Scout basketball recruiting director talks Class of 2017 Top 75 and why DeAndre Ayton is clear-cut No. 1

Sophomore DeAndre Ayton is already one of the nation's most dominant basketball players — YouTube screen shot

DeAndre Ayton is already one of the nation’s most dominant high school basketball players — YouTube screen shot released its Top 75 for the Class of 2017 on Wednesday morning, and basketball recruiting director Evan Daniels gave USA TODAY High School Sports insight at some of the standouts on the list.

Included in the discussion were No. 1 overall prospect DeAndre Ayton out of Balboa City School in San Diego, fourth-ranked Mohamed Bamba from the Westtown School in Harlem, N.Y. and sixth-ranked Trevon Duval out of St. Benedict’s Prep in Wilmington, Del.

Check out the full Top 75 here.

What separates Ayton from the rest of the pack?

I think he’s the clear-cut No. 1. Among our staff, there wasn’t a discussion about the top player in the class and a lot of times there is. I actually think that DeAndre Ayton is the best prospect in all of high school basketball. Pushing 7 feet tall, he’s got a great basketball frame with really lengthy arms, he’s a good athlete, he’s mobile. At the recent NBPA camp, he even showed kind of a new wrinkle to his game — he can face up and make jump shots with consistency. He has every tool you’re looking for in an elite post player and I think he’s a future NBA standout.

Who has impressed as of late to rank higher than they would’ve a month or two ago?

Kevin Knox (Tampa Catholic in Florida) is a name that I think is somewhat new. He really kind of emerged late in the spring and then he used the USA Basketball Under-16 experience to really catapult his stock. He’s a guy that went from unranked all the way up to No. 12. At 6-foot-7 he’s a versatile combo forward, he’s a terrific athlete, he moves fluidly, but he can also make jump shots. He’s active, he plays hard, he rebounds. I think he’s a guy that really used the spring to catapult his stock.

Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock Academy in N.Y.), checks in at No. 13, is another guy. At 6-foot-4, he’s a tremendous athlete and he’s a guy that can really score the basketball. I think his jump shot has improved.

Daniel Gafford (No. 39, from El Dorado in Arkansas) was tremendous at the Nike Elite 100 and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t really even familiar with who he was until that event two weeks ago and he’s now a top-40 prospect. So he’s a guy, at 6-foot-10, that has a lot of tools, he plays hard, he runs well. He’s another guy that I think performed well in the recent weeks and earned a spot on this list.

Why do you have Bamba at No. 4, six spots higher than ESPN’s rankings?

Mohamed Bamba is a tremendous long-term prospect. At the Elite 100, he was measured in at 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-8 wingspan and a 9-foot-5 standing reach. I think the average standing reach for NBA Draft picks is 9-foot-1 1/2. So he has tremendous reach and length and his length really affects the game. He’s able to get his hands on shots that most can’t, he’s a good rebounder, he’s still learning and adjusting and learning how to play hard. I thought he was the best player, had the best week, at the Nike Elite 100 a week and a half ago and then came to the NBPA Camp and had a solid showing. He’s got a lot of tools on the offensive end to work with as well. I think that we’re just starting to see who Mohamed Bamba is and in about a year from now he’s going to be a much better player. He’s just scratching the surface.

Is there a true point guard in the class who can have a bright future?

I think Trevon Duval is that guy. He’s been awesome this spring and he’s a guy that’s going to move into our top 10. He’s 6-foot-4, he’s long, he’s quick. He really handles the ball well, has a good feel for the game, always gets where he wants to on the court, has good vision, can really pass. I think he’s really jumped into the elite category in this class.

Do you see any other top prospects making their college decision anytime soon?

I don’t. Most of these guys aren’t really as down the road as (Jalek Felton, who committed to North Carolina in December) was in terms of their recruiting process. A lot of them have initial lists, but I can’t point to one guy and say, “Hey, they’re getting ready to make their choice.”

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