NCAA Basketball Recruiting: The Best Fit for Each Uncommitted 2015 5-Star
For a 5-star prospect, NCAA basketball recruiting is about being courted by the coaches of multiple elite programs. One of the keys to the decision facing those high school standouts is figuring out which team offers the best on-court opportunity for their own individual talents.
Speedy forward Jaylen Brown, for example, needs an uptempo environment to maximize his offensive contributions. He could put up transition points in bunches at UCLA, where the style of the wide-open Pac-12 would suit him perfectly.
Read on for more on why Brown and the Bruins would go together well, along with optimal landing spots for the rest of ESPN’s 5-stars who haven’t chosen a school yet. Note that in each case, the hypothetical school is selected from among those programs that have offered a given player a scholarship.
Georgios Papagiannis: Maryland
At 7’1” and 235 pounds, Georgios Papagiannis has both outstanding size and a remarkably polished offensive game. However, he’s not much use outside of half-court situations, because both his foot speed and his stamina are extremely limited.
Those caveats also applied, albeit not quite as severely, to Alex Len, who parlayed two seasons in the pivot at Maryland into a top-five draft selection in 2013.
In addition to benefiting from Mark Turgeon’s behemoth-friendly offense, Papagiannis would also have better luck in the Big Ten than in a faster-paced league such as the ACC.
D.J. Hogg: Notre Dame
Whether he’s finishing on the fast break or burying a three-pointer, D.J. Hogg can flat-out score. He’s also got terrific length for the small forward spot at 6’7”, but he’s not as impressive when it comes to creating his own shots.
At Notre Dame, Hogg would be joining a long line of first-class catch-and-shoot threats under Mike Brey.
Like those precursors (including Pat Connaughton, whose starting spot would become vacant just as Hogg arrived), the Texan youngster would also benefit from Brey’s ability to keep the Irish roster stocked with elite point guards.
Allonzo Trier: Kansas
Allonzo Trier is the kind of guard who can carry an offense, as he’s been proving this spring with a string of 30-point outbursts on the AAU circuit. He’s a decent rebounder at 6’4”, even if the rest of his game gets left in the dust by his scoring capabilities.
Kansas’ Bill Self loves to run his attack through a dominant wing scorer (Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, etc.), and Trier would be guaranteed a spotlight for his NBA aspirations.
Self is also more likely to tolerate the Oklahoma native’s pedestrian defense than some other high-profile coaches—Rick Pitino or Steve Alford, for example—who are in the running here.
Derrick Jones: Kentucky
More athletic than polished, Derrick Jones has mountains of potential at the small forward position. He doesn’t have a great jump shot, but he’s a long, mobile defender at 6’6” and a sensational dunker.
When it comes to getting the most out of perimeter players with subpar shooting range, John Calipari is in a class by himself.
The coach who sent Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft would gladly find playing time for another versatile, fast-break-loving wing.
Always-deep Kentucky is also a safe bet to feature a solid point guard to supply Jones with alley-oops.
Doral Moore: Florida
The best thing Doral Moore can do for his game at the college level is to find a coach who knows how to teach big men.
The 7’0” Georgia native has all the physical tools, plus an enviable jump shot, but the mental side of his game (especially his offensive instincts) has lagged behind.
That’s a situation that Florida’s Billy Donovan is well-suited to correcting. Having coached defense-first big men from Joakim Noah to Patric Young, Donovan would be happy to help Moore go from shot-blocker to all-around star as a Gator.
Isaiah Briscoe: Ohio State
Not many high school wings relish physical play as much as Isaiah Briscoe. The 6’3” combo guard is at his best in the paint, daring bigger players to contest his shot without handing him a pair of free throws.
Briscoe’s contact-courting style would fit nicely in the Big Ten, and Ohio State’s Thad Matta is also an outstanding coach for him to work with.
