If you have been following and reading us for a while now, you know I’ve been running a monthly column in which I’ve covered the last commitments for the upcoming 2021 season coming from the prospects part of the ‘21 HS class of seniors — here is the last installment, on November/December’s decisions.
As much havoc as the pandemic has caused during the past few months, we’re about to hit March, and with it comes the Madness that month has always been known for. Not a lot of prospects—in fact, just one—ranked inside the top-100 of the 2020 class have committed to schools during the past two months, most probably waiting to see how things unfold in the Tourney and in terms of pre-commitments and draft declarations from current college seniors and underclassmen.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t had movement in the younger ranks of the HS circuit, with more than a few heavy names part of the 2022 class having already picked places. Nine players ranked in the 2021 top-100 leaderboard have yet to pick schools, while 10 inside the 2022 top-100 have already done so, including the no. 1 and no. 3 (!!!) players in the nation. In fact, those latter two are the ones who inspired this early-2022 recap: no. 1 Emoni Bates became the first top-100 player to announce his decision all the way back in June of last year, and we’re just days removed from no. 3 Amari Bailey picking UCLA as his college of choice.
To put you all on the right track and refresh my own brain, we’re going to go through the commitments that have taken place since the first one happened more than half a year ago, back in June of 2020 when Bates gave Michigan State his word. Since that moment, there have been nine more players to name a school currently ranked as top-100 players on 247Sports Composite. Let’s go review them!
Who Are The Players And Where Do They Come From?
Not bad to be covering as many as 10 of the 23 already-committed players here, right? Of course, the cream of the crop is pretty much still undecided and pondering their options, but is rather interesting that two top-3 prospects have already picked places while only the no. 3 kid in the 2021 class has done so, isn’t it?
Outside of that top-3, there is another top-15 and 5-star player with a seemingly clear future ahead, two more top-50 players, and the remaining four all ranked between the no. 51 and no. 98 spots. Again, not bad for a start.
The players themselves are listed next, including their national ranking, position, current high school, bio, and star/ovr rating per 247Sports:
2022 HS Class - Jun. 2020 through Feb. 2021 Commitments
|2022||1||Emoni Bates||Ypsi Prep Academy (Ypsilanti, MI)||SF||6'8||200||5||1,000||Michigan State|
|2022||3||Amari Bailey||Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, CA)||CG||6'4||170||5||0,999||UCLA|
|2022||12||Skyy Clark||Ensworth (Nashville, TN)||CG||6'3||200||5||0,996||Kentucky|
|2022||42||Dillon Hunter||Ypsi Prep Academy (Ypsilanti, MI)||SG||6'3||170||4||0,982||Baylor|
|2022||46||Roddy Gayle Jr.||Lewiston Porter Senior (Youngstown, NY)||SG||6'4||195||4||0,981||Ohio State|
|2022||51||Isaac McKneely||Poca (Poca, WV)||CG||6'4||170||4||0,977||Virginia|
|2022||52||Fanbo Zeng||Windermere Prep (Windermere, FL)||PF||6'9||190||4||0,976||Gonzaga|
|2022||60||Bruce Thornton||Milton (Alpharetta, GA)||PG||6'2||195||4||0,968||Ohio State|
|2022||64||Devin Ree||Terry (Terry, MS)||SF||6'8||185||4||0,967||LSU|
|2022||98||Kyle Cuffe Jr.||Blair Academy (Blairstown, NJ)||SG||6'2||180||4||0,950||Kansas|
We’ve heard so much about Emoni Bates already that it feels like he should be 20 years old at the very least by now. Far from it, though, as the kid is not even 18 yet but he’s getting more attention than anyone since the days of Zion Williams or—some would say—LeBron James. That picture leading this column? That’s Emoni attending a Michigan State Spartans mid-February game. The expectations can’t be higher for the in-state prospect, and odds are he indeed ends playing for MSU as the NBA looks to be still a little bit away from allowing HS to jump from prep to the L. Honestly, we can’t wait.
Close to Emoni in the ranks is Amari Bailey, from Sierra Canyon, who will also stay in-state and play for UCLA in his hometown Cali. It’s been a guard/wing parade for the first few top-commitments of the class, with only one player (a power forward, Chinese import Fanbo Zeng) measuring in at 6-foot-9 or more.
Have Those High Schools Any Track Record Of Top-Player Production?
This doesn’t happen often, even less this early in the process, but Ypsilanti Prep (MI) has already two 2022 top-50 kids committed to a couple of schools. Emoni is the prep’s flagship, of course, but Dillon Hunter is joining him in the already-committed list after giving his word to Baylor and thus moving from the state of Michigan to play ball in Texas come his time. With Ypsi Prep being formed by Emoni’s father, the school only has another top-100 ranked player in its history books (2021 no. 55 Jaden Akins) with Bates and Hunter being the best two prospects to come out of it in its short history.
