Recruiting stock already soaring for 'game-changer' 2020 prospect Rose Nkumu

Dargan Southard
The Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY, Ia. — As she’s navigated through the early stages of her now-rising recruitment, Rose Nkumu frequently hears a common theme. The message came attached with her first offer from Omaha way back in the summer, and it was repeated this week as Creighton pulled the trigger as well.  

“They both said the same thing — that they usually don’t offer this early — but they see the potential that I have,” the City High sophomore said. “And that made my heart feel really, really good.”

City High's Rose Marie Nkumu drives to the hoop during the Little Hawks' game against West High at City High on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.

A quick peak at the court clearly illustrates why. After earning significant minutes as a freshman point guard, Nkumu’s overall comfort level and understanding of the floor has only amplified in Year 2 of directing the Little Hawks’ offense. Quality showings on the high school scene — coupled with a strong 2017 summer on the AAU circuit with Kingdom Hoops — have generated five Division I offers so far.

As Nkumu continues her upward trend as one of the state’s elite 2020 prospects, more are undoubtedly on the way.

“The ceiling is so high for her,” Kingdom Hoops coach Chris Davis said. “By the time it’s all said and done, she’ll have probably 20 to 25 offers.”

The Mavericks broke the ice in mid-July, and a slew of Missouri Valley campuses weren’t far behind. Within about a month’s span, Nkumu racked up offers from Illinois State (Sept. 24), Northern Iowa (Oct. 7) and Drake (Oct. 28), providing one last recruiting boost before her high school campaign began.

As the top-ranked Little Hawks continued surging over the season’s first two months, Nkumu set her recruitment aside until Creighton beckoned for a visit. The 5-foot-8 sophomore made initial contact with the Bluejays staff and briefly walked around the Omaha campus in August, leading to a follow-up visit after assistant coach Chevelle Saunsoci reached out last week.

Nkumu and her parents took in Creighton’s overtime win over Seton Hall on Sunday, and ventured into Jim Flanery’s office afterward. The Bluejays head coach certainly made the trip worth it, giving Nkumu her biggest offer to date.

“I think whomever jumps in now is going to get somebody who’s going to be really good,” City High coach Bill McTaggart said. “She’s definitely a Division I talent and is just scratching the surface. So I think her upside is huge because she can jump — has a good vertical. She’s very quick and very coachable, and she’s an A student.

“So she’s got all the intangibles you’re looking for.” 

Nkumu added that she keeps in contact with fellow Big East schools St. Louis and Providence, has heard a bit from Iowa State and plans to visit Illinois State this Sunday for its game against Valparaiso. Her recruiting sweet spot won’t really arrive until this summer with Kingdom, as coaches and schools tend to rev up the interest on a prospect heading into the junior year.

City High's Rose Nkumu has developed into one of the state's top 2020 prospects, having already racked up five D-I offers.

Nkumu hasn’t begun to seriously map out a decision yet, instead opting to wait until all offers are on the table. That’s certainly not an uncommon approach for a level-headed sophomore.

“I’m definitely excited to be going up to all the schools and visiting and seeing how I fit in with all the teams and getting to meet all the coaches,” Nkumu said, “but it’s also nerve-racking in the sense that in the end, I have to choose one. And just the feeling that soon, it’s going to be really overwhelming after this summer.”

With a quicker release, improved ball-handling and an enhanced comprehension of when to push the tempo versus when to sit back and distribute, Nkumu’s stock will inevitably soar.

Davis pegged his Kingdom pupil as a “game changer” and a “game leader”, emphasizing that Nkumu can “take over a game or go out and facilitate a game with any guard in the country right now.” He expects her to pick up at least seven to eight more offers this summer.

Some collegiate coaches want her services immediately.

“I’ll just quote one coach,” Davis said. “One coach says she could start for them right now, and (that coach) has seen her play several times.  (That coach said), ‘She could start for us right now. Is there any way we could have her skip her final two years and just come play for us right now?’

“So her basketball IQ is up there with the best of the best.”      

Nkumu’s immediate focus, though, remains on the prep scene, where City High is off to a 17-0 start as the unanimous top squad in Class 5A. Surrounded by top-flight players in Iowa State signee Ashley Joens and Division I-bound Aubrey Joens, Nkumu (13.6 points per game, 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio) has meshed nicely in what has been a historic season so far. Future decisions are on the backburner as the Little Hawks hunt for a coveted state title.

But when the recruitment takes center stage, watch the options pile up. Nkumu will have plenty.

“Just the idea,” she said, “that all these coaches are willing to offer a sophomore — I’m only 15 — means a whole lot.” 

Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.