Recruiting rankings

Dakari Johnson reclassifies to 2013; no one left in 2014 class (kidding!)

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It seems like the 2013 class is the club all the cool kids want to get into. So, naturally, they’re all going.

Former Class of 2014 center Dakari Johnson plans to reclassify into the 2013 class, becoming the fourth big name to move up a class this year. Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins and Noah Vonleh all made the leap before him. This according to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello.

The 6-10, 240-pound big man out of Montverde (Fla.) Academy was the no. 3 center in the 2014 class, but elected to get his college career started earlier than expected. Johnson is considering Arizona, Syracuse, Kentucky and Florida, among others.

No word yet on how this will effect the Top 100 rankings.

Another day, another elite player trying to up his game by streamlining his prep career. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to an extent I’d have to believe that it becomes a contest for these kids. Wiggins reclassifies, so not to be outdone, so does Vonleh, then Seldon, now Johnson. You can’t be considered the best until you’re among the best and for them, this is one of the ways to get that done.

I’d just like to announce that my unborn son will reclassify to the 2014 class, being that there seems to be a shortage of players in that class at the top. Hey, it can’t hurt, right?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljuKxO841hs]

Video courtesy of CityLeagueHoopsTV

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Just who are the Top 10 prospects for 2013?

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As college basketball rosters develop for the 2012-2013 season and school starts in the coming weeks, even the most casual fan can take a moment to familiarize themselves with the top recruits on the horizon.

There are two primary ways to break down the class’ most intriguing stories, which are the existence of an “elite eight” at the head of the class, and the No. 1 player debate.

The No. 1 player is no longer the consensus pick of 6-8 small forward Jabari Parker. The super-skilled wing forward has muscle-bound power forward Julius Randle, and powerful “bully” combo guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison of the Houston-area all nipping at his heels. It’s debatable if the ideally suited NBA frames of the Harrisons and Randle exceed the long-term potential of Parker at this point, and if those players can bypass him in the near future.

Of course that’s all a moot point if Canadian wing forward Andrew Wiggins joins the class, which has been rumored and endlessly discussed. Given that reclassification is prevalent in high school hoops at present, the top prospect line should be written in pencil, and not pen as fans await Wiggins’ decision. Without Wiggins, it’s fair to say any of the four players can reasonably argued to be No. 1.

The Harrisons are generally thought to be a knock-down, drag-out fight between Kentucky and Maryland, while Parker and Randle have conducted quiet recruitments, and have not had any pipeline to the media in terms of updates of schools. All have their pick of any college in the land.

There are eight players that are substantially ahead of the others in the class, and to go with those already mentioned are combo forward Aaron Gordon of the Bay Area, early Florida commits in in-state stars point guard Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, and lengthy scoring wing forward James Young of Michigan. At this stage in their development, those eight are clearly the top players in the class, as Hill has demonstrated high-caliber burst, Walker is a tremendous athlete inside, Gordon’s motor is unquestioned and Young has the frame to be a mismatch when on the attack.

Any number of prospects can fill out the last two spots in the Top 10, with crafty lead guard Anthony “Cat” Barber, gazelle-like big man Isaiah Hicks (an early North Carolina commit, pictured above), and versatile 6-6 Rondae Jefferson, who can play and defend three positions at the high school level. Another possible bet to join the ranks, top priority LSU recruit Jarell Martin, who emerged as a 6-9 athlete that finishes above the rim over the spring and summer.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

How is one player ranked 11th by one outlet and 34th by another?

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

The most interesting number in the charts we put together in the Consensus Recruiting Rankings database is the last number you see to the right.

Deviation.

