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The first of three July evaluation periods began on Wednesday, which means college coaches will be scouring the country trying to find their next stars. Here are five storylines to pay attention to during this important month of recruiting and evaluating.
Can someone overtake DeAndre Ayton?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Ayton, a 7-footer out of the Bahamas, has held on to the No. 1 spot in 2017 since the first batch of rankings. This spring he dominated EYBL play, averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. While Ayton is yet to relinquish the position, there is no shortage of challengers, and I expect the competition to heat up in the future.
Mohamed Bamba, a 6’11’’ post player with a 7’9’’ wingspan and 9’7’’ standing reach, is hot on his heels. Since he emerged on the national scene as a sophomore, Bamba has been on a steady incline as a prospect and he’s becoming more and more productive on the court. He impacts the game with his length, his motor and his improving scoring ability. While I think Bamba has the best chance of sliding up to No. 1 in the 2017 class, and maybe the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval and Michael Porter can’t be counted out.
Carter is a steady post scorer who has drawn comparisons to Jahlil Okafor. Duval is a dynamic point guard who wows you with his ability to get to the rim and finish. Then there’s Porter, who has terrific size for a perimeter player, good athleticism and deep range on his jump shot.
Each of those players could move up the rankings. Ayton has held the top spot for a long time, but he’s in for a battle.
The 2017 PG crop is starting to take shape
There’s been a lot of talk among recruitniks and college coaches about the lack of depth at the point guard position in the 2017 class. Up to this point, it’s been Duval and everyone else. But now there’s a pretty good crop of players at the position: 20 PGs are ranked in Scout’s top 100 and four others are unranked four-star prospects.
The emergence of Collin Sexton, who now ranks No. 10 overall and No. 2 at the position, certainly helped this group, but he’s not the only one who has developed. Quade Green leads the EYBL in assists and has moved into the elite range in this class. Makai Ashton-Langford, Nick Weatherspoon and Davion Mitchell are also players that have made big jumps in the rankings. Kellen Grady, Saban Lee, Lavar Batts, Chris Lykes and Remy Martin have helped improve the depth of the class as well.
Will commitments pick up?
It’s interesting to track and follow the commitment timetables of different classes. Eight or so years ago, it was common for programs to take commitments from freshmen and sophomores. Thankfully, that has slowed. Last year there were plenty of commitments in the summer and fall, yet players in the 2017 class don’t appear to be in a hurry to make decisions.
Of the 26 players evaluated as five-star prospects, just four are committed: Austin Wiley (Auburn), Mitchell Robinson (Western Kentucky), Jaylen Hands (UCLA) and Jalek Felton (North Carolina). Digging deeper, just 24 of Scout’s top 100 have made verbal pledges. I expect that number to grow shortly after July’s three evaluation periods, but in the meantime, coaches will evaluate, find and pursue prospects who remain undecided about their futures.
The 2018 class looks like the worst in recent memory
The 2018 class is lacking in depth. Sure, Marvin Bagley, the top-rated prospect in the class out of Sierra Canyon (Calif.) School, is an elite talent, but after him there’s a significant drop-off. This class is shaping up to be one of the worst I’ve evaluated, and it has been extremely difficult to rank thus far.
With that said, there’s still plenty of time for new prospects to emerge. Just last week, Jaylen Hoard, a 6’8’’ wing from France, told Scout he intends to move to the United States for his junior season. He was immediately slotted in Scout’s top 10, after averaging over 22 points per game at the FIBA U17 World Championship.
The 2018 class won’t catch the 2016 group in terms of pure talent, and likely won’t be able to match 2017’s depth, but hopefully some promising 2018 prospects stand out in July.
Who will be this year’s Andrew Jones?
Every year, a prospect uses the July evaluation periods to catapult his stock among college coaches and scouts. Last year that prospect was Andrew Jones. He entered the summer somewhat unknown but ended his high school career as a McDonald’s All American, ranked among the top 20 players in the country and as a Texas signee.
Who will make a similar leap this year? Some options are Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Branden Carlson and John Walker. None of those prospects are ranked among the top 100, but are somewhat known in their regions and should take off this month. Hopefully a new name emerges to become a star. That’s one of the many reasons the month of July is so much fun.