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April 24, 2014

Okafor tops final 2014 rankings

THE LIST: Final class of 2014 Rivals150

It isn't easy to keep a hold of the No. 1 spot from wire to wire, but Chicago Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor has come awfully close. The 6-foot-11 center has retained his spot at the top of the 2014 Rivals150 as we release our final rankings for the class.

If anybody remembers, the potential No. 1 draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins, was originally a member of the high school class of 2014 and was initially the No. 1 player in the class. But, ever since Wiggins switched from 2014 to 2013 in late October of 2012, Okafor has been holding onto the top spot.

There were several challengers to Okafor's position, but at the end of the day, he did enough to secure his spot atop the rankings. He has great hands, great feet, produces at a high level and has game that translates to the highest level. Some have questioned his athleticism and whether or not he can be a star at the NBA level. The future Duke pivot did enough to secure the top spot and his play as a senior and on the All-Star circuit was certainly on par with what one would expect out of a No. 1 player in the country.

Behind Okafor, spots two through five remain unchanged. Six-foot-five point guard Emmanuel Mudiay from Dallas Prime Prep came very close to taking Okafor's spot away, but didn't shoot the ball quite well enough to take the top spot. However, he certainly looks like a one-and-done type player and should be able to use his size, athleticism and playmaking ability to make a significant impact at SMU next season.

Coming in at No. 3, Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson is the most physical wing in high school basketball. A four-time state champion at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, Johnson is a high-end scorer and rebounder who is every bit as dedicated on the defensive end as he is on the offensive end.

At No. 4, Kansas signee Cliff Alexander is another who plays grown man basketball against high school competition. A product of Chicago Curie, Alexander puts the power in power forward and like Johnson plays an exceedingly physical brand of ball. He attacks the rim with vigor, is a big-time rebounder and should be a major contributor in Lawrence, even with several experienced post players in returning.

The first of the big movers into the national top 10 is Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph's big man Karl-Anthony Towns who moves up from No. 11 to No. 5. Headed to Kentucky, the seven-footer is highly skilled and has legitimate range to the three-point line. He does settle for jumpers a bit too much at times, but he is a high-volume rebounder, scores with both hands around the basket and should emerge as a dominant force after some time in the weight room.

The next big mover into the top 10 is Kelly Oubre. The 6-foot-7 southpaw from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep moves up to No. 6 from his previous spot at No. 12. Wiggins' departure from Kansas creates a lot of minutes and opportunity to score on the wing and Oubre should be up to replacing a good portion of the departed Wiggins production.

Checking in at spots 7-9 are three veterans of the national top 10. No. 7 Tyus Jones from Apple Valley (Minn.) High is a pure point guard who is headed to Duke with Okafor. At No. 8, 6-foot-5 shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is also a native of Minnesota, but he spent his senior season at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep with Oubre and will remain in Vegas to play his college ball at UNLV. The highest ranked player yet to make a decision -- that will happen next week -- Euless (Texas) Trinity's 6-foot-11 center Myles Turner slides in at No. 9.

Finally, the third entrant into the national top 10 is UCLA-bound Kevon Looney who moves up to No. 10 from No. 13. A 6-foot-8 combo forward from Milwaukee Hamilton, Looney is a big-time rebounder, always productive and has a well-balanced offensive game.

Newcomers and big movers in Rivals150

There are 11 newcomers to the Rivals150. Of that group, four of them debut as four-stars with Devonte Graham making the highest debut. A native of Raleigh (N.C.) who initially signed with Appalachian State, Graham had a monster season during a prep school year at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Prep. The 6-foot-2 point guard debuts at No. 36 in the Rivals150 and has visited Kansas and N.C. State since getting released by App State a few weeks ago. Virginia is his next visit.

Also making their debuts in four-star territory are a pair of West Coast products and one from the mountains. Los Angeles Westchester shooting guard Elijah Stewart settles in at No. 64 and is back on the market after recently being released from his scholarship at Loyola Marymount due to a coaching change. Creighton-bound Ronnie Harrell from Denver East is a 6-foot-8 small forward who makes his debut at No. 84 while Boise State-bound small forward Chandler Hutchison from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High enters the rankings at No. 98.

Some of the more notable movers in the Rivals150 follow: Kentucky-bound point guard Tyler Ulis finishes as a five-star prospect after moving all the way up to No. 21 from No. 33. Also making a move into five-star territory is Georgetown signee Isaac Copeland, a skilled 6-foot-9 power forward who rose to No. 23 from No. 37. Stanford-bound big man Michael Humphrey rises 27 spots from No. 74 to No. 47.

Headed to Texas, St. Louis CBC small forward Jordan Barnett had one of the biggest jumps, moving all they way up to No. 70 from No. 101. Cody Martin will join his twin Caleb Martin (No. 60) at N.C. State and thanks to a move from No. 106 to No. 81, he joins him as a four-star prospect. Finally, the two biggest climbers in the final Rivals150 settle in one after another. Michigan-bound D.J. Wilson rose all the way to No. 86 from No. 135 while Cincinnati-bound forward Gary Clark used a monster senior season to rise a whopping 58 spots from No. 145 to No. 87.

Highly rated outliers

There are a few outliers who have reached either four or five-star status that won't be included in the rankings this year. Five of them are international players, while one is a big-time talent who has a special set of circumstances.

Had he played his high school ball in the United States or even played against U.S. competition more regularly, Dante Exum might very well have been the No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2014. Instead, he chose to stay in his native Australia and he'll be getting drafted highly by the NBA in June rather than playing college basketball. Still, it is important to recognize the 6-foot-6 guard as the five-star talent that he is.

Also achieving a five-star rating without being ranked is Malik Pope, a San Diego State signee from Elk Grove (Calif.) Laguna Creek. Thin, athletic and skilled with great size, the 6-foot-8 small forward previously ranked No. 17 in the class of 2014. But, Pope has essentially missed his junior and senior seasons due to injury and hasn't been given a proper evaluation since the summer of 2012. Rivals.com recognizes his him as a player who has displayed high-level talent in the past, but he has been out too long to fairly rate him in relation to his peers.

Checking in as four-star prospects are Arizona-bound Dusan Ristic, Louisville-bound Matz Stockman, Maryland-bound Michal Cekovsky and Gonzaga-bound Domantas Sabonis. All are big men who bring skill to the game. Stockman and Cekovsky are thin bigs with skill who play together at the Canarias Basketaball Academy in the Canary Islands. Ristic actually arrived in the States to play his final semester of ball at Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian, but didn't have many opportunities to be evaluated against U.S. competition. Finally, Sabonis is the son of legendary big man Arvydas Sabonis. At 6-foot-11 he is highly skilled and has a chance to be elevated to five-star status pending more film review.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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