Over the past two years, DeAndre Ayton has been touted as arguably the top overall prospect in high school basketball.
There’s stiff competition for that billing and after a so-so summer, Ayton, a 7-foot center prospect out of Phoenix (Ariz.) Hillcrest, raised his play, improved his game and proved himself as the top prospect in 2017 and likely in all of high school ball.
Ayton, who transferred from San Diego (Calif.) Balboa Prep in the fall, has all the physical gifts for an elite center. He has tremendous size, a ridiculous basketball frame with wide shoulders and lengthy arms, plus the athleticism and mobility that you rarely find in a post player of his size.
In multiple viewings this season, Ayton has showed impressive offensive tools. He has good hands, quality touch around the goal and now has added the ability to face up and make jump shots from not only mid-range, but also out to the three-point stripe. When motivated and playing hard, he gets to shots and has the ability to control the backboard from a rebounding standpoint.
There’s still a ways to go and plenty of ways he can improve, including playing hard on a consistent basis, but this is a special prospect and was the easy call for No. 1 in 2017 at this stage.
Although Ayton held on to the No. 1 ranking with relative ease, Mohamed Bamba opened up some eyes during his junior season.
Much like Ayton, Bamba has a ridiculous physical makeup with a 9-foot-6 standing reach and a 7-foot-8 wingspan. He’s mobile, athletic and reacts quickly to plays. Defensively, he’s an elite shot blocker with very good timing and despite his lack of strength rebounds well.
Offensively, he has very good hands and touch. He can make hooks shots, will run the floor looking to easy buckets in transition and is always a threat to catch an oop because of his size, length and athletic ability around the basket.
One noticeable improvement for Bamba has been his motor. This past spring and at times during the summer Bamba would wow you with a play and then go through the motions for half a game. It appears he’s gotten that out of his system and is playing significant harder.
Just after Bamba at No. 3 is Wendell Carter, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound post player that has drawn comparisons to a young Jahlil Okafor.
Like Okafor, Carter is an efficient scorer on the block. He has strong body that allows him to carve out good, low post position. He’s equipped with a host of post moves and is a very good finisher around the basket. Carter, of Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy, is also a very good area rebounder that competes and doesn’t mind physical play.
Carter was the starting center for USA at the FIBA Americas U16 Championships, where he averaged 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
Other Ranking Notes
- Trevon Duval and Michael Porter round the 2017 top five. Although there was shifts and movements in the top five, it consists of the same top five from our post-July 2017 rankings.
- There are three newcomers to the updated top 10. Ikey Obiagu checks in at No. 7. He moves up from No. 11. Hamidou Diallo, who was No. 15 last update, moves up to No. 9. Jeremiah Tilmon jumped from No. 17 up to No. 10.
- The biggest mover on this list is Deng Gak, who went from unranked up to No. 31 overall. Gak, a 6-foot-10 versatile post player, moved to the United States from Australia in the fall.
- There are 18 newcomers to the 2017 rankings. The new names on the list are Gak, David Nickelberry, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Collin Sexton, Brandon Randolph, D'shawn Schwartz, Andre Rafus, Kodye Pugh, Lindell Wiggington, Tristan Clark, Tyler Polley, Chris Duarte, Kellan Grady, Jemarl Baker, Christian David, Jordan Schakel, Alfred Hollins and Kezie Okpala.
- Based on where the players attend high school, California has the most prospects on this with 10. Georgia finished with the second most at nine, while Florida landed eight prospects and Indiana landed seven on the updated list.