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Basketball Recruiting Update: And Then There Was One

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The Huskies are now all-in on 5-star Cade Cunningham. Can they overcome the odds and reel him in? And what happens if they don’t?

Hawaii v Washington Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

At the outset of recruiting the Class of 2020 it looked like Washington had the potential for another monster class. Coach Rice’s brother is the head coach at Bishop Gorman High School and we already pulled Jamal Bey from there. BG had a pair of 4-stars in Noah Taitz and Isaiah Cottrell who had the Huskies on their list. Washington was the first power conference offer for 5-star PG and native Alaskan Daishen Nix. There was also a 5-star small forward from the state of Washington who went to high school in Seattle with MarJon Beauchamp. Getting any 2 of those players would have represented a solid class.

But after yesterday they are now all officially off the board. It’s hard to pin some of it on the coaching staff. Beauchamp was a solid Husky lean before he decided not to pursue college basketball nominally to train for the NBA draft but also in part because of academic eligibility issues. Cottrell was willing to go across the country to play for his parents’ alma mater. Nix was lured by the tradition of UCLA point guards in a national recruitment.

With last night’s commitment to Stanford by Noah Taitz plus Mitchell Saxen’s recent commitment to St. Mary’s there are now only 4 players with a Husky offer that are uncommitted: Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Kendall Munson, and Cade Cunningham. Green and Christopher are both 5-star players who are not considering the Huskies and the buzz is that they will end up at Oregon and UCLA respectively.

Munson is the last local guy on the board but it doesn’t appear that the coaching staff is pushing very hard for his commitment. He has offers listed from UW and Washington State but recently took an official visit to San Diego. Barring Munson taking a leap during his senior season he seems like a guy that will end up as a good player in the WCC or WAC but doesn’t project as a Pac-12 starter.

Cade Cunningham, CG, 6’7, 215. Montverde Academy, Arlington, Texas.

247: 5 stars, #2 overall; Rivals: 5 stars, #2 overall; ESPN: 5 stars, #2 overall.

Other Offers: Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky.

Which brings us to Cade Cunningham. The 5-star out of Texas is the #2 ranked player in the country with a serious shot to get up to #1 by the time the rankings become final. He’s a transcendent talent who can do everything on a basketball court in a powerful, athletic 6’7 frame. Think a slightly taller Brandon Roy.

For those unaware, Cunningham’s brother was hired as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State earlier in the off-season and that appeared to wrap up his commitment. To the best of anyone’s memory a player of Cunningham’s pedigree has never turned down the opportunity to play at the school where a direct relative is on staff. Yet Cunningham is taking all of his official visits and a high 4-star Oklahoma State commit recently decommitted from the Pokes. That might be an indication that he thought he was joining Cunningham in Stillwater but he no longer expects that to be the case and so is jumping ship.

Cunningham is now 3/5 of the way through his official visit tour. The Huskies were originally slated to have the last official visit but because of a USA basketball event he postponed his Kentucky visit until the end. But the Huskies once again have the premium spot after Cunningham announced this morning he would go on the Kentucky visit as originally scheduled. So that last visit to Washington will coincide with the weekend of the UW-Oregon football game and what should hopefully be the most raucous crowd of the season.

There are infinite reasons to think that Cunningham won’t pick UW. There’s obviously his brother on staff at OSU. The other schools in his recruitment are Florida, North Carolina, and Kentucky for a kid from Texas who goes to high school in Florida. Washington beat out the blue bloods for Isaiah Stewart last year but they had a relationship that went back 4+ years between Stewart and Hop to fall back on. Hop’s relationship with Cunningham has been substantially shorter.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t as strong. Corey Evans at Rivals had a great interview with Cunningham last week. It’s subscribers-only so I won’t quote directly from it but Cade intimated that if he were picking solely on coaching staffs that Washington would be the pick. If that ends up being priority #1 for Cade then the Huskies are firmly in the mix. Hopkins had the opportunity to coach him with USA Basketball this summer so unlike with every other school on his list there is certainty about what the player-coach dynamic is like at Washington.

