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NCAA Basketball Recruiting 2014: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every 5-Star Player

Thad NovakCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2016

NCAA Basketball Recruiting 2014: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every 5-Star Player

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    Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker haven’t even taken their first collegiate shots yet, but the never-ending cycle of NCAA basketball recruiting is already shifting to focus on the next crop of superstars-to-be. As coaches evaluate the rising seniors at high schools around the country, they’re looking not just for what a player does well, but also for what he’ll need to improve at the next level.

    Cliff Alexander, for instance, is one of the top big men in the country thanks to his exceptional combination of power and agility. However, he’s also a subpar shooter by the standards of top-flight post players, a deficiency he’ll be working to improve throughout his senior season.

    Herein is a closer look at Alexander and the rest of the 5-star prospects in the 2014 class (as rated by Scout.com) with a focus on the best and worst areas of each high schooler's game.

28. Myles Turner

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    Strengths: Shooting touch, shot-blocking, mobility

    At 6’11”, Myles Turner can score from the low block or the three-point line with equal ease, thanks in part to outstanding footwork.

    Weaknesses: Strength

    Turner weighs 225 pounds, not a huge amount of muscle for a player his size, and his rebounding occasionally suffers for it.

27. Dante Exum

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    Strengths: Speed, quickness, finishing ability

    Australian Dante Exum has blown away international competition with his fast-break game, and at 6’5”, he can get to the rim even when the defense is ready.

    Weaknesses: Jump shooting, passing

    Exum is a fine decision-maker, but he’s not at the level of a true point guard when it comes to setting up his teammates.

26. Josh Perkins

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    Strengths: Passing, vision

    Josh Perkins is as good of a traditional playmaker as there is in the 2014 class, able to connect on passes other PGs wouldn’t even attempt.

    Weaknesses: Decision-making, jump shooting

    Perkins isn’t a bad shot, but that area of his game isn’t nearly at the level of his distributing. He sometimes goes for the spectacular play over the smart one.

25. Jalen Lindsey

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    Strengths: Athleticism, dunking, mid-range shot

    Although Jalen Lindsey gets the most attention for his highlight-reel jams, he can stick the jumper as well.

    Weaknesses: Ball-handling, focus

    A relative newcomer to the swingman role, Lindsey doesn’t yet have the handle you’d like to see from a top-notch wing.

24. Quentin Snider

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    Strengths: Ball-handling, passing, leadership

    A bona fide pass-first point guard, Louisville commit Quentin Snider also has an enviable jump shot with three-point range.

    Weaknesses: Quickness, strength

    Snider isn’t an A-plus athlete, and at 160 pounds, he’ll be swallowed whole by power-conference defenders.

23. Theo Pinson

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    Strengths: Athleticism, passing, finishing

    North Carolina commit Theo Pinson has good length for a wing at 6’6” and a polished offensive skill set to go with it.

    Weaknesses: Three-point shot, ball-handling

    Lethal inside the three-point arc, Pinson isn’t yet as hard to contain when he’s outside it.

22. Parker Jackson-Cartwright

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    Strengths: Basketball IQ, ball-handling

    Parker Jackson-Cartwright, an Arizona commit, will provide a big-time floor general for the Wildcats once T.J. McConnell (a similar pass-first PG) graduates.

    Weaknesses: Size

    At the college level, a 5’8”, 150-pound guard will be at a huge disadvantage every night, and adding muscle will be of paramount importance.

21. Leron Black

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    Strengths: Energy, rebounding, finishing

    Although he stands just 6’7”, Leron Black has the wingspan and leaping ability to make plays against bigger foes.

    Weaknesses: Low-post game, shooting range

    Black is a solid face-up scorer but doesn’t hit many shots from beyond free-throw distance.

20. Stanley Johnson

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    Strengths: Muscle, finishing, rebounding

    A small forward with a power forward’s strength at 6’6”, 220 pounds, Stanley Johnson can get to the rim against any defender.

    Weaknesses: Quickness, polish

    Johnson doesn’t have much in the way of finesse to his game, though he is a solid jump shooter.

19. Jordan McLaughlin

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    Strengths: Penetration, quickness

    Although Jordan McLaughlin can hit the jumper, he rarely needs to thanks to his uncanny ability to dribble through defenses.

    Weaknesses: Set plays, size

    The improvisational McLaughlin doesn’t have the polish of some other PGs when it comes to reading and using picks.

18. Craig Victor

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    Strengths: Post moves, motor

    Power forward Craig Victor brings an impressive combination of skill and effort on the low block.

    Weaknesses: Shooting range, mobility

    Compared to many power forwards in this class, Victor is athletically unremarkable.

17. Malik Pope

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    Strengths: Explosiveness, speed, ball-handling

    Malik Pope has great length for a small forward at 6’8”, and his athleticism makes him a fearsome matchup in transition or on the wing.

    Weaknesses: Jump shot, decision-making

    Pope is streaky as an outside shooter, in marked contrast to his impressive finishing ability in the paint.

16. Joel Berry

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    Strengths: Leadership, quickness, defense

    A first-rate scoring point guard, North Carolina commit Joel Berry is especially dangerous driving the lane, where he’s as much of a threat to finish as to find the open man.

    Weaknesses: Left hand, three-point range

    Berry’s long-range shooting is a work in progress, and his off hand isn’t as strong as you’d like for a primary ball-handler.

