The Class of 2019 expands for our first look at the ESPN 60. This group is starting to flex its muscle, and the results look impressive.
Here are five bold statements about the class:
R.J. Barrett will re-classify to 2018 Barrett said in April that there was a chance he would go into the Class of 2018. Barrett has had a terrific career, producing and showing plenty of potential in his game. A left-handed small forward, he can score in transition or against a set defense, off the dribble or in the paint. Barrett has improved his outside shooting but still needs work, and he needs to cut down on turnovers to take the next step. If he does change classes, this move will accelerate his recruiting process. Right now Barrett is hearing from Arizona, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, Texas and USC.
LaMelo Ball is hard to evaluate Ball plays a totally different style of basketball than most. He goes at breakneck speed on offense with little commitment to defense. His shot quality is definitely in question as is his efficiency, but his shot-making ability is evident. With that said, he is ultra-talented and scores in an uncanny fashion. The other factor in his evaluation is that he does not play on a major AAU circuit, so it's hard to see what he can do consistently against higher competition. Older brother Lonzo Ball had the ability to make his teammates better with the pass, and younger brother LiAngelo Ball shoots it with deep range -- LaMelo Ball could be summed up as a combination of the two.
A big man will be on top If Barrett reclassifies into the senior class, there will be an opening at the top of the ranking. It will come down to these four big men: Vernon Carey Jr., Charles Bassey, Chol Marial and James Wiseman. Carey is physically imposing with skill to impact the game in the paint, on the glass and from the free throw line. Bassey makes his reputation by rebounding and scoring inside. At 7-foot-1, Marial is the longest of the group and displays a 3-point shot and a jump-hook inside. Wiseman can run the floor and is fluid with his movement. His ability to hit the glass hard, finish over most defenders and block shots makes him special.
These three will be moving up Scottie Lewis, Tyrese Maxey and Kofi Cockburn could be on the move following summer evaluations. Lewis is a dynamic athlete, scores at a high level in transition and is playing with more passion and an improved jump shot. Maxey is a strong, speedy guard who has been compared to John Wall and Emmanuel Mudiay at the same stage. Cockburn is a strong, powerful post player who dominates inside.
The size in 2019 stands out Of the top 10 players in this class, nine are 6-7 or taller and four of the top five are 6-10 or taller. That means there is terrific upside for this class. Early indications show the class could be powerful because of its rare combination of size, skill and athletic ability.
-- Paul Biancardi
Top 2019 recruiting storylines
Barrett's status As mentioned above, Barrett's classification will hang over this class. Sources have said a decision should be coming in August, and Barrett would immediately land in the top three of the 2018 class should he decide to make a move. He's the target for several blue-blood programs, and pretty much every powerhouse recruiting Barrett will adjust its 2018 plans if he reclassifies.
Package deal brewing for Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine? Because five-star guards Lewis and Antoine play together on the AAU and high school circuits, they're often discussed as a potential package deal. In fact, the two are ranked one after the other in the updated rankings. Will they attend college together? Duke is recruiting both players heavily, as is Florida. Kentucky is involved, as are UCLA, Villanova and Maryland. St. John's is making a heavy push to keep them closer to home for college. Lewis and Antoine have spoken publicly about the possibility of playing together at the next level, but it's not a sure thing.
Carey's stock continues to rise, and he's now slotted in at No. 2 in the 2019 class. Normally, you would see the powerhouses involved in his recruitment, but in Carey's case, the early team to beat appears to be Miami. Carey lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his father is former first-round NFL draft pick and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Vernon Carey, who attended Miami. As a result, the Hurricanes have been involved as long as anyone, and Jim Larranaga's program is sitting in a good spot. Larranaga even went to Argentina last week to watch Vernon Carey Jr. on the USA Basketball U16 team. Expect some big boys to turn up the heat at some point in Carey's recruitment, but Miami will look to maintain its position.
UCLA and its in-state pipelines Chino Hills High School and the Compton Magic AAU program have been kind to UCLA the past several years. Obviously, Chino Hills produced the Ball brothers, but Compton Magic has had the likes of T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill. There's some overlap for five-star center Onyeka Okongwu, who attends Chino Hills and plays for the Magic. UCLA offered Okongwu more than a year ago, and the Bruins are making him a priority in 2019. Okongwu has played with several UCLA players and is still high school teammates with LaMelo Ball, all of which could help Steve Alford and the Bruins in his recruitment.
Early targets for Duke and Kentucky It's still very early in the 2019 recruiting cycle, with LaMelo Ball the only committed member of the ESPN 60. Moreover, the target boards are fluid for pretty much everyone. With that said, there are early trends forming for Duke and Kentucky, the top two recruiting programs in the country and the programs that have finished 1-2 in the class rankings the past four years. Duke is eyeing both Lewis and Antoine, as well as Barrett, Armando Bacot, James Wiseman, Joey Baker and others. Kentucky is taking plenty of big swings, too, with Barrett on its list, along with Ashton Hagans, Christian Brown, Lewis and Antoine, Wiseman, Balsa Koprivica and more.