On January 31st, I had the opportunity to watch two of the top prospects in all of high school basketball match up in all places, the Wine Country of Napa Valley, California.
Jackson, who hails from Michigan is playing his Junior year at Prolific Prep in Napa, is a 6-7, freakish athlete in the mold of an Andrew Wiggins. He finished the game with 30 points and 19 rebounds.
He had some very impressive stretches of the game, hitting back to back pull up jumpers from around 15 and 18 feet in the closing minutes.
He also displayed his elite athletic ability with a play in which he missed a lay up and his second jump rebound tip in was a play that very few players on any level could execute. He’s beginning to show the type of competitive fire and improved skill level to take his immense athleticism into the stratosphere. He took over this game with a number of big plays on both ends to help seal the victory.
Ayton, who wowed scouts over the summer at the LeBron James Skills Academy, is an absolute man child. He displays tremendous maturity, composure and competitiveness. Projecting him to the NBA, he’s sort of a cross between a young David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon with his length and fluidity, and has a tremendous body to add strength.
The sophomore phenom finished with 20 and 15, despite missing a good portion of the first half with foul trouble. He picked up a silly foul early trying to block an outside shot by Jackson. He impacted the game with his presence in the paint defensively and had some jaw dropping rebounds, showing a great nose for the ball, and great ability to leap through contact. He also hit two mid-range shots that displayed his excellent shooting form, and give him a ton of intrigue.
Josh Jackson 6-7 190 SG/SF (Michigan) HHJr.
Jackson has a strong likeness to Andrew Wiggins but seems to have a little more of a natural killer instinct. Similar to Wiggins, he has the type of athleticism that puts him in rare company, among the best on any level. He’s not quite as long, fast or explosive as Wiggins, but he’s just a half a notch below and has a stronger body. He has moments where he looks a little unpolished, taking the ball into the lane out of control, and also should work on going up for shots with his feet squared and on balance. But he looked vastly improved since seeing him in Dubai at the U17 World Championships in August. He is in a strong junior class with bigman Harry Giles and point guard Dennis Smith, who are both prospects with #1 overall pick abilities. But at this point Jackson has separated himself as the premiere prospect in the junior class and the player with the best shot to go first in 2017, when he becomes eligible.
Deandre Ayton 6-11 240 PF/C (San Diego, CA) HSSo.
Ayton is a can’t miss NBA standout and the type of bigman that comes along every 10 years. There’s a very strong likelihood, if he stays on track, that he will become the top center in the league for years to come. The hype around him is sure to reach a feverish pitch in the near future as he’s clearly the top prospect in all of high school. There hasn’t been a sophomore with this much talent in some time. He is the best center prospect I have scouted in 15 years of doing this. And that includes both Greg Oden and Andre Drummond, who were both exceptional prospects in high school. When you consider his body, it’s close to NBA ready at just 16 years of age, his freakish athleticism, and the form and touch he shows on his shot, he is a kid with a chance to become the next great center in the league. The biggest key will be handling all of the pressure and continuing to work hard and staying focused. When the level of competition isn’t challenging, he will need to find ways to push himself and improve his skill level.
After seeing both players during the summer, and in Napa for a second time, it’s very possible that these two prospects could end up the number one overall picks in their respective drafts (2017 and 2018).