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College coaches poll: Who's the best prospect, scorer, defender?

Who is the nation's best high school basketball recruit? After spending July evaluating prospects across the country, college coaches weigh in on that and other categories.

College coaches spent 15 days during the month of July watching and evaluating potential recruits. At this point, coaches have spent hours in the gym debating prospects and for the most part have firmed up their thoughts on the nation’s top players.

Starting on Sunday, the last day of the final evaluation period, I polled 106 high- and mid-major college coaches on the best prospect, defender and scorer they came across in July.

Porter, Ayton picked as best overall prospects

Michael Porter and DeAndre Ayton ran away with the best prospect voting, combining for 65 of the possible 106 votes.

Porter, a 6’8” wing that has already pledged to Washington, edged out Ayton by two votes, reeling in 35.

“Porter has the ability to score in bunches and play beyond the arc,” one high-major assistant told Scout. “He also, when he wants to, can rebounder and play defense, adding a cylinder to his motor makes him really special.”

Porter is coming off an impressive summer, winning the Nike Peach Jam title with MOKAN Elite and leading the USA Basketball U18 team in scoring at the FIBA Americas Championship.

There aren’t many prospects equipped with Porter’s size, length, athleticism and shot-making ability. Scout analyst Josh Gershon echoed that thought.

“Porter has very good size and is a terrific scorer,” Gershon said. “He can really shoot it with range out to three, while he also has the athleticism to get to the basket. Due to his size and skill, Porter can be a pure small forward or a small-ball four. He's one of the most versatile and skilled talents in the 2017 class.”

Ayton, a 7’0” post prospect out of the Bahamas, has been regarded as the top prospect on Scout since the initial 2017 player rankings.

“I love his skill set,” one NBA Scout said. “I think he has a really good feel for the game. He has an ability to play at two levels really well and could potentially stretch the floor. He’s a smart player on the defensive end, when he plays hard.”

No one has questioned Ayton’s physical gifts, as he has tremendous size, length, strength and athleticism for a post player. But there have been questions about his motor. Ayton addressed those this spring and summer in the Nike EYBL, where he dominated the competition, averaging 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

“Ayton competes and never changes his expressions on the court,” one high-major assistant that watched him at the Peach Jam said.

Wendell Carter checked in at No. 3 with nine votes. Romeo Langford was No. 4, while Mohamed Bamba, Matthew Hurt and Marvin Bagley tied for the fifth most votes.

The only other prospects to receive multiple votes were Hamidou Diallo, Brian Bowen and 2019 elite athlete Scottie Lewis.

My Take: You could go in a couple of different directions in this category, but my current pick as the top prospect in the 2017 class is DeAndre Ayton. His size, length, mobility, athleticism and skill stand out and his motor is improving, which is a scary thought.

Votes:Michael Porter (35), DeAndre Ayton (32), Wendell Carter (9), Romeo Langford (5), Mohamed Bamba (3), Matthew Hurt (3), Marvin Bagley (3), Scottie Lewis (2), Hamidou Diallo (2), Brian Bowen (2)

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Bamba takes pole position in top defender voting

Much like the top overall prospect, the best-defender voting came down to two prospects: Bamba and Mitchell Robinson.

Both elite-level shot blockers, Bamba and Robinson, an early pledge to Western Kentucky, have had their fair share of impressive performances on the defensive end.

Out of 106 votes, Bamba, a 6’11” center with a 7’7” wingspan, checked in at No. 1, pulling in 24 votes, which was nine more than Robinson. What makes Bamba such a strong force on the defensive end?

“His length, timing ability and he’s very active,” one high-major coach said.

“You can’t teach his wingspan and he has a great ability to stay on his feet until he needs to,” another coach told Scout. “At times, he’s at the point of the press, at times he was on the front of a zone. His length just bothers you. It’s not only the shots he blocks, but also the ones he affects.”