That number is an average of the difference between each individual site’s ranking and the mean ranking for the five sites. In simpler terms, it’s a stat that will give you a sense of how spread out the five rankings are. In this first chart, you’ll see Devonta Pollard and Glenn Robinson III:

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Pollard’s average rank is 0.4 points higher than Robinson’s, meaning that the total difference between the two players was two spots from the five outlets. You can’t get much closer than that. What is interesting to not, however, is that Robinson’s deviation is almost four times as high as Pollard’s. All five outlets ranked Pollard somewhere between 22nd and 28th, while Robinson was rated as high as 11th by Rivals and as low as 34th by CBS.

Another example of a difference in deviation is between Gabe York and Prince Ibeh. York finished a full five spots ahead of Ibeh in the Consensus Recruiting Rankings, but the range at which he was rated was much more vast than Ibeh. York’s deviation was almost nine times that of Ibeh. While all five outlets had Ibeh somewhere between 52nd and 59th, two outlets pegged York as a top 40 recruit (CBS had him at 32nd) while two also had him outside the top 60 (Scout was the lowest, putting York at 82nd):

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My question: How does this happen? How can there be so much variation in how one player is viewed while another player is more-or-less a known quantity? Could it really be as simple as seeing a great game versus a mediocre game?

“Eric Bossi (who is in charge of the Rivals rankings) has probably seen Glenn Robinson excel at certain events,” CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello, who is in charge of the CBS rankings and had Robinson the lowest of the five outlets, said. “I have personally not seen him play five-star worthy at any event. To me, it kind of just depends of when you see him. I haven’t seen Glenn Robinson that much since last spring. I know he’s gotten better, but how much better?”

Well, it’s safe to assume that he has gotten significantly better. Robinson has jumped up 28 spots in the rankings since last July, which is a sign that he’s starting to reach the potential that he has shown over the years. The problem is that these evaluators trust their gut instinct, so while Borzello may be hearing stories of the incredible games that Robinson has had, if he doesn’t witness it in person, it’s difficult to change that first impression.

Different evaluators will also have different criteria they are looking for when determining the level that a specific prospect can reach. Some value potential over production. Some value leadership and a winning mentality over potential. Some trust a feeling they get talking to a kid off the court and judging his dedication to getting better. Some will penalize a kid for hopping from school to school and AAU program to AAU program; if they can’t decide on where they want to attend high school, how are they going to last longer than a year at a college?

“We all have different things that we’re looking for and we all have different things that are more important to us,” Evan Daniels, Scout.com’s lead recruiting analyst, said. “A lot of it comes down to when we see the guy play and that kind of stuff. At the end of the day. I don’t look at anybody else’s rankings. I don’t really care where anybody else has them. I’m going off my gut and where I think that guy fits in. I think it just comes down to we evaluate differently and value different things.”

Borzello agreed, saying “People have different criteria. Some value winners. James Robinson (a Pitt commit, Robinson is 73rd in our rankings, topping out at 43rd according to ESPN but going unranked by 247) is a winner, and some people like to value that more.”

“It just depends on what you focus on. Some people focus on potential, some people focus on how much you win,” he continued. “It’s kind of useless arguing one kid over another when you are looking at a specific thing, so I try to bring in everything when looking at players.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Semaj Christon and Grant Jerrett headline this year’s biggest risers

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

I know what the numbers say, but calling Jakarr Sampson the biggest riser in the Class of 2012 is a bit disingenuous.

Players reclassifying is not a new phenomenon. Aaron Thomas, who checks in at second on the list of biggest risers in our Consensus Recruiting Rankings, was also originally in the Class of 2011. But Sampson didn’t voluntarily reclassify like Thomas did. He was forced to return to Brewster Academy for a prep year because he — along with Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett — was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.

Sampson wasn’t in the Class of 2012 rankings last July because he wasn’t in the Class of 2012. That change isn’t the result of an improvement in his game.

The same can be said for Steven Adams.

The future Pitt Panther as been widely regarded as a potential lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft for quite a while, but he only came to the United States in January of this year. The uncertainty surrounding his enrollment at Notre Dame Prep led to some outlets keeping out of their rankings last July, while the ones that did rank him had him in the top ten. So while the numbers may say that Adams has made an unbelievable improvement over the course of the school year, the fact of the matter is that his adjustment to American basketball hasn’t been ideal.

