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September 18, 2013
For the past few weeks, Rivals.com has been updating our rankings of the nation's top high school basketball players. After rolling out an updated Rivals150 for both the 2014 and 2015 classes, we turn our attention to the class of 2016. In our initial ranking of the sophomore class, we have put together a national top 35. And the battle for the top was the most fierce of any in our post-summer rankings.
Jackson takes the early lead
To begin with, it is very important to note this is an initial ranking of players who have yet to play their first game of their sophomore seasons. Maturity, exposure and a pool of potentially rankable players that will grow exponentially over the years means that there will likely be a lot of change over the next few years. That being said, when looking at the class of 2016 and who should start off ranked at the top, three names kept coming up over and over again: Six-foot-6 shooting guard Josh Jackson from Detroit (Mich.) Consortium, 6-foot-9 power forward Harry Giles from High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan and seven-footer Thon Maker from Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle.
For now, we give Jackson the slight edge in what is essentially a photo finish among the three.
An electric athlete with outstanding size and overall skill, Jackson has always been near the top of the class. But during July, the lengthy wing scorer took his game to an entirely new level while playing at the Adidas Super 64 with his summer team Dorian's Pride. Playing up in the 17-and-under division, Jackson was more often than not the best player on the floor whether it be on the offensive or defensive end. He gets to the rim, he can shoot it from deep, and when combined with his size and ability to play both ends of the floor, he gets the slightest of edges at this point.
Right behind Jackson at No. 2 is Giles. When making a checklist of everything that you could want out of a new-age four-man, Giles seems to have it all. He's got the ability to handle the ball, you can run some offense through him in the high post, he rebounds, and he has a balanced inside/out game. Giles is a team player and was a teammate of Jackson's on USA Basketball's gold medal 16U team during the summer. Unfortunately, Giles suffered a knee injury that cut his summer short, and he won't be back on the floor until at least late winter or early spring.
Finally there is the 7-foot Maker. Not often do you see a young player with his size who has the type of balance and coordination that he does. Maker runs extremely well, he can handle the ball and he shows a pretty high level of skill for a young post player. He is still very skinny, and at times his hands fail him when going to snare rebounds, but he's come a long way in terms of holding position and being more secure with the ball.
Bottom line, Jackson, Giles and Maker all show significant potential at an early age, and any of the three could make a strong argument for the top spot.
Tatum headlines the other five-stars
After the top three, another nine prospects have attained early five-star status. Leading the way at No. 4 overall is 6-foot-7 small forward Jayson Tatum.
A product of St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade, Tatum is a highly skilled wing player capable of playing multiple positions. At times he will remind you of a young Shaun Livingston while others it is like watching Kyle Anderson at a young age. More and more he is developing into the "point forward" role, and his playmaking and desire to make big shots during clutch situations is off the charts. His high school has produced stud prospects such as Bradley Beal and NBA All-Star David Lee, and Tatum looks to be next in line.
Dedric Lawson, a smooth, high scoring, 6-foot-8 forward from Memphis, checks in at No. 5. A transplant from Canada who is playing at mighty Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, wing Justin Jackson is a phsyical and athletic wing, while Arkansas product Malik Monk checks in at No. 7 and plays similar to a young Louis Williams. At No. 8, Ohio's V.J. King is a solid wing who loves to shoot mid-range jumpers. No. 9 Edrice Adebayo has earned his nickname "Bam Bam" and is one of the most physically dominant players in the class, while No. 10 Terrance Ferguson is a slim wing from Dallas with deep range and big-time athleticism.
Rounding out the early five-stars are two more perimeter players. No. 11 Tyus Battle is a big-time defender who can either run a team or play as a primary scorer. At No. 12, high-scoring combo guard DeAaron Fox looks like he will be the next big-timer out of the city of Houston.
Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.