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Wake Forest Basketball: Top Five Realistic Targets for the 2017 Recruiting Class

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Who are the top five realistic targets Wake Forest could land in its 2017 recruiting class?

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

With the high school basketball season all wrapped up, it's time for the 2017 recruiting cycle to pick up steam. Many recruits are just now starting to figure out which coaches are serious in their interest and where exactly they should take unofficial visits before the AAU season begins.

We have done articles in the past about the 2017 recruiting class and who the staff might be looking at, but targets and levels of interest have changed somewhat substantially over the last couple of months. That being said, there are five 4* recruits that Wake Forest is very much in contention for at this influential part of the recruiting cycle. Have a look below at some of their names and highlights to learn more about the potential members of the 2017 Deacon recruiting class.

Melo Eggleston (4*)

Baltimore, MD

Position: Small Forward

247 Sports Rank: 110

Melo Eggleston is a talented 6’8 SF from Baltimore, MD that has been on the Deacs’ radar for a while now. He currently holds 16 offers from a number of competitive programs across the country, including UConn, Baylor, Miami, and LSU. Wake first showed interest reportedly in August of 2014 just a few weeks before Danny Manning began his first season as Head Coach. The staff then offered him 8 months later on May 31st and travelled to personally see him play this past September.

Over the last couple of months, the leaders for the talented wing seemed to be UNLV and Maryland, but Wake might have a shot to slide into contention given where both of those programs are right now. UNLV is currently going through a coaching change after hiring Arkansas Little Rock’s Chris Beard, and there’s a decent chance interest may fade on either side as that relationship starts from scratch.

Maryland, on the other hand, is coming off a Sweet 16 season and has more recruits interested in the program now than any time in the last 10 years. With 4* wings like Jaren Jackson, Jordan Tucker, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Chaundee Brown, and Nic Claxton all likely ahead of him on Mark Turgeon’s wish list, Eggleston’s spot in the 2017 UMD class might be more competitive than initially thought. The same goes for reportedly interested Syracuse, who following their emphatic Final Four run now should be able to easily target wings more in the 25-75 range rather than a 100+ recruit.

That being said, I couldn’t be more excited about the potential for the Deacs to land Eggleston as a member of this recruiting class. Given how Wake Forest is likely going to use its open scholarships on graduate transfer recruits (one of which is almost certainly a wing) the need for an athletic 3 will remain extremely high in this recruiting cycle. Eggleston provides the versatility and athleticism that the Deacs desperately missed last season, and as you can see below, loves to live above the rim as well. Recruiting news has been extremely quiet on the Baltimore product in recent months, but if some luck falls our way, we just might end up with a four-year contributor.

Chaundee Brown (4*)

Orlando, FL

Position: Shooting Guard

247 Sports Rank: 70

Last Wednesday an article was posted on scout.com that featured encouraging news about a top 2017 SG target. That target was Florida’s own Chaundee Brown, and the news was that Wake Forest was one of the of the top two schools involved in his recruitment. His father was quoted as saying "Wake Forest is recruiting him really hard. He’s spoken with coach Manning a couple times and a couple assistants have come down to see him."

This is the type of recruiting intensity a lot of Wake fans (many in hindsight, might I add) wished Danny Manning had taken with 4* wings in the last cycle instead of spending so much time chasing the dream of landing Harry Giles. It’s refreshing to see the staff go after a top 100 SG heavily and be one of the few schools he mentions in a recruiting update at this stage of the process.

Brown’s father went on to say, "He likes the way they run the offense and how he lets the team play. They have a young team right now and if he did go in he would be stepping into a seasoned team." It’s a pitch that holds true given that Bryant Crawford, John Collins, Keyshawn Woods, and Doral Moore all will be entering their junior seasons when he arrives, and Dinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin will hopefully be the senior leaders for the squad as well.

Right now, the main competitors seem to be UConn, Maryland, and in-state school Florida, however, staying home to play ball doesn’t seem to be a priority for him. He has yet to visit Wake Forest, but is planning on making a trip to Winston-Salem at some point in the coming months before announcing in September or October.

Brown is currently ranked as #64 in Scout’s latest rankings, which would make him the highest ranked recruit to join the program since Doral Moore. After a disappointing 2015-16 season for the Deacs, I can’t stress enough how big of a pickup this would be for the program and recruiting momentum in general. After all, it only takes one top recruit to commit to potentially start a snowball effect for a game-changing class. "Momentum breeds momentum" is a phrase that perfectly describes the recruiting game.

Given the fact that his recruitment is wide open, there’s a decent chance that if Wake can make a big enough impression during his unofficial/official visits, he could be the key piece to turning this program around in 2017-2018.

Brandon Rachal (4*)

Natchitoches, LA

Position: Combo Guard

247 Sports Rank: 38

Brandon Rachal might be a name that you have heard of before when it comes to 2017 recruiting. If it sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Rachal was one of the first recruits of this cycle to pick up an offer from the staff in May 2015. He and his Natchitoches teammate ‘18 Javonte Smart were offered simultaneously by Danny Manning and have been priority targets for the staff ever since.

