SIGNING DAY: 25 Class of 2016 players you need to know

Harry Giles (AP)
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(The post has been contributed to by Corey Evans, Managing Editor of HoopSeen.com.)

THE STUDS? Here are the ten best players in a class that may be better than 2013

Harry Giles, 6-foot-10 forward: The best player in all of high school basketball, while Giles will sit out his senior year at Oak Hill Academy this winter with a torn ACL, it still doesn’t take away from the immense potential, production, and alpha-dog mentality from the 6-foot-10 forward. Giles recently called Duke his college home and should be a one-and-done type and future lottery draft pick come 2017. (CE)

Josh Jackson, 6-foot-7 wing:  There’s an argument to be made that the native of Detroit is the No. 1 overall prospect in the class and some firmly believe that he is. The 6-foot-7 Jackson is as athletic as it gets on the wing and he’s well-rounded as a defender, rebounder and passer besides being a high-level scorer. Still uncommitted, expect Jackson to be one of the last prospects to make a commitment as he’ll likely sort through who declares for the NBA draft before making his decision. Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State have been getting the most chatter with Jackson recently. (SP)

De’Aaron Fox, 6-foot-3 point guard: Fox will make his college decision on Thursday evening and all signs point to Kentucky grabbing the 6-foot-3 lefty from Texas. Regardless of where he calls fit, Fox had one of the best senior summers that I can recall and because of it, is an elite, blueblood recruit and a potential one-and-done prospect. An excellent two-way ballplayer, Fox can score it, facilitate, distribute, finish, and defend, all things that make him a top shelf prospect in the 2016 class. (CE)

Jayson Tatum, 6-foot-8 wing: Part of a loaded recruiting class at Duke, Tatum is a smooth and natural wing scorer who can also do a lot of damage as a passer in the pick-and-roll. Adept at drawing a lot of fouls, the 6-foot-8 Tatum has an advanced mid-range game and has improved on straight-line drives this fall. Another potential one-and-done candidate in Duke’s loaded Class of 2016. (SP)

Dennis Smith, 6-foot-3 point guard: Just like Giles where Smith hails from North Carolina and also sitting out his senior year due to a torn ACL, when healthy, there aren’t many more athletic and explosive guys around. He has received Russell Westbrook and Baron Davis comparisons and whichever way you see up, Dennis Smith is a top of the line recruit who will be playing out his college days at NC State. A lethal athlete who has gotten better as a facilitator within the half-court setting, Smith sets the bar at the lead guard spot within the high school realm. (CE)

RELATED: HoopSeen.com’s National Signing Day coverage

Malik Monk, 6-foot-4 guard: Perhaps the most electric scoring guard in all of high school basketball, the uncommitted Monk can put up points in a hurry from anywhere on the floor. Whether its deep 3-pointers or high-flying dunks, Monk is capable of going for 50 points if he heats up. Arkansas and Kentucky are the main schools involved for Monk, the younger brother of former Razorback star wide receiver Marcus Monk. (SP)

Thon Maker, 7-foot-0 center: Polarizing is an easy way to describe the way that many within the basketball industry view Thon Maker over the years. After settling upon remaining within the 2016 class, Maker had quite the summer campaign winning the MVP of the famed NBPA Camp in June and ever since, had matched the production with all that the buzz that the 7-footer has received. Maker competes with unlimited energy levels, has gotten better with his decision-making abilities, and because of it, the Athlete Institute senior big man has seen his numbers on the stat sheet improve vastly; Arizona State, Indiana, St. John’s, and Notre Dame seem to be among the top four for Maker at the current moment. (CE)

Miles Bridges, 6-foot-6 wing: A powerful and versatile wing who can score from all three levels, Bridges gives Michigan State a talented wing to help build around. The lefty can play multiple spots on the floor thanks to his size and skill level and he’s physical enough to be a very good rebounder from the wing as well. (SP)

Lonzo Ball, 6-foot-5 point guard: Has there been a better passer in the past 5-10 years of high school ball than Lonzo Ball? I am not totally sure. His outlet passes rival only Kevin Love and funny as it seems, the 6-foot-6 guard will play out his college days at UCLA, just as well. Not afraid to let it go from deep either, Ball is a very entertaining but productive lead guard who makes other better but can also score the ball via the pull-up jumper and should be an immediate presence as one of the best guards throughout the college realm during the 2016 basketball season. (CE)

Bam Adebayo, 6-foot-9 power forward: One of the top uncommitted forwards left in the Class of 2016, Adebayo formed a ridiculous one-two punch with point guard Dennis Smith on the grassroots circuit this spring. Adebayo could follow his former teammate to N.C. State, but Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Wake Forest are also doing everything they can to get Bam on campus. (SP)

Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)

THE NEXT D’ANGELO RUSSELL? Here are five guys from outside the top ten that have the ability to be a top five NBA Draft pick one day

