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Introducing the best 5-star basketball recruits in the loaded class of 2016

There's so much high level talent in the class of 2016. Here's five players you need to know.

Francois Nel/Getty Images

With the exception of recently de-committed big man Caleb Swanigan, the top basketball players in the class of 2015 are all but signed, sealed and delivered to the colleges of their choice. That means it's already time to start thinking about the next recruiting class for coaches across the country as grassroots leagues hosted by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour continue to showcase the most talented players set to graduate high school in 2016 and 2017.

The summer going into a player's senior year is one of the most important basketball periods of their life. Thus far, only 16 of the top 60 players in ESPN's 2016 rankings have made college choices. For everyone else, this is a time to show off your ability against top competition and collect scholarship offers.

You started to hear the whispers a year ago, even as LSU commit Ben Simmons was shining on the EYBL, and players like Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas) were just starting their ascent up the rankings. For as good as the class of 2015 was, the talent at the top of 2016 looked noticeably better. Now these players are ready for their summer in the spotlight with the entirely of ESPN's top 10 still uncommitted.

The following is an introduction to five players entering their senior year of high school who appear to be great prospects both in the short-term and moving forward. This is far from a comprehensive list. Players like Florida big man Udoka Azubuike and Georgia point guard Kobi Simmons easily could have been included.

The players below just seem to stand a cut above, at least at this point in their career. For more on AAU basketball, check our story from a weekend on the circuit two weeks ago. The class of 2016 is stacked, and these are the names you need to know:

Harry Giles


(Credit: Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Position: C/PF
Size: 6'10, 215 pounds
Schools recruiting him the hardest: Kentucky, Wake Forest, North Carolina and many more.

Giles was already considered by some to be the best long-term prospect in high school basketball by the end of his freshman season. That's when disaster struck: competing for USA Basketball's U16 squad in the FIBA World Championships in Uruguay, Giles tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.

Now two years removed from that injury, Giles has been able to recapture his old form. He was exceptional at Nike's EYBL event in Houston this past weekend, finishing with 28 points and 11 rebounds on 12-of-16 shooting for Team CP3 in a win against Mokan Elite and top 2017 prospect Michael Porter.

Giles is a long, lean and skilled big man who might remind you a bit of Chris Bosh. He loves operating out of the elbow, where he's developing his face-up jumper and is already considered a skilled passer. He has the measurements (7'3 wingspan) and speed to be a potential top five pick after one year of college.

I saw Giles struggle in Lexington two weeks earlier in a game against Azubuike and a massive front line for the Georgia Stars. It was clear he just hadn't seen many opposing big men as strong as the highly-touted trio the Stars threw at him, but his talent still jumped off the court even in what was considered an off-night (12 points, 10 rebounds, 4-of-10 shooting). AAU basketball is a guard's game, and his backcourt just wasn't getting him the looks he needed to be productive.

Giles said John Calipari "wants to coach me bad." As a North Carolina native, he's obviously receiving plenty of interest from the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, as well. No big man in the class of 2016 will immediately change a team's fortunes like Giles.

Jayson Tatum


(Credit: Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Position: SF
Size: 6'8, 190 pounds
Schools recruiting him the hardest: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Saint Louis

Tatum, who just turned 17 years old in March, already has the look of a professional in the way he carries himself on the court. Despite being clearly the most talented player in nearly every game he plays for the St. Louis Eagles in the EYBL, Tatum never forces anything. It almost looks like he's coasting until you check the numbers and find out he finished with a brutally efficient 25 points and stuffed the rest of the box score, too.

Tatum lacks the elite athleticism of a wing prospect like Josh Jackson (more on him in a minute) or Andrew Wiggins, but he makes up for it with skill and basketball IQ. He's a great passer, sound ball handler and crafty scorer in the half court. The Eagles run everything through him and have one of the best records in EYBL play so far at 9-3.

The first word that comes to mind when watching Tatum is smooth. He already has NBA size for wing (6'11 wingspan) and seems to dominate without really breaking a sweat. He scored 20 in a win against 2017 wing Porter in Lexington and dropped 35 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals on 8-of-14 shooting (and 19-of-21 from the line) in a victory over a talented Houston Hoops squad in Houston this past weekend.

