NCB On The Trail: Caleb Swanigan

After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.

The early signing period in men's college basketball has passed, and seven of the top 10 players in the country are still on the board, which means the landscape of college basketball for next year has yet to be determined. Why do some prospects make early decisions while others wait until later on in the process? There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios.

[+] EnlargeJaylen Brown
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/AdidasJaylen Brown says he wants to evaluate college rosters before he makes his final decision.
 When the NBA prohibited prep players from going directly into the pros (2006), blue-blood programs had to change their recruiting philosophies. Likewise, it has changed how the recruits themselves look at the process.

Currently three of the top-10 prospects in the 2015 class have signed early -- with LSU (No. 1 Ben Simmons), Marquette (No. 4 Henry Ellenson) and Duke (No. 9 Chase Jeter). For the ones still waiting to make their decision, there seems to be one reoccurring theme on why they are waiting.

Roster movement.


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Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Big men dominate in class of 2015 

September, 29, 2014
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A closer look at the class in 2015 shows that 10 of the top 15 prospects are either power forwards or centers. But don’t be mistaken as not all big men are the same. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all talent pool.

Let’s look at how they are different in size, body type, skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ.

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Peach Jam continues to be an event college coaches flock to so they can evaluate and recruit talent for their future rosters. This past weekend, many of the biggest stars on the high school circuit competed for the Nike EYBL championship at the Peach Jam, and the New Jersey Playaz walked away champions in the 17-and-under division.

With so much talent and so much on the line, here are my five takeaways from the event.


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Peach Jam Day 2 recap 

July, 18, 2014
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League finals at the Peach Jam are arguably the No. 1 basketball event of the spring and summer club circuit. The Peach Jam features the teams with the 24 best records from the four-session Nike EYBL season. Here are some of the top performances from the action of the first full day.

Chris Clarke
2015, SF, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds
Travel Team: Boo Williams

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The ESPN 60 has officially grown into the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines among the top rising seniors in the country:

[+] EnlargeIvan Rabb
Chris Williams/Icon SMIIvan Rabb maintained his tenuous hold on the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class.
1. Top spot still up for grabs. Ivan Rabb has retained his spot as the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2015, but make no mistake about it: This remains a very tight race that will continue to play out for the next 12 months. Rabb’s versatility and efficiency during the Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, in addition to his vast physical upside, were enough for him to retain his title. But he has plenty of competition. Ben Simmons has been coming on as strong in recent months as any prospect in the class, as he is now turning potential into production on a much more consistent basis. In a class full of scoring guards, Malik Newman stands out as the most talented of them all, and very likely the best pure scorer in the ESPN 100. Diamond Stone has had an equally dominant spring in the Under Armour Association, playing his way into the top four and asserting his claim as a contender in the race for the No. 1 spot.

2. Oh, Henry. No player has made a more dramatic jump up the rankings than Henry Ellenson, who went all the way from No. 47 to No. 5 in the ESPN 100. Ellenson averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game for Playground Elite during the EYBL season, showing a versatile and unique game for a 6-foot-9 power forward, all while continuing to raise his level of his production with each passing week. He can shoot the ball from the 3-point line but is also a threat to put the ball on the floor. He is perhaps most effective when he’s able to get out and run in transition.

3. Other risers. Ellenson is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to players whose stock is rising. Jaylen Brown had a terrific spring on the adidas Gauntlet circuit and played his way into the top 10. Chase Jeter jumped more than 20 spots to land at No. 13, while Michigan State-bound big man Deyonta Davis moved up 30 spots to No. 18. Other spring stock risers include Justin Simon, who went from 45 to 23; Jalen Adams, 46 to 33; and Jalen Coleman, who hopped 24 spots to land at No. 34 in the ESPN 100.

4. Announcing his arrival. Previously a member of the 2016 class, Caleb Swanigan is making his debut in the 2015 rankings at No. 17 after announcing his reclassification last month. The wide-bodied 6-9 big man has nimble feet for a player of his size and an even bigger presence on the backboards. He led the entire EYBL in rebounding this season and was equally dominant cleaning the glass on both ends. His recruitment has also heated up, with Arizona and Kansas joining a long list of scholarship offers that already included Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and many others.

5. More notable newcomers. While Swanigan might be the most notable of the new prospects in the ESPN 100, he’s far from the only one. In a class in desperate need of point guards, Corey Sanders has helped to fill a major void. He was unranked in the last ESPN 60 but now makes his ESPN 100 debut ranked No. 31 in the class. Former UConn commit Prince Ali is another prospect who was on the outside looking in the last time we updated rankings, but he has more than proved himself in recent months. Tres Tinkle, Admon Gilder and De'Jounte Murray make their debuts in the top half of the ESPN 100.