  • Jonathan Isaac, 6-foot-10 wing: If we are talking about breakouts, no one has gone from a relative unknown and into the picture as a top-10 recruit nationally within the past calendar year than Jon Isaac. The 6-foot-10 forward is the closest thing that we have seen since Kevin Durant due to his slender frame, quality length, and impeccable shooting touch from off the deck. Heading to Florida State, Isaac could be the scoring replacement on the wings if Xavier Rathan-Mayes and/or Dwayne Bacon leave after this upcoming college basketball season. (CE)
  • Terrance Ferguson, 6-foot-6 wing: One of the most naturally gifted players in the Class of 2016, the Alabama commit could win the NBA dunk contest or 3-point contest someday if he maximizes his potential. While Ferguson is known best for his ridiculous mixtapes filled with impossible dunks, he’s also a fluid shooter with deep range. (SP)
  • Marques Bolden, 6-foot-10 center: With great length, a body that should blow up once it hits a college weight room, and an excellent, low-block skillset, there aren’t many more at the 5-spot in the 2016 class that have a better future ahead of them than Marques Bolden. The Texas native can score over either shoulder, is deceptively bouncy around the basket, and when engaged, can put up 20-20 numbers on the stat sheet. There have been mixed reports of when Bolden will commit but it looks like things are down to the likes of Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Duke, with the Jayhawks and Tide as the favorites heading into the winter months. (CE)
  • Rawle Alkins, 6-foot-4 shooting guard: As one of the best players to come from New York City in recent memory, Alkins carries a big reputation and a big game to match. The scoring guard gets it done in a number of different ways as he can attack the basket or knock down jumpers. Alkins recently moved to North Carolina to play his senior year of high school and he’s taken multiple visits to N.C. State and North Carolina. St. John’s and head coach Chris Mullin are hoping Alkins comes back to New York. (SP)
  • Markelle Fultz, 6-foot-4 guard: From a jayvee performer and now a McDonald’s All-American shoe-in within a matter of 16 months, Markelle Fultz took the country by storm and has yet to stop improving. More of a scorer from off the bounce with progressing athleticism at the basket, the DeMatha standout has now taken on the task of becoming a lead guard who can score it and pass it. Headed to Washington next year, a quality coup and steal for the Huskies, Fultz might have the best shot at being the next D’Angelo Russell out of anyone within the 2016 class. (CE)

THE NEXT BONZIE COLSON? They may not be Burger Boys, but here are five players that may play a major role in March as freshman

  • Bruce Brown, 6-foot-3 guard: A tough and capable guard with a lot of experience, Brown is physical enough to be able to compete from the moment he sets foot on campus. Indiana, Miami and Xavier have already hosted Brown for official visits while he’s also scheduled to check out Purdue. There is some speculation that Brown could end his recruitment during signing week, but he could wait until the spring as well. (SP)
  • James Banks, 6-foot-10 center: The task is a bit of a daunting one for Shaka Smart and his coaching staff this recruiting cycle as they may have to replace possibly four big men within the interior in the 2016 class. With just one in the hopper in the frontcourt, James Banks is definitely a good start and the opportunity ahead of him in Austin is there for the taking. A quickly improving big man with the ideal tangibles already at hand, the Peach State native can score from 15-feet and in, cleans his area on the glass, and is a fine rim protector who should fit in from the day one under Smart’s  newly established culture and system at UT. (CE)
  • Braxton Key, 6-foot-7 wing: Five-star guard Terrance Ferguson is the centerpiece of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson’s recruiting efforts, but the 6-foot-7 Key gives the Crimson Tide a versatile wing who can score, pass and rebound. As part of a talented perimeter trio in Alabama’s Class of 2016, Key could be counted on to do a lot of the little things among that group. (SP)
  • Tony Carr, 6-foot-5 guard: While Penn State basketball hasn’t been at the forefront of many national rankings, Pat Chambers has had success with his lead guards in past years. With Tone Carr now set on attending PSU next fall, the native of Philadelphia should step right in and lead the Big 10 squad from the get-go. Carr showcases great size and length at the point guard spot, an improving perimeter jumper, and should have solid assets around him that might make the Nittany Lions a darkhorse candidate for some runs in the NCAA Tournament in the years ahead. (CE)
  • Alterique Gilbert, 6-foot-0 guard: The jet-quick point guard can touch the paint nearly any time he wants and head coach Kevin Ollie has to be thrilled that UConn has Gilbert in the fold. Although he’s a tad undersized, Gilbert makes up for it with a solid repertoire of floaters in the lane. If his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent, Gilbert could be an immediate scoring force for the Huskies. (SP)

KEY LATE ADDITIONS? Here are the five best prospects that have yet to decide when or where they’ll be going to school

