Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ayton still head of 2017 class
  As the doors start to close on the high school season and open for the grassroots travel season, has updated and expanded the rankings for the class of 2017 from a top 25 to a top 75. Not so surprisingly, seven-footer DeAndre Ayton keeps a hold of the top spot.
Ayton still on top
Given that members of the class of 2017 are just wrapping up their sophomore year of high school and have for the most part had somewhat limited exposure, the rankings are sure to change quite a bit as the list expands from it's current top 75 to a final 150 between now and April of 2017. Players will come and go from the rankings as the pool of players from which will select individuals to rank will grow exponentially over the next two years.
DeAndre Ayton is a strong defender and passer.
With all of that being said, if somebody is going to knock seven-footer DeAndre Ayton out of the top spot, they are going to have to be one heck of a prospect or Ayton is going to stop developing. As it is, the native of the Bahamas who plays his high school ball at San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City is the clear choice for the No. 1 spot in 2017. Ayton isn't just big. He's a graceful athlete who runs the floor, cleans the glass, protects the rim and has terrific hands. No, he's not Tim Duncan-like with his skill just yet. But, Ayton does have relatively good footwork, can make a 12-foot jumper, hits the short jump hook and is already a very good passer out of double teams. Behind Ayton, there wasn't a lot of change in the top 10 as the rankings expand to 75 from the initial top 25 released back in the fall. One big mover is Michael Porter, who moves up from No. 4 to No. 2. The 6-foot-8 small forward from Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton is armed with one of the most gorgeous jumpers in the country regardless of class and he has deep range with it. Combine his overall skill level with that jump shooting and the ability to play above the rim in transition and you have a big-time prospect. Checking in at No. 3 is Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial's Troy Brown. A versatile guard with 6-foot-6 size, Brown is most comfortable in the open floor where he can get to the rim and score or set teammates up easy buckets in transition.
Jarred Vanderbilt is a skilled playmaker.
The state of Texas is home to No. 4 Jarred Vanderbilt. A 6-foot-7 small forward from Houston (Texas) Victory Christian, Vanderbilt is a slashing ball-handler and playmaker who has a lot of on the floor similarities to a young Lamar Odom. Another seven-footer comes in at the No. 5 spot in Zach Brown. A walking triple double at Miami (Fla.) Miami Beach, Brown is a physically tough and a mean low-post competitor with very good hands and soft touch out to around eight feet. The highest ranked player on the list to have committed to a college is No. 6 Jalek Felton. The nephew of NBA point guard Raymond Felton, the 6-foot-3 floor general from Mullins (S.C.) High will follow in his uncle's footsteps by playing his college ball at North Carolina. Checking in at No. 7 is 6-foot-7 small forward Brian Bowen from Saginaw (Mich.) Arthur Hill. Making the biggest jump into the top 10 is Atlanta (Ga.) Fulton Leadership Academy's 6-foot-9 post player Wendell Carter, who moves up to No. 8 from No. 14. Rounding out the top 10 are Billy Preston of Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep and Trevon Duval of Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's. A native Californian, Preston is a smooth and skilled 6-foot-8 combo forward while DuVal is an offensive minded and tough 6-foot-3 point guard.
Numbers, notes, trends
Because this edition of the 2017 rankings is an expansion from an initial top 25 to a top 75, there aren't a lot of big moves within the rankings. However, there are some moves of note that merit special attention. Six-foot-10 post player Mohammed Bamba of the Westtown (Pa.) School makes the highest debut in the rankings at No. 15. Long, athletic and loaded with potential, he is more prospect than player at this point, but he has showed enough to merit five-star status. Making the second highest debut and just missing out on early five-star status is Chula Vista (Calif.) Mater Dei point guard Jaylen Hands, who enters the rankings at No. 19. Also debuting in the top 25 are Indiana small forward Kris Wilkes (No. 21), Washington shooting guard Jaylen Nowell (No. 24) and New Jersey big man Nicholas Richards (No. 25). Going by where the players actually attend school, a total of 28 states and Canada are represented in the top 75. California leads the way with eight players in the top 75. Texas has six players on the list while Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Nevada each placed four players in the top 75. So far, only three members of the top 75 have made their college decisions. The previously mentioned Jalek Felton (No. 6) has already committed to North Carolina. No. 40 Markus Howard, a point guard from Arizona, has committed to Arizona State and Louisiana combo guard Cedric Russell who checks in at No. 65 has already committed to LSU. Finally, there are six sets of high school teammates that join each other in the top 75. No. 1 DeAndre Ayton of San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City is joined by his point guard, No. 72 Renathan Ona Embo. No. 12 Austin Wiley of Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park is joined by No. 32 Jamal Johnson. No. 10 Trevon Duval of Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's is joined by Nate Pierre-Louis who holds down the No. 75 spot. Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon has power forwards Cody Riley and Ira Lee who land at No. 14 and No. 22. Up in New England, Ashburnham (Mass.) Cushing Academy features No. 43 Makai Ashton-Langford and No. 70 Kimani Lawrence. Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep places both P.J. Washington (No. 29) and Oshae Brissett (No. 47) on the list.

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