In last week’s inaugural Recruiting Roundup column, we profiled the top three recruits poised to make an immediate impact in the 2017-18 collegiate season. Today, we’ll run through another set of the most intriguing prospects in college basketball, this time with the scope narrowed to the SEC conference. Of course, consensus No. 1 overall player Michael Porter Jr. of Missouri fell into the “Best in Class” column, but the SEC still has several other impact players with the potential to make national headlines. We’ll also limit the Kentucky talk to just one standout prospect, as coach John Calipari could once again run almost two entirely separate units composed of 5-star players
Collin Sexton -- PG -- (6-2, 175)
Sexton is one of the most fiery and passionate prospects coming into the 2017-18 season. At Alabama, he’ll compete with Dazon Ingram and Avery Johnson Jr., but should be able to compete for a rotation spot out of the gates.
As soon as I took a look at his plentiful highlight reels, my mind immediately rushed to comparisons of watching Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox play. The first characteristic that jumps out when watching his mixtapes is his quickness and ability to stop or change directions on a dime, making him too shifty for many players to guard effectively. This athletic ability also translates into playing easily above and around the rim, and into strong, physical defense, giving him two-way star potential. Sexton will be able to provide not only points, rebounds, and assists, but he could be a sneaky source of steals for prospective fantasy owners.
A couple knocks on Sexton include his physical tools, as he has merely average size for a professional point guard at 6-foot-2 and wingspan of 6-6. He’s also been pegged as a streaky outside shooter and will need to expand his range in order to compete at higher levels. As I noted earlier, his passion for the game and extreme competitive spirit also can lead him to react emotionally when things aren’t going his way. Coach Avery Johnson will surely help him learn to control this before he hits the professional level.
Despite a few perceived weaknesses that are more long-term concerns, Sexton’s pure athleticism will make him a player to watch in the SEC, as the five-star prospect should have no problem handling collegiate competition.
View Sexton’s speed and agility here:
Hamidou Diallo -- SG -- (6-5, 200)
Diallo grabbed headlines when he attended the 2017 NBA Draft Combine, making him a little different than the rest of the collegiate prospects in this series since there is more data on his attributes. Athletically, he’s an absolute freak. The 19-year-old jumped the highest of any combine participant, testing with an impressive 44.5 inch maximum vertical leap. Diallo also showed off his natural quickness, testing third overall in the 3/4 court sprint (3.11 secs) and second overall in lane agility (2.79 secs). The measurements checked out as well, as Diallo showed off his 6-5 frame with a tremendous 6-11.5 inch wingspan and 8-5 inch standing reach. Diallo uses those physical gifts to get to the rim with ease. For these reasons alone, the New York native has massive potential, but there are several skills he’ll need to develop to become a valuable pro.
As with many five-star prospects, Diallo wasn’t given much of a test against high school competition, so it remains to be seen how his size and athleticism stack up when challenged with tougher opposition at the next level. As a shooter, he absolutely must improve his range, as he’s shown to be prone to struggling with outside shots. Most of his highlight reels show fantastically athletic dunks in open space, and neglect to show much mid-range or outside shooting -- probably for good reason. Professional scouts like him more for the fact that he seems to have the makeup of an NBA player, as he remains a bit raw in some areas.
Diallo is definitely a player to watch this season based upon his upside alone, but he’ll also have to fight for the spotlight with five other 5-star recruits in his class at Kentucky, including Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, PJ Washington, Nick Richards, and Quade Green -- some of whom are arguably more refined at this stage in their prospective basketball careers. All have plenty of potential in an always-stacked John Calipari recruiting class, making it likely he uses a deeper rotation this year than in 2017.
You can view his mixtape, proclaiming he is the next “Dunk King” here:
Daniel Gafford -- PF/C -- (6-11, 225)
It should be noted that I could have written about any of the other 5-star Kentucky players I mentioned above, but who wants to read a repeat section of Calipari clichés? Instead, we’ll shift focus to a player on a unit looking to give the Wildcats fits this winter: four-star center Daniel Gafford, Arkansas’ highest-rated commit.
Gafford is 6-11 with a 7-2 wingspan that causes disruption on defense. He will likely be asked to add some muscle to that frame, however, and could stand to show some more offensive versatility (most highlight reels show dunks and post moves without any jump shots). Nonetheless, the Arkansas native has elite athleticism that should help him turn heads at the collegiate level. He’s likely to be already be the Razorbacks’ new starting power forward or center in 2017-18, while Dustin Thomas will occupy the other open spot in coach Mike Anderson’s frontcourt.
There is a bit of injury concern, as Gafford recently tore his meniscus, but the Arkansas Democrat & Gazette reports that has been medically cleared to participate in summer workouts with the team.
If the big man develops well enough, Gafford has the chance to be not only the team’s top rebounder, but an efficient inside scorer. Fantasy-wise, Gafford could be an under-the-radar pick due to his low publicity, despite his huge potential on a team that needs a new leader. I recommend following Gafford’s recovery status and summer workout results before taking a flier on him this fall, but he could turn into a well-hidden gem that complements guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon.
Since his mixtapes are fairly short, I posted a couple here that are worth checking out: