Some players receive college interest early on in their high school career and become much ballyhooed prospects. Some pan out while others don’t at the next level. On the other hand, there are tons of kids that have the ability to play at the college level but just need the right fit and need the right exposure. Here are a few Class of 2017 rising seniors that don’t hold dozens of major offers or are guys you might not have heard of, but most importantly are players that could contribute at the at the D-I level if the right opportunity presents itself.
Mohammed Abubukar – 6’8” – Eagle’s Landing
Not a familiar name to those in Georgia, the big fella will be his senior season after transferring in from Hamilton Heights (TN). Abubukar is well-built and can overwhelm smaller opponents inside. In the lane, Abubukar is confident with his back to the basket, displaying a quick spin and drop step to free himself. It will be interesting to see what type of impact he makes at Eagle’s Landing, but from my short glimpse I had of him at Georgia State Team Camp, I liked what I saw.
Mo Merritt – 6’7” – North Cobb Christian
Mo Merritt should attract some eyes now that he has transferred from Sprayberry to North Cobb Christian. He will learn under state championship winning coach Greg Matta and have a chance to anchor a frontline that needed an athletic and physical presence. Merritt looked very good at the Kennesaw State Elite Camp, rebounding at a high rate and altering shots. An active motor and a soft touch in the paint will do him well. His long build reminds me of current KSU Owl Jordan Jones, who starred at St. Francis and has earned a starting role at Kennesaw.
Avery Wilson – 6’3” – Forest Park
Physicality? Check. Scoring? Check. Avery Wilson hasn’t gotten as much publicity as his game warrants at Forest Park. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior and should once again be one of the top scorers in his classification. Playing with 17U Infinite Skillz this offseason, Wilson has turned heads with his running back style of play, hitting holes in the defense and exploding for rim-rocking finishes. Wilson shot 180 free throws last year, proving he isn’t afraid of contact. He has a nice lefty three-point stroke that I hope he implements more his senior season.
Another 17U Infinite Skillz guard, Isaiah Miller was second in Class AAAA in scoring as a junior pouring in 25.3 points per game in addition to his 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 1.0 block. Sources have said he has withdrawn from Eastside and might land at Jonesboro, but nothing is set in stone just yet. If this great scorer can add a reliable three-point shot (28-of-95; 29%), watch out.
Khalil Cuffee – 6’4” – Langston Hughes
Khalil Cuffee has the size and strength (200 lbs) to play guard at the next level. He has the sweet stroke to do so also, posting averages of 18.5 points and 15.5 points per game his last two seasons while shooting 44% and 42% respectively from beyond the arc. Cuffee is as battle-tested as any guard in the state, playing major minutes since his freshman season and playing in the brutal Region 3-AAAAAA, which has produced countless High Major D-I players over the past two years including Jared Harper (Auburn), Brandon Robinson (UNC), Collin Sexton and many more. He draws another deep region this year and will once again get a chance to test himself, most importantly on the defensive side of the ball. With interest from UNC-Greensboro, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Florida Gulf Coast, South Alabama and Georgia Southern, Cuffee is still waiting for a school to pull the trigger on his first scholarship offer. He is finishing up his summer circuit with the Ware Prep Raiders.
Back in March, Tennessee Tech and Mercer were two of the schools showing the most interest in Evan Cole. By the time the high school season rolls around, I have a feeling they will have company. The best kept secret in Forsyth County is no longer a secret. At 6-foot-8, Cole is a deceptive athlete that scores inside and out. When matched up against tough competition, Cole finds a way to shine. Cole carried South Forsyth against Norcross in the first round of the Class AAAAAA State Playoffs and put a scare into the Blue Devils by giving four-star forwards Lance Thomas and Rayshaun Hammonds all they could handle. Cole should become a priority for schools in the southeast if he continues his upward trajectory.
A versatile lefty guard that does everything for Coach Gil Davis at South Paulding, Kane Williams is one of the more established players on this list with three offers already in hand from Middle Tennessee State, Alcorn State and Southern, but more should be on the way. Averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, Williams can help college teams on both sides of the ball. A quick athlete that glides to the hole, once Williams polishes his distance jumper, he has a chance to really take off.
Phlan Fleming – 6’5” – Cedar Shoals
Long arms and a competitive fire are two good qualities to have. Fleming can play passing lanes with ease and can score the ball as well. He is a diverse scorer in the sense that he can kill teams from three-point land once he gets hot and also is crafty enough to get into the paint and finish at the rim. Fleming was an integral piece of Cedar Shoals’ Class AAAAA Final Four run and should be the focal point of the offense his senior season. He’s gotten interest from a handful of schools but is still waiting for the scholarship offers to pile in. With a productive offseason with the Jaguars and 17U AC Georgia Phoenix, Fleming should see his recruitment pick up over the next few months.
Trevion Lamar – 6’5” – Jenkins
While Phlan Fleming might be described as a long and thin guard/forward, Trevion Lamar is the opposite. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Lamar is a bruising forward with a versatile skill-set. He doesn’t look like the smoothest athlete, but Lamar can indeed get up and down the floor and finish with authority. Down at Jenkins High School, he won a state title in 2015 and led the Warriors to a runner-up finish in 2016. The offense ran through Lamar last year, leading Jenkins in scoring (16.4), rebounding (9.5), assists (3.7), blocks (1.7) and a fraction away from leading in steals at 2.6. Lamar might be an inch or two away from being a top-end power forward at the next level, but his work ethic has done him well, exemplified by his three-point shooting. As a sophomore he went 8-of-21. As a junior, his added dimension grew to 28-of-84, still having room for improvement.
