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Rivals150: Thoughts on the final ranking for the class of 2018

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RANKINGS: 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150

The final Rivals150 for the class of 2018 is complete and Duke-bound wing R.J. Barrett held off a strong charge from North Carolina-bound forward Nassir Little to retain his claim to the No. 1 spot.

Jumping from No. 32 overall all the way up to No. 14, USC-bound shooting guard Kevin Porter made the most notable leap of the two new five-star prospects. Also making the move to five-star status is Wake Forest-bound forward Jaylen Hoard, who moved from No. 30 to No. 25 overall.

The West Coast was home to the biggest movers in our final 2018 rankings. Arizona- bound combo guard Devonaire Doutrive and Buffalo-bound wing Jeenathon Williams (a New York native) each rose an impressive 46 spots, moving to No. 79 and No. 83, respectively. Right on their heels is another California-based player in James Akinjo, who rose 45 spots from No. 113 to No. 68. Future teammates making notable moves were Michigan-bound big man Collin Castleton and point guard David Dejulius, who rose a combined 78 spots to finish at No. 85 and No. 93, respectively.

Forcing their way into the final rankings were six players, led by Western Kentucky-bound guard Dalano Banton. Banton debuted at No. 76 overall, while Maryland-bound guard Serrel Smith at No. 128 and Rutgers-bound scorer Ron Harper Jr. at No. 132 also debut as four-star prospects in the final Rivals150.

RIVAL VIEWS: Making the case for someone overtaking R.J. Barrett atop the Rivals150

THE TOUGHEST DECISION IN THIS RANKING FOR ME WAS ...

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Simi Shittu

Eric Bossi: “The top spot was one that we discussed as much as I can remember discussing the No. 1 position over the past few years. I love the trajectory of improvement that Nassir Little has shown and I really feel he’s got another level he can still go to. That being said, there just wasn’t any way that I could justify dropping R.J. Barrett out of the top spot. We talk a lot about demanding effort and toughness from elite prospects and about wanting proven winners. Well, that’s pretty much everything that Barrett is. In a perfect world he would shoot a little better from deep, but he’s a worker, he has a proven resume and the Duke-bound wing has never fallen off, despite having a target on his back for several years.”

Corey Evans: “What to do with Simi Shittu? The five-star power forward has been sidelined since winter due to an ACL tear, and for someone who often relies on strength and explosiveness to defeat his opponents it will be interesting to see how the Vanderbilt recruit comes back from such an injury.

"Sure, the rehab surrounding this type of injury is much more effective compared to 20 years ago, but we still have seen many players who are unable to return to their former self. Before Shittu went down, he looked at his best, developing as an alpha dog small-ball power forward who could create major mismatches in the frontcourt. He was coming for the heads of his peers in the top five of his class, which made his injury even harder to stomach. He is a hard worker to his core and has steadily improved throughout his high school career, but a torn ACL is a torn ACL. It is not a death knell, but it is a major hurdle to clear.”

Dan McDonald: "The battle for the top spot became a lot more interesting this time around, and it involved a new name that nobody ever really considered for No. 1 overall before the McDonald's All-American Game. R.J. Barrett had a pretty firm hold on the top spot last time around, holding off other highly ranked prospects such as Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Romeo Langford.

"But this time it came down to the Duke signee or North Carolina signee Nassir Little. Little's performance at the McDonald's All-American Game made it a neck-and-neck race between the soon-to-be Tobacco Road rivals, but we stuck with Barrett. This one will be fun to follow next year, as well as deep into their NBA careers, because it really was a tough call."

THE REASON I BELIEVE IN THIS PLAYER'S RANKING ...

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Talen Horton-Tucker
AP Images

Bossi: "I’m pretty sure that by ranking Iowa State-bound wing Talen Horton-Tucker No. 31 we will have him much higher than anybody else in the recruiting industry. I’m fine with that, and he’ll end up making us look smart. I’m a believer in his competitive spirit, I’m a believer in his versatility on the wing and I’m a believer in his work ethic and results. THT plays well on both ends of the floor, makes his teammates better and I also think you have to factor in that he won’t turn 18 until late November of his freshman season in Ames."

Evans: "We were the first to rank Nassir Little as a five-star prospect. We were the first to rank Little top-five in America. And now we are the first to rank Little as the second- best prospect in the nation. There is an argument for Little to be slotted at No. 1 overall (though that is for another day), but the Orlando Christian product belongs to be ranked where he is.

