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Men’s basketball recruiting: The top five impact commitments

The start of college basketball and an influx of new talent means there is a level of hope and excitement in the air for every team. But most programs struggle to survive if they cannot evaluate, recruit and develop top prospects. Most ranked recruits have the talent to impact but it takes more than sheer ability to have influence right away.

What separates talent? Years of preparation, habits and focus combined with opportunity. With the early signing period underway in men’s basketball, the group below is on a great path to stand out as freshmen when they take the court a year from now. Let’s take a peek ahead and break down how — and why — these five recruits will impact their future programs.

2024 ESPN 100 Rank: 1

Flagg is the most anticipated recruit to commit to Duke since Zion Williamson. He has the ability, skillset and mindset to impact both Duke and all of college basketball with his unselfish team approach. That’s what makes Flagg special: In an age where branding and NIL often sets significant expectations in recruiting, Flagg just wants to win. His actions back up his words as he competes on each possession. He is still learning to balance when to act as the primary scorer versus a facilitator within the framework of his team. His defensive ability to block shots, take charges, rebound and play committed defense will ignite Duke’s transition game tempo. Coach Jon Scheyer will utilize Flagg’s physical tools, overall skills and IQ from the post to the perimeter and everywhere in between. Flagg can fill a variety of roles — he’s a point forward, an ISO triple threat at the nail, a playmaker in ball screens or against zones, a screen-setter and both a high and low-post producer. Look for Flagg to have Jayson Tatum-esque production as the focal point of Duke’s No. 1 recruiting class.

2024 ESPN 100 Rank: 6

Hunter Dickinson is likely headed to the NBA draft after this season, which opens a big door for Bidunga. Bill Self has long been known as a master of teaching and coaching the high-low game as his post players improve and make a statement in the college game before finding professional success. Bidunga will influence and fit the Jayhawks system and scheme from Day 1. He’s the most physically gifted big man in the country and plays with power, force, and mobility on both ends inside the arc. He demonstrates great open floor speed in the conversion game as he runs in straight lines and has excellent hands to catch lobs and snatch rebounds. Bidunga is currently playing high school soccer, which will only enhance his footwork moving forward. His initial thrust will come on the defensive end by securing rebounds outside his area, guarding the paint and blocking shots with range. Offensively, he will learn how to make and maintain contact with his opponent to seal and score with position. As a left-handed post, he shows a promising jump hook over his right shoulder going to the middle. Bidunga is a self-aware player who knows where he is best and where he is not. That mindset, teachable spirit and energy level will allow him to shine, especially in the second half of the season.

2024 ESPN 100 Rank: 7

The Hurricanes are coming off a Final Four appearance and have become a destination for guards under Jim Larranaga. Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker and Isaiah Wong all blossomed under the winningest coach in Miami history. Former ESPN 100 Nijel Pack, who returns as the team’s leading scorer (13.6 points per game) could be next. He assessed the NBA draft process last year and returned to school looking to make the jump. If he does, that opens the door for Bethea to become the next impact guard for the Hurricanes. Bethea might be the purest scorer in the 2024 class with nice position size. He shows a quick trigger and a willingness to work for quality shots. Beyond his natural talent, his impressive efficiency captures your attention and suggests an ability to make a quick impact. He made 62 3-pointers this summer at a 40% clip while his free throw percentage is 84% and his overall FG percentage is 49.8%. He does not settle for jumpers and always finds a way to change the scoreboard. Bethea will have a major opportunity next season, especially if Pack makes the leap, and he will have plenty of help with fellow ESPN 100 Austin Swartz.

2024 ESPN 100 Rank: 37

Remember when Baylor won the 2021 national championship starting a three-guard offense? Two of those three guards, Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, were point guards and Scott Drew and his staff identified, evaluated and offered both players early. The fruits of their labor returned an early commitment. In a similar vein as the Baylor point guards before him, Wright is an organizer and highly competitive, which enhances his on-court skills as a ball mover, playmaker and tenacious on-ball defender. He will score when needed and has what it takes both from mindset and ability standpoint. I would trust him to manage the responsibility because of his previously mentioned traits. It also helps that he is coached at Montverde Academy by Kevin Boyle, who has developed several top tier NBA players. Scott Drew will take his winning point guard and entrust him from the start.

2024 ESPN 100 Rank: 42

The Trojans currently have the nation’s No. 1 point guard in Isaiah Collier, who has size, strength and passing vision along with the ability to score at a moment’s notice. Collier is on track to become a lottery pick with more progress and improvement, especially with his shooting and defense. That’s why Perry’s presence for USC next season is so vital. Perry might not “wow” the naked eye like Collier, but under the surface he is a leader and extension of the coaching staff. The ball doesn’t stick in Perry’s hands. He advances the pass or speed dribbles in transition and when the game slows down, he can establish USC in the half court because he understands pace and flow. As a playmaker, he is an accurate and willing passer who is a capable scorer and shooter from beyond the arc. Most freshmen arrive and press for their opportunities. Perry understands it’s about winning and knows how to both read the floor and process the game.

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