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2015 Early Signing Period Breakdown: SEC

  • Best Player: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
  • Best Potential: Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky
  • Best Scorer: Malik Monk, Kentucky
  • Best Shooter: Terrance Ferguson, Alabama
  • Best Rebounder: Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kentucky
  • Best Passer: J.J. Caldwell, Texas A&M
  • Best Defender: Abdulhakim Ado, Mississippi State
  • Best Glue Guy: Braxton Key, Alabama
  • Best Athlete: Malik Monk, Kentucky

1. Kentucky Wildcats

De’Aaron Fox | 6′-3″ | PG | Cypress Lakes (TX)
Malik Monk | 6′-4″ | SG | Bentonville (AR)
Edrice “Bam” Adebayo | 6′-9″ | PF | High Point Christian (NC)
Wenyen Gabriel | 6′-9″ | PF | Wilbraham & Monson (MA)
Tai Wynyard | 6′-10″ | C | New Zealand
Sacha Killeya-Jones | 6′-11″ | C | Virginia Episcopal School (VA)

It isn’t as if Kentucky needs to address specific positions due to graduations like virtually all other D-1 programs do. The Wildcats have experienced unprecendented roster turnover due to NBA early entry and have largely replaced their departed talent with elite blue chip prospects. The 2016 recruiting cycle looks like it will be more of the same.

Edrice Adebayo (adidas)
Edrice Adebayo (adidas)

A pair of top-10 prospects in the backcourt, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, virtually assure the Wildcats of having one of the 2016-2017 season’s most dynamic guard groups nationally. Fox’s scoring ability and defensive edge are second to none, and Monk is arguably the most athletic wing player nationally. Both have no problem filling it up, and are supreme talents who have the ability to be one-and-done. The same is true for Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, who Kentucky wrested from NC State and others. Adebayo is unbelievably physical and athletic in the paint and hits the floor with a take-no-prisoners attitude. He’s unlike any player on the Kentucky roster and adds an edge that will help.

Beyond the three top 10 caliber prospects, Kentucky is still stacked. No player rose the recruiting rankings in the way Wenyen Gabriel did, and after a short whirlwind recruitment, announced for Kentucky. Gabriel is athletic, and has the frame and ability to be another one and done player, if he gets the playing time to show his ability. That status seems less likely for New Zealand post Tai Wynyard and lengthy center Sacha Killeya-Jones (a one-time Virgina commit). Wynyard is more of a power player, while Killeya-Jones is known for skill or finesse. While Wynyard isn’t ranked due to his international status, Killeya-Jones is considered a top 25 prospect across the board.

2. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Lamar Peters | 6′-1″ | PG | Landry (LA)
Tyson Carter | 6′-4″ | SG | Starkville (MS)
Eli Wright | 6′-5″ | SG | 22 Feet Academy (SC)
Mario Kegler | 6′-7″ | SF | Oak Hill Academy (VA)
Schnider Herard | 6′-10″ | C | Prestonwood Christian (TX)
Abdulhakim Ado | 6′-10″ | C | Hamilton Heights Christian (TN)

With a class which includes six players who are consensus top 150 player nationally, and several top 50 talents, new head coach Ben Howland has a long-term fix in place for Mississippi State to reach heady status in the SEC going forward.

Mario Kegler (adidas)
Mario Kegler (adidas)

Mississippi-native Mario Kegler was arguably the key recruit in the class, as a top 30 caliber prospect who can score and has ideal size for the wing. Kegler, originally from Jackson, has played for several strong high school programs and has the versatility to compete for early time. Howland also scored a talented prospect in his backyard (almost literally) in guard Tyson Carter. He’s a great shooter and legacy recruit to the program who can fill it up.  Staying in the backcourt, the Bulldogs also landed two more players in Lamar Peters and Eli Wright. Peters has the savvy to be a multi-year starter at point guard, while Wright transferred from the Kentucky high school ranks to finish out high school. Wright has really raised his profile recently, and is a skilled athlete who was one of the top prospects in Kentucky as a junior.

Mississippi State also has two rim protectors with high upside in Schnider Herard and Abdulhakim Ado. Herard, originally from Haiti, is one of the most strong and physical big men in the country, and can also run the floor. He’s developing his low-post game, and can rebound well also. Ado hails from Nigeria, and is a good shot-blocker with some shooting range. Ado was a triple-double performer in high school and has better than advertised skill level.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

Ar’mond Davis | 6′-5″ | SF | College of Southern Idaho (ID)
Terrance Ferguson | 6′-6″ | SG | API (TX)
Braxton Key | 6′-7″ | SF | Oak Hill Academy (VA)

With his NBA experience, new Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has something bonafide to sell to recruits. Johnson did well to land an elite talent in his first class in Alabama, as part of an overall upgrade to the talent on the roster.

