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February 9, 2013
It goes without saying that it is still early to be saying much about the class of 2016. For instance, we won't likely begin ranking them until these freshmen complete their sophomore year and we won't assign any star ratings to the class until after this coming summer. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't young players making big noise and putting themselves on our radar. Here is a look at 10 freshmen -- whom we have seen with their high school teams -- who have caught our attention and look to have bright futures.
Tyus Battle, 6-foot-4 SG, Gladstone (N.J.) Gil St. Bernard's. We were disappointed that we didn't get to see the highly touted Battle at USA Basketball's minicamp in October. But the athletic, tough and cerebral wing turned out to be more than worth the wait. He is a very athletic young player who is assertive when attacking the rim. Battle can also shoot, and he has a nicely developed midrange jumper with range to the 3-point line.
Terrance Ferguson, 6-foot-5 SG, Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep. Prime Prep is loaded from a talent standpoint, so the slender freshman can get a bit hidden at times. Once he gets on the floor, he knows what to do. He is a high-level shooter with deep range on his jumper. When he attacks the rim, Ferguson is also a high riser. He has the tools to be an elite prospect down the road.
Harry Giles, 6-foot-8 PF, High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian. For our money, Giles has been the best freshman we've had a chance to see with his high school team. He has pretty good size, great length and the type of body that makes him look like he was born to play basketball. His athleticism is already on the upper end of things, and more impressive is his overall skill level. He is clever in the post, can face and shoot and is a dynamite passer. Like most freshmen he will defer at times to older teammates, but he is a no-brainer as an elite-level prospect.
Josh Jackson, 6-foot-5 SF/SG, Detroit (Mich.) Consortium. Jackson made waves last spring and summer competing, and doing quite well, as a rising freshman playing on the 16U level for The Family, a Detroit-based grassroots powerhouse. Not surprisingly, the super-athletic youngster has been putting together an equally impressive freshman campaign. A big-time finisher, Jackson can shoot it a bit and he plays with a nasty streak. The tools are there for him to develop into one of the Midwest's most sought-after recruits.
V.J. King, 6-foot-5 SF, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary. A well put together kid who began his high school career with huge expectations, King has met and exceeded them. He is smart, can create for himself off the dribble and is a good jump shooter. He will get to the rim, he finishes in transition, he is a smart rebounder and he looks to be a guy who takes pride in playing on both ends of the floor.
Dedric Lawson, 6-foot-8 PF/SF, Memphis (Tenn.) Hamilton. A skilled and lean 6-foot-8 combo forward, Lawson has been an absolute scoring machine as a freshman facing talented Memphis competition. Wired to score, he is in possession of a nice-looking jumper, good post moves and great length. He's not a high flyer, but instead he is crafty and plays with a high level of skill. He should emerge as a national-level recruit with a little more exposure.
T.J. Leaf, 6-foot-7 PF/SF, El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian. We couldn't help but be impressed by the skill level and competitive fire of Leaf when we saw him at the Tarkanian Classic in late December. A combo forward who likes to face defenders up, Leaf can shoot the ball and is an outstanding passer out of the low or high post. He is a high-volume rebounder with great instincts and is willing to play with an edge. He's looking like a high-major prospect.
Jayson Tatum, 6-foot-6 PG, St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade. Depending on how he matures physically, Tatum could end up switching positions. For now, he's running the point and he's doing so at a high level. One of the most savvy and highly skilled freshman we've seen in some time, Tatum can do a little bit of everything, whether it be shooting, passing, rebounding or handling. Most impressive is that when the game is on the line he has a penchant for making toughness plays that lead to wins.
Seth Towns, 6-foot-6 SF, Columbus (Ohio) Northland. The Northland program has been putting out good players (Jared Sullinger, Trey Burke) over the past few years, and Towns looks like he's next in line. The versatile forward has good size and a nicely rounded set of skills. He's made waves in his home state and will undoubtedly pick up steam once he hits the national stage.
Kassoum Yakwe, 6-foot-7 PF/SF, Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior New American. This kid is a lot of fun to watch, and he has a nonstop motor. The big-time athlete makes plays in transition and gets on the glass, and his jumper isn't bad. He has length, he plays each possession like it might be his last and he looks to be another who is a safe bet as a high-major prospect/target.