College Basketball Recruiting: Stock Watch for Every 5-Star Player in 2015 Class
College hoops may be months away, but the college basketball recruiting season is in full swing, thanks to a combination of AAU leagues and summer tournaments.
The top prospects in the class of 2015—high school’s rising seniors—have been looking to impress coaches in such high-powered competitions as Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) or the Under-18 FIBA Championships taking place this week in Colorado.
One star who has taken full advantage of the big stage is New York-based center Cheick Diallo. The shot-blocking dynamo established himself as one of the best all-around performers in the spring EYBL season, guaranteeing he’ll be a name to watch even in a class loaded with low-post talent.
Read on for more on Diallo’s terrific spring, along with updates on the latest exploits of every 5-star prospect in ESPN’s rankings for the class of 2015.
31. Luke Kennard
Duke fans are getting quite a preview of coming attractions at the FIBA U18 Championships this week.
2014 Blue Devil signees Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow are filling up stat sheets for Team USA, while the roster’s top scorer has been 2015 commit Luke Kennard.
The Ohio-born marksman has hit nine of his 17 three-point tries in two blowout wins as of this writing, averaging 19 points per contest overall. He’s also looked sharp as a defender, grabbing four steals in early action.
30. Charles Matthews
Charles Matthews was among the bigger disappointments of the EYBL season, and it's not just because he missed the last two sessions with assorted injuries.
Even when Matthews was on the floor for MeanStreets, he struggled badly on offense, scoring just 11.1 points per game and shooting all of .392 from the field.
The Kentucky commit has reportedly looked solid at the NBPA’s Top 100 camp, but he’s already lost plenty of ground as other scoring stars have emerged in the 2015 ranks.
There’s ample time for Matthews’ impressive shooting stroke to help him reascend the class hierarchy, but he’s got some catching up to do.
29. P.J. Dozier
The last thing any high school athlete wants is to suffer a serious knee injury. Following surgery, however, there’s nowhere to go but up for a prospect such as P.J. Dozier.
As Rivals.com notes, the South Carolina native is looking sharp at the NBPA camp, as he faces his toughest competition since the operation.
Missing the spring AAU circuit didn’t help him any, but at least things are finally moving in the right direction for the versatile guard.
28. D.J. Hogg
D.J. Hogg endured an unremarkable season in EYBL action, shooting the ball well but hardly putting up the kind of point totals a scorer needs in order to be noticed. However, Hogg’s off-court buzz has more than made up for that nondescript showing.
The Plano native made headlines recently with the possibility of a recruiting package in which his college choice would be tied to that of highly touted teammate Tyler Davis.
The celebrated center, who plays both AAU and high school ball with Hogg, has ample clout to raise his wingman’s recruiting profile with programs that might not pursue another perimeter shooter otherwise.
Stock: Riding upward
27. Derrick Jones
Derrick Jones turned in some strong performances in late-spring All-Star contests near his Philadelphia home. Now he’s doubling down by piling up good reviews at the NBPA camp.
The 6’6” forward had garnered attention mostly for his raw athleticism, but he’s impressed some scouts as an improved shooter, too.
Adding any kind of half-court game to his devastating fast-break finishing ability will really elevate his appeal for top-tier programs.
26. Ray Smith
Athletic small forward Ray Smith didn’t do much to wow coaches with his Adidas Uprising performance this spring.
Overshadowed by teammates Chase Jeter and Tyler Dorsey, the hardworking Smith played his usual potent defense but put up middling numbers otherwise.
Fortunately for him, the Las Vegas product got a second chance at the NBPA Top 100 camp, where he flashed the improving jump shot that had deserted him in AAU ball (.244 from deep).
If his smoother stroke stays with him through the fall, he’ll climb appreciably in the rankings, thanks to a scarcity of elite jump shooters in this class.
25. Georgios Papagiannis
D.C.-based AAU squad Team Takeover isn’t exactly hurting for size, even by the high standard of EYBL rosters. Still, the lack of production from towering center Georgios Papagiannis has to raise some eyebrows.
