Big men dominate Ultimate 100

In the course of compiling our Ultimate 100 rankings for all players, regardless of class, we never discussed the numbers by position.

Thus, when we completed the list and realized that 43 of the top 100 slot at either the four or five spot, the results became a revelation.

That number includes overall No. 1 DeAndre Ayton, of course, the phenomenal sophomore center from the Bahamas. Ayton might be the best prospect on the list, but he certainly faces stiff competition.

Lurking close behind at No. 2, junior power forward Harry Giles (pictured above) very well could become the best player to emerge from the high school ranks in the 2015-18 classes. Giles has returned to full health since injuring his knee in 2013 and has enjoyed a banner season at High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan.

Don’t be surprised if both Ayton and Giles become very high NBA draft picks in 2017 and 2018, respectively. With the size, skills and athleticism they possess, elevating them so high on this list proved fairly easy.

The frontcourt hierarchy becomes more complex after the top two. Our Nos. 7-10 all are big men: Skal Labissiere (2015), Marvin Bagley (2018), Diamond Stone (2015) and Ivan Rabb (2015).

At No. 7, Labissiere actually might be a tad low on this list

There’s certainly a great deal of projection involved when assessing the long-term fortunes of a freshman like Bagley, but it’s a testament to his promise that he’d register on this list at all. In fact, he and another power forward, E.J. Montgomery (No. 21 overall), are the only two freshmen to earn a spot in the top 100.

Elsewhere in the overall top 25, big men who cracked that elitist of elite range include Thon Maker (No. 13), Zach Brown (No. 16), Henry Ellenson (No. 17), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 20), Wendell Carter (no. 22) and Jeremiah Tilmon (No. 25).

All settled, that’s 13 of the top 25, so more than half of the ultra-alpha dogs in high school basketball project long-term to play in the frontcourt. Because the NBA loves to draft players with size, this means the college game should benefit from the influx of gifted big men yet not enjoy their services for long. Many of the players on this list — and the great majority in the overall top 25 — likely will be one-year collegiate performers.

The distribution actually is somewhat uneven at the top of the charts. Five of the top 13 big men are seniors, as you’d expect given that those prospects are more proven. Moreover, junior center Thon Maker appears likely to reclass into the senior crop as well.

Including Maker for the time being, the junior class contributed only two of the top 13 (he and Giles), while the sophomores boast four of that elite 13 and the freshmen two.

It’s odd in a way, because the 2016 class has become heralded for its crop of centers, but they primarily show up in the back half of the Ultimate 100. Along with that, the power forward spot in the junior class looks weak, so it’s not that surprising that the juniors are less represented than typically might be the case.

But another thought intrudes as we probe the analysis. At least in part, young big men receive far greater credit than young guards. Rankings for sophomores or freshmen tend to feature taller players, and the average height drops therefore as players become upperclassmen.

For that reason, then, it’s likely that the Ultimate 100 always will look bigger than the senior top 100, for example. Even so, one can’t casually dismiss the obvious star talent possessed by Ayton — and both the senior and junior classes both boast a strong overall frontcourt crop. Still, it’s a factor worth remembering as you peruse the list.

On the whole, we’d advise against taking these rankings too literally, because comparing players across classes and positions is far more nebulous than going down the line at a given position, in a given class. But we had a lot of fun doing it and hope you’ve enjoyed the listing as well.

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