That pic you see leading this story belongs to the third-best prospect from the 2021 HS class of seniors. That’s great, but the most important thing is where things are leading toward in regards to Jaden Hardy’s short-term future. Being the no. 3 player in the nation is always going to generate headlines no matter what you do. But in Hardy’s case, that combined with his decision to turn pro early as he—along with two more players I’ll discuss below—opted to join the G League and its Ignite squad for the 2022 season.
While this is nothing new after last season’s experiment already concluded with a first-round exit in the G League bubble by the Ignite, it’s hardly an afterthought. More and more avenues are popping up to make it harder for kids to go the NCAA route, giving them more options about what to do before eventually reaching the NBA and fulfill their dreams.
Hardy’s “commitment” was definitely great for the G League, coming from a top-3 player, but there was another signing that could be even more impactful long-term for the dev league: Scoota Henderson, a would-have-been 2022 HS senior, who reclassified to the ‘21 class and then signed with the Ignite. This is the first non-senior player to get to the G League’s freshest team, and one with no eligibility for the 2022 draft. The experiment worked this past season, but this adds another layer and parameter to the prep-to-pros equation. Can’t wait to see it develop.
Who Are The Players And Where Do They Come From?
The past month was pretty much the last one in which we had juicy news around the 2021 class of HS seniors. All of the top-100 players in the class—barring one, who had already committed to Auburn but re-opened his recruiting process by de-committing—have already picked places. Only five of the top-200 players have yet to announce their intentions. It’s all done now when it comes to these high schoolers, and it made sense for us Ridiculous Upside to make a final roundup with the news coming out throughout the last 30 days before fully moving on to cover the 2022 class.
Up to 10 players made the list this past month, and it could have been 11 had Trey Alexander already committed to a new college after balking on his commitment to Auburn earlier this year. Or, seen from another angle, we could actually be talking about only nine kids had 2022 senior Scoota Henderson not reclassified to the 2021 class and become an (underage, mind you!) top-10 prospect even making that jump forward.
Those players ranked inside the top-100 are listed next, including their national ranking, position, current high school, bio, and star/ovr rating per 247Sports:
2021 HS Class May Decisions
|2021||3||Jaden Hardy||Coronado (Henderson, NV)||CG||6'4||190||5||9.994||G League Ignite|
|2021||5||Patrick Baldwin Jr.||Hamilton (Sussex, WI)||SF||6'9||190||5||9.986||Wisconsin-Milwaukee|
|2021||9||Scoota Henderson||Kell (Marietta, GA)||PG||6'3||180||5||9.965||G League Ignite|
|2021||12||TyTy Washington||Compass Prep (Chandler, AZ)||PG||6'3||185||5||9.953||Kentucky|
|2021||24||Efton Reid||IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)||C||6'11||225||5||9.912||LSU|
|2021||30||Nolan Hickman||Wasatch Academy (Mount Pleasant, UT)||PG||6'2||185||4||9.895||Gonzaga|
|2021||46||Arthur Kaluma||Dream City Christian (Glendale, AZ)||PF||6'8||205||4||9.828||Creighton|
|2021||49||Mouhamed Gueye||Prolific Prep (Napa, CA)||PF||6'11||205||4||9.807||Washington State|
|2021||75||Fanbo Zeng||Windermere Prep (Windermere, FL)||PF||6'9||190||4||9.719||G League Ignite|
|2021||86||K.J. Simpson||Chaminade (West Hills, CA)||CG||6'2||175||4||9.668||Colorado|
It’s been a long road for those of us wanting to have a clear picture of where the cream of the 2021 crop would settle, but we finally have an answer. No. 3 Jaden Hardy joined no. 1 Chet Holmgren and no. 2 Paolo Banchero in clarifying his future... and oh, boy, was it a stunning decision. Hardy will turn pro early, such as his pals from the 2020 HS class, and become part of the G League’s Ignite squad next season. Flex on the NCAA, I guess.
