The North Carolina Tar Heels’ won their sixth national championship on Monday, but none of the readers’ questions in this week’s mailbag have anything to do with that. Instead, we’ll talk about Wolfpack recruiting, because first-year N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts just made his first big move.
On Saturday, the top recruit in the state, Lavar Batts Jr., announced he was granted a release from Virginia Commonwealth and would instead commit to N.C. State.
About twice a month, I’ll answer readers’ recruiting questions about Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State. Tweet your questions to @jonmalexander and use the hashtag #AskJMA. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to your questions.
One day after you asked this question, Batts announced he was granted a release from Virginia Commonwealth and would commit to N.C. State. So, yes.
I talked about that possibility in my last mailbag. Batts, a 6-2, 165-pound four-star guard, originally committed to VCU because he liked coach Will Wade – who since has left for LSU – and wanted the opportunity to play in a high-tempo offense.
Aside from Batts, I do not know if anyone else will be committing. This late in the recruiting season, it may be hard to find highly talented recruits, unless they were recently granted a release from the school where they signed their letter of intent.
Brian Bowen, a 6-7, 194-pound, five-star McDonald’s All-American forward, had N.C. State in his top five list in February. But that was before Mark Gottfried was fired.
Word of God point guard Blake Harris is also interested, but...well, I’ll save that answer for the next two questions.
For your first question, I think, yes, the 6-3, 185-pound Harris is still being pursued. Just because Keatts signed another player at the same position doesn’t mean he will stop going after Harris. It didn’t stop N.C. State from signing Dennis Smith Jr. and Markell Johnson, both point guards, last year. And they both contributed.
For your second question, yes again. I’m sure Keatts is looking to add someone else for the 2017 season. There are scholarships available, and there is still uncertainty surrounding some players, whether it’s freshman forward Omer Yurtseven testing the NBA draft waters, or red-shirt senior guard Terry Henderson waiting to hear from the NCAA whether he will be granted another year of eligibility.
But will adding another recruit in this class be an obligation for Keatts? No. He’s said that his primary focus is retaining the players he has on the roster.
@adamsamore asks: You think this takes them out of the running for Harris?
It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count it out. I don’t think N.C. State necessarily was Harris’ top choice before Batts committed to N.C. State on Saturday. When I spoke to Harris last week, Michigan State, N.C. State, Missouri and Rutgers seemed to be on equal footing. But it was the early stages. He had only recently reopened his recruitment process.
But I’ll tell you something I noticed while watching Word of God’s open gym last week. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo really wants Harris. Like Rutgers’ coach Steve Pikiell and N.C. State’s Keatts, he brought multiple assistant coaches with him to the gym. But I noticed he made sure that Harris’ family knew he was there. He took pictures with his family and Harris. And at one point, when Harris’ dad Bernardo Harris looked like he was about to leave the gym, Izzo got his attention and asked him whether he was leaving.
Bernardo Harris wasn’t leaving, but Izzo apparently wanted to make sure.
Blake Harris told me that he wanted to contribute early. It won’t be a sure thing he’ll be able to do that if Batts and Markell Johnson are ahead of him on the N.C. State’s roster. Then again, he could beat both of them out.