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November 20, 2015

Technically, this is the perfect time to release a “2017 Top X Recruit List”, as it’s the end of the 2016 November signing period, and almost a full calendar year before many of these 2017 kids can sign Letters of Intent. They are now front and center on the college recruiting stage, so in that sense it is right on time.

The reasons I call this list “premature” (not the least of which is I like to hedge my bets), are as follows:

  • I’ve only been able to watch highlight videos for most of the top prospects in 2017. There’s only so much I or anyone else can determine from a highlight video. Anyone can look like a world-beater in a highlight video; Heck, shoot it right, I can look like the second coming of Dennis Johnson in a highlight video (I’m pretty crafty). So, I don’t trust them, and I don’t put much stock into evaluations solely based on reviews of highlight videos (Which probably means you should stop reading right here, but I digress). Finding unedited game tape for younger prospects is difficult (even on YouTube), and I haven’t watched most of these kids live on TV/Internet or in person yet. Give me the travel budgets of’s Evan Daniels or 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer, and this amateur recruitnik would go watch prospects play anywhere or anytime.
  • Most of the highlight videos I watched as a result were either from their Sophomore year of high school, or from summer grassroots (aka AAU) tournaments and camps after their Sophomore year. Soooooo much time before they show up on a college campus (if at all, or overseas). You could seriously write in almost every Top 150 prospect’s Scouting Report “Needs/Areas To Improve: Strength”. Most difficult aspect of scouting these kids, as I’ve been told by those who do it for a living, is projecting how their bodies will turn out. Some max out early, some hit late growth spurts which completely change their game (Anthony Davis was a middling 6’2” guard until an 8-inch growth spurt between his Sophomore and Senior years in high school), some bulk up too much, some stay too thin and can’t add that weight. Never mind how some skills are innate, while others can be vastly improved upon with hard work. So it’s a crapshoot, an incomplete and changing picture at best.
  • Honestly, until recently, most of my recruiting attention was on the Class of 2016. Ask me what I think about the Cream of the 2016 crop, prospects like Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, Terrence Ferguson or Lauri Markkanen, who I’ve watched play full games on live TV for either their prep or national teams, and I can provide breakdowns with confidence in my assessment. Right now, not so much with 2017, but give me time.
  • Because of the first three reasons above, I’ve had to rely on other scouting reports and databases as well to compile this list. That will have less influence as we go on.
  • I like to hedge my bets. This list will undoubtedly change next time I post it. Like I said, not the least.
  • Finally, and somewhat related to the first two reasons, is at this point, what often stands out to observers are athleticism & size for projected position, and the obvious skills like scoring ability or shot-blocking. I look for things such as motor, court vision, rebound anticipation, quickness with the ball, footwork, the lost art of shooting (and their related mechanics), decision-making and any inkling of defensive fundamentals and desire. These aspects of a player’s game are either difficult to assess (especially in a highlight video) or take longer to develop, requiring repeated viewing live over time – which for me has not happened.

With caveats out of the way, I will list 10 guys, with quick observations on them, followed by what is sure to be a rotating cast of “Others Worthy of Consideration”. On with the show (Heights and weights from …

1.) Michael Porter, Jr, SF, Tolton Catholic HS, Columbia, MO (6’8”, 190) – Listed as 6’9”, 210 pounds on 247 Sports, and measured at 6’10” this summer at the Nike Skills Academy (I’m thinking that’s in shoes), if he grows another inch or two, he’s the next Kevin Durant (and I hate making those types of hot-take hyperbolic comparisons, but there it is). Dead-eye shooter with NBA range and nearly unblockable, can put the ball on the floor and score from mid-range or at the rim. Fantastic athlete; Will be the early favorite for the McDonald’s All-American Game Dunk Contest. Willing defender. One of the few kids that I’ve actually seen play in something other than a highlight video – check out footage of a one-on-one battle with 2016 Top 10 prospect Dennis Smith from the Stephon Curry Camp. My favorite prospect in the 2017 class, my guess is he makes Kansas, Duke or Kentucky very happy for nine months before being a Top 3 NBA pick. His younger (and taller!) brother Jontay is a rising 2018 prospect as well.

2.) DeAndre Ayton, C, Hillcrest Prep, Phoenix, AZ (6’11, 225) – Originally from the Bahamas before moving ton San Diego, his city should actually read “Parts Unknown”, with rumors swirling about the future of Hillcrest Prep. Gained wide notoriety last summer when he posted 17 points and 18 rebounds (!) in an exhibition game against the University of North Carolina. Best rim protector in all of prep basketball. Developing post game, thrives on his height and athleticism edge over his competition. So athletic and smooth, you forget sometimes you’re looking at what other recruiting websites list as a 7’ Center. If I had to hazard a guess at this point, I doubt he ever plays a minute of college basketball, and I have concerns about his motor, but undoubtedly Ayton is one of the better Center prospects in the last decade if he puts it all together.

