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LSU’s Will Wade denies working with Christian Dawkins to secure 2019 recruit

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LSU head coach Will Wade took his time at SEC media day on Wednesday to declare his innocence after being linked to Christian Dawkins during the ongoing federal trial on corruption in college basketball in New York.

Wade’s name was brought up in court on Tuesday as lawyers for Adidas executive Jim Gatto tried to admit evidence that showed the LSU coach was prepared to offer benefits to land top-50 2019 big man Balsa Koprivica. The catch was that Dawkins had to get him to sign with the Tigers.

Attorney Casey Donnelly, representing Gatto, tried to introduce a wiretapped phone call between Wade and Dawkins. No date was provided from Donnelly, but court records show the FBI monitored one of Dawkins’ cellphones from June 19, 2007 through Sept. 15, 2017.

Donnelly read from a transcript that showed that Wade and Dawkins spoke about Koprivica. The context of the conversation is limited, however, and it has some gray area.

“So you said to me in Atlanta there was a 2019 kid I wanted to recruit, they can get him to LSU, you would have funded,” Dawkins told Wade on the call — according to Donnelly’s transcript. “Would you want Balsa?”

“Oh, the big kid?” Wade asked.

“Yeah,” Dawkins said.

“OK. But there’s other [expletive] involved in it,” Wade replied. “I have got to shut my door. … Here’s my thing: I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”

At SEC media day on Wednesday, Wade downplayed the comments, while only sticking to a prepared statement. After reading the statement, Wade refused to answer additional questions, while referring to the statement, when reporters tried to ask follow-up questions.

“It was a little bit surprising,” Wade said about the testimony at SEC media day. “I’m not really gonna react to what the defense attorney said. I will say I’m very proud of everything I’ve done as LSU’s head coach. … I or we have never, ever done business of any kind with Christian Dawkins. That’s what I’ll say about that.”

Wade and LSU are expected to have a promising 2018-19 season as sophomore point guard Tremont Waters is considered an All-American candidate. The team is also trying to overcome the loss of Wayde Sims, who was tragically killed when he was shot and killed in late September.

So to have Wade’s name mentioned in this trial is another subplot that the Tigers have to go through as the season approaches.

(h/t: Myron Medcalf, ESPN)

Four-star guard Tyrell Jones commits to Auburn

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Auburn landed its fifth verbal pledge in the Class of 2019 Tuesday evening, as four-star combo guard Tyrell Jones announced his commitment. The 6-foot-1 Jones, who currently attends West Oaks Academy in Orlando and played for the Showtime Ballers program on the adidas Uprising circuit, took his official visit to Auburn in mid-September.

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Jones is one of three four-star commits in Auburn’s 2019 class to date, with wings Allen Flanigan and Jaylin Williams being the others, and guard Isaac Okoro and forward Babatunde Akingbola round out the quintet.

During Bruce Pearl’s rebuild at Auburn the program’s had multiple perimeter players who can create off the dribble, opening things up for themselves and their teammates, and Jones fits the mold. At minimum Auburn will have to account for the loss of senior guard Bryce Brown after the upcoming season, with junior guards Jared Harper, Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick all being upperclassmen as well.

Add in senior wing Malik Dunbar and junior Danjel Purifoy, and Auburn has six perimeter upperclassmen on the current roster. The 2019 recruiting class will go a long way towards bolstering that area of the program, with regards to both depth and talent.

Five-star 2019 big man James Wiseman cuts his list to five schools

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Five-star Class of 2019 big man James Wiseman released his top five list of schools on Wednesday.

Considered by some to be the top long-term prospect in the class, the 7-foot-0 native of Tennessee said on Twitter that he is down to Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Vanderbilt.

Kentucky and Memphis have long been considered the top two schools in the Wiseman race as head coaches John Calipari and Penny Hardaway have established great relationships with the big man. While Wiseman has always mentioned Kansas and Vanderbilt as being in the picture, many recruiting insiders and college coaches think that Kentucky and Memphis are the two teams to beat. Florida State is the relative newcomer on Wiseman’s list, as they’ve made enough of a late push to secure the final spot.

Wiseman is still in the process of taking official visits, as he hasn’t set any sort of timetable on announcing his final decision.

Five-star wing Scottie Lewis verbally commits to Florida

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Having already received verbal commitments from three players in the 2019 recruiting class, two being Top 50 prospects, Florida was already off to a good start on the recruiting trail. Things got even better for Mike White’s program Tuesday night as Scottie Lewis, one of the top players in the Class of 2019, announced his commitment to Florida.

Lewis, who picked Florida over Kentucky, joins guards Tre’Shaun Mann and Alex Klatsky and power forward/center Omar Payne in Florida’s 2019 class to date. In Lewis, Florida has its “crown jewel” of the class, a highly athletic player who’s tough to stop off the dribble and also defends his position well.

The 6-foot-5 high school senior currently attends The Ranney School in New Jersey and played for the Team Rio grassroots program on the Under Armour Association circuit. Two of Lewis’ teammates and close friends at both the school and grassroots levels are the aforementioned Klatsky and Villanova commit Bryan Antoine.

Klatsky verbally committed to Florida September 11, just days after he and Lewis took their official visits to the school.

Florida does have some wings with eligibility remaining beyond the 2018-19 season in redshirt junior Keith Stone, sophomores DeAundre Ballard and Chase Johnson and freshman Keyontae Johnson. But with KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson both entering their senior seasons Florida was in need of a high-level difference maker at the position, and in Scottie Lewis they’ve managed to add that caliber of player.

Arizona State lands highly-regarded JUCO guard Alonzo Verge

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Arizona State landed its second verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday, as Moberly Area Community College point guard Alonzo Verge announced that he will be a Sun Devil. Verge, one of the top junior college prospects in the 2019 class, took his official visit to Arizona State this past weekend.

As a freshman at Moberly Area CC, Verge averaged 20.8 points, 6.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the foul line. The 6-foot-3 second team NJCAA All-American joins another guard, four-star recruit Jaelen House, in Arizona State’s 2019 class to date.

With House and Verge on board, Arizona State’s recruiting attention for the 2019 class could turn to the front court. The Sun Devils will lose two expected contributors at the end of the 2018-19 season in De’Quon Lake, who averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a junior, and San Diego State transfer Zylan Cheatham.

The cupboard won’t be bare when those two depart, as Arizona State has options for the future including freshmen Taeshon Cherry and Uros Plavsic and sophomore Vitaly Shibel, Kimani Lawrence and Romello White. But it wouldn’t hurt Arizona State to add a quality front court prospect to its talented perimeter tandem of House and Verge.

Four-star guard Anthony Harris Jr. commits to Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech began building its 2019 recruiting class Tuesday afternoon, as four-star guard Anthony Harris Jr. announced that he will be a Hokie. Harris, who attends Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia and played his grassroots basketball for the Team Takeover program on the Nike EYBL circuit, is Virginia Tech’s first commitment in the class.

The 6-foot-3 Harris is a player the Virginia Tech coaching staff had been recruiting for quite some time, and the hard work has paid off. The other schools on the combo guard’s final list were Connecticut, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest.

Lauded for his abilities as a perimeter defender, Harris has made strides as a perimeter shooter and is a key commitment for Virginia Tech. While the Hokies have two lead guards with eligibility remaining beyond the 2018-19 season in sophomore Wabissa Bede and freshman Jonathan Kabongo, there was a need to account for Justin Robinson being set to graduate in the spring.

With Harris’ verbal commitment, Virginia Tech has done just that.