July Eval Period: Major Storylines

After a busy July watching the top players in the country at places like North Augusta, Ga., Duncanville, Tex., Atlanta, Ga., and Las Vegas, Scout takes a look at the biggest storylines from the month. Who raised their stock? Who were the top performers?

2016 CLASS IS ELITE

The Scout basketball recruiting team has had numerous conversations about the quality of players in the 2016 recruiting class. As the players in the class have gotten older and matured on the court, ranking the class, especially at the top, gets harder and harder. I started with Scout full time in July of 2007 and this is the best crop of players I’ve scouted. Now the 2007 group turned out tremendous and I didn’t get to follow those guys through the course of their career, so it’s tough to fully compare them. What’s cool about this 2016 class is new players keep stepping up and making their case. At Peach Jam, it was Jonathan Isaac, Miles Bridges and De’Aaron Fox. At adidas Uprising it was Jarrett Allen and Wenyen Gabriel. At the UA Finals, Markelle Fultz and Terrance Ferguson proved their elite status. At the Las Vegas events, Malik Monk stepped up his play. During my flight home from Las Vegas I began going over our depth charts, as our rankings are in need of updating following the evaluation periods, and I counted 22 players that could make a case for a spot in Scout’s 2016 top 10. Fitting 22 players into 10 spots won’t be an easy task.

WILL GILES HOLD ON TO NO. 1?

Now that you know my feelings about the 2016 class, the next question centers around the No. 1 position. It’s been well documented that I’ve long thought that the current top three players – Harry Giles, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum – had separated themselves from the pack. But now, players like De’Aaron Fox and the new, improved Thon Maker have emerged into that category. One college coach even told Scout in Las Vegas that they thought Fox could very well be the best pro prospect in the class. And depending on who you talk to, some would even put guys like Jonathan Isaac, Miles Bridges, Jarrett Allen and Marques Bolden in the conversation. Regardless, I think each of the aforementioned five players bring a different value to the table. At 6-10, Giles is an athletic, tough and versatile forward prospect that’s tracking as a future pro and NBA all-star. You can’t go wrong with him at the pole position, but he’s going to have to hold off some strong contenders over the next eight months.

STOCK RISERS

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Wenyen Gabriel emerges in July
One of the exciting things about the month of July is watching new players and even ones you are familiar with raise their stock and their play on a big stage with college coaches tracking their every move. Wenyen Gabriel and Andrew Jones raised their stock, in my eyes, more than anyone. This time last year Gabriel stood 6-7. He grew to 6-9 and took July by storm with his active and aggressive style. His play during the month earned him offers from the nation’s elite like Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Duke. Jones was a different story. In the spring, he was coming off an injury and admittedly wasn’t at 100-percent. But he emerged at Peach Jam and had my phone blowing up with text messages about his game during the opening day. Jones, a 6-4 athletic and fast guard, kept it going the rest of July and now has his pick of high-major schools.

A couple of other stock risers include Charlie Moore, Jalen McDaniels, Tyson Carter and Makai Ashton-Langford. While Moore has been on the scene for some time, he continues to improve. He’s quick, tough, a strong ball handler and major threat from the perimeter. McDaniels, a 6-foot-9 forward, is playing with more confidence. He’s mobile, athletic, long, has very good touch and can even make jump shots. Carter emerged at NY2LA and then built on that performance at the adidas Summer Championship. The wiry guard is skilled and is a strong shooter from three. Ashton-Langford, who played on Mass Rivals with Gabriel, will make his debut in Scout’s 2017 rankings when they are updated. At 6-2, he plays at a great pace, lives in the paint and has a knack for scoring around the rim.

TOP PERFORMERS

Based on what I saw, the five guys that stood out to me as the top performers of July were De’Aaron Fox, Miles Bridges, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum and Trevon Duval. Fox and Bridges were spectacular in Las Vegas and at the Nike Peach Jam and both have earned significant bumps from their current Scout rankings. Fultz has turned into an elite scorer, but his passing and playmaking is much better than I realized. Tatum, who committed to Duke during July, had it working at the Peach Jam and led the St. Louis Eagles to the championship game. Duval, a 6-3 lead guard, was dynamic all month with We R 1. He’s quick, tough, crafty with the ball, is a very good passer and is a terrific tough, lay-up maker. Duval is the best point guard in the 2017 class.

GETTING TO THE POINT

There’s been a battle brewing for the top spot at the point guard position for quite some time and the options are tremendous. Entering July, Dennis Smith sat at No. 1. But De’Aaron Fox is primed to make a move from outside the overall top 10 and up to the top of the point guard list. Fox had the best performance I saw this summer when he went for 35 points and dominated a game during the Las Vegas Classic. Fox has very good size, athleticism and speed for the position. His jump shot has turned into a weapon and he’s incredibly comfortable shooting off the dribble. With all that said, Smith certainly had his moments this summer. He’s a tremendous long-term prospect with his combination of athleticism, speed, creativity and shot making ability. Frank Jackson, Lonzo Ball and Kobi Simmons are also in the conversation. Jackson is strong, tough, sneaky fast and one of the best shooters in the 2016 class. Ball has impressive vision and is a ridiculous passer with great size for the position at 6-5. Much like these other guards, Simmons has good size at 6-4 and is gifted athletically. He’s especially effective when he’s able to get out in transition and push the tempo.

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