Photo: Courtesy of MN Basketball Hub
The University of Denver men’s basketball program landed another key recruit for the 2018-2019 season: JaVonni Bickham from Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Academy. Bickham announced his intention to attend the University of Denver next fall Wednesday evening. He will be joining DU’s other Twin Cities products Joe Rosga and Ade Murkey.
We wrote about Bickham and identified him as an ideal match for Denver basketball. While Verbal Commits has him listed as a 2-star national prospect, Scout and Rivals lists the Minnehaha Academy Redhawks power forward with a 3-star Minnesota rating. Scout had Bickham as a top 6 Minnesota prospect. That type of court quality is something Denver could only dream about before Rodney Billups’ arrival at University and Evans. To put this signing in perspective, even a power 5 conference team like the University of Colorado has more than half their squad as 2-star recruits.
The hope of all mid-major programs like Denver is to land strong up-side 2-star players and transform them into stars such as former Pioneers Royce O’Neale, Yemi Nicholson, and Chris Udofia. The MVP of the Summit League, South Dakota State University’s Mike Daum, was a 2-star rated recruit when he graduated from high school. Fort Wayne star guard John Konchar was a 2-star recruit as well. South Dakota’s skilled playmaker Matt Mooney wore the same 2-star label coming out of high school.
The news of Bickham’s announcement immediately reached the Minneapolis Star Tribune which noted Bickham took a pass on scholarship offers from New Mexico, Memphis, Towson (MD), Florida International, and University of Texas-El Paso to play for the Crimson & Gold.
The other thing to note about recent signings is the aggressive approach by the current DU staff to recruit early in the year and secure commitments by high school seniors prior to the start of the high school basketball season. In the past, Denver generally signed prospects after the high school basketball season ended and even picked up a number of uncommitted players during the summer, following their senior seasons.
We profiled two other highly ranked athletes during our ‘Big Shot’ series. It is highly unlikely that DU will land Twin Cities 6’10” center Joseph Hedstrom because he has been offered scholarships to Big Ten and the Pac-12 schools. Also, Jordan Guest, another 3-star player committed to BU after narrowing his choices to three schools, including Denver. As we reported before, Denver received a commitment from sharp shooting guard Jase Townsend of Dallas, Texas.
Expect Bickham to receive immediate playing time next fall as both Daniel Amigo and Christian Mackey will have graduated from the University of Denver. Denver will still likely pursue at least one more big man before the start of next season.