Let’s take a quick look at the possible scenarios. The Huskies are almost certain to lose both Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels to the NBA after this season and Sam Timmins will graduate. That leaves 3 open spots without the possibility of Naz Carter also jumping to the NBA or anyone else transferring out.

If Cunningham comes to Washington it means the coaching staff could happily call it a day if they wanted and feel good about the class. Hopkins has shown no indication that he really wants to have more than an 8 or at most 9 man rotation. Filling all the way up to 13 spots provides extra depth but also makes it much more likely you have a constant churn of guys transferring out since there aren’t enough minutes to go around. There’s also the possibility that someone currently without a Husky offer who wants to play with Cunningham suddenly becomes an option that isn’t known right now.

The more likely scenario by far is still that Cade goes elsewhere. In that case there are still at least 3 open spots. Do the Dawgs circle back Kendall Munson if he’s still available at that point? Do they go ahead and give a scholarship to walk-on Riley Sorn?

The factor influencing all of these decisions is the strength of the 2021 class. There are currently 6 uncommitted players from the state of Washington alone in the 247 Sports composite top-175. It would be a huge risk to save all of your scholarships for a massive year in 2021 (when both Naz Carter and Hameir Wright will have graduated as well). But if Hop keeps his powder dry there would be at least 5 spots available for a class that could include #3 Paolo Banchero, #53 Jackson Grant, #73 Nolan Hickman, #131 Shane Nowell, and #162 John Christofilis without venturing further from campus than Olympia.

(Washington also is in on 2021 high 4-star SF Peyton Watson who took an official visit to Seattle last weekend. You can find a video visit recap here. He said the coaching staff wants to use him the same way they’re planning on using McDaniels this year. The Huskies will have a shot but there’s a long way to go with his recruitment.)

Securing a surefire one and done guy like Cunningham would allow the best of both worlds by bringing in a premium talent for 2020 and still keeping a scholarship spot open for the loaded class of 2021. But putting all of your eggs in the Cunningham basket is a major gamble. Washington has walked down this road before with the Jabari Parker/Aaron Gordon class during the Lorenzo Romar era. Let’s hope for a much better outcome this time around.

The 2020 List (in approximate order of likelihood to sign with Washington)

STILL A CHANCE

Cade Cunningham, CG, 6’7, 215. 5 star, #2 overall.

Kendall Munson, PF, 6’8, 210. 3 star, #161 overall.

THE BLUTARSKY (0.0%)

Joshua Christopher, SG, 6’5, 215. 5 star, #10 overall.

Jalen Green, SG, 6’5, 170. 5 star, #3 overall.

The 2021 List

IN A GOOD SPOT

Shane Nowell, SG, 6’5, 190. 4 star, #131 overall.

Jackson Grant, C, 6’9, 205. 4 star, #53 overall.

John Christofilis, SG, 6’4, 170. 4 star, #162 overall.

STILL A CHANCE

Paolo Banchero, PF, 6’10, 235. 5 star, #3 overall.

Nolan Hickman, PG, 6’1, 180. 4 star, #73 overall.

Peyton Watson, SF, 6’7, 170. 4 star, #33 overall.

TOO EARLY TO TELL

Zaon Collins, PG, 6’1, 165. 4 star, #48 overall.

Will McClendon, SG, 6’3, 190. 4 star, #142 overall.

Jusaun Holt, SF, 6’5, 190. 4 star, #96 overall.

Malik Thomas, SG, 6’3, 190. 4 star, #106 overall.

Trey Patterson, SF, 6’7, 170. 4 star #34 overall.

THE BLUTARSKY (0.0%)

Franck Kepnang, C, 6’10, 220. 5 star, #19 overall.

Jaden Hardy, CG, 6’4, 185. 5 star, #7 overall.

Jonathan Kuminga, SF, 6’8, 205. 5 star, #1 overall.

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