The 2018 Hoops Recruiting Landscape: While we Wait

After a thrilling SEC Tournament run that ended in a fun to watch but hard to take 77-72 loss to Kentucky, the Vols will kick off what could potentially be a magical NCAA Tournament run on Thursday against Wright State.  And while Rick Barnes and the entire Tennessee basketball program are no doubt focused on the task at hand, one eye is always on the future and recruiting.  As we went over in depth here, the immediate future is incredibly bright as not only are twelve of the thirteen scholarship players on this conference champion roster scheduled to return and nine of those thirteen sophomores and freshmen but the level of talent Barnes and Co. are recruiting is already clearly at a higher level than since he’s been in Knoxville.  So while we wait for Thursday’s tipoff, let’s take a quick look at some interesting developments on the recruiting scene

Mark Fox Fired from UGA

As rumblings started that Mark Fox was likely to be fired at Georgia, 5-star PG prospect Ashton Hagans from the Atlanta area decommitted from the Dawgs.  Currently a 2019 prospect, there has been much discussion about whether he might reclassify to the 2018 class.  Either way, his recruitment has become much more crowded as the likes of Georgetown, NC State and others have thrown their hat into the ring.  Depending on who Georgia hires, and whether or not the new coach keeps assistant Jonas Hayes on, the Dawgs could still be a factor as well.

The Vols were in the mix before Hagans committed to UGA and one would assume they will try and get more involved now with the dynamic lead guard.  If Hagans does indeed reclassify to 2018, one would think that the opportunity to come in and immediately play for a title contending team will be attractive.  If he stays in the 2019 class the Vols will have that much more time to recruit him, and will likely be that much more of a power program, so either way Hagans will be one to watch

Tubby Smith Fired from Memphis

Although this isn’t official as of this writing, Tubby Smith will not be coaching at Memphis next season and it’s just as likely that Penny Hardaway will be.  That could have multiple implications for Tennessee recruiting in 2018:

Tyler Harris: The diminutive local high school star is thought to *currently* be a Baylor lean with the Vols trying to get him on campus.  However, though he was never signing with Memphis with Smith as coach it seems very likely that Hardaway will land him

Anfernee Simons: Simons is the Vols #1 target and is an elite player who would make the Vols a preseason darling and maybe even Top 5 type team.  Simons is eligible for the NBA Draft and very likely could go that route. With Hardaway’s hiring it is rumored that Simons, who is named for and whose family has some sort of relationship with Penny, the Tigers could become a factor here.  All that of course is dependent on Simons passing on the opportunity to declare for the NBA Draft, which seems less and less likely.  His next chance to impress NBA scouts will be the Jordan Brand Class on April 8th in Brooklyn and he will have to make a final decision one way or the other soon after

Myreon Jones: An interesting prospect who had limited offers (Colorado State and Wofford) before committing to the Tigers despite being ranked by 247 Sports as the #91 ranked player in 201 class.  He’s considered more of a combo guard who at 6’3, 170 can handle and distribute the ball but is known for his shooting/scoring ability.  He’s also an outstanding student which would likely fit the kind of character mold that Barnes looks for. Where his commitment stands once Smith is forced out is still to be determined, and there has been no interest from Tennessee to-date.  However, the Vols might take another look once the season is over if Jones opens his recruitment back up

Gaines Continues State Title Run

The lone Tennessee high school commitment is 2019 Davonte Gaines, who has had an outstanding senior year leading his Buffalo-area team this season.  That continues as he is now making a run in the NY State tournament before leaving to take a 5th year at Hargrave Academy.  Gaines is an exciting prospect who can do a bit of everything and will spend the year at Hargrave bulking up his wiry frame and improving his overall game against competition that is miles above what he’s faced in Buffalo

More Coaching Changes to Come, More Options Likely to Emerge

While Fox and Smith are two of a handful of firings that have taken place so far, there is likely to be more shakeup in the coaching ranks once the season officially ends.  This will likely cause more players in the 2018 class who are currently committed/signed elsewhere to become available, and at the same time make more players who have the option to take a 5th-year graduate transfer jump at that chance.  Tennessee is going to look like a really good option for someone, especially considering how much publicity the program is getting in March and what kind of team the Vols project to return in 2018-19, not to mention the positive experience James Daniel III had as a 5th year transfer on this team.  So while the pickings look relatively slim right now (after Simons) for that one spot in the 2018 class, expect Barnes and Co. to have a lot of options to add a meaningful piece when it’s all said and done

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