One of the biggest storylines of the first half of the college basketball season has been the surprising emergence of Trae Young. The freshman from Oklahoma has averaged 30.5 points and 9.7 assists per game(as of January 21), leading the country in both. He was only ranked 23rd in the ESPN 100 in 2017 and was ranked 4th among point guards, yet he has been able to outshine every prospect ranked ahead of him. Today, I will look at the three point guards who have ranked ahead of him in his class and how they have done.
Ranked 6th overall and the top point guard in the 2017 ESPN 100 is Trevon Duval. He committed to Duke and has averaged 12.1 points per game and 6.2 assists per game(as of January 21). He has done well so far on a stacked Duke team. As the number 6 prospect in the country, he had very high expectations going into the season and has lived up to them, however, he has not done nearly as well as Trae Young.
Ranked 7th overall and the number 2 point guard in the 2017 ESPN 100 is Collin Sexton. He committed to Alabama and has averaged 19.3 points per game and 3.4 assists per game. He has done extremely well and has been the best player on a very good Alabama team. While he has probably exceeded expectations and is one of the top 5 freshmen in the country, he has not done as well as Trae Young.
Ranked 20th overall and the number 3 point guard in the 2017 ESPN 100 is Jaylen Hands. He committed to UCLA and is the last point guard ranked ahead of Trae Young in the 2017 ESPN 1000. He has been mediocre so far on a disappointing UCLA team, averaging 11.2 points and 2.8 points per game. Expected to be a star on UCLA, he has disappointed a little, but he has not been bad by any means.
For the most part, the three point guards ranked ahead of Trae Young in the 2017 ESPN 100 have been very good. No one could have seen the emergence of Trae Young coming. Or could they? Let’s look at some of the past point guards in the ESPN 100 who have been overlooked and see how they have done, and see if Trae Young’s emergence is just a fluke, or maybe some point guards are being overlooked.
In the first ESPN 100 rankings in 2007, the 5th ranked point guard was Jonny Flynn. He went to Syracuse and in his two years in college, he averaged 16.6 points per game and 6 assists per game. He was picked 6th overall in the 2009 draft because of his amazing performance during his time at Syracuse. After a good rookie season where he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he suffered multiple knee injuries and was never the same again. He was out of the league by 2012. He has been most famous for being picked ahead of 2-time MVP Steph Curry and has gone down as one of the biggest busts of all time. He was an exceptional college player and did show potential to be a good player in the pros, but injuries derailed his career. The four point-guards ranked ahead of Jonny Flynn were Derrick Rose, Corey Fisher, Jai Lucas, and E’Twuan Moore. Only two of these players even made it to the NBA, so maybe Jonny Flynn should have been ranked higher among point guards in this class.
In the 2010 ESPN 100 rankings, the 4th ranked point guard was Cory Joseph. He went to Texas and in his one year in college, he averaged 10.4 points per game and 3 assists per game. He was drafted by the Spurs with the 29th pick in the draft in 2011. In the beginning of his career, he was sent to the D-League multiple times. However, in 2014 he had a breakout year with the Spurs, helping them win a championship. Ever since then, he has been one of the best backup point guards in the league and he averaged 9.3 points per game last season with the Raptors. The three point guards ranked ahead of Cory Joseph were Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, and Josh Selby. Of these three Irving has become an all-star, Brandon Knight has flamed out of the NBA, and Josh Selby was a bust. Maybe Joseph should have been ranked higher among these three.
The stories of Trae Young, Jonny Flynn, and Cory Joseph show that, while not often, recruiting mistakes do happen, and players are placed much lower than they should be in their class.