Jayden Epps Decision Day: Analyzing the Competition

Decision day is here for 2022 combo guard Jayden Epps of Suffolk, VA. Epps, a consensus 4 star on all recruiting sites, is scheduled to pick his college at 12PM EST. Providence is squarely in the mix here, with the understanding the choosing will be between NC State, Florida, and the Friars. We’ve heard there are chances he may reclassify as well, joining the 2021 class of Legend Geeter and Rafael Castro. We analyze below the chances for each school and make a prediction based off what we have heard and believe.

Florida

Mike White and his team certainly can make a compelling case for Epps. First, they are fresh off an NCAA berth, and their program has a history of postseason success. Secondly, there may be the appeal of playing at a big state school in the SEC. While football comes first in Gainesville, they certainly have a strong following in basketball.

One of the biggest selling points, in my opinion, has to be the playing time that is now available for Epps. I say “now” because that may not have been the case a month ago. Since the NCAA tournament run ended for Florida, two backcourt players have transferred in Noah Locke and Ques Glover. Glover was anticipated to transfer, but the Locke transfer seems to have caught folks by surprise. He started in 51 of the last 52 games and averaged 10 a game. On top of the transfers was the decision by guard Tre Mann to declare for the draft. 2-man Scottie Lewis also has a decision to make.

With all of those moving pieces, Mike White is probably selling a starting spot to Epps as a true freshman. I’d be apprehensive about entering a program with so much roster turnover and a potential rebuild on the horizon, but the playing time, history of success, and SEC tradition is certainly working in the Gator’s favor.

NC State

Ah, we meet again Wolfpack. It seems like every recruit that is down to their final decision has Providence and NC State in their final grouping.

I believe NC State is much more of a threat to Providence than Florida in this final decision, but the logical side of me cannot understand why. NC State has a plethora of guard options currently on the roster in Shakeel Moore (remember that name?), Cam Hayes, and Thomas Allen. They are also bringing in guards Breon Pass and Terquavion Smith in the 2021 recruiting class. Even if Epps is supremely confident in his abilities, as he should be, that is a lot of competition for the guard positions. This may be an instance where NC State’s success against the Friars historically (Pass and Moore) end up working out in the Friar’s favor.

As a Virginia kid, chances are Epps dreamed of playing in the ACC. This could be the angle NC State is pitching here. It certainly makes sense and has burnt the Friars in the past.

In the end, I think the surplus of guards hurts the Wolfpack’s chances here.

Providence

Providence is seemingly the outlier when looking at the other two finalists, a private Catholic school amongst two big state schools, but that may actually be a selling point for the Friars. We know that Epps and the coaching staff have built a great relationship and playing at a basketball first school certainly has its appeals (you can argue NC State is football first, while that is certainly true at Florida).

Providence can sell immediate playing time as well. With the departure of Gantt, Nichols, and Monroe this offseason, those three combined to play 44 minutes a game last year. Epps is certainly more of a backcourt player than all of the three listed above, but there needs to be somebody who can be allocated those minutes. Geeter and Castro also won’t be threatening him for playing time, with Geeter and Castro playing some combination of the 3/4/5. At worst, Epps can likely see 15-20 minutes off the bench the minute he steps onto campus. That is appealing.

Additionally, Cooley can point to past Friars and say, “we can replicate this”. While Duke was often times the scapegoat for some losses this past season, he was an honorable mention All American and second team All Big East player last year, averaging 17, 6, and 5. While the two players and playing styles are different, with Duke being longer and more athletic and Epps being more of a scorer, Cooley should emphasize Duke’s recent success.

The real comp, in my opinion, is Bryce Cotton. Both guys are a bit undersized for the two spot and are more scorers than point guards at the same stages in their career. Cooley should be showing him clips of that 2014 season and let him know he can become the next Ice. Cotton came in labeled as a scorer and eventually developed into a point guard, and I think Epps can follow a similar trajectory.

The last thing the Friars have going for them is roster familiarity, with many of the players on the existing roster hailing from the DMV area. Nate Watson grew up playing in Virginia like Epps and Jared Bynum played in Maryland. Jyare Davis likely played in similar AAU circles hailing from Delaware. He can connect with these guys on their high school and AAU playing days.

In summary, Providence has a lot going for it: strong relationships with the coaching staff, playing time, and a history of successfully developing guards in the Epps mold.

Prediction

In doing some digging, it appears NC State is the main competition for Epps over Providence, but for the life of me I cannot fathom why. Florida should be viewed as the real threat here.

In the end, we think Providence is ultimately the winner in the Epps recruitment, and we potentially see him reclassify to join the upcoming 2021 recruiting class. This would be quite the recruiting win for Cooley, as he and the staff have been on Epps since Day 1.

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