Yesterday, Jeff Goodman broke down a list of players poised for breakout seasons in college basketball. But those kinds of seasons don't just happen at the college level. They happen all the time in recruiting, too.
Just take a look back at last year’s ESPN 100. Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon and Wayne Selden were all players who moved their way up the rankings by virtue of big performances in their senior seasons. Embiid was the classic late-bloomer whose emergence was consistent throughout the year, and Gordon and Selden used specific events, the Hoophall Classic and McDonald’s All-American Game, respectively, to make their statements.
This year, there’s bound to be more of the same. Here’s a look at a few guys in the current ESPN 100 who are definitely trending in the right direction.
Kelly Oubre (Richmond, Texas/Findlay College Prep)
6-foot-7, 190 pounds, SF
Committed to Kansas
ESPN 100 rank: 10
When you’re already a top-10 player in the ESPN 100, it’s not easy to be a stock-riser. But Oubre could be poised to climb even higher on the list. Surrounded by virtually all of the other top players in the country at the recent USA Basketball Developmental Camp, Oubre distinguished himself. His most noticeable development is in the versatility of his offensive game. While he’s been overly dependent on his jumper in years past, he’s now evolving into more of a true three-range scorer who isn’t just a major weapon beyond the arc. He's also now better able to utilize the threat of his jumper to score off the dribble – both in the mid-range area as well as at the rim.
Dominic Magee (Gretna, La./Helen Cox)
6-3, 175 pounds, PG
Committed to Memphis
ESPN 100 rank: 71
He has great size for the lead guard position and a deadly combination of speed and quickness. The fact that he’s left-handed only makes him an even more difficult matchup. His growth needs to come in areas such as game management, learning to vary his speeds and pick his spots, and the development of his right hand. While his physical tools and playmaking instincts are things that can’t be taught, the areas where he can sometimes lack are all typically improved with maturity and experience. In other words, chances are that he’s just going to keep getting better and better.
Edmond Sumner (Detroit/Detroit Country Day)
6-3, 160 pounds, G
Committed to Xavier
ESPN 100 rank: 77
Sumner is the definition of a late-bloomer, as he’s played his way into the ESPN 100 despite having arguably the most undeveloped physique of any nationally ranked senior. That’s not necessarily all bad news, though. Sumner is highly skilled and extremely versatile. He shoots the ball very well from behind the 3-point line, has some sneaky bounce and a combination of size and handle that allows him to play either guard position. Physically, for as undeveloped as he might currently be, he’s got great length and a good enough frame. It’s not a matter of if he’ll get stronger, but when.
Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield Prep)
7-1, 220 pounds, C
Committed to Providence
ESPN 100 rank: 56
Sometimes “breaking out” simply means having an opportunity to showcase recent improvements. That could certainly be the case with Chukwu. Unlike most top prospects in the Northeast, he’s elected to stay in the public school ranks and even turned down virtually all of the top invitational camps on the summer circuit. Instead, he’s been content to quietly put in the work to focus on his own development, and those who have followed him closely over the years can see tremendous growth. He’s a top-notch shot-blocker, extremely mobile and agile for his size, gradually filling out his frame. He has the touch, hands, and passing instinct to grow into an increased offensive threat.
Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti)
6-9, 210 pounds, PF
Committed to Louisville
ESPN 100 rank: 57
Johnson is the type of gifted young big man who is just scratching the surface of his potential, both physically and in terms of his basketball skill set. His physical upside is based on a long and athletic build, one that should eventually be able to sustain a good deal of muscle thanks to his wide shoulders and solid frame. Offensively, he’s only gradually beginning to stretch his game away from the basket, but he has the all the tools to be very effective around the rim, in face-up situations, running the court and in transition. The extent to which his game develops within the next eight months remains to be seen, but all signs point to him trending upward for the foreseeable future.
Cameron Oliver (Sacramento, Calif./Grant)
6-8, 220 pounds, PF
Offer from Oregon; interest from USC, UCLA, Washington, Arizona, San Diego State
ESPN 100 rank: N/A
As coaching staffs still looking for frontcourt help are beginning to recycle through old lists, our West Coast guru, Joel Francisco, sends word of this under-the-radar talent who could very well end up making a splash before his senior year is all said and done. Oliver missed the better part of the last year with a knee injury, including the summer grassroots circuit, but has made a big impact with his quick return this fall. A hybrid-style four-man, Oliver is another long athlete, but one that combines an extra element of power. He’s a force around both rims and a scoring threat out to 15 feet. If he can stay healthy and continue to assert himself this year, he could end up challenging for a spot in the ESPN 100.