By Kevin Sweeney
Washington landed two of the top eight recruits in the country in the 2019 recruiting class. The Huskies are in last place by three games in the Pac-12.
Georgia has 247Sports’ #1 recruit in the country. The Bulldogs are 12-13 after a loss to lowly Texas A&M Saturday.
Arizona, Florida, Memphis, and USC all landed two five-star recruits in the 2019 class. None of those teams are ranked.
Meanwhile, Auburn is 22-3 with five of its top six players as seniors. Penn State is riding seniors Lamar Stevens & Mike Watkins and a talented group of sophomores to a top-15 national ranking. Seton Hall tops the Big East with just one freshman in the playing rotation.
Outside of traditional one-and-done powers Duke and Kentucky, chasing highly-rated recruits hasn’t proven to be a successful team-building method. Yet coaches continue to chase after the most high-profile recruits year after year rather than attempting to build more traditionally with multiyear guys. Talent and upside doesn’t necessarily equal wins in college basketball: experience, player development, and chemistry usually decide tight games.
Obviously, it’s a hard sell to abandon the most talented players on the recruiting trail for second and third-tier prospects. Still, I’d argue there’s far more value in landing a high-level multiyear recruit than there is chasing one-and-done prospects. Look at the 2018 class: would you rather have Naz Reid or Simi Shittu for one year or multiple years of Reggie Perry, Daniel Oturu, or Filip Petrusev?
Certainly, the disparity in production is at least partially due to misses in evaluation by recruiting experts. There’s no justification looking back for having Shittu rated higher than any of those three “second tier” recruits after how generally dreadful he was at Vanderbilt. Still, I think the larger point still stands: there’s generally a market inefficiency on the recruiting trail in pursuing recruits in the 30-100 range nationally over throwing your hat in the ring for a superstar. Perhaps the best example of this is Virginia, the defending national champs who’ve earned #1 seeds in four of the last seven seasons without a single 5-star.
Again, it seems counter-intuitive to not go after the most talented players possible– especially since it’s not like these mid-tier recruits are without failures. Placing your program’s long-term future in the hands of Jules Bernard, Kamaka Hepa, Khavon Moore, or Francis Okoro wouldn’t look all that good right now. At the end of the day though, I see far more upside for high-majors outside the blue bloods to pursue guys they expect to be around for a couple years than going after a one-and-done.
Washington won the Pac-12 last season with four seniors and no freshmen in its regular rotation. A team with more “talent” is now buried in the basement of the Pac-12, even with both top recruits putting up strong counting stats in their freshman campaigns.
Getting older wins in college basketball. This year is no exception. Even in a world where fewer players are staying all four years, there’s more value in staying away from one-and-dones than there is chasing stars.