Breaking down college basketball's top 25 recruits for 2015: Nos. 15-11
The top high school basketball players in the country typically get significant playing time during their first college seasons. Over the next few weeks, SI.com will look at how each player in the 2015 Recruiting Services Index Top 25, a composite of several recruiting services, fits in with his new team. Here are Nos. 15-11:
15. Antonio Blakeney, Louisiana State
Regardless of how Blakeney performs in his first (and possibly only) season at LSU, many college basketball fans will remember him for something that took place before he ever arrived on campus. Blakeney committed to Louisville last September, only to rescind his pledge less than two weeks later. A tweet from a prominent recruiting analyst sparked speculation over whether Nike influenced Blakeney’s decommitment from the Cardinals, which are affiliated with Adidas, and coach Rick Pitino launched into a tirade the next month about the presence of shoe companies in recruiting. After listing Missouri, Kentucky and LSU—all of which are outfitted by Nike—as his top three, Blakeney committed to the Tigers in January.
For LSU, Blakeney represented the latest addition to a recruiting class that already included the nation’s No. 2 recruit, power forward Ben Simmons. Blakeney is considered one of the best pure scorers in the class of 2015. The Oak Ridge (Fla.) High product can blow past defenders, finish adeptly around the basket or pull up for jump shots. One drawback to Blakeney’s game is his questionable shot selection. He connected on only 28.5% of the 137 threes he attempted with Each 1 Teach 1 in the Elite Youth Basketball League last year. While the Tigers could use an infusion of offensive talent after finishing 84th last season in adjusted points per possession, according to kenpom.com, coach Johnny Jones shouldn’t tolerate any excessive chucking from Blakeney given his team brings in in the potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft and returns its top three perimeter scorers in Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray.
Blakeney seems confident that he, Simmons and fellow top-50 recruit Brandon Sampson won’t have trouble getting up to speed next season. “I think we’ll win the national championship,” Blakeney said earlier this month, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge.
14. Chase Jeter, Duke
Duke cannot replace Jahlil Okafor, the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA draft and one of the most skilled post scorers to enter college basketball over the last decade. But the Blue Devils can help offset the impact of his departure by bringing in another skilled frontcourt player. Jeter committed to the Blue Devils last August over finalists Arizona, UNLV and UCLA knowing full well the likelihood Okafor would bolt after one season. Over the past year, Jeter has prepared himself to make the leap from Las Vegas high school basketball to the ACC by continuing to refine a post repertoire centered on jump-hooks while playing alongside another one of the top big men in this year’s class, UNLV-bound Stephen Zimmerman.
As a senior at Bishop Gorman High, Jeter averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks per game, led the Gaels to a fourth consecutive state championship and was named Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Jeter, who turns 18 in September, is not as polished as Okafor at this stage but he projects as a proficient rebounder and can provide a strong low-block scoring complement to a perimeter rotation that will feature sophomore Grayson Allen, junior Matt Jones and incoming freshmen Luke Kennard, Derryck Thornton and Brandon Ingram. In the frontcourt, Duke brings back reserves Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee and adds Rice transfer Sean Obi as well as three-star center Antonio Vrankovic.
“Chase is a natural athlete that runs well, catches well and he’s a really good talker,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Jeter last November. “He sees the game and he’s a student of the game. He works like crazy to improve and he keeps growing. He’s over 6-10, maybe 6-11 now, and will be able to play both the four and the five. He’s an easy guy to play with and has a good energy level.”
13. Derryck Thornton, Duke
Tyus Jones’ decision this spring to declare for the NBA draft after a strong NCAA tournament in which he was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four led the Blue Devils searching for a point guard. Duke had not added a player at the position in its touted 2015 recruited class, and the program reportedly had emerged as a potential landing spot for a coveted graduate transfer. In the end, the Blue Devils came up with a better solution, when Derryck Thornton reclassified from the class of 2016 to 2015.
