Who are the top 2018 prospects that could end up in the Black and Gold?
The 2017 Wake Forest Demon Deacons basketball recruiting class is officially set in stone after 4* C Olivier Sarr signed his National Letter of Intent earlier this month for the Deacs. The class finished 36th in the overall 247sports Composite Team Rankings, a nice 25 spot jump from 2016 and just 4 spots below where the Collins, Crawford, and Moore trio ended up. Seeing Wake Forest’s recruiting class once again finishing around the likes of Michigan, West Virginia, and Indiana is welcome progress, but there is still room to improve given the program’s current momentum.
Fortunately, an NCAA tournament bid and a 3* –> 1st round draft pick story will do wonders for Danny Manning’s recruiting pitches in this upcoming cycle. So who are the potential targets you should be on the lookout for as we head into the always-exciting summer recruiting months? I’ve compiled a list of the Top 25 Wake Forest 2018 prospects you should know with some relevant information on each to make things easier. Let the speculating and analysis begin.
Below you will find the link to the Google Spreadsheet I created with all of the realistic targets for the 2018 recruiting class for Wake Forest. It does not include a few recruits who have been offered, but seemed to barely ever consider the Deacs (Spoiler alert: 5* Zion Williamson will sadly not be a member of the 2018 WF recruiting class no matter how often we dream or send kind tweets his way). The list compiles information regarding each recruit’s ranking, notable offers, last visit to campus, AAU team, and more. There is also a section labeled “Hype Level” that is particularly relevant to their overall recruitment to the Deacs. This individual section takes into account the following factors: 1) Wake Forest’s overall interest in the recruit 2) The recruit’s overall interest in Wake Forest and 3) Where the recruit stands in the overall recruiting process.
Prospects with a “High” rating were labeled that way because they have either been on campus numerous times, listed WF as one of their top schools recently, or analysts are predicting Wake Forest to be one of their leaders. Prospects with a “Medium” rating might have visited Wake Forest and shown strong interest, but updates are lacking as to how the situation currently is. Prospects with a “Low” rating are those that either have just been offered so it is too early to tell their interest or are very unlikely to end up at Wake given recent updates. In general, the “Hype Level” column is entirely related to how strong the mutual interest is between Wake and the prospect and thus how interested you should be in their recruitment. “High” level guys have a fairly decent shot at picking the Deacs, while “Low” level guys probably won’t even have Wake in their final lists. “Medium” guys will more likely than not move to one of the other levels as the cycle rolls on and the staff’s prioritization becomes clearer. The breakdown between “High”, “Medium” and “Low” recruits goes like this:
The spreadsheet also allows you to filter each column however you please. You can filter by Name, Rank, Offer Date, etc by simply hovering your mouse over the column letter and clicking the downward arrow. After selecting the downward arrow, you can select “Sort Sheet A-Z” or “Sort Sheet Z-A” to filter the database whichever way you want. Check it out for yourself after the bump:
After looking at the spreadsheet, there may be a few things that stand out at first glance. First and foremost, you can see just how North Carolina focused the staff’s recruiting strategy has been this cycle. 12 of the 25 names on this list play HS ball in North Carolina and live within a couple hours from campus. That’s even more NC based than in 2016 where it looked like Wake might pull its entire class from the Hoop State at one point.
Of course, there are clear benefits to this strategy, most notably being the amount of face time the coaches can get and the unofficial visit opportunities for each recruit. The obvious example in this year’s class is probably John Newman III, who just last week took his umpteenth visit to Wake after being offered by the staff in June 2016. His ability to come to numerous home games and be around the team constantly will be a major reason for his commitment if he does indeed end up in the Black and Gold. Of course, this strategy is only effective if the local area actually has solid talent, which is certainly the case in 2018.
The next thing you might notice about the spreadsheet is its intense weight towards wings over big men and Point Guards. 72% of the top 25 recruits on the big board play either the 2 or the 3 at the HS level. Even more astonishing is that of the three big men on the list, only 1 has been offered and landing McCormack looks incredibly doubtful with his recent interest from Blue Blood programs such as Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas. Wake will likely need a big man in the 2018 class given the fact it will only have Moore, Sarr, and Japhet-Mathias as post players at the end of next season.
It’s incredibly odd that Manning’s approach to Power Forwards and Centers has been far quieter than in past seasons on the surface at this stage in the cycle. Then again, the staff has landed foreign 4* bigs late in the recruiting season in each of the last two years (Sarr and SJM), and it’s quite possible they are going with a similar plan in 2018. One would think that Manning could use the rapid growth of John Collins over the last two years to convince virtually any 4* Power Forward to heavily consider Wake on the spot. Perhaps they are going to use the current month of AAU ball to evaluate their options and take it from there.
