College Basketball Recruiting: Most Exciting Aspect of 2015 Class' Top Players
With players as young as the class of 2015 (still juniors in high school), college basketball recruiting isn’t about looking for a complete package yet. Instead, the focus is on finding that one eye-opening specialty that sets a prospect apart from his competitors.
For highly touted guard Malik Newman, it’s his tremendous scoring punch. The heart of Newman’s offensive game is a three-point shot that will fall consistently under almost any circumstances.
Herein, a closer look at Newman’s shot and the defining traits for the rest of the 20 most promising talents in the recruiting class of 2015.
Montaque Gill-Caesar: Finishing
At 6’6” and 215 pounds, Montaque Gill-Caesar is a load for high school (or even many college) defenders to handle. He also has the athleticism to make that size pay off.
Gill-Caesar’s best offensive weapon is his ability to get to the rim, where he can use his power and long arms to overmatch defenders. Of course, when the defense isn’t ready for him, he can also produce plenty of highlight-reel slams with those same tools.
Derrick Jones: Transition Offense
Even by the standards of elite wing players, Derrick Jones can run the floor. The 6’6” swingman does his best work on the fast break, where few defenders his size can keep up with him.
Jones’ agility makes him exceptionally difficult to defend when he gets near the rim, as he can maneuver a shot around a bigger opponent just as easily as he can fly over a smaller one.
And, though he’s not a first-class ball-handler in traffic, he can cover ground in a hurry in the open court when he opts to lead the break.
Jalen Brunson: Passing
Unlike the impressive crop of 2014 incoming freshmen, the 2015 class is short on point guard talent. The shining exception to that trend is Jalen Brunson, whose father Rick was a fine floor leader in his own right, both at Temple and coming off many NBA benches.
The younger Brunson has a solid three-point shot, but he’s most valuable for his ability to set up his teammates. Not only can he make the right reads, but he has the passing touch to fit the ball through tight spaces when the situation calls for it.
Chance Comanche: Leaping Ability
Chance Comanche’s 6’11” frame would be more than enough by itself to overwhelm most high school opponents. The fact that he’s also an explosive leaper just makes him that much tougher to handle.
Comanche not only flies high when he needs to, but he gets off the floor quickly. That combination makes him a force as a rebounder and shot-blocker in addition to the obvious benefits to his dunking portfolio.
Luke Kennard: Long-Range Shot
It’s no mean feat for a junior to win Mr. Basketball honors in Ohio. Luke Kennard did it by pouring in 40 points a game for Franklin High, many of them from beyond the arc.
Kennard’s shooting touch is already on par with some of the best in the college game, and at 6’5”, he can get those shots off against most defenders with little trouble.
He’ll get his chance to launch treys to his heart’s content at the next level, where he’s committed to join Coach K’s three-point arsenal at Duke.
Brandon Ingram: Size
A long-armed 6’7”, Brandon Ingram plays small forward with the body of a power forward. Unsurprisingly, that makes him a terrific rebounding option on the perimeter, and that’s just for starters.
Ingram’s length also lets him corral quicker opponents on defense, keeping his distance while still being able to challenge a jump shot. On the flip side, it’s all but impossible for many foes to contest his jumpers, especially as his range already extends to the three-point arc.
Thomas Bryant: Energy
As big-time college prospects go, a 6’10”, 220-pound post player isn’t that exceptional. One who plays as hard as Thomas Bryant does, consistently and over extended minutes, is another story.
Bryant’s aggressiveness serves him especially well on the glass, where he can outwork opponents who might otherwise outmuscle him. He’s also a constant threat to beat slower defenders off the dribble, especially if they’re already tired from chasing him around.
Jaylen Brown: Perimeter Defense
Plenty of players with Jaylen Brown’s 6’6” length and outstanding quickness would be satisfied with being a first-rate offensive weapon. Brown is that, to be sure, but he’s also as tough a defender on the outside as you’ll find in the class of 2015.
With his wingspan and mobility, he can match up effectively against multiple positions on the perimeter. He’s also strong enough (at 200 pounds) to avoid getting run over too easily by bigger forwards.
Carlton Bragg: Athleticism
Rebounding isn’t always about being tall. Carlton Bragg isn’t exactly undersized at 6’9”, but his strength and jumping prowess both let him play far bigger when it comes to reeling in boards.
He’s also a dangerous finisher who has a great burst to the rim when he gets a look inside. Defensively, the same mobility that helps him track down rebounds also makes him a valuable shot-blocker who can close the gap to a shooter in a hurry.
Charles Matthews: Mid-Range Scoring
As a three-point shooter, Charles Matthews can’t yet compete with the best perimeter options in this class. Inside the arc, though, his jumper is as reliable as anyone’s.
