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Assessing The Top High Schoolers’ September Decisions

With the ninth month of the year about to finish, we take a look at the commitments some of the best players from the class of 2020 have made this month, and how things stand around the nation.

City Of Palms Classic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

During the past three weeks, we’ve heard a bunch of 2020-class kids pledge his word to different colleges for the 2021 season. While looking at the national rankings (always by 247Sports Composite), there were eight prospects ranked 46th or higher to give word to a university this September. Not a huge amount, but enough to see how things developed around the most-coveted kids in the nation. While some of those decisions will not amount to much in the long run, others can make quite an impact on their colleges of choice. Let’s take a look at the players, the universities, some trends, and more about all of those eight commitments!

Who Are The Players And Where Do They Come From?

Mixed bag here, which we love around this place! No two players come from the same high school—not even the same city!—and only two made their decisions being from a school located in the same state—Georgia. And among all of those cities, it’s even more of massive chaos, as we have the proverbial huge metropolitan areas in Chicago (IL) or Boston (MA), and the tiny towns in those of Fairburn (GA) or Burlington (NJ).

The players themselves are listed next, including their national ranking, position, current high school, and star rating:

  • No. 4 SG Terrence Clarke - Brewster Academy (Boston, MA) - 5-star recruit
  • No. 15 C Walker Kessler - Woodward Academy (Fairburn, GA) - 5-star recruit
  • No. 18 PG Sharife Cooper - McEachern (Marietta, GA) - 5-star recruit
  • No. 26 CG D.J. Steward - Whitney Young (Chicago, IL) - 5-star recruit
  • No. 33 C Lance Ware - Camden (Burlington, NJ) - 4-star recruit
  • No. 37 C Mady Sissoko - Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, UT) - 4-star recruit
  • No. 40 PF Henry Coleman - Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA) - 4-star recruit
  • No. 46 PG Cam Hayes - Greensboro Day School (Greensboro, NC) - 4-star recruit

Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t include their college of choice on purpose. One step at a time, folks.

As you can see, quite a mix of players and origins. There are two pure-point guards, one do-it-all combo guard, one shooting guard, a power forward and up to three (!) centers. Also, all of the eight players are at least 4-star players as seen by 247Sports Composite rankings, with an even 50/50 split between 5-star players and 4-star players in the group.

Have Those Schools Any Track Record Of Top-Player Production?

If you’re even slightly into high school basketball or just college ball, at least Brewster Academy must ring a bell inside your head. McEachern has been on the up lately but not so much historically, kinda like Wasatch. You also know Whitney Young—if only for Michelle Obama—although they haven’t been able to produce top-tier talent since a few years back.

We can confidently say that other than Brewster, the other schools came as good surprises at putting those names in the table when discussing best-prepped players entering their senior years.

For Brewster Academy, this has been routine since 2007. Back in that year, they produced the 31st-best prospect in the nation in Craig Brackins, and they have only been stopped from having a top 50 talent in 2011, 2016, and 2018. Other than those three times, they have been able to put as many as 18 players in the list of top 50 national high school players with Jalen Lecque (no. 40), Alonzo Gaffney (no. 47) and, Kai Jones (no. 49) as part of their 2019 class.

As I already introduced, both McEachern and Wasatch Academy have been under-the-radar schools until late. The former qualified for the GEICO Nationals this past season but withdrew from the competition due to most of their players not being able to make it due to other commitments. They had Isaac Okoro (no. 35) in the top 50 last year. As for Wasatch, they also had one player made the top 50 once since 2003, Emmanuel Akot (no. 24) in 2017.

Finally, it is nice to see the Whitney Young name make it to this piece. Sam Thompson (no. 47) was the first alumni to crack the top 50 back in 2011 and is currently a G League player. Of more fame, Jahlil Okafor left Whitney Young ranked as the no. 1 prospect nationwide in 2014, quite the accomplishment.

And The Most Important Thing... Where Are They Going To Play College Ball?

About time we get to this point, right? Okay, okay, you win. Let’s break history down a little before we get to the actual decisions from the group of eight.

In the past five years, which includes the senior HS classes from 2015 to 2019, this is the breakdown of college commits from top 50 players around the nation:

  • 25 Commits - Kentucky
  • 22 - Duke
  • 14 - Arizona
  • 9 - Kansas, UCLA
  • 8 - Texas
  • 7 - Michigan State, North Carolina, LSU, Villanova, Louisville
  • 6 - Oregon, USC
  • 5 - Memphis, Florida State
  • 4-to-1 - 46 Combined Colleges

Congratulations, blue-teams! You won again! Yikes, this is going to kill me someday...

Well, you read it right. In five years, 25 top 50 players have gone Kentucky’s way. Your math is on point, don’t doubt it now. That number means that on average, Kentucky has gotten five top 50 players per class for each of the past five years. Same goes to Duke, with only one fewer commit in that range in the same span. Kudos to Arizona for prying 14 away (a virtually healthy three per year), the only college to break the 10-kids barrier.

So, have things been different during the past few weeks when it comes to college commitments? Yes, and no. Here are the universities to get word from the eight players discussed here:

  • Kentucky (2): Terrence Clark (no. 4), Lance Ware (no. 33)
  • Duke (2): DJ Steward (no. 26), Henry Coleman (no. 40)
  • North Carolina (1): Walker Kessler (no. 15)
  • Auburn (1): Sharife Cooper (no. 18)
  • Michigan (1): Mady Sissoko (no. 37)
  • NC State (1): Cam Hayes (no. 46)

Small sample, yes, but the percentages check. In the 2015-2019 span, Kentucky and Duke got 49 out of 250 recruits (19.6 percent), and this short month of September they snatched four out of eight (50 percent). They keep dominating folks, nothing new under the sun!

Taking a broader view of the status of the recruiting process of the members of the 2020 class, things smooth themselves a bit but the trend continues. As of this writing, both Kentucky and Duke are battling to finish the year with the best nationally ranked class. On a scale from 0-to-1 in which 1 means a consensus-best player on the nation, the average Kentucky and Duke prospect on their 2020 classes have values of 0.9914 and 0.9917 points respectively (per 247Sports). Only two other teams have commitments from at least four prospects (same as Kentucky and Duke at this point) while scoring an average of 0.900: Wisconsin (0.909, sixth-best class) and UNLV (0.902, 13th-best class). Just imagine the gap with the rest of the competitors.

So far, Kentucky has two 5-star players and two 4-star ones, while Duke has three 5-star guys and one 4-star commit. Other than those two colleges, only North Carolina has been able to get two 5-star commits so far (No. 15 Walker Kessler, and No. 17 Day’Ron Sharpe). Four other universities (Virginia, Baylor, Xavier, and Indiana) have three 4-star players in their lists and all of those colleges’ classes rank inside the top seven among the nation.

Hmmm... Back To The Bright Side, What Can We Expect Next?

The last two commitments of September came from Sharife Cooper (to Auburn), and Henry Coleman (to Duke).

Cooper has been one of the most talked-about names during the past few months, and the diminutive point guard from Marietta picked Auburn not even caring about blue-bloods such as Kentucky. He stepped on the Tigers’ campus, gave them word, and pumped everything up with his decision. In Auburn, he will reunite with the aforementioned Okoro.

Coleman, though, ended picking Duke after considering—mostly—Virginia Tech. Other colleges heavily involved in his recruiting process were Michigan, Ohio State, and NC State. As often happens with all of the prospects that at some point listen to the siren calls from talent-snatchers Duke and Kentucky, Coleman surrendered to them and signed with Duke.