Ben Simmons will be one of the most special and exciting basketball players to watch in Division 1 basketball. The Montverde graduate was the number one high school recruit of the 2015 class. The 6’10 forward can do it all. I am very impressed with his athleticism and his versatility. Simmons can guard anybody on the court; he is very quick laterally for his size. Watching him play at Montverde was something special and when Simmons is on the floor he makes his presence known. The lefty shooter has an excellent touch and a pretty release. Simmons is such a rare player, having skill around the post and perimeter. His vision and passing is very mature for his age. It is not often that a 6’10 forward has passing attributes of a 6’2 Point Guard. My only question with Simmons attending LSU is his development. Johnny Jones is not known for developing his players into NBA prospects. Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey did not progress into the superstars they were supposed to be. Even with the question of development, I truly believe Simmons has the skill to be the 1st overall pick of 2016 draft. LSU fans should be very excited about their number one recruit.
Jamal Murray/6’5/Point Guard/Kentucky
Jamal Murray made his impression on me and many others in the Pan Am Games while playing for Team Canada. Murray was originally a part of the class of 2016 but reclassified to the class of 2015. It is scary to think that he is actually a class behind. At the Pan Am Games the Canadian native averaged 17 points and 2.4 assist per games. Those are some good numbers for someone who is 8 years younger than the average age of the players in the games. Murray has the ability to penetrate and finish on any defense. While watching Murray I noticed how much he favors his left hand, which is his off hand. At 6’5 Murray has the ability to be a 2 guard, along with having the handles and passing of a point guard. Along with his handles and passing, Murray has the outside shot that is hard to defend. I believe he has the ability to pull up on the dribble around the arc. Murray going to Kentucky brings a National Championship in sights for 2016. It is going to be scary having Isaiah Briscoe, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray on the same team. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Murray reacts to playing with two other superstars. For him to be at his best, he needs the ball in his hands. At Kentucky he will have other guys around him that are just as talented. The Orangeville Prep Graduate is going to have to learn to help his team off the ball. But there is no question when he does have the ball, Murray will be something special for the Wildcats.
Brandon Ingram/6’8/Small Forward/Duke
With Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow and Jalhil Okafor gone, Brandon Ingram has the skill and leadership to help the Blue Devils reload their roster. Duke is bringing in 6’10 center Chase Jeter who will fill in for Okafor’s; this leaves Brandon to fill in for Winslow. With Jeter down low, I believe Coach Krzyzewski will have Ingram at a 2 or 3 in his lineup. Ingram went to high school where Jerry Stackhouse (former Tar Heel) coached. UNC fans should be very disappointed that Jerry did not persuade Brandon to attend Chapel Hill. Ingram brings a lot of versatility for Duke. Ingram has the handles of a guard and uses a quick first step to get to the basket. The small forward always remains in control and doesn’t let defenders make him feel uncomfortable. While watching Ingram I noticed when he drives in the lane he looks for contact every time. He wants to draw a foul and is not afraid to get bodied down low. Ingram is a very lanky and long with plenty room for muscle. Blue Devil fans should have another championship in sights with Ingram in the lineup.
Along with a few others in his class, Zimmerman has size and athleticism. At 7 feet Zimmerman looks very smooth handling the basketball. Zimmerman was sought out by many top programs, but decided to stay in Nevada to attend UNLV. The skill I was most impressed in watching Zimmerman was his basketball IQ. He knows where everyone is on the court when he has the ball. His passing ability is very impressive; it is very smooth and fun to watch. The lefty also can shoot from mid-range, but I do not think his shot from behind the arc is at a high level yet. With development and coaching the Bishop Gorman graduate will be able to score from all over the floor. One question for the UNLV center is his frame and strength. Scouts say there is still more room for muscle and some say he needs it to go to the next level. Zimmerman has gained 20 pounds the past couple months, but we do not know if it is enough to fill out his lanky body. Expectations are very high going into UNLV as Zimmerman is expected to help the team bounce back from an average season while losing in the second round of the Mountain West. UNLV fans will look to have Zimmerman producing and excelling right when he steps on campus.
