College Basketball Recruiting: Best Players at Every Position in 2015 Class
With their senior seasons in high school yet to come, the stars of college basketball recruiting’s class of 2015 are still learning the craft at their respective positions. Growth spurts can turn a small forward into a center in a hurry, or a combo guard can solidify his jump shot and develop into a true shooting guard.
Nevertheless, scouts and coaches trying to find the Next Big Thing for their programs have to project what a player is likely to do in the years to come. Versatile forward Brandon Ingram, for example, has the length to play the post in high school, but his skill set at this stage makes him one of the best small forward prospects in the country.
Read on for a closer look at Ingram and the rest of the top small forwards of the class of 2015, along with rankings for the five best players at every other position on the floor.
Point Guard 5: Jawun Evans
Unlike many young point guards, Jawun Evans has managed to make an impression with his defense in addition to his ball-handling prowess.
The fleet-footed Texan still does plenty of damage in transition, of course, but he starts plenty of those breaks himself by picking the opposing PG’s pocket.
Evans is also a precocious leader, though he’s more mistake prone than you’d like from a point guard. His shot needs work, too, but at the high school level, he can get plenty of points just by slicing to the hoop.
Point Guard 4: Marcus LoVett
At 5’10” and a waif-like 150 pounds, Marcus LoVett isn’t going to impress anybody as a physical specimen. Fortunately for the Southern California speedster, he can drive by most of the impressive physical specimens before they can blink.
LoVett is a terrific penetrator who can run the fast break in a heartbeat. He’s a fine passer and an improving decision-maker, but his shooting range is a question mark.
Point Guard 3: Aaron Holiday
On March 1, UCLA coach Steve Alford watched Aaron Holiday score 43 points in a high school playoff game. Two days later, Alford landed the 6’1” guard as the first member of his 2015 recruiting class—but not necessarily for his scoring.
Like older brother Jrue, a one-and-done standout himself as a Bruin, Holiday is really a point guard by trade. He’s not yet as physical as the Pelicans’ PG, but the younger Holiday has his brother’s explosive athleticism as well as his passing instincts.
Point Guard 2: Justin Simon
Justin Simon is the reverse of many typical combo guards. Instead of a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body, the 6’5” Simon has the build to play the 2 but the skill set of a playmaker.
With the ball in his hands, he plays both fast and smart, and he brings the added bonus of being able to guard bigger players thanks to immensely long arms.
What he doesn’t bring, at least at this stage, is a viable jump shot, but there’s little else to complain about here.
Point Guard 1: Jalen Brunson
Another pedigreed floor leader for the 2015 class, Jalen Brunson is the son of former NBA guard (and Temple star) Rick Brunson. The southpaw is also the only elite point guard in the bunch who can actually knock down a three-point shot with regularity.
Although Brunson’s jumper is a legitimate weapon, he’s decidedly in the pass-first camp as an offensive player. He has the dribbling skill to get by defenders, but he isn’t going to beat anybody with raw quickness at the college level.
Shooting Guard 5: Luke Kennard
Many of 2015’s top wing prospects can tout their versatility as a major asset. Luke Kennard just does one thing: make shots, over and over and over again.
Ohio’s Mr. Basketball as a junior, the 6’5” Kennard can drain the trey as well as anyone in the class. He’s nothing special defensively, but he’ll have plenty of time to learn that under Coach K now that he’s committed to Duke.
Shooting Guard 4: Charles Matthews
As impressive as Charles Matthews’ mid-range shot is—and that’s plenty impressive—his real edge comes from putting the ball on the floor.
The 6’5” guard keeps the defense on its heels with his ball-handling skills, and he’s a potent finisher when he gets into the paint.
Matthews’ length also pays dividends on D, though he’s far from reaching his potential on that end of the floor.
He’s also just okay as a three-point marksman, a quality shared by Doron Lamb and Aaron Harrison, two awfully good 2-guards in whose footsteps the Kentucky commit will be following.
