Recruiting never stops in Badgers country, and we’re here to help put it all in perspective. Join us every Tuesday and Thursday night for a recap of Wisconsin recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
2018 point guard Tai Strickland talks about his Badgers offer
Wisconsin’s quest to land another player in its 2018 basketball recruiting class has taken the Badgers to St. Petersburg, Fla. That’s where Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore traveled last Wednesday to watch Tai Strickland, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard from St. Petersburg High School. Moore came away impressed enough to offer Strickland a scholarship.
Blessed to receive an offer from Wisconsin! pic.twitter.com/8RIxEPKxDI
— Tai Strickland (@taistrickland13) February 15, 2018
“I was really excited,” Strickland told Land of 10. “They’ve had a great tradition. They’ve been pretty good the last couple years. They’ve had a down year this year. But I feel like it’s a great program, so it’ll be on the rise.
“Coach Moore, he came to the school during the day, met some of my teachers, talked to some of my guidance counselors. It shows he’s doing his homework on me. He’s checking on my grades and all that. It was just great to see because he was showing that he cares. He was putting his time into watching me. That went a long way.”
Strickland has scholarship offers from South Florida, Boston College, Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech and Wisconsin. Rutgers has begun to recruit Strickland hard, and more schools are likely to offer in the coming weeks.
Strickland described himself as “a late bloomer” who entered high school standing just 5-3. But he has grown, become more athletic and continued to preach patience while putting in the time to be a better player. Strickland is a 3-star prospect who ranks as the No. 24 player in the Florida and the No. 47 point guard in the 2018 class.
“It’s definitely starting to happen,” Strickland said. “It was just a matter of time. I’ve been working to get to this point. I’ve been patient. For this to come on is just validating all the work that I’ve put in.”
Strickland transferred to St. Petersburg after starting for two seasons at Tampa Catholic, on the same team as McDonald’s All-American Kevin Knox, who is now a freshman at Kentucky. Knox averaged 28.9 points per game last season, while Strickland averaged 13.2 points.
Strickland plays alongside another Division I prospect at St. Petersburg in guard Serrel Smith, who is an Ole Miss signee. This season, Strickland has thrived. He made the game-winning bucket with 10 seconds left to help his team defeat previously unbeaten Countryside 62-61 in December. Smith and Strickland both were named to the all-tournament team in January at the Under Armour Holiday Classic. Strickland scored a team-high 23 points in the title game of the event.
When St. Petersburg and Countryside met again this month, Strickland dropped a triple-double with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to help his team capture the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship. Strickland scored 19 points in St. Petersburg’s most recent game, an 84-76 loss Friday in the district championship. The Green Devils, who are 21-5, will play in the regional quarterfinals on Thursday.
“I’m definitely just a do-it-all point guard,” Strickland said. “I lead the team. I make plays for others. I can score. And I definitely play defense and rebound, so I can do everything.
“There’s a lot of people that can score. But when you can score and then you’re doing everything on the opposite end, it really sets you apart from other people.”
Strickland, who is the son of former NBA player Rod Strickland, has some famous friends in his circle. Washington Wizards guard John Wall tweeted at Strickland after he announced his offer from Wisconsin. Rod Strickland worked as a special assistant to Kentucky coach John Calipari when Wall played there. He also is Kyrie Irving’s godfather.
Tai Strickland currently is the only uncommitted player with a Wisconsin scholarship offer in the 2018 class. The Badgers recently offered point guard Xavier Pinson and shooting guard Ochai Agbaji. But Pinson committed to Missouri, while Agbaji selected Kansas.
Strickland said he watched Wisconsin’s 57-53 upset victory against No. 6 Purdue on Thursday night, and he’ll continue to monitor the Badgers as his recruiting heats up. Strickland was asked whether he intended to visit Madison now that he has a Wisconsin offer.
“We’re in the playoffs right now, so I’m really just focused on getting to the state championship, winning a state championship,” Strickland said. “So I haven’t really done a whole lot of scheduling visits or any of that because I know I’ve still got a long way to go. But that’s definitely something I’d be interested in.”
Badgers offer 2019 CB Erick Young
Wisconsin offered a scholarship to cornerback Erick Young, a 6-1, 195-pound junior from Richmond, Texas. Young is a 4-star prospect who rates as the No. 20 player in Texas and the No. 13 cornerback in the country, according to the 247Sports composite.
— EJ/Holland (@EJHolland247) February 18, 2018
Young holds 26 known scholarship offers and told EJ Holland of 247Sports this week that his top three schools are Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma. Young attended Oklahoma’s junior day on Saturday. He received a scholarship offer from Alabama on Monday.
QB commit Graham Mertz picks up Iowa, Miami, Alabama offers
Quarterback Graham Mertz’s list of big-time scholarship offers continues to grow each week. Now, he can add Iowa, Miami and defending national champion Alabama to the list. Mertz received the Iowa offer Thursday, the Miami offer Friday and one from Alabama on Monday.
Received an offer from the University of Alabama! 🐘 pic.twitter.com/cd9FjsYP3I
— Graham Mertz (@GrahamMertz5) February 20, 2018
Mertz now has 14 known scholarship offers, 11 of which have occurred since he committed to Wisconsin on Oct. 8. Mertz helped his Blue Valley North team win its final six games to capture the Kansas Class 6A state championship. During that six-game winning streak, Blue Valley North averaged 45.5 points per game, and Mertz was sensational. He finished his junior season completing 269 of 434 passes (62 percent) for 3,684 yards with 45 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He added 5 rushing touchdowns.
Mertz is a 4-star prospect who is rated as the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class. He has accumulated offers since his high school season ended from Michigan, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Alabama and Missouri. Some of those offers likely will make Badgers fans more nervous than others, and the latest offer from Alabama certainly will open some eyes.
Mertz reaffirmed his Wisconsin commitment to Land of 10 last month, but he has received the bulk of his scholarship offers since then. It’s clear that he has quickly become a leader in Wisconsin’s 2019 recruiting class, encouraging prospective recruits to commit and helping them join a group chat with other committed players in the class.
Ultimately, however, Mertz’s decision won’t become final until he officially signs with a school. The earliest that can take place is during the December early signing period in 10 months. And the sheer volume of new offers could give him plenty to think about during that time. Stay tuned.