NCAA Basketball Recruiting 2015: Projected Roles for Top Committed Players
Although there are still plenty of big names up for grabs, the picture for NCAA basketball recruiting 2015 is becoming clearer. Now that some of the best high school prospects have chosen their future college teams, we can start predicting how they’ll fit in with those teams as freshmen.
The latest big name to come off the board is Chase Jeter, a slender power forward who (as of last week) is heading for Duke. The athletic Nevadan has a great chance to be an instant starter for the Blue Devils and not just because Jahlil Okafor will probably be headed to the NBA next spring.
Herein is a look at which Duke veteran might take a backseat to Jeter, along with potential freshman-season scenarios for the rest of the 20 most promising commits in the class of 2015.
Dejounte Murray, Washington
“Savior” may be a role that’s beyond Dejounte Murray’s capabilities, but it’s pretty much what Washington will be looking for when he arrives on campus.
The 2014-15 Huskies have an outstanding point guard—Nigel Williams-Goss, who might well be back for his own junior year—and very little else.
Murray himself (in white) can do a little of everything, and he’s an especially potent defender, thanks to a long-armed 6’5” frame.
The hometown product isn’t a lights-out shooter, but he’s got more scoring potential than anybody on the roster he’ll be joining a year from now.
Chimezie Metu, USC
Chimezie Metu is the kind of big man who tends to be described as a “project,” featuring vast potential but in need of significant improvement before he reaches it. Fittingly, he’s joining a USC program for which the same description is all too appropriate.
Andy Enfield’s nightmarish debut season is likely to be followed by an even uglier one, because most of the players who produced for last year’s Trojans are gone.
Metu, as a result, will be greeted by a roster with minimal low-post talent, leaving him a very good chance to step in as the starting center, while fellow 2015 commit Bennie Boatwright takes over at power forward.
Deng Adel, Louisville
For a rarity, the enormous logjam on the wings that typifies Rick Pitino's rosters looks set to shrink appreciably by the time Deng Adel gets to Louisville.
Longtime starter Wayne Blackshear's graduation leaves incoming 2014 freshman Shaqquan Aaron as the only clear-cut competition for the Cards’ top 2015 recruit.
Aaron is just as athletic as Adel and more polished, so he’s all but a lock to hold the starting job.
In Pitino’s up-tempo system, though, there’s plenty of playing time available for a productive reserve, and that’s a job the versatile Adel looks equipped to handle immediately.
Daniel Giddens, Ohio State
There’s no doubt that Daniel Giddens’ role with the Buckeyes will be to become the next Amir Williams. The only question is whether he’ll start off as the freshman or senior version of OSU’s shot-swatting center.
Like Williams, Giddens is a premier defender and solid rebounder who struggles offensively.
If the Buckeyes add a more well-rounded big man by the time the class is finalized, Giddens will be doing his damage off the bench. As of right now, though, expect him to start immediately and keep Thad Matta’s reputation for stifling defense chugging right along.
Moustapha Diagne, Syracuse
Other than his height (a pedestrian 6’8”), Moustapha Diagne is the prototypical Syracuse center.
Like Baye Moussa Keita and countless others before him, the New Jersey product blocks shots and rebounds with abandon, but he lacks any sort of feel for playing offense.
At this point, it’s anybody’s guess whether DaJuan Coleman—who lost most of his sophomore season to injury—will ever reach his obvious star potential.
If he does, he’ll probably start in 2015-16 with Diagne caddying for him, but otherwise, Diagne is in line to grab the top job at center from day one.
Jalen Adams, UConn
Although he’s very much in the combo-guard category, Jalen Adams is a scorer above all. The 6’2” Massachusetts native loves to attack off the dribble, but his decision-making skills aren’t up to the challenge of running a Division I offense yet.
That being the case, he’s headed for a spot on the bench at UConn, where a wealth of young shooting guards—led by Rodney Purvis and Terrence Samuel—will ensure the presence of at least a couple of veterans ahead of Adams.
