May 6 marked the last day for the top high school seniors to showcase their skills in front of a live audience at the BallIsLife All-American Game in Long Beach, California. The best nationally will now suit up at the collegiate level for their respective programs.
To what should be no surprise, entering the event Kentucky received not only the highest-rated player but yet another five-star and top-10 recruit in Kevin Knox (Tampa). The signing will give the Wildcats their fifth commitment (all five-star recruits) among the top 25 and seventh overall in the top 100 for the class of 2017.
To add fuel to the big blue fire, Kentucky is still yet to receive commitments from unsigned targets Tremont Waters, a former Georgetown talent who recently pulled away from his verbal agreement after the firing of John Thompson, and top-five centerpiece Mo Bamba.
Bamba has the highest potential of any in the class with his shot-blocking ability and paint presence, though hes still very raw offensively. Clearly UK continues to get the picks of the litter, but what will make for one of the more interesting college basketball seasons will be the emergence of many talented players that don’t land in Lexington.
Many will be considered one-and-done prospects as there’s always a couple sprinkled in, but in this class the bulk of them will likely be names that many aren’t familiar with. Here’s a handful of guys that you should keep an eye on. This group is flying under the radar, and none will be playing for Coach Cal in Kentucky:
Mitchell Robinson – Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Tate’s Take: How far back do we have to research to find out the last time a recruit finished in the top-10 as a high school senior and signed to a mid-major school? Mitchell is the equivalent to the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside considering his unimaginable length.
Though Mitchell is a bit offensively challenged in comparison to many of the other recruits, his athleticism is second to none, and perhaps the best among the class. Adding a decent jump shot assisted in boosting his ranking. He was a very good grab for former Mississippi State and fairly new WKU head coach Rick Stansbury.
Trae Young – Oklahoma Sooners
Tate’s Take: Easily the best, most efficient and rangiest shooter among all seniors. Young was the most impressive player at last summer’s Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina before leading his MoKan AAU team to the tournament’s title. Teammate Michael Porter Jr. (a Mizzou recruit) quickly catapulted up the national rankings chart from top-5 to unanimously No. 1 following the tournament’s conclusion.
Credit Porter for his stellar play throughout the event, but it was Young’s creation that helped assist Porter with plays where he could flourish and utilize his maximum skill potential. It was clear that the glue, heart and soul of the team was Trae Young though both shared the co-MVP award.
Many have questioned Young’s lack of athleticism and size as a defensive liability. But there’s no way you average over 42 points per game without something that cannot be taught… heart. Coming off a Final Four berth the season before, OU finished ninth in the Big 12 conference during the regular season after going 5-13 and only winning 11 games overall, post-Buddy Heild.
Don’t won’t be the case in the season approaching as it is clear as to who will own the keys to the city from day one. Drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry (yes, that Stephen Curry) with his shooting abilities will be huge shoes to fill and are a bit premature but Young oozes with confidence, never afraid to let it fly.
M.J. Walker – undecided
Tate’s Take: A big guard from Jonesboro, Georgia where much of Walker’s game reminds me of former Kansas guard Ben McLemore. Walker is strong and has great size. Containing sneaky athleticism, M.J. can easily get to the cup and fend off defenders with his frame. Of the existing teams remaining to land Walker, Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and Kansas are most likely the best fit.
John Petty – Alabama Crimson Tide
Tate’s Take: With so much hype surrounding his future teammate Collin Sexton, Petty won’t stand in the shadows, but instead will assist Sexton in forming one of the most talented backcourts in the SEC, potentially around the country. They could be similar to the combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal after entering their professional careers. Petty is one of the more underrated scorers and two-way players stepping onto any college campus for the first time this fall.
Credit Avery Johnson for landing a very court-savvy product that will play fearless and only add to what the football program has already established: another step in the success direction. As the less-heralded of the two, Petty will shock many in Tuscaloosa on the wing.
Jaren Jackson – Michigan State Spartans
Tate’s Take: Jackson is a true workhorse… just the way head coach Tom Izzo likes it. Jackson began his senior year in the top 35-50 nationally before jumping into the top 25. Since, Jackson has continued to bolster his stock into the top 10 with his nose for chasing down loose balls, true knack for rebounding (especially on the offensive end) and creating opportunities for follow-up, put-back dunks.
