|Class of 2017: Small Forwards|
Written by: Prospect-Central
Last summer Prospect-Central released its inaugural High School Basketball Freshmen Watch List. The Class of 2016 was the first to be featured, and it's safe to say it was a complete success. Like all initial lists for incoming freshmen basketball players, more names emerged as the season unfolded, but for the most part PC was right on the money.
If there was ever a freshmen class to begin a basketball journey with, no doubt it would be the Class of 2016. To say the class is loaded would be a severe understatement. The talent laced from head to toe is truly remarkable, as it's shaping out to be one of the greatest classes of all-time.
Now it's time to introduce the next crop of incoming freshmen ready to take the high school world by storm. It would be unfair to compare this group of freshmen to last years class, but there're still a number of excellent players ready to prove themselves on the high school hardwood. By all indications, the Class of 2017 seems ready for the challenge.
This years Freshmen Watch List features ten players, plus thirty honorable mentions for point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, and posts. Because these players are still growing into their bodies, labeling them by position was more for organization than anything else, so don't be surprised if their positions change as the years go by.
Since the 2013-14 high school basketball season is right around the corner, more names should emerge between now and then, but for the time being these are some of the best incoming freshmen the Class of 2017 has to offer.
As I stated before, it would be unfair to have the same expectations for this class as last years, but it still doesn't hurt to start paying attention to some of these players now. Come this time next year, most of these recruits should be on the radar of every college program in the country. With that being said, this is Prospect-Central's HS Basketball Class of 2017 Freshmen Watch List. * Below are 40 freshmen small forwards from the Class of 2017. Names are in no particular order.
Darren 'D.J.' Harvey sf / 6'6'' 210 / Huntsville, AL
If you ever walk into the gym and D.J. Harvey's on the ones & twos, you already know the joint's about to be jumpin! Simply put, the Alabama native is one of the elite talents in the Class of 2017, and definitely worth the high price of admission. Like the majority of players selected to PC's Freshmen Watch List, Harvey's already a nationally known recruit, and appears to be ready for a huge 9th grade season. He's a strong wing, with great size & athleticism for his age, and will not hesitate to put someone on a poster. He has a solid mid-range game, showing a pretty effective pull-up jumper, and he can hit the 3-ball given time & space. He's also an alert defender, plays with a high energy level, and does a good job rebounding the basketball. As nice as his all-around skill set appears to be, there's no question the coup de grâce of Harvey's game is his ability to attack the basket. With his strong build and aggressive mentality, he's a force when taking it to the rack, and has no problem finishing through contact. As I stated before, Harvey definitely can stroke it, but his long range shooting can be streaky at times, so he'll need to continue to work on that area of his game. He's been playing up on the AAU circuit with the 17U Nashville Celtics, and even played high school ball last year for Christ School in Arden, North Carolina. He had a modest season for the Greenies, but now he's headed to national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD) for his freshman year. He's already receiving interest from a number of schools in the SEC & ACC, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise. If he continues developing his game at his current pace, D.J. Harvey should be spinning his way to platinum status in no time!
