Evans Seven: The latest on top seven rising juniors
Now that Jon Kuminga and Moussa Cisse have finally made their decisions about where they will spend their time this winter, we can turn our attention to the upcoming classes. In the latest installment of Evans Seven, analyst Corey Evans assesses where things stand with the nation’s top prospects in the rising junior class.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
1. EMONI BATES
Emoni Bates is a Michigan State commit. Now comes make the most difficult part: figuring out whether he will reclassify into the 2021 class and whether he will actually set foot on the MSU campus. There is a reason why Bates committed so quickly and practically no one else was recruiting him. That's due to the belief that he will never play a second of college basketball.
Does he prove doubters wrong and suit up for the Spartans? Better yet, will he make the leap into the 2021 class despite facing an NBA rule that would not allow him to enter the league until two years in college, thanks to the fact that he won't meet the 19-year age limit after his freshman season? There is a lot to play out. But for now, Tom Izzo can sell Bates' commitment to other prospects he might be pursuing.
2. JALEN DUREN
As little attention that Bates gave to the recruiting process, Jalen Duren has given even less. Bates, at least, made a handful of unofficial visits to Michigan and Michigan State during his sophomore season. Duren has revealed very little about which way he might be leaning, which is why the professional path might also be of intrigue to the five-star center.
There is always a chance that he reclassifies into the 2021 class if his grades allow it, but there are still a number of milestones to pass before any type of decision is made in regards to college. Making the move to Montverde Academy for his junior year may bring more SEC programs into the mix for the Delaware native. Maryland, Michigan and Penn State have invested the most into his recruitment to date.
3. CHRIS LIVINGSTON
We know very little regarding the recruitment of Duren. We know even less about Chris Livingston and where he could end up. As with Bates and Duren, Livingston could always look toward the professional path instead of college. That route may be the likeliest for the Ohio native, maybe even more so than for Bates and Duren. A brutally physical wing that already looks the part, Livingston may be more NBA-ready than any other prospect his age.
There are questions regarding where he might spend his junior year, and a move to the West Coast has been often discussed. If college is in his future, Ohio State seems to have the best chance. Livingston has not garnered the greatest of college interest compared to his fellow top-10 peers, but he is a stupendous talent and interest from the G League, overseas and colleges across the nation will not be in short supply.
4. DIOR JOHNSON
The second member of the top five to have made a college decision, Dior Johnson is a solid Syracuse commit that chose in February to stay in his home state thanks to the relationship that he built with the coaching staff, especially assistant coach Gerry McNamara. We reported earlier in the month that Johnson, who is now living on the West Coast but will spend his junior year at Oak Hill Academy (Virginia), could potentially move into the 2021 class. Johnson has been playing high school basketball on the varsity level since the seventh grade, so it is not as if he has failed to achieve pretty much all that he has set out to do.
The question then becomes if Johnson will have the grades that would allow an early college enrollment, and if Syracuse is actually in his future. Could the G League program make a run at Johnson, or even a league overseas? Johnson has an entertaining playing style and a massive following on his various social media accounts, so that will translate well with fans of whichever league he might choose.
5. CALEB HOUSTAN
Caleb Houstan’s recruitment has gone through the roof in recent months. Practically all of the blueblood programs, save Kentucky, have jumped into the picture with an offer, and options will not be hard to come by for the top-five forward. A native of Canada, Houstan is expected to reclassify into the 2021 class later this year.
College seems to be the most likely landing spot for Houstan, compared to the four others rated ahead of him. North Carolina was in a great spot for him earlier in the spring, but don’t discount Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan, Michigan State or Oregon, now that they have offered. A reclassification decision should be made before a college pick is made some time next year.
*Houstan made it official on Friday that he will reclassify into the 2021 class
6. BRANDON HUNTLEY-HATFIELD
Originally a member of the 2021 class, Huntley-Hatfield reclassified into the 2022 class two years ago. There is a chance Huntley-Hatfield could make the leap back into the 2021 class if all goes right in the coming months. That is a lot to ask, especially with the ongoing pandemic, but it is not as if Huntley-Hatfield is physically lacking. A tremendously gifted forward who can play practically all three spots in the frontcourt, his overall production is more about his consistency.
Unless things change, Kentucky should be seen as the team to beat. He grew up a fan of the Wildcats and his older cousin is former UK standout Alex Poythress. Memphis, Michigan, Ole Miss and Tennessee are among the other programs in heavy pursuit.
7. AMARI BAILEY
Amari Bailey is about to begin his junior year at Sierra Canyon and has already decommitted from two programs. Before setting foot in a high school classroom, the Chicago native committed to DePaul before backing off his pledge months later. Then came his commitment to UCLA before he decommitted after the coaching change in Westwood that led to Mick Cronin taking over the program.
Since then, there has been little to said about his recruitment, but if Bailey decides to leave the West Coast, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan have the best chance with the five-star guard. It would come as no surprise if Bailey decides to go the professional route and opts for the G League instead of college. He could also look overseas at the NBL, a league in which former UCLA commit LaMelo Ball just competed.