University of Kansas

KU recruiting target Zeke Nnaji will visit North Carolina before choosing his college

Blue-chip Minnesota big man Zeke Nnaji has decided to make one more campus visit before choosing a college.

Nnaji, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound senior forward from Hopkins (Minn.) High School, who has traveled to Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, Baylor and Purdue on official visits, will attend North Carolina’s game against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 16 at the Smith Center as part of an unofficial visit to the ACC school.

UNC started recruiting Nnaji, Rivals.com’s No. 37-rated player nationally, after Jeremiah Robinson-Earl announced for Villanova on Oct. 30. The Tar Heels offered Nnaji a scholarship on Sunday.

Nnaji will announce his college choice on Friday, Nov. 23, the same day KU plays its second and final game in the Preseason NIT in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“The pitch was Zeke’s skill set,” Zeke’s father, Apham Nnaji, told 247sports.com. “They (North Carolina coaches) see him in the mold of (Luke) Maye, but a more athletic guy. They want to use him to stretch the floor. The kid that has already committed, Armando (Bacot), they see him and Zeke co-existing. He (North Carolina coach Roy Williams) said he’s always had two big guys, one that is a traditional big and one that can actually shoot, and stretch the floor and run and bring it up the court and all the things he can do.

“The pitch (also) is that it’s one of the best programs, if not the best program,” Apham Nnaji added of the Tar Heels. “They’ve won three championships. They have the tendency to play later in the tournament and usually the folks that get drafted are the folks that play later in the tournament. They have a really good strength and conditioning guy that has been with coach for 15 or 16 years. All of the assistants, if not all of them, went to North Carolina and played for him. They make a pretty good case.”

The early signing period runs Nov. 14-21. Nnaji’s dad told 247sports.com the plan is to commit to a school, but not sign a letter-of-intent until April.

“I love the progression that Nnaji has made within the past 12 months,” Rivals.com’s Corey Evans told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “He has grown over threeinches and his value as a frontcourt defender cannot be overstated. He has an above 7-foot wingspan, instincts, and excellent lateral skills in guarding far and close to the basket and, best of all, properly switching out top in defending the ball screen.

“Offensively, Nnaji can play the 4 or the 5. He has to get stronger and tougher but the physical tangibles are all there. He can shoot, but also has a set of counters in the post. He can also play in bigger lineups as a high-low threat as a passer and shooter. In all, he is one of the better upside forward prospects in America,” Evans added.

Stanley decision coming soon?

Cassius Stanley, a 6-5 senior combo guard from Sierra Canyon High in North Hollywood, Calif., will meet with coaches from his three finalists — KU, Oregon and UCLA — before choosing a school, ESPN.com’s Jeff Borzello reported. He is expected to sign with a school in the early signing period.

“UCLA’s strong pursuit of the standout guard and its ability to keep some of the best talent home could definitely help,” wrote Corey Evans of Rivals.com. “After all, the Bruins enrolled Cody Riley, a top 50 forward who attended the same high school that Stanley does (Sierra Canyon) last year. (UCLA coach) Steve Alford has a major scoring guard need this fall, and he is hoping that Stanley is just the guy for the job.”

Bragg’s appeal denied at New Mexico

Former KU forward Carlton Bragg’s waiver request to play immediately for the University of New Mexico, has been denied, the university announced.

The 6-10 Cleveland native will play in his first game against Central Arkansas on Dec. 16, the date the NCAA said he originally would be eligible.

New Mexico coach Paul Weir told the Albuquerque Journal he was “shocked,” by the NCAA’s ruling on the waiver request and said the school will appeal the ruling.

The 6-foot-10 Bragg was enrolled in classes at Arizona State for the first semester a year ago then left school and enrolled at New Mexico in late January, 2018. Rules state a player who transfers must sit out a full academic year following the transfer.

Bragg played two seasons at KU (2015-16, 2016-17) before enrolling at Arizona State.

“We will attempt to continue to work with officials both at ASU and the NCAA in regards to Carlton’s eligibility,” Weir said in a statement as reported by the Albuquerque Journal. “Based on the documentation we have received thus far, we are shocked at the current outcome of his eligibility status. Hopefully this can be rectified quickly with an eye toward the interest of the injured party.”

McDonald’s All-American Bragg averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 11.1 minutes per game in his KU career. At Cleveland’s Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School he averaged 21.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game during his senior season. He was suspended twice his sophomore year at KU. He will have a year and a half of eligibility at New Mexico.

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Gary Bedore

Gary Bedore covers University of Kansas athletics for The Star.



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