His commitment vaulted Duke to the top of Rivals.com’s team recruiting rankings and positions the Blue Devils to reload in a manner virtually unheard of outside Lexington, Ky. By bringing in Thornton, Jeter, five-star wing Brandon Ingram and five-star shooting guard Luke Kennard, Duke will enter next season on the short list of national title contenders despite losing three first-round draft picks. Thornton, in particular, was such an important pickup because he solidifies a position that Jones handed so capably last season. The Findlay (Nev.) Prep product can beat defenders off the dribble, create scoring opportunities for others and is also considered a capable on-ball defender.
"Not everyone that handles it has to be a point guard, but Derryck [Thornton] is a true point guard,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Thornton this spring. “His ability to pressure the ball is impressive. Really, I think he does that as well as anybody I've seen in high school basketball in the next two classes. And then he's a pass-first guard. He can pressure the ball on defense, but he can put pressure on you offensively by bringing it up quickly and then getting by people to get some easy baskets for us." In addition to Thornton, Duke’s backcourt next season will feature Kennard, junior Matt Jones and title-game star Grayson Allen.
12. Allonzo Trier, Arizona
Trier’s enrollment at Arizona this summer marks the next step of a journey that has seen him featured on the cover of New York Times magazine, play at four high schools in multiple states and help Team USA win gold medals at the U18 and U19 levels in consecutive summers. The 6’4,’’ 195-pound shooting guard had been on colleges’ radars from early in his prep career, but Arizona reportedly didn’t offer him a scholarship until last June. A week later, another scoring guard who had previously committed to the Wildcats, Tyler Dorsey, backed out of his pledge. Trier committed to Arizona that August, after playing under Wildcats coach and U.S. assistant Sean Miller at the FIBA Americas earlier in the summer (Dorsey was cut from the team).
Trier is considered one of the best scorers in this class. Though he has cultivated a reputation as a volume shooter, Trier can shake defenders off the bounce, slash to the basket and sink perimeter shots. Last year he led the Elite Youth Basketball League in scoring during the regular season and at the Peach Jam, where he averaged 30.8 points per game and dropped 42 in a matchup with Briscoe. “He has a natural way of scoring that’s really striking as a coach,” Miller said of Trier after he signed his NLI last November. “He gets to the foul line as well as anyone I’ve seen at his age, and he has a physicality to his game that makes him incredibly efficient. He’s also a very good passer and can play more than one position, which makes him even better.”
Trier should slide into an off-ball role in a backcourt that brings back senior Gabe York, sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright and junior Kadeem Allen. The Wildcats will need Trier to help fill a shot-creation void after losing their top four scorers from last season.
11. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky
Years before he blossomed into one of the nation’s top point guards, Briscoe was considered a talented prospect without the physical attributes to match. According to NJ.com, he was nicknamed “Boogie” in middle school on account of his uncanny dribbling skills for a chubby kid. Briscoe used yoga and boxing workouts to get into shape after transferring from St. Benedict’s (N.J.) Prep to Roselle Catholic (N.J.) High following his sophomore year.
It wasn’t apparent that Briscoe profiled as a college point guard until last year, when he helped his grassroots team, the New Jersey Playaz, win the prestigious Peach Jam and posted averages of 19.2 points and 5.0 assists over 23 total games in the Elite Youth Basketball League in 2014. When Briscoe narrowed his list of schools to seven last July, Kentucky did not make the cut. But he included the Wildcats on his top three released that October before committing to Kentucky over St. John’s and UConn in November (Skal Labissiere, Rivals.com’s top-ranked player in the class, announced he would be joining Briscoe in Lexington, Ky., on the same day). Up until recently, Briscoe seemed likely to start alongside Tyler Ulis in a two-point guard lineup. But the Wildcats recently landed a commitment from five-star guard Jamal Murray.
However coach John Calipari elects to divide minutes in his backcourt, the 6’3,’’ 200-pound Briscoe should excel as a freshman thanks to his ability to shed defenders off the dribble and absorb contact while attacking the rim. “Isaiah is a multidimensional guard who can play both the one and the two,” Calipari said of Briscoe in November. “He’s a big, strong guard with great ball skills that are beyond the norm. He can score the ball at will, but he’s an unselfish player who makes plays for his teammates. That's why guys love playing with him and why he's such a great teammate.