Hopefully college coaches across the country are enjoying their Fourth of July weekend -- because the rest of the month is a sprint filled with long flights, crowded gyms, rental cars and very little sleep.
July is the most important month on the college basketball calendar for recruiting, with teams looking to fine-tune their 2018 target board and getting a jump-start on the 2019, 2020 and even 2021 classes in some cases. There are three live periods over the next few weeks: July 12-16, July 19-23 and July 26-30. While the three major shoe companies have events that will draw the longest list of coaches, there are dozens of independent events around the country. And coaches will be at each one of them, either looking for their next commitment or babysitting a longtime target.
Get ready for a whirlwind three weeks with these storylines:
1. Marvin Bagley III keeping the rest of 2018 at arm's length
Looking back at the past several classes, there has generally been some sort of battle for the No. 1 spot. The Class of 2016 had Harry Giles looking to hold off Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, while last season saw Michael Porter Jr. make his big move to pass DeAndre Ayton in July. Can anyone go past Bagley in the coming weeks? It's unlikely. On the Nike EYBL circuit, Bagley was dominant in the spring, averaging 25.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.
Chasing Bagley are Zion Williamson (No. 2), a highlight-reel dunker; Cameron Reddish (No. 3), a smooth and versatile perimeter player; Bol Bol (No. 4), who had one of the best springs of anyone; and Romeo Langford (No. 5), the best guard in the class. All four are terrific players, but none has a legitimate case for the No. 1 spot right now. There's more of a debate for No. 2 at this point.
2. New-coach buzz
Plenty of eyes will be on coaches at new programs. Several of those coaches spent April getting their feet under them and developing a target list, but July is when we will see their real targets. Archie Miller (Indiana), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Chris Holtmann (Ohio State) and Will Wade (LSU) are among the more intriguing coaches to track as the month begins.
Miller is swinging for five-star guards Darius Garland and Langford, but is also making the Midwest a priority with the likes of Race Thompson, Jerome Hunter, Robert Phinisee and others. Ewing has had to answer plenty of recruiting questions, and that won't change anytime soon. So who he targets and what he prioritizes will be key developments of the month.
Holtmann only took over at Ohio State a few weeks ago, but he has looked to make quick inroads. He hosted recent decommit Dane Goodwin on an official visit over the weekend, and has his eyes on Hunter, Talen Horton-Tucker and others. Wade has positioned LSU well for high-level prospect Nazreon Reid and landed Javonte Smart Friday., with Darius Days also high on the target list. Expect Wade to be seen early and often for the big names, especially after Reid visited this past weekend.
3. John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski
When Calipari or Coach K walk into a gym, whispers start, heads turn, tweets are immediately sent out. That's just how it is on the recruiting trail nowadays, where Duke and Kentucky have finished 1-2 in some order in each of the past four recruiting class rankings. So when Calipari and K are seen at a player's games multiple times in one weekend this month, we'll start to see the hot boards for the Wildcats and Blue Devils take place.
Things can change drastically from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, but there's some early word on which players each school wants. They are both competing for most of the top players in 2018, including Bagley, Williamson, Reddish and Langford. Kentucky is in great shape with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley and made strong moves for Bol Bol in the spring. At the point guard spot, Duke has zeroed in on Garland and Tre Jones. The Blue Devils also offered a variety of players in the spring, including David McCormack, Emmitt Williams and Jairus Hamilton. Things will get clearer very soon.
4. Who will break out?
Plenty of recruiting stories center on a player breaking out in July and earning dozens of high-major scholarship offers. Malcolm Brogdon, this season's NBA Rookie of the Year, had a huge performance at the Nike Peach Jam in the July before his senior year of high school, then committed to Virginia not long after, and the rest is history. Kyrie Irving had very few coaches watching his summer games before the July between his sophomore and junior seasons. Last summer, Alex O'Connell (Duke), Lance Thomas (Louisville), Darryl Morsell (Maryland) and Wabissa Bede (Virginia Tech) were among the players to take advantage of the increased exposure and become clear-cut high-major players.
Programs that were in good shape with under-the-radar players before July go into the month hoping their targets won't perform well; they don't want the player's stock to rise in front of big-name coaches.