Top prospect in high school basketball? A freshman emerges in our crystal ball
Since the start of the high school girls' basketball season, I've seen more than 400 teams in 30 states. I've been to California and New York ... to Texas and Ohio. I've seen 5-foot-4 point guards and 6-foot-7 post players. I've seen crossovers and Eurosteps and no-look passes. I've seen rebounds above the rim and buzzer-beaters from halfcourt.
And now, as schools in Texas and beyond prepare for playoffs, the question was posed. And it was right in my wheelhouse.
Who's the best prospect in the country, regardless of class? Christyn Williams, a senior who has signed with Connecticut, is the best player in the country. Charli Collier, a senior who has signed with Texas, is a really, really, really close second.
But the key word is "prospect." Who has the most potential? Who do I predict will have the best college career? I looked into my crystal ball and saw these as the top 10.
1. Azzi Fudd, freshman guard
Every college coach in America would give their left pinky for a signature from Azzi Fudd. Sure, the 5-11 guard is only a freshman, but she has the most upside of any freshman we have seen in years. Her current ability is downright impressive as well. Through 15 games at national powerhouse St. John's College High School (Washington, D.C.), Fudd was averaging 21.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Then she dropped 41 points in her 16th game. She already has gone up against the likes of Haley Jones (also on this list) and other elite prospects in Justice Ethridge and Chloe Chapman. Fudd has more than held her own. Over the summer, she represented Team USA -- playing with and against players who were two years older -- and averaged 8.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. It's rare to see a prospect who can impact the game like Fudd. She is automatic from 15 feet and in. She's smooth, composed and unafraid of the big moments. "I've never seen anything quite like her," St. John's coach Jonathan Scribner said. The only possible deficiency we see is her ability to consistently deliver off the dribble when she's going left. But, if you allow her to go to her right hand, magic happens.
2. Christyn Williams, senior guard
She's the No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 and a Connecticut signee. How's that for a place to start? She's also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas out of Central Arkansas Christian (North Little Rock). And, if you need more, she was the only member of the 2017 USA U19 national team who is still in high school. The 5-9 smooth southpaw is a scoring machine who can beat defenders off the dribble, using either hand, or from deep. Williams has scored more than 3,000 points in high school. She also has averaged 9.2 rebounds per game. She impacts the game on both ends of the floor, she can handle herself versus pressure, and when your team needs a basket, she delivers. That's what you get. Every single time she takes the court.
3. Charli Collier, senior forward
Take an agile 6-5 player with a skilled back-to-the-basket game, add a face-up game that takes defenders out to the arc, and throw in a skilled defender who rebounds, alters shots and blocks shots, and you get Charli Collier. The Texas signee and former top prospect in the 2018 class has been dominant throughout her high school career at Barbers Hill (Mont Belvieu, Texas). She also earned a bronze medal in 2017 with Team USA at the U17 world championships. The difference between Collier and the rest of the frontcourt players is that Collier delivers consistently. Like Williams, she has scored more than 3,000 points in high school.
4. Haley Jones, junior forward
How does the best player on the best high school team in the country sound? That is exactly who Haley Jones is. The smooth 6-1 small forward can take control of a game at crunchtime, seemingly oblivious to pressure. The term "gamer" might as well have been created for her. What's more, she seems to improve each outing. She's got all the fundamentals any coach would want -- including the versatility to excel everywhere on the court. She was named MVP of the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions last month while leading Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, California) to the top prize.
5. Caitlin Clark, sophomore point guard
If you start with the premise that every team needs a good point guard, then Caitlin Clark is a good place to start. Clark, listed as the No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25, is averaging 26 points and four assists for Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, Iowa). She won a gold medal over the summer with USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U16 championships in Argentina. And it's more than scoring you get with Clark. She knows how to manage a game and is adept at running a halfcourt offense. "Caitlin's passing ability and vision of the court along with her ability to score off the dribble to the arc make her a game-changer," Dowling Catholic coach Kristin Meyer said. "The competitiveness, passion and confidence Caitlin brings to the floor spreads to our entire team."
6. Aquira DeCosta, senior forward
No matter that we've seen Baylor signee Aquira DeCosta dozens of times since she started eighth grade. We're still wowed every time. No prospect on this list rebounds the ball like DeCosta. A pogo stick in a 6-2 frame, the senior at St. Mary's (Stockton, California) attacks the rim like she's on a mission to succeed. No prospect on this list is as athletic as DeCosta, either. An explosive athlete who plays near the rim, you can bet that DeCosta will continue her double-double show in the Big 12. The question is how well DeCosta can shoot the ball outside the key. Will she follow in the footsteps of Nina Davis, who at 5-10 went to Baylor and dominated in the lane, amassing more than 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and earning national acclaim? What's certain is that DeCosta is a superb athlete and a rebounding machine.
7. Shakira Austin, senior forward
Here's the deal on Shakira Austin: We have no clue how good she's going to be, but we do know that she's shown some of the most dazzling flashes of any player anywhere. The Maryland recruit is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game at Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Maryland). At 6-5, Austin can run the floor with the guards and defend them as well. She also has an explosive, if inconsistent, interior game. Envisioning an Austin with more intensity and more polish is to envision her rising up (maybe even all the way up?) these rankings.
8. Samantha Brunelle, junior forward
A two-time Team USA member, the 6-2 Samantha Brunelle scores off the dribble, beyond the arc and everywhere in between. The No. 1 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 is a seasoned, confident player who makes play after play. Her leadership qualities, on display at every William Monroe (Stanardsville, Virginia) game, are superb. She is active on the glass and has the ability to step up in the clutch. If all of that isn't enough, she's a student of the game who craves improvement and is supremely coachable.
9. Cameron Brink, sophomore forward
Her coach at Southridge (Beaverton, Oregon) says she's "phenomenal" already. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of what we see in Cameron Brink's future. Tutored at a young age by none other than Steph Curry, the 6-4 Brink has superior length, wingspan, finesse and mobility. She has the goods to be one of the best inside-outside players in the country. Brink is working on her range and building strength, and all we can say is "watch out." Evidence? She once had a triple-double of 25 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks. And that was as a freshman.
10. Nyah Green, junior guard
If only this game were as simple as the 6-1 Nyah Green makes it look. The Louisville commit is, first and foremost, a scorer. She has range as well as one-on-one creativity and is averaging more than 18 points and nine rebounds as a junior at Bishop Lynch (Dallas). We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that she's an excellent passer who infuses the game with flair. She's also got the versatility to play a number of positions. With improved consistency and ballhandling, Green could soar up these rankings.