Kelly Kline/Under Armour

Latest Rivals rankings for Class of 2016 provides new No. 1 prospect

Leave a comment
Kelly Kline/Under Armour

The 2013 recruiting class may not have ended up changing the course of history as we know it during the 2013-2014 college basketball season, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was as strong at the top as any class we’ve seen in recent memory.

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid went top three in the 2014 NBA Draft and are now considered the saviors of Minnesota, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, respectively. Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, James Young and Noah Vonleh went one-and-done, as expected, while Tyler Ennis and Zach LaVine managed to play their way into a guaranteed contract.

MORE: Rivals releases Top 150 for the Class of 2015

That’s a loaded class, and here’s the scary part — the Class of 2016 has a chance to be better. And on Thursday, Rivals released their new Top 150 for 2016.

Thon Maker, a 7-foot-1 Sudanan by way of Australia, sits as the No. 1 player in the class, and it’s a valid pick. He has the length, athleticism and timing to be an elite shot-blocker, but his shooting touch — which extends to the three-point line with time and space and out to 15-feet on his turnaround — and ability to handle the ball is what makes him special. His unique skill-set makes a comparison difficult, but some combination of former Baylor center Isaiah Austin and Kevin Garnett is a good place to start.

RELATED: Thon Maker is NOT the next Kevin Durant | Harry Giles looks to be healthy again

Harry Giles, a strong, 6-foot-10 forward from North Carolina, appears to have recovered fully from what could have been a devastating knee injury last summer and checks in at No. 2 in the class, while a pair of 6-foot-7 wings — former No. 1 Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum — slide in at third and fourth, respectively.

All four have very legitimate arguments about being the No. 1 player in the class.

Athletic guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk round out a clear-cut top six. Smith is the best point guard in the class, deservedly getting the nod over Derryck Thornton because of his vertical explosiveness. There is not a more entertaining player to watch in high school basketball than Monk, but he’s still too streaky at this point in his career, mixing 40-point nights with 3-for-20 performances too often.

MORE: Mixtapes: Dennis Smith Jr.Malik Monk | Allure of staying home strong for Jayson Tatum

Big man Bam Adebayo, athletic sharpshooter Terrence Ferguson, Thornton and fellow point guard Lonzo Ball round out the top ten. Ball, who has pledged to UCLA, is the only player in the top ten committed to a school.

The full top 150 can be found here.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
Getty Images
Leave a comment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”