The usual suspects are at the top of the recruiting world yet again.
Kentucky and Duke, fresh from yet another #1 and #2 recruiting class ranking for the class of 2016, are now setting their sights on yet another historic haul each with the 2017 class. That's not to say that we need to pity Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, and other top notch Division 1 coaches who year in and year out gather the talent needed to make a consistent run at a Final Four.
Another name to keep an eye on that is recruiting an elite crew of talent out west is Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. After getting commitments from 4-star players Blake Harris and Jaylen Nowell, the Huskies just locked down a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. who is regarded as the #1 overall player in the class in certain rankings.
But when the words "basketball recruiting" come up, two schools now draw the most attention, and that is Kentucky and Duke. It is going to be no different in the class of 2017. In my eyes there is one common player that both schools are heavily recruiting that may swing the pendulum towards either school getting the #1 class in the nation for next year. That player's name is Mohamed Bamba.
The 6-11 big man from New York is one of the most coveted players for next season. It seems as though many think Duke is in the lead, but John Calipari has been gaining steam of late while Harvard, yes I said Harvard, is the dark horse favorite of most analysts because Bamba is interested in academics and has a nice relationship with Tommy Amaker.
However, Coach K and Coach Cal seem to be locked in a battle that will likely last until next year before the deadline. Why do I think Bamba holds the key to the #1 recruiting class for either Kentucky or Duke? Let's look at it from both teams standpoint.
The Blue Devils have their sights set on a massive haul right now for 2017. According to 247Sports.com Duke is leading the Crystal Ball predictions for Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox, Gary Trent Jr., and Quade Green. All ranked in the top 30 with Carter, Knox, and Trent Jr. being ranked in the top 10. Duke, as of now, also leads in the predictions for Bamba.
But with the summer sessions coming to an end, things change after exposure and new found attention from other schools with a lot of the players. A class for Duke that would include all of the players listed above would most likely be the unanimous #1 class of 2017.
As usual John Calipari and staff bring out the "not so fast" statement when they show up and show attention to top talents across the nation. While Coach K and staff are gathering the momentum with many elite players in this class, so are Coach Cal and his assistants.
In 247Sports.com's Crystal Ball predictions for Kentucky, they currently have the lead on Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards, Trae Young and John Petty. All are ranked in the top 25. And while Duke seems to be early out of the gate to gain Bamba's services, Calipari only recently started to turn the heat up for the big man.
One thing that Bamba and his coaches liked that Cal has talked about his game is the comparisons to former UK standout and current NBA superstar Anthony Davis. They also noted that Coach Cal thinks Bamba is a "positionless" player, much like Davis was, that can play numerous positions while showcasing many facets of his game to prepare for college and the next level.
At 6-11 he can block shots, gather rebounds, jump over defenders, and yet step out and hit 3's as well. We all saw how Davis impacted the game at Kentucky while leading them to their 8th National Championship and become the #1 Pick in the NBA Draft.
Mohamed Bamba is the key to this class when it comes to the usual battle between Kentucky and Duke. He will make wherever he goes much better immediately while giving his college team an interchangeable piece that will be a mismatch for any opponent. The truth is Kentucky and Duke will both have great classes even if Bamba went elsewhere such as Harvard or North Carolina.
But with him, either school will more than likely have the best class of 2017 barring another school gathering an unprecedented elite crop.