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June 27, 2013

Rivals150 update: Okafor retains top spot


THE LIST: Class of 2014 Rivals150

During the month of July, college coaches will take advantage of three separate five-day windows to evaluate potential players at All-Star camps and with their grassroots teams.

While coaches are anxious to get out and evaluate talent, the nation's top players have been traveling the country on the grassroots hoops circuit since early April. The short lull of national events between mid-June and early July serves as the perfect time to update rankings and today, Rivals.com unveils a new Rivals150 for the class of 2014.

Chicago's Jahlil Okafor continues his hold on the top spot.

Still on top

More than likely, Jahlil Okafor would be the first to tell you that the spring of 2013 didn't go as he might have hoped. There weren't any issues with the play of the 6-foot-11 center from Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young.

But he battled ankle problems that kept him from playing at 100 percent for the better part of April, May and June.

Now in Prague with USA Basketball's 19 and under national team, Okafor looks to be back to full health and primed for a big July.

Coming off a standout junior season, Okafor certainly had his moments on the spring circuit when he was healthy. Most of all, though, Okafor retains his spot at the top of the rankings because he is a unique prospect.

In an era where every big man wants to face up and show off their perimeter skills, Okafor is a true space-eating, back-to-the basket and highly skilled center who can score in bunches. His combination of size, skill and understanding of position is one that isn't seen very often and he looks like the type of player who could be dropped into a NBA game right now and hold his own.

[ MORE: Turner keeps rising all the way into top 10 ]

Not surprisingly, Okafor's recruitment has gone through the roof. It's well known that he and the nation's No. 2 player -- 6-foot-1 point guard Tyus Jones out of Apple Valley (Minn.) High -- are likely to be a package deal for college and No. 16 Justise Winslow -- a small forward out of Houston -- could be joining them as well. So, there's a good chance that whatever school lands Okafor could really hit the lottery.

The schools left on Okafor's list of eight are Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Robinson's rise and Francis' entrance

The rankings' biggest climber and best debut sit right next to each other in the rankings.

Small forward Devin Robinson rose an astounding 82 spots in the rankings to No. 24 while shooting guard Brandone Francis makes his first appearance at No. 25.

A long and slender 6-foot-8 swingman out of Christchurch (Va.) High, Robinson was a standout on the spring circuit. Regarded as a good shooter with the potential to play at a high-level school after last summer, Robinson grew three inches in the past year while adding significantly to his game and athleticism. He can create off the dribble, he shoots with range and he is a high-flying finisher with tremendous size for his position.

Robinson does need to add strength and be a bit more of an alpha dog when surrounded by other talented players, but the five-star prospect has significant potential.

Auburn, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Rutgers, USC, Virginia Tech, VCU and Xavier have offered, while Indiana, Kansas and others are expected to evaluate him this summer.

Rising to the cusp of five-star status, Francis is a burly 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day who exudes confidence and toughness. A native of the Dominican Republic, Francis shoots with range, handles the ball well enough to play some point and he's got a charismatic personality on the floor that allows him to lead.

Like Robinson, Francis saw his recruitment take off during the spring. However, rather than wait around he actually committed to the school considered the longtime frontrunner, Florida. In Gainesville, he'll team with the No. 39 player in the class of 2014, point guard Chris Chiozza.

Exum's exit

Perhaps the toughest call in compiling the rankings was deciding whether to leave in 6-foot-6 guard Dante Exum. From a talent standpoint, Exum is a no-brainer. However, he comes with a unique set of circumstances.

Exum isn't American and he doesn't play in the United States. As an Australian who plays at the Australian Institute of Sport, Exum had initially been ranked among 2014's top 20 players because he came to the States last summer and played against U.S. players in the Adidas Super 64 and at Adidas Nations. During those appearances he demonstrated he has great size, is a plus athlete and has an outstanding skill set that allows him to play as either a point or shooting guard.

During the spring, Exum was a standout playing for the International team against the USA's top 2013 prospects in the Nike Hoop Summit. But Exum will be spending the rest of the summer with Australia's 19-and-under national team before returning to Australia to finish his senior year of high school. Exum will actually finish in time to enroll in the States at the semester break of the 2013-14 season if he chooses, and he'll also be eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Because the chances are so few to evaluate him against the rest of the Rivals150; and because of his unclear status in terms of graduating class and whether he'll even play college ball (he says for now that he is planning to), we have elected not to include him in the rankings. However, Exum will retain his five-star status, and were he to be included in the rankings, he would have been positioned somewhere within the top 10, possibly even the top five.



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