Unlike the NBA and its salary cap limitations, crapshoot nature of the draft and guaranteed long-term albatross contracts, college basketball always provides a glimmer of hope right around the corner. Even for big dogs like Duke, whose unbeaten streak and No. 1 ranking was shaken last night in an upset loss at Florida State, the future almost always appears brighter than the present.
So when the Blue Devils lost on Wednesday in part because they shot 31 percent from the field and struggled to sustain a flow on offense, depressed Cameron Crazies could take solace in one fact: Austin Rivers is coming next year.
Nobody on the high school basketball landscape defines instant offense and efficient bucketry quite like Rivers, the 6-3 combo guard out of Winter Park, Fla., who sits in the No. 1 spot of the updated High School Hoop National Top 50 Ranking. Rivers kept his alpha status following the recent holiday tournament season, where he shined at the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., against top-level national competition. Many other players in the Top 50 were able to test themselves against big-time comp at tournaments across the country that are as much talent showcases as they are proving grounds for the best of the best.
Duke has three signed recruits in the top 25: Rivers, point guard Quinn Cook (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and small forward Michael Gbinije (Richmond, Va.). Kentucky has three players in the top 10 — forward Michael Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J.), point guard Marquis Teague (Indianapolis, Ind.) and forward Anthony Davis (Chicago, Ill.) — and another signee down the list in 39th-ranked forward Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Ore.).
High School Hoop diary-keeper Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas, Nev.) moved up a couple of spots in the top 10 thanks in part to his impressive early-season exploits, as well as the absence of former No. 2 prospect Quincy Miller (High Point, N.C.), whose season-ending knee injury dropped him out of the rankings. Fellow HSH diary-keeper L.J. Rose (Houston, Texas) checks in at No. 32.
The HSH Top 50 ranks players regardless of class, region, position, sneaker affiliation, college choice or politics. Five juniors and one sophomore populate the top 15.