Who doesn’t know Sierra Canyon (CA) these days? A late bloomer in the HS circuit, the Chatsworth prep has crushed the ranks starting in 2017 when they put Marvin Bagley III at the no. 1 spot of such class of HS seniors. Since then, you can’t count the great alumni Sierra has given a home to. Cody Riley, Cassius Stanley, Scotty Pippen, Kenyon Martin Jr., BJ Boston, Zaire Williams, etc. Amari Bailey will be the second highest-ranked player to bulk up that lineage... with a certain Bronny James already playing basketball there as part of the 2023 HS class.
Ensworth (TN) has put five players in the 247Sports Composite ranks since there’s data available, but only one of them ranked inside the top-150 players of his class (2013 no. 144 Cornelius Elder, a Miami commit) so Skyy Clark projects as the brightest export of the Nashville high school to this day.
Moving on to the state of Florida, Windermere Prep (FL) hopes to eventually reap the rewards of Chinese import Fanbo Zeng, who arrived in the USA back in 2017 and has turned into a near-top-50 prospect in his four years playing ball in America. Not surprising that he picked internationally-laden Gonzaga as his next stop toward a pro-basketball career.
Although Milton (GA) has been putting kids on the ranks all the way back to 2009, the truth is that the school has never nurtured a top-60 prospect as 2022 Bruce Thornton currently is other than the late Dai-Jon Parker in 2011. That being said, though, Milton’s best kid has still to become a high school junior as he is part of the upcoming 2023 class—no. 13 Kanaan Carlyle.
It makes me feel old, but two top-10 players came out of Blair Academy (NJ)... in 2003! Luol Deng (no. 2) and Charlie Villanueva (no. 7) were part of a class that included a couple more ranked prospects and although both are already out of pro-basketball you can definitely tell they made it big time in the NBA. It’s going to be hard for Kyle Cuffe Jr. to get to the levels reached by those two. Even 2020 no. 37 Jabri Abdur-Rahim (yes, the son of current G League’s president and 12-year NBA player Shareef Abdur-Rahim) ranked higher than Cuffe and is already hooping for the Virginia Cavaliers with hopes of eventually turning pro—he’s still far from a lock draftee, though, serving as a freshman role player thus far.
No ranked prospects (as always using 247Sports Composite ranks and data) have ever come out of Terry (MS), Lewiston Porter Senior (NY), Poca (WV),
And The Most Important Thing... Where Are They Going To Play College Ball?
As a quick recap of everything we’ve covered up to this point, these are the colleges to get themselves a 2022 top-100 player during the past few months:
- Ohio State (2 prospects): Roddy Gayle Jr., Bruce Thornton
- Michigan State (1): Emoni Bates
- UCLA (1): Amari Bailey
- Kentucky (1): Skyy Clark
- Baylor (1): Dillon Hunter
- Virginia (1): Isaac McKneely
- Gonzaga (1): Fanbo Zeng
- LSU (1): Devin Ree
- Kansas (1): Kyle Cuffe Jr.
Taking those top-100 commitments and all of the rest into account (23 total), the team rankings are already starting to take shape. It’s way too early in the process (just look at what is happening with the 2021 class and their top players still waiting for March Madness to be over before giving their word to different colleges) but this is how things stand by the end of February:
- Ohio State (3 commits / 95.97 average commit-rating)
- Purdue (2 / 93.79)
- Michigan State (1 / 100)
- UCLA (1 / 99.89)
- Kentucky (1 / 99.60)
- Baylor (1 / 98.22)
- Virginia (1 / 97.65)
- Gonzaga (1 / 96.56)
- LSU (1 / 96.69)
- Kansas (1 / 95.03)
As a final note, a reminder: the G League is currently holding its 2021 season inside Orlando’s bubble. What does that have to do with this whole commitment thing? Well, if you don’t know, the NBA and the G League partnered to create a team full of prospects—the G League Ignite—in which players come straight from HS and play along with some veterans against the teams in that competition.
While only top-tier kids are part of the Ignite roster and that is what will happen in years coming, if the experiment proves successful (there is no reason it shouldn’t be) and some/all of those prospects get drafted or find a way to an NBA team next season, then the probability of players from the 2022 class (and those from the 2021 crop before) pick that professional route instead of entering the collegiate ranks.
We’ll see where this ends, but so far so good for the kids balling in Orlando as two of them (Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Green) project as top-5 picks in the 2021 NBA draft and another one (Daishen Nix) is a late first-rounder (no. 20) in Tankathon’s latest mock draft at the time of this writing.