With that in mind, we queried the Scout national hoops team on the summer’s critical storylines and how they’ll approach the July live period from an analysts’ perspective.
From a broad point of view, what are some primary questions you hope to see answered this month?
Evan Daniels, Director of Recruiting: Can Michael Porter (pictured above), Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba contend with DeAndre Ayton for the top spot in the 2017 class? At this stage Ayton has been the clear cut No. 1 prospect, but these three juniors-to-be have certainly shown they are high-level prospects as well. I’m interested to see if they can take the next step and raise their play to make it difficult when we discuss the top spot in 2017 this fall.
Meanwhile, 12 of the top 25 power forwards in the 2016 recruiting class are already off the board and committed. College coaches are always looking for size, and while seven of the top 10 at this position remain available, the depth at this position isn’t great this cycle. Will some new power forward prospects emerge in the 2016 class who warrant high-major offers?
Who is the top point guard prospect in the 2016 class? It’s currently a close call at the top between Dennis Smith, Kobi Simmons and Frank Jackson, but De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball are on the doorstep and squarely in the mix as well. These five lead guards are all tremendous guard prospects, and any of the five could sit at the pole position at this spot when it’s all said and done.
Brian Snow, National Analyst: One of the major things I want to see is if anyone in the class of 2017 can seriously challenge De'Andre Ayton for the top spot in the rankings.
Right now, Ayton looks like a runaway leader for the No. 1 ranking, but the question is can a guy such as Michael Porter, Wendell Carter, Troy Brown or anyone else show the strides necessary to make it a discussion with Ayton for the No. 1 spot. All of those guys will be playing on big stages this month and have their opportunity, so that is one thing I will definitely be tracking.
Josh Gershon, National Analyst: The 4-15 spots in our 2016 rankings are extremely difficult to slot and could certainly resolve in a number of different ways. Some clarity there would be great. Dennis Smith is probably pretty safe at No. 4 due to his extreme upside, but the rest of that group has areas where you are really excited about what they can be, yet some questions that still need answering before moving them up.
For example, even the guy we have ranked 15th, Chino Hills (Calif.) point guard Lonzo Ball, could be too low on the list, but others have been more present on the spring and summer national circuit while Ball has played in local events with his family's AAU team — which he obviously had every right to do. We'll see him much more in July and get a better feel for how he's progressed over the last few months compared to his peers.
Rob Harrington, National Analyst: I’m highly intrigued by the power forward position. We all know about the point guards, but toward the top of our 2016 rankings there are highly divergent styles competing not only among themselves but who in a way also represent certain paradigms.
Harry Giles (No. 1 overall prospect) and Edrice Adebayo (No. 12, and technically a center but arguably a PF/C) both hail from North Carolina and each brings a power-athleticism style to the floor, but Jonathan Isaac at No. 9 is more of modern, stretch forward. And then you have Dewan Huell at No. 23, who lacks brawn but is a slim, athletic finisher.
Justin Jackson (No. 28) is something of a hybrid and actually can do some wing-worthy things with the ball, while Javin DeLaurier (No. 36) is extremely active and reminds of 1990s forward Jerome Williams, formerly of Georgetown and then the NBA. The contrast in styles will play out on the court and on the sidelines, where college coaches will lean toward those who best fit their style of play.
Who is one underclassmen you believe might break out in the next few weeks?
Brian Snow: For me, two kids come to mind: Kobe King and DaMonte Williams. Now, we got aggressive and ranked both of them very highly in the last update, but I think to a lot of coaches they remain a bit of a mystery. King is one of the most efficient scorers in the country who gets it done at all three levels and is an improving athlete, while Williams is an athletic and tough combo guard who has made huge strides in the last year. I expect both players to have double figure offers by the time August 15 rolls around.
Josh Gershon: I'm going to choose a player already in our Top 20 because I think he's going to prove himself as a Top 10 guy. Ikechukwu Obiagu, a 7-foot, 210-pound center from Decatur (Ga.) Greenforest McCalep Christian, is one of the top shot blockers I've observed at the high school level.
He has the size, length and build of a high-level center, with long arms and wide shoulders, and he's already a pretty strong kid. He's tough, aggressive and completely focused on protecting the rim every single play. I think he has a big July and moves up the rankings even further.
Rob Harrington: This year hasn’t been the most fruitful for him playing up an age division on the EYBL circuit, but sooner than later the light is going to flip on for Dajour Dickens. The Virginia native stands 6-11, boasts impressive athleticism, has very long arms and can make a facing jump shot. He simply needs strength and confidence to prove he can make an impact at the major conference level. Dickens will transfer to Charlottesville (Va.) Miller School for his junior season.
Evan Daniels: Daniel Gafford, an Arkansas native, was one of the breakout performers of the Nike Elite 100 event in mid-June. Gafford had picked up some interest prior to that event, but he didn’t have an offer sheet with double digit high-majors schools as so many of his peers did. I expect that to change after July.
Gafford is a 6-foot-10 center with a 7-2 wingspan. He plays with a motor, rebounds and has some potential on the offensive end as well. He’s my pick for one of the breakout underclassmen in July. Other candidates could be Jordan Poole, Terrence Lewis and, even though he’s already regarded as a five-star prospect, Kevin Knox.
From a purely recruiting point of view, who's a player or players you believe might commit during July, rather than waiting for August or later?
Josh Gershon: I could see 2016 Highland (Utah) Lone Peak point guard Frank Jackson pulling the trigger sooner than later. He recently took visits to Duke and Stanford, his two presumed favorites, and if he's really going to choose one of those two schools then he now has all the information necessary to do it.
Rob Harrington: My guess is that Mamadi Diakite makes a decision by the end of the month. The intel surrounding his recruitment has been that Virginia holds a clear edge, and he preps in Virginia and certainly has received maximum exposure to Tony Bennett’s program.
He and his family have undertaken serious discussions about his ultimate destination, and thus I view him as a very real possibility to make the call over the next few weeks.
Evan Daniels: I’d probably look at Jayson Tatum. He has his list down to Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and St. Louis, but it appears he’s been close to making his college choice for a while and honestly I’m a little surprised he didn’t commit early in the spring.
Brian Snow: I look at Tyus Battle as potentially that guy. Battle has made his official visits and at this point he is just kind of "waiting.” Now, he already committed once and may want to advance through the process as thoroughly as possible this time around, but with him having his list of schools and taken his visits, it wouldn't shock me if he made a decision before the end of the month.
Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this article