No high school boy's verbal commitment in recent years has had or will have more of an impact on Arizona high school basketball and recruiting more than Wednesday's announcement by 2017 prospect Markus Howard to attend Arizona State University. The sophomore guard from Perry High School made a big statement with his verbal pledge. The impact of Howard's decision to stay close to home and play for the Sun Devils does many things.
First of all, for other top-rated Arizona basketball prospects, it makes a statement that no one is too good to play for the Sun Devils. Historically, many of the state's best prospects have ventured to many other high-major programs around the country and dismissed the idea of leading the Sun Devils to the top of the PAC-12 Conference, and formerly the PAC-10. The commitment by one of the nation's top 2017 prospects, if it holds for the next three years, will attract many of the state's elite talent, while, more importantly, also catching the attention of many top-rated prospects nationally. Top players enjoy the idea of playing with each other and the solidification of Howard for the future does a great service for the ASU men's basketball staff in attracting other top-rated talent.
Currently, the ASU staff is recruiting other nationally top-rated prospects such as California's Tyler Dorsey. Suddenly, such a player does not seem as far-fetched of an idea, with the reeling in of Markus Howard. The ability by the ASU coaching staff of promoting the verbal commitment of Howard will be huge in their future endeavors of landing other nationally ranked performers.
Secondly, with a few other prominent young prospects currently living in the state of Arizona, such as Marvin Bagley Jr., the ASU staff will likely be able to promote the idea of playing with a top-rated point guard in the future. Of course, the verbal by Howard should impact the opportunity to land other gifted 2017 prospects such as Marcus Shavers (St. Mary's HS) or Alex Barcello (Corona Del Sol), but the Sun Devils got their man and were not afraid to be the first high-major division-I college program to put an offer on the table - a move that proved to be big in their landing of Howard.
Most importantly, is the impact of Howard's commitment on the future of ASU head coach Herb Sendek. Sendek has had to worry about his future at Arizona State almost from year to year, more than any other head basketball college coach in the country. With such ambiguity over his future at the program, it has been very difficult for Sendek and the ASU coaching staff to land big-time prospects. The future prospect of having Howard in the fold for 2017 should make a tremendous case for Sendek with the new ASU athletic director, Ray Anderson. Will Sendek now get another long-term extension? ASU may want to do that if they want to continue this trend and hold on to Howard in the future.
Howard is the state's top 2017 prospect, and is the highest rated Arizona basketball product to verbal to Arizona State since Jahii Carson in 2011, and the highest rated prospect to commit to ASU since Keala King and James Harden (NBA). No basketball prospect in the state of Arizona, since NBA guard Jerryd Bayless, has burst onto the Arizona high school basketball scene faster and harder than Howard. Not since Bayless (Milwaukee Bucks-NBA), has a freshman prospect had more of an impact at the varsity level in his first season. In fact, I have not seen a player as skilled as Howard at such an early age. While not as imposing an athletic talent as Bayless yet, Howard is more skilled at the same point in his young career.
Howard plays the game with extreme confidence every time he steps onto the floor, and has the belief that he is the best player on the floor at all times - regardless of the age of competition. He has the “It Factor,” and he is very fun to watch play.
In my opinion, Howard chose to pull the trigger extremely early to help the ASU staff with their current position at the program, while also giving their staff the ability to land other top-rated prospects to play with him in the future. Much easier to land better prospects when you already have your foundation set ahead of time. Howard also must like the option of being able to stay near home, close to his many friends and family. He has such a strong family unit, that this opportunity could not be passed up. Even with the lure to play on a much bigger national stage and in front of a more rich basketball culture at programs like Arizona, UCLA and even Kansas, was not as attractive to Howard as making a name for himself at the local ASU program, and building a new tradition at a basketball program that has lacked it in many ways over the past 20 years.
Good for Howard to make such a tremendous statement - a statement that will change the manner in which ASU recruits over the next three years, and which could solidify Herb Sendek's future at the program.
Congratulations to the ASU men's staff on getting it done. The recent hiring by Sendek of Larry Greer, a former NBA scout and coach, Stan Johnson, one of the nation's top recruiters, and recently, Barret Peery, one of the nation's top up-and-coming coaches and also one of the top recruiters in the country, has the ASU men's basketball staff set for the future, and now looking towards landing the next big prospect to play alongside this tremendous basketball prospect.
From someone that has a lot of experience with very early college commitments, the hardest part after the verbal commitment for a college coach is to keep the prospect committed throughout the remainder of the high school career. This will be a very interesting challenge for Sendek and his staff, as Howard has 3 full years before beginning his college career. With such an early commitment we will have to see if Howard actually makes it to Arizona State, and if Sendek will actually be his coach.