Whether it is talking heads on TV, people writing in the newspaper, or old time players remembering how things used to be, there seems to be a general consensus in the mainstream that American basketball is in a rut and going downhill. While it is fair to say that the impressive classes of 2006 and 2007 haven’t been repeated in recent years, already the class of 2013 is showing some potential to be special.
What makes the class of 2013 stand out is not only the talent of players, but how they all play and compete to win. Leading the way in this class is the big three of Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Nerlens Noel.
Parker is the best player in all of high school basketball, and someone who plays the game with passion and desire. In an age where it is chic for players to say they don’t care about rankings and don’t pay attention to them, Parker freely admits that he wants to be considered the best. He uses Randle and Noel as added motivation to hone his craft.
While that probably plays a very small part in things, over the past 12 months Parker has transformed from a skilled combo forward with a great feel for how to play into an explosive small forward who simply destroys all opponents in his path. This summer at times turned into the Jabari Parker show he was so dominant. Often Parker gets compared to players like Grant Hill or Paul Pierce, and while that is big praise, every game and every tournament Parker does something new to backup the hype, and prove that everything people say about him and his game is justified.
Because of his elite combination of skill, basketball IQ, and athleticism, Parker finds himself sitting atop one of the best classes this country has seen in sometime.
Nipping right on Parker’s heels are Randle and Noel. Randle is a multi faceted power forward who is athletic enough to finish above the rim, strong enough to bully people on the block, and skilled enough to score out to three point line. On top of it all Randle is also a good passer, and plays every game like it will be his last. His combination of desire and ability makes him a rare and unique talent, and arguably the second best player in high school basketball.
After Randle is Noel. Noel is the most dominant defensive force in the high school game since Greg Oden. During his BABC team’s run to the Peach Jam title this July, Noel completely dominated games and didn’t even have to score to do it. Against the Oakland Soldiers he blocked every shot in site, and seemingly the Soldiers were afraid to go near the lane. His ability to take away the rim has had some college coaches who aren’t even recruiting Noel comparing him to a taller Alonzo Mourning.
Currently those three players are at the top of this class and have star written all over them, but what makes this group special is the depth of the elite talent. Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison are twin guards out of Houston who can completely dominate games with their size, athleticism, and natural scoring ability. Also there is Aaron Gordon, a skilled power forward who combines athleticism and ball handling to be impossible to guard at times, then there is Chris Walker who physically and athletically is as impressive as any prospect in the nation.
That elite group doesn’t even include Chris Thomas who might be the single most talented guard in the class, though he doesn’t always put that together. Add in small forward Troy Williams, power forward Isaiah Hicks, and power wing Nick King, and this group has all the makings of one of the best in recent memory.
Time will ultimately judge where this class finishes in the pantheon of great ones to come from the country. There is still plenty of opportunity for other prospects to emerge or for the current top dogs to fall from their perch and not live up to expectations, but at least for now the class of 2013 looks ready to prove that American basketball isn't nearly in as bad a shape as the talking heads would like to make it out to be.