Status quo means future pro?

Josh Jackson

When we first began to discuss our updated Class of 2016 rankings, we quickly resolved that the top of the class required no updating at all.

The nation's top five sophomores after last summer — Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Thon Maker, Josh Jackson and Dedric Lawson — remain the top five sophomores heading into this spring.

Giles actually hasn't played since last June due to a severe knee injury he suffered while competing with USA Basketball, but he underwent successful surgery and is expected to return to the court within a few months.

While one never knows how a player will recover from injury, most players that age return to form without too much difficulty. In any case, we didn't feel compelled to lower his ranking despite the setback.

Tatum, meanwhile, has compiled outrageous numbers this season. The jumbo wing boasts rough averages of 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game, and he also is a fine ballhandler and jump shooter. He has positioned himself to make a determined run at the top spot, and he'll undoubtedly be one of the travel circuit's featured attractions.

Maker currently holds more potential than production, but that's normal for a young big man. What's not normal — and in his case, highly atypical — is his coordination and speed. If you shrunk Maker to 6-4, he'd still be considered fast and athletic. The fact that he stands seven feet therefore makes him all the more impressive as a prospect. Additionally, his reactions are excellent and his handling and developing jump shot far ahead of the curve as well.

Last summer in Las Vegas, Jackson looked poised to establish a candidacy of his own for the No. 1 ranking in the class. He sliced and diced players two years his elder and showcased the kind of dynamic transition scoring tools to propel him toward stardom. He has been terrific this season as well, including one game in which he scored 40 points and added 27 rebounds. Not a typo.

That leads us to Lawson, a long-armed performer who competed on the 17-under travel circuit last year. He actually tangled against tougher competition than anyone within the top five, with the exception of Maker.

He assembled an impressive resume for Team Penny, using his length and skill to average 11 points and six rebounds per contest during the round robin phase. He elevated his play even further at the Peach Jam, averaging 18 points and eight boards per contest. He continues to improve and it has been fun to watch him hit the light switch.

Despite the credentials these impressive sophs have amassed, don't be fooled: This is a fluke. There simply are too many players, and will be too many changes, for this order to remain unchanged. But while accepting that the hierarchy will shift, it speaks vociferously to these prospects' talent that they've maintained a chokehold atop the class. One or two may slip a little over the next two years, but they won't fall far.

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