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Rivals Roundtable: Players living up to ranking; underrated players, more

Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Darren Lee/ Photographer)

Who has backed up their lofty ranking this summer? Who has proven deserving of a bump up the rankings? Which player producing in the NBA bubble who was underrated would analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald liked to have seen more of in high school? They discuss in this weekend’s Rivals Roundtable.

EVANS: Optimism for cellar-dwellers

MCDONALD: Ranking the ACC jobs

1. Who have you seen in the past two weeks that has lived up to his lofty ranking?

Bossi: I don’t need to look past No. 1 in the class of 2021. Patrick Baldwin Jr. is my guy here. The ultra-skilled forward hasn’t played as much as some others, but hitting the floor with Phenom Universe Team Herro over the past few weeks he has been all that he’s been said to be. His size and shooting ability are problematic for any defender, he’s a plus ball-handler, he makes good decisions and plays a well-rounded game.

He’s been down to 10 schools for a while now with Duke considered to be the leader. Staying home to play for his father at Milwaukee isn’t out of the question while North Carolina is also pushing hard.

Evans: Hunter Sallis. We were ahead of the curve with him and he is showing that we are correct with his 11th overall ranking. He is the embodiment of the new age guard that has the size, length, shot-making and passing qualities that would allow for him to play all three spots along the perimeter and he has only gotten better each step of the way.

Sallis has yet to cut his list, which means a number of national suitors have come calling. Kansas and North Carolina feel like the two to beat, but don’t shortchange the chances of Creighton, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Louisville, or Nebraska. Michigan just offered. Kentucky has also begun to pick things up with him and if an offer is handed out, which I expect it will sometime soon, the Wildcats could be a trendy team to watch with the five-star guard.

McDonald: At our last rankings update, I was pretty adamant about Bryce McGowens moving up towards five-star range and felt he would easily back up being in the top 35 range. After watching him late last month, I feel really good about it. He's so long and athletic on the wing and he's so skilled. I think he has as much upside as any wing in the class. He's committed to Florida State and Leonard Hamilton stole another really good one before his recruitment got too hot.

2. Who have you seen that deserves a rankings bump?

Bossi: At No. 63 nationally in the class of 2022, we already have 6-foot-10 center Kel’el Ware of North Little Rock (Ark.) High ranked quite a bit higher than anybody else in the industry. However, I would be in favor of moving him up at least another 20-25 spots.

The production isn’t always there, but his size, the way he moves, the development he’s showing on the skill side of things all suggest that he’s got a bright future and potential to develop into an elite level prospect.

Arkansas has made him a priority and continues to do so, they’ve done will with locals lately and hope to continue the trend with Ware. Auburn, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech are among the others who have already offered so competition will be stiff.

Evans: I wrote about him on Thursday but Benny Williams and what he showed me over the weekend equates to, at the very least, a top-20 prospect, with even more room for growth in the near future. Williams has grown to at least 6-foot-8, and has filled out to about 200 pounds. He is still not where he needs to be with the physical side, but it does appear that the light has turned on with the Syracuse-bound wing.

Headed to IMG Academy in the fall, Williams has the chance to go down as one of the best that has played for the Orange this century. He is talented, has the size to play all over the floor and has progressively gotten better. Williams is a no-brain five-star prospect that could push for top-10 status once the games resume in the winter.

McDonald: I watched recent Ole Miss commit Grant Slatten last weekend and it was pretty easy to see why the Rebels were so eager to get him done before the line got longer. He has good size for a wing, pretty good athleticism, and he's a pretty crafty scorer at all three levels. He'll be a good one for Kermit Davis, and is probably somebody that needs to be in the next Rivals150.

3. What NBA player still standing in the bubble was underrated coming out of high school that you wish you saw more of?

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard

Bossi: Damian Lillard has been the talk of the bubble and for good reason. The Portland point guard has been insanely good in the bubble and may be the best there is at his position.

I only ever saw him play one time. It was a Friday night in Las Vegas in April of 2007 some three years before I came to work at Rivals -- where his two-star rating will always be brought up. He was only about six-feet tall then and I watched him go off. He rained jumpers from deep, he attacked the rim. I thought he was a really nice player and that Pac-12 programs should be taking a look.

In the weeks following, I recommended him to many programs on the upper mid-major to high-major level that were looking for a point guard. Unfortunately, I never got to see him again. Would I have been the one person smart enough to rank him highly? No, I’m not saying that. But, I’m pretty sure I would have been more aggressive in urging bigger programs to recruit him.

Evans: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s ranking was No. 34 when he graduated and headed to Kentucky as part of the 2017 graduating class. I remember seeing him when he had only one last name and as a rising sophomore playing with the Uplay Stackhouse bunch and next to his cousin, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Alexander-Walker was the more heavily discussed name at that point and while Gilgeous-Alexander’s talent warranted attention, it just seemed that I lost track of him, at least as far as getting the chance to see him as often as I would have liked from that day forward.

Maybe that is one of the reasons why he was ranked so low, but averaging over 19 points, five rebounds and close to four assists per game, and ready to take the mantle from Chris Paul as the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise, we definitely missed on the Canadian who looks primed to become one of the superstars in the sport.

McDonald: I'm completely with Corey on this one. I liked Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a prospect coming out of high school, but I never thought he'd be anything close to what he has been for the Thunder. He's going to be a star in the NBA for a long time. I don't really know that there was anything I would go back and look at differently because I think it had more to do with just not seeing him play at the right times, which happens often. I never saw him play and left thinking he was destined to be a big time college player, much less a star in the NBA.