The Rivals.com national basketball recruiting team discusses topics surrounding Thursday's release of the updated and expanded Rivals150.
1. Who do you think will make the biggest jump from this ranking to the next one?
ERIC BOSSI: A guy who I'm really intrigued by is power forward Jaden McDaniels. His older brother, Jalen McDaniels, is a former Rivals150 guy who is expected to do big things at San Diego State before his career is over. The reason I bring up the older brother is because Jalen was a bit of a late bloomer and is further along at this point. He has skill to face up and play multiple positions. He just lacks strength and we haven't been able to evaluate him in person as much as many of the other guys we've ranked so we are taking a cautious approach to his first ranking.
COREY EVANS: He hasn’t put it all together but Akok Akok has the chance to turn into a priority, high-major target for some of the best programs nationally. A 6-foot-8 jumping jack that was among the tops in both blocks and 3-pointers on the adidas Gauntlet circuit this summer with the Mass Rivals unit, Akok still lacks for consistent production and strength. However, he has the opportunity to evolve into the next star at the talented Putnam Science Academy program this winter and in doing so, could take a 40-plus spot jump in our rankings next time around.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I'm going with 6-foot-9 center Carl Lewis, who already made a huge jump from No. 46 to No. 27 and I don't think he's done yet. I love the potential this guy has and every time I see him play, he does something new that impresses me. When we saw him at Peach Jam he chased down a point guard in transition to get a block and had two nasty dunks (not to mention Lewis carried his hurt teammate off the court when he couldn't walk due to a knee injury). Two weeks later I saw him at a tournament in Southern California and he was finding his teammates with ease out of a triple-team and was knocking down shots from the elbow. At times he can let his emotions get the best of him and needs to learn to control that aspect of his game. I would love to see him go head to head with any of the three guys at the top: Vernon Carey, James Wiseman and Charles Bassey. On the recruiting front, USC, St. John's and Oregon State are involved.
DAN MCDONALD: I'll go with Isaiah Turner on this one. I first saw him last month playing with 1 Family's 16-under team and have had a chance to watch him the last couple weeks with his new school Lincoln Academy (Ga.) at LakePoint's Fall League. He's a super talented, versatile 6-foot-8 forward who can do a lot of things. He's just one of those kids that needs to keep refining his skillset because he's still inconsistent. When you watch him shoot, sometimes it is picture perfect but sometimes it looks all jacked up. He's a long athlete with a lot of room to grow, which makes him somebody I think could shoot up the rankings over the next couple years.
RUSS WOOD: I'm really high on Isaiah Turner. He is a thin small forward who is just as content to facilitate for his teammates as he is getting buckets. He can dribble and pass against pressure and has a pretty good feel for the game. Right now Turner is more set shooter, with a low release point, than jump shooter. As he gets stronger and improves his shot, the high majors will come calling. He will be a player before it’s done.
2. Who is the most difficult player in this class to rank?
ERIC BOSSI: When we were discussing the rankings, maybe the biggest debate – at least between myself and Corey – was about what to do with Aidan Igiehon. In early July we made him a five-star prospect and at 6-foot-9, 230 pounds with a sculpted frame and big-time athleticism, he passes the look test. What he doesn't yet do is produce at a high level and he remains a work in progress. I still really like him as a player and think he can develop into an elite prospect, but for now I felt that we needed to pump the breaks just a little bit with his ranking.
COREY EVANS: Alonzo Gaffney took a near 100-spot hike in our rankings update and for good reason. A legitimate 6-foot-7 small forward that can do a variety of things on the court, Gaffney was one of the top performers from the July evaluation periods. What makes things so difficult with Gaffney is not his talent level, but rather how consistent he is and can be. He has always been regarded as one of the better prospects from the Midwest but it was like Gaffney woke up one morning and decided that he wanted to not just be good, but rather great. We will be watching the Ohio Basketball Club product closely this fall and winter and if he can support the work that he completed in July, there will be no arguing with his elite placement within our rankings.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Both Dan McDonald and I said it yesterday in the 2018 ranking roundtable; if you're a point guard, consistency is important in rankings. When I look at the 2019 class, LaMelo Ball is a tricky player to rank. I live in Los Angeles and I've watched the youngest Ball brother play a lot of games over the past couple years. He's a showy player that can score from anywhere on the floor (and I mean anywhere) but he is the opposite of consistent. I've seen him put up 75 points in one game and then five points the next. You can't deny the numbers he puts up and we all have to remember that he's still young. LaMelo reclassified in eighth grade to play one year of high school basketball with his brothers, Lonzo and LiAngelo. He's still growing and we all have two more years to see how many 100-point games he can put up and how he'll develop as a player before he heads to UCLA.
DAN MCDONALD: I'll go with Josiah James here. Part of this is because I haven't seen a ton of him, but it's also because I'm just curious to see how he develops going forward. Going off one viewing in Orlando last month, he's a playmaker with great size and long-term potential to be a point guard. He's athletic enough and big enough to defend all three perimeter spots. I'm just curious to see how his shot develops and where he stands among the top point guards in the class a year from now. I'm not ready to pound the table for him yet, but he might be another guy who ascends up the rankings if he's the player I think he is.
RUSS WOOD: EJ Liddell was difficult for me. I love his rim protection and his ability to get defensive stops. He’s a high volume rebounder and he is productive offensively around the basket. His face-up game is a work in progress. In the games I watched he hardly attempted a shot in the 15- to 19-foot range. He has the makings of an ideal combo forward and in the era of position-less basketball that’s to his benefit. I initially wanted to move him up based on potential but for now I like where we have him.
3. Who is one player outside this ranking right now that you think can play his way into it?
ERIC BOSSI: When he committed to Tennessee earlier this summer, I didn't know a lot about Buffalo (N.Y.) native Davonte Gaines. I still don't know a ton about the 6-foot-6 forward, but I did get a chance to watch him some during July and I was definitely intrigued. He's got good size for the wing, is long, looks like he can put it on the floor some and has athletic upside. I don't yet have a feel for his comfort as a shooter or playmaker but he has tools to build on and I'll be really interested to see where he is six months from now.
COREY EVANS: I am really intrigued to see what Emanuel Miller can do now that he will be playing at La Lumiere this winter. A 6-foot-7 prospect that can slide between either forward position, there isn’t a whole lot known about him entering his junior high school season. However, his first full year in the United States and playing on a national schedule with La Lumiere will enable Miller with the chance to prove his value and long-term worth. Oklahoma is the lone high-major program to offer thus far but with his versatility, upside and greater exposure, the UPlay Canada product could make his inaugural debut within our rankings during its next update.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Keep an eye on C.J. Felder from South Carolina. Felder is an explosive forward and in the few games I watched, he was option one for point guard Ashton Hagans in transition. My favorite thing about Felder is that he dunks the ball every chance he gets. I see nothing but upside for this guy and he might be making moves in the next round of rankings.
DAN MCDONALD: James Lee really impressed me in the few times I watched him during July. He's a talented scoring guard with a lot of explosiveness attacking the basket. He has a smooth jumper and a quick first step, which makes him hard to guard. He just missed the cut this time around, but he could eventually work his way into the next Rivals150.
RUSS WOOD: Jared Jones. He has excellent size and good strength. At McEachern he’ll get to play power forward, with Babatunde Akingbola manning the post, and will be able to better display his skillset which includes being able to score off the bounce or hit jump shots. A big part of Jones not being ranked is that he missed the travel season recovering from knee surgery.