[+] EnlargeJessie Govan
Bart Young/USA BasketballGeorgetown commit Jessie Govan is trending back up the ESPN 100.
6. Down but not out. As some prospects go up the rankings, others must go down, but sometimes that’s just the spark of motivation they need to reassert themselves in the coming months. Jessie Govan and Terance Mann are examples of prospects who slipped out of the rankings at one point in time but are now trending back in the right direction. At No. 23, Tyler Dorsey is a prospect who could make another climb up the ESPN 100 before all is said and done, while the same can be said for P.J. Dozier, Charles Matthews, Doral Moore and K.J. Lawson.

7. Big and getting bigger. The 2015 class was already well known for the amount of size and frontcourt depth, but that has become an even bigger (no pun intended) trend in these most recent rankings. In fact, 11 of the top 15 ranked players in the class come at either the center or power forward positions, making this far and away the most frontcourt-dominated class we’ve seen in recent memory.

8. Plenty of positional size. Size is a characteristic of this class, not just among the frontcourt positions, but across each of the five positions on the floor. Even the perimeter players atop the class have terrific size relative to their spot on the floor. Jaylen Brown is no slouch of a wing at 6-5, while Brandon Ingram’s 6-8 frame is ideal. Malachi Richardson has equally imposing size at the shooting guard position at 6-6. Conversely, we don’t see a player 6 feet or under until Kendall Small (ditto on the no pun intended) checks in at No. 60.

9. Scoring guards. While the big men dominate the top of the rankings, many of the best guards in the class all seem to come from a similar prototype. They handle the ball more than natural 2-guards and yet are more focused on their individual offense than pure point guards. Instead, guys such as Newman, Antonio Blakeney, Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe can be best described as scoring guards -- guards who act as the primary playmakers for their respective teams but look for their own offense first and foremost before passing as a result of forcing the defense to collapse or rotate.

10. On the cusp. The final spots in the ESPN 100 are always some of the most debatable, essentially because there are so many prospects who can make a legitimate claim on the top 100 status. That was particularly true this year, when proven players such as Bryant Crawford and Rex Pflueger were left just on the outside looking in, along with other deserving prospects such as Joseph Toye, Matt Ryan, Chimezie Metu, Marcus Derrickson and several others.

Minneapolis Nike EYBL recap 

May, 25, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The fourth session of the Nike EYBL gave teams one more opportunity to add league wins and earn the right to participate in the Peach Jam that will crown a champion in July.

Check out some of the many terrific prospect performances we witnessed this weekend at the EYBL:


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EYBL Session III recap 

May, 19, 2014
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HAMPTON, Va. -- The third installment of the 2014 Nike EYBL came to the Boo Williams Sports Complex this weekend. Here’s a look at some of the major storylines:


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Ever since he stepped on the high school court at Fort Wayne (Indiana) Homestead, center Caleb Swanigan has been in high demand by college basketball programs across the country.

As an underclassman, he's proven to be highly productive both during the season and on the summer circuit. He is a big man who plays big and has a huge upside down the road. Last week, he decided to become a member of the 2015 senior class.

Let’s break down his game and see why he will continue to be a dominant player.


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Best of Dallas Nike EYBL 

May, 12, 2014
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FRISCO, Texas -- The second Nike EYBL session is in the books.

Let’s take a look at the event’s best players:

Best inside player

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Bill Hensley Memorial Run & Slam recap 

May, 6, 2014
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The Spiece Bill Hensley Memorial Run & Slam has a strong history in the Midwest. It has been the premier basketball event in the region for 20 years. This year's edition was just as good, as teams from 12 states converged here for a great weekend of hoops.

Here were some of the standouts from the event:


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Nike EYBL awards 

April, 28, 2014
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The first session of the Nike EYBL unveiled a plethora of talent that will be showing up on college campuses in the near future. Ivan Rabb is ranked as the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, but if this weekend showed us anything, that ranking is anything but solidified going forward. LSU commit Ben Simmons exhibited his vast skill set throughout the weekend and is coming on strong, and this is just the Nike side of the story.

Best Prospect

Ben Simmons
2015, PF, 6-foot-9, 220 pounds
Status: Committed to LSU
Simmons has that prototypical Division I frame with length and upside. His skill set is perimeter-oriented and quite polished. He can face up and dissect the defense with his passing or drain the 3-point shot. His motor fluctuates and it would be ideal to see him impact the game in the paint more at both ends going forward.


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Ten things to know about 2016 ESPN 25 

September, 24, 2013
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The Class of 2016 is led by the super-talented trio of C Thon Maker, SF Josh Jackson and PF Harry Giles, giving this group an opportunity to be versatile and deep at a variety of positions.

Here are 10 things to know about the ESPN 25 Class of 2016, a small number of prospects who possess big-time potential.

1. Serious upside
The Class of 2016 first and foremost could be better than the Classes of 2014 and 2015. The early report card is tremendous not only for the top 25, but from reports coming in from around the country about players who have yet to be evaluated and added to the rankings when they are extended to 60 then 100. The overall talent and depth and the number of potential NBA players could be the difference.


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