As an underrated scorer with his ability to provide high energy, how much more ideal of the prototypical Izzo player can you get? I’m afraid it may be impossible as SpartyNation could be getting a glimpse of a more productive Deyonta Davis, who left MSU just a season ago.
Brandon Randolph – Arizona Wildcats
Tate’s Take: Athleticism and length is written all over Randolph, much like former Florida Gator Corey Brewer. Randolph is one of the top wing players/slashers of his class with his versatility and all around game. Adding Randolph was huge for Arizona head coach Sean Miller but could be an even bigger asset in the event Rawle Alkins returns to school after being evaluated at the NBA draft combine. Alkins and Randolph would promise a potent one-two punch. Allonzo Trier has already vowed to return to the Wildcats.
Randolph is talented but lacks mass. However, he is long enough to find a place on the floor, especially with his ability to defend. Randolph will likely have to sacrifice some scoring opportunities to more experienced and promising talent to be a complementary piece on defense. He will earn his time on the floor with stifling defense and ability to use his arm length to his advantage.
Randolph is coachable and looks to be a very good fit as an elite level talent to fill the void left behind Alkins and Kadeem Allen. Brandon will join former Washington head coach Lorenzno Romar for their debut season in Tucson.
Darius Perry – Louisville Cardinals
Tate’s Take: In the simplest of terms, Darius Perry has the length of a forward in a guard’s body. A rugged winner at every level so far that will do absolutely anything to put W’s in the result column is likely a four-year player for Rick Pitino. As a prototypical UofL recruit, there are few incoming freshmen that will be more hard-nosed than Perry especially on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s not a surprise that Perry committed to Louisville because they recruit similar players regularly with his build and style of play that fit the Louisville system. An infamous Wheeler High (GA) product can get down and dirty with the best of any player listed within the top-150 and is clearly the glue, guts and catalyst for Louisville of the near future. Right on time when replacing Donovan Mitchell to the NBA Draft.
Isaiah Stokes – Florida Gators
Tate’s Take: If the name sounds sounds familiar, it’s because Isaiah’s older brother Jarnell, a former Tennessee Vols standout, was a collegiate and professional success. The younger Stokes possesses an identical build with a massive lower body, making it tough for the opposition to defend and get around defensively. If that isn’t enough, Stokes plays well beneath and above the rim, equally, despite his bold stature.
Florida picked up a frontcourt load, and he’s expected to be an ideal fit to provide some much-needed balance to a team that likes to get out into transition and pick up in full court on defense. Using his body to his advantage may be the one area that makes Stokes so special. It may take a year or two, but if head coach Chris White somehow finds a way to implement Isaiah into the rotation early, he’ll make defenders pay with his ability to take advantage. Stokes is an underrated passer out of the paint that doesn’t get rattled easily regardless of the game’s intensity and pace. After just a couple seasons in Gainesville, Stokes should elevate his game and will be considered a hot commodity that could start anywhere in the country.
Isaiah Washington – Minnesota Golden Gophers
Tate’s Take: Richard Pitino made a huge splash with this get and will likely prove so from day one at the point guard position. The typical New York city point guard has bumped up into the rankings as of late after displaying a playground-like game that will translate to the college game. I’m still unsure if the Gophers are the “perfect fit” for Washington but there will be no denying him as a single fast-break starter.
Washington can easily breakdown defenses and has a high enough IQ knowing exactly what it takes to get his teammates involved as an elite passer. Washington is not only the highest rated recruit but also the best recruit of the Pitino era for years to come during his tenure in the twin cities.
Jeremiah Tilmon – Missouri Tigers
Tate’s Take: Much like a Tristan Thompson/LaMarcus Aldridge type of player, Tilmon holds some value that cannot easily be found throughout the class after Jaren Jackson and Brandon McCoy. Tilmon’s mobility and efficiency makes him a hot commodity. Tilmon’s commitment may be the last that we will hear along with Brian Bowen, who is also undecided. A package deal could be on the table if Bowen follows Tilmon to Tiger Town.
Notable others (next 5):
Jordan Usher – Southern Cal Trojans
Nojel Eastern – Purdue Boilermakers
Savion Flagg – Texas A&M Aggies
Khalil Garland – Arkansas Razorbacks
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State Cyclones