3.) Troy Brown, Jr, PG, Centennial HS, Las Vegas, NV (6’6”, 195) – Some scouts suggest he’s not a true Point Guard, that might become a Small Forward instead, but I love what I’ve seen of his game, possibly to an irrational level. Freak athlete, excellent court vision and passer, gets to the rim whenever he wants, needs to continue to improve on his shooting – his mechanics don’t look that far off to me. I’d want him on the ball offensively, regardless of the position he defends.

4.) Trevon Duval, PG, Advanced Prep International, Dallas, TX (6’2”, 189) – Prototypical NBA combo/lead Guard prospect. According to the 247 Sports Composite rankings, most scouts consider him the best point guard prospect in the class, and they might be correct, but for me he looks to shoot a bit too much (despite not being a great shooter), and needs to tighten his handle. Does everything else really well, a John Wall-ish blur with the ball, and will be a fantastic college one-and-done lead guard.

5.) Billy Preston, F, Advanced Prep International, Dallas, TX (6’9”, 220) – No, not that Billy Preston. Originally from Los Angeles before going the prep school route. Probably has the most NBA-ready body at this point, projected as a face-up Power Forward due to his sheer size, but I think he’s just a large and powerful wing, at least in college. Elite athlete, plus shooter, good passer, solid rebounder, overly ball dominant, not sure he’s interested in defense (after all, nothing from nothing leaves nothing), but a future NBA lottery pick to be sure.

6.) Wendell Carter, PF/C, Pace Academy, Atlanta, GA (6’10”, 246) – Mr. Wendell. He’s the #1 ranked player in both the 2017 247 Composite rankings, and the Rivals 150, #2 on Scout and ESPN … I’m not seeing that on film. I mean, he’s a great prospect, does everything well, already has a great Power Forward body and motor, but he’s not crazy-athletic, not awesome at any one thing, and in my amateur opinion is not the best current player or prospect with upside in 2017 (although he is young for his class, won’t turn 17 until April of next year). This slot feels about right.

7.) Brandon McCoy, C, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego, CA (6’11”, 220) – Truthfully, on current ability he’s not a Top 10 player – Maybe Top 25 – so this is completely about his tremendous upside. He has elite physical tools, extremely mobile and athletic, and although he’s raw offensively, his jumper has mid-range potential, and he’s as active and capable defensively as anyone in the class. As he adds muscle and develops his offensive game, he should round into an elite NBA Center prospect; the Real McCoy, if you will.

8.) Zach Brown, C, Miami Senior HS, Miami, FL (7’1”, 256) – Consensus 5-star rated and ranked #20 overall in the 247 Composite, his rankings span the lower end of that range (#17 on 247 & Rivals, #18 on ESPN, #26 on Scout). I’m still trying to figure out what’s not to like relative to higher ranked Center prospects; Scout for example ranks him as their 9th best Center prospect and last 5-star player. He’s 7’1”!! A throwback Center, not an extreme athlete, but is truly large, light off his feet, and more than mobile enough. Very good rebounder with good hands, very long, an excellent motor (most guys his size & build don’t have that) and an improving post game. He has things you can’t teach, and most of his deficiencies can be improved with work and repetition. Factor in how long it takes for big men to develop, and where he is already, and I don’t understand why he’s not a consensus Top 10 player. Plus, he has his own band! (Not really).

9.) Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Victory Prep, Houston, TX (6’8”, 200) – Superb athlete, great motor, does all the little things well, somewhat the converse of Preston in that he projects as a Power Forward once he fills out, but right now has the body of a wing. Highest defensive upside of the non-Centers in this class; However, his shooting range, and much of his offensive game, is a work in progress. Kinda, sorta, maybe might have some similarities in his game to former University of Arizona star and Brooklyn Nets rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Like McCoy, his upside is through the roof.

10.) D.J. Harvey, SF, DeMatha HS, Hyattsville, MD (6’7”, 180) – Might be the most versatile and complete offensive player I’ve watched in the 2017 Class (#23 in white in this video, #1 in your hearts). Highly skilled, can score in a myriad of ways out to 3-pt range, equally adept in transition and the half-court. Has the physical tools to be an above-average defender, but like most his age isn’t asked to or otherwise has yet to show it. Not a superfreak of an athlete like most other Top 10 wings in this and past classes, but has enough athleticism to augment his high skill level.

OTHERS WORTHY OF CONSIDERATION: Mo Bamba, PF/C, Westtown School, Westtown, PA (6’11”, 205 – Mobile, skilled big man, favorite name in the class); Austin Wiley, C, Spain Park HS, Birmingham, AL (6’10”, 240 – Auburn commit is a similar prospect to McCoy in both current ability and upside); Kevin Knox, F, Tampa Catholic HS, Tampa, FL (6’7”, 195 – Silky smooth and long combo forward); Gary Trent, Jr., G, Apple Valley HS, Apple Valley, MN (6’4”, 180 – Maybe the best shooter in the entire class, his Father was the original “Shaq of The MAC”).

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