College Basketball Recruiting: Ranking the Best Big Men in 2014 Class
Few things are more important to building a winning college basketball team than a solid foundation down low.
The 2014 recruiting class is loaded with elite big men and will give plenty of programs the post presence necessary to make runs at conference championships and Final Fours. Somewhere in this class is the next Anthony Davis and Gorgui Dieng who will help lead a team to a national title.
Read on to see a ranking of the best big men in this class. Stats courtesy of Scout.com.
No. 6: Goodluck Okonoboh
As if there was any doubt where someone with the name Goodluck was going, Goodluck Okonoboh will head to Las Vegas to play for UNLV in 2014.
Okonoboh is very athletic at 6’9” and 210 pounds, but don’t assume he can’t play inside as well. In fact, he may be the best shot blocker in the entire 2014 class thanks to his vertical leap and outstanding wingspan, which also help him swallow rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Outside of his defensive presence, Okonoboh can get out in transition. Often those fast breaks are started from his blocks or outlet passes, but he finishes at the rim on the run.
If Okonoboh needs to improve anything, it is his low post scoring. He’s not the strongest big man in this class and needs to develop a premier move down low before becoming elite.
No. 5: Elbert Robinson
Elbert Robinson puts the big in big man rankings for the class of 2014.
He stands at 7’1” and weighs in at 315 pounds, making him the biggest load to handle down low of all these prospects. There will be few players, if any, at the collegiate level with the strength or overall size to handle Robinson down low on the block.
Robinson committed to LSU over schools such as Ohio State and Georgetown, which will give the Tigers a presence they haven’t had down low since the days of Glen Davis. Robinson will dominate defenders on the block and swat away plenty of shots on the defensive end.
He is also athletic for his size and has solid footwork on the post. Look for Robinson to make an impact right away in the SEC.
No. 4: Cliff Alexander
Chicago never fails to disappoint when it comes to producing elite high-school talent, and the members of the class of 2014 that hail from the Windy City will live up to that standard.
Cliff Alexander is one of those prospects. He is still looking at a variety of schools, including Kentucky, Arizona, Illinois, DePaul, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, Indiana and Baylor.
At 6’ 9”, Alexander may not be the tallest center, but he is one of the most physical players in the country. He is incredibly strong and will muscle up against anyone on the block. That toughness allows Alexander to grab plenty of rebounds against taller competition.
If there is something Alexander needs to work on, it is his offensive arsenal. He can score on the block, but there isn’t much else so far. That should change as he develops at the next level.
No. 3: Karl Towns
Stop the presses, Kentucky landed another elite big man.
John Calipari reeled in Karl Towns for the class of 2014, and as so many Wildcat freshmen do, he should contribute right away. That will especially be the case if some of this year’s class is playing in the NBA at that time.
The first thing that jumps out about the 6’11” Towns is the range on his jump shot. He is a formidable three-point shooter, can hit from mid-range and has no issues playing with his face to the basket. He still needs to work on his low-post moves, but Towns is a solid scorer.
The flip side of the can-play-from-the-outside coin is that Towns isn't the best rebounder for his size. Calipari will undoubtedly work on that once Towns reaches Lexington, but someone who is nearly 7’ needs to make an impact on the boards.
His experience with the Dominican Republic National Team also helped in that area.
No. 2: Myles Turner
The race for Myles Turner is shaping up to be nearly as intriguing as the pursuit of the Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones package deal, but it looks like Kansas has the early lead.
Ohio State and Kentucky, among others, are still showing strong interest.
Whichever school lands Turner’s services will be getting the best big man this side of Okafor in the 2014 class.
Turner is 7’ tall with a wingspan to match. He blocks plenty of shots, gets in passing lanes and grabs rebounds in traffic in the lane. He often controls the game on the defensive end and is as solid of a post presence as you can find in this class.
Turner can also score on the offensive end on the block and beyond the paint. He isn’t the best three-point shooter, but his mid-range shot is formidable, and his touch around the basket is impressive.
No. 1: Jahlil Okafor
When it comes to big men (and perhaps everyone) in the class of 2014, Chicago product Jahlil Okafor is the cream of the crop.
Okafor has made his intentions to play with elite point guard prospect Tyus Jones very clear throughout the recruiting process, and whichever program lands the two of them will immediately be a Final Four contender. Duke appears to be the favorite, but there are other schools in play.
Okafor, thanks to his wingspan and overall strength, is the best post scorer in this class. He has soft touch at the rim and has no issues backing down defenders on the block. Furthermore, he can hit from mid-range and is a formidable rebounder.
Okafor is the top prize when it comes to big men for the class of 2014.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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