It’s far from uncommon for big men to get a jump on their smaller peers, particularly in terms of underclass rankings, but even with that caveat applied it’s impressive that nine of Scout’s top 15 prospects stand 6-8 or taller.
Both of our top two prospects, Marvin Bagley and Silvio De Sousa, stand out as elite frontcourt talents, and so do Jordan Brown (No. 4), E.J. Montgomery (No. 6), Jalen Smith (No. 8), Bol Bol (No. 11), Nazreon Reid (No. 12), Miles Norris (No. 13) and Simi Shittu (No. 14).
What that means in practical terms is that these big guys already are commanding heavy attention from college coaches despite the fact that they won’t be able to sign a letter of intent until November, 2017.
Moreover, some of the guys lurking just below 6-8 — including No. 3 overall prospect Gerald Liddell — may continue growing and ultimately top the 6-8 mark as well.
While I’m discussing size, however, that height itself doesn’t reveal the entire story with respect to these players. Bagley’s inside-out brilliance differs starkly from someone like Brown, who’s a more conventional — and also highly effective — big man. And that differs from Bol, son of the late Manute Bol and who, like his dad, does by far his best offensive work facing the basket.
History has taught us that coaches will peel off to watch very young big men to a far greater extent than they will guards. In 2013, for example, Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and Roy Williams all watched an 8:00am game in the underclass division to observe then-rising sophomore Harry Giles — who ranked No. 1 in his class then and ranks No. 1 now.
Bagley appears to be headed toward that same trajectory. A magnificently skilled 6-10, he already holds offers from schools such as Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Oregon and others. Players who rank that highly don’t need to count their offers, but the extent to which they attract coaches two classes down the road speaks loudly to their potential value to a college program.
If there’s an early concern about the class, perhaps it’s at point guard. Just three of the top 25 — Darius Garland, Immanuel Quickley and Tre Jones — play that position, one that holds critical importance for the college game.
That being said, point guards tend to be difficult to rank at that age because sometimes the most physically developed guys leap ahead early, only to get flagged down as others improve later. A young big guy always will be big, if nothing else.
There’s a long, long time to go before we write the final chapter on the 2018 class, but now we have our starting point — one that’s promisingly oversized — and a frame of reference going forward.