The 2013-14 college basketball season is right around the corner, so naturally it is a good time to start evaluating the 2015 recruiting class.
For perspective, these kids just started their junior years of high school, meaning they many haven’t even been to their first proms. A lot can change between now and the time when these prospects are gracing television sets across the nation in March.
However, some recruits have received some early buzz. Read on to see who they are. Schools of interest and measurables are courtesy of Scout.com.
Malik Newman may be the best player in the nation for the class of 2015, and his list of pursuers reads like a who’s who of the best programs in the country.
Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Georgetown, Louisville, North Carolina and UCLA are all among those interested in the Mississippi native. Newman is a 6’3” shooting guard who is a walking highlight reel.
The first thing that jumps out about Newman is his ability to score. He can find the basket from long range by penetrating off the dribble and even muscling up smaller opponents. He is most dangerous between the paint and the three-point line.
While the scoring is a huge plus, Newman has the versatility, ball-handling skills and passing ability to play the shooting guard and point guard spots. That is critical in a sport that doesn’t have nearly the scholarship depth as football.
Carlton Bragg is the exact type of versatile forward who has come to dominate college basketball in recent years.
He is 6’8” and weighs in just shy of 200 pounds, which allows him to muscle up in the paint or get out in transition. Furthermore, he is quick enough to stay with small forwards and big enough to even play the center position if need be.
Bragg is a monster on the offensive glass, finishes with ease at the rim and is even developing a mid-range shot to complete his arsenal. He is also a formidable defender who will block plenty of shots at the next level.
Chances are this Ohio native stays somewhere in the Midwest. The list of schools currently showing interest includes Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Illinois.
Ivan Rabb is a similar stretch-forward prototype to Carlton Bragg, and there is definitely some West Coast flash to the California native’s game.
His length and athleticism allow him to impact the game on the defensive end with blocked shots, deflected passes and help challenges. Furthermore, he swallows up rebounds at 6’9” and is always looking to get out in transition as the next step.
He is quick enough to finish on the break and has soft touch at the rim. But his game isn’t all finesse. Rabb has post moves and can finish through contact on the block.
There are plenty of nearby Pac-12 teams interested (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, USC, Washington and UCLA), but national powers are pursuing Rabb as well. Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina would all love to land this California kid.
Goodluck Okonoboh has the best name for the class of 2014, but Cheick Diallo is an early candidate for the 2015 group.
But there is much more to Diallo than simply a fun name for the play-by-play commentators. He is arguably the best defender in the entire 2015 class and will be regularly sending shots into the bleachers at the college level.
He is listed as 6’9” and 210 pounds, but Diallo’s wingspan is off the charts. He will regularly outreach 7’ big men on the boards and make it nearly impossible for opposing guards to get off clean looks on penetration.
Diallo plays in New York now, but he originally hails from Mali. The lengthy list of schools that are interested includes Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Providence, Saint John's (NY), Syracuse, Texas, UNLV and Villanova.
Ben Simmons is the only player on this list who has already given a verbal pledge, and he continued LSU’s recent recruiting momentum by doing so.
The Tigers recently landed Elbert Robinson for their 2014 class and would love to pair him with Simmons if Robinson sticks around for his sophomore campaign. Simmons is a 6’8” stretch forward who could play off of the bigger Robinson in the paint.
LSU had to beat out the likes of powerhouses Kentucky, Duke and Kansas to land Simmons and hopes an NCAA tournament appearance is the reward. There is little the Australia native can’t do on the offensive end, including getting out in transition, banging around in the post and finishing through contact at the rim.
He is one of the best players in the 2015 class and still has room to improve, which should excite Tiger fans. Watch for him in March down the road.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.