One of the toughest jobs for NCAA basketball coaches is attracting recruits who are not only elite talents but who fit the way the coach wants to play. A point guard who might be a perfect option for Bo Ryan’s slowdown offense at Wisconsin could just as easily struggle in Roy Williams’ light-speed fast break at North Carolina.
One top 2014 prospect who will need the right system to excel is highly touted SF Stanley Johnson. The athletic wing isn’t a first-class jump shooter, but his strength and ball-handling ability make him an ideal option for a team whose perimeter players get to drive the lane on a regular basis.
Read on to see which offense would help Johnson shine the brightest, along with best-case scenarios for the rest of Rivals.com’s 5-star prospects for 2014. If a player has already committed, we’ll still examine where he might have fit best, in addition to what he’ll bring to his actual future program.
No team puts as much pressure on its forwards to pass as the Hoyas do. That wouldn’t be a problem for Keita Bates-Diop, one of the top frontcourt passers in the 2014 class.
The 6’7” PF also handles the ball well for a big man and has enough of a jump shot to generate points in Georgetown’s Princeton-style attack.
Those skills won’t exactly be wasted at Ohio State—where Bates-Diop committed last fall—considering the numbers that the similarly mobile Deshaun Thomas put up in Thad Matta’s offense.
As Ben McLemore showed last season, Bill Self’s offense gives a high-level shooting guard a host of ways to put points on the board.
Isaiah Whitehead doesn’t have McLemore’s three-point stroke at this stage, but he’s certainly got plenty of other skills to show off in Self’s system.
Whitehead has a fine mid-range jump shot but excels at attacking the rim off the dribble, an especially valuable asset on a team that doesn’t always emphasize elite PG play.
Like McLemore, Whitehead has tremendous strength at 6’4”, 195 lbs, and would be well suited to finishing through contact against Big 12 defenders.
Australian import-to-be Dante Exum has plenty of arrows in his combo-guard quiver, but what sets him apart most is his speed. That’s music to the ears of a fast-break-loving coach such as Florida’s Billy Donovan.
Exum’s ability to beat opponents down the floor in transition would make him a devastating weapon in an offense that thrives on scoring before the defense sets up.
The youngster’s versatility as a ball-handler and scorer would also mesh nicely with a half-court attack that prioritizes finding the open man rather than leaning on one star shooter.
The point guards who tend to blossom under Jim Boeheim are pass-first types who can also score when called upon. That’s an awfully good summary of JaQuan Lyle’s skill set.
The 6’4” Lyle also has more size (with the corresponding advantage in court vision) than many of the distributors who have run Syracuse’s attack.
His length would be a particular advantage on a team that relies on its offensive rebounding prowess for significant scoring contributions.
Leron Black is an aggressive power forward who can score attacking the rim or off the mid-range jump shot. He’s not just a half-court weapon, either, as he runs the floor extremely well at 6’7”, 215 lbs.
That combination of transition and jump-shooting skill would serve him well in Jamie Dixon’s precision attack.
The Panthers run better than most of their former rivals from the Big East—and may have to run even more in the ACC—but also know how to get the most out of a hard-working PF in their offensive sets.
Pitt has a particularly successful history of getting points from post players with more scoring punch than length, which would dovetail nicely with Black's build.
Lorenzo Romar’s offense at Washington has provided a fine showcase for high-scoring, athletic wings such as Terrence Ross and current star C.J. Wilcox.
The 6’6” SF Theo Pinson would fit right into that trajectory and give the Huskies another first-class scorer to drive the attack.
Pinson is equally deadly attacking the rim or shooting over the top of the defense, giving him plenty of ways to make his presence felt. He’ll certainly get his chance with high-scoring North Carolina, having committed to Roy Williams’ Tar Heels this spring.
Any top-notch jump shooter with three-point range could find a terrific home with John Beilein’s Wolverines.
The offense that helped Nik Stauskas light up scoreboards as a freshman is built from the ground up to showcase a great catch-and-shoot scorer.
Justin Jackson fills that bill perfectly, and the 6’7” SF will have plenty of opportunities to pour in three-pointers and mid-range Js in 2014-15.
He won’t be doing it in Ann Arbor, though, because (like Theo Pinson) he committed to North Carolina this spring.
Offense: North Carolina
After a pair of Tar Heel commits who could be even more dangerous elsewhere, we come to one who got away from Roy Williams.
Dwayne Morgan would have been a lethal finisher in Williams’ beloved fast break while also serving as a top-notch slasher in the half court.
The 6’7” Morgan has the kind of elite athleticism that has made UNC one of the all-time great programs, but he’ll be playing his college ball for another team with plenty of history.
Morgan committed in March to UNLV, where he’ll give a program that’s been glutted with post players lately a dose of elite perimeter talent.
When Kentucky won the 2012 national title, John Calipari’s offense featured a pair of bruising forwards (Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) who were threats to attack the rim on any possession.
Stanley Johnson, a 6’6”, 220-pound SF, is cut from very much the same cloth as those two.
Like Jones and MKG, Johnson is a threat with the mid-range jumper but is even better overpowering smaller opponents in transition.
His hard-charging style would make him an excellent option for an offense that likes to open up lanes for drives from the wing.