Shooting Guard 3: Malachi Richardson
Lots of positional stereotypes are in flux these days, but the tall, skinny shooting guard with long arms isn’t going out of style anytime soon. Malachi Richardson, with his 6’6” build and feathery touch, is one good reason to keep the tradition going.
Richardson doesn’t put the ball on the floor as well as some wing scorers, but he can catch and shoot with the best, even from beyond the arc.
He’s also a respectable defender, and his commitment to Syracuse means that his length will be amplified in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
Shooting Guard 2: Tyler Dorsey
Even with his 6’4” size and scoring punch, Tyler Dorsey is more likely than the rest of the shooting guards here to wind up running the point in college. Whichever position he plays, though, he’s going to score in bunches.
Dorsey is a deadly scorer off the dribble, whether pulling up in the mid-range or darting to the hoop.
At the college level, he'll be taking his talents to Arizona, where players with similar skills have had plenty of success lately at either the 2 (Nick Johnson) or the 1 (Mark Lyons).
Shooting Guard 1: Malik Newman
Rivals.com ranks Malik Newman as the nation’s top prospect at any position, which is a lot to ask of a 6’3” shooting guard.
Of course, Newman’s astronomical potential means that he’ll be a very real threat to win the scoring title in whatever conference he joins two seasons from now.
The Mississippian is a fearsome three-point shooter, a highlight-reel finisher and every kind of scorer in between. As if his offensive game wasn’t scary enough already, he knows how to read the defense and is improving as a passer.
Small Forward 5: Ray Smith
Ray Smith doesn’t have any one skill that overwhelms you, but the Las Vegas product brings a little bit of everything to the table. He’s already close to a power forward’s length at 6’7”, he’s a productive shooter and he’s even a plus as a ball-handler.
Smith may be the biggest remaining obstacle to his own success, as he’s gotten a reputation for losing focus at times. When he’s dialed in, though, he knows how to break down defenders and finish strong at the rim.
Small Forward 4: Derrick Jones
Even without an especially polished game, Derrick Jones is one of the most impressive frontcourt talents in the class of 2015. When he tightens up his fundamentals to go with his superlative athletic ability, he’s really going to be scary.
Jones is a high-flying 6’6” wing who excels on the fast break, both running the floor and finishing with an exclamation point. He gets plenty of use out of his quickness and length on D, too, but neither his ball-handling nor his shot have risen to the same level yet.
Small Forward 3: Montaque Gill-Caesar
With 215 pounds on a 6’6” body, Montaque Gill-Caesar is built for physical play in a way few perimeter opponents can match. He puts that muscle to good use as a defender, though most fans will notice it more when he’s hammering down a dunk.
Gill-Caesar is also a fine jump-shooter, though he still has plenty of room to improve in that department. He also needs to tighten up his ball-handling in order to improve his offensive contributions in the half court.
Small Forward 2: Brandon Ingram
Like many 6’7” forwards at the high school level, Brandon Ingram would benefit from adding some muscle as he prepares for the college ranks.
Unlike most forwards his size, though, he already has the passing ability and confidence with the ball to be a legitimate playmaking option in the half court.
Ingram is a skilled jump-shooter who knows how to play without the ball to create open looks. He’s at his best in the mid-range, where he can also attack the paint without too much risk from his middling ball-handling ability.
Small Forward 1: Jaylen Brown
There isn’t a better perimeter defender in the 2015 class than Jaylen Brown. With his 6’7”, 220-pound frame and outstanding quickness, he can shut down small forwards or shooting guards with little trouble.
That’s not to say, of course, that his own offensive contributions are anything to be ignored. His jump shot is nothing special, but he’s a talented passer and productive slasher who can finish through contact inside to produce serious point totals.
Power Forward 5: Thomas Bryant
Although he packs 220 pounds on his 6’10” frame, raw muscle isn’t Thomas Bryant’s forte. He doesn’t overpower opposing big men nearly as often as he beats them with skill or tenacity, both of which he has in abundance.
Bryant does most of his scoring in face-up situations, and his improving mid-range shot is a valuable asset. Defensively, his length makes him a major factor as a shot-blocker, especially in help-defense situations.