The 7’1” Pennsylvanian managed a paltry 8.1 points a game this spring, though he did put up solid numbers elsewhere (6.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest).
Add in his feast-or-famine tendencies—a two-point game followed by a 14-point outing—and college coaches have good reason to worry about the slow-footed big man’s ability to sustain a high level of play.
24. Tyler Dorsey
It’s hard to fault Tyler Dorsey for doing what his team needs him to do.
Still, if he’d shown more playmaking ability and less scoring for his Dream Vision AAU team—which already has a high-level point guard in Paris Austin—he would’ve done more for his recruiting stock.
As it is, the 6’4” combo guard is still primarily a scorer, though he’s definitely a prolific one.
He averaged 17.4 points a game against solid Adidas Uprising competition, and his .387 three-point shooting made him one of the few snipers on this list to live up to his billing.
Stock: Creeping up
23. Justin Simon
Point guards, more than any other position, are judged on winning games. Justin Simon didn’t do a whole lot of that this spring, as his Game Point AAU squad finished a disappointing 7-9 in Adidas Uprising play.
Simon didn’t do much better in the individual-stat realm, averaging a quiet 11.6 points and 4.0 assists per game. The Arizona commit even struggled from the foul line, shooting an ugly .633 over 16 games.
22. Jalen Brunson
The class of 2015 is supposed to be a letdown when it comes to the point guard spot but don’t tell that to Jalen Brunson.
The Illinois native has played sensationally for Team USA at the U18 Championships, outshining even teammate (and ballyhooed 2014 Duke signee) Tyus Jones.
Brunson has played the most minutes of anyone on the American roster through two games, handing out 7.0 assists per contest in the process. He’s also looked sharp as a scorer, shooting 6-of-7 from two-point range and draining 40 percent of his treys.
21. Tyler Davis
Tyler Davis could hardly be blamed for showing some rust in this spring’s EYBL action. The Texas big man had lost a full year of game action to a combination of injuries and a school transfer that had him sitting out his junior year at Plano West.
In that context, his middle-of-the-road performance (13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game) seems a bit more encouraging. Still, he won’t get many more free passes to look mediocre before it starts catching up with his ranking.
20. Isaiah Briscoe
At 6’3”, Isaiah Briscoe faces significant concerns about his size for the 2-guard spot in Division I. If there had been any concerns about his toughness, his fast start at the U18 Championships would have put them securely to rest.
Briscoe’s 7.0 rebounds-per-game average is tied for the Team USA lead with the likes of 6’10” Chase Jeter (and ahead of Texas-bound 7-footer Myles Turner).
He hasn’t found his groove as a scorer so readily—he’s averaged 7.0 points per contest—but he’s still putting in an impressive tournament against high-level competition.
19. Allonzo Trier
Any encore Allonzo Trier might have offered to his record-setting EYBL season was bound to be a letdown. Even so, the Oklahoma native is making it clear that his 29.4 point-per-game performance for Athletes First was far from a fluke.
On a stacked Team USA squad at the U18 Championships, Trier is averaging a solid 14 points per contest in the early goings. That figure includes the best foul-shooting effort of any American, an eye-catching 11-of-13 performance from the stripe.
18. Deyonta Davis
Deyonta Davis’ Spiece Indy Heat squad faltered badly after a hot start in EYBL play this spring. Davis himself, though, showed more consistency, finishing as the No. 6 rebounder in that size-laden field.
The Michigan State commit didn’t hurt himself any as a scorer, either, posting 16.1 points to go with his 8.9 rebounds per game.
Although he’s still giving up height (at 6’9”) to many of the post prospects ahead of him in the rankings, don’t be surprised to see him climb the charts in the months ahead.
17. Caleb Swanigan
This spring’s EYBL field was stacked with star post players from around the country, and none of them dominated like Caleb Swanigan. At 12.1 boards per game, the 6’8”, 275-pound Swanigan was over a full rebound ahead of his closest competitors.
