The early signing period for the 2014 college basketball recruiting class is almost upon us, and there are still several top prospects pondering their decisions.
While this year's seniors deliberate, some have younger teammates who are also drawing tremendous interest from college coaches. Certain schools are establishing themselves as required stops for top programs on the trail this winter.
These eight schools are among the most popular destinations for coaches seeking reinforcements for not only next season, but the classes of 2015 and 2016 as well.
This is in no way a complete list, so feel free to contribute more possibilities in the comments. Also, efforts have been made to exclude the factory prep schools such as Findlay Prep, Montverde Academy or Oak Hill.
All player rankings are from the 247Sports Composite for each player's recruiting class. All heights and weights according to 247Sports listings. All photos from 247Sports.
C Stephen Zimmerman, 6'11", 225 (2015 No. 2)
PF Chase Jeter, 6'8", 200 (2015 No. 22)
The Gaels' post players are the top two 2015 prospects in the state of Nevada according to 247Sports. And it's honestly a disservice to both young men to refer to them as mere "post players."
Zimmerman has three-point range to go with a strong arsenal of face-up and post moves. His skinny frame will certainly bulk up through natural growth and training, and increased size coupled with his already-evident skill set will make him a dangerous big man at the collegiate level. His mobility gets him countless easy baskets on the break.
Jeter is capable of scoring on anyone in the post, thanks to his outstanding footwork and soft shooting touch. A quick leaper with strong defensive instincts, he should prove a dangerous shot-blocker.
The two are reportedly most interested in several of the same schools, such as Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina. UCLA is also strongly in the mix for Jeter, while Zimmerman is a priority for Kentucky.
PG Malik Newman, 6'3", 200 (2015 No. 1)
SF Mario Kegler, 6'7", 195 (2016 No. 33)
When Malik Newman decides he wants points—which is very often—he's a hard player to stop. The Mississippi combo guard possesses a lightning first step and the strength to take a hit and still finish his drive. If a defender stays in front of him, Newman dares the opponent to stop his smooth three-point jumper.
If there's a downside to Newman, it's that he's sometimes a non-factor when the ball is not in his hands. Expect him to lead his college team in both assists and points when he finally commits, likely for one season.
Forward Mario Kegler should be a frequent beneficiary of Newman's daring drives and kick-outs. He's a solid mid-range shooter who will be working on expanding his range. Evaluating him is still somewhat problematic because he sat out his freshman year per Mississippi transfer rules.
Still, Future150 noted that Kegler spent the summer running both guard spots for his AAU team, and that versatility will make him an in-demand prospect.
Offers to Newman have been reported from Kansas and Kentucky, as well as N.C. State and in-state SEC foes Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Kegler has no offers as of yet, but he will have ample opportunity to show himself to the coaches who come to see Newman.
SF K.J. Lawson, 6'6", 185 (2015 No. 30, Memphis commit)
SF Dedric Lawson, 6'8", 195 (2016 No. 5)
The Lawson family will be a story on the recruiting scene for years to come. Not only do K.J. and Dedric expect to star for Hamilton this season—playing for father Keelon—but their little brother Chandler is already 6'4" and rated as one of the nation's top seventh-graders. Oh, and fifth-grader Jonathan already has a national AAU title to his credit.
K.J. is the superior athlete and shooter, but Dedric compensates with a solid post game. Both will be dangerous slashers from the wing, capable of finishing through contact.
247Sports does not report many offers coming in for Dedric, and a CBS Sports profile by Gary Parrish illuminates a possible reason why. The brothers are considered property of Josh Pastner at Memphis if he puts sufficient time and effort into their recruitment. Alabama was listed as the only other school to offer either of the two older brothers.
Both Keelon Lawson and his wife Dedra are former players turned coaches. There won't be much that will surprise them about the recruiting process. Whether the brothers all travel to Memphis or someone gets an offer they can't refuse elsewhere, expect the Lawsons to become very solid college prospects.
PF Cheick Diallo, 6'9", 208 (2015 No. 6)
PF Kassoum Yakwe, 6'7", 185 (2016 No. 39)
Our Savior's Malian duo of Diallo and Yakwe have generated substantial buzz already, but both have a great deal of room to improve.
Diallo is a dominant shot-blocker, thanks to his lean frame, great athleticism and seven-foot wingspan. He's shown the ability to step out to the perimeter and shut down driving wings as well. His offense, however, lags well behind his defensive presence. He needs to develop some kind of scoring move that he can convert regularly.
Yakwe isn't terribly polished on the offensive end himself, but he's a more potent scorer than his teammate. He's a solid rebounder and passer who is athletic enough to posterize opponents with thunderous dunks. Yakwe's not as consistently intense as Diallo and occasionally disappears from the game. Improving his intensity will push him up the rankings over the next three seasons.
Diallo is already linked with offers from nearly 20 schools, including blue bloods like Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State and Arizona. Yakwe has offers from several of the same places, leaving open the possibility of a tantalizing package deal.