Playing in the Nike EYBL for the PSA Cardinals, Bamba averaged 3.1 blocks a game. He also led the Cardinals to the finals of the Peach Jam.

“The first thing that jumps out about Bamba is his extraordinary wingspan, which, in combination with his tremendous feel for timing, allow him to control the entire game around the rim as a shot blocker,” a high-major coach said.

“Additionally, Bamba plays with a great sense of pride and determination, which he exudes in the way he competes on the defensive glass. Bamba takes getting stops personally, and is entirely comfortable starring in his role as an elite shot blocker and defensive rebounder.”

Robinson secured 15 votes in a poll that produced a wide range of answers. A 6’11’’ post player, Robinson actually led the EYBL in blocks with 4.1 per game. His size, length and athleticism are among the reasons he’s such a force on defense.

California commit Juhwan Harris-Dyson was No. 3 in the voting with seven votes. Playing for Earl Watson Elite, Harris-Dyson showed a good motor and proved himself as a versatile perimeter defender.

Jermaine Samuels, Collin Sexton, Ayton, Wabissa Bede, Ikey Obiagu, Adam Seiko, Nick Richards and Carter all received multiple votes.

My Take: My vote would go to Mohamed Bamba, but I certainly think the college coaches collectively picked the top two in this category. Bamba’s tremendous wingspan, combined with his athleticism, timing and instincts make him arguably the top shot blocker in the class.

Votes: Mohamed Bamba (24), Mitchell Robinson (15), Juhwan Harris-Dyson (7), Jermaine Samuels (4), Collin Sexton (3), DeAndre Ayton (3), Wabissa Bede (3), Ike Obiagu (3), Adam Seiko (2), Nick Richards (2), Wendell Carter (2)

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Sexton runs away with top scorer

Sexton, a five-star guard, ran away with the voting as the best scorer in the country. Sexton pulled in 38 of 106 votes, winning the category by 26.

Seeing Sexton at the top of this list shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as he’s been putting up eye-popping numbers all spring and summer. Sexton led the EYBL in scoring at 31 points per game and also led the USA Basketball U17 team in scoring and assists.

“What makes Collin a uniquely talented scorer is the relentless nature with which he plays,” one high-major assistant said. “One of the few guys in the country who remains in attack mode from start to finish. His combination of speed and athleticism make him nearly impossible to keep out of the lane and off of the free-throw line. Toss in his timely and ever improving jump shot and you have a player who is bound to fill up the score sheet.”

Sexton’s aggressive, competitive style was among the many things coaches noted about his game. His assertiveness is evident statistically, as well, as Sexton made 181 free throws during the Nike EYBL, which beats second place by more than 90 attempts.

“You can’t stay in front of him because he’s so quick,” another coach said. “He plays with a huge chip on his shoulder and wants to prove he’s really good. He really attacks and plays as hard as he can and creates instant offense whether it was with USA or in AAU.”

Minnesota native Gary Trent Jr. received the second most votes with 12.

“He can score from three different levels,” a college coach told Scout. “He can shoot, pull up from mid-range and put it on the floor and finish above the rim. He’s good enough where he can go by you and finish.”

Trae Young checked in at No. 3 in the voting with 11 votes, while his AAU teammate Porter was just behind him with 8 votes. Trevon Duval, Langford, Diallo, Nick Weatherspoon and Quade Green all received three or more votes.

My Take: Just like the voting process indicates, Sexton is the easy choice for this category. His scoring package is advanced. He’s as competitive of a player as I’ve covered and never takes plays off. When you combine that with his ability to get to the paint and finish, as well as his shooting ability, you have a unique scorer and arguably the best in the class.

Votes: Collin Sexton (38), Gary Trent (12), Trae Young (11), Michael Porter (8), Trevon Duval (7), Romeo Langford (4), Hamidou Diallo (3), Nick Weatherspoon (3), Quade Green (3), Brian Bowen (2), Marvin Bagley (2)