Rivals Roundtable: Rankings, sleeper classes, underrated prospects
The class of 2021 rankings are finalized and in the books. Today, we put a bow on rankings week with a roundtable discussing how things shook out. Below, Rivals analysts Rob Cassidy, Dan McDonald, Russ Wood and Jamie Shaw answer a handful of ranking-related questions about the Rivals150 refresh.
2023 Rankings: Top 30
1. Who in this class was your favorite player to watch?
Cassidy: Everyone loves a scorer, so I’m going to go with Jaden Hardy. The kid breathed all kinds of life into a gym when he got hot and started a scoring spree. It sometimes became difficult to not get swept up in the energy. Nobody in the class can do what he can do from a scoring perspective and look as incredibly confident while doing it.
McDonald: There are a lot of good choices here, but I’d have to go with JD Davison. The buzz in the gym is different when he’s on the court and you know a highlight reel play can happen at any given moment on either. He throws down some of the best dunks, makes ridiculous passes, and will even pin guys high up on the backboard. I can’t wait to see him play for Nate Oats in that up-tempo system at Alabama with some really good shooters around him to space out the court.
Shaw: Paolo Banchero. He is 6-foot-10 and 240-pounds with guard skills and explosion. He is a former quarterback who has uncanny vision and toughness on the floor. There is a lot of excitement in Banchero's game as there are not many players his size who can do what he does with the ball. In my eyes the Duke signee was the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class, with the highest pro floor of any player. I am a sucker for unique, and few are as unique as Banchero.
Wood: Probably Caleb Houstan. He is one of those guys who doesn’t appear to be playing hard because his game is so smooth. He is skilled, has a great feel for the game and, once he crosses half court, Houstan is a threat to score from anywhere. Michigan fans will quickly get used to “drive and kick to Houstan... GOOD!” Houstan can also get his off the bounce and is an underrated rebounder.
2. Which class outside the top 15 do you think has big-time sleeper potential?
Cassidy: I think what Anthony Grant and Dayton did deserves to be highlighted, as the two four-star forwards they landed, in DaRon Holmes Jr. and Kaleb Washington, have sky-high potential if they get stronger in their respective upper bodies. Holmes has added muscle over the past year but still has room to grow on that front. The duo has the feel of a tandem that really starts to click as sophomores. The sky's the limit if things go well from a developmental standpoint.
McDonald: This is an easy call for me. I’ve long thought Kowacie Reeves Jr. has NBA potential. He’s grown to about 6-foot-7 now, has good athleticism, and can not only shoot it but he makes contested jump shots. He’s always adding something to his game to make him a better player. He’ll be an impact player for Mike White early in his career at Florida and will eventually have his name called fairly early in the NBA Draft in my opinion.
Shaw: Indiana. Tamar Bates jumped to No. 30 and Logan Duncomb sits at No. 68 in the final 2021 rankings. This duo gives new head coach Mike Woodson a potential star and a nice depth piece in his first class. Bates is a shot making wing with great length and the ability to guard multiple spots on the perimeter. The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy lefty should have a clear path to early playing time. Duncomb is a tough, no-nonsense post player with a high motor, a nice piece and the type of player Indiana fans will remember from the 70s and 80s.
Wood: I agree with Dan on Kowacie Reeves Jr. I think he is a great get for Florida. He knows how to play, his ball skills have improved and Reeves can flat out score the basketball. At 6-foot-7 with his skill set he has definite NBA potential.
3. Which prospect do you fear we may have still underrated?
Cassidy: Jaden Akins has the feel of a guy that could outperform his ranking, as he became difficult to get a handle on because his game was extremely hot and cold. At times, the Michigan State commit looked like a top-30 prospect. Other occasions saw him look like somebody that belonged in the 50s. Akins has some physical gifts and sometimes looks like a player ready to lead Michigan State today. Other times, he struggles with decision making and his jumper. I could see him becoming more confident and consistent down the road and rounding into one of the top guards in the country because the tools are all there in spades.
McDonald: I think we have the ranking right based on what we have seen to this point, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Will McClendon outplays his ranking over the next few years at UCLA. He’s so perfect there with Mick Cronin. He competes at both ends and always finds a way to be really productive. The Bruins seem to be gaining some momentum coming off the surprising run to the Final Four, and McClendon will be a part of continuing that ascension back to the top of the sport.
Shaw: Moussa Diabate. Coming in at No. 21 in the final rankings, Diabate has a lot of important tools that translate to the highest level. The Michigan signee stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1 wing span, and at 220-pounds he moves his feet as well as any prospect in the class. Rim protection, defensive versatility and vertical spacing, Diabate has in spades. The Brandenton (Fla.) IMG Academy forward is quick-twitch with a lot of pop, hip flexibility and natural timing on the defensive end. Diabate will have to continue to tighten up his offensive arsenal, but who better to help him with that than Juwan Howard. In five years, when we look back, do not be surprised if Diabate is a top-10 player out of this class.
Wood: I think we have Nathan Bittle too low. Bittle is a skilled center with length and good size. He has a reliable jump hook, can face-up and hit open jumpers and is an impressive passer. His rebounding and rim protection are solid. Once Bittle meets the Oregon strength and conditioning coach and adds some strength he will be an even more impressive big man. I think he’ll be a Pac-12 all-freshman team member with lots of upside.