The Most Overrated 5-Star CBB Recruits in the 2019 Class

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 6, 2019

The Most Overrated 5-Star CBB Recruits in the 2019 Class

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    LaMelo Ball
    LaMelo BallLiusjenas Kulbis/Associated Press

    When you get to the 5-star level of college basketball recruiting, the notion of being overrated is a relative concept.

    Of course, all of these kids can play. Most—if not all—programs would go to great lengths to land them. But sometimes, the hype seems to shade just a tad beyond the reality.

    We're going to take a look at five players who may not quite be the on-court panacea that fans hope. Are they good? Yes. Great? Maybe not, at least not out of the gate.


    Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

5. Oscar Tshiebwe, Center, No. 24 Overall, West Virgina Commit

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    Oscar Tshiebwe is a perfect fit for West Virginia. He already plays the Mounties' signature brand of ultraintense defense and has the athleticism and stamina for a transition-heavy game. There's also a mean streak around the rim on both sides of the ball, including some ferocious rebounding. What's not to like?

    For one, listed at 6'8" or 6'9", he's a little undersized for a center, even at the college level. And if anyone ever needs him to produce anything that's not a dunk, they could be in for a long wait.

    Don't expect him to make it up at the free-throw line, either. According to RealGM, his free-throw percentage with the Gold Gauntlet AAU team in 2018-19 is only 56.2 percent. 

    "Oscar gives us a force inside," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said of Tshiebwe, per Bryan Messerly of WVUSports. "He is one of the elite high school rebounders in the country, and his body will enable him to rebound at the collegiate level. Oscar is a very hard worker who continues to work at his game, and he will become an elite scorer."

    He'll be a good and, one would imagine, popular player for a program and fanbase that prize hard-nosed play. Against an opponent that knows how to guard him and won't be intimidated, his impact could be diminished.

4. Trendon Watford, Power Forward, No. 27 Overall, Undecided

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    Trendon Watford can score almost at will. That is, unless you make him shoot jump shots.

    It's inevitable that he'll be asked to showcase something at the next level besides that admittedly fierce penetration game. 

    According to a scouting report from NBA Draft Room, Watford "isn't a great three-point or mid-range shooter at this stage of his career." When he faces a zone defense that knows full well who he is, that won't be good. It's something he'll need to improve.

    He's very athletic, but at the top levels of the college game and beyond, scouts question Watford's physical tools—on both sides of the ball. A scouting report from echoed that sentiment:

    "Watford isn't an elite athlete and has fairly heavy feet. His frame is more naturally stocky and his conditioning can be inconsistent at times too. Consequently, he's much more versatile on the offensive end then he is the defensive end, although his tremendous length still covers up for a lot of his other physical deficiencies."

    He's listed at 6'8", and his overall size compensates for what he lacks in skill. Still, according to the ESPN analysis, Watford attempts to play like a stretch forward but isn't quite athletic enough to pull it off.

    "Watford fancies himself a big wing who is capable of playing all five positions on the floor, but he's best at the 4, especially defensively," the report stated.

    The bottom line is that he's not an overly quick player, relying more on strength to finish at the rim, the area where he does most of his scoring. He won't be able to overpower college players the same way.

3. Matthew Hurt, Power Forward, No. 8 Overall, Undecided

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    Matthew Hurt has narrowed his decision down to two schools: Duke and Kansas. That shows you the rarefied air he's in.

    Hurt's shooting ability, combined with his 6'9" frame, makes the Minnesota native a matchup nightmare. He can pass and handle the ball, too.

    There's just one problem, and it's pretty fundamental. He'll be required to bang in the paint, and his wiry build—only 215 pounds—makes him susceptible to getting pushed around.

    His frame and agility could also pose challenges. Covering last year's FIBA U18 Americas Tournament, basketball scouting website The Stepien broke down its impression of Hurt. Most of those takeaways were overwhelmingly positive, but length and athleticism emerged as shortcomings:

    "Lacks elite length, has a 6'9" wingspan and a 8'11" standing reach. Might be a limitation in the NBA in terms of finishing and defending on the interior. Quick for his role as a stretch-four, but might lack the level of quickness and lateral mobility to drive by elite defenders and to cover quicker perimeter players on defense."

    His shooting, no matter where he is on the floor, is outstanding, as you can see in the video. But he may need to spend significant time listening to his strength and conditioning coach if he's going to max out all over the court.

2. James Wiseman, Center, No. 1 Overall, Memphis

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    My word. James Wiseman is absurd. He's the top recruit of 2019 for a reason.

    But found some deficiencies that are salient in this day and age in basketball. 

    It may be unfair to expect the 7'0" center to be an excellent shooter. But a bit of outside touch would certainly be appreciated. As it stands, he's not so great in that department. And he's a downright liability at the stripe.

    On the D1 circuit of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League, Wiseman shot 10 percent from behind the arc and only managed a 59 percent free-throw clip.

    During the EYBL's Peach Jam tournament, his free-throw percentage was a dismal 38 percent.

    In a report from The Stepien, analysts pointed to a general lack of court awareness or intuition. That makes perhaps a bit more sense when recalling that Wiseman is younger than his peers, not turning 18 until April.

    The analysts note what appears to be an imperfect feel for the game and himself: "Feel on both ends has a long way to go, doesn't really use his gifts. For example, his shot-blocking numbers are pedestrian for someone with his type of talent. Not always in right place. Often looks lost on both ends, mechanical in the post, unsure of himself. Tunnel vision in the post."

    If Wiseman is a one-man show for Memphis, that show will get into reruns real fast if he doesn't shore up his stroke and add more polish to his overall game. And whatever he becomes, it may not happen overnight.

1. LaMelo Ball, Point Guard, No. 19 Overall, Undecided

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    You knew this was coming.

    To be fair, LaMelo Ball is so fun to watch. His offensive approach is more reminiscent of Steph Curry than his brother Lonzo. When he's on, he racks up points in bunches, thanks to impressive shot-making and that ridiculous handle. And his 6'5" height is tough to deal with at the 1-slot.

    And now here's the "but." Ball is a little too concerned with the highlight reel, taking low-percentage shots when a higher-percentage opportunity—for a teammate, perhaps—is there for the taking. His defensive effort also seems to blink on and off and isn't amazing even in the best of times.

    There's also that familiar issue of "body language." The position he plays and his high visibility would naturally identify him as a leader. But it's quite the contrary. Scout Mike Schmitz, speaking to Jonathan Givony of, watched Ball at a recent competition and noted some issues on that front:

    "His defensive effort could improve when he's in a more challenging setting, but his lack of interaction with his teammates and coaches was also concerning. He came onto the court a good 10 minutes after his teammates were already warming up, AirPods in, showing little camaraderie with others. He makes those around him better and puts them in position to succeed offensively, but he's not all that vocal on the floor and can work on his body language when his running mates falter."

    As most fans know, it is not even likely Ball will sign with a college, perhaps going to the G League. Or maybe back to Lithuania? That'd be fun. If he did want to sign with a college program, that would be an uphill climb. He wasn't compensated for his time overseas, but it was still a pro club and he did sign with an agent.

    But saying for the sake of discussion that he did, it's possible he'd create more problems than he'd solved.


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