Terrell Coleman sf / 6'5'' 205 / Lithonia, GA
It seems like I say this with every state, but Georgia is absolutely loaded with talent from the Class of 2017. Once other publications start to release national rankings for the class, you can expect the Peach State to hold down a number of spots within the Top 25. One player in particular who should make some serious noise come the fall; Terrell Coleman. Everything about his game screams upside. When it comes to the combination of size, athleticism, strength, and speed, he's light years ahead of other players his age. Easily one of the most dynamic athletes in his class, Coleman's a high-flyer in every sense of the word, displaying rim-rattling dunks that would even make some NBA players jealous. The scary thing about Terrell Coleman; he's not even close to being a finished product yet. He needs to work on his on-the-ball defense, ball handling skills, and jumpshot, but once he tightens up that area of his game, there's no telling how good he can become. He's been playing AAU ball for the well renowned Atlanta Celtics, and under the tutelage of his coach Chris Anderson, has really started to make a name for himself. He's headed to Miller Grove High School (Lithonia, GA) for his freshman year, and even though the Wolverines are usually loaded, he should still be a nice addition to the squad. When it comes to college recruiting, he's always liked NC State, so Mark Gottfried better get on the giddyup. What's most impressive about the rising 9th grader however, he's well-mannered, very humble, and seems like a really great kid. Even if he doesn't pursue basketball as a career, the future of Terrell Coleman is looking sweeter than a Georgia Peach. - (10/27/13) - I don't know how else to say this, but 15-year old Terrell Coleman has passed away. He died on the court today from an apparent seizure, all while playing the game he loved. His funeral will be held @ 11 a.m. on Sat, November 2nd, at New Birth Church, 6400 Woodrow Road, Lithonia, Georgia. He was an incredible young man with his whole life in front of him, and my thoughts & prayers go out to his entire family. He will be missed dearly. - R.I.P. Terrell Coleman
It's crazy how fast these kid's grow. Just last year Billy Preston was a 6-foot-4 rising 8th grader. Obviously that's already great size, but now the freshman-to-be is pushing 6'8'' and growing. Born October 26th, 1997, the 15-year old might be slightly older than some of his classmates, but that seems to be the reoccurring theme with the majority of these players. The fact of the matter is, Preston's game & size speaks for itself. While he can play either the 3 or the 4, he might project as a better wing down the road, hence he's being featured as a small forward. With his length, athleticism, and overall feel for the game, it's clear Preston has a considerable amount of potential. He already has a pretty sweet stroke, showing the ability to stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting. One aspect of his game that might be underrated is his passing. He sees the floor very well, does a nice job creating for others, and doesn't hesitate to make the extra pass. He's also a very good rebounder, showing multiple efforts on the glass. He needs to tighten up his handles and work on developing some post moves, but he's only been playing basketball for 3-years, so you can only imagine what his game will look like once he's about to enter college. He's been hooping on the AAU circuit with Dream Vision, and was balling this summer with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA), but now he's attending St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA) for his freshman year. Daniel Hamilton & Tyler Dorsey are the headliners on the team, but Preston should still be a valuable addition to the squad. As with many young, elite prospects on the west coast, USC is the first school to offer, but it's safe to say a number of programs will be vying for his services in the future. He might not be a gunslinger, but this Billy the Kid's about to become a very wanted man!
Jarred Vanderbilt sf / 6'8'' 185 / Houston, TX
Possibly the top incoming freshman from the state of Texas, Jarred Vanderbilt has been a nationally known name for what seems like forever. Since he's finally about to enter high school, it should be interesting to see if the hype was justified, but chances are the answer to that question will be an emphatic YES! Even though he's one of the younger recruits in the Class of 2017, he's also one of the most talented. His upside is pretty ridiculous, as he clearly has a very bright future in the game of basketball. One reason Vanderbilt has so much potential; his impressive size for the wing position. Not only is he extremely long, he's also been growing at a steady rate all through middle school, so he might have a couple more inches in him as well. Along with his length, he's very athletic, has nice ball skills, does a good job crashing the boards, and can defend multiple positions. He actually has pretty solid handles for his size, so don't be surprised if you see him playing in the backcourt from time to time. He has a decent left-handed stroke, but needs to become more consistent from long range. If Vanderbilt really wants to take his game to the next level, he needs to work on playing with a greater sense of urgency. He's simply too talented of a basketball player to go through the motions. He has a chance to be special, but it's going to require hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Obviously it won't be easy, but then again achieving greatness never is. Vanderbilt's been an instrumental force on the AAU circuit with the talented Houston Elite, and he's supposedly headed to Victory Prep (Houston,TX) for his freshman year. No one knows what the future has in store for the rising 9th grader, but we're certainly about to find out. He's been Texas two-stepping it over the competition these past few years, but now it's about to become a whole new ball game. Something tells me Jarred Vanderbilt will more than hold his own. After all, he's representing H-Town Baby!
