UPDATE: MGBAKO HAS COMMITTED TO INDIANA
On Friday, class of 2023 5-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako will announce his college destination.
Will it be Indiana or Kansas?
Truth be told, no one seems to know outside of a very tight inner circle. But there have been predictions.
And it seems to come down to a more proven track record at Kansas, vs. a clearer path to significant minutes at IU.
On3 national recruiting analyst Jamie Shaw has placed a prediction for Kansas.
And when you read his assessment of the situation, this observation really stands out:
“A look at the last two Jayhawks teams, you see the success Bill Self has had with Christian Braun, Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, and Ochai Obaji,” Shaw wrote. “These four are wings or tweener-forwards, in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-8 range, that experienced success in the system.”
Mgbako is a 6-foot-8 wing, or a tweener-forward if you prefer. There’s no doubt Kansas has had more recent success utilizing players like Mgbako. In fact, if you look at the three players from Kansas who are in the NBA Draft Combine this year — Wilson, Dick and Kevin McCullar, they all fit that mold of a long wing oriented player. That’s an easy sell for the Jayhawks. Come to Lawrence, and that will be you next spring.
Indiana, on the other hand, played through the post the last two years under head coach Mike Woodson, along with placing a heavy emphasis on the point guard spot.
But Woodson said himself after the season — he played through Trayce Jackson-Davis because he was the best player on the team. It would have been foolish to do otherwise. So there’s no doubt they’ve been telling Mgbako over the last couple weeks, if he comes to IU, the offense will run through the wing spot, just like Woodson did in the NBA with Carmelo Anthony and Joe Johnson.
Moreover, with Hunter Dickinson coming to Kansas, who is to say the Jayhawks won’t be the team playing through the post in 2023-24?
When describing the fit at Indiana for Mgbako, Shaw hits on what we believe has been IU’s best selling point — immediate playing time. Mgbako could play the three or four, but he’s likely a small forward/wing in the NBA and thus would do well getting at least a year of high major college basketball experience playing that role.
Miller Kopp occupied the small forward spot for each of the last two seasons at IU, and he is out of eligibility. Also gone are Tamar Bates and Jordan Geronimo, who could have competed for the role. C.J. Gunn and Kaleb Banks are the main contenders to play the three next season, but while talented they are unproven to this point. At least on paper, Mgbako could step right in and have a good chance to play 30 minutes a game at Indiana.
The situation is very different at Kansas. McCullar could still return, but he isn’t expected back. But the Jayhawks have transfers Nick Timberlake (17.7 ppg at Towson) and Arterio Morris (2022 5-star) coming in, along with K.J. Adams (36 starts in 22-23) returning. With Dickinson starting at center and Dajuan Harris at point guard, someone among Timberlake, Morris, Adams and Mgbako would have to come off the bench. And the Jayhawks have three other off ball guard/wing type players in their already signed freshman class.
One possible explanation for the transfer by Kansas center Ernest Udeh on Thursday is this crowded situation. Adams could end up being the one to come off the bench as the top reserve at both the four and five spots, and that would create the opening for Mgbako.
The other national analyst with a prediction out there is Rob Cassidy of Rivals. He’s also going with Kansas, along with several others at that outlet.
Cassidy readily admits his prediction for the Jayhawks is more based on his assessment of the situation rather than any intel. Given what we said at the outset about how tight-lipped this recruitment has been, we suspect all public predictions out there are more based on feel than inside information.
Mgbako seems to have had a very good visit in Lawrence last week, and that, along with recent success both in recruiting and on the court seems to be fueling the lean towards Kansas. Seems reasonable.
But Cassidy isn’t counting IU out. Here’s what he has to say about the situation.
“Things on the (Kansas) visit went pretty well from what I’m told and the Jayhawks offer the same sort of exposure and chances to win at a high level as Duke, to which Mgbako originally committed,” Cassidy wrote. “Add in the fact that Kansas seems to be armed with a massive pile of NIL money, and everything feels like it points to Lawrence.
“That said, the people I’ve talked to won’t go very far when discussing the situation saying only “Kansas is probably it.” I’m fairly certain it’s going to be KU at this point, but I’m not willing to make any crazy guarantees. Indiana is very much a player and should be seen as a real threat to pull an upset.”
We doubt NIL is a major factor in this recruitment. Mgbako only projects to be on campus for 10 months. He’ll make good NIL money at either school. As a clear NBA prospect, the money he is likely focused on is future earnings as a pro. That is the far bigger amount. So the question is, which program can best set him up for that next step?
Typically when there is a wave of predictions in one direction, that’s how it goes. But it isn’t clear the right people have spoken up in the Mgbako recruitment. And sometimes you just never know. See: Zion Williamson’s 247Sports Crystal Ball was trending 85 percent to Clemson.
We’ll find out soon enough. Mgbako is expected to announce his decision at around 6 p.m. ET on Friday.
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