We’re mere days away—hours, if you push me!—from waving goodbye to our beloved 2010s. The decade is almost over—and will most probably be by the time you catch this—so I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some of the most important and interesting facts the grassroots and high school level of hoops have yielded during the past ten years. I will be taking a look at individual players, full classes, high schools, cities, states, etc... during this series in order to provide a broad view of what the decade we’re leaving was up to and who the agents involved in it were. Let’s get to it!
It makes sense to start at the beginning. No, not at year 2010, but with a bunch of individual names of high school seniors to graduate during the past ten years to the greatest of acclaims.
Today, I’ll be listing some of the best-graded and highly-ranked players to make it out of high school from the classes of 2010 all the way up to 2019. While the former have already written a big chunk of their basketball histories, the later have the full package virtually still to entirely unwrap.
As I’ll just list the best prospects here, I won’t be applying any position constraints. That will be the case in other entries such as those in which we’ll build a team of hoopers, but let’s leave that for when time comes. I’ll use my own dataset, which is mostly based on 247Sports Composite rankings and includes other additional notes. Those rankings assign a “consensus” average score to each prospect from 0 to 1, in which 1 means consensus best player in the nation—as in ranked no. 1 by every scouting service that contributed its own rank of prospects. The list won’t just feature the literal best players, but those with a high grade and my personal certification.
Here we go!
#1 — 2013 No. 1 (SF) Andrew Wiggins, Huntington Prep (WV) — AVG 1.0000
As incredible as it sounds, Wiggins is the best prospect of the decade. Incredible, I’m saying, because Andrew Wiggins is a Canadian baller. If something has marked the evolution of the game lately it’s been its international expansion, and this proves the lengths we’ve gone in the past ten years.
Coming out of Huntington (WV) by the way of Toronto, Ontario Wiggins was indeed one of the most hyped players since LeBron James to be part of any high school class. The fact is that Wiggins was going to be part of the 2014 class but he reclassified to the 2013 one. No matter what, he would have been the No. 1 prospect in any of the two. Such was high talent.
Wiggins put on a show in every showcase he played at and committed to Kansas, where he’d spend a single season before becoming the second first-overall pick of the NBA draft with a Canadian passport. That made it a back-to-back for folks north of the border—Anthony Bennett was 2013’s no. 1 pick, also by the Cavs—and although LeBron James comeback to Cleveland pushed him to Minny he’s still there and playing his best ball this season.
#2 — 2018 No.1 (SG) RJ Barrett, Montverde (FL) — AVG 1.0000
See what I was saying? Two Canadians at the top of the ranks, no less, and both of them the only two prospects with a consensus No. 1 rank in their respective classes in the past 10 years. Obviously, Wiggins brought much more hype to the table than Barrett even making it in a non-Instagram era, so he got the edge as our true no. 1 prospect of the decade.
Don’t sleep on Barrett, though. He’s already part of the NBA and, you know, also a Knick. As if that didn’t brought a little bit of history and legacy to carry on in it. Barrett, as Wiggins five years earlier, graduated from a top-tier school—this case Montverde (FL)—after being born in Toronto and spending his early days honing his basic game in Canada.
Barrett out-ranked some studs around the nation—namely Zion Williamson—and that gives you an idea of how coveted the international prospect were back in the day. A clear-cut no. 1 to the eyes of everyone—from fans, to scouts, to kids, to elders—Barrett enrolled in Duke to be part of one of the greatest recruiting classes ever—Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion joined forces while being ranked 1-2-5.
#3 — 2011 No. 1 (PF) Anthony Davis, Perspectives Charter (IL) — AVG 0.9999
Quite the story, that of AD. You have seen the meme. He was 6-2 at age 15, 6-7 two years later, 6-10 by the time he got to Kentucky, and up to 240 pounds came draft day. Davis played guard-ball in what would turn out to be a monster-esque body that is enabling him to patrol the paint and extend his game out of hit with gusto at the pro level.
Davis predated the next-best prospect to come out of Chicago two years later (Jabari Parker, 2013 No. 4) and was the highest-ranked one from Chi-Town since Derrick Rose (2007 No. 1). That’s a little thing called royal lineage. Anthony Davis was so hyped back in the day that he was labeled the best HS prodigy since James played for SVSM, and he even made it to the cover of SLAM Magazine already in New Orleans’ threads—funny story: he had to put on different team jerseys as the photo-shot took place before the lottery.
Arguably a top-5—if not higher—player in the NBA these days, predictions weren’t wrong with the latest true talent to come out of Chicago. He thrived at the collegiate level with Kentucky, got his NCAA chip, and is now a key piece of the Lake Show.
#4 — 2010 No. 1 (SF) Harrison Barnes, Ames (IA) — AVG 0.9999
How many hoopers from the state of Iowa do you know? Not only did Barnes make it from Ames, but also as the No. 1 player in the nation. Talk about a baller. Another of those one-of-a-kind kids, Barnes is the one part of the earliest class of the decade to make the list along with Kyrie Irving.
