Best of Louisiana Basketball: Class of 2017

TSD publisher Ben Love scoured the state for Louisiana's best basketball talent in 2017. Check out his in-state rankings and what local coaches had to say about the best sophomores on the bayou.

As loaded as the Class of 2016 is in Louisiana, the fun doesn’t stop there when it comes to identifying talented college basketball prospects in the state.

Evaluating and ranking kids that are only sophomores becomes a little more difficult as you’re still getting to know them, their games (and in some cases trying to track down pictures of them, as you’ll see below). Still, talent is talent, and it’s obvious that a select few players stand out above the rest.

Below is my ranking of the top five players in the Class of 2017 along with quotes from anonymous high school coaches from across the state. No coach is quoted speaking about his own player, either, giving a nice, objective viewpoint as well as a perspective of trying to coach against the players, in many cases.

Enjoy, and check out additional links for some of the prospects to get a more in-depth report on their recruiting processes.

NO. 1 – Josh Anderson

At 6-foot-4 and 174 pounds, Anderson is definitely on the leaner side, but there’s nothing skimpy about the way he scores the basketball. On any given night the Madison Prep youngster can outscore 2015 four-star Brandon Sampson, a St. John’s (NY) commit, and it comes as a shock to nobody. Anderson scored 27 against St. Michael (Baton Rouge) and Jacob Evans to tip off the season, 26 in the Lighthouse Classic versus Callaway (MS) and Malik Newman and, most recently, 25 against Southern Lab to clinch another district title for the Chargers. He’s receiving interest from a number of college programs, including LSU, Richmond, St. John’s and USC.

CLICK HERE to read my profile on Anderson as the state’s top player in TSD’s initial 2017 class rankings.

---------------------------

NO. 2 – Brandon Rachal

He’s got a body and mindset perfectly geared to be a lockdown perimeter defender for a long time into the future. Rachal, 6-foot-4.5 and 200 pounds, has offensive chops, but early in his high school career at Natchitoches Central he’s carved a niche as arguably the best on-ball wing defender in the state. He held heralded 2015 prospect Chad Lott scoreless in a matchup last season, when as a freshman Rachal also helped lead the Chiefs to the 5A state championship. He plays alongside three older guys that colleges are also keen on – 2015 guard Danny Cohen and 2016 forwards Cameron Lard, TSD’s top player in the state for 2016, and Austin Guy. Still, Rachal, who’s hearing from LSU, Kansas State, Stanford and Vanderbilt, finds a way to stand out when you watch him. There’s an awful lot to build on with his size and game.

Coach's Take

“His coach, Coach [Micah] Coleman, has done a great job with him using his versatility. He plays a little one, a little two. Rachal is always going to guard the best offensive player on the other team, and he makes plays. He’s just a playmaker. Nothing about him really wows you. He’s not an over-the-top athlete, but he is athletic. He’s strong. He’s tough, and he has a good body and frame. I also think he has a very high basketball IQ. It’s obvious he’s always played with older kids. He didn’t play like a freshman last year. Last year he played like a junior on a state championship team. He’s a good offensive player, but defense right now is where he’s better. He’s an outstanding defender. And, look, if you’ve got a kid that can play defense now-a-days, that’s a major plus.”

TSD Story Links

VIDEO: Brandon Rachal hearing from LSU (Jan. 2015)
Hail to the Chiefs (June 2014)

---------------------------

NO. 3 – Cedric Russell

A fantastic ball-handler with an even better jumper from mid-range to deep, Russell is an absolute handful to match up with defensively. The Peabody point guard, 6-foot-2 and 159 pounds, isn’t a crazy athlete, just a highly skilled and knowledgeable basketball player. When watching him at a Combine last fall, one observing coach said of Russell, “The things he can do with the basketball in his hands are just unbelievable.” Colleges agree and have taken notice. Russell is firmly committed to LSU already, the only current 2017 pledge for the Tigers, but he’s also hearing from the likes of Florida, Texas A&M, UCLA and Vanderbilt. Don’t be surprised if the Central Louisiana battle between Rachal and Russell goes back and forth a few times over the next two years.

Coach's Take

“His biggest strength is obviously his catch-and-shoot. He can catch and shoot with the best of ‘em. If you let him get going and hit one or two, he might hit five or six. You can’t let him catch and shoot or he will really hurt you. Whenever we play him, we’re trying to rush him off the line and not let him catch it. Blowing by people is not his biggest strength at this point, but if he runs off screens, he will light you up. I’m also not sure how big he’ll end up being as he continues to grow. He’s committed to LSU, but I’m not sure whether he’ll end up as a one at LSU. He could do it, but if he keeps growing he can be a legit two and be really, really good at LSU.”

TSD Story Links

VIDEO: LSU commit Cedric Russell talks recruiting (Sept. 2014)
Peabody’s Russell commits to LSU (Sept. 2014)

---------------------------

NO. 4 – Galen Alexander

A real up-and-comer in Louisiana, Alexander is making some noise and a name for himself at Breaux Bridge High School. Standing almost 6-foot-6 and weighing 204 pounds, Alexander plays a versatile game, described by one local coach as “a face-up 3/4.” He’s got long arms, also put to use as a wide receiver on the football team, helping him score and rebound the ball at will. While he operates a good bit in the post and from mid-range on the high school level, Alexander probably projects as a wing once he gets to college. He’s hearing plenty from Houston and just this week picked up his first offer, from in-state school Tulane.

Coach's Take

“He’s definitely one of the top players in his class. He can score it, rebound it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s averaging around 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds). This is going back a little, but he kinda reminds me of a Gary Trent. He’s got a wing-type body, being about 6-foot-6, with long arms but can score it inside and rebound too. He’s just a long, rangy athlete, and the kid started for them as a freshman, so he’s getting that experience.”

---------------------------

NO. 5 – CALEB DANIELS

The final member of TSD’s top five for 2017 hails from the Big Easy. Daniels, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound off-guard from St. Augustine, has put up big scoring numbers in the highly competitive New Orleans Catholic League. Like Anderson, he also has an older sibling playing college basketball. In fact Daniels actually has two – one older brother at Dillard and another at Xavier (New Orleans). Both of them are 6-foot-4, giving a glimpse of what Caleb can grow into, and potentially providing him with a frame that would make him a legitimate two-guard on the college level.

Coach's Take

“Caleb’s a kid that’s really come on this season into his own. They needed another guy to step up besides Charles Brown, and Caleb’s been that guy for them. He’s really grown on the wing and has learned from both of his brothers how to play. He does it on both ends too. I watched him get five blocks on a team the other night. He’s quickly becoming the next big guy out of St. Aug. His ability to get to the goal stands out. Caleb does that with ease. He can throw down with the best. He’ll surprise you if you don’t give him that respect. He can shoot it, but it’s not the best part of his game right now.”

---------------------------

WHO’S ON DECK?

Two big men were mentioned multiple times by high school coaches around the state for inclusion on this list. One was Carroll’s Larry Owens, almost 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, and the other was Mamou’s Russell Edwards, 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds. TSD will get to know more about both, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, but the impression received is that Owens in particular is destined to wind up in this top five before all is said and done.

Other noteworthy players that would likely fall into a top ten for 2017 include Romin Williams, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Country Day in Metairie (pictured above) and Joe Thompson, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Bonnabel who played on the same Nike Circuit team as Williams last summer and this summer is slated to play for the Mo Williams Academy.

Those looking ahead to the Class of 2018 in Louisiana would be best served to start with Scotlandville’s Javonte Smart (profile/video here) and Madison Prep’s Josh Leblanc (profile here).



Tiger Blitz Top Stories