Starting Five: Rankings Week has arrived
It's rankings week. Coming up on Monday is the final 2018 Rivals150 while Wednesday and Friday will feature updates to the classes of 2019 and 2020, just in time for the start of April's two live periods.
In addition to rankings talk, National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi caught up with 2019's James Wiseman for the latest on his recruitment and much more in this week's Starting Five.
1. FINAL 2018 RIVALS150 PLUS UPDATES TO 2019 AND 2020 COMING
Will R.J. Barrett retain his spot at the top of the class of 2018 rankings? Will Duke still have a class featuring the top three ranked players in the country? The answers to those questions and more are coming Monday when we reveal our final update to the 2018 Rivals150.
On Wednesday, we will update the 2019 Rivals150 and on Friday we will update and expand the 2020 top 75 to a top 100.
The answer to Barrett's ranking status is coming soon enough, but there is at least movement around him as Duke will no longer hold commitments from the top three ranked players in the class. Look for a pair of newly minted five-stars and six newly ranked prospects in the final 2018 update.
2. JAMES WISEMAN REITERATES THAT HE PLANS TO STAY IN 2019
For now at least, Memphis (Tenn.) East's James Wiseman ranks No. 2 in the class of 2019.
Over the weekend, the now 7-foot big man was in Springdale, Ark., with his summer team the Bluff City Legends. An ankle injury had Wiseman in a walking boot watching from the sidelines but he told me that he should be ok to play this weekend when coaches can come watch him in Nike's EYBL.
Rumors continue to swirl that Wiseman could look at enrolling in college as a 2018 prospect. Wiseman wanted to make it clear that he has no plans of skipping out on his senior year of high school. He's never said he's considering a reclassification, his mother has said he is staying in 2019 and at this point he's pretty tired of the constant rumors despite him saying multiple times for the record that he's staying 2019. With that in mind, until Wiseman comes out and says otherwise, I'd love to see a moratorium on speculating that he makes a move but I bet he'll get asked about 2018 vs. 2019 several times in Dallas this weekend.
On the recruiting front, Wiseman said that Bill Self of Kansas recently reached out and that Vanderbilt continues to stay in touch. However, he also confirmed what most of us have thought and that his recruitment is primarily a battle between Kentucky and Memphis.
Wiseman wouldn't name a leader, but most recent behind-the-scenes talk has John Calipari and the Wildcats as the favorite over Wiseman's former high school and summer coach Penny Hardaway.
3. 2019 BIG MAN KOFI COCKBURN DISCUSSES WAKE-UP CALL
During my trip to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit I wrote about how taken I was with the improved shape and focus of 2019 big man Kofi Cockburn.
Don't get me wrong, Cockburn is still a massive dude at 300 pounds, and the 6-foot-10 center could benefit from the loss of at least 20 or 30 pounds. However, he's reshaped those pounds, and is surprisingly mobile and explosive for a guy his size.
Anyway, Cockburn told me that he had a bit of a wake-up call so I pressed him for more information on what prompted him to change his approach after not playing his best during the winter months.
"I see everybody out here with the ability to make their families lives happier and better. We all want to put our families in a better position and I feel like I could maybe do that so I had to get at it," he said.
"My work ethic is improved. I'm getting in the gym and working on my skill a lot more. I've changed the way my body carries the weight by eating better and running more."
Already holding offers from Syracuse, St. John's, Seton Hall, Illinois, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma State, Georgetown, Providence, Oregon, Rutgers and many others, Cockburn put himself in position to rise in this week's rankings update and is another good option in what is starting to look like a strong class of strapping, physical big men in 2019.
4. VERSATILE 2019 FORWARD JADEN MCDANIELS DISCUSSES THE LATEST
Also in line to make a jump in the 2019 rankings is four-star combo forward Jaden McDaniels from Federal Way (Wash.), who currently checks in at No. 63 overall.
Like Cockburn above, I had a chance to see and speak with McDaniels at last week's Hoop Summit. Though he wasn't on either the USA or World teams, McDaniels did scrimmage against the USA team and I was impressed with his level of aggression considering he was the youngest and most slightly built player on the floor.
McDaniels has skill, versatility and loads of upside, which bodes well for him.
"I can guard against guards, I can play against post players and I can play inside or outside," said McDaniels. "With how long and tall I am, I think it helps me out that I'm also mobile.
"I think I'm better at the small forward right now but I feel I have to get stronger so I can play more down on the block. But if I've got a little guy I'm still going to post him up."
Texas conducted an in-home visit over the weekend and has offered. So have Arizona, Washington, San Diego State, Montana and Oklahoma. Look for him to be closely watched this weekend playing for Seattle Rotary in Nike's EYBL.
5. FORMER 2017 FOUR-STARS ON THE MOVE
Two former four-star guard products who didn't quite have the freshman year they wanted found new homes over the weekend. Illinois transfer Mark Smith committed to Missouri – where he was once committed to play baseball – while Auburn's Davion Mitchell landed at Baylor.
When I've discussed players with Mizzou's head coach Cuonzo Martin, without fail his first question will be whether or not a kid is tough. I know Smith struggled to find his mojo at Illinois, averaging 5.8 points per game but shooting only 33.7-percent from the floor. But I also feel he's the kind of strong-bodied player Martin covets. Smith didn't lose any of his physicality from high school, he just lost his ability to dominate opponents because of it. A year off to hone his jump shooting and add onto his game so he has counters for when he can't overpower defenders should do wonders for Smith.
Like Smith, Mitchell hit a little bit of a wall at Auburn when he discovered that he couldn't just overpower – or sometimes out-leap – defenders in the SEC while averaging 3.7 points and 1.9 assists per game. In a perfect world for Baylor, Mitchell wouldn't have to sit a year for transfer but after losing out on four-star senior Tyler Harris to Memphis on Friday, Mitchell was a nice recovery. He has a chance to be an All-Big 12 defender and solid scorer from the point.
Though both Smith and Mitchell need to improve their shooting and erase the memories of their freshmen seasons, they did play meaningful minutes during their first year. With a year off to focus on improving and ingraining themselves into the cultures of their new programs, each has a chance to emerge as a meaningful contributor when they are next eligible as redshirt sophomores in the 2019-20 season.