Seven Sweet Scoops: Monster Class in Durham? Commitments, More…

Posted by Sean Moran on September 9th, 2015


Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week throughout the season he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at

Note: used for all player rankings.

The summer recruiting season of 2015 is in the books. No more AAU tournaments, camps or all-star events. Beginning in April, the nation’s top high school players spent much of the last five months traveling throughout the United States and, in some unique cases, internationally, to show their skills. Many used this time to significantly boost their stock, while others just endeavored to keep their reputations intact. College coaches were allowed five separate viewing periods during the offseason, and now that the new scholarships are available, it’s time for campus visits and commitments.  So, what happened over the summer?

1. 40-0 Talk in Durham?

Jayson Tatum's Commitment to Duke Makes the Conversation Possible

Jayson Tatum’s Commitment to Duke Makes This Conversation Possible

When will 40-0 talk begin at Duke for the 2016-17 basketball season? Just a short while ago it was John Calipari who had the recruiting swagger with his one-and-done pipeline of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and others, and while things have not slowed down in Lexington, they have certainly picked up in Durham. With the 2015 National Championship and recent NBA Draft success of Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones under its belt, Duke again appears to be the school to beat for elite prep talent. In the Class of 2016, the Blue Devils already have commitments from five-stars Jayson Tatum (No. 3) and 6’3” point guard Frank Jackson (No. 17). On top of that, Duke is in extremely strong position for the top player in the country, 6’10” Harry Giles — who is also best friends with Tatum — as well as 6’10” five-star center Marques Bolden (No. 12) and Wenyen Gabriel (No. 10). When it’s all said and done in this year’s class, Duke could wind up with four or five of the top 15 prospects in the country. Queue the unbeaten season talk a year ahead of time.

2. The Rise of Wenyen Gabriel

Every year there is a player or two who comes out of nowhere and takes the recruiting world by storm. This summer’s edition is Wenyen Gabriel. Hailing from Manchester (NH), the 6’9”, rail-thin Gabriel began his prep career at Trinity before transferring to New England prep power Wilbraham & Monson for his junior season. Gabriel was named to the NESPAC Honorable Mention team last year, but his meteoric rise did not begin until the AAU season. Playing on the Adidas circuit, Gabriel dazzled college coaches with his size, skill and a motor that’s always running. Combined with a unique blend of shooting and ball-handling skills, Gabriel began to get looks from almost every top basketball school in the country. During a sizzling July in particular, Gabriel led his team to the championship game in the Adidas Uprising tournament while averaging 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. More recently, he turned in another stellar effort at the Adidas Nations tournament in front of a plethora of NBA scouts. After cracking various Top 100 rankings in the early summer, Gabriel quickly shot up to five-star status and is currently ranked No. 10 in the country heading into the fall. Gabriel has already narrowed his list of college suitors to five: UConn, Duke, Kentucky, Providence, and Maryland.

3. Who is Number One?

After the high school basketball season and prior to AAU play there were three players who were in the discussion for the top overall ranking: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Josh Jackson. Five months later, nothing has really changed, as a reasonable argument could be made for all three. The 6’10” Giles is fully recovered from the ACL tear he suffered during the summer after his freshman season and the Winston-Salem native averaged 18.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game in the Nike EYBL. DraftExpress currently projects Giles as the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and he certainly has the size, versatility, and court awareness coveted by NBA general managers. Tatum stands 6’8” and is a player who isn’t defined by any one position. He can handle the ball like a point guard, is comfortable attacking from the wing, and can use his Kobe Bryant-esque fadeaways in the post. Tatum hails from St. Louis and averaged 21.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while leading his AAU team to the Nike EYBL championship. Last but not least is the 6’8” Jackson. The most athletic of the three, Jackson impressed scouts at the UnderArmour Elite 24. With a skill set tailor made for the NBA game, Jackson likes to attack from the wing and is exceptionally quick off his feet, as you can see here. All three players have been teammates over the years through various USA Basketball events and the trio played integral roles in leading the USA U-19 team to a gold medal in the FIBA world championships in Greece. As for colleges, Tatum has committed to Duke; Giles is set to take official visits to Wake Forest, UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke; and Jackson still is working on narrowing his list.