Here is a breakdown of the Class of 2012’s 26 highest risers (and to see the rest of the Consensus Class of 2012 Rankings, click here):

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Not everyone on this list is the benefactor of fluky numbers.

Take Semaj Christon as an example. He’s the perfect example of the benefit of exposure.

Christon, a point guard that ranks 47th in our Consensus Rankings (and who would rank much higher if ESPN’s Dave Telep ranked prep players), is a fifth-year player at Brewster Academy. He spent his high school years playing in Cincinnati and traveling the AAU circuit with the Cincinnati Knights, which isn’t a big time program. Combined with the fact that he was a bit of a late-bloomer, and Christon’s ranking suffered from the fact that he simply hadn’t been seen by the right people.

That wasn’t the case at Brewster.

“When he played at Brewster, he was surrounded by a ton of talent and people saw him play all the time,” CBSSports.com’s recruiting analyst Jeff Borzello said. “It was just clear how good he really was. We saw him consistently play really, really well against really good competition. I think that helped him. And it’s a weak point guard class, and when you compare him to other guys in the class, he deserved the higher ranking.”

That’s the key to earning a high-ranking. Playing your best against the best competition in front of people that matter. Therein lies the value of the major AAU tournaments and high school events. It gets the best teams in the same place at the same time, which is a cheap way for talent evaluators to see a high-number of players.

The problem is that it’s not possible for every elite talent to get to all — or any — or these events.

“I want to see these kids as much as I can,” Scout.com’s Evan Daviels said. “If I have it my way, I’ll get to watch the kid over a long period of time. There are certain kids I’ve seen since they were freshmen. I mean, that’s how I prefer. To wtch their development over the course of their four years. Unfortunately, there are kids that aren’t at the big camps and you don’t get to see a ton and you may only get to see once or twice.”

There is a downside to the kids that make their way to each and every high-profile event.

“The first few times you see a kid, you try to find his strengths,” Borzello said. “But as you see them more and more, you try and pick their game apart. … You don’t want to oversaturate yourself where you start focusing on weaknesses.”

And, according to Borzello, that’s a problem that Grant Jerrett ran into. He had a presence on the summer circuit, and  evaluators started to pick apart his game more and more. Instead of focusing on what he can do, they were nitpicking at the things he couldn’t do.

But Jerrett, who climbed 19 spots to ninth in the final Consensus Rankings, simply kept playing and kept playing well.

“This year, you saw what he does well, and he does a lot of things really well,” Borzello said. “He played well in big tournaments. When you play great against another really good opponent in front of 10 or 15 ranking sites, people are going to remember that more than the way he played last July.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Why did Mitch McGary fall from the No. 2 prospect to No. 25?

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

A number of players took a pretty significant drop in our Consensus Recruiting Rankings since the end of July’s recruiting period, but no one fell quite as far as Nino Jackson.

Jackson was a consensus top 100 recruit after last July’s recruiting period, but as of this spring, 247 was the only site that had him in their top 100, checking in at 97th. So what happened? Well, simply put, Jackson was no where to be found.

“No one saw him play,” Jeff Borzello, CBSSports.com’s recruiting expert, said. “When kids go to schools where people don’t see them, it’s tough to evaluate them. When you’re other kids kids get better and better, and you’re not seeing certain kids at all, they drop.”

Evan Daniels of Scout.com agrees.

“It’s hard for me to rank a guy like Nino Jackson because it has been a year since I’ve seen him play,” Daniels said. “No one knows his academic situation, no one seems to have any idea what he’s going to do next year, where he’s going.”

The tricky part of evaluating prospects at the high school level — and at any level, for that matter — is not only determining who excels at a 16 year old, but judging ceiling of that player and their likelihood of reaching that ceiling. Part of the reason evaluation of a prospect starts at such a young age is to determine how much the kid’s game develops over the years. Players improve as they get older, and tracking that improvement is an integral part of the evaluation process.

