Analyzing the class of 2017's top prospects
3:14 | College Basketball
Analyzing the class of 2017's top prospects
Thursday June 23rd, 2016

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NC State, Gottfried load up late

When NC State Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried lost Anthony “Cat” Barber to early entry into the NBA draft, the Martin twins decided to transfer, and Malik Abu tested the NBA waters, the Wolfpack had just one signee in their 2016 class and next season was beginning to look bleak.

But in a two-month span, Gottfried has things back on track.

Abu, their leading rebounder, opted to return, Turkish sensation Omer Yurtseven signed with the Pack, and on Monday highly touted, four-star guard Markell Johnson joined the fold.

“I think it helps a lot,” Mark Gottfried told Scout about the spring additions. “I think the biggest key is my staff. I think that [assistant coaches] Orlando [Early], Butch [Pierre] and Heath [Schroyer] have done a great job. My thought was we had to stabilize the current roster and hire two new guys, and we needed to get after it pretty hard. Those guys just did a great job.

“Obviously there’s a learning curve for every new player, but they all have the capability of helping right away.”

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Johnson, of Cleveland (Ohio) East Technical, recently announced he would reclassify from 2017 to 2016 and selected NC State over Texas A&M. He’s regarded as the No. 66 overall prospect (Scout Top 100) in part because of his superb athleticism and playmaking ability.

Although young, Johnson and first-year guard Dennis Smith, a top 10 prospect in the 2016 class who tore his ACL last summer, gives Gottfried a dynamic backcourt with plenty of talent.

While the guards are sure to help, especially with the loss of Barber, Yurtseven is a 6'11", 230-pounder who is arguably the most impactful center prospect set to land on a college campus next season.

Yurtseven turned down a significant contract offer from Fenerbahçe to stay in Turkey, and he the equivalent to a top 10 player in the 2016 class. The Class of 2016 is as good a class as we’ve seen in the past decade. Yurtseven is a scoring threat that is equipped with a variety of post moves, plus the ability to face up and shoot jumpers to three.

Getty Images file

Can Duke & Kentucky replicate?

Durnig the past four seasons the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats have traded off sitting in the pole position in Scout’s class rankings with each team holding the top spot twice.

Last year, Duke took the crown with a late pledge from top 10 prospect Marques Bolden. But picking between the two was splitting hairs as the two combined to land eight of the top 18 prospects in the class.

When Scout’s inaugural 2017 top 10 class rankings were released, neither the Blue Devils nor Wildcats made the list.

“Those guys do their work in the spring anyway,” one high major assistant that has recruited against both schools told Scout. “They are trying to find out who is good enough and who is leaving. They are just waiting for their rosters to turn over.”

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It’s just a matter of time until the two shoot up the list as they are in the mix with the nation’s elite in 2017. Like last year with Marques Bolden and Wenyen Gabriel, the two schools are already battling it out against each other.

Duke and Kentucky are in with three of the top six players in the class—Mohamed BambaWendell Carter and Kevin Knox—are also both recruiting Hamidou Diallo, Gary TrentQuade Green and Tremont Waters.

Lance King/Getty

U17 World Championships takes center stage

Although the FIBA U17 World Championships don’t fall during a July evaluation period, college coaches will be allowed to watch the event, which tips off on June 23 and runs through July 3.

Being allowed to attend was a surprise to must coaches, but a welcomed one, as the event gives them an opportunity to evaluate a ton of prospects that will end up playing college basketball.

Team USA, which is led by Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox and Troy Brown, is loaded with five-star recruits, as is Canada, which has R.J. Barrett, Simi Shittu and Emmanuel Akot on its roster.

But the list of potential college prospects goes much deeper than Canada and USA. Finland has a handful of future college players, as does Australia (Samson Froling), France (Jaylen Hoard), Mali (Karim Coulibaly) and Turkey (Onuralp Bitim).

A host of college coaches are expected in Zaragoza, Spain, for the event. Scout has learned that the Alabama Crimson Tide, Arizona Wildcats, Arizona State Sun Devils, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Duke Blue Devils, Florida Gators, Harvard Crimson, Indiana Hoosiers, Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Maryland Terrapins, Miami (Fl) Hurricanes, Ole Miss Rebels, Missouri Tigers, NC State Wolfpack, Oregon Ducks, St. John's (NY) Red Storm, Stanford Cardinal, Texas Longhorns, Utah Utes, UCLA Bruins, and USC Trojans are among the schools planning to have assistants at the event.

Prospect emerges at Top 100 camp

Typically the NBPA Top 100 Camp is dominated by older, more experienced players, but the 2016 edition of the event was much different.

With USA Basketball snagging 60 or so of the top players in the 2017 and 2018 class, the annual event held in Charlottesville, Va., was noticeably void of depth and top-tier talent. But that doesn’t mean the event wasn’t significant for attendees and scouts.

In fact, for 2018 forward Zion Williamson, the event provided a platform to showcase his explosive athleticism and unique talent.

Williamson, of Spartanburg (S.C.) High, was already regarded as a five-star prospect on Scout but viewings of him had been fairly limited leading up the spring. This was an opportunity for him to go head-to-head with a host of high major prospects in a competitive setting.

And he took advantage.

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Williamson was the most productive player of the camp, leading it in scoring and doing so in dominating fashion both from the perimeter around the basket. A high-level competitor, Williamson plays with energy, toughness and looks to dunk on the opposition every opportunity he gets.

“When it comes to on the court, basketball is like my job,” Williamson told Scout. “It’s all business. If you are on the other team, you aren’t my friend right now. You’re my opponent. I’m looking to destroy you.”

Williamson’s plays much differently than his physical make up might suggest. His combination of frame, athleticism and versatility has drawn comparisons to Golden State Warriors center Draymond Green and retired NBA big man Larry Johnson.

It’s still early in Williamson’s recruiting process, but he’s already taken unofficial visits to see the Clemson Tigers, Georgetown Hoyas and South Carolina Gamecocks, and he is also being recruited by the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Seton Hall Pirates.

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