NCAA Basketball Recruiting: 2014 Commits Who'll Be Go-to Guys as Freshmen
College basketball's 2014 recruiting class is coming together, but there are still a number of marquee names on the market. Players like Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander will shift the game's balance of power when they make their decisions.
The players that have committed to college programs have done so for a variety of reasons, but many of them have chosen a school that promises immediate playing time. Some will walk in the door and step up to become one of their team's primary playmakers.
These 10 players—presented alphabetically—should be among the most productive freshmen in the 2014-15 season.
All photos courtesy 247 Sports unless otherwise noted.
Brekkott Chapman, Utah
Rangy 6'8" forward Brekkott Chapman is Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak's second big in-state commitment, following the lead of 2012-recruit Jordan Loveridge. All Loveridge did was produce 12.1 points and seven rebounds per game in his freshman season.
When Chapman debuts next fall, he and Loveridge should form a potent frontcourt duo that can begin to convert Krystkowiak's recruiting successes into wins. Chapman told the Deseret News that the chance to play with Loveridge was a motivating factor behind his commitment.
Chapman has improved his perimeter shot, which will make him a difficult matchup even for Pac-12 defenders. Expect him to pack on muscle and learn to play a more physical game once he reports to play for ex-NBA power forward Krystkowiak.
Brandone Francis, Florida
In the span of a year, Jacksonville shooting guard Brandone Francis leaped from unranked anonymity to top-20 status in the 247 Sports listings. The former mid-major prospect committed to Florida in late June, and he'll be a factor from the day he arrives in Gainesville.
Francis excelled in mid-June's NBPA Top 100 camp alongside point guard—and future Gator classmate—Chris Chiozza. The two will join Eli Carter, Michael Frazier and Kasey Hill in a loaded UF backcourt, but Francis' size (6'5", 200 pounds) and physicality will add a dimension that the others lack.
That size will also make Francis a matchup-problem if Gator coach Billy Donovan chooses to use him at the point. Francis does have the sort of passing and handling skills that will make that a possibility, especially if Hill excels as a freshman and heads to the NBA.
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Small forward Justin Jackson will travel to Chapel Hill from Tomball, Texas, next season to join a Tar Heel team seeking to replenish its stock of wing talent. His biggest competition for minutes may come from classmate Theo Pinson.
This season's primary scorers, James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, should be considered likely to leave for the 2014 NBA draft. Their decisions will determine Jackson's usage and playing time, and if they do go, most of UNC's talent will be concentrated in the post.
Jackson will help make up for Hairston's shooting ability, but he currently lacks the strength to finish near the basket. His wiry 6'7", 185-pound build was compared to Reggie Miller's in his ESPN Insider scouting report, and his shot is coming along similarly.
The Tar Heels almost need McAdoo to leave so they can add one more shooter. Even if they do, expect Jackson to be a major option from his first game on campus.
Vic Law, Northwestern
A four-star recruit who has climbed into the top 80 of the 247 Sports rankings, St. Rita (Chicago) HS forward Vic Law may legitimately be the biggest recruit in Northwestern's lengthy basketball history. Not a bad first-get for newly minted head coach Chris Collins.
When Law arrives next season, the Wildcats will once again be in search of a leader. Shooting guard Drew Crawford will play his fifth—and barring injury, final—season this winter, leaving the likes of JerShon Cobb and Dave Sobolewski to carry the team.
The 6'7", 195-pound Law will arrive with a swagger rarely seen at Northwestern. He told the Chicago Tribune, "I know wherever I go, I’ll win. [...] When we win, they will have to build a new arena. We’ll blow the roof off.”
While all that is easier said than done in the Big Ten, Law's shooting touch will certainly excite the Northwestern fans who show up for his games. Three other three-star prospects will join the Wildcat program next season, but Law will be the straw that stirs the purple Kool-Aid.
Jordan McLaughlin, USC
UCLA needed a point guard in the worst way and thought it had a good line on Etiwanda (Calif.) playmaker Jordan McLaughlin. The recruit's decision to spurn the tradition-laden Bruins for an expected rebirth at USC may have been the first major salvo fired in a new basketball battle for Los Angeles.
The Trojans promise an uptempo, SportsCenter-friendly style under former Florida Gulf Coast coach/Dunk City architect Andy Enfield. First, Enfield needed his new Brett Comer, a floor general he could build around. McLaughlin is a far more heralded prospect than Comer ever was, and it only takes one look to see why.
McLaughlin is one of the quickest point guards in a solid class, a player that will need gifted athletes to run with him at Enfield's breakneck pace. USC doesn't presently have a ton of talent, but a great first season from McLaughlin will draw prospects eager to play with him like moths to a porch light.
