|Andrew Wiggins firmed up his position as the No. 1 player in 2014 -- and in the country. (Nike)|
The summer is a proving ground for high school basketball prospects. In a three-week span during July, every notable player is on the road at an AAU tournament, playing in front of college coaches and scouts. Competition is at its peak, as the high school season doesn't always feature the toughest opponents on a nightly basis.
In the summer, players try to prove their stellar spring performance wasn't a fluke, while others look to go out and make a name for themselves. It's three straight weeks of evaluating players in game settings – and those are the evaluations that stick out for the rest of the year.
In 2013, there wasn't a ton of change at the top. Jabari Parker – despite being hampered all AAU season with an injury – stayed No. 1. Andrew and Aaron Harrison had terrific performances this summer, but Aaron Gordon also made a great case for inclusion in the top three. Julius Randle dropped down to No. 5. New five-star prospects include Rondae Jefferson, Robert Hubbs and Tyler Ennis.
|Zak Irvin was unranked heading into the summer. He's now sitting pretty at No. 33. (Adidas)|
The biggest debuts in the rankings came from Michigan-bound Zak Irvin (No. 33), who continually impressed during Adidas events in Indianapolis and Las Vegas, and Roddy Peters (No. 47). Peters, a 6-foot-4 point guard, looked better than AAU teammate Nate Britt throughout the summer. Iowa State-commit Matt Thomas also entered the rankings with a bang, at No. 56. Tim Quarterman and Kendal Harris were two more players who made their first appearances in the rankings at No. 75 or better. The rest of the first-timers were: Wesley Clark (No. 79), Dakarai Allen (No. 81), Mamadou Ndiaye (No. 82), Rashawn Powell (No. 94), Terry Rozier (No. 97), Eric Mika (No. 98), Mark Donnal (No. 99) and Joel Embiid (No. 100).
Other big-time risers included a trio of point guards: Demetrius Jackson (No. 30), who proved himself as one of the best point guards in the class during the summer; Zach Lavine (No. 44), a UCLA commit who has plenty of potential; and Michigan-commit Derrick Walton (No. 45), who simply does whatever it takes to win games. Scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes rose 23 spots to No. 27, while versatile forward Brandon Austin moved 25 spots to No. 46.
A couple of former five-star prospects from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area took a tumble. BeeJay Anya dropped to No. 41, as he continued to make an impact on the defensive end but struggled offensively. Meanwhile, North Carolina-commit Britt dropped all the way to No. 61. Britt looked somewhat aloof throughout July, almost complacent. Other players who took a big hit in the rankings included Marc Loving (Ohio State) and JaJuan Johnson, who couldn't hit a shot in July after lighting it up in April.
The biggest name that dropped out of the rankings was Junior Etou, who was No. 77 before the summer. Other players who fell out altogether were: Stephen Domingo (enrolled at Georgetown), Malik Price-Martin (reclassified to 2014), Brandon Randolph (No. 84), Jairus Lyles (No. 87), Thomas Hamilton (No. 89), Monte Morris (No. 90), Jaren Sina (No. 93), Josh Brown (No. 94), Jordan Mathews (No. 95), Roschon Prince (No. 97), Jordan Woodard (No. 99) and Desmond Ringer (No. 100).
Al Freeman was a five-star prospect before the spring, but he's now sitting at No. 60 after showing too much inconsistency over the AAU season. Devon Hall was one of the top 30 prospects in 2014, but he reclassified to 2013 and has seen his stature fall ever since. He fell from No. 54 to No. 91 in the new rankings. Josh Hart, Billy Garrett Jr. and Stevie Clark also took noticeable tumbles.
Over in 2014, the studs at the top of the class simply were moved around in the top 15 – except No. 1, where Andrew Wiggins is entrenched as strongly as anyone we've seen in years. Leron Black moved into five-star status at No. 15, after sitting at No. 26 heading into the summer. Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan and Joel Berry also received five stars after a stellar performance on the AAU circuit.
|Karl Towns, a 6-foot-10 forward, is the No. 1 player in the class of 2015. (Under Armour/Kelly Kline)|
The biggest debuts in 2014 came from a trio of top-35 players: Jordan McLaughlin (No. 33), Reid Travis (No. 34) and Jakeenan Gant (No. 35). McLaughlin is one of the premier players on the West coast; Travis is a tough matchup inside; and Gant loves to get up and down the floor and create matchup problems. Other first-timers included: Kelly Oubre (No. 37), Ahmed Hill (No. 38), Shelton Mitchell (No. 44), Abdul-Malik Abu (No. 47) and Anton Beard (No. 50).
Arguably the biggest faller was Paul White, a supremely talented forward who just needs to put it together more consistently. He went from No. 25 to No. 46. The Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, fell a little bit in the rankings, while point guard Kevin Zabo went from No. 33 to No. 48. Tadric Jackson, Chris Sandifer, Melvin Swift, Khadeem Lattin, Ben Bentil, Namon Wright, Kameron Chatman and L.J. Peak all left the rankings.
As I mentioned earlier, we also debuted our first set of 2015 rankings. We only went 25-deep this time around, and it's filled with talented big men. Karl Towns leads the way at No. 1, with post players Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone and Elijah Thomas also in the top five. Marcus Derrickson, Stephen Zimerman, Thomas Bryant and Jessie Govan are four more talented big men with solid five-star ratings.
Malik Newman is the first guard on the board, at No. 3. He's a terrific scorer who knows how to score. The first point guards in the rankings are very different players, with 6-foot-7 Mickey Mitchell and 5-foot-11 Marcus LoVett Jr. at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively. Mitchell is a matchup nightmare and LoVett is a speed demon.
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