There's something special brewing in the Class of 2013. We're a long way from the finish line, but there's a special quality about this group at the very top that has high school basketball aficionados and college coaches buzzing.
After the summer, if you polled recruiting analysts and college coaches, there's a good chance SF Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon) would prevail as the top overall prospect in high school basketball, regardless of class. When an underclassman draws reviews like that, it's a big deal. Parker is a smooth operator with NBA bloodlines, poise and an overall package that features a competitive game with grace and skill. The fact that he's in the conversation about the best prospect in high school basketball is an achievement. The fact that he's ranked ahead of C Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton School) and PF Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood) is almost as big of a statement. The three have separated themselves from the pack as high school players, similar to what O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Eric Gordon did in the 2007 class.
Entering the summer, our rankings read Randle, Parker and Noel, in that order. After Parker continuously set the standard, the question became: Who's No. 2? Enter Noel. Not since Greg Oden has high school basketball had as dominant a shot-blocker in its ranks. He's an elite rim-protector and his summer team's accomplishments were aided by this enormous presence at the rim. You couldn't have asked for a more successful summer run.
Randle, our former No. 1, also had a tremendous summer. From his work at the Nike Skills Academy right on through July, his game was in bloom. A powerful 4-man with a perimeter skills package, he's a matchup problem in different areas of the court. These guys -- and the order may one day change -- could easily go 1-2-3 in a future NBA Draft.
Knocking on the door of that trio of stars is super point guard prospect Andrew Harrison (Houston/Travis). An imposing lead guard because of his size, ability to crush defenders and package at both ends that screams "short stay in college," he's the real deal and coming fast. He's No. 4 in our rankings and his twin brother, shooting guard Aaron Harrison (Houston, Tex./Travis), No. 7 overall, operates in the same neighborhood in terms of size, potential to dominate as a scorer and a similar talent ceiling.
Sandwiched in between the twins is a pair of forwards -- Chris Walker (Bonifay, Fla./Holmes County) and Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) -- whom are not only athletic, but in the case of Walker, also skilled, long and extremely explosive. He's an elite forward in any class of high school basketball. Gordon is probably equally as athletic as Walker, though not as tall. A rover in the lane, he hunts put-back shots and makes it his business to get rebounds. An extremely efficient forward, he's wired up the way college coaches want all their guys to be.
Overall, there's a danger in heaping expectations on kids and classes, and much of the time, there's a hesitancy to do so. Having said that, this group seems to have bigger shoulders, higher ceilings and the capacity to carry the burden. Parker, Noel and Randle aren't merely high school players and college prospects; they're the kind of guys that may be able to be cornerstone pieces for an NBA franchise.
After Andrew Harrison, Nate Britt (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) and Kasey Hill (Eustis, Fla./Montverde) pump up the point position. So far in the 2012 class, there isn't a point guard in the top 25. With this group, there are five entering the second half of their high school careers. Anthony Barber (Hampton, Va./Hampton) and Rysheed Jordan (Philadelphia/Vaux Roberts) belong in the top 25 at this stage. Jordan is the wild card. He's got the smaller of the national résumés, but his speed will have a say in our rankings going forward.
Keep an eye on these guys
As with any ranking of underclassmen, there's bound to be massive swings in ratings. Our goal is to identify the best players, give the class context and leave open the possibility for major movement at each position. Ishmail Wainright (Raytown, Mo./Raytown South) impressed everyone with his aerial act in Las Vegas and won a championship. If he can add more perimeter skill to his game he could ascend from No. 31. Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) has big hands, great feet and a state championship. Is this the year his conditioning catches up to his talent and we begin to see more dominant efforts? Then there's Stephen Domingo (St. Francis, Calif./St. Ignatius). You didn't hear much from him this summer because on an injury but he has the type of game and talent to close the gap on the top 25 quickly. If it's shot-blockers you like, be on the lookout for Moses Kingsley (New Albany, Miss./New Albany) and Jimmie Taylor (Greensboro, Ala./Greensboro).
Knocking on the door of ESPNU 60
PGs: Bryson Scott (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrup), E.C. Matthews (Detroit/Romulus)
Wings: Isaiah Lewis (Middle Village, N.Y./CTK), Conner Frankamp (Wichita, Kan./North), Zak Irvin (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton SE), Kendrick Nunn (Chicago/Simeon)
Bigs: Austin Nichols (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest), Brian Bridgewater (Baton Rouge, La./Episcopal), Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Tilton)
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.