Another top-5 player, Patrick Baldwin Jr., made a similarly surprising decision for such a coveted prospect by picking Wisconsin-Milwaukee as his next home and last step before making it to the NBA, which is clearly in his future. Looking under the rug, though, this wasn’t such a striking move by PBJ. He picked the University of Milwaukee—ditching Duke, no less—because of its head coach, his father Patrick Baldwin Sr.
No more top-10 players were left on the board until new-no. 9 reclassified and took one of those ten spots for himself, such a feat for an HS junior and definitely something that speaks highly of his talents. Scoota Henderson went up a class and not only did he do that, but he’ll also become the first underage to sign with the G League Ignite. Three more top-30 players picked places, along with two more top-50 prospects, and two between the 75th and 86th places in the 2021 247 Composite ranks.
Have Those Prospect’s High Schools Any Track Record Of Top-Player Production?
Not to be confused with its Texan namesake, Coronado (NV) is putting a kid in the 247 Composite ranks for the first time since 2010. Not actually one (no. 3 Jaden Hardy) but two, as they already had heard from no. 44 Frankie Collins committing to Michigan earlier this year. Not bad having two top-50 players for such a high school that had no prior track record when it came to nurturing top-tier talent. That will most probably change a bit going forward, as not only is Hardy a top-3 player in his class but he will also be taking his game to the G League straight out of HS.
Something similar is taking place in Sussex, with Hamilton (WI) high producing its first-ever top-notch prospect since they put one in the ranks for the first time in 2010 too when they got to rank no. 303 Kameron Cerroni (who committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay). It’s now Patrick Baldwin Jr.’s turn, a no. 5 talent that will stay in-state playing for his father at the U of Milwaukee.
Another soon-to-be pro, no. 9 Scoota Henderson, makes the unexpected appearance in this month’s roundup after reclassifying from the 2022 class to this year’s one while having played junior ball at Kell (GA). The most incredible thing about this, and most probably the reason the kid opted to accelerate his developmental process, is the fact that he has gone from being outside the 2022 top-10 (he was the no. 12 prospect of that class) to a top-10 even as an underage kid in the 2021 ranks. And he’ll be sharing the floor with pros in the G League next season. Braveness must be the word leading Scoota’s personal dictionary.
While Compass Prep (AZ) has put a ton of kids in the national ranks in the past few years (the first one getting in no earlier than 2018), the truth is that TyTy Washington is by far the best talent they have been able to enjoy. TyTy ranks 12th among his peers and the good news for Compass doesn’t end there: no. 16 Sadraque Nganga is this close to becoming the second top-15 player to come out of Compass Prep in the same amount of years. Talk about improvement.
I think I have talked about IMG Academy (FL) more than a few times in my columns, and they are so well-known these days that it doesn’t make much sense to go over all of it once more. Just giving you an interesting nugget here: Efton Reid is the 10th top-25 player to come out of IMG since DeAndre Daniels did so all the way back in 2011. Do you know how many of those other eight (the ninth is fellow classmate Moussa Diabate) kids went on to make it to the NBA? Five of them (63%). Yes, odds are you end watching Reid balling at the biggest stage.
Another relatively new prep is Wasatch Academy (UT), which didn’t put a top prospect in the top-50 until 2017 with no. 24 Emmanuel Akot, followed by 2020 no. 40 Mady Sissoko. It’s now the turn of no. 30 Nolan Hickman, who will play for the runner-up Gonzaga Bulldogs next year as the no. 1 prospect coming out of the state of Utah in 2021.
Dream City Christian (AZ) has only started putting players on the ranks in 2020, yet it’s been wildly productive with five kids making it to that year’s Composite ranks and three more as part of the 2021 crop. All of them are led by 2021 no. 46 Arthur Kaluma, who beat a couple of top-60 prospects (MarJon Beauchamp and Alex Tchikou) from last year’s class to take the no. 1 spot as the best talent to come out of DCC.
Nobody was going to beat Jalen Green when it comes to naming the best player to ever come out of Prolific Prep (CA) as the kid ranked no. 2 in last year’s senior class and will become a lottery pick in a few weeks after spending a year in the G League. That being said, though, no. 49 Mouhamed Gueye joins Green, Gary Trent Jr., Jordan Brown, Nimari Burnett, and fellow classmate Nathan Bittle as one of six top-50 players to come out of Prolific Prep in the past five years.