  • Kobi Simmons, 6-foot-5 guard: One of the more interesting recruitments that we have seen in the 2016 class, Simmons came out a few weeks ago stating that he was down to a final three of Kentucky, UNLV, and Ohio State. However, his father also recently stated that the senior guard would wait until the spring to sign, making his recruitment even more intriguing. Regardless, the 6-foot-5 lead guard oozes with potential, has added some consistency to his perimeter jumper, and continues to improve as a facilitator of his team’s offense in the half-court setting. (CE)
  • Jarrett Allen, 6-foot-10 center: Recruiting in the case of the talented native of Texas has been interesting, as local program Houston tries to go against juggernauts like Kansas and Kentucky. Whoever ends up with Allen is getting a talented post scorer with good length and a high motor. A tremendous rebounder with good hands, Allen is a very good long-term prospect who could make a big impact in college. (SP)
  • Dewan Huell, 6-foot-10 forward: Huell is down to the likes of Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina and the 6-foot-9 center should produce wherever he calls fit. He competes with a mean streak and has really improved his face-up game from 15-feet and in. He has the body that should really take off once he hits a college weight room and though he might not be seen in the top-20 of most rankings, he could outperform many others due to his size, motor, and toughness down low. (CE)
  • Udoka Azubuike, 6-foot-11 center: A bruising center who nearly brings down the hoop when he dunks, Azubuike’s power game is incredibly difficult to stop at the high school level. Although he’ll need to work on his scoring moves outside of five feet, once the 270-pound big man establishes low post position, it’s game over for opposing defenses. Azubuike has taken official visits to Florida State, Kansas, N.C. State and North Carolina and many consider the Seminoles the team to beat. (SP)
  • Andrew Jones, 6-foot-5 shooting guardAt this time last year, Jones was primarily being coveted by Louisiana Tech. Now, the 6-foot-3 guard could pick from any school that he might choose where Texas, Baylor, Arizona, and Kansas look to have the best shot at him. The Texas native can play both on and off the ball and sure doesn’t mind contact on the attack to the basket. With a fine motor, good toughness, and an ever-improving skillset in the backcourt, Jones continues to flourish as a well-tracked and prioritized blue chip recruit who won’t sign until the spring. (CE)

(You can read Corey’s work at HoopSeen.com and you can follow him on twitter @CoreyEvans_10)

No. 1 South Carolina tops fifth-ranked UConn 81-77

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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HARTFORD, Conn. – In a rematch of last season’s national championship game, South Carolina came out on top again over UConn thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Aliyah Boston.

Geno Auriemma stepping onto the court to spike a water botte, that helped them, too.

Boston scored 23 of her 26 points in the second half, including 14 in the final period, to help the No. 1 Gamecocks beat the fifth-ranked Huskies 81-77 on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd.

“Aliyah is just relentless, she plays relentlessly although she had a subpar (first half) as far as statistics, she impacted the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She doesn’t get flustered. she knew she didn’t play up to her standards. What does she do? Raise her standard. Bad first half or not she’s going to continue to play.”

While there wasn’t as much on the line as the title game last April, there was a high intensity to it, including Auriemma getting the technical late in the fourth quarter after getting frustrated by the officiating enough to throw the bottle.

“I thought there were a lot of things being overlooked. It was difficult for some of our guys to move out on the floor,” said Auriemma, UConn’s coach. “I didn’t think it was one key play, I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. It was bad. … Dumb mistake by me. Bad decision.”

The Gamecocks (23-0) have won 29 consecutive games since losing to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game last year. They’ve won four of the past five meetings with the Huskies, including a victory in the NCAA championship game last season. That ended UConn’s perfect 11-0 record in title games.

“This was a national championship-like game. I wanted us to feel what it takes to do this,” Staley said.

Now South Carolina finally has a win in Connecticut after winning there before.

South Carolina used its size again to top the Huskies. The 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso and Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year helped the Gamecocks have a 42-30 advantage on the boards, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds.

Boston finished with 11 rebounds for the 76th double-double of her career. Cardoso added 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

With her team leading by four in the fourth quarter, Boston took over. She scored the next 12 points for South Carolina, two of those came when Auriemma tossed the water onto the court and was charged with the technical foul.

Boston hit the two free throws. She then hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and another basket to give the Gamecocks a double-digit advantage.

“I’m kind of in attack mode. In the second half I made more shots then I did in the first half,” Boston said.

Despite seeing their starting backcourt foul out, the short-handed Huskies (21-3) wouldn’t go away. They whittled the lead down to 80-77 with 10.8 seconds left on Aubrey Griffin’s three-point play.

