2019 Rivals150 Roundtable: Analysts break down big decisions
Moving up to No. 18 from No. 31 overall, 6-foot-6 point guard Josiah James is the highest-ranked of the new five-star prospects. This biggest mover is four-star forward E.J. Liddell from Illinois, who jumped 52 spots from No. 94 to No. 42 overall.
At No. 81 overall, shooting guard Lester Quinones is the highest-ranked of the nine new entrants to the rankings.
The Rivals.com team of analysts - Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald - discussed the latest update to the 2019 Rivals150.
THE TOUGHEST DECISION FOR ME IN THIS RANKING WAS ...
Eric Bossi: “Really, the hardest thing was finding some new blood. At this stage in their development, the class of 2019 is tracking a little bit behind some of the recent classes, particularly at the top. You have to take each year as it comes, but there are many highly ranked players who simply wouldn’t be as highly ranked in other years. From an individual standpoint, the toughest call was four-star forward D.J. Jeffries. Some see him as a top 10 player, but we’ve not quite seen that. Last weekend, I wanted to see what it was I could be missing when I watched him on back-to-back days. However, Jeffries didn’t shoot the ball well and wasn’t a particularly aggressive rebounder, so we’re going with what we are seeing on the floor and not reputation.”
Corey Evans: “What to do with Chol Marial and Balsa Koprivica, big men who each ranked in the top 12 last time around. Neither has hit the hardwood this winter, as Marial deals with an injury and Koprivica has eligibility issues. Marial could be a basketball unicorn of sorts, thanks to his length and skill set, and Koprivica has the tools to be a face-up five-man with impeccable touch and ball skills from 15 feet and in. The fact that no one has been able to get a good glimpse of either since the spring tells you just how talented each are in that they remain five-star prospects. They will have to prove that they are worthy of such a lofty status in the near future.”
Dan McDonald: “For me, it was Trendon Watford. He plays on probably the best public school team (Mountain Brook, Ala.), I've seen so far this high school season and that team doesn’t have another high-level Division I player in the supporting cast. He has a lot of shooters around him, and he does a terrific job in a facilitating point-forward role, as well as scoring when he needs to. He wears a lot of different hats for his team and is incredibly productive. I think he'll be a stud in college, and worry we may still not have him high enough in the class at No. 10 overall.”
THE REASON I BELIEVE IN THIS PLAYER'S RANKING IS ...
Bossi: “Ashton Hagans is as physically tough of a point guard as I have scouted in quite some time, and for that reason I think he’s earned his No. 6 ranking. He’s got a chance to be a total game-changer when he arrives at Georgia. For those who haven’t seen him before: His in-your-face aggression, commitment to driving the lane and high-end defense can be a bit surprising. There just aren’t many high school players who do it like he does. Now, all that being said, he has to improve his jump shot for the next level to make the impact that he’s truly capable of.”
Evans: “If you have followed us this winter, Greg Gantt has taken up some of the space on Rivals’ main page as he has blossomed into a high-major, top-100 prospect for a number of reasons. In today’s game, coaches and scouts are looking for multidimensional forwards who can pass, rebound, play hard, finish at the basket and defend different spots. The Team Felton product checks each of these boxes. Slotted as the 65th-best prospect from the 2019 class, we think much higher of Gantt than most nationally. His upside could bolster his status much more as he continues to develop and we get an even better sense of what he is capable of now and in the future.”
McDonald: “Brenden Tucker was a prospect I thought we had to have in our rankings after a few viewings so far this high school season. He debuts at No. 100, but has the talent to potentially go up even higher in the future. He's a 6-foot-2 combo guard who thrives in more of a scoring role right now, but I think has the potential to be a lead guard as he develops. Becoming a more consistent player is a must for Tucker. He's a terrific athlete and can get buckets at all three levels. Clemson and Georgia have offered so far this season, and I doubt they will be the last high-major programs to do so.”
THE PLAYER I FEAR WE HAVE TOO LOW IS ...
Bossi: “Samuell Williamson from Texas is the guy that I’m worried we have too low. The 6-foot-7 wing isn’t a national name yet - and he’s probably not even being talked about enough in his home state of Texas - but the guy can play. He is a terrific jump shooter, has great size and he also has a tremendous mid-range game and overall feel. I’ve mentioned before that he reminds me of former five-star prospect/All-American/NBA player Justin Jackson, who won a national title at North Carolina last spring. Williamson is a guy whose stock I can see blowing up once he hits the national grassroots circuit this spring.”
Evans: “Babatunde Akingbola has had a great start to his junior campaign this winter for nationally ranked Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern. And while he has made a move up our rankings, I think that he might be even better than a fringe top 100 guy. He boasts elite-level length with an elite-level motor, and has also begun to develop a skillset, as he can score on the block but also step out and shoot the perimeter jumper. Akingbola remains a work in progress, but whenever you can find a mobile big who plays with a purpose on each possession like he does you have a guy with the chance to prove he should have been ranked higher.”
McDonald: “Babatunde Akingbola is one of the most improved players in the country over the past 15 months. It seems like he gets a little better and adds a new trick to his game every time I see him. It's clear he's a hard worker and it shows in the energy he plays with every time out. He's still not a finished product on the offensive end, but he's more than competent now to go along with his ability to protect the rim, hunt down rebounds and shut down other top post players. I'm really excited to see what the future holds for him.”
THE PLAYER I HOPE PROVES US RIGHT AND HE'S NOT TOO HIGH IS ...
Bossi: “For a while now we’ve been pretty aggressive in our ranking of Jalen Lecque -and we’ve turned it up a notch. While some see him as an athletic, driving two-guard, we like him as a big and physical point who is impossible to keep out of the lane. He’s got to get a little better with his decision-making, but he’s so good getting to the basket that I feel like we are going to be ahead of the curve by ranking him as a top 15 prospect in a class that isn’t particularly heavy on surefire/elite-level ball handlers.”
Evans: “We were the first in the industry to rank versatile guard Josiah James highly, and after further evaluating him this fall and winter, he made another leap, earning coveted five-star status and a No. 18 overall ranking. While he plays for a lesser-known travel program in Team TMP - and is off of the national radar playing for his local Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C. - James has everything you look for in an elite prospect. A 6-foot-6 lead guard who can defend different spots, he has many of the intangibles that one would want in a winning player. Hopefully, James proves us right and continues to develop into what we see in him."
McDonald: “We've been aggressive with our ranking of Josiah James for a while now. We've had him the highest in the industry for good reason. He's a 6-foot-6 guard with great versatility and play-making ability. He's thrived playing with TMP during the summer and now with Porter-Gaud during the high school season. It's just always a little scary when you go against the grain on a ranking. James does have great upside though, and great production to go along with it, so I feel pretty good about us ranking him in the national top 20.”