Yags’ Point Forward - Deeper Look Into 2017 Rankings
The usual suspects remained atop the newest NERR rankings and finished in nearly identical order within the latest national top-100 lists released by ESPN. Hamidou Diallo (#12 in ESPN 100), Tremont Waters (#32), Makai Ashton-Langford (#33), Jermaine Samuels (#46), and Kimani Lawrence (#54) have created some separation from their peers in the Class of 2017.
With 8 total prospects scattered throughout the list, New England was well-represented within the ESPN 100. Wabissa Bede, one of the nation's most productive players throughout the month of July while leading his Mass Rivals squad to a 21-0 record, was also one of the country's biggest risers. Bede was a 3-star recruit heading into the summer and climbed all the way to #87 in the ESPN 100 with his stellar summer. Two Vermont Academy products, Christian David (#83) and Jordan Nwora (#91), round out the New England contingent. Nwora was included within the most updated version of NERR's rankings along with all other incoming prep products
The Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour circuits, along with dozens of showcase events and camps that are held throughout the summer, give the NERR staff multiple chances to evaluate incoming prospects like Nwora, Thomas Allen (Brewster), and Malik Ondigo (Putnam Science Academy). But it's been a common practice over the years to allow prospects to settle in at their new school, practice with their new program, and evaluate them in the fall prior to slotting them into the rankings.
Here are a few things that jumped out at me and a few things to take note of moving forward as the prep year begins.
BLUE BLOODS HEAVILY INVOLVED AT THE TOP
As it currently stands, New England's 10th best prospect will head to the University of North Carolina. While the top-10 players in our region have traditionally moved on to play at high major programs, this year's class has the potential to be one of the deepest in terms of the number of players headed to powerhouse blue blood programs. So while Andrew Platek's commitment to the Tar Heels made him the first but he certainly won't be the last.
(And YES, North Carolina is still very much a powerhouse program! Since Roy Williams arrived in Chapel Hill in '03-'04, UNC has won 365 games. Duke and Kansas are the only programs with more wins under one head coach since '03-'04. With the NCAA sanctions looking less harsh by the day, don't expect UNC to slow down any time soon. Not to mention, they were a buzzer beater away from entering this season as the defending champs.)
After Jermaine Samuels commitment to Villanova this weekend, New England will be represented at both programs that appeared in the 2016 NCAA title game. Samuels chose to commit to Jay Wright's Nova squad over Duke, Kansas, Indiana and Georgetown. The athletic 6'6" wing proved that he could compete for minutes at any program in the country with his play in the Nike EYBL this summer. His 17-point 16-rebound performance in front of Coach K and two other members of the Duke staff may have been a turning point in his recruitment.
But at the end of the day, Duke's offer may have come a little too late. Samuels received it the day before heading to Villanova for his official visit. Wright and Co. rendered it mute once they got him on campus and Samuels announcement came a few days after returning home.
There's a trending belief that Diallo will eventually choose between UConn and Kentucky when it's all said and done. With programs like Duke, Indiana, Arizona and Kansas also on his list of suitors, not to mention the fact that he will be eligible to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Diallo will be playing alongside and learning from the game's elite next season.
Waters, who recently transferred from South Kent to Notre Dame-West Haven (CT), is in the process of deciding between UConn, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Georgetown, Indiana, and Yale. Whether it's on the court or in the classroom, Waters will spend next season with the nation's best players, our brightest minds, or possibly a mixture of each.
Ashton-Langford has expressed his interest in staying close to home from the beginning and recently made his recruitment a two horse race between UConn and Providence. Either way, he'll join a program known for producing elite point guards and a lineage that includes recent NBA Lottery picks.
Samuels picked up an offer from Duke in the middle of the week after returning from a visit to defending champ Villanova. A few days later, perennial powers Kansas, Indiana, and Georgetown joined Duke and 'Nova on Samuels' final list. The athletic 6'6" wing proved that he could compete for minutes at any program in the country with his play in the Nike EYBL this summer. His 17-point 16-rebound performance in front of Coach K and two other members of the Duke staff may have been a turning point in his recruitment.
Meanwhile, Lawrence may be the prospect sitting in the driver's seat at the end of the day. He currently list Texas, Pittsburgh, and Arizona State as the three programs vying hardest for his services but he's blessed with such a valuable skillset that more programs are bound to come knocking as their other targets start committing elsewhere. He can head to the high major program of his choice or wait it out and allow his star to rise as pack in front of him slims down.
Wabissa Bede's arrival on the national scene has been well documented and his new home amongst the nation's top recruits is well deserved. Bede kicked the door down and put an end to the championship party plans of every other team in the Adidas Gauntlet. Now that his local and national ranking accurately reflects his value, he won't be sneaking up on anybody. Bede will head into the NEPSAC season with a target on his back. It's just another welcomed challenge for the high character young man.
Bede owned the region's most chronicled rise but his climb in the NERR rankings (from #11 to #7) was far from the biggest. That honor belongs to BABC and Vermont Academy big man Marcus Santos-Silva.
