For much of the last three weeks, the nation’s best high school players have been jet-setting across the country — and the world — as they showcased what they can do in front of college coaches everywhere from North Augusta, S.C., to Las Vegas.
Here are the players that stood out the most:
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Michael Porter Jr.
In a close call, I’m going with the future Washington Husky, Michael Porter Jr.
After an unstoppable Peach Jam in which he helped MoKan Elite win the event by completely dominating, Porter was one of the key players in helping the USA U18 team win the FIBA Americas as the team’s leading scorer.
Some have questioned Porter’s toughness, but he’s been a tenacious rebounder from the wing all spring and summer and he’s nearly impossible to contain off the bounce. When his perimeter jumper is going, Porter is an advanced three-level scorer who can make getting buckets look easy on some very difficult moves. In three bracket games at Peach Jam, Porter averaged 29.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting insane splits (68% FG, 93% FT, 56% 3PT).
BEST GUARD: Trae Young
Part of the reason that Porter was so good during Peach Jam is that he had Trae Young beside him on MoKan. A 6-foot-1 guard with deep shooting range on pull-ups, Young is underrated as a setup guy as his aggressive scoring capabilities open up a lot of offense for his teammates. Also a member of the USA U18 team that won gold with Porter, if Young shoots it that efficiently from three-point range in the future, he’ll be in the discussion among the best guards in the class.
They were good, too
- Trevon Duval: The point guard with the most potential in 2017, Duval had a tough time finishing at the rim but still showed incredible athleticism and a warrior’s mentality.
- Collin Sexton: After winning MVP of the FIBA U17 World Championships and a gold medal with USA Basketball, Sexton tore up the circuit and showed incredible intensity and scoring capabilities.
BEST WING: Gary Trent, Jr.
When Gary Trent Jr. takes the court, he wants to completely destroy you. No five-star player went as consistently hard as Trent did during the month of July and that is coming after Trent spent a month away from home winning gold with USA Basketball in Spain at the FIBA U17 World Championships. There were times in Vegas that opposing coaches and teams knew what moves were coming and Trent would still score on them. He’s a cold-blooded scorer who always brings intensity.
They were good, too
- Hamidou Diallo: The high-flying guard can get a lot done on both ends of the floor and his upside might be among highest in the class.
- Brian Bowen: Scoring the ball well and rebounding from the wing was the 6-foot-7 wing from Michigan, who looked unstoppable at times during July.
BEST BIG: DeAndre Ayton
If anyone beats Porter as the best player of July it is Ayton. The 7-footer was incredible during certain moments of Peach Jam in helping lead California Supreme to the final four as he beat Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter and Mitchell Robinson in consecutive games.
With soft touch, a workable jumper and the kind of quick hops that get rim easy dunks and rebounds, Ayton is the best long-term prospect in this class because of how well he moves for his size while also owning a good skill level. Ayton has a desire to play in college and hopefully he’ll get the chance because he has a shot to be one of the best big men college basketball has seen in the last decade.
They were good, too
- Wendell Carter: The 6-foot-10 center was good at Peach Jam and closed out strong by helping Team CP3 win The Eight in Las Vegas.
- Mitchell Robinson: This 7-footer changes directions and runs like a guard and is the best shot blocker in the country. I haven’t seen one guy block this many three-pointers since Anthony Davis.
BIGGEST STOCK RISER: Malik Williams
Indiana native Malik Williams is an interesting story because he was the only top 40 Class of 2017 player who didn’t play in a shoe-company league this spring. After a July in which the 6-foot-11 Williams made perimeter moves, blocked shots and rebounded his entire area, he looked like a five-star lock who should be in serious consideration for the All-American games. Williams is undoubtedly talented enough for those distinctions, but he also needs to prove himself more against the elite big men of the Class of 2017 before we know how good he can really be.
Some of the best college basketball programs in the country like Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Purdue — among many others — are making Williams a priority recruit.
They impressed, too
- Chuma Okeke: Auburn just snagged this top-60 wing forward on Monday and he’s coming off a monster July. A versatile wing who can handle and score, Okeke can also rebound well from the wing.
- Nick Weatherspoon: The younger brother of Mississippi State freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon is making a name for himself as a 6-foot-1 playmaking guard who can really score.
FOUR NON-ELITE NAMES WITH NBA POTENTIAL
- Derek Culver: The 6-foot-10 native of Ohio is an intriguing talent because of his size, athleticism and passing ability.
- Brandon Randolph: A smooth scorer with good size at 6-foot-6, Randolph hit 40 percent of his threes at Peach Jam and can fill it up from deep.
- Chaundee Brown: One of the most efficient scorers at Peach Jam, the 6-foot-5 guard can also pull down rebounds with the best of them.
- Jordan Goodwin: Undoubtedly one of the toughest dudes in the country, this Marcus Smart-type guard is improving his jumper but he’s a warrior with everything else.