Cutdown for one of Mizzou’s top wing targets has come and gone, and the Tigers have survived again.
Last week, wing Cam’Ron Fletcher, a top-40 prospect, cut his list to five schools, and we broke down how each school fit into the picture.
Boom! Top 5. Early bday gifts for everybody! God is Good! Thank you for everyone that helped through this process! pic.twitter.com/rbhtfpu3Vd— Josh(ua) Christopher (@Jaygup23) July 25, 2019
New head coach Juwan Howard is already working to make a statement. Often, former coach John Beilein focused his recruiting efforts on on middle-tier or fringe four-star recruits. Once they arrived in Ann Arbor, he meticulously developed their games and maximized returns. By contrast, Howard, who has deep NBA bonafides, is already going big-game hunting on the recruiting trail, trying to turn Michigan into a destination for top recruits.
When it comes to Josh Christopher, the Wolverines are playing from behind. It helps that Howard retained assistant coach Saddi Washington, who is an excellent recruiter and has a relationship with Christopher. Still, there might be too much interference for the Wolverines to win this race.
My estimation: 8% chance
The Bruins also had a coaching change this summer, and a pretty public one, when they hired Mick Cronin. The Bruins, though, still own a distinct advantage. They’re the hometown school, and Josh, who hails from the Los Angeles area, grew up in the shadow of Pauley Pavilion. No campus is closer — roughly 30 miles — than UCLA, and one of Christopher’s best friends, Shareef O’Neal, is already on the roster. Playing close to home while suiting up in the blue and gold and teaming up with your friend has some allure.
However, like Michigan, the Bruins are playing catch-up in the relationship department. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for them to land Christopher, but when you factor in everything, it feels like a long shot.
My estimation: 13% chance
Arizona State Sun Devils
Here’s where things start to get dicey for Missouri.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME ASU! *OFFICIAL VISIT* (not committed). pic.twitter.com/mFP4HiUFst— Josh(ua) Christopher (@Jaygup23) February 11, 2019
So far, Christopher’s only ventured out on two official visits: Missouri and Arizona State. What’s the link in Tempe? Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley deftly signed Caleb Christopher, who is Josh’s older brother, while he spent a post-grad year at Hillcrest Prep. The Christophers are close-knit, and pledging to ASU would enable Josh to stay out west and link up with his brother for another season.
It was so strong that Arizona State took a chance on Christopher’s brother, who most analysts considered a borderline mid-major-plus level prospect.
But it worked. The Sun Devils went the outside looking into the thick of the race for the five-star prospect. And I don’t mean to demean the ability of Caleb Christopher, who is a prospect with some promise. But the mid-major-plus level prospects are hit and miss. Josh Christopher is, well, not that. For a while, it seemed the Sun Devils might have taken the lead — until Kentucky jumped in.
My estimation: 18% chance
If you want to sum up how I feel about the Kentucky Wildcats jumping into the Josh Christopher sweepstakes, it would be...welp.
The Wildcats are currently hunting for wings in the 2020 class and have identified Christopher, Fletcher and Brandon Boston as options. Mizzou also happens to be doggedly pursuing two of them as well. Them’s the breaks.
When you wade into deep recruiting waters, you have to fend off sharks. Coach John Calipari doesn’t lose in recruiting very often. The question now is whether Boston, who took an official visit to Lexington this week, comes off the board and commits to the Wildcats. Boston also backed up his timeline to make a decision to the end of this summer from the spring signing period in 2020. (EDIT: Boston committed to Kentucky today)
My estimation: 38% chance
So far, coach Cuonzo Martin and Mizzou have survived the cut down for two of their top three targets on the perimeter and are likely to survive Caleb Love’s imminent pruning. With all three, we’re talking about recruiting against the best of the best.
If you’re just now getting up to speed, Josh Christopher’s connection to MU runs through the weight room. Nicodemus Christopher, who is the Tigers’ strength and conditioning coach, happens to be Josh’s cousin. Nicodemus has also been by Martin’s side since the coach was at Tennessee. The nexus of relationships meant Mizzou was going to be a factor--one that’s been there since the early days of the process. The Tigers have also hosted Josh on an official visit, which took place last fall. Nicodemus also likes to remind him what awaits him in CoMO.
♂️@Jaygup23!!! https://t.co/5er4yPf6dF pic.twitter.com/E4Ro6TIVqG— Nicodemus C. (@nicodemus_c) July 26, 2019
There’s a workout card in the weight room with your name on it ♂️— Nicodemus C. (@nicodemus_c) July 1, 2019
Missouri is in the mix, but they’re up against it a little with Kentucky and — to a lesser extent — Arizona State.
My estimation: 23% chance
Where do things go from here?
Christopher now can take more visits, likely one to Kentucky and maybe a return trip to Missouri and Arizona State. Throughout his recruitment, Christopher’s made it clear he wanted an offer from Kentucky -- calling it his dream school. While he has gushed about donning UK gear as a kid, Christophter also said it’s not a lock he’ll head to Lexington.
Still, the Wildcats would appear to be in the driver’s seat. Also, Cal is used to getting his guys, and there aren’t many options left on the open market. Boston might be a UK lean, but will he quickly pull the trigger after his visit wraps up? Fletcher is next in line for a visit, which is slated to start on Aug. 1. Presumably, Christopher would be last to be on campus.
Ideally, Missouri lands Fletcher and Christopher, but the odds of that seem remote. Instead, they’re jostling with Kentucky and Michigan State for Fletcher. Meanwhile, Kentucky might now be running neck and neck with Arizona State for Christopher.
If there’s any good news to be had, it’s that the acceleration of the could help the Tigers. Right now, all three are similar timelines, and with limited openings, it could hasten the speed at which elite prospects make their choice. Martin would be wise to pounce on the prospect who is more methodical.
The next three to four weeks could reveal a lot.