Even with the explosion of the transfer portal, the best way to find a star talent is to win on the recruiting trail. And while some of those players will hit the ground running and immediately become some of the nation’s best and most talented players, others have specific talents that will enable them to fill key roles on their respective teams.
So which players are the best at those roles? Who’s the best shooter, the most clutch, the most fun to watch and the most loaded recruiting class for the Class of 2022? 247Sports set out to answer those questions.
When we’ve done these lists in the past, we’ve followed one major rule: a player can only be used in one category. So if a player were say, both the best rebounder and best shot-blocker in the class, we had to pick which category best fit that player, then use a second player to fill that category. The result is a fun glance at what some of the nation’s most talented players will bring to the college court next season.
Here’s a look at the best players in the 2022 class.
The top dog: Nick Smith, Arkansas
Smith feels like he could have plugged into several of these spots, which is why he’s ranked first overall by 247Sports. But the combo guard from North Little Rock (Ark.) High is largely on the map because he has a full bag with the ball in his hands. Smith has great quickness, but is able to manipulate defenders with his handle and changes of speed. And he can score at all three levels, thanks to an understanding of how to get to his shot and great body control at the rim that could see him stack up the free throw attempts at times in college. Smith continued to prove himself as a scorer (and all-round player) on the all-star circuit this spring, and he should give Arkansas an All-SEC type player from the word ‘go’.
The prototype: Jarace Walker, Houston
Was Jarace Walker built in a lab to play power forward at Houston? Only Kelvin Sampson can answer that question, but Walker is the No. 1 power forward and no. 11 overall player in 247Sports’ rankings for a reason. Walker definitely knows where the weight room is, and he uses his frame — referred to as “cut-up” by 247Sports’ Brandon Jenkins — to dominate on the glass and get wherever he wants on the basketball court. Walker should continue to improve as a face-up player, but when one looks at what they want out of a college four from a physical standpoint, Walker certainly checks a lot of boxes.
The Swiss Army knife: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana
Hood-Schifinio is ranked as the nation’s fourth-best combo guard while measuring 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, and that details a bit of his versatility. He can play some point guard, or at least the role of a primary ball-handler. He can pass the ball, rebound for his position and defend multiple spots. Hood-Schifino may need to extend the range on his jumper and become more of a threat from deep, but he does just about everything else well, giving Indiana coach Mike Woodson a chess piece who can play on or off the ball and switch defensively. Hood-Schifino is the No. 23 overall player according to 247Sports.
The athlete: Cam Whitmore, Villanova
There might be bouncier players in this class. But we’re not sure there are many players with the combination of both athleticism and strength that Whitmore brings to the table. He overwhelms opponents with his power on both ends of the court, but also pairs that with agility and quick feet that allows him to change direction or elevate more quickly than it would seem possible for a player as well built as he is. Whitmore needs to continue to improve his shot, but he should be among the best power/burst athletes every time he steps on the court, even as a freshman. Whitmore finished as the No. 3 small forward and no. 10 overall prospect in 247Sports’ rankings.
The shooter: Gradey Dick, Kansas
Circuit Scouting’s Mike Gribanov tweeted that Dick, “has had one of the greatest shooting seasons in HS history.” Per Gribanov, that included making 53.6% of his spot-up and pick-and-pop 3-pointers, 56% of his off-screen 3-pointers and 41.3% of his off-the-dribble 3-pointers, all while taking an astounding 18 3-point attempts per 100 possessions. In other words, the 6-foot-7 wing doesn’t just make a high percentage of 3s, he takes a bunch of them (and a wide variety of them) as well. The No. 8 small forward and no. 20 overall player in the 247Sports rankings is also an underrated athlete, and he should compete for a starting spot at Kansas right out of the box.
The stopper: Dillon Mitchell, Texas
There were certainly multiple players who could have qualified here. But few have Mitchell’s overall upside as a defender, thanks to his athleticism that grades out among the best in this class. Mitchell profiles as a bouncy defender who can lock down multiple positions as needed, particularly as he continues to fill out his long, 6-foot-7 frame. Mitchell’s offensive game has a bit more to go, though if he can jump passing lanes and help create havoc plays defensively, he could generate some points every game in transition. Mitchell is the No. 2 small forward and the No. 7 overall player according to 247Sports, and he should be a quick favorite of Texas coach Chris Beard.
The blacktop baller: Arterio Morris, Texas
When Morris takes the court, grab your popcorn. He uses a creative handle, excellent quickness and explosiveness and a full layup package to bamboozle defenders, and he’s the type of player who would be fun to play with because of the way he breaks down defenses. Morris has some things to clean up with his game; he could stand to improve his decision-making, and his jump shot is a bit hit or miss at times. But Morris’ NBA comparison, according to 247Sports, is Ja Morant. That helped him garner a five-star ranking as the second-ranked point guard and No. 17 overall player in 247Sports’ rankings.
The multi-year star: Malik Reneau, Indiana
This is always a tough one to pick because it’s picking a player who is well equipped to star in college, but might not have the traits to draw the NBA’s immediate attention. And Indiana did well to hit on Reneau, who is certainly battle-tested after starring at Montverde Academy. The No. 34 overall prospect in 247Sports’ eyes knows how to play the game, but is more about making the right fundamental play than he is a jump out of the gym type who will wow NBA scouts with his athleticism. That won’t stop Reneau from scoring well out of the high and low posts at the college level.
The swatter: Dereck Lively II, Duke
Lively might not be the unicorn that Chet Holmgren was from a rim protection/floor game standpoint. But there’s a reason he’s ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect according to 247Sports. And quite a bit of that revolves around his ability to protect the rim. Lively is 7-foot-1 with a 7-8 wingspan and the athleticism to get off the floor quickly and meet shots well above the rim. Even though he needs to continue to fill out his body, he should provide instant rim protection for the Blue Devils. Offensively, Lively has some comfort level stepping away from the basket at times, and that should eventually make for a modern-day center who can win on the outside and potentially stretch the floor. Lively has terrific upside.
The bucket-getter: Keyonte George, Baylor
George sits as the No. 8 overall prospect in 247Sports’ rankings. And the biggest reason why is that George is a prototypical scorer. At 6-foot-4, he has solid size for a shooting guard, and he uses a slippery handle and body control around the rim to get where he wants. A three-level scorer, George can hit shots from just about anywhere, and he can get to his shot whenever he wants. He’s the kind of microwave who can swing a game with his burst scoring. That also makes him a dangerous player in the clutch because no matter what defenses choose to do, he can make them wrong.