College Basketball Recruiting: Names to Know from the 2016 Class
Under the forward-looking lens of college basketball recruiting, few players are too young to earn notice if they show enough promise. The class of 2016 has barely finished up its sophomore year in high school, but there are already a handful of stars in that group who have set themselves apart as top targets for college coaches to pursue.
One of the best of them has been strutting his stuff this weekend at the Peach Jam, Nike’s championship tournament for its Elite Youth Basketball League. Although he’s playing against class of 2015 EYBL standouts, Malik Monk has been one of the league’s most reliable scorers of any age.
Read on for more on the Arkansas native’s lofty potential, along with nine more of the most eye-catching prospects in early evaluations of college basketball’s 2016 recruits.
In addition to having the second-most memorable name in the recruiting class—yes, there’s someone ahead of him in that category—Seventh Woods boasts the quickest first step among 2016 prospects.
His leaping ability (at 6’1”) is very nearly as impressive, making him a highlight-reel dunker in spite of his short stature.
An improving jump shooter, Woods is a scorer above all. He makes his share of sleight-of-hand passes, but his undeveloped decision-making and leadership abilities have him firmly in the shooting guard category at this stage.
Slender as he is at 6’6” and 180 pounds, Terrance Ferguson has the power to finish at the rim with authority. Even more impressive, he already has a big-time three-point shot to go with his interior game.
In between those ranges, though, the Texan standout could use some work on his ball-handling and rebounding. With his length and athletic ability, though, he’s certainly got time to develop in other areas.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. is a traditional pass-first point guard, but it's with a twist. The 6’1” North Carolina native also has the leaping ability to be an impact dunker, a nice complement to his skill as a penetrator.
Smith’s jump shot isn’t yet up to the level of the rest of his offensive game, but it’s not a disaster, either. Given more experience, he’ll get better at learning when to settle for the easy play instead of trying for the spectacular one quite as often.
One of the few members of the 2016 class competing in the oldest age group of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, Dedric Lawson has proven that he’s ready to play with the veterans.
The 6’8” forward ranked third in the league in rebounding while sharing his team’s scoring lead with older brother K.J. (a class of 2015 Memphis commit).
The younger Lawson has terrific court sense for his age, not to mention a well-developed jump shot. He’s less overwhelming as an athlete than many on this list, but he’s still a fearsome matchup with his mobility and length.
Given that he’s not even a high school junior yet, Udoka Azubuike has astounding size. The 6’10”, 268-pound Floridian isn’t just a big body, though, as he has plenty of speed and leaping ability to go with his mass.
Azubuike does most of his damage as a shot-blocker and rebounder these days, though he’ll get his share of dunks, too. His game is short on polish all-around, but he’s got tools to spare.
The increasing use of multiguard offenses at the college level has ratcheted up demand for mobile big men who can play facing the basket.
That’s great news for Harry Giles, one of the smartest and most skilled power forwards you’re ever likely to find in such a young age group.
Although he’s a fine athlete, Giles is far more notable for his ball-handling and passing abilities, both of which are highly advanced.
He’s also a very good jump shooter, and he’s even a threat with his back to the basket, thanks to excellent footwork in the paint.
Another precocious EYBL star, Malik Monk carried his Arkansas Wings team all the way to the Peach Jam, despite having only one other double-digit scorer to help him.
Of course, he didn’t need much help when he was pouring in 21.1 points a game, the league’s fourth-best total.
Much of that scoring came from beyond the arc, where Monk is one of 2016’s most prolific threats. A deadly scorer off the dribble, the 6’3” Alabama native is also one of the tougher backcourt defenders in the class.
Few small forwards can create their own shots as well, or as efficiently, as Josh Jackson. With his mix of quickness, leaping ability and ball-handling prowess, he’s a constant threat to score, even without an A-plus long-range shot.
Jackson is also a dedicated rebounder and defender, making great use of his 6’6” frame. Like most young players, he could stand to pack some added muscle onto that build (184 pounds these days).
The EYBL’s St. Louis Eagles had little in their favor in 2014 besides Jayson Tatum, but that wasn’t always a problem. Tatum, after all, is a highly skilled 6’7” small forward who can break down defenses off the dribble or with his passing.
Unsurprisingly, though, it’s Tatum’s scoring that attracts attention, as he piled up 18.9 points per game to rank eighth in the EYBL lists. An aggressive defender who grabbed 2.3 steals per game, he’s still learning how to use his size on the glass.
For as long as Kevin Durant is winning NBA MVP awards, being “the next Kevin Durant” is going to be a cottage industry among high-school stars.
Few look the part better than willowy Thon Maker, a 7’0” Virginian with sensational quickness, though another NBA Kevin (Garnett) is really the better comparison.
Like a young KG, Maker is an elite shot-blocking force and rebounder who’s at least as dangerous on the low block as he is facing the basket.
The youngster does have an enviable shooting touch for his size, though his post moves aren’t as polished as some elements of his offensive game.