Raven Johnson hit the first of two free throws a second later and UConn couldn’t convert to close out the game

“They have a lot to feel good about once they get past what it feels like to lose,” Auriemma said. “I feel better at 3 o’clock today then I did at 12 o’clock. I didn’t know how we’d respond. I knew we’d play hard and compete like hell. I didn’t know who was going to make a big play, who was going to get a big rebound, make a big shot. I know now more than I did at noon and I feel better about my team.”

Aaliyah Edwards led UConn with 25 points.

UConn got off to a solid start, outscoring South Carolina 25-14 in the opening period. Lou Lopez Senechal capped the strong start, hitting a running 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

South Carolina asserted its size in the second quarter with Cardoso scoring 11 points in the period. Her putback with just under 10 seconds left tied the game at 34 heading into the half.

TIP-INS:

UConn is 8-10 against No. 1 teams all time. … The Huskies are still missing guards Azzi Fudd (knee), Caroline Ducharme (concussion) as well as Paige Bueckers (knee) and Ice Brady (knee), who are both out for the season. … Many former UConn players were in the crowd including Sue Bird, Jen Rizzotti, and Napheesa Collier sitting a few rows behind the Huskies bench. … South Carolina has gone 41-6 against ranked teams since the start of the 2019-20 season.

DEPTH:

The Gamecocks reserves outscored UConn’s 37-0. The Huskies only had eight healthy players.

UP NEXT:

South Carolina: visits Auburn on Thursday before a showdown with No. 3 LSU on Feb. 12

UConn: visits Marquette on Wednesday.

No. 16 Duke tops No. 9 Notre Dame 57-52 for 1st place in ACC

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Celeste Taylor scored 14 points and No. 16 Duke came from behind for a 57-52 victory at No. 9 Notre Dame on Sunday to move into first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Trailing for most of the game’s first 28 minutes, the Blue Devils (20-3, 10-2 ACC) took the lead for good in the final minutes of the third quarter to knock off the Fighting Irish (18-4, 9-3) before a sellout crowd of 9,149 at Purcell Pavilion.

A jumper by Jordyn Oliver put Duke ahead 45-44 with 1:20 left in the third quarter and the visitors never trailed after that.

“I’m proud of my players for finishing the game,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said.

Duke led 48-46 going into the fourth quarter after trailing Notre Dame by as many as five points in the third quarter. A steal by Elizabeth Balogun in the final 15 seconds helped seal the win.

A 13-4 run helped Notre Dame take its biggest lead of the first half for either team at 31-23. The Irish led 31-25 at halftime.

“We fell short, but you know it’s a part of our growth,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “It’s part of our journey.”

Taylor scored 10 points for Duke in the second half. Balogun and Shayeann Day-Wilson finished with 9 points apiece and Taya Corosdale and Oliver had 8 each.

Maddy Westbeld, playing all 40 minutes, led Notre Dame with 15 points, Sonia Citron scored 14 and Olivia Miles added 11.

“She’s one of the best players in the country,” Lawson said of Miles, who logged just over 31 minutes. “We didn’t have to go against her for a quarter of the game.”

COLD SHOOTING

Neither team shot well in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame made just 2 of 13 shots from the floor and Duke was 3 of 13.

“We just talked about staying disciplined defensively and making it hard,” Lawson said. “I though we challenged shots.”

Ivey also addressed that stretch of the game.

“Some of those opportunities were in transition and we didn’t get a chance to capitalize,” she said. “We did a good job of finding the open person, we just didn’t nail the shots.”

SUPERB SUBS

Led by Corosdale and Oliver, Duke enjoyed a 21-4 edge in reserve scoring.

“I’m really proud of my players off the bench,” Lawson said. “Jordyn Oliver was really good.

“We needed to have that depth in scoring. Not only did they score but they were efficient from the field.”

The Blue Devils’ bench shot 9 of 15.

SHORT-HANDED IRISH

Notre Dame graduate student Dara Mabrey was lost for the season in the Jan. 22 game against Virginia.

Lauren Ebo, a 6-foot-4 graduate student, has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.

“Ebo does a great job of being a precence on the block with her size and ability to rebound and play post defense,” Ivey said. “She’s been working really hard (at rehabilitation).

“It’s kind of day to day.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish fell out of a first-place tie with Duke in the ACC standings.

Duke: The Blue Devils are now alone atop the conference standings.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Irish meet Pitt in two of the next four contests – on Thursday in South Bend and on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Pittsburgh.

Duke: The only regular-season meeting between the Blue Devils and Boston College is Thursday at Boston.

Colorado State sorry for ‘Russia’ chant at Ukrainian player

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Colorado State has apologized for a group of fans who chanted “Russia” at a player on an opposing team who is from Ukraine during Saturday’s game.

Utah State’s Max Shulga is from Kyiv and was shooting free throws when TV cameras picked up the chant from the student section during the game in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

“On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community,” Colorado State said in a statement.

“Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”

Utah State beat CSU 88-79.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
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DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.