Down to the Wire: Bassey could mend five-star heartbreak

Charles Bassey (23) looks to score after getting a rebound during a tournament at Bowling Green High School, on Feb. 3, 2018. Bassey played for Aspire Academy, and committed to WKU on June 13. He re-classified to the 2018 class, and will play this fall for the Hilltoppers. 

Mitchell Robinson was the best player to ever commit to WKU in the modern recruiting era. Until he wasn’t.

The seven-foot center was the No. 9 player in the class of 2017, the No. 1 center and the No. 2 player in the state of Louisiana. His commitment had Hilltopper fans dreaming of dominating Conference USA and going to the NCAA Tournament, and given how well the Hilltoppers have played thus far in the 2017-18 season without Robinson, they probably would’ve done just that.

Former Sports Editor Evan Heichelbech and myself have written more words than I can count about Robinson (although I believe Heichelbech counted them all up at one point). His arrival, his desertion, his return and, ultimately, his final departure became the Mitchell Robinson Saga. It was perhaps the most unique recruitment the college basketball landscape has ever seen.

It was a devastating loss for the program but something that head coach Rick Stansbury wasn’t unfamiliar with. While he was head coach at Mississippi State, Stansbury got commitments out of five-star prospects Jonathan Bender, Travis Outlaw and Monta Ellis. And not a single one of them played a game at A&M. They instead went straight to the NBA, which Robinson will also do after a year of preparation outside of college basketball.

Despite the loss of the class’ only five-star player, Stansbury still assembled the conference’s best recruiting class with Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball Taveion Hollingsworth and four-star guard Josh Anderson, as well as several transfer players with NCAA Tournament experience.

Stansbury preaches continuity in recruiting, and less than two seasons in at WKU he’s starting to get it. But now he’s got a chance to add to that continuity with a shot of star power, putting his and his program’s five-star struggles to an end with Charles Bassey.

Bassey, who just helped the Aspire Academy win the Hoopin on the Hill tournament at Bowling Green High School last weekend, is the No. 2 center in the class of 2019 and the No. 3 overall player in his class, according to 247 Sports.

At 6-10, 220 lbs, Bassey pretty closely resembles the frame of the briefly-former Hilltopper Robinson.

After Bassey moved from San Antonio to Louisville, the Hilltoppers became the early favorite for him among recruiting experts. He made an unofficial visit to WKU Jan. 18, but Stansbury and his staff are already in a battle with other major programs across the nation. Bassey holds offers from Kansas, UCLA, Louisiana State, Texas A&M (where Stansbury was formerly an assistant) and a few other Power 5 programs.

It’s a good sign that Stansbury is in early on Bassey. The one-and-done rule will assure that he can’t jump to the NBA immediately after high school like Bender, Ellis and Outlaw did, and the fact that WKU has already managed to become the favorite for him hopefully is a sign that he won’t be as indecisive about the Hill as Robinson ended up being.

In an era where recruiting statuses can change in the blink of an eye or the sending of a tweet, it’s a bit early to start talking about 2019’s second-best center being a Hilltopper. But the groundwork has been laid for Stansbury to land WKU’s first five-star prospect in the modern recruiting era.

Sports Editor Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.