15. Karl Towns Jr.

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    Strengths: Three-point shooting, length

    At 7’1”, 235 pounds, Kentucky commit Karl Towns Jr. is built like a center but has the shooting touch of a 2-guard.

    Weaknesses: Defense, strength, rebounding

    Towns can be outmuscled by smaller players at this stage, and the rest of his game is still catching up to his shooting prowess.

14. Kevon Looney

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    Strengths: Rebounding, face-up game

    Kevon Looney is an impressive scorer from the PF spot, but he’s even more eye-catching with his ability to dominate the glass at 6’8”.

    Weaknesses: Shooting range

    Although Looney’s athletic ability lets him pull slower power forwards away from the hoop, he hasn’t yet extended his own shot far enough to get the most out of that approach.

13. Dwayne Morgan

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    Strengths: Leaping ability, finishing, toughness

    Dwayne Morgan isn’t the biggest power forward at 6’7”, but he can outjump most opponents and has great timing.

    Weaknesses: Jump shooting, post moves

    Morgan is far more comfortable in an up-and-down transition game than grinding out points in the half court.

12. Devin Booker

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    Strengths: Shooting touch, smarts

    Devin Booker is a devastating catch-and-shoot guard who knows how to read a defense and get himself good looks at the basket.

    Weaknesses: Ball-handling, finishing

    Although he stands 6’5”, Booker isn’t nearly as dangerous powering to the rim as most of the top guards in this class.

11. JaQuan Lyle

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    Strengths: Length, penetration, passing

    JaQuan Lyle is a combo guard who’s developing into a 6’5” point guard with outstanding court vision.

    Weaknesses: Athleticism, three-point range

    Compared to some of the top-end point guards in the 2014 class, Lyle is giving up a fair amount of quickness and speed.

10. Cliff Alexander

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    Strengths: Dunking, rebounding, mobility

    Cliff Alexander is an imposing physical specimen at 6’8”, 240 pounds, and he combines that with the leaping ability to block shots and hammer home thunderous slams.

    Weaknesses: Shooting touch, conditioning

    Alexander’s face-up game is getting better, but he’s still not nearly as menacing in the mid-range as he is when he can get to the rim.

9. Chris McCullough

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    Strengths: Quickness, defense, leaping ability

    Like so many Jim Boeheim recruits, Syracuse commit Chris McCullough is a lean, long-armed forward with terrific shot-blocking instincts.

    Weaknesses: Jump shooting, feel for the game

    McCullough’s offensive polish is minimal, and while he’ll throw down some impressive dunks, he’s not a big-time point producer.

8. Justin Jackson

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    Strengths: Jump shooting, competitiveness

    North Carolina commit Justin Jackson has the kind of three-point shooting ability that’s helped P.J. Hairston and NBA-bound Reggie Bullock light up scoreboards as Tar Heels.

    Weaknesses: Bulk

    At 6’7” and just 185 pounds, Jackson will have a tough time going inside against powerful ACC defenders.

7. Rashad Vaughn

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    Strengths: Three-point range, finishing, size

    Rashad Vaughn's power forward-like size (6'6", 200 lbs) belies his status as the best catch-and-shoot guard in the 2014 class.

    Weaknesses: Defense, ball-handling

    Vaughn’s defense isn’t so much bad as it is unremarkable, but that’s still several notches below his stellar offensive game.

6. Emmanuel Mudiay

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    Strengths: Finishing, ball-handling

    6’4” point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has the potential to be a fine distributor, but it’s his scoring that makes him a top-10 prospect.

    Weaknesses: Three-point range, passing

    Mudiay can dominate from the mid-range, but he doesn’t have a consistent three-point stroke at this stage.

5. Jahlil Okafor

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    Strengths: Hands, size, footwork

    A towering center at 6’10”, 265 pounds, Jahlil Okafor is a game-changer on both ends of the floor.

    Weaknesses: Passing, post moves

    Few opponents can challenge Okafor when he catches the ball on the block, but those he can’t overpower can force him into turnovers and missed shots.

4. Trey Lyles

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    Strengths: Post moves, mid-range game

    Trey Lyles is a lethal scorer at the PF spot, and he can play some defense, too.

    Weaknesses: Athleticism

    For all of his polish, Lyles isn’t an above-the-rim type and doesn’t have elite perimeter skills (even for a 4-man).

3. Justise Winslow

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    Strengths: Leadership, defense, basketball IQ

    A point forward in the making at 6’5”, Justise Winslow is a fine playmaker with a tremendous feel for the game.

    Weaknesses: Jump shot

    Winslow is unlikely ever to be a go-to scorer at the college level, not least because he still needs a good deal of work on his shooting range.

2. D’Angelo Russell

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    Strengths: Jump shot, ball-handling

    D’Angelo Russell is a shooting guard with a point guard’s dribbling skills. Whether he’s creating for himself or catching and shooting, he’ll knock down jumpers all day.

    Weaknesses: Conditioning, strength

    At just 180 pounds on a 6’4” frame, Russell (an Ohio State commit) is going to get pushed around in Big Ten play.

1. Tyus Jones

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    Strengths: Passing, decision-making, leadership

    Tyus Jones is a pure distributor as a point guard, with a fantastic understanding of the game and the ball-handling ability to act on it.

    Weaknesses: Three-point shot, strength

    Jones is a respectable scorer, but his shooting range is limited. He’s also just 171 pounds at 6’1”, which will leave him outmatched against plenty of college guards.

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