The 6’6” Kentucky commit is an outstanding catch-and-shoot threat off screens, as he moves very well without the ball. He’s also got a nice pull-up jumper, a move made especially effective by his considerable skill at beating defenders off the dribble.
Skal Labissiere: Shot-Blocking
With just 198 pounds on a 6’10” frame, Skal Labissiere isn’t going to push around many low-post opponents, even at the high school level. However, the spindly center is still a scary defender thanks to his wingspan and timing as a shot-blocker.
Labissiere knows how much of a psychological edge his presence gives his team on D, and he doesn’t over-commit to a block when all he needs to do is challenge a shooter.
Given the opportunity, though, he’ll swat anything he can get to (and quite a few that even he might not be expected to reach).
Malachi Richardson: Shooting Range
Malachi Richardson can match his shooting stroke with anyone in the class of 2015. He’s especially potent from beyond the arc, where he can nail shots most high school players wouldn’t attempt.
At 6’6”, Richardson (a Syracuse commit) is also very tough to contest for most wing defenders. He compounds the difficulty by handling the ball better than many 2-guards, punishing the D for assuming he’s just going to launch treys at every opportunity.
Cheick Diallo: Interior Defense
Mali native Cheick Diallo is short on polish (even for a high school junior), but his long arms go a long way toward making up for it. The 6’9” post presence has extraordinary defensive instincts, including the timing to control games with his shot-blocking.
Diallo isn’t afraid to mix it up inside, making him a valuable on-ball defender in the post in addition to his weak-side heroics. To top it off, he’s a terrific rebounder who helps make sure opponents only get one look at the basket.
Stephen Zimmerman: Mobility
Few 7-footers at any level move as well as Stephen Zimmerman. The lanky center uses his long legs to outpace slower defenders in transition for easy fast-break points.
In the half court, Zimmerman’s ability to take defenders off the dribble makes his face-up game especially potent. Whether the defense is set or not, he can also get up for some impressive dunks when his quickness puts the other guy back on his heels.
Tyler Dorsey: Scoring off Dribble
One of the primary weapons of the combo-guard archetype is that defenders who have to worry about guarding the dribble or the pass are easy prey for a good shooter.
Tyler Dorsey takes full advantage of that dilemma, faking the drive only to pull up for open jump shots.
Dorsey—a high flyer at 6’4”—is also more than capable of getting all the way to the rim when the defense gets too close. The Arizona commit is a solid passer, too, though he won’t be mistaken for Mike Bibby in that department.
Diamond Stone: Inside Offense
Even at 246 pounds, Diamond Stone has an enviable finesse game. The 6’10” center’s array of post moves would be enough to make him a big-time recruit even if he weren’t such an imposing athlete.
He has a face-up game to go with his back-to-the-basket skills, though he’s at his best flicking jump hooks and turnarounds over hapless defenders on the block.
He’s also a respectable offensive rebounder, providing even more looks at the basket for a player who usually only needs one.
Elijah Thomas: Power
With 240 pounds on his 6’9” body, Elijah Thomas would be a handful for most college big men. At the high school level, he can bull his way to huge quantities of points, especially because his strength extends to his enormous hands.
Thomas also gets maximal value from his muscle as a rebounder, sealing off opponents and holding his position against all comers. He’s effective defensively at moving an opposing big man off the block and clogging up driving lanes, though he's not an elite shot-blocker.
Ben Simmons: Face-Up Game
Not especially tall for the post at 6’8”, Ben Simmons makes up for it with versatility. The heady PF has a variety of face-up moves to keep opponents guessing, along with the shooting touch to make good on the looks he creates.
Simmons is also a fine ball-handler who can attack with a dribble or two when he sets up higher in the lane. In addition, he’s a skilled passer who can punish the defense for double-teaming him.
Malik Newman: Three-Point Shooting
For a 6’3” shooting guard to be considered the top backcourt prospect in the country, he’d better be able to put points on the board. Malik Newman can score from anywhere, but his biggest weapon is his long-range shot.
Newman’s ability to bury treys, even over the defense, sets up everything else he does on offense. With defenders forced to play him tight even beyond the arc, he can drive virtually at will or pull up in the mid-range when he doesn’t like his three-point look.
Ivan Rabb: Post Scoring
Even by the standards of a class that’s loaded with big men, Ivan Rabb can score in bunches. The 6’10” Californian is a top-flight finisher with either hand, and he has a wealth of post moves to create openings to shoot.
Rabb’s mobility makes it tough for defenders to get an angle on him, though he’s also strong enough (at 198 pounds) to do a decent job of holding his position inside.
He gets his share of offensive boards as well, creating extra scoring opportunities (including plenty of tip-ins).