Matta has helped develop a whole roster’s worth of 2-guards with more toughness than quickness—David Lighty, Lenzelle Smith Jr., William Buford—and Briscoe would fit nicely in that lineage.
Montaque Gill-Caesar: Michigan State
Kansas, which proved a fine pit stop for NBA-bound Andrew Wiggins, might also work out for Wiggins’ old high school teammate, Montaque Gill-Caesar.
However, rather than continuing to battle the long shadow of his fellow Canadian import, Gill-Caesar would benefit even more from heading to East Lansing.
Tom Izzo’s program has nurtured a slew of fast, physical wing players who thrive in transition, and that’s a fine description of the Huntington Prep standout’s game.
Gill-Caesar would also find a surer path to an immediate starting job with the Spartans, who don’t have a potential sophomore star such as KU’s Kelly Oubre Jr. playing the same position.
P.J. Dozier: Kansas
In a different year, the pick for P.J. Dozier would probably have been North Carolina, where the pass-first point guard could have counted on a wealth of scorers to feed.
At the moment, though, the backcourt is so crowded in Chapel Hill that Dozier would do better to head to another reliably deep offense at Kansas.
The likes of Naadir Tharpe and Tyshawn Taylor have provided plenty of evidence that point guards in Lawrence can succeed without being dominant scorers themselves.
Dozier is a streaky shooter, and under Bill Self, he’d have the freedom to call his own number when he gets hot as well as the teammates to prop him up when he isn’t.
Antonio Blakeney: Louisville
Whether he’s on offense or defense, Antonio Blakeney is a risktaker with the talent to back up his gambles.
He can make tough shots from beyond the arc or finish over a defender in traffic, and he sets up plenty of his own fast-break points by jumping the passing lanes on D.
Although he can sometimes beat himself with his aggressiveness, Blakeney’s style would make him right at home on Rick Pitino’s Cardinals—all the more so now that similarly mercurial Russ Smith is gone.
His ability to make plays in the full-court press (and to bail out the offense with a difficult shot) would more than compensate for the occasions when he helps out the opposition by trying to do too much.
Brandon Ingram: North Carolina State
A productive scorer even by small forward standards, Brandon Ingram is an appreciably better passer than most frontcourt players his age.
However, he’s not an especially skilled ball-handler, and his rebounding is going to suffer at the next level due to a lack of raw power (at 6’8”, 180 lbs).
The North Carolina native has offers from all the usual Tobacco Road suspects, but the best option for his game would be the Wolfpack.
Their half-court offense would show off his skills better than Roy Williams’ fast break, and their beefy front line would keep him from being thrown into the fire too quickly as a rebounder.
Thomas Bryant: West Virginia
Thomas Bryant blends a blue-collar scrappiness with the athletic tools of a bona fide star. As tenacious as the 6’10” power forward is on the glass, though, he can be a bit too deferential in the offense of talent-laden Huntington Prep.
One great way for him to shake off that complementary-player mentality would be to head to Morgantown, where the Mountaineers have been casting about for a new face-of-the-program type.
Coach Bob Huggins would love Bryant’s shot-blocking ability and hustle, and the young forward would really get a chance to shine on a rebuilding roster.
Jaylen Brown: UCLA
Jaylen Brown is the most dangerous perimeter defender in the 2015 class, not least because he’s an A-plus athlete at 6’7”, 220 pounds. He’s a devastating finisher on the fast break, but his half-court offensive game is still under development.
At UCLA, though, the fleet-footed Brown would have ample opportunity to show off his dunking prowess in the wide-open Pac-12.
He’d also provide coach Steve Alford with a great opportunity to elevate the Bruins’ D closer to the smothering level of Alford’s former New Mexico squads.
Carlton Bragg: Michigan State
Bursting with athletic ability at 6’9” and 220 pounds, Carlton Bragg is already a productive defender and rebounder.
He’s a terrific finisher with a nascent jump shot, but he needs an offense where he can play with his back to the basket as well as in the face-up game.
