The week-long signing period began on Wednesday, and there was predictably a lot of activity. There were some surprises, too.
Below are four takeaways from the early signing period:
Remember when the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption was going to alter recruiting and even the playing field? The country’s top prospects never got the memo and neither did the schools involved, not even the ones that had assistant coaches arrested. In 247Sports.com’s recruiting rankings, USC has the No. 1 class, Arizona No. 3, Louisville No. 4 and Auburn No. 9. USC, which has five-star prospects Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu among its elite five-man class, is recruiting better after the scandal than before it.
Powers make recruiting strides
Development matters. So does winning. It’s not all about getting to the NBA as fast as possible. Just look at Gonzaga and Villanova, two of the nation’s most consistent winners. Both have put together top classes. The Wildcats have the No. 2 group, while Gonzaga’s is No. 7, each landing the kind of prospect who would have passed on them in recent years. It’s worth nothing these two schools are known, arguably more than any others, for coaching up and developing their players better than anyone else. Players get better under Jay Wright and Mark Few, who have done a lot of winning without the type of blue-chip prospects they are beginning to land.
Decisions pushed back
Of 247Sports.com’s top nine prospects, seven have yet to sign during the early period, and may not at all. That includes the No. 1 point guard, Cole Anthony of Manhattan. The 6-foot-3 floor general, who transferred from Archbishop Molloy in Queens to powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Va.) for his senior year, has cut his list to six: North Carolina, Oregon, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Georgetown and Miami.
He has taken officials visits to the first three — according to sources, they are his top priorities at the moment — and will visit Georgetown officially next weekend, a source said. A visit to Wake Forest is also in the works. His mother, Crystal McCray-McGuire, said a decision before the spring (perhaps as early as January or February) is possible, but not necessarily likely.
“I think it will be a combination of academics and a strong basketball program,” McCray-McGuire said of the qualities most critical to their family. “On the basketball front, the most important thing honestly would be which coach Cole was most compatible with.”
Prior to Anthony cutting his list, most experts considered Duke a favorite and expected Kentucky to get in the picture, in part because of the powerhouse programs’ recent dominance for the nation’s premier prospects on a yearly basis. But neither program made the family feel like Anthony was their priority, while the other six schools recruited him vigorously, his mother said.
“There wasn’t that same consistent or persistent outreach from the programs that did not make the final-six cut,” she said.
St. John’s and Seton Hall may not sign a player during the early period, just two of six power conference schools in that boat. Both have taken the transfer route of late — Seton Hall has Florida State big man Ike Obiagu sitting out, while St. John’s has two transfers, David Caraher (Houston Baptist) and Eli Wright (Mississippi State) — which partly explains it.
The Red Storm are hosting highly regarded junior college point guard Cam Mack this weekend, so there is a chance they could have a signee this week. St. John’s has also yet to win under coach Chris Mullin, giving top recruits pause, another reason so much is riding on this season in Queens. Seton Hall, though, doesn’t have that excuse. It is coming off three straight NCAA Tournament bids, yet is in a recruiting rut.