Class of 2018 College Basketball Recruits Whose Stock Is Soaring

Scott Phillips@@phillipshoopsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2017

Class of 2018 College Basketball Recruits Whose Stock Is Soaring

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    Zion Williamson
    Zion WilliamsonGregory Payan/Associated Press

    With the high school season a good chunk of the way through, there are a lot of high school juniors who are beginning to generate significant buzz based on their play this season.

    Most of these guys entered the season with high-major scholarship offers and high national rankings to begin with, but something has changed during the season that has elevated them to a new status. 

    With the postseason approaching and national grassroots leagues starting up in April, these are some names to keep an eye on as they continue to climb up the national rankings.

     

10. Jake Forrester, Forward

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: A high-motor forward who can get on the glass and make plays around the basket, Jake Forrester didn't have to be anything but a role player for a loaded Westtown team that features multiple high-major players this season. Forrester has always played hard and was able to make some mid-range jumpers, but his skill level needed work.

    What has changed: Because Forrester has so many talented teammates like Mohamed Bamba, Brandon Randolph and Cameron Reddish, he's been viewed a lot by coaches and national evaluators this season. Forrester hasn't disappointed as Indiana stepped up with a scholarship offer during the season. The improved face-up game and active motor makes Forrester an intriguing prospect.

    What is next: If the 6'8" Forrester can continue to improve his perimeter skill level, then it could enable him to be a versatile offensive weapon at the next level. With an ability to hit the glass and potentially space the floor with perimeter shooting, Forrester is the type of forward power conferences are looking for. 

9. Eric Ayala, Guard

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: Already a known commodity after starting in the backcourt alongside 5-star guard Trevon Duval this summer with We R1 in the Under Armour Association, Eric Ayala has started to establish his own name this season. A high-flying guard who is improving his overall guard package, Ayala started the season playing with another talented teammate in Hamidou Diallo

    What has changed: With Diallo leaving the high school ranks early to head to Kentucky, Ayala has adjusted to become a main offensive option while also handling some point guard. Always a gifted scorer, Ayala has looked good so far handling that role, and he's also shown some ability to run some offense. Ayala has turned into a steady combo guard prospect who can be versatile on the perimeter. 

    What is next: Since he can potentially reclassify and enter the Class of 2017, Ayala has been a popular recruiting target for schools that would take him in either 2017 or 2018. Ayala has shown an ability to play with other talented guards, and if he gets even better as a point guard, his stock will improve.

8. Kendric Davis, Point Guard

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    What was expected: After a strong summer in which he showed he could get to the rim and make plays, Kendric Davis demonstrated why TCU made him such a big priority at the beginning of Jamie Dixon's tenure. Although Davis is small at only 5'9", he's jet quick and had good footwork. 

    What has changed: Davis was the biggest national stock riser in the updated Rivals 150 during this high school season as he's been tearing things up in the Texas high school scene at Sam Houston. By proving to be one of the most unstoppable lead guards in the country, Davis has vaulted near the top 50 in some national rankings.

    What is next: Another strong spring and summer on the grassroots circuit would certainly help Davis ascend up the rankings even higher since the class hasn't seen a lot of new impact players over the last few months. Since smaller guards have done well on the college level the last few years, Davis has a chance to be viewed more positively in some regards. 

7. David Singleton, Guard

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: High-major programs on the West Coast were already aware of David Singleton as he had the look of a gifted perimeter player last summer. A combo guard who showed an ability to knock down shots or handle the ball, Singleton found himself as a top-100 prospect entering the season.

    What has changed: Playing with a California powerhouse in Bishop Montgomery, Singleton has been a huge part of a winning program while continuing to show improvement. Pac-12 schools and other powerhouses have started to take interest as Arizona offered recently and USC, UCLA, Washington, Gonzaga and others have been in to see him play.

    What is next: Singleton has good size on the perimeter at 6'4" and that helps him at either position since he can defend multiple spots. If Singleton continues to show more as a playmaker and floor leader, then he could see his stock rise even more since teams are always looking for guys who can handle the ball.

6. Jaylen Hoard, Forward

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    What was expected: A native of France, Jaylen Hoard become a name over last summer as one of the top scorers in the FIBA U17 World Championships. The 6'8" Hoard showed a desire to play college basketball and expanded on those desires by moving to North Carolina for his junior season to play at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point. 

    What has changed: Considered a 5-star prospect entering the season, Hoard is proving himself against American competition as he has shown an ability to score and rebound. With his athleticism and length, Hoard is getting it done and looking like he can be an impact college player. College are also starting to notice Hoard's ability as a lot of schools have been in to see him. 