Baylor’s last two superstar recruits, Perry Jones III and Isaiah Austin, stand 6’11” and 7’1”, respectively, but both have spent big chunks of time outside the post on offense.
Scott Drew’s attack has proven to be a haven for big men who want to shoot the trey—a group that certainly includes Karl Towns Jr.
Towns is a 7’1” center with a devastating jump shot (and, at 235 lbs, some muscle to go along with it).
He won’t be following Jones or Austin to Waco, though, as he’s committed to Kentucky. He’ll get his share of chances to bail out John Calipari’s one-on-one offense with shot clock-beating jumpers.
Justise Winslow is far from flashy, especially by 5-star standards. He’s certainly a capable scorer, but he prefers a point-forward role where he can help make his teammates better.
That glue-guy attitude has been a hallmark of Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke teams for years. No coach (or offense) is better suited to maximizing the value of a smart, unselfish player, regardless of whether he’s going to score 20 points a game.
While Chris McCullough is a promising shooter, his offensive forte right now is in transition. The 6’10” PF excels at running the floor, and he has the length and leaping ability to finish effectively at the rim.
That open-floor comfort zone would mesh very nicely with the transition-heavy offense Rick Pitino has been winning with for years.
As much as Louisville’s fast break would love a weapon like McCullough, though, he’ll be headed to the Cards’ future ACC rivals at Syracuse. With the Orange, he’ll join a grand tradition of long, lean power forwards with great leaping ability.
Although Kevon Looney isn’t yet comfortable from three-point range, he’s an outstanding jump shooter as a forward. He’s also very skilled coming off screens and getting open to set up his mid-range scoring, and he’s longer (6’8”) than he is strong (190 lbs).
That’s a pretty fair description of outgoing Indiana PF Christian Watford, who’s excelled for years in Tom Crean’s catch-and-shoot offense. Looney would also be a fine contributor as a passer in the Hoosiers’ balanced attack.
Memphis’ offense specializes in taking advantage of the athletic advantage the Tigers so often enjoy in one-on-one matchups.
That puts a premium not on pure jump shooting, but on creating off the dribble and attacking the paint with speed and leaping ability.
SF Malik Pope boasts those qualities in abundance at 6’8”, 210 lbs. He’s also a dextrous passer who would fit in well on Memphis’ unselfish roster.
Offense: Kansas State
The motion offense that Bruce Weber has installed at Kansas State requires a surplus of guards who can stick the open jumper.
Rashad Vaughn would be a fine addition to that corps, especially as he’d add some three-point range to a team that’s still getting used to Weber’s focus on the perimeter game.
Vaughn is also a big SG at 6’6”, 200 lbs, meaning that he’d be less vulnerable to the bad defensive matchups that sometimes come with the Wildcats’ four-guard lineups.
His physicality would also make him valuable as a screen-setter and rebounder, two more assets Weber's offense needs in large quantities.
At 6’8”, 225 lbs and with strong hands, Cliff Alexander has the muscle to be a serious low-post weapon.
His biggest asset, though, is his ability to run the floor and jump out of the gym even at that size, making him the most impressive dunker in the 2014 class at this stage.
For giving a great dunker a chance to shine, who better than the former coach of Dunk City?
Andy Enfield’s arrival at USC will open up the Trojans’ offense for more fast breaks and transition opportunities, and Alexander would be able to clean up in that environment.
Mark Few hasn’t gotten a chance to coach many top low-post scorers in his time at Gonzaga, but last year he showed that he knows what to do when he gets one.
The same offense that helped turn Kelly Olynyk into a Player of the Year candidate would be a terrific fit for 6’8” Trey Lyles.
The Indiana native is the most polished scoring big man in his class and can beat opponents as a face-up shooter or with an arsenal of moves on the low block.
The fact that he’s more skilled than he is athletic at this stage would also hardly be a liability with a team such as the Zags that prefers a steady half-court attack over running and gunning.
Rick Barnes has nurtured some of the country’s best pass-first point guards at Texas. From T.J. Ford to Myck Kabongo, top distributors have been able to turn in outstanding seasons at the Longhorns helm.
At 6’1”, Tyus Jones would be a fine addition to that lineage. He’s not a jaw-dropping scorer or athlete, but he’s a sensational leader and decision-maker whose best qualities would come through brilliantly in the Texas attack.
Emmanuel Mudiay is listed at point guard on every recruiting chart, but there’s no doubt that he’s well into the combo guard end of that pool.
The 6’4” youngster loves to call his own number—making his opportunities count with an enviable arsenal of shots—but still has the vision to make plays for his teammates when he catches the D watching him.
Jay Wright has built his Villanova career on riding exactly Mudiay’s type of shoot-first floor leader. The Wildcats offense is usually heavy on three-point shooters, too, which would spread the floor nicely for Mudiay’s forays to the paint.
Offense: Michigan State
As Derrick Nix demonstrated so aptly last season, Tom Izzo loves to play offense from the inside out. If there’s a scorer to feed on the low block, few teams will pound the ball to him as reliably as the Spartans.
That approach would be great news for 6’10”, 265-pound Jahlil Okafor, a devastating post scorer thanks to both his enormous body and his soft hands.
Those great hands also pull in plenty of rebounds, a requirement for any big man who hopes to earn playing time under Izzo.