Swanigan was nearly as unstoppable as a scorer, pouring in 18.5 points a contest (10th-best in the field). His consistent excellence over a 16-game schedule did a lot to allay concerns about his endurance in up-tempo action.
16. Antonio Blakeney
Antonio Blakeney’s tremendous EYBL performance wasn’t without its flaws. Most notably, the Floridian was erratic from long range, shooting an unimpressive .303.
However, even with his jumper in less-than-top form, Blakeney poured in an eye-catching 19.5 points per game, outpacing even his celebrated teammate Ben Simmons.
He’s still not quite the scariest 2-guard option in the class of 2015, but he’s certainly moving toward the top of the list.
15. Malachi Richardson
The most impressive part about Malachi Richardson’s EYBL performance was the teammates he had (or didn’t have).
As the leading scorer on a roster that had three starters averaging single digits, Richardson and his 17.4 points per game still managed to carry Team Final to a gaudy 14-2 record.
The Syracuse commit also impressed in other areas, using his 6’6” frame to grab 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest.
The only real concern—a common one in this year’s field—was his iffy long-range shooting performance, as he hit just 25 of 79 tries (.316).
14. Carlton Bragg
Carlton Bragg was already having an impressive spring before the NBPA’s Top 100 camp started. The 6’9” forward lit it up in Adidas Uprising AAU action, averaging the most rebounds in the field (by a healthy margin) at 8.9 per game.
On Friday, though, the Ohioan blew up in NBPA play, to the tune of a 36-point, 14-rebound showcase. Few big men of any skill level have done more lately to improve their standing with college coaches.
13. Chase Jeter
A last-minute addition to Team USA at the U18 Championships, Chase Jeter is making the most of his opportunity. The lanky Nevadan is tied for the lead on the towering American roster with 7.0 rebounds per game.
Jeter hasn’t done too badly on offense, either, scoring 12 points per contest. That said, he’s also got room for improvement after compiling six fouls and zero blocks in his first two outings.
Stock: Gaining Ground
12. Brandon Ingram
Combo forward Brandon Ingram appeals to college coaches as the type of offensive weapon who can take over a game.
That skill set was definitely on display in Adidas Uprising play, where he led an otherwise scoring-poor Stackhouse Elite squad to a 12-4 record.
Ingram’s 17.9 points per game included an enviable .814 foul-shooting performance, one area in which the youngster is well ahead of many of his frontcourt peers.
Now if he could just get the same kind of touch on his treys (.284 on 67 attempts), he’d really have something.
Stock: Inching Up
11. Skal Labissiere
Just as the recruiting spotlight is finding prospects at younger and younger ages, so are the injuries that come with top-level basketball.
Skal Labissiere is still recovering from his latest health problem, a stress fracture in his back that cost him most of his junior year at Memphis’ Evangelical Christian School.
The lanky shot-blocker made it onto the floor at the NBPA Top 100 camp but acknowledged that he’s still not all the way back from the injury.
Of course, considering the defense he was playing while favoring his back—including better than one block per game in the early stages of the camp—he’s going to be awfully intimidating once he’s fully healthy again.
10. Thomas Bryant
While teammate Cheick Diallo incandesced in EYBL play, Thomas Bryant faded. The gutty power forward never made it out of Diallo’s shadow, averaging just 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Bryant’s tendency to defer to more prominent teammates has kept him from getting the kind of hype his 6’10” frame and outstanding mobility would otherwise warrant.
Another quiet AAU season just perpetuates the problem, leaving him likely to drop that much further on the national radar.
9. Elijah Thomas
No news is bad news when it applies to a hot prospect trying to keep his recruiting profile high. That’s the situation frustrating Elijah Thomas, whose injured hand has kept him off the court since April.
With no spring AAU season and no NBPA Top 100 camp to help him out, Thomas can’t help but fall behind the big men who are healthy and out on the floor, wowing the coaches.
Once he recovers, his 6’9”, 250-pound bulk and considerable scoring punch will reassert themselves, but right now he’s losing ground by standing still.