Truth be told, Barnes and current-NBA player Doug McDermott (No. 155) formed a tandem in Ames as seniors that took them places, but it was clearly Barnes who had the real abilities on the court. In fact, HB was entangled on a hard battle-from-a-distance with Kyrie all year long until they met in some spring showcases where Barnes took home the McDAAG MVP while he had to share it with Irving at the Jordan Brand Classic.
At the end of the day, though, Barnes was named player of the year. He then went to play college-ball at North Carolina, spent a couple of years there, got himself in the university record books multiple times, and finally heard his name called in the 2012 NBA draft when the Warriors made him a seventh-overall pick.
#5 — 2019 No. 1 (C) James Wiseman, Memphis East (TN) — AVG 0.9999
The only player of this year’s class and the one with everything yet to do at a professional level. To make matters more interesting still, the news just dropped about Wiseman leaving Memphis and the NCAA to train by himself prior to declaring for the 2020 NBA draft. Not that he wasn’t a beast at the high school level and he won’t have a high enough stock, though.
Wiseman played for Penny Hardaway in East and got a HS chip with him before the now-coach bolted to manage the University of Memphis, where he would eventually reunite with James. The relationship at the collegiate-level was short and lasted even less, as we know by now, but Wiseman proved showcased more than enough potential at the lower levels as to be considered a top-tier prospect entering the L come next summer.
No one really has any clue how Wiseman’s story will end, or if his old-school body and game will or not translate enough to the pros, but had I to bet I’d advise you to not sleep on Wiseman. He about to lit the Association.
#6 — 2015 No. 1 (SF) Ben Simmons, Montverde (FL) — AVG 0.9998
Not a Canadian, but an Australian. The third international phenom in the league, he’s still making us think where his ceiling might be at. After spending three years in powerhouse Montverde and settling for college-ball play at LSU—something not so common five years back, with blue bloods getting all of the highly-ranked kids—Simmons and the Tigers failied to qualify for any tournament. He declared for the draft, became the last true-gem of the 76ers Process, and he along with Embiid are still battling to bring that Larry O’B back to Philly... at 23 years of age.
#7 — 2016 No. 2 (PF) Harry Giles, Oak Hill (VA) — AVG 0.9996
Giles’ prospects were high at Wesleyan CA in his first three HS season, were higher when he moved to historic Oak Hill for his senior year, and they were at their highest when he committed and played for the Duke Blue Devils en route to become an NBA player in 2017. Giles’ story is a little sad, though, as he’s been plauged with injuries since he was born and that has cut his chances to prove his value more often than not at every level he’s played. He still has to find his place at the pro-ranks but he should have no trouble finding his pace once he gets healthy enough to put on some on-court minutes.
#8 — 2010 No. 2 (PG) Kyrie Irving, St. Patrick (NJ) — AVG 0.9992
Kyrie was a legit hooper and the pride of Jersey. Long forgotten as no player had ranked as high since Luol Deng (No. 2) all the way back in 2003, New Jersey found its ultimate baller in Irving. He didn’t move out of the state, played HS-ball in it from his freshman to his senior year, and by the time he graduated he was already drooling about become the next-great Dukie—he committed to the university in televised broadcast, no less. Such were Kyrie’s talents and knowledge about them that a mere eight games in the early season and just three more in the Tourney were enough to make him a no-brainer No. 1 NBA draftee. Mad handles, crazy overall game.
#9 — 2012 No. 2 (SG) Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (NV) — AVG 0.9998
I remember Shabazz’s hype as it the story was unfolding yesterday. Muhammad made us dream of the impossible in his high school days, and his rank shows. Nerlens Noel was the No. 1 player of the class but he wasn’t even half as inspiring as the high-flying Bazz and there was no other prospect even remotely close to those two in the rankings, so it was easy to side with Muhammad that year. Of those making the list, perhaps Muhammad is the biggest whiff so far and sadly it doesn’t look like the situation will change in the future. He was a great scorer at UCLA but a little too selfish, which made him drop to the 14th spot in 2013’s draft. He never panned out in Minny, then was traded to Milwaukee, and by late-2018 he was already playing in China. He’s making a career internationally, but his NBA dreams were cut too short for what they looked like almost ten years to this day.
#10 — 2011 No. 2 (PG) Austin Rivers, Winter Park (FL) — AVG 0.9995
The fact that Rivers Jr. has solidified himself as a bench role-player in the NBA might have made you forget about how highly coveted his talents were all the way back in 2011. Rivers was, along with AD and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—not to mention Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, etc...—part of one of the heaviest high school classes of the decade. He oozed skills and talent no matter how you measured it. His lone season in Duke was one to forget—the Blue Devils lost in the first round of the Tourney—but he had already grabbed some trophies at HS level and became the 10th pick of the 2012 NBA draft. Eight-year pro and running. Not every prospect (highly ranked or not) will become a superstar, but every singe one of them would sign eyes-closed upon graduation to have at least Rivers’ career arc.