Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Analyst
Since the middle of November, Rivals.com has spent just about every weekend traveling across the country attending many of the nation's top events. As 2012 gets ready to turn into 2013, here's a look at 10 currently ranked players whose stock looks to be on the rise after watching them play during the 2012-13 season. (Players listed in alphabetical order.)
RANKED PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Brandon Austin, SF, Philadelphia (Penn.) Imhotep: Currently ranked No. 74 in the 2013 Rivals150, the 6-foot-6 Providence signee is due to make as big a rise up the final rankings as anybody in the country. Yes, he will have to get stronger for college but the physical tools and skill level are all there. He can play some point, has developed his jumper nicely and his quickness and length should ultimately allow him to be a great defender on the next level.
Josh Cunningham, SF/PF, Chicago (Ill.) Morgan Park: The 6-foot-7 junior from the Windy City currently sits at No. 139 in the class of 2014. Because of his toughness, ability to play like a man on the glass and developing offense he's probably going to get a bump up. His team doesn't have a ton of size so he plays ruggedly on the interior even though he's probably only about 195 pounds or so. Cunningham is filling out and looks to be a combo forward in the mold of 2013's Vince Hunter.
Justin Jackson, SF, Houston (Texas) HCYA: It's not like the 6-foot-7 wing from Houston is an unknown given that he's already ranked No. 29 in the class of 2014. But, he is likely deserving of at least somewhat of a bump and he answered a lot of questions and justified his lofty status. After making an early splash, Jackson's game looked to have hit a plateau over the summer. At the City of Palms he looked a little bigger, a little stronger and much improved off the dribble. Most notably, he was playing with a newfound level of aggression and physicality and he looks like he could push for five-star status.
JaJuan Johnson, SG, Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind: The Marquette signee slipped a bit during the post summer rankings of the class of 2013 and as it turns out dropping him down to No. 64 looks to have been a mistake. His jumper remains a little bit streaky and unique thanks to his flying right elbow, but he's rapidly developing other areas of his game. In particular, Johnson's become one of the most explosive players in his class off the dribble and has turned into an above the rim finisher.
Rysheed Jordan, PG, Philadelphia (Penn.) Vaux: Because the top of the 2013 rankings are so tight, it's not going to be easy to move anybody who is already ranked as high as No. 29 up too much more. That being said, the 6-foot-4 undecided point guard deserves some pretty serious consideration to be elevated to five-star status. Jordan is still a work in progress, but his combination of size, ability to get to the rim off the dribble and defensive potential could allow him to play the game for an awful long time once everything clicks.
Matt Jones, SG, DeSoto (Texas) High: We aren't sure how much the 6-foot-4 Duke signee goes up the rankings. But, he's definitely justified his spot up at No. 35 and made us glad we hung in with him a bit after the summer instead of dropping him any further than we did. Everybody knows that he can shoot and he can still do that. However, he's really worked hard on the other areas of his game. Jones has gotten stronger, become an even better defender and is much more of a threat to attack off the dribble. His left hand still needs a bit of work but given his approach to other areas of his game, it won't be a surprise to see him improve there.
Chris McCullough, PF, Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster: The recent Syracuse commitment has already established himself as one of 2014's elite prospects and is ranked very highly at No. 8 nationally. He's a big time athlete who chases rebounds and finishes with aplomb in transition. Now, the 6-foot-9 junior is rounding out the other areas of his game and is making a hard push for the national top five.
Eric Mika, PF, Highland (Utah) Lone Peak: The future BYU Cougar has really stepped his game up as a senior. After sitting out his junior season and then emerging enough on the summer circuit to rise up to No. 72 in the national rankings, Mika is a threat to move into at least the national top 50. Few in the country play with his physicality. He's a good athlete, he shows developing skill and touch to the free throw line on jumpers. Most impressively, his motor never, ever stops running and he doesn't back down from anybody.
Goodluck Okonoboh, C/PF, Wilbraham (Mass.) Wilbrahama & Monson: One of the nation's best shot blockers regardless of class, the junior has been outstanding this season. He's turned up his intensity level a bit and fully harnessed his athleticism, timing and quickness in the lane to become a high level shot blocker and rebounder. He's not a huge scorer just yet, but his offense is getting better and he's playing with a level of confidence that is going to earn him a nice move up from No. 71 in the class of 2014.
Stephen Zimmerman, C, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman: Technically, we haven't ranked the class of 2015 just yet but the 6-foot-11 Zimmerman belongs on this list. After narrowly missing an initial designation as a five-star prospect, the sophomore has really kicked his game into gear. He's still on the skinny side but is playing with a new level of physicality around the rim. He moves fluidly in space, can handle the ball some, has good touch and is active as a shot blocker and rebounder. The strength will come with time and at this pace Zimmerman should be in the conversation for the top five of his class when we assign numerical rankings in the spring.