Evans Seven: An early look at top 2022 prospects
While there is still some time to go before we address the 2022 rankings, a few freshmen have already caught our eyes. In this week’s Evans Seven, seven first-year high schoolers get the spotlight. It's a safe bet they will be found in the first 2022 Rivals150 later this year.
1. EMONI BATES
Bates is not just in the conversation for the best prospect in the 2022 class - he might be among the best prospects in high school ball, regardless of class. My fellow analyst, Eric Bossi, was impressed by him at the USA Basketball Mini-Camp in October.
“I've been attending USA Basketball events for years now, and Bates made as favorable a first impression on me at the event as I can remember a freshman making in quite some time," Bossi said. "The 14-year-old looks like he has it all. Size, athleticism, feel for the game, a pretty jump shot along with charisma and edge to match.”
Bates is a 6-foot-7 forward who does have to get stronger, but has already garnered Kevin Durant comparisons due to his physical build, ranginess and soft shooting touch. Putting those kind of expectations on a kid Bates’ age is not fair whatsoever, but it does illustrate that Bates is a tremendous long-term prospect who has everything you would look for in a new- age forward. Bates is here to stay, and he will be one of most coveted and picked-apart prospects in the coming years.
2. JALEN DUREN
Duren is on track to be the face of Philadelphia basketball for the next three years, and he has already developed an impressive resume. A starter for Roman Catholic High - the same program that produced Maalik Wayns, Tony Carr and Eddie Griffin - Duren is a physical specimen already, standing over 6-foot-9, sporting a broad set of shoulders, good length and a ferocity to him that very few freshman are willing to display. I will not forget the screen that Duren set last month: He seemingly knocked his opponent into yesterday with a soul-crushing pick that set the tone for the rest of the game. He does need to become quicker and more confident on the offensive end, but Duren’s defensive versatility is already much more developed than others his age. He already holds an offer from Penn State and he is on a path to be seen as the best frontcourt prospect in his class.
3. DARIQ WHITEHEAD
We have been hearing about Whitehead for the past year or so, because he was the rare prospect traveling with the Montverde Academy program as an eighth-grader. While he didn’t see the floor much, his long-term development and maturation playing behind RJ Barrett and Andrew Nembhard last year, and then doing the same this year with Cade Cunningham, Precious Achiuwa and Omar Payne should pay dividends down the line. However, Whitehead might be ready to become the face of the Montverde program by the time his sophomore year rolls around. He is a gifted 6-foot-5 prospect, one who can hit shots to the perimeter and is a tough-nosed finisher at the basket. He is also one of the youngest prospects in his class. as he will not turn 15 until August. A native of New Jersey, Whitehead is a sure fire five-star prospect.
4. JARACE WALKER
After a quick look at Walker one might assume that he is a freshman in college, not a freshman in high school. However, his birth certificate is correct, and the 6-foot-6 prospect is just 15 years old and will not turn 16 until September. Playing with the nationally acclaimed IMG Academy team alongside McDonald’s All-Americans Josh Green, Armando Bacot and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Walker has grown into a contributing role for a team that will contend for a national title later this year.
There is a lot to like with Walker, who is trending as a top 10 prospect in the 2022 class. Sporting shades of Jaylen Brown, Walker is the ideal combo forward in that he can handle, shoot, defend and finish. He might not be receiving the minutes that he would elsewhere, but the time is near for Walker to become a household name in the basketball world.
5. JADEN BRADLEY
Might Bradley be the best point guard in the 2022 class? He definitely is in the conversation. Bradley now resides in Charlotte - as he left his native Rochester, N.Y., a few years back - but either way, the talent of the 6-foot-3 playmaker is undeniable. Bradley played two years up on the 16-under level last summer with the BMaze Elite program, and he is already the lead man for the consistently relevant Cannon School team this winter. There are shades of Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley in the tough-nosed freshman, who has already received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Wake Forest. More offers are sure to follow for a guard who is emerging as one of the best in America.
6. DUG MCDANIEL
There is just no other way to say it: McDaniel is the most mature and polished point guard prospect that I have covered this early in the process. Already receiving comparisons to Tyler Ullis, McDaniel is actually bigger than the former Kentucky standout at the same stage - and he may be an even better playmaker. McDaniel will have to grow some, as he is just 5-foot-9 and slender, but his skillset, passing ability and decision-making is already at an elite level.
When five-star guard Jeremy Roach and Virginia Tech commit Anthony Harris went down with ACL injuries this past fall, Paul VI coach Glenn Farello gave the reins of his team’s offense to McDaniel, and the DC powerhouse stayed afloat. The freshman is a coach’s dream and the type of playmaker that anyone would love to play alongside. Wake Forest was the first to offer, but before long, other top programs will do the same, as McDaniel is set to have one of the more intriguing recruitments.
7. CHRIS LIVINGSTON
I would be remiss to leave Livingston out of this article. After all, LeBron James doesn’t just spend a random July afternoon watching a rising ninth-grader by random occurrence. The 6-foot-5 small forward is arguably the best talent to come out of Akron since James graduated from St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in the spring of 2003. Livingston has the makings of a blueblood recruit who should be one of the more talked-about prospects in the nation. He is a good athlete, a physical defender and a capable shot-maker, which combine to make a dynamic two-way weapon.
Ohio State has already offered Livingston, who is attending Buchtel Community Learning Center, the same school that James’ wife, Savannah James, attended. Livingston is a more-than-solid competitor and a very talented, well-put-together prospect who will definitely see his name in the 2022 Rivals150.