With actual games still multiple months away, college basketball coaches are focused on accumulating their 2014 recruiting classes.
While some schools have gotten off to an early start (Ohio State, BYU and Arizona State all have four commitments already), many have plenty of scholarships available to hand out (Kentucky and Duke only have one commit each, while Kansas doesn’t have a single one yet).
With powerhouse programs on the prowl, the remaining 13 uncommitted 5-star prospects (per Scout.com) have plenty of options to choose from. Read on to see the best fit for each.
*Rankings, interested schools and bio information courtesy of Scout.
Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are the top two prospects in this class and continue to insist that they would like to play together. Considering Okafor is a center and Jones is a point guard, you would be hard pressed to find a better package deal that could immediately turn a program around.
Among the listed schools of interest, there is overlap with Baylor, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky. With respect to the program that the Bears have put together, Baylor is going to have a hard time keeping up with these bluebloods on the recruiting trail.
Duke appears to be the favorite for now, and playing under Coach K would be a great way to go for both of these players. Considering the type of prospects that go through Durham every year and the experience Coach K has accumulated with Team USA, there may be no better coach adapted to handling multiple superstars in the college game.
Ohio State may simply not have room for two more scholarships, Kansas is the leader for another 5-star center in Myles Turner, and Kentucky and Michigan State appear to have ground to make up against Duke. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these programs, but look for Okafor and Jones to be in Blue Devil gear next season.
If Tyus Jones is the can’t-miss No. 1 point guard in the class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay is right on his tail. He is incredibly athletic, can attack the rim with explosiveness and has no issue finishing over big guys when he gets there.
He’s not the best three-point shooter, but his ball-handling ability and overall court vision help make up for that. He has drawn interest from Kansas, Kentucky, Baylor, Oklahoma State and SMU.
Mudiay and 5-star center prospect Myles Turner are both from Texas and could perhaps become a tandem in a similar fashion to Jones and Jahlil Okafor. If that becomes the case, it will be difficult for Oklahoma State, Baylor and SMU to keep up with powerhouses Kansas and Kentucky.
Bill Self has the advantage of being close to home and is the early leader for Turner. It would benefit Mudiay to follow Turner’s footsteps and try to recreate the Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson combination at Kansas.
There was a time when a young Trey Lyles was committed to Indiana as a high school freshman.
Perhaps envying the attention many of the other top 2014 prospects received since he pledged to the Hoosiers, Lyles opened up his recruitment again last summer and is now drawing the attention of Butler, Florida and Kentucky as well as Indiana still.
James Blackmon recently followed in Lyles’ footsteps and decommitted from Tom Crean’s 2014 class, leaving the grand total of verbal pledges at zero in Bloomington for the time being.
Regardless of his indecision, Lyles has a chance to be a star for his hometown program. He can score from the block and mid-range and even has touch from behind the arc. Throw in his solid defense and excellent athleticism, and Lyles is the best power forward in his class.
It would serve him well to become a Hoosier favorite and attend Indiana anyway.
Nobody has shot up the recruiting rankings quicker than Myles Turner.
He put together an impressive summer and has caught the eyes of powerhouse programs such as Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Louisville and Arizona. Hometown Texas is also interested in the 7’0" center.
Turner has an official visit set up with Bill Self and Kansas and will attend the traditional Late Night at the Phog (Kansas’ version of Midnight Madness). Turner recently said in an interview with Rivals that he has always been a fan of Kansas and especially likes the way they put big guys in the NBA.
The early writing on the wall for Turner is the Jayhawks, and that would be a great fit for him. He would get to stay close to home in Big 12 country and play under Self with the chance to be the next professional post player to come from Lawrence.
Cliff Alexander isn’t the tallest of the top center prospects in the class of 2014, but he may very well be the most physical. He is a tremendous rebounder and defender and is gradually becoming a better offensive player as he gets older.
The Chicago native has drawn interest from Arizona, Baylor, DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis and Michigan State.
Alexander has the chance to be a local hero if he chooses DePaul or even Illinois, but there is a good chance he will look elsewhere. The lure of playing for a Kentucky, Louisville or Kansas is often too great for local schools to compete against.
However, Alexander should go to Michigan State. He is the prototype big man for Tom Izzo—one who may be slightly undersized but who makes up for it with tremendous physicality. Derrick Nix fit this mold perfectly last season, and by the time Alexander arrives on campus Adreian Payne will be gone as well.
The Spartans often play basketball like a football team, and Alexander would fit in perfectly with that mentality.
In terms of pure athleticism and explosiveness, it doesn’t get much better in the class of 2014 than Stanley Johnson.
Johnson is listed at 6’6” and small forward, but he has the versatility to play the shooting guard spot or even power forward on a small-ball squad. In today’s age of the position-less stretch forward, he will be an asset to whichever school lands him.
Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Duke are all interested in Johnson (if it seems like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas are among the finalists for just about all these players, that’s because they virtually are).
John Calipari has established something of a pipeline for versatile small forward/shooting guard types at Kentucky recently, and that will likely continue this year with James Young and the Harrison twins (yes, Andrew is a point guard, but he has shooting guard height).
Johnson should keep this in mind during his recruitment process. He would fit in nicely in Lexington.
Kevon Looney possesses almost anything you could possibly ask for in a power forward in today’s college game.
He is a skilled ball-handler, can hit from mid-range or on the post and is incredibly physical, which translates on the glass. He is also a solid defender and can guard guys who are smaller and quicker than him, as well as those who are bigger in size.
Duke, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee, UCLA and hometown Wisconsin are all interested in Looney’s services.
As an athletic 6’8” forward, Looney would fit in perfectly alongside a more traditional post player who could play center. Considering Duke is the favorite to land both Jahlil Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones, he would be well served to go to Durham.
His skill set would fit in perfectly next to Okafor in the post and with Jones feeding him the ball. The defense would be stretched in a variety of directions, which would open up the floor for someone with Looney’s skill set.
There aren’t many pure shooting guards near the top of the 2014 class, which is evidenced by the fact that Rashad Vaughn is the top rated one but No. 11 overall.
However, don’t hold that against the uber-talented Vaughn, who is an elite shooter, solid ball-handler and quick defender. His scoring prowess will earn him early minutes at whichever program lands him.
There is a litany of programs that are interested in Vaughn, including North Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Baylor, Connecticut, Georgetown, Kansas, Minnesota, UCLA, UNLV, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse and Texas.
The Tar Heels have been in on Vaughn since the early recruiting process and already have point guard Joel Berry in their 2014 class. If Vaughn joins Berry in the backcourt, Roy Williams will have an impressive and athletic backcourt to utilize. Vaughn will be able to play off the ball and have a number of open shots when the defense collapses on Berry’s penetration.
Justise Winslow is somewhat of a position-less weapon who will fit into almost any position thanks to his size (6’6” and 205 pounds), athleticism, three-point shooting, passing prowess and overall ball-handling ability.
He can play anything from the point to a small power forward in a quicker lineup and has drawn the eye of many of the elite programs in the country. Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Texas A&M and Stanford are among the list of schools still seen as potential destinations for Winslow.
Kansas, Kentucky and Duke are likely to have very crowded classes in 2014 in terms of elite wing talent, so it may serve Winslow’s ultimate professional desires well if he goes elsewhere.
Florida already has a 4-star point guard and 4-star shooting guard in tow for its 2014 group, and if Winslow joins Billy Donovan, he can finally have an established position and guards to feed him the ball in advantageous spots. He would thrive in the SEC with his athleticism and certainly catch the eye of NBA scouts at a place like Florida.
Thad Matta has already landed verbal pledges from a 5-star small forward, 5-star shooting/point guard, 4-star small forward and 3-star center who could play his way up to 4-star status with a productive senior year of high school.
The one thing he and Ohio State are really missing in the class of 2014 is a dominant power forward. Craig Victor could become that player.
Victor has drawn interest from a large number of schools, including Arizona, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, Oregon and Texas.
The Buckeyes may not land Victor, but his prowess on the post would help make them national title contenders considering the class Matta already has in place (and the returning talent he will have from the 2013-14 team).
Isaiah Whitehead is just the type of lengthy and athletic guard who would thrive at the top of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
He is listed at 6’4”, has a solid shooting stroke and is a quality defender. The New York native has drawn interest from a number of different schools, including the aforementioned Syracuse, Arizona, Minnesota, Saint John’s and UCLA.
Indiana is also interested in landing Whitehead, but the Hoosiers are a little late to the party regarding a scholarship offer. Syracuse has the close-to-home advantage, and Jim Boeheim has been in on Whitehead for quite some time.
Look for the Orange to eventually land Whitehead, who can immediately contribute from the shooting guard spot.
Josh Perkins is the type of point guard who can come into a program and establish himself as a leader early in his career.
He is a solid distributor and has an impressive overall basketball IQ. He can also score himself and is a formidable defender who is quick enough to keep up with opposing ball-handlers.
These traits have drawn the eye of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Creighton, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Stanford, Syracuse, UCLA and USC. Perkins certainly has his choice of geography across the country whenever he is ready to make his decision.
Perkins would probably be well suited heading to Kentucky. It is almost a guarantee that John Calipari will land a number of playmakers in the 2014 class, and the Harrison brothers could very well be on their way to the NBA this offseason.
He can be the next distributor for Big Blue Nation with the task of spreading the ball around to a number of talented options.
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