The 6'7" bruiser used his 7-foot wingspan, elite ability to create space, and a pair of mitts that resemble those of a grizzly bear to finish 10th in the EYBL in rebounding. During the 21-game Nike circuit, Santos-Silva had 9 games with double-digit rebounds and 5 games with 17 or more boards. He was at his best when it meant the most, averaging 12 rebounds a game during Peach Jam while BABC was fighting to keep their season alive. At the end of the day, Santos-Silva's stat line of 13.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists was one of the most impressive on the circuit.
Santos-Silva's efforts earned him offers from mid- and high-major programs alike to go along with the #13 spot in NERR rankings. Not bad for a player that resided outside of the top-40 heading into the summer. Santos-Silva looked his best physically at the end of the summer, looking trim and playing with more explosion.
Santos-Silva announced his 8 finalists last week. The ballhawk will choose between Virginia Commonwealth, Kansas State, Temple, Boston College, LaSalle, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and Bradley.
Hamden's CJ Seaforth, who spent his summer with USAD, was also outside of NERR's top-40 when the summer began. The explosive 6' point guard looks to become assistant coach Jared Grasso's latest under-the-radar recruit at Iona. After proving more than capable of playing the lead guard position at the MAAC-level, Seaforth committed to the Gaels on the first day of August.
Seaforth currently checks in at #26 after growing a few inches and vastly improving his game over the past year. Opposing coaches have become accustomed to Seaforth putting points on the board in bunches throughout the high school season, something he's done regularly for a few years at Hamden. But his ability to create for others mixed him an exceptional nose for the ball now makes Seaforth an extremely interesting prospect going forward.
Putnam's Jaheam Cornwall received a 12-spot bump up to #28 after a tremendous summer running the point and playing off the ball when necessary for the NY Jayhawks. Cornwall provides at steady hand at the point and has a knack for hitting daggers once opposing defenses drift away from him.
Two players who are already committed to their future programs also made big jumps. #23 Suhkmail Mathon, headed to Boston University, and #25 Azar Swain, committed to Yale, jumped 10 and 11 spots respectively. East Catholic PG/wing Mike McGuirl bounced up from #28 to #19 after a phenomenal summer with the CBC. The 6'3" playmaker showed the ability to play on or off the ball along with the potential to defend multiple positions on the other end. Kansas State, Northeastern, Duquesne, Hofstra, Penn, and BU were just a handful of the programs that offered McGuirl over the summer.
MORE NEW ARRIVALS SOON TO COME
As is the case each fall in New England, new talent will arrive on campuses across the region with reputations to protect and prospect profiles to improve. The aforementioned Nwora will most certainly insert himself in the top-10 discussion on the strength of a huge summer with the NY RENs that led to offers from the likes of UConn, Florida, Florida State, Cal, Xavier, VCU, USC, Northwestern, Pitt, Marquette, Auburn, and handfuls of other high major programs.
New Brewster prospect Thomas Allen comes to Wolfeboro with offers from Stanford, Ohio Stats, NC State, Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, VCU, and Texas A&M already in hand. Allen's Garner Road running mate Michael Okauru also makes his way to Brewster and holds offers from Clemson and Rutgers.
Putnam Science's new 6'10" big man Malik Ondigo comes to the area via El Mirage, Arizona with offers from Purdue, Texas Tech, Memphis, Colorado and Kansas State just to name a few.
As New England's talent pool gets deeper and deeper, so will the NERR rankings. It will be extremely interesting to watch each of these players, along with numerous other newcomers, leave their own fingerprints on their individual programs and the region itself. Open gyms and a few months of practicing with their new programs this fall also gives each of them time to showcase their talents and further prove that they belong alongside New England's best.
RANDOM RANKINGS NOTES
-42 out of the top 50 players attend NEPSAC programs. Cambridge, Ringe & Latin was the only non-prep program to have multiple players in the top-50 with Jakigh Dottin and Dimon Carrigan representing Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing's alma mater.
-The CIAC received a huge boost with the arrival of Tremont Waters at Notre Dame-West Haven. They placed five players total in the top 50, by far the most out of any of the state associations. McGuirl, Seaforth, Patrick Harding and Joey Kasperzyk give the CIAC some quality name recognition to work with heading into the season.
-Commonwealth Academy and Northfield-Mt Hermon were the programs with the most prospects in the rankings, each placing five prospects within the top-38 players. Think about that for a second: 27% of the top-38 returning prospects in New England are at those two programs. That's an impressive foundation for each team to build upon.
-The 2017 Point Guard class has been getting some heat nationally for not being as deep or as talented as some of their predecessors. That's certainly not the case in New England though. Waters, Ashton-Langford, Bede, Davidson-commit Kellen Grady, Rutgers-commit Geo Baker, and McGuirl give our area some ridiculously talented lead guards headed to high major programs. Swain will also transition back to a lead guard role at Rivers, while players like Seaforth, Cornwall, Dottin, Justin Mazzulla, and Commonwealth's Derek Ellis are all tough as a $2 steak. I'll confidently walk onto any court in any park in the country with one of them as my point guard. At the least, I'd know none of them are going to back down and they're all going to fight like crazy to win. That matters.