Tomas Murphy sf/pf / 6'8'' 185 / Wakefield, RI
The NBA has been in existence for nearly 70 years, and during that time frame only six people from the state of Rhode Island have played in the league. Once Erik Murphy suits up for the Chicago Bulls this season, you can add another name to the list. While that's obviously pretty impressive, it's his younger brother Tomas who might actually be the better Murphy. Even though he's been a well known recruit for quite sometime now, it's not until recently when his name really started to blow up. After he received offers from Florida, Maryland, Providence, Boston College, & Rhode Island these past few months, Tomas Murphy has officially stepped out of his famous family's shadow. When watching Tomas play, it's easy to see what all the fuss is about. He's extremely polished on the offensive side of the ball, showing excellent ball handling skills, a smooth jumper with range out to the arc, solid post moves, and the athleticism to finish above the rim. He's probably not done growing yet either, so he might project as a stretch 4 down the road, just like his brother Erik. He's been killing it on the AAU circuit with the 15U Mass Rivals, and should have an excellent freshman season at Prout High School in Wakefield, Rhode Island. There's a lot of talented families in the world of sports these days, and the Murphy's are right up there with the best of them. Besides his older brother Erik playing in the league, his other brother Alex is a sophomore at Duke, and definitely has a little bit of game in his own right. Tomas father, Jay Murphy, also played in the NBA, and was a 2nd round pick of the Golden State Warriors in possibly the greatest draft in the history of the league; the 1984 NBA Draft. Last but not least, his mother played for the Finnish National Team back in the day. Can you say genetic lottery? If you ever watched the television show Family Guy, you know it takes place in Rhode Island. Believe me when I say; Tomas Murphy has more game than Quagmire. If he continues to focus on his craft, it's safe to say he'll be the next big thing to come out of the Ocean State. Giggity, Giggity.
James 'MJ' Walker sg/sf / 6'5'' 195 / Rex, GA
Pop quiz hot shot. Who's one of only two players to crack PC's Freshmen Watch List two-times? If you guessed James 'MJ' Walker, give yourself a pat on the back. Last summer, Walker was an honorable mention for PC's Class of 2016 Freshmen Watch List, but he reclassified right after it was published. Fast forward a year; he's no longer an honorable mention, he's being featured! Walker's a perfect example of the benefits for reclassifying. Even though he was a good player last year, and already had terrific size, he might have been lost in the shuffle considering the Class of 2016 is extremely deep. Since the majority of players his age are trying to catch up physically, some of them choose to reclassify, but MJ's different. He already has the size, skills, and athleticism of a high-major prospect, and is basically just delaying the inevitable. Bottom line, the 15-year old's gonna get noticed regardless of class. He's a physical, slashing wing, with great reaction time, a high motor, and the ability to play lock down defense. He also has a nice mid-range game, rebounds at a high level, and plays with a ton of confidence. Once his jumper becomes more consistent, MJ Walker will have truly earned his initials. He's been a force on the AAU circuit with Atlanta Express, and he was headed to Dwight Howard's alma mater, Southwest Atlanta Christian (Atlanta, GA) for his freshman year, but now he's supposedly attending Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro, GA) instead. Auburn University has already offered, but don't be surprised if James 'MJ' Walker has his choice of schools once it's time to make his commitment.
