College Basketball Recruiting: Must-See YouTube Mixtapes from Class of 2015
YouTube is a college basketball coach's best friend right now, thanks to the NCAA's recruiting calendar.
The hoops recruiting season is in the middle of an extended period of dormancy, as contact with prospective athletes is limited to written correspondence, phone calls and the occasional visit on a college campus. The most recent evaluation period ended in late April, and another won't come around until July 9.
That's a long time for coaches putting together their 2015 recruiting plans to go without getting to watch their future stars in action.
Good thing nearly every top recruit has a highlight reel video—commonly called a mixtape—posted online for anyone and everyone to see.
We've picked out eight of these mixtapes from some of the most noteworthy players in the Class of 2015 that should be considered essential viewing. Enjoy them for the dunks, the dimes and the teardrop jumpers, as well as for the music and production values devoted to an Internet video whose main purpose is to wow college coaches.
(NOTE: All recruiting ratings courtesy of 247 Sports' composite rankings)
Position: Shooting guard
Height, weight: 6'4", 170 lbs
Antonio Blakeney is a 5-star guard rated as the No. 20 overall prospect in the country, and he is getting interest from plenty of top-name programs. But the theme of his mixtape is that he's a "best-kept secret," according to the music laid under his highlights.
The video features the usual array of dunks, dishes, jumpers and ankle-breaking crossovers, with a handful of well-placed pieces of crowd-reaction audio following an alley-oop or a jam.
Blakeney, from Sarasota, Fla., was recently visited by Florida coach Billy Donovan, and in 2014 he has made unofficial visits to Louisville and Missouri.
Position: Point guard
Height, weight: 6'1.5", 182 lbs
For a mixtape to really sell an athlete it can't just show highlights and hope that gets the job done. It often has to have a theme, or at least an emphasis placed on a particular skill the prospect is showing off in the clips.
For 4-star guard Jalen Brunson, that would be his crossover.
Brunson, who according to NBC Sports' Rob Dauster is the top pure point guard in the 2015 class despite being rated No. 4 at that position by 247Sports, has gained a reputation for knocking defenders on their butt in the half court and for making them flail aimlessly when trying to guard Brunson in transition.
All of that can be seen in his mixtape, with Brunson breaking ankles in a variety of ways before pulling up on a jumper or unleashing a no-look pass to a teammate.
Brunson, from Lincolnshire, Ill., recently sent out a tweet listing his top eight college choices (in no particular order): Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova.
Height, weight: 7'5", 240 lbs
In basketball, the size of some players is still awe-inspiring. That's why Tacko Fall, originally from Senegal, is approaching four million views for his You Tube mixtape.
At 7'5", he's referred to on the tape as the "tallest high school player in the world," yet currently he has no rating through 247Sports. He's still very raw, but he has no trouble doing what he should be doing at this point, which is to dunk with ease and block many a shot that comes his way.
He plays wearing big glasses that almost make him look like Amar'e Stoudemire when he's rocking the court goggles. He currently plays in Florida, too, where according to the Orlando Sentinel's Joe Williams he eats whole pizzas topped with chicken and hamburger to help keep weight on his body.
Position: Point guard
Height, weight: 6'3", 174 lbs
As the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class, Malik Newman is certainly a well-known quantity.
He's high on the wish list of nearly every major program in the country, and in the past few months he's been personally visited by Kansas coach Bill Self and Connecticut's Kevin Ollie, who checked in with the Jackson, Miss., point guard just two weeks after cutting down the nets in the NCAA title game.
With so much notoriety, why Newman would even need a hype tape is a topic worthy of debate. But at least his takes a different approach, making it more like a dramatic telling of his story (complete with black-and-white intro) than a highlight reel.
Full of semi-slow motion and fade-ins, the 90-second video shows off Newman's great scoring ability and ball-handling, skills that the elite teams would love to be at their disposal during the 2015-16 season.
Newman hasn't announced any top choices for college, but 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions seems to think he's got a 90 percent chance of heading to Kentucky.
Position: Power forward
Height, weight: 6'10", 198 lbs
Ivan Rabb is the top big man in the 2015 recruiting class, coming in at No. 2 overall, and his mixtape is heavy on what you'd hope to see from a dominant post presence: lots of dunking and layups.
But Rabb, from Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, also shows off a nice outside jumper and solid handles in the open court and when faced with a double-team. Those skills make him look a lot like Arizona forward Brandon Ashley, another Bay Area product.
The Ashley comparison is fitting, because 247 Sports' Crystal Ball predictions seem to think Rabb is a lock to go to Arizona, which has grabbed the top-rated California player out of the last four recruiting classes. The Wildcats already have commitments from guards Tyler Dorsey and Justin Simon, who are listed as the second- and fourth-best prospects in California respectively.
In that respect, Rabb's mixtape serves two purposes. It shows off what he can do and, if all things go as predicted, it can also be a sort of advance warning for Pac-12 schools and other future Arizona opponents of what they'll have to deal with.
Position: Point guard
Height, weight: 6'4", 190 lbs
Justin Simon may have just committed to Arizona on Tuesday, according to Scout.com's Josh Gershon, but his mixtape is still worth watching both because of the skills the versatile guard shows, but also some of the nifty camera tricks employed in the video.
For each of Simon's dunks—most of which are shown from in the stands at games while he played for Temecula Valley (Calif.) High School—the image rattles as the ball gets flushed, emphasizing the thunder this swift and powerful junior has. There are also slow-mos used on some of his best transition and half-court passes, the kind of plays he'll be expected to make in college.
Simon had been visited by coaches from Kansas, Texas and USC during April, along with Arizona, but he apparently chose to end the courtship process early. Wildcats fans will surely have this video bookmarked.
Height, weight: 6'10", 246 lbs
Besides having an awesome name that fans will love to say over and over again, 5-star post man Diamond Stone can make some good media thanks to his diverse skill set.
Though best used as a back-to-the-basket guy, Stone's mixtape shows his ability to drive and dish as well. There are also several nice blocks in the highlight reel, not to mention a fluidity that you wouldn't normally see from a guy that's pushing 250 pounds.
The Milwaukee-based Stone is drawing comparisons to former UCLA and current Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love—the video furthers this by asking if he's the next Love in its title—and he is getting attention similar to what Love got during high school.
In-state powers Marquette and Wisconsin are in a battle for his services, while Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA are among the others courting him heavily.
Height, weight: 6'11", 225 lbs
Steven Zimmerman is the No. 2 center in the class of 2015, and he's been one of the fastest risers in this crop thanks to his play during his junior year at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas as well as in showcase events.
Though on the thinner side for a 6'11" player, Zimmerman's video shows he can play strong even without the mass that he'll undoubtedly add in college. The video also shows a defensive intensity that has played a big role in his climbing the charts in the past year.
Zimmerman announced his final eight choices in April, narrowing down 20-plus offers to Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA and UNLV. It's worth noting that his high school coach, Grant Rice, is the younger brother of UNLV coach Dave Rice.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.