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Rivals Rankings Week: Analysts weigh in on 2022 rankings

Emoni Bates
Emoni Bates (Jon Lopez/Jon Lopez Creative @NikeEYB)

With a full year of high school under their belts and their sophomore years started, it's time to introduce our first ranking of the class of 2022. There is still a long time between this initial ranking and the spring of 2022 so there will be many new names finding their way in and out of the rankings as we expand and update them over the next few years. To start things off, though, the clear choice to begin in the top spot is Ypsilanti (Mich.) Lincoln small forward Emoni Bates.

The analyst team of Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald discuss Bates and other things to watch for from the class of 2022 over the next three years.

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150

2022 Rankings: Top 50

These rankings will change a lot by the time the spring of 2022 rolls around. What do you think this class will be known for?

Bossi: I guess that all depends on whether or not the NBA changes its rules on early entry into the draft. The expectation is that the class of 2022 will be the first since 2005 that can enter the draft out of high school. If that happens, I can tell you right now we’ll see a record number of kids testing the waters out of high school and the class is going to be a test case for the new rules. I would also hope that this causes the NCAA to take a serious look at how they are going to handle these changes and I hope they have something in place ahead of time instead of waiting and reacting.

Evans: Who Emoni Bates is. I found it funny that at this past Nike Peach Jam, the large gathering in attendance for Bronny James immediately filed out of the gym once his game was over only to miss what came next, the Bates show. Sure, he is beginning to gather a bigger following, but by the time next spring rolls around, not only will the industry know all about Bates but also the general public. I am guessing that once next year’s Nike Peach Jam arrives, the chance of finding a good seat for a Bates contest will be a little more difficult to come by.

McDonald: It's always going to be known for being the Emoni Bates class, assuming he continues to progress the way we all hope and expect. He's just so ridiculously talented. On our end, the big story line will be following all the other prospects in the class to see if any of them can close the gap or overtake him as the top prospect in the class. This could also become known as the first class to be able to go right to the NBA out of high school since 2006.

Emoni Bates is as clear a No. 1 prospect as we have seen in a while. Is everybody else playing for second or do you see somebody giving him a run for his money?

Bossi: I don’t want to be too dismissive of everybody else in the class. For all we know, there could be somebody out there better than Bates that we just haven’t seen yet, but yeah, everybody else is playing for second right now.

At 6-foot-8, Bates does it all. He shoots, he creates, he plays with intensity and he rebounds the ball like crazy. He’s worthy of all the hype he’s created and as I’ve written before, Bates may be the best I’ve ever seen as a freshman in high school.

But, I also want to point out just how good No. 2 Jalen Duren is. In most classes, the 6-foot-10 manchild from Philly would rank No. 1 and his size, strength, rebounding and toughness already has NBA scouts salivating as well.

Evans: Bates is special, there is no getting around it, but Duren is not entirely too far behind. Duren has the frame, physicality, tenacity and two-way dominance that could place him in the conversation for the best prospect is in the 2022 class. I do worry about Duren’s motor, but if he can refine that part of his game this winter and also invest some time on his offensive prowess, the race for the No. 1 ranking might be more than just Bates and no one else.

McDonald: Right now, it appears that everyone else is playing for second. My one hold up for going all in to the same level as others with him is he hasn't played 17-under travel ball yet like some of the other top kids in the class. He's been playing in the 15-under division with kids his age, which is perfectly fine. I just want to see what he looks like when he's playing against the best of the best in a year or two before labeling the next big thing.

Is there one position that looks particularly strong to you based on what you have seen so far?

Bossi: Taking an early survey of things, I’m really liking the class of point and combo guards. Beginning at the top with Dior Johnson, who debuts at No. 4 overall, there is a lot of skill, crafty play and feel for the game. He’s one of 15 points or combos in the initial top 50 and there were several others we discussed who just missed the cut.

Evans: Combo forward. Of course, Bates sets the bar and is someone that, with the proper strength gain, can get to the point of playing either forward position. Jarace Walker, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Mark Mitchell, M.J. Rice and Andre Casey are just a few others within the upper-tier of the 2022 class that can fill such a role.

McDonald: It's pretty balanced position-wise at the top of the class, but I like the forwards and posts in this class. Starting obviously with Bates, there are some pretty good options at the top for programs that need some size in the 2022 class.

What's the most difficult part about compiling a ranking for players who still have three years of high school ball left to play?

Bossi: There are a few things. First, we’ve not seen these guys near as much as the older players and we haven’t seen as many of them. We’ve seen them all playing at different age levels during the summer, some at camps and some only with their high school teams.

What that means is that the pool of players to rank isn’t near as deep as it will be over the years and it generally causes a freak out by some who don’t make the very first ranking. So, it’s important to remind everybody to relax and understand that there will be massive change in these rankings over the years and that we are just starting to get to know this class.

Evans: Predicting and projecting prospects three years in advance and really, five-to-ten years seeing that some of these guys will eventually make the NBA. We have seen so many who were dominant as underclassmen flame out before making it.

So it is more about sorting out the particular ceiling of a respective prospect, what makes him tick (does he love the game), will he grow any more, is he in the type of environment that will help him prosper and whether his skill set is a translatable one in relation to today’s style of ball. That is not easy and it is even more difficult whenever we are attempting to do this with some that just became teenagers two years ago. It is a never-ending process that we are attempting to perfect but we also must acknowledge that by the time next fall arrives, the ranking this class could look entirely different.

McDonald: There are so many obstacles here. Like I mentioned with Bates, how do you compare a kid who is playing 15-under travel ball with a kid playing 17-under? Sometimes kids just going into their sophomore year haven't hit their growth spurt yet, while others have. We haven't been watching this class for too long, so we're still learning about a lot of these prospects. And lastly, you're factoring in potential a little more early on than you would for kids going into their senior year.