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Recruiting mailbag: What's the buzz on new Iowa State commit Jayden Nunn?

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

Hello, everyone. Welcome, once again, to the recruiting mailbag.

You all ready to say our goodbyes to 2020? I've always wondered how the history textbooks will analyze and look back on the events of my lifetime, and I just have a sneaky feeling 2020 will get its own chapter.

High school students will write papers on 2020. There was just so ... much ... bad.

But there were also positives we can build on going into 2021, right? I mean personal positives, too. For me, it was my engagement. For others, perhaps it was a promotion, or a new connection formed over quarantine.

Anyway. I'm sure you didn't read this mailbag for my personal musings on the state of our currently fragile world, right? You came for recruiting questions and answers.

This week's topics focus on what I'm being told about new Iowa State recruit Jayden Nunn, new recruiting targets for Drake men's basketball and the potential of Iowa football's most under-the-radar 2021 signee.

Jayden Nunn

What can you tell us about Jayden Nunn?

In case you missed it: Jayden Nunn, a 6-foot-3 combo guard originally from Flint, Michigan, who is playing this season with Dream City Christian in Arizona, committed to Iowa State on Christmas Eve. 

Iowa State's coaches love Nunn's ability to score and his natural knowledge for how to play the game. They're confident in their evaluation of Nunn, who was very much under the radar before this year, because he blew up this fall while playing high-level competition from around the country on the prep circuit.

Kyle Weaver, Dream City Christian's head coach, has no idea why it took so long for Nunn to jump onto high-major radar.

"Jayden Nunn is a high-major player any day of the week because he has the mentality," Weaver said. "He could play at a blue-blood or he could play at any high-major, just because of his competitive edge."

Nunn didn't publicize much about his recruitment, but the Cyclones beat out a strong list of suitors. Weaver told me this week that Nunn was considering Iowa State, Kansas, TCU, Arizona State, Rhode Island and Cal.

(Yes, I'm told Kansas was all-in and wanted Nunn to commit.)

That list of schools doesn't match Nunn's online recruiting rating ... which is unrated. He was a virtual unknown after his junior year at Flint Carman-Ainsworth and he still doesn't have any stars on his 247Sports or Rivals recruiting profiles.

That will change soon. Nunn blossomed into a sought-after high-major prospect as he has averaged more than 20 points per game for Dream City Christian this year.

"A dog. Never quits," Weaver told me of Nunn. "Any time he steps on the court, you’re confident you’re going to win the game just because every game he’s going to bring it. His best attribute is on the defensive end. He’s just an absolute dog on the defensive end and offensively he’s just as talented. He’s got a little Marcus Smart in him."

Point guard Jayden Nunn announced he will play his senior season at Dream City. Jayden Nunn

So, why Iowa State?

The Cyclones' early involvement mattered. Assistant coach William Small got invested quickly. Iowa State offered Nov. 17 and was the first high-major to get seriously involved this past fall, which, to Weaver, meant a lot. 

"I’m big with loyalty with all our players, so I think that was probably a big thing," he said. "And secondly, I believe it was having Monte Morris, who’s from Flint."

Ding — the Flint connection.

Morris is just the latest Cyclone from the Flint area in Michigan to have great success in Ames. Jeff Grayer, Iowa State's all-time leading scorer, is from Flint. So are Barry Stevens and Justus Thigpen Jr., who are third and 10th, respectively, on Iowa State's all-time scoring list.

Weaver believes Nunn wanted to be the next great Cyclone from Flint. 

"I’ve never seen a guard blow up like Jayden Nunn did. It’s his mentality that separates him from everybody else. His mentality is just different," Weaver said. "A gem. And I’m not going to say hidden gem, because people are now recruiting him. But he’s going to be a guy that people really missed out on. He’s going to be one of those players that a lot of people were inaccurate on their evaluation of the kid.

"It’s all about fit, and I think Iowa State is the perfect fit for Jayden Nunn."

Any update with Drake recruiting with Chris Mantis committing to Appalachian State and Kyle Ross putting Drake in his top four?

I know Indiana power forward Kyle Ross recently included Drake alongside Rhode Island, IUPUI and Wisconsin-Green Bay in his final four. But it sounds like the Bulldogs aren't involved here.

So, based on conversations with people in the know, who are some other names to keep an eye on? Because, yes, Darian DeVries is still looking to add to his 2021 recruiting class.

Terry Roberts, PG, Florida Southwestern — We'll see if Drake returns to the junior college well that gave it D.J. Wilkins, the Murphy twins and assistant coach Marty Richter. Roberts is a 6-3 point guard with offers from Wichita State, Stony Brook, UTSA and Cleveland State. The juco season starts in January, so he could garner plenty more recruiting interest before he signs somewhere in April.

Donovan Draper, SF, Forest Hill (Royal Palm Beach, Florida) — Draper is a 6-6 wing from the talented West Palm Beach area. He doesn't yet hold an offer, but Drake has been among the many low-major and mid-major programs who have monitored him since his performances with Team Parsons on the summer circuit.

Forest Hill junior Donovan Draper, left, goes over a play with senior point guard D’Ante Daniels at a recent practice in West Palm Beach.

Sam Thompson, PF, Francis Howell (St. Louis, Missouri) — Thompson is a highly productive 6-10 big who the Bulldogs have been recruiting since spring 2019. He's having a prolific senior season (he just put up 55 points in a game this week) and holds several mid-major offers, including one from Missouri State

So, with Karson Sharar, are we talking another Brandon Myers?

Fun fact: Iowa linebacker signee Karson Sharar's last name is pronounced shy-ar.

(That's why you read this mailbag. For the quality, break-the-ice-at-awkard-party facts no one else can provide!)

Sharar became this year's under-the-radar Iowa football signee when Kirk Ferentz offered and flipped the Iowa Falls-Alden product from Northern Iowa a few days before December's early signing period. He's a 6-4, 210-pound athlete whose senior film shows a significant improvement from his junior season.

Brandon Myers was another under-the-radar Iowa football pick-up, from PCM, who wound up enjoying a great senior year in Iowa City, which led to a sixth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and a seven-year career in the league.

So, could Sharar enjoy the same type of success? We'll see. I like his upside.

Sharar actually started off as a mid-major basketball prospect. He impressed coaches with his first two seasons at Iowa Falls-Alden and Drake offered in July 2018. But his Division I basketball stock didn't elevate much further after that, and Darian DeVries' Drake staff didn't re-offer.

See, a 6-4, 210-pound athlete is rarer on the football field than the basketball court.

And Sharar started gaining football interest after his junior season. Then, as a senior, he erupted for 80.5 tackles and nine solo tackles for loss. He's a high-level athlete who can fly around the field and get into the backfield in a heartbeat.

There's a reason he leapt from unranked to No. 23 in our final in-state 2021 recruiting rankings. And that's not just because he committed to Iowa; I try to rank based on what I see in person and on film, and based on conversations with recruiting contacts, not just somebody's offer sheet. That's why guys like Ankeny quarterback Jase Bauer (Central Michigan signee, No. 16) and Waukee athlete Aaron Smith (Yale recruit, No. 19) are ranked higher than Power Five signees.

Sharar reminds me a bit of Iowa State defensive end Zach Petersen in that way. Petersen exploded into a Power Five target when his eye-popping senior film at North Scott made its rounds. Sharar's film might not be quite at that level, but it sure was excellent, and it landed him in Iowa City.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.