Last summer Jermaine Samuels was a 6-foot-2 combo guard with an emerging skill set. One year later, he's a 6-foot-6 wing on the verge of becoming an elite prospect. Born November 13th, 1998, the 14-year old is really starting to come into his own. He's been playing at a very high level all season, and proved he's definitely gonna be a problem at the high school level. Easily one of the top rising 9th graders from New England, Samuels has the athleticism, size, and all-around skills of a big-time D1 recruit. The best part of his game though, has to be playing in transition. He runs the floor extremely well, does an excellent job attacking the basket, and can finish at the rim with the best of them. His perimeter game is slowly coming around, as he's beginning to show a smooth stroke with range out to the arc. He also moves well with out the ball, has a non-stop motor, does a good job crashing the boards, and can even play in the post. Obviously there's a lot of time before he graduates high school, so he'll have to continue developing his game if he wants to remain as one of the top recruits in his class. He started balling on the AAU circuit with M Plex, but really made a name for himself with Connecticut Basketball Club. He recently left CBC for Expressions Elite, and should be one of their best players moving forward. He's headed to The Rivers School (Weston, MA) for his freshman year, and is poised for a breakout season. Providence, Rhode Island, Boston College, and Dartmouth have already offered, but if he had his choice of schools, Kentucky & Uconn would be at the top of the list. Needless to say, it's going to be quite interesting tracking the development of the talented Jermaine Samuels.
Dwayne 'D.J.' Russell sf/pf / 6'6'' 210 / Jacksonville, FL
There have only been two players selected to PC's Freshmen Watch List more than once, and Dwayne 'D.J.' Russell is one of them. Just like the previously mentioned MJ Walker, Russell was an honorable mention last year, but reclassified right after it was published. That's not the only piece of trivia associated with the rising 9th grader either. Back in July, D.J. Russell became the first recruit from the Class of 2017 to commit to a school. He was spotted while the University of Miami was scouting an older teammate, and the rest is history. Obviously things can change between now and the time D.J. enters college, but he likes the idea of staying close to home, and felt the Hurricanes would be the best long-term fit moving forward. With the burden of choosing a school behind him, D.J. can now focus exclusively on basketball, and not have to worry about the hoopla surrounding the recruiting process. From a physicality standpoint, D.J. Russell has a college ready body. He's as strong as an ox, attacks the basket like it stole something, and plays with a relentless effort on both sides of the ball. His perimeter skills are slowly rounding into place, as he's starting to display a consistent 3-point stroke needed to take his game to the next level. He can guard either forward position, and is an absolute beast on the boards. With his size, strength, and athletic ability, he's already receiving Ron Artest comparisons (or should I say Metta World Peace?) He's been tearing it up on the AAU circuit with the Atlanta Celtics this summer, and even played high school ball last year as an 8th grader. He had a decent season for Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, FL), but you can expect the freshman to play even better come the fall. Whether he stays committed to Miami or not is yet to be determined, but there is one thing becoming abundantly clear. If you currently play high school basketball at the moment; D.J. Russell's about to rock you like a Hurricane!
Kimani Lawrence sf / 6'6'' 180 / Providence, RI
From 1880-2013, the highest recorded use of the name "Kimani" in the United States was in 2009, with a total of 111 people. The reason why I bring this up; Kimani Lawrence is about to put the name on a map! While Kimani may have an uncommon name, he also has a very profound game, and is yet another high-profiled wing from the Class of 2017 to come out of New England. Since he reclassified last year, he's slightly older than some of his classmates, but like I said before that seems to be the norm these days. Regardless of his age, Kimani's a versatile, slashing wing, with excellent length & athleticism for his position. He has solid ball handling skills, excels in transition, and shows no problem finishing through traffic. He also plays with a high energy level, does a good job crashing the boards, and really gets after it on the defensive side of the ball. What's most impressive about the freshman's game however, he's an extremely tough competitor, truly leads by example, and never shy's away from the moment. He needs to develop a more consistent stroke, but it's clear he'll be an impact player at the high school level. He's been balling on the AAU circuit with Expressions Elite, and along with previously mentioned Jermaine Samuels, even made some serious noise with the 17U squad this summer. He's headed to Crushing Academy (Ashburnham, MA) for his freshman year, where he'll join forces with the dynamic duo of Syracuse commit Kaleb Joseph & the talented Jalen Adams. back in July, Providence & Rhode Island officially offered, but that's just gonna be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recruiting. The last thing we need to know about Kimani Lawrence; his name comes from African origins and means "one who is beautiful and sweet." Ironically, his game is the same way.
