There’s a new name added to the big board this week and it’s one that could be added to the list of names in the 2016 class in the near future as well. Samuel Japhet-Mathias, a 6’11 280 pound big-man from London, took an Official Visit to Wake Forest at the beginning of this week despite not really being mentioned at all in WF recruiting circles over the last few months. Why the silence? He was originally in the Class of 2017 prior to declaring in August he would enroll at IMG Academy and move up a grade for the upcoming season. Last year he played his ball at Vermont Academy, a strong high school program whose 2016 class features 3 4*’s, including former WF SF target Bruce Brown. Despite the switch to IMG only being announced last month, Japhet-Mathias has decided to play his final year of high school back home at City of London Academy, which won the 2015 Basketball England National Schools U17 Final last year. At the moment his offers include UCONN, Georgetown, Providence, Oregon, Clemson, Cal, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech, though WF is the only school he has taken an Official Visit to thus far. Given how Danny Manny stealthily recruits, it is completely unclear how long the staff has been on him heavily, though his scholarship offer is only a week old. But who really is Sam Japhet-Mathias and what do you need to know about him?
First let’s look at his rankings:
ESPN: NR (Previously was the #18 C, 4* on the 2017 page, but his profile now is inaccessible, likely due to his recent reclassification)
247sports: 4* #80 overall, #10 C
Rivals: 4* #71 overall, #10 C
Scout: 4*, #93 overall, #20 C
The first thing you’ll notice is he’d be the highest ranked commit of the 2016 class by a wide margin. The closest current 2016 class member would be Donovan Mitchell who is #148 in the new Rivals 150. It’s important to note that all the rankings above are based on the 2017 class (not 2016) and some of them may change when sites end up updating his profile and graduation year. However, due to his massive size and potential and the dearth of quality C’s in the Senior class right now, I don’t see him moving too much from the 70-90 range in the sites’ updated rankings even given the reclassification. There aren’t too many 6’11 280 guys with legitimate post-moves out there and it’d be hard to justify not keeping him in the top 100 given his natural ability. The only reason why he could drop is due to him playing abroad this year (which will somewhat freeze his reputation) while a number of seniors who have breakout seasons get big boosts from sites throughout the winter. But enough about rankings, how do his tapes look? Let me just say I think you’ll like what you see.
There’s a couple reasons why I think Japhet-Mathias and Wake Forest could be a match made in heaven. By looking at his highlight tapes, he clearly has a well-developed post game on the low block already, which is something that a lot of guys coming out of HS don’t prioritize nowadays. There is such an emphasis on demonstrating athleticism and being able to shoot out to the perimeter that most bigs can get to High-Major programs and really have no idea what to do with the ball if they get it down low. In high school as the go-to-guy they may have been able to pick the ball up wherever they wanted, but when they become a role player on a good college team, all of a sudden it becomes a lot harder to create a shot on the perimeter or athletically will yourself to the rim like they may have been used to. That is why having a "bread and butter" post guy down low is extremely valuable even though it is slowly becoming a dying breed. On a day when shots from the outside aren’t falling or the offensive flow isn’t quite there, the most reassuring offensive weapon a coach can have is if he knows he can throw it in to the low block and trust his big man will be able to get points for the offense using individual post-moves. That’s what this program has been trying to do for the better part of two years with Devin Thomas and that is what this program is going to need when he ultimately leaves after this season.
2017 6'10 Big man Samuel Japhet-Mathias is a HUGE presence here at Elite 2 guy who's post moves are beyond his age High Major guy #HGElite— Chad Pichoske (@ChadPichoske) July 15, 2015
But it isn’t just about what the talented London Center can do for this program, but what Danny Manning could do to help him develop into a very dominant post presence in the ACC and potential pro prospect. If you are a 6’11 big with pro aspirations and are still figuring out how to maximize your productivity and impact on the court, there simply isn’t a better coach in college basketball for your future right now than Danny Manning. He could take what already looks like a very promising prospect and turn him into a force in the ACC for four years if given the opportunity, and I’m sure that theme was a decent amount of the script for Manning and the staff on Sunday night when they had Japhet-Mathias on campus.
The most recent news we have on the visit came from DemanDeac, who reported on the 247sports WF forum that Samuel Japhet-Mathias has "gone back to England and will decide after some thought and discussion with his family." That small blip of news by itself is pretty encouraging given at the moment no more official visits are publically scheduled and his recruitment from other schools since the reclassification has been quiet. I know based on the last few months of somewhat discouraging recruiting news having "optimism" is almost a "Proceed at your own risk" type of mindset, but that won’t stop me from feeling good about our chances. I think we’re in a good spot here in regards to other competing schools. I think Danny Manning knows he has to land another big in this class and is prepared to go all out for SJM. I think after a few months of strange luck with recruits we’re due for some good fortune our way. Did I mention he stated in a 2014 interview that "Tim Duncan" was the big man he modeled his game after? Enough thinking. It’s time you join the Black and Gold, Samuel.
For more frequent and daily Wake Forest recruiting news and updates, follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3.