Jules Erving – 6’5” – Holy Innocents’
If good bloodlines matter, you should be sold on Julius Erving’s son. If not, he will earn your respect by his play on the court. Somewhat of a late bloomer, Erving’s best ball is still ahead of him. He earned Sandy’s Spiel Class AA Most Improved Player honors after making the most of his new found role and averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. To no surprise, Erving is a smooth and above-average athlete. I caught a glimpse of his potential in Holy Innocents’ season opening game where he absolutely took over down the stretch and nearly led the Golden Bears to a come from behind victory over eventual Class AAAAA quarterfinalist Riverwood. In that game he produced 19 points and 11 rebounds. When I saw him this summer at Georgia State Team Camp, it looked like he put on some more muscle to his slender frame. Erving does a lot of his scoring inside thanks to his motor whether it be off rebounds or slashes to the hoop, but if he can consistently stretch his offensive arsenal to the three-point line, Jules can become a jewel.
A virtual unknown last season exploded onto the scene at Lincoln County and parlayed his play into being named Sandy’s Spiel Class A-Public Player of the Year after averaging nearly a triple-double at 15 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocks per game. Rand’s value right now comes on the defensive side of the ball with his elite shot blocking. He is a good enough athlete to play a stretch-four or guard small forwards on defense. Rand’s game is growing every day and still has untapped potential on the offensive side of the ball. Kennesaw State, Presbyterian, South Alabama and VMI have all shown interest. Rand has the length and bounce that peers covet, it’s up to him to stay focused on and off the court to fully reach his potential.
Marcal Knolton is another athletic forward from a small school that has put up video game numbers over his career. Not as elite a shot blocker as Ahmad Rand, Knolton has a high-energy motor that has made him one of the most feared big men in Middle Georgia. As a sophomore he averaged 17 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.8 blocks as the Eagles lost in the Class AA title game. As a junior he ramped up his play, posting 20 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game.
Tyreke Johnson – 6’4” – Woodstock
Kennesaw State is in on the Woodstock standout. Johnson gets the job done on both ends of the floor and is blossoming as a leader as well. He was the catalyst in the Wolverines making the state playoffs for the first time in school history (20 years) and will be asked to power the pack again. He averaged 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Johnson was a foul magnet, attempting a monstrous 247 free throws over his 28 games – 8.8 attempts per game. There’s no denying that Johnson can get to the basket. The next step in Johnson’s progression is similar to a lot of players listed above: a consistent three-point shot. Johnson hit 22-of-74 last year at a 30% rate. His shot is far from broke, but it’s something he will need to add to his arsenal eventually.
Tae Hardy – 6’3” – Miller Grove
The spotlight is back on Tae Hardy, now that a talented senior class has graduated. Former Miller Grove head coach and current Georgia State Assistant Sharman White told me at the beginning of last season that Hardy is “quietly kept as probably one of the best players in the state with his ability and what he can do with the basketball.” Hardy willingly took a bit of a backseat to Alterique Gilbert (UConn) and Aaron Augustin (Stephen F. Austin), averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals, but everything worked out as the Wolverines captured their seventh state title. So how did Hardy earn this lofty praise from an accomplished coach such as White? As a sophomore at rivaling Southwest DeKalb, Hardy averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. This summer Hardy has gotten back to his bucket-getting ways and has looked good doing so. Expect a potent year from Hardy.
Damion Rosser has projectable size at the guard position and has helped turn the Henry County backcourt along with teammate Javon Greene into one of the most exciting to watch in the state. Rosser is an attacking guard that excels at rebounding. He plays above the rim and can be a plus defender when he wants to be. Rosser along with Greene, has had a strong summer with 17U Atlanta All-Stars and is in-line for another stat-stuffing senior season.
Evan Jester, a stretchy and athletic forward from Sandy Creek, will have a chance to shine for Coach Anthony McKissic now that Elias Harden has transferred to Pebblebrook and Christian Turner is off to Gardner-Webb. Jester is everything you want in a player, especially off the floor as he boasts a 4.0 GPA and 25 ACT. Only Alcorn State has offered Jester who averaged 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds as a third option. Ivy League schools are heavily involved with Cornell, Brown and Princeton leading the way while Low Majors Gardner-Webb, Wofford, VMI, Air Force and Nebraska of Omaha have checked in. Jester has a bright future ahead of him whether he pursues his basketball career or not.
Noah Gurley – 6’7” – Fayette County
A true late bloomer, Noah Gurley exploded onto the scene at Fayette County last year, winning Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAA Most Improved Player honors in a landslide after he upped his slash line of 2.1 ppg/2.6 rpg/0.7 bpg to 16.8/6.6/3.7. The lanky forward listed in March that Tennessee Tech, Kennesaw State, South Alabama and James Madison all have contacted him after his breakthrough season which saw him win Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year. Gurley has stated he feels most comfortable at the three position at the next level and is continuing to improve his handles and jumper. Gurley has one more season to raise his stock even higher.
Preston Horne – 6’6” – Tift County
Preston Horne has been a wrecking ball in South Georgia for years and has an important senior season coming up after a torn ACL ended his junior season abruptly. Before the injury, Horne, a physical presence in the low post, was averaging a team-best 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Tift County has had good ties to the ACC in years past with Tadric Jackson at Georgia Tech and his younger brother, Tyrie, entering his freshman season at Virginia Tech.