Terrence Ferguson (Steven Maikoski/USA Basketball)
Terrence Ferguson (Steven Maikoski/USA Basketball)

Texas wing Terrance Ferguson is a lanky outside shooter with few peers. Ferguson has been handpicked to be in the USA Basketball national team program due to his long range capabilities. He’ll need some adjustment time, but could provide Johnson’s first legitimate star and certainly some scoring pop. Also on the wing, junior college transfer Ar’mond Davis could provide a two-year quick fix. He first committed to Memphis before reconsidering and ending up with the Crimson Tide. Davis hails from Washington state and experienced two years in a very prominent junior college program at College of Southern Idaho. Davis is a scorer through and through and one of the top JC prospects in the country. Alabama is also excited to have landed Braxton Key, a top 100 prospect and savvy wing forward. Key is extremely skilled, plays in an elite high school program, and has a tremendous basketball IQ

4. Auburn Tigers

Jared Harper | 5′-11″ | PG | Pebblebrook (GA)
Mustapha Heron | 6′-4″ | SG | Sacred Heart (CT)
Anfernee McLemore | 6′-8″ | PF | Worth County (GA)

The Tigers have wasted no time in upgraded their overall talent level under head coach Bruce Pearl and his assistants. The 2016 recruiting haul is no exception, and should again add to a roster that could be prominent in the SEC sooner than some think. The bonafide star is former Pittsburgh pledge Mustapha Heron, a standout scorer on the wing. Heron is one of the elite shooting guards nationally and will be hard for the Tigers to keep off the floor as a top-25 overall prospect. A true point guard always has a place on a college basketball program’s roster and Jared Harper is just that for Auburn. Harper starred as a junior alongside current Clemson freshman Ty Hudson at Pebblebrook, and is a pass-first talent who successfully orchestrated the offense for the Georgia Stars, which was among the best traveling teams during the 2015 spring and summer. Harper may not intimidate physically, but his game speaks volumes. Inside, Auburn plucked Anfernee McLemore from Georgia. He has the athleticism to be a strong rebounder and defensive expert for Auburn. He recorded several triple-doubles as a high school junior, and is also a terrific student who considered some Ivy League programs.

5. Arkansas Razorbacks

Darryl Macon | 6′-1″ | SG | Holmes CC (MS)
Jaylen Barford | 6′-3″ | SG | Motlow State JC (TN)
Adrio Bailey | 6′-8″ | PF | Lakeview (LA)
Arlando Cook | 6′-8″ | PF | Connors State JC (OK)

Perhaps more than any major conference team, Arkansas extensively mined the junior college transfer route during the early signing period by inking three prospects. The most touted of the trio is Jaylen Barford, who was rated as the No. 1 transfer in the country by 247 Sports. Barford was a standout as a freshman, earning Honorable Mention NJCAA honors. He was a breakout scorer, and head coach Mike Anderson called him an “explosive athlete with great size” meaning he’s probably a threat to start from day one. The same can be said for forward Arlando Cook, who originally committed to Nevada before reconsidering and ending up in the SEC. Cook was a near double-double performer in his first year of junior college hoops, and a standout in the St. Louis-area while in high school. He has the defensive and rebounding ability to challenging the returnees immediately. Closing out the JUCO triumvirate, Daryl Macon was a prolific scorer as a freshman as a native of Little Rock, formerly standing out at Parkview (AR). Macon will provide excitement and points right away. The class is closed out by Adrio Bailey, a standout from Louisiana who played for a Dallas-based AAU team. Bailey fits the mold Anderson wants to employ with his length and ability to run the floor. Bailey is known as an explosive athlete but will probably need some time to make the jump from small school basketball to the SEC.