Tatum did not attempt a three-pointer against Hoops, and that's part of his game that will have to develop. He already has a trusty arsenal from mid-range, complete with a fadeaway jumper that looks good every time.

Tatum's list is already down to four. Will it be Duke, North Carolina or Kentucky? With no inside information, he just looks like a Duke kid -- not in the Christian Laettner way, but in the Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor sense.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
Size: 6'8, 195 pounds
Schools recruiting him the hardest: Kansas, Arizona and many more.

As a raw talent, Jackson has just about everything you're looking for out of a wing. He already has prototypical size for his position and he's gifted with athletic ability that's about as elite as it gets. He put it all on display during an incredible performance on the Under Armour tour in Louisville two weeks ago:

Jackson isn't a knock down three-point shooter yet, but he has a nice stroke with lots of room to grow. He can also be an outstanding passer when he wants to be.

More than anything, though, Jackson is a scorer. His 41-point game is the highest scoring outburst of the season on the Under Armour circuit and he's currently second in the league in scoring by averaging 20 points per game. Tatum and Giles are great talents, but it's easy to watch Jackson and think he's the only one of the three who might be able to hold his own in the NBA today.

There's a reason for that: despite being in the same high school class, Jackson is more than a year older than Tatum. He'll turn 19 years old in February and will turn 20 before the NCAA Tournament of his first college season, should he choose to play college ball.

The age thing can go both ways. College coaches like older players because they are more physically mature when entering the program. NBA teams typically prefer younger players when the draft arrives. In youth sports, age is what levels the playing field. Shabazz Muhammad is just one example of an older player dominating younger guys in high school before suddenly no longer looking like an elite prospect once he jumped up a level or two.

That's not to say Jackson is the next Muhammad. He's a much better athlete, he's more willing to share the ball and he has much higher defensive potential. If he really does look like a man playing against kids at times, it's because he is.

Malik Monk

Position: Guard
Size: 6'3, 175 pounds
Schools recruiting him the hardest: Kentucky and Arkansas.

Malik Monk gets buckets. That's the first and only thing you need to know about him.

When Monk gets cooking, there isn't a player in the country who can stockpile points as easily as he can. I saw him put up 39 points on 11-of-17 shooting two weeks ago in Lexington, a performance that started with three straight three-pointers to open the game. As you might expect, a crowd full of Kentucky fans, former Kentucky players and even John Calipari all came away impressed.

While Jackson, Tatum and Giles all look like great NBA prospects, Monk's long-term future is a little more hazy. He's undersized for a shooting guard, and he doesn't seem to have point guard instincts. Calipari has compared him to Derrick Rose, and of course there's plenty of time for a 17-year-old to develop his game. One thing Monk does have going for him, from a pro perspective, is long arms. His wingspan measured at 6'7 during a 2014 USA Basketball event.

Monk's college decision is thought to come down to Kentucky and his native Arkansas. His brother Marcus was a star wide receiver for the Razorbacks and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2008. Arkansas' entire team even showed up to watch one of his high school games last season.

For now, let's comp him to J.R. Smith without the, uh, less appealing aspects of Smith brings with him. This is just one way of saying you're going to have a lot of fun watching Malik Monk play basketball.

Dennis Smith

Position: Point guard 
Size: 6'1.5, 175 pounds
Schools recruiting him the hardest: NC State, Kansas, North Carolina

Dennis Smith is fast. Dennis Smith can jump out of the gym. Dennis Smith can rain jumpers from all over the floor when he's in rhythm. Dennis Smith does things that 6'1 point guards shouldn't be able to do:

Smith plays for his father on the Adidas tour -- that dunk came in a surprise EYBL appearance last weekend in Houston -- and it's easy to draw parallels between his game and the other great point guards who rep the brand, like Damian Lillard, John Wall and Rose. Smith doesn't have Wall or Rose's size, but he does seem to have some similarities with Lillard if he's able to reach his potential.

Smith's recruitment seems open at the moment. NC State coach Mark Gottfried and Kansas' Bill Self were both in the first row watching him in Indianapolis two weeks ago. As a North Carolina native, you can bet Duke and UNC are in the mix as well.


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