Here’s a list of the 25 players that fell the furthest from their ranking in the spring (you can find the full spreadsheet here):

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Easily, the most intriguing prospect on this list in Mitch McGary.

Last summer, McGary’s stock soared. After tearing through the AAU circuit, the Michigan-commit climbed as high as No. 2 in the Consensus Recruiting Rankings. (It should be noted that those rankings came after Andre Drummond reclassified into the Class of 2011 and before Nerlens Noel officially became a member of the Class of 2012.) But after a relatively disappointing high school season, McGary has fallen to No. 25 in our updated Consensus Recruiting Rankings.

“Some of it may have been a misevaluation on my end,” Daniels said. “I think in the up-and-down AAU setting he looked great in transition. He had a run in July where he just looked awesome, but as the high school season went on, he just wasn’t putting up the same kind of production and he wasn’t quite as good as we originally thought.”

McGary did attend Brewster Academy as a senior, meaning that he was on a team with a number of other top 100 recruits. But according to Daniels, that wasn’t a factor in McGary’s drop. “At Brewster he still had plenty of shot opportunities. I saw him play a handful of times up there. We made sure that we got that evaluation correct.”

Now, being a top 25 recruit is nothing to shake a stick at. His lowest ranking was 30th by Rivals, which means that — at worst — there are only 29 high school seniors in the country that are better basketball players than McGary. That’s high praise, and both Daniels and Borzello emphasized the fact that McGary’s ascent last July should be taken as a compliment. Climbing that high in the rankings is not an easy thing to do, and his performances that summer are likely a reason that McGary “only” fell to 25th overall.

The message to take out of all of this?

For recruits at any level, don’t become satisfied with a performance. Whether it’s a series of letters from DIII programs or a spot as the No. 2 player in the country, individual success as a high school junior does not mean that one should rest of their laurels.

There is always room to improve, because there will always be people watching.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

The Final Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

The recruiting class of 2012 is just about complete, as there are only a handful of elite recruits that have yet to determine where they will be spending their collegiate years.

And with the recruiting cycle coming to a close, we get the final rankings of the top 100 high schoolers in the country from each and every outlet that evaluates talent. The problem? Each and every one of those evaluators will have a different opinion when dealing with the top 100 high school basketball players in the country.

What’s the best way to balance out biases? With spreadsheets!

We took the final top 10 rankings from Rivals, Scout, ESPN, CBS and 247 and had some fun with the numbers. To try and get a snapshot of how the experts view these prospects, we put together the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings. (The full list, which contains 143 players, can be found here.) Here’s a look at the top 25:

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What do all of these numbers mean?

Most of them are pretty straight-forward. The column all the way to the left is where these players rank based on the average of their five rankings by each of the respective outlets. The column title ‘change’ is the movement these players have made since the last time we compiled Consensus Recruiting Rankings after last July’s live period.

Personally, I think the most interesting column in the one title ‘Dev’. That value determines the average variance of each individual ranking from their average ranking. For example, the No. 23 prospect in our rankings is Glenn Robinson III, whose average ranking is just .4 points behind Devonta Pollard’s. But Big Dog Jr. is ranked as high as 11th by Rivals and as low as 34th by CBS, while Pollard isn’t ranked any higher than 22nd and no lower than 28th.

One disclaimer: The biggest issue that we ran into was with the kids that made one outlet’s top 100, but didn’t make the others. The goal is to manipulate the exact numbers, but with the variations between the three outlets, there were quite a few players that had at least one missing value. There are 125 players that got at least one top 100 ranking, so if we assume that these are the consensus top 125 recruits nationwide, then we can assume that anyone with a missing value is ranked somewhere between 101st and 125th. Since we don’t have exact numbers, we said each missing value was 113, the average of 101 and 125.

We’ll be rolling out more analysis over the coming days.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.