College Basketball 2021 Recruiting Class Rankings
The 2021-22 college basketball season is roughly five months away, and the new batch of 2021 recruits are likely arriving on campus this month to begin summer workouts. With the ever-changing dynamic of college basketball, especially in a post-pandemic age of increasing transfers and an extra year(s) of eligibility, freshmen are just another avenue of bringing in players. That being said, the one-and-done era remains and power five schools continue to use it as a source of top talent. And the 2021 recruiting class is certainly no exception.
The top dogs Duke and Kentucky retain their positions as recruiting juggernauts, despite subpar seasons last year. Michigan’s Juwan Howard cemented his status as an elite recruiter with a group of future Wolverines ready to compete for a Big Ten title. Gonzaga and Mark Few certainly didn’t let April’s nightmare loss to Baylor stop their progress, with the Bulldogs bringing the No. 1 recruit in the country to Spokane.
There were so many challenges for coaches and recruits this year because of COVID-19. On-campus visits, in-person home pitches, and even scouting at practices and games were limited. The 2021 recruits persevered and will now set foot on-campus with titles in mind and the prospect of playing in front of fans increasingly becoming a reality.
The 2021 recruiting class cycle is winding to a close with few players still available, so here I rank the top five team recruiting hauls:
* Note: all rankings of players are taken from ESPN and 247Sports recruiting boards. *
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1. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines didn’t grab a top-five player according to either recruiting service, but five-star wings Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate highlight Howard’s 2021 class. Houstan, in particular, will provide scoring from beyond the arc in Ann Arbor and Diabate is an energetic forward that gets downhill and protects the rim with great ferocity.
Both will find themselves in the starting five with returning super sophomore big man Hunter Dickinson. Howard also secured depth in the backcourt with the additions of top-40 ESPN prospects Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin. Wings Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter round out the Wolverines’ 2021 class. This is only Howard’s second full cycle of recruiting, and he has already become one of the best recruiters in the country.
2. Duke Blue Devils
I really like what Mike Krzyzewski’s final haul of recruits offers in Durham this upcoming season. The class is headlined by five-star big man Paolo Banchero who has the ability to score at all three levels with his 6’9″, 235 lb. frame and can play every position, one through five, on the court. For a sample of what he can do:
Duke also brings in five-star wing A.J. Griffin, who, despite not playing since his junior season, provides athleticism and depth as a wing that can play the two through four on the roster. He can shoot it, attack off the bounce, and will likely lead the defensive frontline with returners Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams. Coach K and staff also added five-star sharpshooter Trevor Keels and four-star guard Jaylen Blakes late in the spring. Graduate transfer big man Theo John will anchor the frontcourt when Williams or Banchero is on the bench. Another season and another haul for Coach K and company.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The top three on this list are almost interchangeable, but Gonzaga’s ranking here doesn’t take away from the talent they’ll have in Spokane next season. The consensus No. 1 player in the country, Chet Holmgren, is simply a unicorn. The 7’1″ center can play every position for Few and the Bulldogs. He has exceptional range and ball-handling for a guy his size, and maybe more importantly, he protects the rim.
Five-star combo guard Hunter Sallis adds more depth to an already loaded backcourt. At 6’5″, he’s a dynamic playmaker that should pair nicely with returning senior Andrew Nembhard. The late commitment of point guard Nolan Hickman provides bench scoring, while forwards Kaden Perry and Fanbo Zeng could potentially see some minutes, but the Bulldogs have a loaded frontcourt, so these are likely multi-year guys.
4. Tennessee Volunteers
Point guard Kennedy Chandler is widely heralded as the best PG in the entire 2021 recruiting class – both ESPN and 247Sports have him ranked at No. 1. The 2021 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year is composed, handles the ball on a string, and offers playmaking in both scoring and facilitating the ball.
Director of Basketball Recruiting Jason Jordan for Sports Illustrated said this about Chandler in an SI Fan Nation article:
“This season, despite playing in the toughest league in the country (NIBC), Chandler averaged 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals a game while running the show alongside multiple Division I prospects. Last week at GEICO Nationals he led the Buffaloes to the title game.”
Rick Barnes and Tennessee also bring in five-star forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who gets downhill and to the rim quickly. He offers great length and athleticism inside and will complement nicely with the late commitment of center Jonas Aidoo. Aidoo, who de-committed from Marquette earlier this spring, is a strong anchor to any frontcourt. He offers a ton of size and strength, with good feet and excellent rim protection. Wings Jahmai Mashack and Quentin Diboundje will offer good depth in the backcourt and could potentially see some minutes at the two-guard or small forward slot.
5. Kentucky Wildcats
And rounding out the top five are John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. While the freshman class itself is not deep, Calipari capitalized on the transfer recruiting trail, bringing in two excellent players in former Davidson guard Kellan Grady and ex-West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe. Both are likely instant plugs into the starting five for Kentucky and will help lead the program back to success.
In terms of incoming freshmen, the addition of five-star guard TyTy Washington – who had a brilliant senior campaign – provides much-needed backcourt scoring, an area where Kentucky struggled last year. Five-star power forward Daimion Collins is lanky, super athletic, and will offer scoring and playmaking to the squad. Bryce Hopkins, a four-star power forward, will also compete for time in the frontcourt.
Honorable Mentions: Alabama Crimson Tide and Creighton Blue Jays. Nate Oats and Alabama added electric scoring guard J.D. Davidson and big man Charles Bediako in the spring. Creighton lost five-star guard TyTy Washington to Kentucky but will bring a five-man recruiting class to Omaha that will add depth to a Big East side in need of it.
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