    What is next: It will be interesting to see what Hoard wants to do in the offseason. Since he hasn't played an offseason on the American grassroots circuit, we'll have to see what Hoard decides to do and what kind of competition he will face. If Hoard can show an improved perimeter jumper, then he could be considered someone who pushes for a top-five spot in the class.

5. Emmitt Williams, Power Forward

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    What was expected: Already possessing a national profile because of his time playing up in the Nike EYBL, , Williams showed that he could be a solid run-and-jump forward at 6'7". A bouncy forward who can make plays around the rim and also block some shots, Williams showed a lot of upside, but he was prone to stretches where he didn't produce.

    What has changed: Playing with IMG Academy has certainly helped Williams this season as 5-star point guard Trevon Duval has given the forward a lot of opportunities for lobs and easy finishes. Playing with a high motor, Williams has also flourished playing alongside a lot of other talented big men, which should help him adjust to the next level. 

    What is next: Williams has the athleticism to be destructive around the basket at the college level and if he can add to his skill level, then it means he can be a potential matchup nightmare going forward. Being a bit undersized, a jumper would help Williams compete against bigger players that he couldn't bang with on the interior.

4. Emmanuel Akot, Forward

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: Talented Canadian wing Emmanuel Akot has exploded on the scene over the last eight months as he's proven his 5-star status over time. Akot entered his junior season with a reputation of having big upside and a lot of versatility while being a plus athlete.

    What has changed: Embracing his 5-star status, Akot has shown well in some big national stages as he's become aggressive as a scorer while filling out other columns of the stat sheet. Scoring has expanded for Akot as he's looked more comfortable shooting the ball. Continuing to rebound and move the ball as well, Akot has a solid overall presence on both ends of the floor. 

    What is next: Down to his final four schools of Arizona, Louisville, Oregon and Utah, Akot is coveted by all four of those programs, and he can come in and be a difference-maker right away. Consistent production on offense and an improved jumper would mean that Akot could play minutes early and be counted on to do some scoring. 

3. Quentin Grimes, Point Guard

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    What was expected: Established as a 4-star prospect and top-40 player, Quentin Grimes was coming off of a very good summer in which he proved he could score the ball and get to the hoop. The 6'4" Grimes was a talented combo guard who could defend multiple spots on the floor, and there was a lot to like about his game.

    What has changed: Putting up big numbers at The Woodlands College Park High School in Texas, Grimes has placed himself into the conversation for 5-star status. Grimes has shown the ability to be a true point guard by averaging just over five assists per game, and his jumper is also getting better. Schools have also come in strong as Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Louisville and Texas have been among the programs involved. 

    What is next: If Grimes can add a consistent perimeter jumper, then he'll have the size, skill and athleticism to be a potential major difference-maker at the next level. Defensively, Grimes has the potential to be a lockdown defender as he has good size for a potential point guard. 

2. Moses Brown, Center

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: "Potential" was the word often thrown around with Moses Brown when he played up on the 17U level this summer in the Under Armour Association with the New Heights. The big man was pushing 5-star status, but he was still figuring out how to play the game and use his size to his advantage. 

    What has changed: Showing more activity, Brown has been producing a lot more on both ends of the floor while also being a better rebounder. With increased mobility, Brown has shown some upside as a rim protector, and he is also expanding his offensive game outside the post. Brown has the look of a 5-star center based on how he has played this season. 

    What is next: Matching up against top national centers and showing that he can still be productive is the next step for Brown as this will be an important summer for him on the grassroots circuit. If Brown can continue to show mobility, it will make him a better defender and allow him to be disruptive all over the floor.

1. Zion Williamson, Forward

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What was expected: Expectations were high for the 5-star prospect entering his junior season. Zion Williamson was already a national recruit after being one of the most productive players in the Adidas Gauntlet. The 6'6" forward combines an ability to attack the rim with explosive leaping ability that enables him to throw down powerful dunks and grab rebounds.

    What has changed: YouTube videos and outrageous stat lines have helped Williamson become a national sensation as he's pushing big man Marvin Bagley for the No. 1 spot in the class of 2018. Williamson's incredible dunks and huge blocks have led to sold-out crowds and people clamoring for a chance to see the aerial show. 

    What is next: Putting up monster stats and posting huge highlights is one thing at the South Carolina high school level, but it is another on the Adidas Gauntlet. Coming off of a grassroots season in which he didn't show much of a perimeter jumper, Williamson expanding his range will be the next step in his development. 

    Recruiting ratings via Scout.comUnless otherwise noted, all quotes and information were obtained firsthand.

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