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March 3, 2014

Starting Five: Who will be No. 1 for 2016?


THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

The high school season is nearing an end and state championship action is starting to fire up. It's also time to start thinking about updates to the national rankings. Rivals.com National Analyst Eric Bossi touches on some of those topics in this week's Starting Five.

Who is number one in 2016?

A little bit later this month, we'll be updating the rankings for the class of 2016. Currently, the class stands at a top 35 and we'll be expanding that to at least a top 50. The class of 2015 Rivals150 will also get a refresh during March, and the 2014 Rivals150 will be finalized in late April. But, today, the focus is on the class of 2016.

Thursday night, I was in St. Louis to see current No. 4 in 2016 Jayson Tatum. A 6-foot-7 wing from St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade, Tatum is a unique player. He can really handle the ball, is developing as a jump shooter and, because of his size and skill level, is a tough matchup. Stylistically, think of him as a cross between Penny Hardaway and Tayshaun Prince. Keep in mind, I'm not saying that I expect him to be that good and that I'm just trying to give you a mental picture for how he plays the game.

After watching Tatum again, I think he could be a viable candidate for the top spot in the class of 2016. As far as I'm concerned, Tatum and the three players ranked above him -- No. 1 Josh Jackson, No. 2 Harry Giles and No. 3 Thon Maker -- have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the class of 2016, and I wouldn't really have much beef with any order somebody wanted to put them in.

For this next rankings update, though, I think we are going to leave them in their current order. Jackson has been ridiculously good for Detroit (Mich.) Consortium, Giles deserves a chance to show what he can do once he's healthy again after sitting out his sophomore season, and Maker is a seven-footer who has played dynamically all season long.

This spring and summer, though, the competition should be intense among those four, and I'm curious to see if anybody else can step up and challenge that group.

I would love to see Jaylen Brown take a page from Stanley Johnson

After getting home from my trip through St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., during the latter part of the week, I spent some time catching up on game film that I hadn't yet watched. One of the games that I watched featured Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler and their star junior tandem of Jaylen Brown and Harry Giles. For today's Starting Five, I'm going to focus on Brown.

A 6-foot-7 small forward with a great basketball frame, above-average athleticism and a good all-around skill set, Brown is one of the premier wing prospects in the class of 2015. The five-star prospect currently ranks No. 12 overall in his class, and that ranking seems pretty appropriate at this point. I could see him being a little higher or lower in others' minds, but right in the neighborhood of the top 10 seems very fair for him.

From watching the recent game film of Brown, I can see that he remains a very strong attacker of the basket. He is an above-the-rim transition finisher and also a pretty good spot-up jump shooter. His ball handling remains an area for him to focus on, and given his size, style and physical ability I would love to see him take a page out of the Stanley Johnson playbook.

Brown still has a way to go to develop the overall ball skill that Johnson has, but there's no reason he can't become the baddest dude on the floor like Johnson usually is. Brown is far from soft, but if he can assume the role of full-time tail-kicker, aggressive rebounder and teammate motivator that Johnson has embraced, he can make a solid case to move up in the rankings.

Some thoughts from Arizona's Divison I and Division II title games

This time of year is great for at-home viewing of high school games from all around the country. Several state organizations put many of their playoff games on webcasts, and there are lots of games to be found on cable television. On Saturday, I was able to DVR the Division I and Division II championship games in Arizona. In Division I, Tempe Corona Del Sol bested Phoenix Pinnacle in a classic duel for the second year in a row, while Phoenix Shadow Mountain ran away and hid from Flagstaff.

Let's start with the Division I game because for the second year in a row Oregon-bound Casey Benson led his team to a hard-fought win over Pinnacle. Benson isn't a flashy athlete or a guy with incredible size for his position, but the No. 149 player in 2014 is a big moment player, and he made key plays down the stretch to help Corona Del Sol get the game into overtime and eventually win 71-70. Arizona State-bound big man and teammate Connor MacDougall is actually ranked a bit higher at No. 91, and he was solid; but it was Benson and freshman guard Alex Barcello who did most of the damage for Corona Del Sol.

The real story of the game was Dorian Pickens. The Stanford-bound shooting guard had been electric in the 2013 loss but probably didn't get the ball enough late. This year, he was even better, putting together a 41-point outing (31 in the second half and overtime) that will long be remembered in the state of Arizona. He didn't seem like he would miss as he made one play after another. At about 6-foot-4, maybe 6-foot-5, Pickens is a sturdy two-guard and his shooting is certainly impressive. Like Benson, though, it is his ability to rise to the occasion and make big plays in big moments that speaks most to the No. 126 player in 2014's ability.

Shadow Mountain is an interesting story. Former Arizona and NBA Star Mike Bibby is technically the assistant coach but he is clearly in charge of a team that starts all sophomores, including his son Michael Bibby and small forward J.J. Rhymes. The Matadors ran away and hid from Flagstaff thanks in large part to Bibby's shooting from deep.

At about 5-foot-10 and maybe 150 pounds, Bibby is an extremely thin and physically undeveloped floor general. Not surprisingly, he has a very high skill level, is a deft passer and has the ultimate green light to shoot from deep. He went for 27 points that included seven 3-pointers. It will be interesting to see where he is as a player once he adds quickness and strength with physical maturity. One thing is for sure: Because of his name, some will wildly overrate or say he's no good because they are judging off of his name and not what he does. From a prospect standpoint, he certainly looks like a future Division-I player, but at what level remains to be determined. The other guy I liked as a prospect was Rhymes. A 6-foot-4 small forward, Rhymes has long arms, is a slashing baseline finisher and can already play a bit above the rim.

Hickman handles blowout the right way

Friday night, I watched Columbia (Mo.) Hickman deliver a serious beatdown to an overmatched Eldon (Mo.) High team. The final score of 96-30 was bad enough, but Hickman could have easily won by 100 points had it wanted to try and prove a point. Given that it was senior night and Hickman begins state playoff action this week, it is reasonable that they needed to give their main players some time and run their usual offenses and defenses to stay crisp. And they did that during the first half as they pressed, ran and made threes. During the second half, though, Hickman took off the press, slowed things down on offense and then played mostly role players in a running clock fourth quarter. It was a nice display of sportsmanship and an appropriate way to handle what could have turned into something very ugly.

Remember this name

My weekend trip actually had to end one game early because of the threat of poor weather. My plan had been to make my way up to Harrisburg (Mo.) from Columbia in order to watch a class 2A district championship game. With snow and sleet expected for much of what would have been about a three-hour drive home, I had to bail on the game. However, I want to put the name of the young man I had planned to see into the memory banks of recruiting fans. Remember and watch out for Michael Porter. A 6-foot-6 small forward with a feathery jumper and loads of upside, he's had an incredible freshman campaign for Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton. So far as a freshman, Porter is averaging an eye popping 28.5 points and 10 rebunds per game, and he will be one to watch on the grassroots circuit with Kansas City based MoKan Elite.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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