International prospect Fanbo Zeng, from China, committed to play basketball at Gonzaga more than six months ago in Nov. 2020. Then, April came and Zeng de-committed to later sign with the G League Ignite as the no. 75 player in the 2021 HS class coming out of Windermere (FL). The Florida prep has not really produced any player worth noting, but they gave home to the kid born in Harbin who moved to the US for his freshman HS year and is now a top-tier talent jumping straight to the pros.
There is Chaminade (MO), and then there is Chaminade (CA), which is the high school K.J. Simpson (and no Jayson Tatum nor Bradley Beal) belongs to. And truth be told, good for K.J., who won’t have such massive pressure to make it to the big-time as he’s the actual best prospect to ever ball for the Cali prep and the first ranked player from the school since 2014.
And The Most Important Thing... Where Are They Going To Play College Ball?
Here is the recruiting leaderboard from the past five years—which includes the senior HS classes from 2017 to 2021 and only accounts for top-50 players in their respective years, updated to include this month’s decisions:
- 24 Commits - Kentucky
- 21 - Duke
- 9 - North Carolina
- 8 - Arizona
- 7 - Texas, Kansas, LSU
- 6 - UCL, Florida, Oregon, USC, Michigan, Tennesse, Gonzaga, Memphis
- 5-to-1 - 51 Total Colleges
Kentucky and Duke are clearly the top two universities at getting (top) talent. On average, Kentucky has gotten almost five top-50 players per class in each of the past five years, including 2021. And Duke, well, pretty much the same.
So, have things been different during the past few weeks when it comes to college commitments? Here is how the last month ended looking like:
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kentucky, LSU, Gonzaga, Creighton, Washington State, and Colorado (all one prospect added)
- G League Ignite (three total prospects added)
Even though Gonzaga added another top-30 prospect to its 2021 class, Michigan has been able to retain the lead for the year as the no. 1 class in the nation. The de-commitment from Fanbo Zeng truly hurt the Gonzaga Bulldogs, which nonetheless finished with the second-best class of the year. Tennessee, not active in the last month of the recruiting season, still jumped a place and overtook Duke for the no. 3 place.
Kentucky’s addition of no. 12 TyTy Washington helped the Wildcats hold onto the no. 6 position while Duke (4th) and Florida State (5th) were the two colleges rounding up the top-5 teams in the recruiting ranks.
As for the rest of the colleges landing kids this past month: the U of Milwaukee couldn’t make it past the no. 57 spot even though it landed no. 5 Patrick Baldwin Jr., LSU came close to the top-10 but couldn’t make it there closing as the 12th-best team, Colorado barely edged LSU for the 11th spot, Creighton finished below Kentucky in the 6th spot, and Washington State fell to the 51st position.
What About Those Kids Turning Pro Early?
The last time we talked about the class of 2021 HS hoopers I introduced you to no. 14 Michael Foster, who became the first prospect to pick the G League Ignite as his next place to play basketball. Well, I bet he’s more than happy to know that he will be joined by three more top-100 prospects after last month’s news.
A top-3 player, Jaden Hardy, is following the steps of fellow top-3 prospect (actual no. 2) Jalen Green and joining the G League as a top-tier talent taking his talents to the pro developmental league instead of walking the college route. He won’t be alone.
Chinese international Fanbo Zeng de-committed from Gonzaga to sign with the Ignite, too, and the two of Hardy and Zeng will also share the floor with the first HS junior to jump straight to the G Leauge: Scoota Henderson, now a top-10 player in the 2021 class per 247 Composite ranks.
Whether you like this path toward the NBA or not, the truth is that it looks like it’s come to stay after both Green and Jonathan Kuminga solidified their draft stock this past season. Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd might not make it to the first round—they could actually go entirely undrafted—but they had their fair share of minutes among pros in the G League bubble and proved they could belong with a little bit more development time. The experiment worked, and we’ll have a second round of testing come the 2022 season.
Here’s hoping it all goes well for the freshest four Igniters.