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Prep Prospect Watch: Top 10 Big Men

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 3:04pm

The July live evaluation period meant a lot of games for big men over a three week span. But a lot of these new-age frontcourt players continue to evolve and adapt to modern basketball as the Class of 2019 and 2020 has some intriguing big guys to watch in the coming years.

Here are 10 big men to keep an eye on. Some of these guys are most traditional back-to-the-basket big men, while others are able to make plays and knock down perimeter jumpers.

James Wiseman, Bluff City Legends -- Everything continues to show up in bursts for Wiseman as he showed some flashes of why some consider him the No. 1 overall prospect. Wiseman moves so naturally and easily for a 7-footer that he makes a lot of simple plays look effortless.

James WisemanJames WisemanWiseman was also particularly impressive in the second half of a win over Vernon Carey Jr. and Nike Team Florida at Peach Jam as Wiseman had monster production in that one. With an ability to run the floor in transition or play out of the post, Wiseman has some intriguing offensive tools, as his soft touch allows him to finish in both scenarios. Although Wiseman's jumper was inconsistent, he didn't shoot nearly as many perimeter jumpers as he did in the spring as his shot selection was a positive development. Since Wiseman is so big and moves so well, he can also block shots at a high clip without fouling as his wingspan and mobility make him a defensive factor. Although Wiseman has great size, there are still times he gets lost in the shuffle on both ends of the floor, as he can be a slow starter during some games. Wiseman's motor and production can still run hot and cold, but there are a lot of tools to like about his game.

Vernon Carey Jr., Nike Team Florida
-- It was a solid showing in July for Carey, as he put up some big double-double performances while playing on a lighter frame. Playing about 20 pounds lighter than this spring, Carey moved much more naturally up and down the floor as he attacked the basket and finished with both hands around the rim.

The lefty also rebounded well in traffic and his improved mobility allowed him to block more shots than this spring. Unlike in the past, Carey also jumped a few lazy post passes. Carey's perimeter jumper still runs hot and cold, but it has the potential to be pretty solid, particularly at the college level, as Carey favors the top-of-the-key three-pointer off the catch. Carey's defense, and defensive instincts, remain a concern as he shows a limited understanding of when to help and how to recover while also showing limited ability as a defensive playmaker. Carey's a likely double-double machine in college, but it'll be fascinating to track his defensive development and how that will translate to the highest level.

Jeremiah Robinson Earl, KC Run GMC -- The hard-playing Robinson-Earl is a tad undersized at 6-foot-8, but he makes up for it with toughness, a high motor and great natural timing and leaping ability. After helping USA Basketball's U18 team capture a gold medal in FIBA Americas, Robinson-Earl didn't appear to be tired at all as he continued to play hard during July.

A double-double threat who does most of his damage at the rim, Robinson-Earl finishes around the basket and he's becoming more of a threat attacking off of one or two dribbles in the mid post. Because Robinson-Earl is so good getting off the floor, and he has good natural body strength, it enables him to rebound in traffic. This is particularly the case on the offensive end at this level, as Robinson-Earl's secondary jump is also notable. With a nose for the ball and strong instincts around the rim, Robinson-Earl has some really nice things about his game as he starts to work on expanding his jumper and skill level.

Jaden McDaniels, Seattle Rotary -- One of the most high-upside prospects in the national Class of 2019, this late-blooming Seattle product has a lot of natural talent in his 6-foot-9 frame. A late-developing player much like his brother Jalen at San Diego State, Jaden has some unique tools that enable him to play up to four spots at the next levels.

Shooting a very easy ball from the perimeter, McDaniels has the perimeter jumper to be a major three-level scorer because of his size, but consistency has eluded him during most of the spring and summer when it comes to his perimeter game. While McDaniels can also make plays above the rim and on the defensive end, there are times he can coast and not put up production as he plays even top competition. Some of that is because McDaniels makes everything look easy, so he gets a knock for effort at times when it might be unfair. But you also have to wonder why elite programs like Duke and Kentucky aren't getting more involved if some feel he's one of the elite talents in the country.

Armando Bacot, Team Takeover -- Putting together a solid July in a championship effort was this five-star Class of 2019 big man. A double-double threat every time he takes the floor, the 6-foot-9 Bacot has done a great job of getting into better shape since the spring, as it has helped him on the glass and finishing. Much like some of the other guys on this list, Bacot playing through July after playing with USA Basketball earlier this summer deserves praise because it's a lot of basketball for a young big man to handle. It also undoubtedly helped Bacot get into much better shape that allowed him to play at this consistent level.