Look for the youngster to fill a similar niche to Samuel’s from last year, earning minutes with hustle and defense, while scoring when he gets an occasional touch.
Aaron Holiday, UCLA
Aaron Holiday surprised pretty much nobody by following older brother Jrue’s path to UCLA. Much like the New Orleans Pelicans point guard, he’s an intimidating defender and athlete, but the younger Holiday is a scorer where the elder is a distributor first.
If Isaac Hamilton leaves for the NBA after 2014-15, Holiday is a safe bet to start immediately, either ahead of or alongside Bryce Alford.
If Hamilton’s still around, though, look for coach Steve Alford to stick with the veterans and use Holiday as a spark off the bench, a la the similar Zach LaVine last season.
Jessie Govan, Georgetown
Jessie Govan’s short-term future with the Hoyas depends almost entirely on two other big men: Isaac Copeland and Paul White.
Those incoming 2014 freshmen will be the only meaningful competition for Govan when he arrives on campus, so he’s got a great chance to start unless both of them come on strong next season.
When the New Yorker gets to Georgetown, he’ll bring a polished all-around game, if not one featuring A-plus athleticism.
His terrific hands are a particular bonus in John Thompson III’s intricate Princeton offense, both for fielding passes and for triggering them.
D.J. Williams, Illinois
One of D.J. Williams’ most important jobs at Illinois will be as a symbol of John Groce’s continued ability to keep in-state talent at home.
The small forward follows guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate from Simeon Career Academy (a Chicago powerhouse) to Champaign, providing a great foundation for the longer-term future of the Illini.
On the floor, the 6’7” Williams might be pressed into service as a power forward in a frontcourt that will be thin apart from incoming 2014 freshman Leron Black.
The Illini aren’t exactly loaded at the 3 position, either, so if Groce can cobble together a low-post rotation elsewhere, look for the youngster to stay at SF as an instant starter.
K.J. Lawson, Memphis
K.J. Lawson’s combination of length, scoring punch and speed in transition puts him in a very similar category to current Tigers Nick King and Kuran Iverson.
Unfortunately for him, both of those forwards and probably more will all be around to fight for minutes when the youngster joins his hometown team.
Lawson has a nose for rebounds but needs more bulk in a big way, so a year on the bench might be a boon to his future anyhow. Expect him to play limited but meaningful minutes (probably more so than King did last year) off the pine.
Austin Grandstaff, Ohio State
It’s rare to see Thad Matta recruit anybody who faces questions about his defensive abilities, but Austin Grandstaff is worth the gamble.
A one-man panacea for the Buckeyes’ scuffling offense, the Texan sniper is every bit the three-point threat that past OSU stars David Lighty and William Buford were.
Ohio State's incoming perimeter picture is likely to change between now and Grandstaff’s arrival, but given the personnel currently expected to be on campus, the youngster projects as the starting 2-guard.
With 2014 freshman D’Angelo Russell feeding him and Marc Loving, Ohio State could be headed for its most explosive offense in several seasons.
Charles Matthews, Kentucky
Under John Calipari, Kentucky is building up an impressive lineage of wing players with middling three-point shots but great mid-range games.
To a group that already includes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and James Young, shooting guard Charles Matthews will make a fine addition.
Whether he’ll be a starter, though, depends heavily on what happens to another of his forebears, Aaron Harrison.
If the NCAA tournament hero jumps to the NBA after his sophomore campaign, Matthews will probably step into the top spot on the depth chart, but with Harrison around, the youngster is clearly bound for the second unit.
Luke Kennard, Duke
Great teacher of defense that he is, Mike Krzyzewski has taken more than one chance in his career on a pure shooter who isn’t necessarily up to par on the other end of the floor.
Luke Kennard appears to fit that bill, having earned Ohio’s Mr. Basketball honors for the gaudy point totals he put up last season (mostly from beyond the arc).
As a freshman, Kennard appears destined for the bench, with Rasheed Sulaimon and 2014 freshman Grayson Allen both ahead of him if they both stay in Durham.
