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Wake Forest Basketball Recruiting Mailbag: Key Targets, Analysis, and Updates

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Ned gives his perspective on 5 big recruiting questions heading into the new year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-Kansas State vs Wake Forest Rick Osentoskii-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a few weeks since the early signing period came and went for college basketball and the Deacs solidified one of their best classes in program history. Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Jamie Lewis, and Sharone Wright Jr all put pen to paper officially last month, spawning a wave of excitement throughout Deacon Nation of what is to come.

But the recruiting season never truly ends and there are always relevant things to look at when it comes to timelines, strategies, and potential prospects who could dawn the Black and Gold. I went to Twitter yesterday to hear some of the main questions you all had about Wake basketball recruiting heading into 2018. Thanks to everyone who replied and reached out. Here's my take on five of the Q's I thought we're most interesting:

Question #1

Our first question comes from Fox Tail and is related to the 2018 class and its immediate impact. There's a lot to be excited about in this 2018 class, particularly with the fact that it includes multiple guys who can come in and contribute Day 1. Jaylen Hoard is a mismatch waiting to happen on the offensive end, and Isaiah Mucius has been very solid for Brewster Academy so far in his senior season. Add these two with Brown, Woods, and Eggleston, and you have an incredibly deep wing rotation for Manning to work with in 2018.

Assuming Bryant Crawford comes back next year, Wake will only lose Wilbekin and Thompson and gain a ton in experience and talent to its roster. It's easy to predict next season as a special one, but whether or not '18 is better than '19 revolves around a ton of variables that we just can't foresee at the moment. Does Chaundee develop into a 15-20 PPG scorer? Does Sarr have a huge Sophomore leap like John Collins did last year? Does Wake stay healthy and avoid any unfortunate injuries?

There's just so much fog there to realistically project two years out. Regardless, will a squad of Crawford, Brown, Hoard, Mucius, Moore, Sarr, Childress, Wright, and Eggleston scare people in the ACC next year? 100%, and Wake absolutely could finish in the Top 1/3 of the conference in 2018-19.

Question #2

The top priority for the 2019 class has been Wendell Moore for the better part of two years now. The Cox Mill (NC) wing has been on Wake's campus numerous times, most recently for an unofficial visit during the Richmond game a few weeks ago. He's expressed a ton of interest in the Deacs in the past, but competition from the rest of the Big 4 have made things interesting in recent months. UNC (88%) and Duke (12%) have all the Crystal Ball predictions for the 5* SF as of right now, but I heard as recently as July that Wake was in a really good position for him heading into the fall. Moore's recruitment is far from over, though it won't be easy for the Deacs to stand out now that Duke and UNC are putting on the full court press.

Apart from Moore, 5* PG Jalen Lecque and 4* PG Anthony Harris are top targets as floor generals. Wake was one of Lecque's first High Major offers last spring before blowing up on the AAU circuit and gaining interest from pretty much every program across the country. He recently transferred to the Christ School (NC), making it easy for Manning to stop by and see him whenever he can. On the other hand, Harris is a lead guard who has a close connection with Assistant Coach Jamill Jones dating back to his AAU days at Team Takeover. Wake picked up a Crystal Ball prediction for him over the summer, but Virginia Tech has been heavily in the mix in recent months as well. I would be absolutely thrilled with either, but I think Harris is the more likely option of the two at the moment.

Apart from these three, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aidan Igiehon are Top 50 big men that the staff watched over the weekend with incredible upside. Both are highly athletic 4's who can run the floor and be an absolute force on the boards. These two along with Florida-based PF Omar Payne (4* #97) are probably the top PF/C targets in a class that will likely have 1 or 2 bigs in it when it's all said and done.

As for other guard targets, Point Guards Deuce Dean (#113) and Trey McGowens (#162) both took unofficial visits last month and have shown plenty of interest in Wake to date. If you're still looking for more names, a fully updated Big Board with every prospect's vitals, competition, and highlight tapes will be released later this week so stay on the lookout for that in the coming days.

Question #3

Wake Twitter went into a little bit of chaos the other day when it was announced Danny Manning was watching 5* big man EJ Montgomery. For those of you who don't know, Montgomery was an Auburn commit who revoked his verbal pledge to explore other opportunities after the NCAA recruiting scandal broke. Manning, along with a plethora of other High Major coaches, promptly reached out to express interest in the Georgia native. And for good reason too; 247sports has him as the 6th ranked recruit in 2018 and he's the type of PF Danny Manning would dream of coaching. If you want to start salivating, watch 30 seconds of the video below and you'll hop onboard the hype train.