SG Daniel Hamilton, 6'8", 178 (2014 No. 16, UConn commit)
PG Tyler Dorsey, 6'4", 170 (2015 No. 4)
SF Vance Jackson, 6'7", 197 (2016 No. 52)
St. John Bosco returns perhaps the best high school backcourt in America with high-scoring UConn recruit Hamilton and explosive junior point guard Dorsey. Less-heralded sophomore forward Jackson should not be slept on, either.
Hamilton is an aggressive scorer who occasionally gets himself in trouble by being too much so. His shot selection and handle can deteriorate under pressure but should be expected to improve as he gets used to being the defense's primary focus.
On Dorsey's ESPN Insider scouting report (subscription required), his open-court skills are compared to John Wall's. Lofty praise, indeed. He has great court vision, helping him pick out cutting teammates and score with an array of flashy passes. At times, though, he tries to get too flashy. Leaving his feet to pass is a habit that must be broken for him to minimize his mistakes.
Jackson transferred in from Pasadena La Salle. He's a talented slasher with good touch on his jumper but needs to add strength in both his upper and lower body. Stronger legs, in particular, will make his shot more consistent.
Dorsey appears to be drawing the most interest from elite programs like Duke, Kansas and Louisville. Kentucky is said to be interested, but has yet to offer, according to 247Sports. Both Dorsey and Jackson have also received offers from UConn, so Hamilton may get the opportunity to be a recruiter himself.
PF Elijah Staley, 6'6", 231 (2014 No. 172, Mississippi State commit)
SF Jaylen Brown, 6'7", 207 (2015 No. 12)
C Daniel Giddens, 6'10", 215 (2015 No. 24)
SF Kejuan Johnson, 6'5", 200 (2015 No. 137)
The Wheeler Wildcats may have indirectly benefited from a controversy on the school's football team.
Forward Elijah Staley, an 18-point scorer as a junior, was dismissed from the football team on which he starred as a dual-threat quarterback, according to a report by Score Atlanta. He has committed to MSU and intends to play both sports when he reaches Starkville.
Wheeler's frontcourt also boasts two of the nation's top 25 juniors, and both Brown and Giddens are attracting the appropriate level of attention. Schools like Louisville, Kansas, Georgia and Georgia Tech have made offers to both.
Giddens is an extremely mobile post player who can face the basket and penetrate against slower bigs. He also possesses strong defensive instincts and knows how to hit the glass on both ends.
Brown is a capable scorer from nearly anywhere who can hit his open teammates perfectly when he draws the help defender. He could use more muscle to help him finish in traffic.
While not as hyped of a prospect as his teammates, Johnson has reportedly drawn offers from programs like Kentucky, Memphis and Florida. He doesn't currently look like the typical Kentucky one-and-done, but at a program like that, his physicality could make him an invaluable practice player.
PG Chris Chiozza, 5'10", 146 (2014 No. 38, Florida commit)
PF Leron Black, 6'7", 215 (2014 No. 42, Illinois commit)
PG Davell Roby, 6'4", 195 (2014 No. 201, St. Louis commit)
With two of the top 50 prospects in the 2014 class, White Station expects a great season in 2013-14. Chiozza and Black are more than capable of leading the way.
Black projects as the best prospect at the next level, blending length and quickness with a solid mid-range shot. He'll need to expand that range and improve his handle to adapt to life as a college basketball wing player.
Chiozza is a pure point guard, able to change speeds in an instant and make plays for himself as well as others. Thanks to his diminutive stature, he's not an authoritative finisher on the drive, but his pull-up jumper will get him a large percentage of his points.
Roby likewise needs to muscle up, both for the sake of his jump shot and his finishing in traffic. He'll likely be a four-year player at SLU, where he committed after drawing offers from Wake Forest and half of the SEC.
C Jahlil Okafor, 6'10", 270 (2014 No. 1)
SF Paul White, 6'9", 195 (2014 No. 63, Georgetown commit)
PG Miles Reynolds, 6'2", 170 (2014 No. 214, St. Louis commit)
You didn't think we were leaving out the big fish in the 2014 class, did you?
Okafor is methodically working his way through his official visits, taking a trip to the Duke campus this weekend. He's already been to Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and Arizona. We profiled him last month, and the excitement around his recruitment has only grown as he makes his presence known on various campuses.
White, like Okafor, is one of the state of Illinois' top five prospects. He'll join former Whitney Young teammate L.J. Peak as a Hoya next fall. White can score well in the low post, but he's not a truly muscular rebounder or scorer. Expanding his perimeter skills would serve him well in college.
Reynolds gets very little shine in the shadow of Okafor and White and occasionally plays like he's trying too hard to get himself noticed. His shot comes and goes in streaks, and he sometimes exposes his frontcourt to penetration by gambling too hard for steals. After spending a few years with Okafor, though, he's well-practiced at feeding the low post.
Whitney Young is still one of the schools that every top recruiting coordinator will put on his agenda until Okafor chooses his school from the final list. Duke is considered the leader for his services, but nothing will be official until the final announcement, expected to come when the signing period begins in early November.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: the Conference Calling 2013-14 preview series.