Basketball Recruiting - Rivals Roundtable: Addressing hot topics after July live period
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Rivals Roundtable: Addressing hot topics after July live period

Xavier Booker
Xavier Booker (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

The 2022 July live period has come and gone, and it featured plenty of developments. The former No. 1 overall prospect in the 2023 class, GG Jackson, flipped his commitment from North Carolina to South Carolina and reclassified to 2022, leaving the top spot in rankings empty. Players broke out and new offers flew as college coaches observed.

Today, Rivals.com’s national basketball analysts Travis Graf and Rob Cassidy discuss three topics related to the month that was on the recruiting trail

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MORE: Five non-blueblood classes to watch

2023 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2024 Rankings: Top 125

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THE TOP SPOT IN 2023 IS CURRENTLY VACANT. WHO’S YOUR PICK TO CLAIM IT?

Justin Edwards
Justin Edwards (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Cassidy: I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about this because there is no obvious answer. The list of things I’d rather do ranges from stubbing my toe to lighting my arm on fire, but I suppose somebody has to be No. 1 and I’m expected to figure that out … even if my arm is engulfed in flames.

The way I look at it, there are really only two serious contenders here. The production edge goes to Kentucky commit Justin Edwards, who is coming off of an impressive run at Peach Jam and is becoming a more complete player by the day. The upside-based pick is uncommitted Xavier Booker, who NBA scouts love and carries the highest ceiling of anyone in this class. When the 6-foot-11 Booker is cooking, it’s easy to project him into the NBA lottery, as his size-skill-motor combination is rare. So is his ability to stretch the floor and get buckets in transition. He’s not as battle tested or proven as Edwards, however, so our lack of sample size on him against truly elite competition is a bit concerning.

I guess former No. 1 DJ Wagner is an option, too. Travis and I have gone back and forth on all of this in initial discussions, but rankings don’t update until late August so I choose to bury my head in the sand for at least another week. I don’t have to think about this right now, and nobody can make me.

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Graf: When you look at this class, there’s not a no-brainer of a No. 1 player, and even more so with Jackson reclassifying. I’ll echo what Rob said above, that it really comes down to two players at this point in Booker and Edwards.

For Booker, NBA scouts love his long-term offensive upside and measurables. I’d like to see him be more consistent on defense and be less reluctant to play inside, but his skill set is very arguably the best in the class. At 6-foot-10, he moves very fluidly on the perimeter and can knock down outside shots comfortably.

In regards to Edwards, he plays his best basketball against the best competition at the forward spots. Against Jackson, Mookie Cook, Mackenzie Mgbako, KJ Evans, TJ Power and Milan Momcilovic, the five-star wing averaged 20.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game while shooting 59% from the field.

Isaiah Collier was a strong candidate as well before his injury sidelined him. The five-star point guard was on an absolute tear during the first two EYBL sessions and had found his shot, shooting over 40% from the outside.

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WHICH PLAYER YOU SAW IN JULY CHANGED YOUR OPINION OF HIM MOST?

Cassidy: The transformation of Justin McBride from inconsistent complementary piece with some bad weight to dynamic play-making scorer has been something to behold. I watched the Texas-based forward on multiple occasions this season, and he seemed to add something new to his game each time. It all culminated in an efficient, 33-point effort that featured five 3-pointers.

McBride has dropped significant weight since a year ago. He looks leaner, quicker and miles more comfortable handling the ball. He’s also added what seems to be a consistent and confident pull-up jumper to his game. I slid McBride down the rankings in the last few updates, but he’ll be going in the opposite direction this time.

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Graf: I was very impressed every time I watched TJ Power this summer. Watching him fluidly hit shot after shot at Peach Jam was just the icing on the cake for me. We’ve got him way too low currently (in the 60s), as he’s shown time and time again that he can put the ball in the basket from multiple levels. Skill-wise, there’s not many forwards better than him in the 2023 class. His performances haven’t just impressed me, but blueblood schools as well and recent offers are rolling in.

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WHICH UNRANKED PLAYER (ANY CLASS) THAT YOU SAW IN JULY WILL YOU PUSH INTO THE RANKINGS NEXT UPDATE?

Cassidy: I’ll go with 2024 guard Gicarri Harris, who made a name for himself playing for the Atlanta Celtics on the adidas 3SSB circuit. The son of former Purdue great Glenn Robinson plays with an edge and uses his powerful upper body to bully his way to his spots and score through contact. He’s incredibly skilled for a young prospect and flashes some creative passing ability as well. He’ll find his way into the rankings soon enough. Schools such as Purdue, Georgia, Georgia Tech and others are already involved.

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Graf: For me, it’s going to be 2023 guard Davin Cosby. He was phenomenal at the 3SSB Championships a couple of weeks ago for Team Loaded VA, going nuclear from the outside in a couple of matchups. His ability to shoot off of the catch and off movement really stood out, and he always played with a very high IQ at both ends of the floor. Defensively, he showed versatility and the willingness to defend on every possession. There may not have been a guy who saw their stock soar more at the end of July than Cosby, who has since received offers from West Virginia, Mississippi State, NC State, LSU, Tennessee, USC, Virginia and others.