"He became the first to win the Jordan Brand and McDonald’s All-American Game MVP honors in the same year, and he capped his tremendous spring by winning the Class 8A state finals in Florida. In today’s game, in which multi-positional prospects can affect the game on both ends, Little could not have come up through the ranks at a better time. He sports all of the tangibles that will make NBA personnel salivate over him, but he also has strong character traits that make him one of the more well-rounded prospects, on and off the floor.

"Headed to North Carolina this fall and with the graduation of Theo Pinson, the Tar Heels could see Little become the face of the program and solidify his standing as arguably the best American-born player from the 2018 class."

McDonald: "I had been tough on E.J. Montgomery in the past. I questioned his toughness and I questioned how badly he really wanted to be a good player. The more I watched him this season with his Wheeler High School team, the more I came around on him. He showed a lot more toughness and I thought he finally fully accepted his role as a post player. He had a tendency to float to the perimeter too much in the past, but I thought he really embraced being a dominant big man this year. He still has plenty of room to grow at Kentucky, but I feel very good about him coming in at No. 9."

THE PLAYER I FEAR WE MAY HAVE TOO LOW IS ... 

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Jaxson Hayes

Bossi: “Heading to Texas to play in the Big 12, I can’t help but worry that Jaxson Hayes ends up being a bit under-ranked. I don’t think it will be in his first year and it may not even be in his second year, but long term there are few in the class of 2018 who have as much upside as Hayes, even though he's ranked at No. 108 overall. A 6-foot-10 big man at Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller, Hayes only averaged around 12 points per game and just under nine rebounds as a senior. He also lacks strength. But, he’s a potential game-changer as a shot-blocker, is an above-average athlete and is just starting to learn what he’s capable of. I’m real interested to see what a few years in a college weight room and more experience could mean for his game.”

Evans: “There is a giant opportunity out there for the taking at Oklahoma, and with the history of guard development by head coach Lon Kruger, Jamal Bieniemy might be one of the bigger surprises and breakouts from the 2018 class. Receiving a slight bump and slotted at No. 117, Bieniemy is a combo guard who can play the one or the two, displaying versatility in the backcourt on both ends. He might not impact the game as much as some of his Rivals150 peers right away, but he could have the final say over some of those ranked above him by the time his college clock ends.”

McDonald: "I'm going with Coby White here. He's going to be a star at North Carolina, and it will happen early. Tar Heel fans were hoping it would be Jalek Felton running the show, but my guess is they'll end up being very happy with White as the lead guard. He's an electric scorer and a high-level play-maker. Point guards always seem to get better while playing for Roy Williams, and White will be his next star guard in Chapel Hill."

THE PLAYER I HOPE PROVES US RIGHT AND HE'S NOT TOO HIGH IS ... 

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Immanuel Quickley
AP Images

Bossi: “Based on what I saw from him during his senior season at Seattle Rainier Beach, I felt that shooting guard Kevin Porter needed to be bumped up to five-star status. After getting one last in person look at him scrimmaging against the United States team at the Hoop Summit, it was plain to me that Porter needed to be safely in five-star status.

"By ranking the future USC Trojan No. 14 overall we’ve made a strong move based on the belief that he will be a significant contributor the moment he steps on campus. Porter has tremendous size at 6-foot-5, he’s strong, he’s athletic and the southpaw plays with the type of chip on his shoulder that should help him overcome any obstacles down the road."

Evans: "I am really hoping Jordan Brown comes through at the college level and beyond. Whenever you are so highly rated as a five-star prospect, whildesitting in the final-15 of the 2018 rankings, you’re pretty much expected to star at the college level and then head to the NBA within a matter of two years. Can Jordan Brown be that guy?

"He has gone through peaks and valleys with his production, but whenever he is healthy and engaged Brown is a special watch. He is one of the more skilled 15-foot-and-in big man prospects in high school, and depending on his ultimate college landing spot, he could star from day one. However, it is vital that he finds the right setting at the next level, where he can develop physically but also have things run through him in the low- and high-post settings. If he does make the appropriate selection, Brown will more than solidify his standing as a five-star recruit."

McDonald: "Immanuel Quickley is the one guy in five-star range who I'm really curious to see how his college career plays out. Ashton Hagans' commitment to Kentucky last week makes John Calipari's backcourt even more crowded, and there is talk Tyrese Maxey could end up in Lexington next year, as well. With Quade Green coming back and Tyler Herro also coming in, that's a lot of competition for playing time for Quickley - against guys who might be better than he is."