This past Friday night the stars of tomorrow in basketball took the floor at the Barclays Center in one of the most exciting all-american games in recent memory. Off first impression the class of 2014 has everything to offer from a strong group of big men, shooters, future NBA floor generals and some great potential NCAA stars.
This class has a lot to live up too after the likes of Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Embiid and Ennis all exploded in their first year in college. While this class does lack potential “superstars” there are some players that may be great pros down the line. Here are the top six prospects from the Jordan Brand Classic.
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6. Tyus Jones – Duke
I finally got a chance to see Tyus Jones up close and I was amazed at his poise and maturation. He is, without a doubt, one of the purest point guard prospects to come out of high school in a very long time. Jones put up an all-around impressive stat-line in the game with 10 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds. It might be early but he has a lot of CP3 in him due to the way he can control the game and guide his teammates on the court. He told reporters that CP3 is a guard that he models his game after: “We approach the game somewhat similarly; try to pick the defense apart mentally. He’s also a smaller guard in terms of height, and I am as well so that is someone I watch a lot.”
Throughout the week in practices, he dished out some beautiful passes that made reporters clap a few times. Next year at Duke, the tandem of Jahlil Okafor and Jones is going to be a beauty to watch. They showed off a couple times during the game their chemistry on the court and displayed a couple pick-and-roll plays that worked out successfully. Just like Tyler Ennis was not on the one-and-done radar early last year, Jones has the potential to elevate his stock if he plays exceptionally well and leads Duke far.
5. Stanley Johnson – Arizona
Stanley Johnson was the alpha dog throughout the week in practices and the game. There is a reason why he won four straight state titles in high school. He is a relentless player on the court and gives 100 percent on both sides of the ball. He is built like Hercules and has an incredible knack of getting to the rim.
Johnson is a coach’s dream because he does everything in order to win games. He is the most versatile player in his class and can run the point if asked. He scored 24 points and contributed three assists in the game. Next year at Arizona he is going to fit in perfectly on a stacked Wildcats team, despite the departures of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. Johnson already has a pro body and will be one of the main reasons why the Wildcats will have the chance to make to the Final Four next season. As for pro potential, Johnson is going to be one of the first names called next summer as his game translates to the pros. He is going to be a very good NBA player no matter the case… whether he is a star or the energizer a team needs.
4. Cliff Alexander
Cliff Alexander is a man-child, there is no other way to put it. He looked like a grown man compared to his fellow peers. He captured the MVP after a dominating performance with a stat-line of 23 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. In the practices he dunked almost everything. He is incredibly strong and was the only big man that did a good job of trying to contain Okafor throughout the week. He does an exceptional job contributing on both ends of the floor and is going to be a problem for defenders next year in the Big 12.
With his massive size he is ready to battle some of the toughest big men in the country and in conference, such as Iowa State’s Georges Niang. He compares a lot to Amar’e Stoudemire and Andre Drummond and can develop into a beast on the next level.
If he continues working on expanding his midrange game he is going to be one of the most sought-out prospects this upcoming NCAA season.
3. Kelly Oubre – Kansas
Kelly Oubre’s stock rose more than any other prospect this week. He has great size for a wing player, standing at 6-7 and despite not shooting the ball particularly well throughout the week, he can get to the rim with ease. No one could guard him in practices and he showed a great amount of athleticism. He finished the game with 24 points and his confidence stood out the most to me.
Oubre was a tough matchup for anyone on the East Squad as he slashed to the rim and caught a couple dunks in transition. Following in the footsteps of Andrew Wiggins, Oubre has a huge hole to fill, but if he sticks to being a forward and not a guard, he will make a great impact in Lawrence. He has the potential to be one of the best scorers to come out of this class and with already possessing prototypical NBA wing size, he can easily transition into the pros.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay – SMU
Mudiay is the next hybrid point guard in line in the mold of Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He has tremendous athletic ability, which makes him one of the most dynamic players in the country. Throughout the week, Mudiay kept people on their feet with some amazing aerial displays. Standing at 6-5, he bullies smaller point guards and knows how to create his own shot. He is also incredibly fast and gets to the rim whenever he wants.
Defensively he is great because of his lateral quickness and his size. Just like Rose and Westbrook, Mudiay has to work on his jump shot if he wants to be a complete player.
Mudiay chose to stay home and is set to attend SMU in the fall under legendary head coach Larry Brown. With a year under Brown, Mudiay should clear up any questions about his shot selection and could become one of the best guards in college basketball immediately. SMU is going to be a team to look out for as they are stacked already with Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Keith Frazier, and senior Kansas State transfer Nick Russell. Add Mudiay to that bunch and the Mustangs are going to go far in the NCAA tournament after the selection committee left them out of the tourney this year.
Mudiay is going to be one of the first players taken in the 2015 NBA Draft and has the potential to be a really great point guard in the league.
1. Jahlil Okafor – Duke
Throughout the week it was not hard to notice why Jahlil Okafor is the No. 1 player in his class. He was MVP after a great performance with 29 points and nine rebounds while shooting 13-for-17 from the field in the game. All-Star games are usually dominated by guards, but Okafor is gifted offensively in the post, and throughout practices and in the game, Okafor garnered the respect from his peers when he called for the ball.
Calling for the ball is a valuable trait that gets overlooked by most young center prospects. Okafor does a great job of putting his body in front of his defender and has incredible footwork. In the game he showed how elusive he can be after catching the ball from the free throw line and spinning on Cliff Alexander for a bucket. Former NBA big man and current ESPN college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis had high remarks on Jahlil Okafor’s game, saying, “I have to say that was my first time getting to see Jahlil Okafor in person, with the exception of watching film on him the past few days. And what I was impressed with, I knew he was a really good low-post scorer, I knew he understood as a high schooler how to create separation between himself and his defender, a little bump to create space. What I was overwhelmed with was how easily he transitions up and down the floor, for a guy 6-10, 260 pounds, with room to grow.”
When Okafor steps foot in Durham, he is already going to be one of the best post presences that Coach K has ever had. Duke is not usually known to bring in a player such as Okafor, especially not since the Shelden Williams days, but he is going to be the missing piece the team needed after a terrible loss to Mercer when they lacked size in the NCAA tournament.
Okafor told reporters that he thinks going to Duke offered him the best chance to win: “I think we”ll be very good, with myself, Tyus (Jones), Justise (Winslow) and Grayson (Allen), with us coming in there, we all want to win. That was part of the reason we all decided to go to Duke together, and we thought it was the best opportunity to win. Seeing Jabari and Rodney leave, I was very happy for them. and in all honesty when I decided to go to Duke, I didn’t expect Jabari to be there, or even Rodney.”
NBA potential-wise, scouts throughout the week compared him to future Hall of Famer, Tim Duncan, but Okafor looks more like Andrew Bynum before injuries derailed his career. If he has a great year at Duke I would not be surprised if he is the first name you hear in the 2015 NBA Draft.
What do you think?
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