The prevailing storyline in the senior class rests among the first half-dozen elite members of the group. When ESPN convened its scouts to discuss the 100 elite seniors in the country, the most difficult task we faced was settling on an order for the first half-dozen prospects.
The list begins, as it has since last summer, with No. 1 Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon). He owns three state championships, two gold medals and the respect of his peers. However, his summer was incomplete; he returned from Lithuania with USA Basketball only to shut himself down due to injury. With the top slot heading into the fall intact, Parker need only check his rearview mirror to size up his competition.
The next two spots on the list belong to a point guard and a power forward from Texas. Andrew Harrison (Richmond, Texas/Travis) is a 6-foot-5 point guard, and one of the biggest, most athletic and talented guards you'll come across at the high school level. The only person to slow down his movements during the summer was Parker, who guarded him at NBPA Top 100 Camp and did so better than any other guard we saw.
Harrison leapfrogged Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood) in a tight race. Randle turned in a terrific summer backed by a gold medal with the USA U-18 team and top-dog status at the LeBron James Skills Academy. He's sandwiched on the list by another Harrison, Andrew's twin brother, Aaron Harrison. One of the most feared scorers and long-distance shooters in the country, Aaron Harrison used his size and skill package to distance himself from the rest of the shooting guards in the 2013 class.
The fifth and sixth spots in the ESPN 100 couldn't have been tighter. We polled every staffer to come up with the order Aaron Harrison, James Young (Troy, Mich./Troy) and Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty). Young, a lefty, makes shots from all zones on the floor. Gordon is the high school version of Blake Griffin and helped his team to the prestigious Peach Jam trophy.
The first six players in the class, in our mind, represent their own distinct category. Through their production, upside and overall superior play, they put distance between themselves and the remainder of the field.
Future Florida Gators teammates point guard Kasey Hill (Orlando, Fla./Montverde) and power forward Chris Walker (Bonifay, Fla./Holmes County) were a force on the AAU circuit. Hill was great at times, especially with his travel team. His play at the end of the high school year, this past spring and through July kept him above his competitors at the point. He carried a Florida Elite team to the winner's circle more than once. While he didn't put a cherry on his summer, he was good enough to ward off every other competitor for his No. 2 spot on the point guard list.
Walker is an elite physical specimen and top-tier talent. There's no question he hasn't maxed out his abilities, but his natural talent, raw explosion and tools wouldn't allow us to keep him out of the top 10.
At this point in our list, rounding out the top 10 became challenging because no others forced their way into the select contingent. We went big with power forwards Bobby Portis (Little Rock, Ark./Hall) at No. 9 and Austin Nichols (Memphis, Tenn./Briarcrest), who made the jump from No. 30, at No. 10. Portis is an Arkansas Razorback and a guy who brings it on both ends of the floor, while Nichols might have the best combination of size, skill and room to improve of any of the bigs.
The ESPN 100 also was crashed by a series of new faces, including point guard Roddy Peters (Suitland, Md./Suitland), who was the highest-debuting player as he ascended into the top 50. Other newcomers include power forward Kyle Washington (Eden Prairie, Minn./Hotchkiss), South Florida center commit John Egbunu (Eagle Landing, Ga./McDonough), BYU center commit Eric Mika (Alpine, Utah/Lone Peak), 7-5 center Mamadou Ndiaye (Huntington Beach, Calif./Brethren Christian), scoring point guard Detrick Mostella (Birmingham, Ala./Princeton Day), point guard London Perrantes (Encino, Calif./Crespi), Notre Dame shooting guard commit Steve Vasturia (Philadelphia/St. Joe's Prep), center Chris Perry (Bartow, Fla./Bartow), center Goodluck Okonoboh (Tilton, N.H./Tilton) and power forward Kentan Facey (New York/LI Lutheran).
The big movers on the list, and there was solid post-summer movement, include small forward Kuran Iverson (Windsor, Conn./Fishburne Military School), who jumped 50 spots into the top 30. Elite shooter and Iowa State commit Matt Thomas (Onalaska, Wisc./Onalaska) had a similar rise, as did Robert Hubbs (Newbern, Tenn./Dyer County).
At 7-5, Ndiaye is the biggest player on the list. The smallest is 5-9 shooting sensation Stevie Clark (Oklahoma City, Okla./Douglas), who took solid measures toward advancing his point guard skills.
Overall, the Class of 2013 showed us something this summer. It proved to be a deeper class than expected. There was real worry heading into the spring that the talent pool was shrinking and we were looking at a below-average crop of seniors. Following the summer, we grade this class out as slightly above average, and the elite prospects stack up well against recent peer groups.
As is always the case, we'll ramp it back up in the fall and hit the gyms in anticipation of the season. Can Jabari Parker win a fourth state title? Will the Harrison twins become state champions? Who's going to add a new element to his game? November is months away, and the window for making a final impression is upon us.