. He does have a list of Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Auburn, Iowa State, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, and UCLA. 

I think if we look at the contenders or a possible favorite and I just believe at this point it’s anyone's race to win. I think obviously you have the blue blood programs heavily involved with him but then you have schools like Iowa State and Creighton who I wouldn’t count out either due to long relationships and possible fits.

One school not to count out: Oregon. Obviously you can’t sleep on the fact that Dana Altman has brought in some pretty talented guards over the past few years. Sallis would be an instant starter and a likely one-and-done guy at any school he goes to. Nate Bittle, Oregon’s five-star commit, was very vocal to me on who he wanted to bring to Eugene: “I really want Hunter Sallis.” I think after hearing that, Altman and his staff should be in hot pursuit mode to land him.

 

 
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