You’ll also notice that 7 players have their rows highlighted gold to stand out from the rest of the list. This is because these are the seven players who at this point look most likely to potentially become a Demon Deacon when it is all said and done. Let’s take a deeper look at each recruit and where they stand currently in the process.
2018 Prospects That Deserve Your Attention
Jaylen Hoard, 5* 6’8 SF from Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
Hoard might be the recruit you are most familiar with given his connection to 2017 commit and fellow Frenchman Olivier Sarr. Hoard and Sarr were teammates at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships and also met up in North Carolina during the latter’s official visit in February. The 6’7 forward transferred over to the US prior to his junior season and currently plays at Wesleyan Christian Academy, the same school Brandon Childress graduated from.
Scout ranks him as the #14 prospect in the entire 2018 class, which would make him the first 5* commit since Al Farouq Aminu in 2008. Rivals.com likes our chances at the moment given our early investment in his recruitment. The Sarr connection obviously can’t hurt either. More suitors will come in aggressively over the summer as he shines on the AAU circuit, but Wake looks like the leader right now and will do everything it can to stay there in the coming months. Expect a decision after his travels with the French National Team and Team CP3 conclude this summer.
Sharone Wright Jr., 4* 6’5 PG from West Florence (SC)
Wright Jr. has been one of the Deacs’ top Point Guard prospects for the better part of the last year now. The 6’5 guard from Florence, SC stated in an interview in the fall that Wake Forest was coming after him the hardest and that sentiment remained true in an interview last week with Phenom Hoops Report. In it he mentioned how he talked to the staff “all the time” and was looking to schedule an unofficial visit in the coming weeks to check out the campus.
While he’s listed as #199 on the 247 Composite, 247sports actually has him as a 4* recruit and a Top 130 player in the nation. His versatility and size at the Point Guard position would be extremely valuable for Danny Manning who wants players he can slot in at multiple positions. Expect an official decision from Wright between the end of the AAU season and beginning of the school year (Late July/Early August).
Drue Drinnon, 4* 5’11 PG from Pebblebrook (GA)
Drinnon is an agile 4* PG from Commerce, GA that Wake first offered back in June 2016. He mentioned to 247sports over the weekend that UGA, Georgia Tech, and WF were the three schools coming after him the hardest, which coincides with what he’s been saying for the last couple of months.
Personally, I think the local schools have a slight advantage here simply given how long they’ve been on him. UGA has been recruiting Drinnon since the 8th grade and Pastner was in contact with him back in his Memphis days as well. The one advantage Wake has over these programs is the most recent NCAA Tournament bid and the brand new Shah Basketball Complex in development. It will be a lot clearer where Wake stands in Drinnon’s recruitment at the end of the AAU season, as it still feels fairly early right now.
Isaiah Mucius, 4* 6’8 SF from St James (MD)
The momentum seems to be very much in the Deacs’ favor with the 6’8 wing from St. James in Maryland. Two Crystal Ball predictions for Wake Forest in the last 3 weeks is encouraging news as Danny Manning looks to add yet another consensus 4* recruit to his squad. Mucius is a long, athletic wing who can score efficiently around the rim and takes pride in his defensive effort. He’ll be able to defend multiple positions at the college level and his potential is about as high as anyone’s in the 2018 class.
Oregon, Rutgers, and Wake Forest were the 3 schools on him the hardest according to an article earlier this month, with the staff notably using Chaundee Brown as a part of their recruiting pitch. He’s looking for a family atmosphere at the next level and a place where he can get significant minutes as a freshman, either as a starter or bench player. Mucius is exactly the type of recruit Wake Forest should be going after heavily in this new era under Danny Manning; A smart, humble kid with excellent measures and the potential to be an All-Conference player after a few years in the ACC. Sign this kid up, Danny.
Nate Laszewski, 4* 6’7 SF from Northfield Mount Hermon (MA)
You don’t traditionally see Wake Forest heavily competing for high-level New England prospects given the sheer distance between the respective parties. The Big East, Big Ten, and northern ACC schools usually take care of that market, but there’s a chance Wake could steal a Top 150 New England prospect in the form a Nate Laszewski in 2018. Danny Manning offered the 6’7 SF back in early November, and brought him to campus for the Duke and NC State home games shortly thereafter.
The other visitors when the Deacs took on the Pack were arguably the Deacs’ top two 2019 prospects in 5*s Christian Brown and Wendell Moore, 4* 2018 SG John Newman, and 2017 commit Olivier Sarr. That sounds like a “high priority” group if you ask me. Laszewski’s strength is undoubtedly his outside shot, and from watching his highlights he looks like a whole lot like former NC State guard Maverick Rowan. His quick release and length would make him an asset from day 1 for the Deacs at the ACC level. Wake should be a contender in this one until the very end unless spots fill up before his decision.
