HARRISONBURG — Monday marks the start of the final evaluation period of the summer for college basketball recruits, meaning the focus for James Madison and other programs has already begun to shift to getting those prospects to visit campus starting in August.
Next week, programs will be able to watch high school players at new NCAA College Basketball Academies in four locations across the United States — Storrs, Conn., Champaign, Ill., Houston and Phoenix. During evaluation periods, college coaches can watch players at approved events but can’t contact them or their families directly.
The last week of July is a dead period, in which recruiting essentially comes to a stop, before the quiet period, which runs from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8. During that time, contact with recruits can only come on the college campus.
The College Basketball Academies, a new addition to recruiting calendar as the NCAA continues to try to shift recruiting influence away from sneaker companies, may prove to be most useful for high-major programs. But a few players of interest for JMU will participate, including 6-foot-11 center Burke Smith, a rising senior at Trinity Episcopal in Richmond, and Blue Ridge School junior guard Mike Gray.
But while college coaches will certainly want to watch players next week — and perhaps more importantly be seen watching those players — much of the decision making has been done over the past two months of evaluations.
For JMU, the Dukes now have two scholarships available for the class of 2020 after power forward Mike Fowler, who had arrived at JMU as an incoming freshman, asked out of his letter of intent for personal reasons.
The coming months could see the Dukes add a guard and a big man. Following the most recent evaluation period last week, JMU has offered Kaden Metheny, a high-scoring 5-10 point guard from Morgantown, W.Va., in the 2020 class along with a pair 6-8 senior forwards. Nicholas McMullen, from Greensboro, N.C., and Ja’Von Benson, from Columbia, S.C., each recently announced they added Madison to their list of offers.
JMU will also continue to pursue players who have held offers from the Dukes for some time. That includes a pair of players from Davidson Day School outside Charlotte, N.C.
Jackson Threadgill, a 6-6 swingman, and CJ Huntley, a 6-9 power forward who can stretch the floor, have each seen their offer lists grow after strong showings on the AAU circuit this summer. JMU’s Colonial Athletic Association rival Delaware recently offered both, but it appears the Dukes are still strong contenders for their services.
Both players told the Daily News-Record in June they hoped to take official visits to JMU and Threadgill’s father, Dale, said this week his family expected to visit Harrisonburg in August.
The Dukes also continue to go after underclassmen, and rising high school juniors in the class of 2021 will soon be able to take official visits. Among those in the class JMU is pursuing is 6-6 small forward Terrence Butler Jr. from Bishop McNamara in the Washington area.
JMU was first to offer Butler, whose sister, Tasia, played at Madison and was on the women’s basketball staff last year, and he’s taken multiple unofficial visits thus far. Those connections could go a long way as he says he’s “absolutely” still quite high on the Dukes even as other mid-majors and a few high-major programs continue to express interest.
Following strong showings with Bishop McNamara at the DMV Live event in June and with Team Durant at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in Georgia last week, Butler said he’s picked up interest from Maryland, Miami, Navy and Brown, among others, but also noted somebody from the JMU staff attended almost every game he played this summer.
Prospects are allowed to take five official visits during each of their junior and senior years and Butler said he will soon start to decide where to take those.
“I have nothing planned yet,” he said. “I have games this weekend and I’ll sit with my family and coach afterwards and discuss visits. I’ve seen so many campuses already visiting with my sister, so I want to focus on visiting where there is mutual interest instead of just checking out schools.”