College Basketball Recruiting: Ranking the Top 20 Players in 2014 Class

Thad NovakCorrespondent IApril 20, 2014

College Basketball Recruiting: Ranking the Top 20 Players in 2014 Class

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    Andrew Nelles

    As the spring showcases for high school seniors wind down, the college basketball recruiting picture for 2014 is coming clear. The class’ elite players have made the transition from top-tier prep stars to hotly anticipated newcomers for some of the nation’s top college teams.

    No program is getting richer than the Duke Blue Devils, who bring in a quartet of McDonald’s All-Americans. Justise Winslow is the best perimeter defender in the class, and he’s far from the most impressive newcomer heading to Durham next fall.

    Herein is a closer look at Winslow and his peers, with an eye to picking the best of the best among the scorers, shot-blockers and leaders in the freshman class of 2014.

20. Malik Pope (San Diego State)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Offense: B

    Malik Pope doesn’t have a great jump shot for a combo forward, but his ball-handling skills are a plus, and he certainly knows how to finish.

     

    Defense: B

    Pope’s athleticism gives him terrific potential on the defensive end, but his skills aren’t yet at an elite level.

     

    Intangibles: B

    He’s unusually raw after battling some serious injuries in high school. He does fit very well with SDSU’s up-and-down playing style, though.

19. Dwayne Morgan (UNLV)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Offense: B-

    Dwayne Morgan has as ugly a jump shot as any player on this list, and his skill as a transition finisher only does so much to make up for it.

     

    Defense: A-

    A high-effort defender, he uses his 6’7” length to great effect for shot-blocking and deflecting passes.

     

    Intangibles: B

    The point-guard-poor Rebels might not be Runnin’ much next season, which will cut down on Morgan’s offensive contributions.

18. Daniel Hamilton (UConn)

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    Rich Pedroncelli

    Offense: A-

    Daniel Hamilton is a first-rate shot-maker who can also connect on some remarkably tough passes.

     

    Defense: B 

    His 6’7” length should be an asset on the wing, but he hasn’t shown much on D.

     

    Intangibles: B-

    Hamilton would be a safe bet to grab Niels Giffey’s starting job if it weren’t for concerns about his ability to play smart, particularly when it comes to shot selection.

17. Chris McCullough (Syracuse)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offense: B

    Chris McCullough is loaded with athletic ability, but his jumper still needs plenty of work.

     

    Defense: A-

    He knows how to get the most out of his 6’10” length as a shot-blocker.

     

    Intangibles: B-

    Tossed out of Brewster Academy in November for violating school rules, McCullough will be under an NCAA microscope at Syracuse.

16. Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall)

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    Gregory Payan

    Offense: A

    An attacking shooting guard with great passing skills, Isaiah Whitehead doesn’t yet have a top-drawer three-point shot.

     

    Defense: B+

    Whitehead is a terrific perimeter rebounder at 6’4”, though he’s no lockdown defender at this stage.

     

    Intangibles: B-

    He’s gotten a reputation for lapses in concentration (a problem Kentucky fans know all about after the ups and downs of last season's frosh). 

15. Theo Pinson (North Carolina)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: A-

    Theo Pinson’s three-point shot needs work, but he’s an impeccable scorer otherwise (not to mention a fine passer).

     

    Defense: A

    Pinson is a mobile and productive defender with good size (6’6”) on the wing.

     

    Intangibles: B+

    He plays with both confidence and smarts, but it’s uncertain whether he and classmate Justin Jackson will be a good fit to be on the court together.

14. Kevon Looney (UCLA)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Offense: A-

    For a 6’8” power forward, Kevon Looney has an exceptionally strong face-up game with shooting range nearly to the three-point arc.

     

    Defense: A-

    The best pure rebounder in the class, Looney has the agility (if not the length) of a great post defender.

     

    Intangibles: B+

    After depending on the Wear twins for so long, UCLA is desperate for an offensive contributor like Looney on the front line.

13. Rashad Vaughn (UNLV)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: A

    Rashad Vaughn can score from any distance, in the half court or transition, and he’s better than many rival 2-guards at creating shots off the dribble.

     

    Defense: B

    Both his length and instincts are encouraging, but production on D isn’t quite there yet.

     

    Intangibles: A

    UNLV desperately needs a go-to scorer with a jump shot, and Vaughn looks tailor-made to fill the bill.

12. D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offense: A

    D’Angelo Russell is a combo guard who’ll probably play off the ball, but both his passing and scoring skills are well-developed.

     

    Defense: A-

    A skilled defender and rebounder, he’s less impressive in terms of physical tools.

     

    Intangibles: B+

    He’s a smart player and a badly needed offensive contributor for the Buckeyes, but Big Ten physicality will be a major learning curve for him.

11. Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: A

    Karl-Anthony Towns has a three-point shot to match any guard in the recruiting class, but the 7’0” center isn’t as polished on the low block.

     

    Defense: A-

    Although he’s a fine shot-blocker, he’s vulnerable to stronger opponents, especially on the boards.

     

    Intangibles: A-

    His time with the Dominican national team is paying off, and he’s set to be the offensive half of a scary platoon with Willie Cauley-Stein in Lexington.

10. Justise Winslow (Duke)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: B

    Justise Winslow is an improving shooter, but he lacks the killer instinct of a primary scoring option.

     

    Defense: A+

    At 6’6”, he can defend any position at the prep level and projects as a perimeter stopper for the Blue Devils (think Shane Battier).

     

    Intangibles: A+

    His decision-making and feel for the game are off the charts for a high-schooler, and he’s just the kind of player who thrives under Coach K.

9. Justin Jackson (North Carolina)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Offense: A+

    Justin Jackson can make shots from all over the floor, as he did in lighting up the scoreboard at the McDonald’s All-American Game (23 points in as many minutes, 11-of-14 from the field).

     

    Defense: A-

    He doesn’t have the muscle to be a top-flight defender, but his 6’7” length goes a long way.

     

    Intangibles: A-

    Multitalented and versatile, Jackson will add welcome perimeter punch to a North Carolina frontcourt with few shooters. 

8. Stanley Johnson (Arizona)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: A-

    Shooting range is not Stanley Johnson’s long suit, but get him close to the rim and he’s strong enough to finish over the biggest defenders.

     

    Defense: A+

    He lives off his D, and he’s both quick and strong enough to lock down opponents even in the wide-open Pac-12.

     

    Intangibles: A 

    An astounding competitor, Johnson has the bad luck to arrive in Tucson, while similarly skilled Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is still on campus.

7. Kelly Oubre Jr. (Kansas)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offense: A

    The ability to back down smaller defenders is about the only weapon Kelly Oubre Jr. hasn’t added to his offensive repertoire.

     

    Defense: A

    Active and athletic, he’s a playmaker who can handle multiple positions.

     

    Intangibles: A

    Substantial improvement as a senior shows how coachable Oubre is, and Bill Self knows how to work with high-powered freshmen.

6. Trey Lyles (Kentucky)

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Offense: A+

    No player in this class has a low-post game as polished as Trey Lyles does.

     

    Defense: A

    Without elite athleticism, he relies on skill and length. At 6’10”, he has plenty of both.

     

    Intangibles: A

    Assuming that Julius Randle heads to the NBA, Lyles can slide right into the No. 1 scorer’s role in Lexington.

5. Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast

    Offense: A+

    Emmanuel Mudiay isn’t just a fine passer as a point guard—he’s also fully capable of leading his team in scoring.

     

    Defense: A

    There are quicker PGs out there, but Mudiay’s strength and size (6’5”) make up for a lot.

     

    Intangibles: A+

    A floor leader par excellence, he might become the first All-American in program history.

4. Tyus Jones (Duke)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Offense: A

    The best pure playmaker in the class, Tyus Jones will never be mistaken for Shabazz Napier as a scorer.

     

    Defense: A+

    Quick hands and outstanding fundamentals make him a fearsome on-ball defender.

     

    Intangibles: A+

    Jones makes his teammates better in the tradition of the best floor generals, and his high on-court IQ will endear him to Mike Krzyzewski.

3. Cliff Alexander (Kansas)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Offense: A+

    Even Cliff Alexander's middling jump shot can’t keep him from scoring in bunches, thanks to his offensive rebounding ability and bull-in-a-china-shop low-post game.

     

    Defense: A+ 

    Alexander is close to being an NBA-level shot-blocker already.

     

    Intangibles: A

    Playing time won’t be easy to come by with Perry Ellis (and possibly Myles Turner) around, but Alexander's high-energy game will make sure he stays on the court.

2. Myles Turner (Undeclared)

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    Andrew Nelles

    Offense: A+

    Myles Turner is a legitimate 7-footer who can drain the trey or finish a hook shot from the low block.

     

    Defense: A+

    He excels as an on-ball defender as well as a shot-blocker from the weak side.

     

    Intangibles: A+

    No player has improved his stock more in the past year than Turner, and that kind of work ethic isn’t an accident. 

1. Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offense: A+

    Jahlil Okafor uses both his bulk (6’10”, 265 lbs) and his skill to put points on the board in huge quantities.

     

    Defense: A+

    What he lacks in shot-blocking instinct, he makes up for with his ability to clog the lane and deter penetrators.

     

    Intangibles: A+

    He’s held up impressively under the year-long expectations of the “top recruit in the country” label. Any Duke fan can tell you how badly his size and strength are needed in the Blue Devils frontcourt.