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SI99 Hoops: Breaking Down the Top Five Shooting Guards

UCLA signee Amari Bailey leads a talented group of scoring guards in the SI99 basketball rankings.
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Now that we’ve named the 57 finalists for the SI All-American team, we’ve begun to take a deeper dive into the prospects at each position in the SI99 basketball rankings for 2022.

Today we analyze the shooting guards who use a combination of shiftiness, skill and high motors to dominate on both ends of the floor.

SI99 SHOOTING GUARDS

1. Amari Bailey, Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)

College: UCLA

What Makes Him Special: Bailey is a quick and shifty southpaw guard who combines three-level scoring ability with elite athleticism and an unrelenting motor. Bailey plays with an edge and doubles as a capable on-ball defender. He has great feel as a playmaker but is at his best when he’s in attack mode.

2. Nick Smith Jr., North Little Rock (Ark.)

College: Arkansas

What Makes Him Special: Smith is a dangerous scorer at all three levels with great feel as a passer. Smith’s ability to pull up and efficiently knock down shots from the mid-range opens up every other aspect of his game. He’s a fiery competitor on both ends of the floor and plays with an edge at all times. This summer, Smith dominated on the Nike EYBL, averaging 22 points, five rebounds and four assists a game for Brad Beal Elite (Mo.).

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3. Dariq Whitehead, Montverde (Fla.) Academy

College: Duke

What Makes Him Special: Whitehead is an exceptional athlete who is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane and uses his brute strength to finish through contact. His ability to score at all three levels combined with his size and quick speed bursts make him a headache of a defensive assignment for the opposition. Whitehead helped Montverde capture the GEICO Nationals title last season and averaged 16.5 points, six rebounds and three assists a game for Team Durant (Md.) in the Nike EYBL this summer.

4. MJ Rice, Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.)

College: Kansas

What Makes Him Special: Rice is a special blend of skill and strength with the ability to dominate at all three levels and lock up opposing wings on the defensive end. Rice’s bully-ball sometimes overshadows his sniper-like efficiency from the perimeter, and his quickness and athleticism enable him to get into the lane at-will and finish with authority. This summer, Rice averaged 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists a game for Team Loaded (N.C.) in the adidas 3SSB.

5. Zion Cruz, Donda Academy (Simi Valley, Calif.)

College: Undecided

What Makes Him Special: Cruz is an exceptional playmaker and keeps constant pressure on the defense with his speed, quickness and scoring ability. Cruz’s blow-by ability is elite, as is his ability to stop on a dime and knock down shots from the perimeter. He’s got a strong feel as a facilitator but is at his best when he’s in attack mode.