A gifted scorer and passer, McLaughlin will make his teammates look good while still finding time to get himself 14 to 18 points per night. His impact in L.A. could look very similar to Jahii Carson's at Arizona State.
Dwayne Morgan, UNLV
UNLV struck again in March, scoring a commitment from five-star forward and Baltimore native Dwayne Morgan. UConn transfer Roscoe Smith and current sophomore Daquan Cook are also Baltimore products.
The 6'7", 190-pound Morgan is the son of Tabitha Chambers, a 6'6" former center for the Clemson Tigers. He's a supreme athlete who will fit well into UNLV's transition game, but he'll need counsel on his shot selection. Morgan exhibits an occasional tendency to settle for a jumper instead of attacking the rim.
Next year's Runnin' Rebels will likely be led by Smith and big man Khem Birch, unless the latter decides to go pro. Morgan would provide a more consistent offensive presence than Birch while still bringing dangerous athletic ability to the defense. Expect him to be a key part of what promises to be a loaded frontcourt in 2014.
Emmanuel Mudiay, SMU
The shock waves from Emmanuel Mudiay's commitment to SMU were loud and instant. The idea of an irrelevant SMU program beating mighty Kentucky to the nation's top point guard seemed laughable until Mustangs coach Larry Brown and his staff made it happen.
At 6'5" and 190 pounds, Mudiay has freakish size for his position, great athletic gifts and an aggressive mentality. His shooting needs work, but if he's surrounded by scorers—like, say, 2013 McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier—it might not be a major problem for the Mustangs.
If Frazier stays for a second year, the two are likely to form the American Athletic Conference's best backcourt in 2014-15. It's not likely, though, that Mudiay will make it to a second season. Expect his name to be entered in the 2015 draft.
Kelly Oubre, Kansas
Death and taxes are only slightly bigger guarantees than Andrew Wiggins going into the 2014 NBA draft. His Kansas sidekick Wayne Selden is also projected as a late lottery pick by Draft Express.
Texas swingman Kelly Oubre's commitment to KU will allow him to pick up the torch that Wiggins leaves behind, appropriate after he witnessed Wiggins' first Allen Fieldhouse appearance last week.
Oubre will walk into a lineup led by guards Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Frank Mason. That talented group will still welcome the 6'7", 195-pound Oubre's blend of perimeter skill, athletic slashing and rebounding ability.
Before Wiggins, Selden and Joel Embiid—in this year's class—Kansas had landed only two RSCI top-20 recruits since 2007, those being Josh Selby and Xavier Henry. Oubre makes four in two years. The Jayhawks are also still favorites for 2014 big men Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner.
Suddenly, Kansas is a top destination for elite prospects to chase a championship.
Malik Pope, San Diego State
San Diego State has established a productive pipeline to Sacramento. The Aztecs have landed area products like Xavier Thames and the graduated Chase Tapley, along with current freshmen Dakarai Allen and D'Erryl Williams.
The next man up is 6'8" wing Malik Pope of Laguna Creek HS in Elk Grove. Pope is a tremendous athlete with a first step and ball-handling skills that will make him a dangerous slasher from his first game in San Diego.
While veterans like Winston Shepard and J.J. O'Brien should still be on the roster when Pope arrives in 2014, coach Steve Fisher is assembling what could be the greatest class in Aztec history. Pope will arrive along with guards Kevin Zabo and Trey Kell, and SDSU remains in play for RSCI top-75 power forward Zylan Cheatham.
If Pope improves his perimeter shot, he could become as good an all-around scoring threat as ex-Aztec star Jamaal Franklin. When talking about San Diego State, the expectations don't get much bigger than that.
Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
The news of Seton Hall landing top-15 RSCI guard Isaiah Whitehead was greeted with skepticism, especially once the news landed about Whitehead's high school coach being offered a position on Pirates coach Kevin Willard's staff. The (completely legal) hire put a cherry on what promises to be one of Seton Hall's best-ever recruiting classes.
Whitehead will enter SHU as the most touted freshman since Eddie Griffin in 2000. He's a scoring machine who occasionally tries too hard, resorting to highly difficult looks when the easy ones aren't there. Still, he'll get points from the three-point arc, finish in traffic, score at the foul line and everything in between.
He'll take over the Seton Hall offense from day one, and don't expect Willard to do much to slow it down. Whitehead's production and ability to carry the Pirates to victories will determine how long Willard keeps his job.
For better or worse, Willard's fate is tied to Isaiah Whitehead, so the Seton Hall Pirates will be Whitehead's team.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: the Conference Calling 2013-14 preview series.
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