Tom Izzo is one of the most respected big-man coaches in the country, and he always has minutes available for a hard-working rebounder.
If Bragg wants a role model for the college level, he could do a lot worse than just-graduated Spartan Adreian Payne, a similarly mobile big man whose all-around game blossomed under Izzo.
Skal Labissiere: Georgetown
Although his forte is shot-blocking, Skal Labissiere is a skilled jump-shooter. The spindly 6’10”, 200-pound center loves to play facing the basket, where he can use his long arms to loft shots over the defense.
Big men who are comfortable away from the rim are always welcome at Georgetown, where John Thompson III’s Princeton offense needs plenty of high-post playmakers.
Playing for the Hoyas would bolster Labissiere’s passing skills. It would also give him a chance to earn minutes early without subjecting him to excessive low-post pummeling from forwards who outweigh him by 40 pounds.
Cheick Diallo: Iowa State
Cheick Diallo is a world-class shot-blocker, but he stands only 6’9”. At that size, if he wants to move on to an NBA career, he’ll need to be able to score, too.
There are few better places to learn that skill than Iowa State, where Fred Hoiberg’s fast-paced attack means plenty of shots for everyone.
Melvin Ejim went from single-digit scorer (as a sophomore) to Big 12 Player of the Year (as a senior) in Ames, and Diallo could certainly profit by following in his path.
Elijah Thomas: Ohio State
At 6’9” and 230 pounds, Elijah Thomas isn’t a big fan of uptempo games. The bruising center is much better suited to taking control in the half court with his low-post scoring prowess and prolific rebounding.
He’d get the opportunity to do both as a Buckeye, where the slow pace of the Big Ten and of Thad Matta’s offense would set him up to dominate.
Thomas would also be learning from one of the college game’s best teachers of defense, an area where he could use some improvement at this stage.
Diamond Stone: Indiana
With his well-rounded game and massive build at 6’10”, 250 pounds, Diamond Stone is a great candidate for a one-and-done college career. That being the case, he needs a program that will let him show off all his skills, especially his outstanding low-post scoring ability.
Tom Crean’s Hoosiers provide a great mix of a high-profile program, a proven coach and a roster in desperate need of interior help.
Both Noah Vonleh and Cody Zeller have excelled in brief Indiana careers, and Stone would get every opportunity to do the same.
Stephen Zimmerman: North Carolina
Stephen Zimmerman is a prime example of a finesse center, a skilled ball-handler and shooter who also uses his length to good effect on the glass. He’s not terribly strong for a 7-footer, but he does run the floor exceptionally well.
That last quality is always a major determinant of success at North Carolina, where few big men can keep up with Roy Williams’ warp-speed fast break.
Even on what might still be a crowded front line by the time Zimmerman arrived, he’d have every opportunity to put up eye-popping stats.
Malik Newman: Kentucky
Malik Newman is the best pure scorer in the class of 2015. He’s also a 6’3” shooting guard, and considering that those are pretty much nonexistent at the NBA level, he would do well to find a coach who could help him improve his point guard skills.
Kentucky’s John Calipari has mentored more than his share of shoot-first playmakers. The Wildcats’ phenomenal NBA draft success hasn’t ignored such combo types as Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague, and Newman is a better overall talent than either.
Ivan Rabb: Kentucky
The only thing likely to hurt Ivan Rabb’s NBA draft stock is the fact that he’s on the small side for a power forward at 6’9”. As there’s no college that can solve that problem, Rabb’s best bet is to join the one-and-done parade at the power forward position in Lexington.
Rabb isn’t quite the physical specimen that Julius Randle was last season, but he’s a more polished offensive player and a far better defender.
In the likely event that Trey Lyles spends only one year with the Wildcats, Rabb will be ready to give Kentucky yet another dominant scorer at the 4 position.
Recruiting information courtesy of ESPN.
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