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Posted On: 10/9/18 6:36 PM
Who is America's top senior talent? Every place you look there seems to be a different answer. At Prep Hoops our experts made a case for the five most deserving candidates.
The case for James Wiseman. When you ask college coaches at the major conference level who the top prospect in the the 2019 class is the majority of them answer quickly "James Wiseman". At 7-foot-1 and 230 pounds with a near 7-foot-5 wingspan Wiseman has the physical tools that set him apart. Wiseman runs the floor with players a foot shorter and his mobility at 85 inches is extremely rare. Not only does Wiseman get off the floor quickly but he does so instinctively with quick reactions. This isn't the type of big that floats around the arc either, James works his way to the paint and shows off excellent footwork facing the basket or with his back the bucket. While Wiseman doesn't float much he does face the basket comfortably. Finishes with both hands at several angles but rarely forces a bad shot. Wiseman's effort isn't limited to the offensive end, he's also a consistent defender that fills the lane with his length and activity. James closely spaces quickly helping over to contest/swat as well as stepping to get a long hand up on attacking players. The wildest thing about Wiseman is that he is still 17 years old and won't be 18 for another 5-6 months. Wiseman still has to fill out more and become more consistent in areas but physically he has a chance to hear his name called first or second come June of 2020. - Ryan James
The case for Cole Anthony. There are several reasons why I see Cole Anthony as the top overall prospect in the country. Let’s start with his physical attributes. Listed at 6-foot-3, Anthony has ideal size and definitely demonstrates the athletic ability required to succeed at the highest level. These characteristics enable him to rebound the ball exceptionally well from his lead guard position. Anthony averaged 7.6 rebounds per game on the EYBL, and increased this to 8.4 per game during Peach Jam. James Wiseman averaged 6.8 rebounds per game (5.8 during peach), and Vernon Carey averaged 7 per game (10.4 during peach). Throughout the early part of his high school career, and even to an extent now, people have doubted Cole Anthony’s ability to shoot the ball efficiently from the perimeter. This past spring and summer, Anthony shot a respectable 38% from three, and has demonstrated the ability to consistently create his own shot at will regardless of the opponent’s defensive strategy. Another flaw people like to point out when describing Anthony’s overall game is the fact that he doesn’t make others better. Ask guys like James Bouknight and Tyson Etienne if that’s the case. All of these guys, along with Joel Soriano and Richard Springs, are beneficiaries of the amount of attention Anthony draws from opposing defenses. Per Open Look Analytics, Anthony led PSA Cardinals in offensive rating (116.7), defensive rebound percentage (25.1%), and assist rate (29.9%). While guys like Wiseman and Carey have not yet reached their full potential, Anthony right now has proven the most, and is by a wide margin the top point guard in his class. There is no reason for me to believe he is not the best player and prospect in the country right now. – Adam Ayalew
The case for Vernon Carey Jr. I believe Vernon Carey Jr. is the No. 1 prospect in the country. First and foremost, it's not a great class. There really any prospects that I see that are no-brainers to be an All-NBA player. At this stage Carey Jr. is the safest pick to be a lottery pick. The skilled lefty is the most polished "big" in the country. He can score inside-and-out, has magnetic hands, good feet, and he can step out and hit the 3 as well. The reason I like him over Cole Anthony and James Wiseman are as follows. Anthony is explosive, has ideal size, and he's an underrated passer. However, he is a score-first point guard who is far from a consistent shooter and his decision making can forced at times. On the other hand Wiseman is the biggest enigma of the class. This Marvin Bagley Jr. play-a-like has an off and on motor, is raw in the post, and his mindset appears to fluctuate from game to game. He sat out a number of games (is he committed?) and overall his game has ways to go. Don't get me wrong, he is an NBA talent, but I'm not sure how much he loves the game. Thus, the safest pick for me is the most polished player in the country, Vernon Carey Jr. – Joel Francisco.
The case for Matthew Hurt. I look at NBA mock drafts for 2020 and I see numerous 2019 names not Matthew Hurt. So why do I feel that Matthew Hurt should be ranked among the national elite? And why do I feel he’s the most overlooked player in the nation? The reasons are many. I start with the success that Matthew Hurt has had everywhere he’s played. Every player that is considered among the 2019 elite played 17u basketball with talented guys but none of them were able to flourish within the team framework like Matthew did. D1 Minnesota won 40 of 44 games this summer ranking as a top five team in the country and Hurt put up 18 plus points per game grabbing almost eight boards a contest shooting 58 percent from the floor playing next to nationally ranked forward Zeke Nnaji as well as others like Patrick McCaffery and Tyler Wahl. None of the other guys on this list came close to the team success along with individual success. This summer Hurt played with Cole Anthony on the USA 18 and Under team that won a gold medal. On a team loaded with five star talent (some of those players are now in college), Hurt was one of two 2019 talents that played at an elite level. Hurt and Anthony both scored 14 a game for Team USA but it was Hurt that led the team in field goal percentage (63 percent), three point percentage (made 12 of 20), blocks, and grabbed 5-6 boards a contest as the most efficient player on the team number wise and production wise. Then you have the scholarship offers given out by the coaches of the top schools in the country (Coach K, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Jay Wright, Bill Self, Sean Miller, etc) and Matthew Hurt is the only player that has offers from ALL of them. Matthew is one of the elite shooters in America regardless of where he’s at on the floor and regardless of who is in front of him and his ability to make others better within an offensive framework is unmatched. Take for example Matthew pushing his completely inexperienced high school team to a 26-3 record while averaging 33.9 points per game (62% fg, 40% 3pt, 82% ft) plus 15 boards and four blocks a night. That’s why Matthew Hurt is one of the nation’s elite. – Ryan James
The case for Kahlil Whitney. Roselle Catholic (NJ) small forward Kahlil Whitney is a Chicago native that has been on the national radar since the moment he played his first high school game. It wasn’t until this spring and summer that he became an elite five star prospect. Whitney has always had the physical tools on the perimeter with his size, strength, and plus athleticism. He took his game to a whole different level going from high-major prospect to potential one and done lottery pick in the span of a few months with the Mac Irvin Fire. At 6’8” he has outstanding size for his position. The first aspect of his game that stands out is his freakish athleticism. Whitney plays above the rim with explosive drives and catching lobs in the open floor. Handles well off the dribble and is particularly effective in transition when he gets a head of steam behind him. The biggest growth in his game over the last year has been the consistency on his jump shot. He always shot it well mechanically. Now he is picking up on when to use it, how to create space, and setting his defenders up. Being able to drill it with regularity from mid-range and also stretching it out three has made him one of the toughest covers in the nation. Whitney has all the physical tools to become an above average multi-positional defender at Kentucky and beyond if he locks in on that end of the floor. Plays with a high-motor and drive. – Scott Burgess