Not every college star was a McDonald’s All American, and some weren’t even close.
High school player rankings can seem essential to anyone attempting to foretell the success a high school player will achieve during their collegiate career. High-level production is easy to predict from college players that were four- and five-star prospects in high school. ESPN, Scout, and Rivals are all fairly accurate when ranking and grading prep players, and these top players typically go on to have some level of success at the next levele. In fact, in the 2016 NBA draft, 39 of the 45 United States players drafted were ranked in the Rivals 150 or ESPN 100.
However, each season there is always a handful of players that manage to put up impressive numbers and solidify themselves as NBA prospects despite their low high school ranking. Let’s take a look at four of the top college players this season who were overlooked in the high school player rankings.
Marcus Keene has solidified himself as arguably the most prolific scorer in all of college basketball as he leads the nation in scoring at 30.2 points per game. The Central Michigan guard was unranked coming out of high school by each major scouting service, receiving no stars from Scout, Rivals, nor ESPN. Youngstown State was the only offer he had received, and he signed.
The 5’9 junior point guard played his first two seasons and Youngstown State, where he emerged as a capable scorer in his sophomore season, averaging 15.6 ppg. Keene then transferred to Central Michigan where he has immediately received national attention for his scoring performances and unusual confidence displayed in his shot taking. Leading the nation in scoring, the San Antonio native has overcome all size deficiency issues that scouts may have questioned in high school.
Central Michigan has given Keene the green light, as he has the third-highest usage percentage in the country at 36.8%. He possesses the ability to shoot from distance and is capable of getting to the free throw line at a high rate drawing 7.3 fouls per 40 min.
Derrick White has had an interesting and impressive journey to the University of Colorado. The senior guard has been one of the best players in the Pac-12 this season, averaging 20.6 points per 40 min. In his first season with the Buffaloes, White has turned into Colorado’s best scorer and one of the nation’s most underrated guards. But what makes his play so impressive and intriguing is the fact that this is White’s first season competing at the Division I level as a senior.
Originally from Colorado, White went completely unnoticed in high school, receiving absolutely no attention from any recruiting database. He was unranked with no recruiting profile from any scouting service. So the 6’5 guard took the Division II route and spent three seasons at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. While there, he dominated and received All-American honors before transferring to Colorado.
A story like his is almost unheard of in such a tough conference like the Pac-12. Power five conference schools rarely get Division II transfers, so for Derrick White to play at such a high level is beyond impressive. White’s athleticism and scoring ability has also put him on the radar for NBA teams. DraftExpress currently has White going in the late second round in their 2017 mock draft. It’s hard to believe such a talent was overlooked by so many schools.
Before Kadeem Allen was the National Junior College Player of the Year in 2014, he was an unknown guard with no college offers. Rated as a two-star prospect by ESPN and unranked by Scout and Rivals, Allen decided to take his talents to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He quickly emerged as the top JUCO guard in the country displaying his athleticism and incredible length for a 6’3 guard.
Allen transferred to the University of Arizona where he was forced to redshirt his first year because of the logjam at the guard spot in the 2015 season. But, Allen started the next season and splashed onto the scene proving to be one of the top defensive guards in the conference, averaging 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes last year.
The frontrunner for the National POY award wasn’t always on track to become one of the starts at one of the top programs in the country. Frank Mason originally committed to Towson as a senior at Petersburg High School, but a failing grade kept him from enrolling. An unranked prospect at the time, Mason then decided to re-open his recruitment and take a prep year at Massanutten Military Academy. The offseason following his senior year, Mason developed into a three-star prospect by each recruiting database.
Three stars is a very strong rating, but players with such a rating rarely receive attention from a powerhouse program like Kansas. But, following a very impressive AAU performance, Kansas was so impressed they offered a scholarship to the gritty guard out of Petersburg.
Expected to be merely a role player for Bill Self throughout his tenure at Kansas, Mason showed rapid improvement each season, and is now arguably the best player in the country. Closing in on his senior season, Mason has solidified himself as one of the best guards to ever run a Bill Self-coached Jayhawk squad.
Five star freshman and former McDonald’s All Americans receive most of the (deserved) attention in the college basketball game. They are generally the more talented crop of players, proving the accuracy of high school rankings. Though each year, players that lack the high profile reputation from the high school rankings beat out higher-ranked players in gaining recognition at the collegiate level. Each player discussed in this piece took a different route, proving that it is unnecessary to panic when going unranked or unnoticed as a high school athlete. Whether it is choosing a Division II school, accepting a low-major school’s offer, attending a Junior College, or taking a prep year to re-open recruitment, talent and hard work will always get a chance at stardom, and possibly an opportunity to play at the highest level.
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