leron_black

by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

The boys rosters for the 37th McDonald’s All-American game were announced three weeks ago yesterday. The selection committee identified 24 of the best high schoolers in the country, and per the usual, it did great job. Several future NBA players will be on display, in addition to a handful of others who will be difference makers at their respective universities.

But due to space limitations, inevitably there were a handful of talented players who, for one reason or another, didn’t make the cut. Below are five “under the radar” players in the Class of 2014, who in my opinion deserve national recognition. Not because they project to make significant contributions in college—such a list would contain hundreds of players, and wouldn’t be possible to narrow down—but more so because I have an inclination that these five will one day reach—and potentially contribute—in the NBA. The McDonald’s game selected 24 of the best, but not necessarily the best 24. Plus, it’s all subjective anyway.

Like all high school prospects, these five are still maturing, from a physical, mental and skill development standpoint. But if they continue along their trajectory, big things loom on the horizon.

Leron Black, White Station (TN)
SF/PF, 6-7, 220 (pictured above)

Committed to Illinois

Few players in 2014 rival Black’s combination of unlimited energy and soft touch. He’s led White Station to a 26-1 record, including a 19-point, 17-rebound, 3-block performance in the district championship last night, as well as being named a finalist for Tennessee Mr. Basketball.

It’s no fluke. A 6-7 combo forward, Black is capable of battling in the post, or stepping out and shooting the three. Most of all, though, his polished mid-range game distinguishes him. Good bounce to rise up for a floater or pull-up jumper at the free-throw line, and the result is nearly automatic. He has the best mid-range in the country, save for Justin Jackson.

The “rankings” may disagree, but I believe Black is a top-15 prospect nationally. If he fills out his frame and improves his jump shot, Black should become an NBA prospect as an underclassman in college.

Chris McCullough, IMG (FL)
PF, 6-10, 225

Committed to Syracuse

McCullough’s November dismissal from Brewster Academy likely kept him out of the McDonald’s All-American Game. But that doesn’t take away from his talent and upside. McCullough is a slender 6-10 forward, with a 7-1 wingspan and maybe the most vertical hops in the class. He’s a threat in the open court offensively, with a developing back to the basket game and a much-improved motor. Defensively, he impacts the game with his length, mobility and timing on blocks.

McCullough should garner immediate playing time at Syracuse, and will flourish in the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He’s interchangeable on the back line, with the speed and athleticism to leak out in transition. If he can add muscle and showcase some semblance of a face up game, McCullough could leave Syracuse earlier than expected.

Ahmed Hill, Aquinas (GA)
PG, 6-5, 190

Committed to Marquette

Simply put, I think Hill is the most underrated player in the country. Great size for a point guard at 6-5. Tight handle and strong frame to penetrate and finish through contact, and an extremely high basketball IQ—Hill can run your team as a freshman. He’s a playmaker, a hungry competitor, and a true leader.

Hill can play both guard positions, but if I were a coach, I’d give Hill the keys to the offense and let him operate. He handles the ball against pressure, surveys the floor with poise, and can finish at the rim. I’ve seen all the top point guards in the Class of 2014, and in my opinion, there’s not a PG who Ahmed Hill can’t compete with. He could put Marquette back on the map in a hurry.

Goodluck Okonoboh, Wilbraham & Monson (MA)
PF/C, 6-9, 220

Committed to UNLV

Okonoboh is the best rim protector in the Class of 2014, and that’s including guys such as Okafor, Alexander and Turner. With a 7-foot wingspan, quick feet, and a second and third bounce in the paint, Okonoboh embraces the role of defensive stopper. He can pin shots one-on-one, as a help defender, or in the open floor.

Goodluck has offensive potential as well. He runs the floor with energy, and finishes above the rim in transition and alley-oops. More importantly, though, he recently flashed a pick and pop game at the Hoop Hall Classic last month. If he can add a 15-footer, Okonoboh could be the next Larry Sanders.

Brekkott Chapman, Roy (UT)
SF/PF, 6-8, 220

Committed to Utah

Chapman may be the best point forward in the class. With impressive ball handling, shooting and athleticism for his size, he can set up anywhere and go to work. Few players match his combination of basketball IQ and elite skills; he can drop 20 and 10 without forcing a single shot. His ability to operate out of the triple threat position is reminiscent of Jabari Parker, not in terms of talent but in terms of fluidity and jump shooting at 6-8. One of the smoothest and most savvy scorers in the country, Chapman is my pick to win Pac-12 freshman of the year. If Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright return next season, he could be the missing piece to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Utah got the best player in the state, and one of the best on the West Coast.