4. Commitments!!!

As the days get noticeably shorter, college commitments are starting to drop. Jayson Tatum got the ball rolling when he committed to Duke during the Nike Peach Jam on ESPNU — after taking his first and only official visit there in February, he pulled the trigger with the Blue Devils in July. In August a pair of SEC football schools got in on the commitment action, as Auburn’s Bruce Pearl landed his first five-star recruit in 6’5” wing Mustapha Heron followed by Alabama’s first-year head coach Avery Johnson answering with 6’6” five-star recruit Terrance Ferguson. Heron is currently rated the No. 17 prospect in the country and is known for his physical style of play, while Ferguson comes in at No. 18 and has made his name off a sweet shooting stroke and highlight reel dunks. Washington made some noise as well when 6’4” combo guard Markelle Fultz committed to play for Lorenzo Romar in Seattle. After a few down years, the longtime Huskies head coach seems to be getting his recruiting mojo back by pulling Fultz all the way from the east coast. After playing on the junior varsity team as a sophomore at DeMatha (MD) High School, Fultz exploded as a junior and won the Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year award. DraftExpress currently slots Fultz as the No. 5 pick in 2017.

Just last week 6’10” Tony Bradley (No. 31) provided UNC with its first commitment in the Class of 2016 and shooting guard Kevin Huerter (No. 63) popped for Maryland.

5. Skilled 2016 Point Guard Class

After a weak crop of point guards in last year’s class, the 2016 class is loaded with floor leaders. Just like there is a back-and-forth argument about who deserves the top spot in the class, there is a similar discussion about who should be considered the top point guard (not even including Derryck Thornton, who re-classified into the 2015 class in order to attend Duke). In contention we have the following four prospects:

  • Dennis Smith: Smith is a 6’2” point guard from Fayetteville (NC) who staked his claim as the top point guard in the class before tearing his ACL just a few weeks ago. He is almost impossible to contain off the dribble and put on a dominating show at Adidas Nations by showcasing his Russell Westbrook-like athleticism. With highlight reel dunks and a quick first step, Smith came into the fall as the No. 4 player in the country. Now he will miss his senior season with the injury and will need to work hard to regain his elite leaping ability.
  • Kobi Simmons: A 6’5” point guard out of the Atlanta area, Simmons has great height and likes to push the tempo, can finish at the rim and is also comfortable beyond the arc. He has official visits set for Kentucky, UNLV, and Ohio State and is also considering Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona.
  • Lonzo Ball: Another 6’5” point guard, the Chino Hills (CA) product is committed to UCLA along with his two younger brothers. Ball is the best outside shooter of the bunch and, despite a low release point, is comfortable launching from behind the NBA arc.
  • De’Aron Fox: The lefty point guard from Texas made quite an impression in July and currently sits at No. 6 in the 2017 DraftExpress mock draft. Fox does not excel in any one category, but he is strong in almost everything he tries. He can finish above the rim, knock in a pull-up jump shot or set up teammates for open looks. He has four official visits pending to LSU, Louisville, Kansas and Kentucky.

6. The Future: Classes of 2017 / 2018

While all of the summer talk has been about the Class of 2016, lets not forget about the rising sophomore and junior classes. One name that stood out above the rest was that of rising sophomore Marvin Bagley III. After winning a state title at Corona del Sol as a freshman, the 6’8” Bagley put on a show at the U-16 Peach Jam, stringing together monster double-doubles in front of dozens of college coaches. Easily the top player in his class, Bagley has a very bright future in front of him. Other players who impressed over the summer were a handful of rising juniors who played on America’s gold medal winning U-16 team: Wendell Carter Jr., one of the dominant big men in the Class of 2017, while 6’4” Gary Trent Jr., who established himself as one of the top scorers. Also, point guard Markus Howard put up points almost everywhere he went this summer, whether it was at the Nike EYBL or the USA U-16 competition. He is set to start his junior season at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

7. Other Notes

  • Despite dominating the ACC regular season over the past two years, Virginia is rarely at the forefront of recruiting conversations. But as the Cavs prepare to chase their third straight ACC title, they are also sitting pretty when it comes to recruiting for Tony Bennett’s system. Right now, the Cavaliers have a talented four-man class in guard Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to go along with 6’10 Jay Huff and 6’8” pogo stick Mamadi Diakite (who will redshirt this season).
  • Bennett lost a commitment from 6’9” four-star Sacha Killeya-Jones earlier this summer, but he quickly bounced back by picking up the transfer of Austin Nichols from Memphis. Killeya-Jones ended up at Kentucky, where the staff loves the long and lean forward who oozes potential.
  • One more player to mention is 7’0” Thon Maker. One of the more analyzed prospects over the past few years, Maker decided to stay in the Class of 2016 and bounced back strongly from a disastrous performance at the Nike Hoop Summit in April. He earned MVP of the NBPA Top 100 camp in July and is starting to combine his skills and potential into a formidable player who currently sits as the No. 5 prospect in his class.
Sean Moran (79 Posts)

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