When Arizona State fired basketball coach Herb Sendek after nine years on the job Tuesday, the move created a ripple effect that will be felt far and wide in the world of college hoops — including, potentially, in Provo.
Sendek's exit could prove to have varying levels of impact on BYU's recruiting efforts, particularly as they pertain to three prominent players in the Class of 2016. Let's take a closer look at how the drama in the desert may affect the work being done by Dave Rose and his staff — for better or for worse.
As the program's undeniable recruiting priority, any potential impact on Frank Jackson's thought process would be of the utmost interest to BYU. And while the Arizona State shakeup likely isn't a tectonic event for Jackson, it may have some unintentional consequences for teams seeking to land the Lone Peak guard.
Jackson had previously received a scholarship offer from Sendek's staff, but according to a source close to the player, he had not considered the Sun Devils to be a serious option. But there's a possibility that could now change, depending on who takes over next in Tempe.
One scenario worth watching: Arizona State reportedly has their sights set on Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel as their next coach. CBS Sports has reported that the job is Capel's, if he wants it.
Why might this matter for Jackson? Because Frank has also received some significant interest from Duke. And while Capel hasn't been his main point of contact with the Blue Devils (he's primarily been recruited by fellow assistant Jon Scheyer), the presence of the long-time Duke assistant could bring some added cachet to the Sun Devils' program for Jackson — and potentially breathe some new life into their chances at landing him.
To be certain, none of this is set in stone. Capel could stay in Durham. And Jackson may not even care if he does take the job. But there's definitely enough intrigue here to merit hopeful BYU fans keeping an eye on what happens next.
It didn't take long after the news of Sendek's ouster went public for several of the Sun Devils' future recruits to announce their intention to rescind their commitments to the school and explore other options. Among those decommitments was 2016 recruit, American Fork star and former BYU target Brendan Bailey.
Bailey, the son of former Utah Jazz player Thurl Bailey, had made an early commitment to Arizona State in November 2014. His sister BreElle plays volleyball for the Sun Devils, and Brendan cited that connection and his strong relationship with Sendek as primary factors in his decision.
"I just thought it was the best fit for me with the style of play that they play,'' Bailey said. "I have such a great relationship with all the coaching staff. My sister goes there and she absolutely loves it. I just liked the atmosphere in general. The campus is beautiful."
But with Sendek and his staff on the outs, Bailey's feelings about spending his collegiate years in Tempe may have changed, causing him to at least consider his options. That's where the Cougars may or may not come into play.
BYU was one of the first teams to offer Bailey a scholarship, so there was certainly interest there at some point. It's not hard to see why: a player with Brendan's physical tools could potentially step into a void that the Cougars have struggled to fill in recent years — an athletic wing player with length and size. At 6-foot-7, with arms for days, Bailey would seem to fit the bill, at least on paper.
Of course, it's not quite that simple. Opinions are deeply split on whether or not Bailey could actually be that type of player at the Division I level. Several national recruiting services are exceptionally high on him — with both Rivals and Scout evaluating him as a four-star recruit, and ranking him 78th and 51st in the Class of 2016, respectively.
But others aren't sold. ESPN only considers Bailey to be a three-star recruit and doesn't have him ranked among their top recruits nationally. In fact, he barely cracks their top five players in the state of Utah for 2016. And many close observers of Utah prep hoops haven't been shy with their assessments that Bailey may not actually be all that good — that he's an inefficient player who has failed to dominate for American Fork and may not possess the skill set to have an impact at the next level.
It seems that BYU's coaching staff may have landed more with the latter than the former. According to a source close to the program, the Cougars reportedly cooled on Bailey considerably prior to his commitment to Arizona State.
Given that fact, it's worth asking whether or not BYU even wants him now that he's become available again. It's possible that their focus has simply turned elsewhere — perhaps to another player who's also very relevant to the situation in Tempe.
That player may be fellow 2016 recruit Gavin Baxter. The Cougars extended a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-8, 215-pound Timpview star in November 2014. (Coincidental timing? You decide.) Like Bailey, Baxter's physical tools indicate he could be a good fit for BYU's wing void — although many observers consider him to be more explosive and efficient than his Utah County counterpart.
Baxter has been a bit of a late bloomer, but some talent evaluators have begun to fall hard for the rangy small forward in recent months as he's added another level of polish to his game. For example, Scout — which has been leading the charge on Baxter's potential — has him ranked 43rd nationally in the Class of 2016 and considers him to be a four-star recruit.
Generally, the consensus seems to be that Baxter's size and athleticism make him a prospect with tremendous upside at the Division I level, especially if he continues to develop his skills — and the BYU coaches seem to be fully on-board with that assessment.
So why does the Arizona State coaching change matter here? Because up to this point, Dave Rose's primary competition for Gavin's services has been — you guessed it — Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils. In fact, Baxter's AAU coach had even spoken publicly about the player's strong connection with both staffs and how the player-coach relationship would likely be one of the deciding factors in his final choice.
"He really likes the Arizona State and BYU staffs," Utah Prospects' Tim Davis told Scout. "I think he'll be looking for a school where he's most comfortable with the coaching staff. [...] He really needs to be comfortable with the head coach. I don't think what conference matters. Of course he wants to play at the highest level possible, but if he's comfortable with the coaching staff, I think that's going to be a big deal."
Obviously, given that bit of information, Sendek's firing is a huge boost to BYU's hopes. With Baxter's relationship with the now-departed coach no longer an arrow in Arizona State's quiver, you'd have to think that the Cougars will become the de facto frontrunner, thanks to Rose's own strong relationship.
As a legacy recruit (both of Gavin's parents were athletes at BYU), Baxter is the type of recruit that Cougar fans would expect their school to land, but every little bit of help counts when it comes to locking up top-level talent — and Rose and company got quite a bit of that from their friends to the far south on Tuesday.