battles No. 7 Tennessee on Monday afternoon in an opening-round game of the 2023 Alls..."/> battles No. 7 Tennessee on Monday afternoon in an opening-round game of the 2023 Alls..."/>

At Maui, Syracuse basketball to face former 4-star priority big-man recruit

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images) /

When Syracuse basketball battles No. 7 Tennessee on Monday afternoon in an opening-round game of the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational in Honolulu, the Orange will compete against a former long-time recruiting target.

J.P. Estrella, a 6-foot-11, 241-pound forward, is a freshman with the Volunteers. He was a consensus four-star, top-80 national prospect in the 2023 class.

The ‘Cuse and the Vols, by the way, will go head to head at the University of Hawaii’s SimpliFi Arena beginning at 2:30 pm EST on Monday, Nov. 20, with television coverage on ESPN2.

This season’s Maui Invitational is loaded with highly rated participants. After battling Tennessee, Syracuse basketball will face either Purdue or Gonzaga. In its third and final game of the 2023 Maui Invitational, the Orange will play Kansas, Chaminade, UCLA or Marquette.

On Monday, Syracuse basketball will compete against a former long-time recruiting target.

The Orange coaching staff offered a scholarship to Estrella in August of 2021, around the time that he competed in the team’s annual Elite Camp. It was his first scholarship offer.

Back then, Estrella wasn’t a heavily known national prospect. But in the ensuing months, his stock blew up, fueling a massive jump in his 2023 national rankings, while his offer sheet extensively expanded.

A native of Scarborough, Maine, as a junior, Estrella averaged 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game, helping lead South Portland High School in South Portland, Maine, to the Class AA state championship while earning All-State honors in Maine.

Estrella spent his senior season at the powerhouse Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. In between his junior and senior years of high school, Estrella earned a ton of high praise from national analysts and scouts for his play on the AAU circuit, and he played a key role in the New England-based Middlesex Magic capturing a spring title in the 17U division of the Under Armour Association league.

As his stock continued to skyrocket on a national basis, Estrella saw his offer list balloon to more than two dozen, with blue-blood programs Duke and Kansas among those getting into the fray.

Syracuse basketball coaches prioritized Estrella for a long time, watching him compete in person at AAU events during NCAA live periods. He ended up taking official visits to the ‘Cuse, Tennessee, Iowa and Marquette.

Media reports suggested his final three consisted of Tennessee, Iowa and Syracuse basketball. In early September of 2022, Estrella verbally committed to the Volunteers, and ‘Cuse fans were heartbroken.

When I was covering his recruiting process, I made it known on numerous occasions that I was a fan of J.P. Estrella, for not just his play on the court, but also for his high character off of the court. He’s a hard-working young man, and even as he burst onto the national stage, Estrella remained humble. I’m rooting for him to shine with the Vols in the Southeastern Conference.

As Tennessee and Syracuse basketball prepare to square off in Hawaii on Monday afternoon, both programs reside at 3-0 in this young 2023-24 season.

Estrella, at this juncture for the Volunteers, has appeared in two games. He’s averaging 5.0 minutes, 2.0 points and 1.0 blocks per contest, and he’s connected on 2-of-2 from the field.

Naturally, I want the ‘Cuse to upset Tennessee in Honolulu. Simultaneously, I’m hoping that J.P. Estrella has a fabulous, successful career with the Vols.

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