Power Forward 4: Carlton Bragg
Carlton Bragg is as daunting a pure athlete as the class of 2015 has to offer. He stands 6’9” and 220 pounds, but he can run and leap like a perimeter player.
He’s also starting to be able to shoot like one, though he’s still a mid-range rather than a three-point option thus far. He’s especially effective as a rebounder, where he can really benefit from his outstanding hands.
Power Forward 3: Cheick Diallo
Although his shot-swatting style is more like a center’s game, Cheick Diallo’s 6’9” height will likely make him a power forward at the college level.
Wherever he’s listed, though, you can expect to find him near the rim, erasing a healthy percentage of opposing shots.
Offensively, he makes his biggest impact as a rebounder, though his shooting touch is improving. Adding more of a back-to-the-basket game on that end of the floor would be a major plus.
Power Forward 2: Ben Simmons
His back-to-the-basket game is just okay, but Ben Simmons is the most dangerous face-up scorer to be found in the 2015 class. The agile 6’8” forward can put the ball on the floor or freeze a defender with an array of fakes, fades and leaners.
He’s nearly as tough to handle further away from the basket, both because he can knock down jump shots and because he sees the floor well enough to find the open man when the defense overcommits to stop him.
He’s also a fine rebounder, due as much to his stellar athleticism as to any great knack for the boards on his part.
Power Forward 1: Ivan Rabb
At 6’10”, Ivan Rabb is a dominant offensive weapon on the low block. A traditional back-to-the-basket scorer, the Californian (ranked No. 1 overall by multiple outlets) has an astonishing array of moves for such a young player.
Rabb is also a sensational leaper, as seen especially in his tremendous shot-blocking prowess. He’s not overly strong at this stage, but he’s got everything else (including the instincts) to be a first-class rebounder at the next level.
Center 5: Chance Comanche
A 6’11” center has no business being able to get himself in the air as quickly as Chance Comanche does.
The high-flying Los Angeleno gets plenty of rebounds that other big men can’t just by virtue of being able to jump twice in the time it takes his opponent to get off the ground once.
Comanche is also a first-rate shot-blocker, though his offensive game isn’t nearly as developed. Like so many big men his age, he would also benefit immensely from spending more time in the weight room.
Center 4: Skal Labissiere
With just 200 pounds on his 6’11” body, Skal Labissiere isn’t the kind of center you look to for physical low-post play.
Impressively, though, the youngster has still developed into a valuable player in some of the areas where a bruiser would be expected to shine.
Labissiere’s specialty is shot-blocking, using his long arms and aggressive mindset. He’s also as good a rebounder as he can be with so little bulk, and his strong hands help him finish dunks in traffic to complement his solid mid-range jumper.
Center 3: Elijah Thomas
An old-school brawler on the low block, Elijah Thomas is all but impossible to move out of the way when he’s established position. He’s also a skilled scorer when he gets the ball inside, with soft hands that also help him dominate as a rebounder.
With that playing style and his unremarkable 6’9” height, Thomas has a lot in common with such college big men as Marquette’s Davante Gardner and North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks.
Unfortunately for him, that similarity also includes their lack of defensive presence and their stamina problems in keeping up with fast-paced offenses.
Center 2: Stephen Zimmerman
Nevada product though he is, Stephen Zimmerman’s game is more FIBA than UNLV. The 7’0” beanpole has a first-class jump shot with range extending nearly to the three-point arc already.
Also fitting the European stereotype, he handles the ball well and thrives in the open floor rather than with his back to the basket.
However, he’s no pushover when it comes to attacking the rim, and as he adds muscle to his 230 pounds, he’s going to be a force inside as well as out.
Center 1: Diamond Stone
As far away as college still is for Diamond Stone, he’s already built to overpower most collegiate big men. Even better, the 6’10”, 240-pounder has figured out how to get the most out of his size.
Stone is a star on both ends of the floor, and he can score both on the low block and in the face-up game. He’s also a skilled rebounder, but he can be worn down as he fights to play with energy that belies his bulk.