8. Jaylen Brown
No member of the class of 2015 faced a tougher task at the U18 Championships than Jaylen Brown. The Georgia native has not one but two superstar 2014 recruits, Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow, ahead of him at the small forward spot for Team USA.
Unfortunately for Brown, that logjam has predictably resulted in a complete lack of playing time, as he’s appeared for a total of just nine minutes in the first two games.
As long as he’s sitting on the bench, his prodigious athleticism and top-notch defense—attributes he shares with both Johnson and Winslow—won’t do him any good.
7. Cheick Diallo
Cheick Diallo averaged 18.6 points per game in EYBL play this season and hardly anyone noticed.
That’s a measure of how overpowering the Malian import was on the other end of the floor, a dominance that started with the second-best rebounding performance in the field (10.9 boards a game).
Diallo controlled the paint better than any other EYBL center, piling up 2.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per contest. He’s giving every indication of being a game-changer at the next level, even if he is “only” 6’9”.
6. Stephen Zimmerman
Team USA’s front line at the U18 Championships is a crowded one, and Stephen Zimmerman has been very much in the middle of that pack. The 7-footer has posted respectable averages of 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game through his first two contests.
Considering that he’s fighting for minutes with one of the top big men in the class of 2014 (Myles Turner), Zimmerman deserves credit for staying relevant on this roster.
At the same time, he’s not dazzling the way some of his backcourt classmates are doing in the Americans’ overpowering start.
5. Henry Ellenson
The 6’10” bruiser has overtaken plenty of highly regarded post players, thanks to his shooting touch and his hustle.
Both assets were on display in EYBL action, even if his Playground Elite squad was often overmatched in a 7-9 finish.
Ellenson himself played brilliantly, finishing with 18 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to underscore the legitimacy of his sudden rise to stardom.
4. Diamond Stone
Under Armour’s Association didn’t have the overall talent level of some other AAU leagues this year, but that fact can only go so far to dilute the accomplishments of Diamond Stone.
The 6’10” Wisconsin native lapped the field when it came to putting up absurd numbers in the spring season.
Stone ranked as the league’s second-best scorer at 24.8 points a game while leading everyone in rebounding (11.0 boards) and blocks (4.3 rejections) per contest. It’s hard to imagine what else he might have done to help himself more this spring.
3. Malik Newman
This year wasn’t an easy one for a scorer hoping to stand out in EYBL play, but Malik Newman still accomplished that feat. The 6’3” Mississippian averaged 22.5 points per game to place second in the field (albeit a distant second behind Allonzo Trier).
Newman would have turned in an even more impressive spring if it weren’t for one awful shooting game against the Cheick Diallo-fueled Team SCAN Cardinals defense.
Take that 1-of-15, five-point showing off his ledger and his average leaps to 24.1 points per game, while his three-point accuracy improves from .299 to .325.
Stock: Treading Water
2. Ben Simmons
The only reason LSU commit Ben Simmons hasn’t helped himself more than he has this spring is that he’d already set the bar so high.
The Australian star has been his usual sensational self in both EYBL and NBPA Top 100 action, but he hasn’t revealed any major changes to his game.
He’s still a combo-forward type who can score with anybody (19.4 points per game in the EYBL) but isn’t an overpowering rebounder.
He also remains one of the class’ most versatile offensive options, with the skill to handle the ball on the perimeter and even play some point forward (3.0 assists per game in EYBL action).
1. Ivan Rabb
Ivan Rabb certainly played well during this spring’s EYBL season. He just didn’t play like a prospect setting himself apart from the field as the No. 1 recruit in the country.
Rabb averaged 15.2 points, 9.9 rebounds (fourth-best in the league) and 1.2 blocks per game alongside Stephen Zimmerman in the Oakland Soldiers' frontcourt.
It’s not a showing that will blow anybody away given the Californian’s already significant hype, but it won’t hurt him appreciably, either.
Stock: Holding Steady