NCAA Basketball Recruiting: Top Instant Impact Players in the Class of 2014
Predicting which Class of 2014 players will have an immediate influence on the college basketball world is not clear-cut and easy.
Some of the best freshmen next year will be the highest ranked recruits. That is true year in and year out.
But, not all of the top-10 recruits end up performing well when they get on campus.
Or, some of the recruits that were rated outside the top 10 will jump up and dominate.
Here is a list of the top instant impact players of the Class of 2014.
All five positions are represented here, and there are multiple ways that these 10 will make their impact a year from now.
Here we go!
10. Isaiah Whitehead
Seton Hall commit Isaiah Whitehead is one of the most prolific backcourt scorers in the Class of 2014.
Whitehead is a relentless driver and a fearless finisher. He initiates contact in the lane and has no trouble putting the ball in the hole.
He will become the Pirates' No. 1 option from Day 1, so he will have a great opportunity to score points in bunches.
ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein said this about Whitehead earlier this summer:
I continue to be convinced there isn't a more naturally talented scoring guard in the country.
Zagsblog.com's Adam Zagoria is a huge supporter of the 6’4” guard from Brooklyn. He points out that:
Whitehead would be the highest-ranked pledge headed to the league, and thus could become the face not only of Seton Hall, but of the Big East beginning in 2014.
9. D'Angelo Russell
Russell shoots the lights out from just about anywhere this side of half court. He puts the ball on the deck with poise and purpose. And, he can effectively distribute the ball to cutters and players on the block.
Russell is headed to Ohio State next year.
Even with all of the backcourt talent that head coach Thad Matta has stockpiled in Columbus, do not be surprised if Russell is inserted into the Buckeyes' backcourt on Day 1.
8. Kevon Looney
If you were designing a prototype combo forward, it would probably look a lot like Kevon Looney.
The 6’8” hybrid 4 with a 7-foot+ wingspan is an offensive force, able to sink shots from both inside and out.
Looney is not just a one-side-of-the-court player.
His surprising mobility allows him to be a menacing defender. Because he is quick off the floor, Looney contests shots that other players his size would not be able to challenge.
In the same way that Kevin Durant’s build was questioned earlier in his career, Looney gets comments about needing to bulk up. While I understand the multiple bennies from a good strength program, Looney’s game is not hindered by his lack of mass going into his final high school season.
Whichever school Looney ends up committing to will get a versatile player who can get a ton done.
7. Stanley Johnson
Stanley Johnson came out of the summer hoops circuit as one of the most coveted perimeter players in the nation.
According to his ESPN scouting report (Insider subscription required), the 6’6” small forward is:
"A man among boys most of the time. He uses his huge frame, ball skills, and tenacity to dominate games. He is tough to stop in the open court where he utilizes his strength to power his way to the rim."
ESPN’s recruiting expert, Dave Telep, described Johnson’s super-productive summer this way:
In movie terms, Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) went from being Cuba Gooding Jr. to Denzel Washington during the month of July.
One of the intangibles that elevates Johnson’s game to elite status is the untiring manner in which he plays.
Johnson does not take possessions off. He is relentless and his motor is always revved.
6. Cliff Alexander
If it is possible to fly under the radar as the No. 3-rated recruit in the Class of 2014, Cliff Alexander is doing a fine job of it.
The amazing part about his relative obscurity is Alexander is an absolute low-post beast.
He has great mobility, which helps him clean the glass and swat shots.
ESPN’s Paul Biancardi describes Alexander this way:
He scores almost exclusively in the paint and is especially unstoppable finishing a drop-off pass and on offensive rebounding put backs. He may be the best lob catcher in his class with his vertical jump and vision, which helps him rise up in traffic and throw down a dunk.
ESPN's Reggie Rankin said this about the big guy from Chicago:
Alexander's motor, elite rebounding, shot-blocking and powerful finishing make him special, but one thing people may not realize is that he also works hard to defend the low post.
5. Myles Turner
If Myles Turner does not have a nickname, he might consider “Captain Upside.”
The emerging 6’11” star has improved so much over the last year that his multifaceted game is barely recognizable from just a year ago.
ESPN’s Reggie Rankin describes Turner’s skill set by saying that he has:
A great motor, but his shooting and passing skills facing the basket are excellent and his elite-level shot-blocking is a thing of beauty.
One of the more surprising parts to the No. 2-rated recruit's game is his shooting touch out to the arc.
It is not likely that he will launch many shots from beyond the arc, but it sure makes things intriguing to think that he could step out and hoist a few up.
4. Justise Winslow
Justise Winslow is the best perimeter defender in the Class of 2014.
No other member of ’14 will have as much of an impact on the “other end of the court” than Winslow.
It doesn’t matter where he’s utilized, the Houston native is cold-blooded.
Put him on a small forward, and he will shut his opponent down with his amazing athleticism. Match him against a shooting guard, and his length will make it hard for him to get his shots up. Assign him to a point guard, and the 6’5” freak has no trouble whatsoever.
But, there is more to Winslow’s game than D.
This past summer, playing for the U19 Team USA, Winslow scored 9.8 points and grabbed six rebounds while playing less than 20 minutes per game.
While he is not a high-volume playmaker, Winslow is a solid ball-handler and distributor.
3. Karl Towns, Jr.
Kentucky commit Karl Towns Jr. is easily the most uniquely talented player in the Class of 2014.
Towns has the legitimate size (7’1” 245 lbs.) of a center, the mobility of a stretch 4, the shooting eye of a small forward and the passing skills of a guard.
He will be an absolute nuisance in UK head coach John Calipari’s “Dribble-Drive Motion” offense.
Since Calipari uses his centers as opposite-block, clean-up men, looking for lobs, dump passes or offensive boards, do not expect Towns to play the “one-in” position.
Towns is more than capable of handling one of the “four-out” positions.
He will be able to knock down kick-out three-point shots or to put it on the deck and get to the rim.
Definitely worth the price of admission.
2. Jahlil Okafor
It is not an overstatement to say that Jahlil Okafor might be one of the most well-rounded big men to come out of high school in several years.
Okafor has demonstrated over and over again that he has developed in just about every area necessary to play center at the next levels.
He has exceptional footwork (an underrated skill) and astonishing hands which help him in almost every facet of the game.
For some players to shine, they need to be in the right system with the right situation. Okafor will excel regardless of where he chooses to go next fall.
1. Emmanuel Mudiay
The 6’5” sensation is an excellent passer, using his size to see the court like few others his age.
Where Mudiay makes life miserable for his opponents is in his ability to take over games by getting to the rim or pulling up and putting the ball in the hole.
He is a dynamic scoring floor leader, whose game resembles Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook: explosive penetrator who has no trouble finishing around the glass or pulling up and burying jumpers.
The fact that Mudiay is staying home in Dallas to play at SMU for Larry Brown launches the Mustangs’ reemergence forward immeasurably.
With Mudiay and the other talent that Brown and his staff are pulling in, do not be surprised if they make some noise in the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Mark it down.