College Basketball Recruiting: The 10 Best 'Project Players' in 2015 Class
College basketball recruiting occasionally turns up a ready-made gem such as Jabari Parker, but there are far more prospects out there who need plenty of work and coaching to reach their full potential. Just because a player is considered a “project” at an early stage of his development doesn’t mean he won’t be a college star before he’s done.
One youngster from the class of 2015 who has a great chance to follow that trajectory is Isaiah Briscoe. The New Jersey product has a scorer's mentality and attacks the basket with abandon, but he'll need to develop more of a perimeter game to survive as a 6'3" shooting guard in college.
Herein is a closer look at Briscoe and nine more high school seniors-to-be who have a lot of growing up to do, but they could become awfully impressive players at the end of that road. The prospects are ranked primarily based on how good they'll eventually be, though consideration is still given to where they stand currently.
10. Tyler Lydon
Tall, skinny forwards have made Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone one of the most feared defenses in the country, but that bit of typecasting will take a lot of work in the case of Syracuse commit Tyler Lydon (right).
The 6’8”, 181-pounder hasn’t shown much of a defensive presence so far, focused as he’s been on honing his jump shot.
Lydon is a terrific catch-and-shoot threat with three-point range, but he (even with his improving rebounding) brings very little else to the table right now.
If he’s going to help the Orange, he’ll need not only improved defensive skills but also lots of extra muscle and some added versatility on offense.
9. Kendall Small
Like many of the players on this list, Kendall Small can lean on his defense as his primary asset. Unlike the rest of that group, Small stands 5’11” and 170 pounds.
The ultra-quick point guard is a fine penetrator in addition to being a ball hawk, but neither his passing nor his shooting is ready to handle elite competition.
Fortunately for him, he’s headed to an Oregon program whose coach, Dana Altman, just finished developing the similarly skilled Johnathan Loyd into a top Pac-12 point guard.
8. Horace Spencer
With his 6’9” length and outstanding athletic ability, Horace Spencer boasts a predictably terrific shot-blocking game.
The high-flying forward is also a productive rebounder, though adding bulk to his 212 pounds would help keep him from being pushed around under the boards.
The biggest area for Spencer to develop, though, is on offense, where he rarely accomplishes anything that isn’t a dunk. Either a jump shot or a back-to-the-basket game would quickly elevate Spencer out of niche-starter territory.
7. Alex Owens
Neither Alex Owens’ height (6’8”) nor his unremarkable leaping ability makes him a sure thing as a collegiate power forward.
The bruising Floridian’s next-level hopes lie with his knack for overpowering the opposition, and he’s shown plenty of ability to throw his 240 pounds around on the glass.
However, that playing style demands an ability to score with your back to the basket, and Owens has yet to find his footing there.
He briefly committed to Central Florida (where his rebounding alone would have made him a likely starter), but he’s since reopened his recruiting and should find a home with a more proven coaching staff than that of the unheralded Golden Knights.
6. Melvin Frazier
At 6’4”, Melvin Frazier is a small forward learning to make the transition to shooting guard. Small wonder, then, that he’s an outstanding perimeter rebounder, especially given his high-energy approach to the game.
Frazier is a terrific dunker, but the rest of his offensive game has lagged behind. Slasher-type SGs are welcome at the college level, but he’ll need a more reliable mid-range game (and, preferably, a better three-point shot) to succeed as a collegian.
5. Chase Jeter
Being ranked at wildly different levels by different scouting services is often a sign of a project-type player, with different scouts projecting a different ceiling for the same guy.
The disparity has a lot to do with the 6’9” forward’s youth (turning 17 in September), leaving a lot of his physical development still ahead of him.
In addition to gaining strength—which will boost his interior scoring as well as his rebounding prowess—the speedy Jeter needs to polish up his footwork in order to get the most out of his length inside.
4. Daniel Giddens
Post players who don’t have overwhelming size can compensate with power or speed. Daniel Giddens takes the latter approach, covering the court in a hurry with his 6’9” frame and tremendous quickness.
Giddens’ mobility lets him block a lot of shots, reel in a huge number of rebounds and even handle the ball a little. Even so, his offensive game is severely underdeveloped, making tip-ins his only real avenue for scoring at this point.
3. Trevor Manuel
Having shot up to 6’10” has done great things for Trevor Manuel’s recruiting opportunities, but he’s still figuring out what he’s going to do with all that height.
The slender forward is unselfish to the point of being tentative, but he has the potential to take over games down the road.
Manuel has a very good jump shot for his size, and he can readily pull slower defenders away from the rim.
However, he’s not ready to beat opponents off the dribble reliably, and he’ll need to improve his physicality and toughness inside before he can really reap the benefits of his scoring punch.
2. Isaiah Briscoe
As one might expect from a 200-pound high school shooting guard, Isaiah Briscoe seeks out physical play. The hard-charging New Jersey native loves to take the game inside and use his power and aggressiveness to score near the rim.
However, Briscoe also stands just 6’3”, meaning that he won’t be in a position to outmuscle as many of his college opponents. He needs to build on his quickness and nascent jump shot to give himself more options for dealing with the size he’ll be facing down the line.
1. Georgios Papagiannis
As the coaching bromide goes, you can’t teach height. Georgios Papagiannis has all kinds of height at 7’1”, but he still poses an unusual problem for future college coaches.
Papagiannis has better offensive skills than most big men his age, but he lacks the fire or the mobility to keep up with smaller, more athletic post players.
Where so many of his contemporaries need time in the weight room, he needs time on the track to build up his endurance and foot speed to Division I levels.