It turns out that David Joplin was not the only former Texas signee to make the decision to follow Shaka Smart to Milwaukee and Marquette men’s basketball on Wednesday. While Joplin was making his speech at Brookfield Central High School about everything that brought him to the moment where he committed to MU, Keegan Itejere announced on Twitter that he will be joining Joplin and Emarion Ellis by trading in Austin for Wisconsin.
I decided to change my commitment from Texas to Marquette Golden Eagles. I'm excited to continue my basketball development with @CoachShakaSmart!— Keeyan Itejere (@KItejere) April 14, 2021
Ready to work @Marquettembb @jamieshaw5 @chosen_coac @paulbiarcardi pic.twitter.com/dvX2doGmCE
Itejere is listed by 247 Sports as a 6’9”, 190 pound power forward in the Class of 2021. He’s a three-star prospect currently ranked #156 in the country according to 247’s Composite system, which makes him the #30 power forward and the #6 prospect in the state of North Carolina where he attends Grace Christian School in Raleigh. I can’t say it for certain, but it appears that 247’s internal ranking system doesn’t like Itejere that much, as they have him unranked nationally, #48 amongst power forwards, and #10 in the state.
Rivals likes him a whole bunch, noting that he’s a three-star center. They have him at #134 in the country and #22 amongst centers. ESPN likes him even more, staking themselves out as the only recruiting service that we’re checking to grade Itejere as a four-star prospect. They also have him as a center, ranking him #26 at the position and #8 in the state of North Carolina. The World Wide Leader only ranks out to the top 100, so there’s nothing else to note here other than they don’t have him as a top 100 prospect.
There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. If we’re being quite honest, Smart recruited Itejere as something of a project. When he signed with Texas in November, Itejere was ranked #265 in the country by the 247 Composite system. He didn’t crack the top 200 until this past January. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that Ben Steele’s article in the Journal Sentinel on Itejere’s commitment notes that the young man didn’t start playing serious competitive basketball until his freshman year of high school. To a certain extent, he’s only just scratching the surface of what he can do, and that scratch has landed him a high major basketball scholarship and has him wandering into becoming one of the top 150 prospects at his age. That’s not too shabby.
MaxPreps has 15 games worth of stats for Itejere’s senior year. They have him averaging 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. I feel like that fits in with the “is just starting to figure this out and chips in a little bit everywhere” type of situation that we talked about a minute ago. Texas’ press release on Itejere’s signing in November says that he averaged 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game as a junior. I like the consistency. Here’s what Smart said about Itejere back then:
“Keeyan is a terrific mover for a player of his size,” Smart said. “His ability to sprint the floor, finish above the rim, block shots and defend players at various positions make him a very unique prospect.”
Wanna watch four minutes of highlights from back in March? The thing that stood out the most to me while watching? How effortlessly he moves with or without the ball.
With the addition of Itejere to the roster, Marquette now has the #17 ranked recruiting class in the country according to 247 Sports. Sure, having five freshmen in it is doing a lot of the heavy lifting there, but the ranking is what the ranking is. Just the three former Texas recruits would be the 38th best recruiting class in the country, but the Golden Eagles are smushing together Smart’s recruits from Longhorn country with Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones. The hilarious part about having the #17 recruiting class in the country is that it’s only the fourth best recruiting class in the Big East. Georgetown is #13, Connecticut is #12, and Villanova is #4.
Let’s get to the scholarship chart, shall we?
The addition of Itejere and Tyler Kolek (we’ll get to it, he committed after I started writing this, he’ll get his own article) to the 2021-22 roster means that Marquette may be done recruiting for next year. MU has two questions at hand right now: What happens to walk-on turned scholarship player Tommy Gardiner who blew his knee out during the 2020-21 season, and what happens to Dawson Garcia, who recently put his name into the 2021 NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent. One of those two men will not be on scholarship at Marquette next year for sure after today’s events.
With or without Garcia on the roster, I think Itejere has a chance to make an impact on next year’s team. Quite honestly, there’s no experienced size on that roster other than Garcia. You can count Justin Lewis as “size” if you want, but at the end of the day, he is only 6’7” after all. Oso Ighodaro barely played as a freshman and even Garcia never stood out as a stalwart and high end defensive stopper at the rim last year. If Itejere can figure out how to stand in there against Big East big men right away — and at under 200 pounds, that’s a big if, mind you — then there’s minutes available to him on this team.