NBA

Bronny James recruitment: Breaking down college options with 5 new favorites

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There has been immense interest around Bronny James since he first entered the public eye as a potential future NBA prospect. James’ game has grown over the past three years as he played for Los Angeles prep powerhouse Sierra Canyon during the school season and on the Nike EYBL Tour in the summer. As he enters his senior year, James is currently ranked the 43rd overall prospect for the Class of 2023, according to the 247 Sports composite ranking.

James is at a fascinating inflection point in his young career for multiple reasons. After primarily playing a role on Sierra Canyon teams loaded with current and future NBA talent — Ziaire Williams, Brandon Boston Jr. and Amari Bailey, to name a few — James is set to to be the main man at his school as a senior. He also needs to understand his plan after graduation. With his famous father repeatedly stating that he wanted to play with his eldest son before retiring, Bronny’s next step will be crucial in helping him get to the NBA.

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On Friday, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi gave the first informed update in months on James’ next step. According to ESPN, “there’s a strong feeling he’ll take the college route,” with UCLA, USC, Michigan, Ohio State and Oregon mentioned as leaders. Biancardi notes that other schools could still enter the mix. College, of course, won’t be James’ only potential path to the 2024 NBA Draft: he could go to the G League Ignite, turn pro in Australia like LaMelo Ball, or choose an alternative option like Overtime Elite.

What should Bronny do after high school? Here is an overview of its reported leaders.

Local options: UCLA and USC

LeBron James can become a free agent in the summer of 2023, but most believe his preferred scenario remains with the Los Angeles Lakers as long as they can reassert themselves as a legitimate contender. With the entire James family in Los Angeles, that means Bronny would have his eye on both local schools, UCLA and USC.

The Bruins are coming off of the Final Four and Sweet 16 in Mick Cronin’s first two seasons as head coach. They are considered one of the top 10 teams to come this season, but they may lose four starters once the year is over if incoming freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona live up to the hype. media. Add to that that UCLA doesn’t have a Class of 2023 commitment yet, and it’s really hard to project what their roster might look like a year from now. How Bailey’s freshman year unfolded could have a big influence on Bronny as a former high school teammate. It’s worth noting that last season’s stud rookie Peyton Watson couldn’t break the rotation on a veteran team in 2021-22 (and was still a first-round pick anyway). If Bronny signs on, Cronin must be ready to give him a real role.

USC is also a decent option. The Trojans have made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and could return this year as a top-25 fringe team to start the season. There’s another Sierra Canyon connection here with former Bronny teammate Kijani Wright, who is set to make his debut for the Trojans this season as a former top-50 rookie. USC has a really good incoming class, but doesn’t have any commits for 2023 yet. It’s easy to see Bronny starting on either of these teams if he commits.

Big Ten powerhouses with family ties: Ohio State and Michigan

LeBron once said he would have gone to Ohio State if he hadn’t entered the NBA draft after high school. He’s still a big Buckeyes fan and would probably approve of his son returning to Ohio to play for Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes helped make Malaki Branham a unique surprise last season after entering the program with a recruiting ranking similar to what Bronny currently has (four stars, top 50 rookies overall). Ohio State has four top-100 rookies coming this season and four more top-100 rookies committed next season. The Buckeyes’ class of 2023 is only missing a point guard, and that’s a role Bronny could potentially fill.

Michigan would also make sense because of LeBron’s connection to head coach Juwan Howard. Howard and LeBron were Miami Heat teammates at the end of Howard’s career and won two rings together (Howard barely played on those teams). There were even rumors that Howard would potentially get the Lakers job in the offseason. Instead, Howard will coach his own sons Jett and Jace with the Wolverines next season. LeBron and Bronny will definitely notice if it goes well. Michigan also feels like a good on-court fit for Bronny: The Wolverines can potentially put a lot of shots on the ground, and Bronny could play a glue-first role in the backcourt.

The Nike school par excellence: Oregon

Nike founder Phil Knight went to Oregon and pumped money into the athletic department to the point where the Ducks became synonymous with the brand. Oregon has a history of signing great rookies: Incoming freshman center Kel’el Ware is already getting top-10 NBA Draft hype, and they’ve got Kwame Evans, the No. 2 prospect in the general classification in 2023, entered for the following year. The Ducks have always been in the NCAA Tournament before last season and would be another place that could possibly offer Bronny a starring role as a rookie.

Bronny James Recruitment: Could Anyone Else Get Involved?

I’d be surprised if Bronny signs on early given the pace of his recruitment so far. There seems to be plenty of time for other options outside of the five schools mentioned above to emerge. Duke eyed Bronny at Peach Jam and already has four five-star recruits signed for 2023. Two of those players are LA guards in Jared McCain and Caleb Foster, but it would be foolish to completely rule out the Blue Devils at this point. Memphis has also reportedly checked on James, and an adjustment could make sense there with head coach Penny Hardaway leading the program.

The G League Ignite could also be a fun option. The Ignite have proven they can produce NBA talent with three top-10 picks in the last two drafts (Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Dyson Daniels), and Bronny would add an incredible jolt of excitement to the G League. . I’m not buying the Australian NBL or Overtime Elite as serious options at this point.

The college route seems like the safest bet for Bronny at this point. California schools should have an advantage as long as his father stays with the Lakers. Wherever Bronny goes, he will become a big star as soon as he arrives on campus.

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