A bunch of the high school ballers graduating in 2016, and even some younger peers, look primed to become stars within the next five years. Maybe basketball's rise in popularity has upped the quality and quantity of competition. Maybe more courts have been built and training has advanced. Or maybe it’s just that, thanks to Twitter, Vine, and YouTube, highlight videos are more accessible than ever. Regardless, if most of these guys continue at their current pace, they should all be eating at the Association’s buffet in 2020.
Aside from NYC’s indoor basketball situation (our hardwood being concrete of course), America probably has more basketball courts, parachute-sprint-training-things, and Nike ELITE balls than ever. Coupled with the light shone on these kids already, pushing them to remain pursuant, we ought to expect upwards-trending career trajectories. Throw in the influences of Stephen Curry’s success, accompanied by training videos with military technologized multi-tasking drills, and a history of LeBron James’ dominance – and you have contrasted icons that incentivize these kids to relentlessly hone both their skills and athleticism.
As usual, let’s use the end of this section to appreciate some of the people who couldn’t quite make the cut: Omari Spellman, out of North Royalton, Ohio, is 6’9, weighs 280, has committed to Villanova, and comes equipped with a step-back J alongside surprising mobility. Tennessee-commit Kwe Parker, a 6’2 guard out of Fayetteville, North Carolina, fits his twitter handle perfectly (@iJump_tooMuch) – the guy climbs high enough to simply slap the ball down into the hoop, his highlight reels consist of 360 windmills on 360 windmills and more lethal cock-backs than a Spaghetti Western. The 6-foot-11, 270 pound wielding Udoka Azubuike (no relation to Warriors legend Kelenna Azubuike) also missed the cut, the big fella out of Jacksonville, Florida has more yams than Whole Foods, a couple dimes-per-highlight-video, and once did this to an opponent. Despite all of these kids’ (sorry, young adults’) enormous games, they still have ways, and some years, to go before they are sure to make an impact at the professional level – there are, however, 15 guys who are much surer to make an impact…
15 Bam Adebayo
Bam leaves a definitive impression that can be summed in one word: grown. The kid is 6-foot-10, weighs 240, and has no business playing among fellow teenagers. A high point, NC product, Bam's ability to so easily fly around the seemingly cumbersome fortification that his body has wowed the likes of ESPN (who ranks him 6th overall of the '16 class) and the NCAA's legendary talent procurer John Callipari, whose Kentucky Wildcats have already been committed to by Mr. Adebayo.
14 Christian Brown
13 Thon Maker
12 De'Aaron Fox
11 Terrance Ferguson
10 Seventh Woods
9 T.J. Leaf
First there was Woods, then there was Leaf. T.J. Leaf, with his 6-foot-9, 220 pound frame and fanciful skill-set, seems like a less flashy, and slightly clunkier, vanilla embodiment of Lamar Odom. The lanky point-forward’s jimmy and post-up tenacity are perfectly coupled with the type of basketball attitude that led him to decommit from Alabama after their coach Sean Miller cut him from the USA U19 team.
8 Rawle Alkins
Ask "Where Brooklyn at?" enough times and Rawle Alkins emerges. The way he teaches these other kids, it's no wonder that some call him Roald Dahlkins. A 6-foot-4 guard/wing that weighs 200, Rawle is reminiscent of a compact Julius Randle. The big fella's crossover is as wide as his shoulders, and despite his overwhelming size for his age-group, he's still developed a decently mechanized jumper that he looks comfortable stepping back or pulling up into.
7 Malik Monk
6 Jayson Tatum
5 Dennis Smith Jr.
4 Miles Bridges
3 Lonzo Ball
Lonzo is the future. The most complete point guard I’ve seen since Jason Kidd, this 6-foot-6 enigma from Chino Hills, California isn’t too fast or too strong, but controls the game like it’s on his Playstation. He hails from a basketball family with 17-year-old younger brother, LiAngelo and 13-year-old LaMelo Ball both also playing on Chino Hills and their parents’ (LaVar and Tina) tournament team, Big Ballers VXT. Seeing Zo’s nearly quintuple-double stat-lines in championship games (35p/13a/10r/7b/7s),
2 Josh Jackson
1 Harry Giles
Harry Giles is just a beast. A 6-foot-9 wing weighing 230 with bounce, skill, and speed. When you’re still a teenager nearing seven feet of height yet you’re as mobile and skilled as some of your more talented guard peers, you probably control your own destiny. The big fella has a jimmy and some handle so I’m putting his ceiling as a beefier KD. I don’t even want to talk about the guy any more, his highlights do enough of that for him. Check out the destruction here, and let’s hope that people can still compete with Duke’s duo of him and Tatum.
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