Bossi's Best: Three-star freshmen ahead of schedule
There are always surprises when it comes to recruiting and evaluating teenagers for the next level. In this week's edition of Bossi's Best, I take a look at 10 former three-star prospects, like Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, who looked to be solid pickups but are providing rapid rewards in their first season for the programs who signed them.
Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
Recruitment: Agbaji was lightly recruited headed into his senior and officially visited Colorado State. Oregon State was the first high major to jump in as others like Oregon, Wisconsin and Texas A&M got involved during his senior season. However, Kansas came around and wrapped him up within four weeks of getting involved.
This season: 10.8 points, 5.4 rebounds per game
Bossi's analysis: Agbaji's rapid ascension to Kansas starter has been pretty mind-blowing. Headed into his senior year, I thought he was being recruited appropriately at the mid to upper mid major level. Seeing him as a senior it was easy to see why high majors wanted him and the initial decision by Bill Self to redshirt him seemed to make sense based on where Agbaji was as a player at the end of his senior year and the makeup of the Jayhawks' roster. Now he's scored 20 or more in three of the last five games and with his size, athleticism and ability to make shots, he doesn't even look like he'll need all of his eligibility before heading to the NBA.
Giorgi Bezhanishvil, Illinois
Recruitment: Like Agbaji above, Bezhanishvili didn't receive his first high major offer (MInnesota) until nearly the halfway point of his senior season. A native of the Republic of Georgia, he committed to Illinois during a March official visit.
This season: 12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds per game
Bossi's analysis: This guy is tough, plays with consistent effort and has developed into a reliable post scorer. He's not overly athletic and hasn't yet showed all the faceup skills that allowed him to blow up as a prospect during his senior year, but he's well on his way and has proven to be a guy that will be a program building block if Brad Underwood and his staff get things turned around at Illinois.
Keyshawn Bryant, South Carolina
Recruitment: Bryant was always considered a high major talent and scored early offers from places like USF, Kansas State, Memphis, Georgia and others. At one point during the summer before his senior season, he even caught the eye of NBA superstar Russell Westbrook. However, questions over academics had most thinking he would end up in junior college before South Carolina landed him in June of his senior year.
This season: 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: Were it not for all the question marks, Bryant would have finished in the final 2018 Rivals150 because we always loved his athleticism, upside and long-term potential. During his first season playing for Frank Martin, he's shown flashes of brilliance and as he improves his ball handling and consistency, he could develop into an SEC star.
Antoine Davis, Detroit
Recruitment: The son of then Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis, Davis initially committed to play for Houston. However, when his father got the head coaching job at Detroit Mercy, he got out of his commitment to the Cougars and headed to the Motor City.
This season: 26.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: I don't know how anybody could have seen this coming. He looked like a big-time shooter playing travel ball, but he was also very skinny and got limited exposure while being home schooled. He worked out a ton with John Lucas and a master plan was put in place to turn him into what he's become, one of the best jump shooters in America and a lethal scorer as a freshman who stars while playing for his father.
C.J. Elleby, Washington State
Recruitment: Elleby was known as a high scoring small forward in the Seattle area but didn't put up huge numbers playing alongside 2018 five-star Kevin Porter and 2019 four-star P.J. Fuller on Rotary Select in Nike's EYBL. He signed with Washington State early after a relatively quiet recruitment.
This season: 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: Washington State continues to struggle to get things going in the Pac-12 but man oh man has Elleby been a bright spot. He's skilled, has great positional size and plays a tremendous all-around game. Sometimes guys slip through the cracks and Wazzu found themselves a keeper that the rest of the Pac-12 has to be kicking themselves for missing on.
Jayden Gardner, East Carolina
Recruitment: A native of North Carolina, Gardner had some high major attention and an early offer from Penn State. But, he was recruited primarily by Mid-Atlantic mid-major programs and signed with ECU early over others like Old Dominion, VCU, Towson and Murray State.
This season: 17.7 points, 8.8 rebounds per game
Bossi's analysis: A strong and tough insider, Gardner has been a total stud for Joe Dooley and the Pirates. He gets to the free throw line a ton, is an efficient scorer and has been as steady as they come.
Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Recruitment: Haliburton was a little off the radar but did land offers from Minnesota, Cincinnati and Nebraska (which he visited officially) late in the summer before his senior year. He committed to Iowa State over those programs in September of his senior year.
This season: 7.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: Prior to a handful of players moving from 2019 to 2018, Haliburton was in the back end of the final Rivals150. However, even at the bottom of the list he was way too low and has emerged as a legitimate NBA prospect in Ames. He has tremendous size, sees the court, doesn't turn the ball over much and is a tremendously efficient shooter. If anything, he should be utilized more and I'd bet that he won't play four years of college ball.
Xavier Johnson, Pittsburgh
Recruitment: Johnson initially signed with Nebraska, but had second thoughts and asked for a release. Shortly after landing the Pittsburgh gig, Jeff Capel got Johnson on to campus for a visit and moved quickly to land him.
This season: 17 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4. assists per game
Bossi's analysis: I never had any questions about Johnson's speed or athleticism. But, he appeared to be a bit of a wild man who would need time to iron out his jump shot and decision making in college. He's been outstanding from the start and is one of the most pleasant surprises in America while logging major minutes for the Panthers.
Mac McClung, Georgetown
Recruitment: A freak show athlete who had more than his fair share of doubters, McClung initially committed to Rutgers. The two sides grew apart and McClung reopened things before committing to Georgetown prior to his senior season.
This season: 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: My only real experience with McClung was during the summer where he played very limited minutes for a stacked Team Loaded squad on the Adidas circuit. He was an incredible dunker but looked wild and had a questionable jump shot and frankly, the game film I saw of him against small school high school comp it looked like guys wanted to get out of his way and watch him dunk. Bottom line, we whiffed on this kid and given the opportunity to play through mistakes, he's thrived under Patrick Ewing and has a bright future.
Wynston Tabbs, Boston College
Recruitment: Another player who spent time in the Rivals150 during high school, Tabbs was pursued aggressively by others like Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, St. John's and many more. He committed seemingly out of nowhere to Boston College in August before the start of his senior year.
This season: 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game
Bossi's analysis: I debated Tabbs' inclusion on this list because he's been sidelined for a bit due to knee injury. But, his all-around play pre-injury was too good to ignore and the Eagles have really missed his presence. I don't have any great reason for why he dropped from our rankings heading into his senior year other than, well, we blew it.