Friday, October 4, 2013
Forecast: Top college juniors in '16-'17
By Adam Finkelstein
On Thursday, we examined the last 10 national champions in order to determine if recruiters put too much emphasis on potential one-and-done prospects.
What we found was that unless those prospects were once-in-a-generation talents like Carmelo Anthony or Anthony Davis, the answer may be yes.
So if college coaches shouldn’t be investing so much time on potential one-and-done prospects, who should they be focused on?
Recent history tells us that NBA-caliber talent should still be put at a premium, but likely the type of talent that needs two, or ideally three years of seasoning in the college ranks first. Experience is especially true in the backcourt where there is a clear correlation between championship caliber teams and experienced ball-handlers/decision makers.
With those findings in mind, we went through the current ESPN 100 and looked to see who could possibly be among the best juniors in the country three years from now:
Isaac Copeland (Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy) 6-foot-8, 189 pounds, PF, Georgetown
He fits the prototype to a tee in that he’s got obvious NBA caliber tools but isn’t ready for that level just yet. He’s long, athletic and agile with a consistently expanding skill set. Give him a couple of years to get stronger and further develop his skills within Georgetown’s system and he could be ready to blossom.
Kameron Chatman (Portland, Ore./Potomac) 6-7, 200, SF, Michigan
He’s like Copeland in that he’s uniquely talented but perhaps even further away physically. He’s a long, skilled and heady lefty but still potentially growing and not yet totally fluid with his floor game. Give him a chance to develop physically, put him in a college weight training program and add an offensive system built for him and you’ve got a potential star a few years down the road.
UNC-bound Joel Berry will be able to sit and learn, but has the potential to explode on the scene by his junior season.
Joel Berry (Apopka, Fla./Lake Highland Prep) 6-0, 185, PG, North Carolina
After Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay, both of whom could be one-and-done, Berry is the top-ranked point guard in the ESPN 100. He’ll have the luxury of being brought along slowly with both Marcus Paige and Nate Britt in Chapel Hill, but could be on the verge of a breakout season by the time his junior year rolls around.
Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) 5-9, 150, PG, Kentucky
Here’s the thing about the NBA -- size counts. So while Ulis may not be quite the pro prospect Kentucky fans are used to seeing as their starting point guard, that won’t impact his opportunity to be the Cats’ floor general from Day 1 next season. If he can capitalize, Ulis should be one of the most established and experienced point guards in college basketball by the time he’s a junior.
Jae'Sean Tate (Pickering, Ohio/Pickering Central) 6-5, 190, F, Ohio State
Because he’s an undersized combo-forward, his game projects better to the college level than the pro game, but there is little doubt he’ll be an absolute beast for Ohio State. He can score, defend and rebound alike, and he just might be the toughest player in Class of 2014. In short, he’s just the type of guy college programs find lasting success with.
Reid Travis (Minneapolis/De La Salle) 6-8, 240, PF, Undecided
He’s kind of like Tate in what he may lack in size and athleticism he makes up for in toughness and production, and while the former may likely hinder his NBA stock, the latter is bound to make him a heck of a college player. Now it’s just a matter of where he ends up -- Duke, Gonzaga, Minnesota, and Stanford remain in contention.
Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield Prep) 7-1, 220, C, Providence
He’s another guy who fits that ideal prototype in that he’s got definite NBA tools, not just with his size and length, but also with his mobility and agility for his size. He’s made great strides within the last year or so, and if his learning curve can continue to progress at a similar rate we’re looking at a guy who is going to be a totally different player three years from now.
Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) 6-5, 185, SG, Undecided
He’s got NBA-caliber size for his position and range on his jumper, but has to prove he can diversify his offense and defend pro athletes on the perimeter. More than likely he looks the part of a guy who will grow into a signature offensive role in college and then have a chance to be a solid complementary part at the next level because of his high basketball I.Q. and ability to space the floor in a half-court set.
Grayson Allen (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) 6-4, 185, SG, Duke
He was late to the scene and so just got his first taste of high level basketball this summer. Expect him to be brought along slowly at first with Duke as well, but two years in he’ll have found his stride and be ready to put his tools to the test. With high level athleticism and a good shooting stroke to match, he could eventually be a high level performer once he puts all the pieces together.