Underrated Mid-Major Recruiting Classes That Will Make Their Mark This Year and Beyond

By Kevin Sweeney

Yesterday was the beginning of the July Evaluation Period, the most important recruiting period for players hoping to fulfill their dream of playing Division 1 basketball. So, I figured I’d do a recruiting-themed piece today discussing some underrated incoming mid-major recruiting classes. While we’ve all heard about the classes put together by Western Kentucky, UNLV, and St. Louis, there are plenty of other programs that have put together very talented classes that will come in and make an immediate impact. Here are 5 2017 classes that I really like:

NOTE: This only considers freshmen and JUCO players, not transfers. Player ratings from VerbalCommits.com

UAB

The Class:

  • 2-star 6-1 PG Zack Bryant (Jacksonville, FL)
  • 3.5-star 6-5 PG Luis Hurtado (Decatur, GA)
  • 2-star JUCO 6-3 SG Jalen Perry (Louisville, KY)
  • 3-star 6-10 PF Makhtar Gueye (Dakar, Senegal)

It may get overshadowed by C-USA rival WKU’s incredible class, but Robert Ehsan has put together a very talented class in his first full recruiting cycle as head coach at UAB. The headliners are Hurtado and Gueye, two highly-rated prospects who each spurned offers from multiple high-major programs to join the Blazers in Birmingham. Hurtado is a versatile guard, as his size allows him to play the 1-3 in the C-USA. If he improves as a shooter, he could be a star. Gueye is very skilled for his size and can learn from 2 excellent bigs in Chris Cokley and William Lee before moving into a starring role in his sophomore campaign. However, it’s the depth of this class that makes it special. Bryant, who broke scoring records set by Grayson Allen at the Providence School, will compete for minutes at the point right away and is considered a steal for UAB by most recruiting experts. Perry rounds out the class, an excellent shooter (46% from downtown at JUCO) who can also contribute right away.

Clearly, this is a outstanding class that could lead UAB to the top of Conference USA for years to come.

Stephen F. Austin

The Class:

  • 2-star 6-0 JUCO PG John Comeaux (Beaumont, TX)-3 years left
  • 2-star 6-3 JUCO SG Shannon Bogues (Killeen, TX)-3 years left
  • 3-star 6-3 PG Cameron Mack (Austin, TX)
  • 3-star 6-8 PF Stefon Fisher (Washington, DC)

Like UAB, this class is the first full class for Kyle Keller, who enters his second season as the replacement for Brad Underwood at SFA. Mack and Fisher are two highly-regarded prospects, each of whom will make an impact right away.

With his 6-3 frame, “elite playmaker” Cam Mack may run the show from day 1 in Nacagdoches. Mack, who also reportedly considered offers from Boise State, Old Dominion, Rhode Island, and others, is expected to be part of a core that will lead the Lumberjacks to the top of the Southland for years to come. Fisher had an extensive list of mid-major offers, and his strong frame will allow him to compete for minutes in the frontcourt right away. Comeaux and Bogues each provide the ability to handle and score the basketball, traits that can always be used on your roster. They will also fill valuable roles this season on an SFA team that looks to be the favorite in the Southland.

Northeastern

The Class:

  • 2-star 6-4 PG Myles Franklin (Villa Park, CA)
  • 2-star 6-4 PG Derrick Cook (Mableton, GA)
  • 2-star 6-8 SF Jason Strong (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  • 3.3-star 6-8 PF Tomas Murphy (Wakefield, RI)

This is truly a national recruiting class for Bill Coen and the Northeastern Huskies. It’s also a loaded class that will help Northeastern contend on the CAA for years to come. The steal here is Murphy, a skilled 6-8 forward who is the brother of former Florida star Erik Murphy and Alex Murphy, who played at Duke and Florida before grad transferring to Northeastern for the 2016-17 season. Tomas decided to join the Huskies over numerous high-major offers, including Maryland, Florida, Iowa, and Northwestern. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he steps in and takes his departing brother’s starting lineup spot this season. The other 3 prospects are all very solid mid-major recruits who should have nice careers for the Huskies. Frankin, a long, smooth guard from California, has the potential to be a steal. Cook led his high school team to a state title as a senior and is the type of versatile guard every team can use. Strong has interesting potential as a 3 or a stretch 4, and had a strong summer 2016 on the AAU circuit.

Don’t be surprised if we are talking about this class as the one that led Northeastern to the NCAA Tournament in a couple of years.

Ball State

The Class:

  • 3-star 6-1 PG Ishmael El-Amin (Minnetonka, MN)
  • 3-star 6-6 PF Zach Gunn (Fishers, IN0
  • 2-star 6-10 C Blake Huggins (Union City, TN)

James Whitford has recruited very well since becoming the Ball State head coach in 2013. This may be his best class yet.

Gunn is a huge get for a mid-major in Ball State, as he held offers from in-state powers Indiana (Crean), Butler, and Indiana State yet chose BSU once Tom Crean was fired in March. He’s the latest example of Whitford bringing top in-state talent into his program, the mark of  a very good mid-major coach. El-Amin, the son of former UConn great Khalid El-Amin, is also a very nice pickup, tapping into the talented state of Minnesota to land a guy who is likely the program’s point guard of the future. The class sealed with a center in Huggins who has excellent size at 6-10. Big men recruits at the mid-major level are mostly a crapshoot, but Huggins has the tools to develop into a really solid piece as well.

Penn

The Class: 

  • 2-star 6-5 SG Jelani Williams (Washington, DC)
  • 2.5-star 6-5 SF Eddie Scott (Washington, DC)
  • 3-star 6-8 PF Jarrod Simmons (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • 2-star 7-3 C Mark Jackson (Salt Lake City, UT)

Honestly, you could make a case for several of the incoming Ivy League’s incoming classes to make this list, but I decided to go with the one that Steve Donahue has put together at Penn. Simmons is a high-major talent by all accounts, earning offers from Pitt, Texas, VCU, Providence, and Boston College before committing to the Quakers. The frontcourt pairing of Simmons and rising sophomore AJ Brodeur has a chance to be special.

Added to the class are a pair of dynamic wings from the DC area in Williams and Scott who have the prototypical size and athleticism to make an immediate impact. Scott, who has been committed to the Quakers since July of 2016, was on a potential high-major trajectory had he not committed early, having already garnered offers from top mid-majors from across the country. The class is sealed with the massive 7-3 Jackson, who is raw but has a ton of potential if he can grow into his frame.

One thought on “Underrated Mid-Major Recruiting Classes That Will Make Their Mark This Year and Beyond

  1. Man, where is the UWGB Love… I guess we will just give you something to write about when the season starts…

    Like

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