As it pertains to the recruitment part of the job description for college coaches, it’s one thing to load up on talent and an entirely other to fill a need, but changing the perception of a program by the type of prospects reeled in is the ultimate flex.
With Wednesday’s conclusion of the NCAA basketball early signing period, we’ve zeroed in on the most important signings to this point for the 2023 class.
Isaiah Collier to USC
The perception in Los Angeles is that Andy Enfield’s strength lies in the development of stretch-fours like Onyeka Okongwu, now with the Atlanta Hawks, and Evan and Isaiah Mobley, both with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Wednesday, Collier, arguably the top point guard and overall prospect in the 2023 class, upgraded the Trojans’ backcourt next season in one fell swoop. Collier has led Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) to two state titles in three years, dominated the Nike EYBL this past summer (19 points, 6.5 assists a game), then capped things off with back-to-back MVP appointments at the Steph Curry Camp and the Under Armour Elite 24. Collier’s presence puts the Trojans in serious contention for their first Pac-12 tournament title since 2009.
Freddie Dilione to Tennessee
How Dilione has been able to remain underrated after consistently dominating the competition for the last two years is mind-boggling, but Rick Barnes reeled in a star of a lead guard to ignite his offense. At 6’4”, Dilione is an efficient three-level scorer with great feel, pace, control, a relentless motor and elite athleticism. This past summer at the Adidas Championships, Dilione averaged 19 points, four assists and five rebounds for Team Loaded (N.C.). He was equally dominant during the high school season, pumping in 24 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists a game for Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) and has kept that dominance going early this season.
Xavier Booker to Michigan State
At 6’11”, Booker handles the ball like a guard, has an efficient stroke from the perimeter, dominates the paint and has impeccable timing as a rim protector; all attributes that have earned him the “unicorn” moniker. Booker upgrades Tom Izzo’s class from strong to special, checking in at No. 3 overall in the SI All-American basketball team recruiting rankings. His presence has Spartan fans thinking about the Final Four in Phoenix in 2024.
Ron Holland to Texas
Chris Beard protected his home turf and landed the top in-state and consensus top-10 national prospect last week. It was the first commitment for the Longhorns in 2023, but with Beard losing multiple players to graduation and, likely, the NBA next season, Holland could prove to be the most important. At 6’7”, Holland is virtually position-less with the ability to play and defend multiple positions and always tends to make the right basketball play. That aspect of his game could help lure other top players, like senior combo guard A.J. Johnson, who is strongly considering the Longhorns.
Gus Yalden to Wisconsin
Don’t let different national rankings fool you, Yalden is one of the top players in the country after a dominant summer in the Nike EYBL. The hefty, 6’8” forward pumped in 15 points and eight rebounds with City Rocks (N.Y.) despite playing alongside Simeon Wilcher, one of the top-scoring guards in the country. Yalden is adept at out-maneuvering opposing bigs and using his wide frame to create space and finish through traffic. Expect his impact to be felt from day one in Madison, Wisconsin.
Simeon Wilcher to North Carolina
When G.G. Jackson decommitted from North Carolina this past summer, then reclassified and committed to USC, Hubert Davis was taking big hits for “losing” such a high-profile recruit. It was almost as if the masses forgot that Davis reeled in one of the top-scoring guards in the country in Wilcher. At 6’4”, Wilcher is an efficient long-range sniper with elite athleticism and playmaking ability. The Tar Heels will need Wilcher’s firepower with probable depletions to its top backcourt after this season.
Cody Williams to Colorado
When Williams committed to the Buffs over Arizona, LSU, USC, LMU and Santa Clara last week, it sent a message throughout the recruiting world that Tad Boyle was a formidable foe in the space. Not since Chauncey Billups committed in the 1990s, has a more important recruit pledged his allegiance to the Buffs. Williams is the highest-rated recruit in the program’s history.
Marvel Allen to Georgetown
Georgetown is 26-63 in the Big East since John Thompson III left and Patrick Ewing took the reins, making his seat swiftly approaching the boiling point. Still, Ewing was able to land one of the top point guards in the 2023 class in Allen, a major building block of a prospect that could shift the trajectory of a program.
Jizzle James to Cincinnati
Even with his reputation for playing in March, Bearcats coach Wes Miller has taken his lumps for not being able to land top-tier talent. Miller took over at Cincinnati last April after a decade as the head coach at UNC Greensboro, and while, at this point in the year, James isn’t considered the top-10 prospect fans want, he has proven himself to be considered in the top tier of the class. James is the son of former NFL running back Edgerrin James and turned in a dominant performance in the Nike EYBL this past summer. His addition is huge for Miller’s perception as a recruiter headed into year two.
Layden Blocker to Arkansas
The Razorbacks will need to reload their backcourt next season if, but more likely when, Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black bolt for the NBA, making Blocker necessary for Eric Musselman. The 6’2” point guard dominated this summer for Brad Beal Elite (Mo.), averaging 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals a game in the Nike EYBL. Last season he managed a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.) in the NIBC, the most grueling high school league in the country. His addition in Fayetteville means Musselman won’t miss a beat at the most important position on the floor.
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