Let's start with the non-conference schedule news. It appears that Alabama will host Murray State next season.
As @nealbradley broke on his show today, Murray State MBB will play at Alabama this year as their "money game". Matt McMahon said they're still working on the date, and added that no other non-conference games have been added since we talked last month.https://t.co/wS5fCQraDZ— Jeff Bidwell (@AKAJeffBidwell) June 14, 2018
Murray State were the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) champions last season, winning their conference tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament where they lost to West Virginia in the first round. They finished the season 26-6. For as long as I can remember, that program has been steady. That's a good addition to the schedule.
Let's turn our attention to recruiting. In the 2019 class, the three big targets for the coaching staff appear to be in-state prospects Trendon Watford, Jaykwon Walton and Kira Lewis. Watford recently released his final eight schools (Memphis, Indiana, TCU, Alabama, Kansas, Vanderbilt, LSU and Florida State) while Walton released his final seven schools (Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Memphis, Mississippi State, Florida and Louisville).
While Watford has long been considered an Alabama lean, Memphis and new coach Penny Hardaway have been making a strong push for Watford, and are now considered the favorite by 247. Frequently cited is Watford's strong relationship with former NBA player and current Memphis assistant coach, Mike Miller. Perhaps it's hyperbole on my part, but I think seeing Watford leave his home state for Memphis would be a big blow, not only for the 2019 class, but beyond. Players like Watford don't grow on trees in the state of Alabama. If Avery is to build Alabama into the kind of program he envisions, landing elite in-state prospects like Watford is vital.
Regarding Lewis: he recently visited Kentucky. The Wildcats have not offered Kira yet, but it's not far-fetched to believe that UK will become the favorite if they do. What this means is that 2019 class that we believed would largely consist of the best in-state players in a strong class for the state has suddenly become an uncertainty rather than a formality.
In other 2019 news: Greg Gantt, a 4-star, top 60 prospect from Fayetteville, NC has released a list of the final nine schools he's considering. They are Alabama, Texas, Florida, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Providence. There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut favorite for Gantt yet.
Austin Crowley, a 4-star, top 125 prospect from West Point, MS made an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa on June 13th.
Bama visit today ‼️ #rolltide🐘— Austin Crowley 🔋 (@TheRealAC5) June 13, 2018
There's no favorite for Crowley yet, but he could become a high priority for Alabama as the year progresses, particularly if the look of the 2019 class changes, based on the decisions of the guys discussed above.
Jaylen Forbes, a 3-star, top 175 prospect from Florence, MS was offered by the Alabama staff this past week.
While yours truly is, admittedly, obsessed with the 2019 class, the staff have been extending offers to 2020 prospects as well. The latest offers are:
Rongie Gordon - A 6'7 forward from Montgomery, AL. Rongie currently attends Lanier High School.
Jaemyn Brakefield - A 6'8, 210 lb forward from Huntington, WV. Brakefield is a 5-star, top 15 prospect in the 20 class. There will be no shortage of suitors for his commitment.