Deaundrae Ballard sg/sf / 6'5'' 185 / Lithia Springs, GA
If you're a Top 10 incoming freshman from the state of Georgia, chances are you're also gonna be one of the top rising 9th graders in the nation. As I stated before, the talent in the c/o 2017 from the Peach State is unmatched, plain and simple. In all honesty, there's so much talent in the state, look for the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and other local schools to have some deep recruiting classes 4-years from now. Will Deaundrae Ballard stay home to play college ball once it's time to commit? Well, if you happen to have any connections with those programs, you better cross your fingers. Ballard's an explosive wing, with off-the-charts athleticism, and an emerging skill set. The scary thing is, he's just scratching the surface on the type of player he can become. He's starting to display a solid 3-point stroke, nice ball handling skills, and a crafty mid-range game, plus he's beginning to show the ability to create for others. With his length & athleticism, he does a terrific job rebounding the basketball, and he's very versatile on defense, guarding multiple positions. His game has made leaps & bounds these past few years, but he'll need to continue putting in the work if he wants to remain as one of the better players in his class. He started making noise on the AAU circuit with CP3 All-Stars, but now he's running with the Atlanta Rockafellas. He graduated from Factory Shoals Middle School in Douglasville, Georgia, and will no doubt make a name for himself in the high school ranks as well. Let the fun begin!
C/O 2017 Freshmen Watch List Honorable Mentions (SF's)
James Babb sf/pf / 6'5'' 190 / Memphis, TN
Zach Gunn sf / 6'6'' 200 / Fishers, IN
Omar Habwe sf/pf / 6'6'' 200 / Richmond, VA
Logan Hill sf / 6'5'' 185 / Massillon, OH
Romelo Burrell sg/sf / 6'5'' 180 / Chicago, IL
Sidney Wilson sf / 6'5'' 170 / Bronx, NY
Nick Alikakos sf / 6'5'' 180 / Westchester, PA
Kris Wilkes sf / 6'5'' 175 / Indianapolis, IN
Andre Rafus, Jr. sf / 6'6'' 180 / Baltimore, MD
Cassius Smits sf / 6'7'' 195 / Zionsville, IN
Hasahn French sf / 6'7'' 200 / Middletown, NY
Walter Prevost sf / 6'5'' 185 / Humble, TX
Jordan Tucker sf / 6'7'' 180 / White Plains, NY
Joshua Okogie sf / 6'5'' 180 / Snellville, GA
Chance Melton sf/pf / 6'5'' 190 / Columbia, KY
Patrick Strzala sf / 6'5'' 185 / Bayonne, NJ
Jerome Deroisers sf / 6'6'' 205 / St. Hyacinthe, CAN
Jaden Sayles sf/pf / 6'7'' 190 / Cincinnati, OH
Jaylen Harris sf / 6'5'' 190 / Cleveland Heights, OH
Jatarius Smith sf / 6'5'' 175 / Fayetteville, NC
Clayshon Gaffney sf/pf / 6'7'' 190 / Clarksville, TX
Myles Douglas sf / 6'5'' 175 / Baltimore, MD
Chris Coalman sf / 6'6'' 185 / Suffolk County, NY
Landon Walker sf/pf / 6'7'' 195 / Gering, NE
Kahmonie Foster sf/pf / 6'6'' 190 / Hoboken, NJ
Christian Negron sf/pf / 6'6'' 190 / Elgin, IL
Timmel Eggleston sf / 6'5'' 175 / Baltimore, MD
Andre Boykin sf / 6'4'' 200 / Bethesda, MD
DeShawn Wilson sf / 6'5'' 180 / Las Vegas, NV
Justin Pettis sf/pf / 6'5'' 190 / Chicago, IL
C/O 2017 Freshmen Watch List
PG's - SG's - PF/C's