St. John’s has an opportunity to make an early statement Monday night, but the game against Michigan may be the second-most important event over the next few days for Rick Pitino.
Starting Saturday, the Johnnies will host five-star prospect VJ Edgecombe on an official visit, one that could be his last before he makes his decision.
The gifted 6-foot-5 guard from The Bahamas attends Long Island Lutheran and has also taken trips to Duke, Baylor, Florida and Kentucky. St. John’s is fighting heavyweights here, in the deep end of the recruiting pool.
The current consensus is that Duke is the school to beat for Edgecombe, who called off visits to Michigan and Alabama after the trip to Durham, N.C.
He is a consensus top-10 prospect in the country and would further elevate Duke’s top-ranked recruiting class that already features Cooper Flagg, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.
Edgecombe visited Duke the same weekend as Flagg and was said to be very impressed by his time at the ACC school.
But St. John’s is still believed to have a puncher’s chance, according to multiple sources, and Edgecombe’s family will be on hand for the visit. They will also attend Monday’s big game at the Garden.
St. John’s is losing top guards Daniss Jenkins, Jordan Dingle and Nahiem Alleyne after this season, and can sell Edgecombe on being the centerpiece of its backcourt next year alongside highly regarded freshman Simeon Wilcher.
Duke, meanwhile, has two five-star prospects, Isaiah Evans and Kon Knueppel, committed at Edgecombe’s position.
A college coach familiar with Edgecombe described him as a “high-level athlete who is ascending rapidly. Good size, great kid, potential pro.”
Edgecombe was the Gatorade Player of the Year in New York last season after averaging 15.5 points, five rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks for loaded Long Island Lutheran.
He was also the Player of the Year in the National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC), one of the country’s toughest high school leagues, and was the MVP of the Adidas Eurocamp.
“He’s long been an elite athlete capable of impacting games off the bounce and on the boards, but he’s taken massive strides as a long-range shooter and defender over the last year,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy said. “He’s one of the most complete two-way players in the country and an absolute freak athlete.”
Landing Edgecombe would be a seismic recruiting win for Pitino and St. John’s.
He would be the highest-rated prospect in the rankings era for St. John’s and the first five-star it landed since Rysheed Jordan in 2013.
Already, Pitino has made major inroads on the recruiting trail.
He brought in a number of prized transfers, most notably the Ivy League duo of Dingle (Penn) and Chris Ledlum (Harvard), and landed top-50 New Jersey prospects Wilcher and Jaiden Glover.
Edgecombe, however, is in another category, and St. John’s will have its shot with him this weekend.
St. John’s sophomore wing RJ Luis has been cleared for basketball activities, according to Pitino.
He broke his left hand on Oct. 1. The likely return date is against Holy Cross on Nov. 25.