Running the floor much better and finishing off of two feet, Bacot also played above the rim much more often on both ends as he was an adequate shot blocker in help situations. Rebounding and scoring on the interior are Bacot's stable identity as he carves out space and uses his body as well as anyone in the class. Bacot is mostly looking to win the ground game when it comes to his brand of post play, as he's never going to be a high flyer. But he has a good feel for how to work angles and he's got good enough hands and feet to be a factor in the post.

Isaiah Stewart, City Rocks -- Continuing a strong stretch of 2018, the 6-foot-10 Stewart put up some monster double-doubles at the Peach Jam. While most big men want to showcase a perimeter game, Stewart is content to camp in the paint and do damage to opposing big men.

Shooting 57 percent over 22 EYBL games this spring and summer, Stewart only attempted seven three-pointers over that span, including only one attempt at Peach Jam. With solid hands and a good ability to carve space with his shoulders and footwork, Stewart can seal and score while also gaining position to gain leverage on both ends of the floor. Since he runs hard, Stewart also beats a lot of opposing big men to the spot as he also gets a lot of plays off of hustling. Stewart doesn't have the upside of a lot of his Class of 2019 big men peers, but he knows his strengths and plays to them as he's one to keep an eye on. Stewart didn't wind up playing in Las Vegas as he shut things down for that week.

Drew Timme, Drive Nation -- One of the breakout players of this summer, the 6-foot-10 Timme first drew positive attention during the Pangos All-American Camp in early June. An active big guy with more quickness and skill than you would think in a big man, Timme gets a lot done near the basket and in the open floor.

Playing with an active motor and using every head fake and counter he can bring to the table, Timme gets a lot done on the interior as he averaged a double-double on 66 percent shooting during a strong week at Peach Jam. Also flashing some passing ability, Timme can take the ball and push sometimes off of a rebound as his vision can lead to some surprising plays. Timme still doesn't show any type of range on his jumper, but that could also be because he's playing so effectively on the interior at the moment. The skill level and motor make Timme an intriguing combo for at least the college level.

Kai Jones, Team Breakdown -- An interesting big man who could eventually morph into a perimeter threat, the 6-foot-9 Jones can do some intriguing things. Quick off the floor with a bit of bounce, Jones does most of his damage near the basket at this point, as he catches lobs, hunts blocks and snares rebounds.

Running the floor pretty well thanks to his skinny frame, Jones is also effective in transition as he can beat other big men down the floor. Playing the five for Team Breakdown because the roster has a glut of guards, Jones doesn't get a lot of touches where he can go to work, but he's been active and effective in small sample sizes with room to grow for the future. Jones is supposed to go to Brewster Academy this fall, which should really help improve his frame and mentality for the college level.

NFaly Dante, MoKan -- This Class of 2020 big man has drawn rave national reviews for the better part of a year as he continues to show production at high school basketball's highest levels. The 6-foot-11 Dante was a double-double machine during July as he shot nearly 70 percent while dominating some games at Peach Jam.

A nightmare to stop once he seals and gets position, most of Dante's offense comes within five feet of the basket at this point, but he's tough to stop once he gets down there. With a 52 percent free-throw percentage and no perimeter ability, Dante is mostly an old-school big man with room to grow at this stage. Defensively, Dante also has to improve his rim protection, as he only averaged one block per game on that end despite his immense size. Part of this will be Dante improving his mobility on that end while learning to read pick and roll scenarios.

Will Baker, Texas HardWork -- This 7-footer from Texas has drawn strong reviews for his high skill level this spring as he showed off some of those abilities during July. Baker has a solid basketball IQ and vision for a player his size as he can use the dribble and pass to hit cutters and initiate offense -- which is rare at that level.

Baker's lack of foot speed could also make this skill not as useful at higher levels as he'll have to improve his foot speed in order to get past defenders who are quicker and just as big. That lack of quickness also hinders Baker on the defensive end, as he can get exposed a bit defending in space. Offensive, in general, is Baker's calling card as he can nail catch-and-shoot threes with soft touch while also getting some work done in the post. One college coach compared him to Josh McRoberts, although Baker has slower feet.

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