6. Texas A&M Aggies

J.J. Caldwell | 5′-11″ | PG | SATCH (TX)
Kobie Eubanks | 6′-5″ | SG | Elev8 Sports (FL)
Robert Williams | 6′-8″ | PF | North Caddo (LA)

Texas A&M continues to string together quality recruiting classes, and has clearly done so once again with this effort. A pair of top 100 prospects inked out of high school, J.J. Caldwell and Robert Williams, while well-traveled guard Kobie Eubanks was a former top-100 prospect and a solid late addition as an expected mid-year enrollee. Head coach Billy Kennedy raved on Caldwell’s ability as an explosive point guard who plays aggressively and can pass. Caldwell is a key in-state prospect and shores up the point guard slot on the roster. Up front, Williams looks very promising. His athleticism and defensive ability, combined with an emerging offensive game, means the Texas A&M could have a quality multi-year starter on the upswing on their hands. Scoring pop is the name of Eubanks’ game, and it’s even a bit more sweet that Texas A&M was able to add him after he was unable to qualify at fellow SEC program Alabama. Eubanks should join the team in late September, and has a college-ready 215 point frame. At one time, he was also pledged to Baylor.

7. LSU Tigers

Skylar Mays | 6′-3″ | PG | Findlay Prep (NV)
Branden Jenkins | 6′-4″ | SG | Lee College (TX)
Kieran Hayward | 6′-5″ | SG | Australia
Wayde Sims | 6′-7″ | PF | University Lab (LA)
Duop Reath | 6′-10″ | PF | Lee College (TX)

There’s no blue chip recruits in this haul for LSU, but on the same merit there’s likely no danger of one-and-done players the coaching staff will have to replace. Two Lee College teammates should balance the roster and add some upperclassmen to the mix. Guard Branden Jenkins and forward Duop Reath will have familiarity with each other’s games when they arrive on campus in Baton Rogue. Head coach Johnnie Jones called Jenkins, an Illinois-native, an “excellent” combo guard and remarked on his on-ball defensive ability. Similarly, Jones’ comments indicate he believes Reath will be a quality rebounder and presence in the paint. Australian guard Kieran Hayward has a common country of origin with Reath, and has the size and shooting ability  to help off-set the loss of Keith Hornsby from the 2015-2016 team. In the post, Wayde Sims was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana as a junior and is a legacy recruit. Sims has the size and strength to be a mismatch, and has been a high-percentage, productive player in the high school ranks. Point guard Skylar Mays was previously Sims’ teammate at University, prior to finishing out high school in the basketball factory at Findlay Prep. Mays is a top 100 caliber player with good basketball IQ, height and passing ability.

8. Florida Gators

Eric Hester | 6′-3″ | SG | Oldsmar Christian (FL)
Dontay Bassett | 6′-8″ | PF | Oldsmar Christian (FL)

Head coach Mike White put together a solid duo in his first early signing period class in Gainesville. Teammates at Oldsmar Christian, in the Tampa area, Eric Hester and Dontay Bassett were quality additions for the Gators. Of the two, Hester is more highly-touted, as a lengthy guard who can play both spots and add scoring pop. Meanwhile, Bassett is more a long-term play, as he’s an athletic big man who has proven to be a quality high-level rebounder. Bassett is still on an upward trajectory, as he only has a few years of organized basketball under his belt.

9. Georgia Bulldogs

Tyree Crump | 6′-2″ | SG | Bainbridge (GA)
Jordan Harris | 6′-5″ | SG | Seminole County (GA)

With a plethora of talent in their backyard, Georgia is well-served to keep talented in-state prospects home, as they’ve done with a solid backcourt duo from Southwest Georgia. Both Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris come to the program with very decorated backgrounds in Georgia. Crump is regarded by head coach Mark Fox as an athletic backcourt player who can shoot and score.  Opposite of Crump, Harris’ size and length at guard are impressive, as is his track record of being named all-state each high school year. Harris and Crump will arrive in Athens on the heels of the departure of two senior guards and cornerstones of the program, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. While they are different players, there’s no doubt Harris and Crump have the ability to have equally successful college basketball careers.

10. Tennessee Volunteers

Kwe Parker | 6′-2″ | SG | Wesleyan Christian (NC)
Jordan Bone | 6′-6″ | SG | Ensworth School (TN)
Jalen Johnson | 6′-7″ | SF | Wesleyan Christian (NC)
Grant Williams | 6′-7″ | PF | Providence Day (NC)
John Fulkerson | 6′-9″ | C | Christ School (NC)

New Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes  had some serious holes to fill on the roster, and addressed the Vol’s needs by inking five player during the early signing period. Arguably the most talented player to land at Tennessee is Kwe Parker, who originally verbally committed to Rutgers. Parker is a video mixtape legend, due to his 45 inch vertical leap and dunks. Parker can score in transition and is clearly an exciting addition. Also at guard, Jordan Bone, follows this footsteps of his older brother Josh in playing at Tennessee. A long and lanky guard, Bone can score and has the ability to play point guard at 6′-6″. Following the trend of Kwe Parker is Parker’s high school teammate and quality athlete in Jalen Johnson, who is on an upward trajectory in his development. Johnson has good size and bounce, as well as a quality shot, meaning he can really help at small forward down the line. Potential is likely the focus of two interior signees from North Carolina, Grant Williams and John Fulkerson. Barnes raved about Fulkerson’s motor and his ability to finish around the cup. Williams has more bulk than Fulkerson at 230 pounds, and was an all-state pick in North Carolina. Williams is a power post player and could be a scorer in the paint down the line for the Volunteers.

11. Mississippi Rebels

Breein Tyree | 6′-1″ | PG | St. Joseph’s (NJ)
Justas Furmanavicius | 6′-7″ | SF | Three Rivers CC (MO)
Tyrek Coger | 6′-9″ | C | Cape Fear CC (NC)
Nate Morris | 6′-10″ | C | Lancaster (TX)
Karlins Silins | 6′-10″ | C | Latvia

Ole Miss added serious size to their 2016-2017 roster, with three players 6′-9″ or better. Of their three post players, they tapped the international route as well as the junior college and high school ranks. JC center Tyrek Coger may be a familiar name to some, as he originally committed to Missouri while he high school. He has bulk at 230 pounds and is considered a top 25 national prospect from the two-year ranks, based on his near double-double performance as a freshman.  Coger will be pushed right away by Nate Morris, who excelled in the Dallas-area in high school. He can make his presence known in the paint, with the ability to run the floor and score at 240 pounds.  It’s also hard not to be intrigued by Karlins Silins, a center from Latvia’s U18 national team. Head coach Andy Kennedy noted Silins can run the floor, hit shots and also guard the cup. Another talented junior college transfer should figure into the frontcourt, Justas Furmanavicius. He had a successful first junior college season in which he was named Honorable Mention All-American. Furmanavicius is a native of Lithuania who can also shoot from range. Kennedy noted he can provide help at both guard slots. The sole player without size in the class is point guard Breein Tyree. A New Jersey-native and multi-sport standout, Tyree has good size at the point guard slot, is a good distributor and can defend.

12. Vanderbilt Commodores

Payton Willis | 6′-4″ | SG | Fayetteville (AR)
Clevon Brown | 6′-8″ | PF | Churchill (TX)

A pair of top-150 caliber prospects comprise a small but quality class for the Commodores. Vanderbilt plucked Clevon Brown from San Antonio, and has a legitimate interior player. He may be underrated nationally, and Vanderbilt reportedly wrested him away from his in-state program, Texas, among others. Brown’s counterpart in the class is Payton Willlis, who was considered by some to be the second best high school recruit in Arkansas. Willis fits the Vanderbilt mold in terms of his outside shooting ability, as he has no problem in connecting beyond the arc with regularity. Willis has good size and can really excel in the system at Vanderbilt.

13. Missouri Tigers

Willie Jackson | 6′-6″ | SF | Garfield Heights (OH)
Reed Nikko | 6′-9″ | PF | Maple Grove (MN)
Mitchell Smith | 6′-10″ | C | Van Buren (AR)

Head coach Kim Anderson noted he was seeking to add size during the early signing period, and by that measure did accomplish his major goal. Still, it’s an uphill road in the improving SEC without landing impact players.  The most touted of the newcomers, Willie Jackson, was capable of going off for triple-doubles at the high school level, and represents a versatile talent with good talent at the wing forward slot. He’s likely the first to see time in this trio. In the paint, Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith committed within days of each other and do different things. Nikko is a physical presence who can bang against foes, while Smith is more of an athlete. Both hail from strong high school programs.

14. South Carolina Gamecocks

Sedee Keita | 6′-10″ | PF | 22 Feet Academy (SC)

The Gamecocks beat out a smattering of high-major programs to land a top-100 caliber big man in Sedee Keita, who should be able to impact early on the defensive end of the floor. Originally from Philadelphia, Keita has played basketball for two years in South Carolina, which certainly helped head coach Frank Martin and his staff land a rim protector and active body in the paint.

About K.J. Hassenstab

K.J. Hassenstab is the publisher of the College Basketball Newcomers Guide book and Hoopniks.com. He founded Hoopniks.com in 2009, and has contributed to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine's HighSchoolHoop.com, and NBCSports.com, along with other publications in the past. Hassenstab has covered grassroots, high school and basketball recruiting for over a decade. Follow on Twitter, @Hoopniks.

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