Official visits are always an important tool in recruiting. A program can shell out money for all the perks to press its case: a flight, a hotel room and a fancy dinner. More importantly, the staff gets unfettered time with a player and can build a schedule to maximize its advantage. Of all the tools at a coach’s disposal, an official visit is probably the biggest one in the shed.
Starting today, Missouri will take it off the shelf and put it to good use with arguably the top target on its recruiting board: newly minted five-star Caleb Love.
The stops start tricking out early, usually via photoshop art sent to the player to get them excited for the trip. Love shared some of the edits via his snapchat, if you follow him on Snapchat (or me on twitter last night) you’ve already seen them both.
Cuonzo Martin and Missouri have earnestly recruited Love for two years now. And with the guard coming to campus, the picture for the services for the local St. Louis product has become a little more clear. To recap, Love’s top six schools were: Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Missouri, and North Carolina.
Since announcing, some of these schools have moved and shuffled their approach which is often an indicator of where they sit for the services of a player like Love. In early August, we profiled each of the schools and here’s how I broke down the chances for each school:
- Arizona: 5%
- Kansas: 7%
- Lousiville: 19%
- Indiana: 20%
- UNC: 28%
- Mizzou: 21%
These prognostications went a little against the national grain, and Rivals.com and 247sports.com writers began talking about Love’s interest in Kansas, Indiana, UNC, Louisville and rarely mentioned Missouri. But talking to a few sources in and around St. Louis, Missouri was always lurking. I believed the line of thinking that the interest in Missouri was really underrated. Martin has quietly gone about his business and situated his rebuilding program against some of the very best and most consistently good programs in the country.
So after the last month, where do things stand?
Almost universally unchanged. Almost.
I still see Arizona and Kansas as sort of bringing up the rear. But surprisingly enough the Indiana Hoosiers haven’t been shy about taking some more developmental players at Love’s position, with a current class of three 4-star players all on the perimeter. I’m certain Archie Miller would still take Love if he wanted to commit, but taking players at a similar position is usually a sign the program understands they may not be in the lead.
So we’ll move on to Louisville. I probably should’ve kicked the Cardinals percentage up a bit in hindsight, but now we might be reducing them a bit. If you’re a Crystal Ball watcher, you might notice the Cards have been picking up predictions for 4-star 2020 point guard Deivon Smith. With a loaded 2019 class, including multiple guards, and trending with a top flight point guard... the signs are pointing to Chris Mack realizing he might be in a trailing position so he starts putting on the heat for the next in line.
The last school to talk about is the dreaded Tar Heels. I still perceive the Heels to be the favorites here. The reasons we’ve talked about before:
The Tar Heels style — uptempo and built-around secondary fastbreaks — is attractive to players, especially lead guards. Once the cloud of potential NCAA sanctions lifted several years ago, rival programs lost a hammer to whack at the program when recruiting five-star prospects. Now coach Roy Williams and his staff are back assembling elite classes.
One player Williams is likely pointing to every time he talks to Love is Coby White. White went from the No. 25 recruit to a lottery pick in one season. Fittingly, Love just so happens to be the 25th ranked recruit in the class of 2020. That’s a pretty good recruiting pitch.
Cole Anthony figures to stick around campus for a lone season, which could leave Love competing with would-be sophomores Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis for minutes. While Williams tends to lean on veterans, neither Harris nor Francis would have a clear-cut case.
When you account for the Heels’ system, need and circumstances surrounding the program’s future, there’s not many holes you can poke in UNC’s case.
The Heels don’t have a commitment at guard, they do have one from 5-star post Day’Ron Sharpe. They are crystal ball favorites for Jaden Springer and Ziaire Williams, both 5-star players but neither a point guard.
It might be worth watching what’s happening at Oklahoma State this weekend as Cade Cunningham takes his visit to Stillwater. Cunningham has been connected to North Carolina along with Oklahoma native Bryce Thompson, and both are primary ball handlers who could disrupt the recruiting scene if they decided on UNC.
We know the situation at Missouri
The Tigers have been there the longest and are pitching something a little more unknown to Love, but the pitch has been consistent: Stay home, help your home school get to the next level.
Martin knows Love can be that guy. He’s spent the last few years building up a roster of really good players, and the Tigers need someone who can be special.
Maybe they have that guy on the roster already, we just haven’t seen him play that way yet. Maybe Dru Smith or Mark Smith or Torrence Watson or one of the freshman can be a game changing talent. We just have to see it. But Love is already morphing into that player and his ceiling keeps going up.
No one player in recruiting is a must get, so I’m not going to call Love that guy. No matter who says yes and who says no, Missouri will field a basketball team for the foreseeable future. Bringing Caleb Love into the existing roster could greatly accelerate the process of getting Missouri where it wants to go.