Cheick Diallo/6’9/Power Forward/Kansas
Cheick Diallo could be the best post player in this class. It is fun to see him down low against defenders. Fans will love watching him throw it down on the fast break and in the post. The Our Savior New American School graduate has outstanding rebounding ability. Cheick has the vertical, aggressiveness, and wingspan that will help him rebound on both ends of the court. Diallo has so much more potential in him. He has very raw skill. Now the next step for the power forward is development. Diallo is almost new to the sport of basketball as he only started playing organized competition about 4-5 years ago. His skills are not polished and smooth yet, but I believe Kansas will develop him into a stud. It is going to be very interesting to see the player Diallo will evolve into when he becomes more fundamentally sound. Diallo also must work on a mid-range jumper and ball handling skills to help him add a little more versatility to his game. He already has the athleticism to improve in both of those categories. Diallo was MVP of the McDonalds All American game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. Those are some great numbers with playing against top talent in his class. Even though Diallo is a raw player we know that he is still a very gifted player. With Cheick Diallo and Perry Ellis in the lineup together next season, I guarantee Kansas will win another Big 12 Title.
Watch for a great article about Cheick Diallo’s eligibility in the coming days!
Jalen Brunson/6’2/Point Guard/Villanova
Villanova has finally found the superstar they have been missing for them to win a national championship. The Stevenson High School graduate can attack the basket with the left and right, finishing strong against anyone under the hoop. The left-handed shooter has a very quick and natural release. At the FIBA U19 World Championships Brunson shot over 40% from behind three point land against top competition in the world. Fans who did not watch Brunson during the U19 World Championships missed out on something special. Brunson was named MVP of the tournament, which included a 30-point semi final game against Greece.
The vision and ball handling skills Brunson have are very fun to watch on the court. He finds cutters running the baseline and feeds the post very well. Brunson won the Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015 for the state of Illinois. The previous winner of that award was Jabari Parker and he had an “okay” college career. I really do not see Brunson having any weaknesses going into this season. The only slight set back he may have is his quickness. But even being slightly less quick than the average point guard he still gets up the floor smoothly and changes his speeds with the basketball to get by defenders. Jay Wright and the Wildcats have a very bright future with this highly talented point guard.
Kentucky found their replacement for Willie Cauley Stein by signing the Haitian native, Skal Labissiere. The big man shows versatility on the offensive end. I am really impressed with how effective his shot is off the dribble. Skal gets great rise in his jump shot making it hard for defenders to get a hand on it. He is a very advanced player down in the post. The Reach Your Dream Prep Grad loves to use the right-handed hook shot. The center can also score with both hands on the hook shot and has a terrific turn around jumper that is nearly impossible to block. Labissiere is very athletic and has great footwork. He can run the floor on the fast break and can lead the fast break to a finish or he finds the open man. His rebounding ability is advanced for a college player. Skal gets great elevation and has great timing in rebounding on both ends of the floor. Defensively the center has great shot blocking ability, using his 7’2 wingspan to his advantage. He also has good footwork on the defensive end that helps him stay with defenders along the perimeter. I don’t believe Labissiere has any huge weaknesses in his game right now. The next step for Skal like many other young players at this size is to gain more muscle as there is plenty of room for his frame. Even though he may need to gain more muscle, the freshman is still an aggressive player. Kentucky has landed another NBA prospect that will be a top 3 pick in the 2016 draft. Kentucky will have their eyes on another Final Four this upcoming year.
Thomas Bryant/ 6’10/Center/Indiana
Thomas Bryant is the inside player that Indiana needs to be a National Championship contender this upcoming year. Bryant will give the Hoosiers presence down low on both ends of the court. The Huntington Prep grad will be the player they need to defend in the help. He has the height and the footwork to do it. Bryant has a great wingspan that he uses with his shot blocking ability. The center is not afraid to go through bodies going for rebounds as Bryant is a very tough player. On the offensive end Bryant can score. He has a pretty nice shot behind the arc right now, but is still improving. He is very good from mid-range. In a recent interview, Coach Tom Crean expressed a desire to utilize Bryant in the pick and roll, as both the screener and ball handler, which could be very effective, as he can pull up for a jump shot from the roll or drive the lane to finish or draw a foul. I believe Bryant has the skill to handle the ball in the pick and roll but that will take some time to develop. Offensively, Bryant has to improve on his post moves and footwork down low. He stayed on the perimeter a lot during his high school career, but he is still a skilled player in the post who can finish strong with both hands. The Rochester, NY native has the tools and the coaching to get him to the next level. It should be another exciting year for hoops in Bloomington this season.
Baldwin Wallace ’18