With the Class of 2014 now in the books, it’s time to look ahead to next year’s recruiting class. While there are undoubtedly some big-name prospects in this year’s freshman class, it’s hard to argue that none of the top-ranked recruits are more deserving of a mention than the No. 1 player in each class. So, without further ado, here are the No. 1 prospects from the 2014 class.
In the men’s basketball recruiting world, the top recruits are called “blue-chippers”. They’re players who have scholarship offers from over half of all Division I schools, and they’re typically the best players in their classes.
We have introduced new recruiting rankings for college basketball for men: ESPN 100 for the class of 2022, ESPN 60 for the class of 2023 and ESPN 25 for the class of 2024.
With that, we take a special look at the top ranked players in each class and those right behind them. These rankings are based on the performance, productivity and potential of individual players.
As always, these rankings are not permanent. That’s why we evaluate each prospect throughout the year. Just because a promising candidate is in first place now doesn’t mean he or she will always hold that spot.
Can the second team catch up with the first team? We analyze the top two players in each class, looking at each player’s strengths and weaknesses and their overall play in the present and future.
Race 1-2 in the class of 2022
SF Emony Bates
Ypsi Prep Academy (Michigan)
Bates has been on top every time since we evaluated the class of 2022. The gap has closed, but for Bates, first place is something he can lose.
Since his freshman year, we have reported on his talent, focus and competitiveness. Two years ago this week, he was No. 1 in all categories as a second-year starter. (When we last ranked him in December 2020, he was surpassed by Chet Holmgren, who signed with Gonzaga, the highest-ranked prospect in the 2021 class.)
Emony Bates has finished first in the class of 2022 in every edition of the rankings. Who’s next?
His ability to score in transition or on a breakaway is his strength. Against a mid-range defense, in isolation situations or when leaving the zone, he excels at attacking the basket and creating shooting opportunities behind the arc or from distance. His throw, footwork and body control are excellent.
Despite his scoring ability, he has lost his positional game. Bates makes good passes and uses the dribble. He often faces double teams and completely stuns the opposing defenders. When he distracts defenders, his size, vision and willingness to find the free man improves.
If Bates wants to take the next step in his career, he needs to start on defense. When he plays with the ball, he has to play life and deep to slide his feet and keep the offensive player in front of him and out of the paint. The concept of pitch selection and anticipatory movement should be practiced on his completions.
On the ball he must maintain his position and vision, cover his man and protect the ball. Working with the frustrations of the game is another way for him to progress in the game. Playing with good emotions and positive body language will help him become a better version of himself.
C Jalen Duren
Montverde Academy (Fla.)
If we were only evaluating who is the best basketball player in the country, Duren would have a strong case. However, the math is not as simple as we think. It’s about the future and trying to project value to future levels.
The game at the highest level is now in a state where big wingers, of which Bates is one, are getting attention, while the market for big players is weaker than ever, maybe ever.
Jalen Duren, a 6-foot-5 center, is currently the most physically imposing opponent in high school and the No. 2 ranked player in the 2022 class. Who’s next?
Still, Duren is suited to the modern game. His physical characteristics and morphology are not good. He can guard the ring, run across the field, move his feet sideways, finish possession of the ball and give vertical space. He also has a knack for the basket, especially as a passer.
To take his game to the next level, he needs to be at his best every time he steps on the court, become a more consistent free throw shooter and continue to develop his overall offensive arsenal, both to the basket and with his back to the basket.
Race 1-2 in the class of 2023
PG D.J. Wagner
5’11”, 190 lbs
Camden High School (New Jersey)
Wagner has the pedigree and the elite ability to control the action. Wager, a young player with the maturity of an older player, can be a game changer with his exceptional scoring abilities, especially from three levels and the free throw line.
He prepares his teammates well and excels at transformations. He also continually works to develop his soft skills in the gym and on the field, which is critical to his early success and maintaining the top spot in his class.
D.J. Wagner is first in the Class of 2023 because of his ability to score on all three levels. Who’s next?
His gouges help him jump above water and play. Wagner knows how to put defenders in place. When he attacks, he barely forfeits a move and excelled at making good decisions against secondary defenders.
To stand out among the many number one contenders, he will need to prove himself early in the game and take control at the crucial moment as a shot maker.
C Jalen Lewis
5-foot-7, 190 pounds
Bishop O’Dowd High School (Calif.)
First, a warning: The battle for the No. 1 player in the 2023 class is not just a two-man race. In fact, there are at least six players who have a realistic chance of being in the top spot by the end of the summer, and there may be more.
For Lewis to be at the top of this list, he needs to dominate every time. His size, strength and skills are unmatched at this time.
In the long run, he would do well to build his future on the model of Paolo Banchero, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who signed with Duke and is third in the 2021 class. Banchero has enjoyed the same physical advantages from the start, but he continues to push the limits of his body and skills, becoming more versatile on both ends of the court while still playing with a high level of motivation and efficiency.
Race 1-2 in class 2024
PF Derick Queen
St. John’s St. John’s Academy. St. Francis, Maryland
The sophomore will likely have an impact on the game in his age group. Good hands, footwork and touch are important to have an impact on the game in addition to scoring – rebounding, passing, screening and defending.
Quin plays with his head up and his eyes open, spying on defenders to know where to go with the rebound. His body control and understanding of how to escape pressure is remarkable, as is his understanding of the game. Quinn’s offensive performance as a freshman was also very impressive.
Quin is young, but he should remain cautious when it comes to improving and not try to get what he wants. He needs to raise his talent level and not stop at his talent. The next step for him is to put his body first: become faster, lower, stronger and more agile.
SF Naasir Cunningham
Gill St., 5’7, 195 pounds Bernard’s School (New Jersey)
The 2024 class just made its debut and no one can claim the top spot yet. Cunningham is as talented a prospect as anyone in this class, but right now Quin has the advantage because he’s much more productive.
If Cunningham wants to break through the other candidates and ultimately qualify as the No. 1 candidate, he needs to start turning his potential into results. He needs to understand exactly what his game is, what his most reliable individual offense is, where his spots are and learn to impose his will on the game. If and when that happens, we can look back and say he is just beginning to reach his potential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who has the best college basketball recruiting class?
The best college basketball recruiting class is the 2018 Duke Blue Devils.
Who is the best players in Class of 2023?
The best players in Class of 2023 are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.
Who is the best basketball player in the Class of 2024?
The best basketball player in the Class of 2024 is ________.
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