In that scenario, he’d get little more than token minutes in his debut season. However, if either of the veterans leaves after 2014-15, Kennard would be in line for a more substantial reserve role, even with the questions about his defensive acumen.
Justin Simon, Arizona
Justin Simon is a pass-first point guard much like current Arizona Wildcats floor leader T.J. McConnell. McConnell’s graduation, though, won’t be enough to lock up a starting spot for the Californian when he gets to Tucson.
Incoming 2014 freshman Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a high-level point guard himself, and at 5’8” he’s prohibitively unlikely to leave early for the NBA.
The 6’5” Simon will be a great defensive change of pace from his diminutive teammate, but he isn’t likely to steal his starting job given that Jackson-Cartwright will have a year of experience in Sean Miller’s offense.
Ray Smith, Arizona
Stanley Johnson, the prize of Arizona’s 2014 recruiting class, is one of the most likely one-and-done prospects in the country. That’s great news for Ray Smith, who has a chance to inherit Johnson’s job as a freshman.
The 6’7” Smith is very nearly as athletic as his presumptive predecessor, though he doesn’t have quite as much raw muscle.
Depending on how Sean Miller opts to shuffle an ultra-deep front line, he could start alongside Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or provide scoring off the bench to offset RHJ’s lack of offensive firepower.
Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
Deyonta Davis is in a position to develop along the lines of a shorter (6’9”) Adreian Payne. The home-state product is a superior defender to most of the big men on the 2014-15 Michigan State Spartans roster, and he can hold his own as a jump-shooter.
The inconsistent showings by the likes of Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski last year bode well for Davis’ chances of grabbing an immediate starting job.
He’ll have more mobility than any of Michigan State’s potential returnees, and he has the energy to scrap with any of them on the offensive glass.
Malachi Richardson, Syracuse
Whether Malachi Richardson starts as a freshman is pretty much up to Trevor Cooney. If Syracuse’s current three-point marksman returns for his senior year, its new one will be backing him up in 2015-16.
If Cooney’s gone, though, Richardson won't represent much of a drop-off at the 2-guard spot. The 6’6” New Jerseyan is (like the veteran) a first-rate defender with a well-developed mid-range game, but the younger guard has significantly better rebounding ability.
Allonzo Trier, Arizona
After two years as a bit of a sideshow in Tucson, dunk contest favorite Gabe York stands to inherit Nick Johnson’s starting job on next year’s Wildcats.
Even a big year from the three-point marksman, though, might not be enough to keep Allonzo Trier from taking over the 2-guard spot as a freshman.
Trier is a monumentally talented scorer, though he lacks York’s touch from beyond the arc. He’s also an iffy defensive presence, and if Sean Miller doesn’t like what he sees on that end of the floor, it will mean a year as a backup for the athletic Maryland native.
Chase Jeter, Duke
After casting against type by recruiting burly Jahlil Okafor, Mike Krzyzewski returns to his usual style of big man with Chase Jeter.
The slender power forward combines 6’10” length with terrific agility (think Amile Jefferson), and if he’s not a Ryan Kelly-type marksman, he brings a strong low-post game in exchange.
In the likely event that Okafor turns pro next spring, Jeter and Jefferson would make an imposing starting frontcourt for the 2015-16 Blue Devils.
The younger big man is also a quality shot-blocking presence, so it’s conceivable that if Okafor does return, Jeter could overtake then-senior Jefferson for the top power forward spot.
Ben Simmons, LSU
From some perpectives, the top prospect in the entire 2015 class, Ben Simmons, per Rivals.com, represents a major coup for LSU coach Johnny Jones. The Australian standout is a do-it-all forward whose size (6’8”, 225 lbs) will let him play either the 3 or the 4 at the college level.
If standout 2013 recruits Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey are both still around for Simmons’ arrival, the newcomer will take over at small forward with the others moving up a spot to power forward and center.
Otherwise, look for Simmons to start off at PF alongside either Martin or Mickey (the latter of whom may wind up as a de facto center next year anyway).