Rachal is coming off a state championship in his junior season and is one of Louisiana's best recruits of the last five years. His 247 profile currently has him ranked at #38 in the nation and the #1 Combo Guard prospect in his class with offers from WF, Texas, Creighton, Virginia Tech, Miami, Kansas State, LA Tech, and Auburn.

Rachal also stated that Wake Forest was one of the two schools on him the hardest along with Texas, which is very good news considering a relationship has clearly been established heading into the AAU season. Given the fact that he will be playing on the popular Nike EYBL circuit, he likely will be seen by a number of top programs from across the nation who might not have been able to get a good look at him yet.

His athleticism, defensive intensity, and ability to get to the rim are his best attributes that will be on full display for many coaches this summer. Hopefully, Wake’s persistent commitment to the talented slasher (WF was his 3rd D1 offer after UMass and Tulane), will allow the Deacs to have a slight advantage in Rachal’s recruitment as plenty of new suitors come into play.

Brandon Randolph (4*)

Yonkers, NY

Position: Shooting Guard

247 Sports Rank: 71

In the 2016 recruiting cycle, the term "package deal" was tossed around like second nature by many Wake Forest fans. I’m pretty sure at one point we were all fairly confident 1 of about 7 different joint-commitments were about to happen, only for each one of them to fall through for a variety of reasons. Not to get anyone’s hopes up in the slightest (Wake fans did that enough last year), but Brandon Randolph is 1/2 of Wake’s best shot at one of these so called package deals in the 2017 recruiting cycle.

Randolph plays for the Westtown School in PA, which also happens to be where 5* big man and blue chip recruit Mo Bamba attends. The latter, Wake Forest has expressed significant interest in over the last twelve months but holds offers from pretty much every D1 school you can think of. The former is one of Wake’s best realistic options at being the solution at SG in 2017 and starting all four years in the black and gold. Randolph is a consensus 4* recruit that consistently ranks in the top 75 in the country across scouting services for his class.

Louisville, Virginia Tech, and Vanderbilt are all schools that have offered alongside WF, and Jay Wright of Villanova has shown significant interest in the 6’6 wing as well in recent months. His jump shot is smooth, his length is real, and the I don’t think there is any doubt from his strong junior season (17.5 PPG, 2.5 3PM for Westtown) and highlight reel that he would earn serious minutes from day 1 at Wake Forest.

An unofficial visit to campus is expected for Randolph in the summer months and I suspect Danny Manning will push to have Bamba come the same weekend as well. Much like the other wings mentioned above, Randolph is a target whose popularity among D1 coaches may soar as he suits up for the PSA Cardinals on the Nike EYBL AAU circuit in June/July. Manning himself will have to be attending his games and showing incredible interest, as the number of coaches who will try and land Bamba and Randolph as complementary pieces will be high.

Nicholas Claxton (4*)

Greenville, SC

Position: Small Forward/Power Forward

247 Sports Rank: 123

Of the five players listed, Claxton seems like the one with the biggest potential to have a Jon Isaac-esque soar over the next few months. Wake was one of the first HM schools to reach out to the talented wing as they reportedly began having contact in September. Since then he has added offers from Oregon, Arizona, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Maryland, South Carolina, and Clemson.

His stock in the rankings has also taken a massive jump, going from an unknown 3* to a 4* recruit in 247sports’ latest update. Much of his increased attention has to do with a late growth spurt that has him close to 6’10 despite still having the skills of a 6’5 wing. That type of combination creates a prospect any coach would love to be able to work with and it’s no surprise why he is now so highly sought after.

In terms of a likely landing destination, Maryland would be my best guess right now given recent reports. Mark Turgeon offered Claxton around the same time Danny Manning did and the Terrapin staff has seen him play numerous times over the last couple of months. Claxton also took an unofficial visit in December to College Park and raved about the experience, which means he will likely be back to take in UMD again this spring.

Wake Forest watched him play once in November, but nothing has been reported since then. Of course, Danny Manning does have a tendency to do a lot of his recruiting work behind the scenes and that very well could be the case here. We’ll know a lot more about where the Deacs stand in Claxton’s recruitment when he begins taking interviews with scouting services closer to the AAU season.

Those are the top five prospects I think Wake Forest has a realistic chance at landing in the 2017 recruiting cycle when it is all said and done. It is important to note that if the staff does indeed look to fill both of the current opening scholarship spots with graduate transfers, Wake will have two slots for this recruiting cycle. However, given how common unexpected attrition has become in the modern collegiate game, I wouldn’t be surprised if this class ends up being 3 or more.

I’d also like to note that Brandon Childress was the only 2016 commit really on our radar by the end of March last year. There is a good chance that one, if not both, of the anticipated 2017 spots are filled by players that are currently not offered or staying very quiet about their communications with the staff. It’s going to be a fun couple of months ahead seeing new names appear, recruits visit campus, and the entire recruiting cycle play itself out.

If you have a question about a certain recruit that was previously on your radar for the 2017 class but was not listed above, feel free to ask about him in the comment section and I will provide an update on Wake’s recruitment of the target. For more daily and frequent recruiting news you can follow me on Twitter

@DeacFan3.