The Montgomery situation is somewhat hard to judge at this point. It's fairly logical for Manning to reach out to a Blue Chip talent like Montgomery if he opens up his recruitment simply to see if there is any mutual interest. He did the same with 4* PG Courtney Ramey after his decommitment from Louisville, and I personally didn't think twice about the initial report that Wake had contacted both of them given how many suitors there was going to be.

However, the fact that Danny Manning took time to actually watch Montgomery nearly 3 months after the reopening of his recruitment tells me that the staff at least thinks they have a shot in this race. If Montgomery wasn't interested at all, there would have been plenty of opportunities for his camp to indicate to DM that he should move on entirely. At this point, I'm at least intrigued at the possibility that Montgomery is open to Wake, and if he gives Danny Manning an opportunity to sell his "development" pitch long enough, we just might have a shot here...

Given the fact that Montgomery has barely talked about his recruitment since October, no one seems to know where individual schools stand. Georgetown has been after him hard as of late, as has USC. He'll likely wait until the spring to make his final decision, which gives Blue Bloods like UK and Duke plenty of time to jump into the race too with open scholarships. I still feel like this is a long shot just based on the competition we'll face, but if Montgomery is looking for a coach that can get him ready for the league as fast as possible, then Wake could be in this until the end. Stay tuned here.

As for the scholarship situation, we'll cross that bridge if/when we get there. The rule of thumb is if you have a chance to potentially land the top ranked recruit in program history, you do it and figure things out later. The staff wouldn't actively be going after another 2018 recruit if they were worried that they couldn't make this happen.

Question #4

Absolutely. Though the slow start to this season seemed to be heavily based on guys having to step into unfamiliar roles and a lack of front court depth. You had a bunch of players in the rotation with zero-to-minimal collegiate minutes under their belt not totally confident in where they fit into the system. There was also a huge question mark as to who would be this year's offensive leader with John Collins evidently not walking through that door on gamedays.

Who is going to be the go-to-guy in crunch time that will win you the game in the closing stages?

Who is going to be the "glue-guy" who can make an impact on defense and and have one or two other key moments a night?

Who is going to step up and help mitigate the rebounding losses with JC/Dinos no longer there?

These were questions with no legitimate answers over the first five games that I think won't be as much of an issue in 2018-19 given all the production we'll have coming back and the readiness of the incoming freshman class. So while I think the rise in talent level will help prevent a repeat of this year, the return of so many core pieces I think is just as important.

Question #5

It's true; a decent amount of Wake games so far in the non-conference slate haven't been accessible to the masses. The Paradise Jam's bizarre agreement to stream exclusively through Flo Hoops and its Premium streaming service nixed the ability for many to watch that entire tournament. If you were one of the few who paid $30 to watch those three games of the Deacs in full-rebuild mode, I am so so sorry. The UNC-Charlotte matchup was streamed on Facebook only, and while the social networking site wasn't charging for it, the situation was certainly unorthodox and not well publicized.

I don't expect the program to return to the Paradise Jam in 2018, so that should put a few extra games back on TV or WatchESPN for Deacon fans to enjoy. As for other matchups, winning is the easiest and most effective way at getting on the World Wide Leader for various games. Right now, there are simply a lot of other teams these networks can prioritize over showing a young Wake team that is relatively unproven.

The recruiting class should provide a little media hype at the start of the 2018 season, but the fact of the matter is the team will still need to make some noise early on if they want to be showcased more in November/December next year. Getting into a more prestigious tournament where they can potentially snag a Top 25 win on a neutral court is a good place to start.

Well, that's all for this edition of the Wake Forest Recruiting Mailbag. We'll have plenty of coverage of college football's early signing day on December 20th and the 20+ Demon Deacons who will join the program this week. Shortly after you can expect an exciting return of the BSD Recruit Report featuring in-depth analysis of every member of the 2018 football recruiting class and what they bring to the program. All this being said, we have a fun couple of weeks for Wake Forest recruiting coming up. Be sure to follow along on BSD to get all the most recent updates and analysis as it arises!

For more Wake Forest recruiting news and info, follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3.