Aaron Wiggins, 4* 6’6 SF from Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
Wiggins was noted by Scout as one of the standouts of the AAU weekend after dominating for Team CLT on the Under Armour tour. He averaged 23.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and shot 53% from 3 in NYC to earn himself probably a half dozen more offers by the time this week is over. Despite the intense competition, Wake has a few advantages in the chase for his signature due to the fact he is Jaylen Hoard’s teammate at Wesleyan Christian Academy and we’ve been intensely after him since the winter.
On Saturday, the 6’6 SF listed Wake, Maryland, and UVA as recruiting him the hardest, though the Terps are the only team with a Crystal Ball prediction. Wiggins excels at creating his own shot and can score efficiently from all three levels on the court, which is a player trait Wake Forest has lacked at times in recent years. If his HS teammate Hoard commits first, does Wiggins potentially follow suit? That is certainly an intriguing option to consider.
John Newman III, 4* 6’5 SG from Greensboro Day (NC)
I’m not sure there is a player in the 2018 class that has visited campus more times than John Newman III this cycle. The furthest back I could find evidence of a Newman visit was September 2015, and he’s been to Mother So Dear numerous times since then for games and unofficial visits. Originally a low 3* recruit, Newman is now listed as a 4* on 247’s rankings and the #27 SG in the country.
His defense has always been listed as one of his strengths, but he’s really developed his offensive game as well to become one of Team CP3’s best weapons on the AAU circuit. He averaged the 2nd most PPG on the team at the Hampton, VA event shooting 69% from the field, 83% from the line, and 67% from 3. Given Wake Forest was the second High Major program to offer and the significant interest appears mutual, I wouldn’t be surprised if Newman becomes the first commit of the 2018 class. His stock will continue to rise over the summer and there’s a great chance he’s the initial piece to a recruiting class that brings Wake Forest back into the Top 25 of the National Team Rankings.
Other Relevant Recruiting Info
Longtime target Devon Dotson Is Probably Headed Elsewhere
-4* PG Devon Dotson has been considered a top Wake target since the fall of 2015 prior to his breakout sophomore season with Providence Day. The staff was adamant in getting him on campus early and often, hosting him for plenty of games and visits throughout the last two seasons. However, as his profile increased due to exceptional play, so did his offers, with the likes of Kansas, Louisville, and Villanova all reaching out since July. Once considered the leader in his recruitment, Wake wasn’t even mentioned as a school coming after him the hardest in a recent update. This being said, there’s a very solid chance Danny Manning and the staff got the memo that Dotson had interests in going elsewhere and backed off. I listed him as a “Medium” Hype Level in the spreadsheet with the expectation of dropping that to a “Low” unless something dramatic happens later this month.
How Big Can This Class Really Be?
-With Dinos, Wilbekin, and “Grad Transfer to Be Named Later” all leaving after this year, Danny Manning will at least have 3 scholarships available for the 2018 class. Of course this doesn’t take into account the high probability that another spot opens up due to common attrition, the NBA draft, etc by April of next year. This being said, expect the staff to take 4 commits in this class with the most likely combination being 2 wings, 1 PG, and 1 PF/C. At this moment in time, that combination is most likely to be:
1 of Sharone Wright Jr/Drue Drinnon
2 of Jaylen Hoard/Isaiah Mucius/Aaron Wiggins/John Newman/Nate Laszewski
1 of a PF/C that is currently not on our radar.
Personally, if three of the five 4* wings want to commit I’d take all of them and figure out positions later. Yes, the team in 2018 might be slightly undersized, but you’d have arguably one of the best small ball lineups in the nation based on talent alone and the class would have the potential to finish in the Top 15 for the first time since 2007.
It’s also not totally out of the question for there to be 1 extra available scholarship given the rise of transfers in the college game and Bryant Crawford’s decision about his senior season being a factor. In this case, you go after one of the best grad transfer bigs on the market, promise him a starting role and 25+ mins a game, and solve your undersized issue right there. See, there is a way you can have your cake and eat it too! The cake also would taste like a Preseason Top 25 roster heading into Danny Manning’s 5th year at the helm. Yes please.
Thanks for reading everybody and be sure to stay tuned to Blogger So Dear for more recruiting updates as the AAU season continues to heat up. If you have any questions then feel free to comment down below, as this is a fluid situation. For more frequent Wake Forest recruiting news you can follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3. Go Deacs!