Posted On: 01/14/21 4:20 PM
In the coming days, Prep Girls Hoops Iowa will be releasing updated rankings in the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023, and we’ll be posting our first set of 2024 rankings with a 50 player watchlist. With that said, each time we release new rankings there is about a two to three-week window where we receive numerous comments and questions. Most of the time it’s trying to figure out how a prospect is ranked “too low” in someone’s eyes, how we “missed” on someone, or why another prospect is ranked higher. So, I wanted to take the time to address how I at least organize and prepare rankings, because I think there is a lot more thought and preparation that goes into this than might be assumed.
I want to make sure that I see every player prior to ranking them whether that be a game film or in person, not highlight film. For me to rank them based on hearsay is not fair to those others who deserve it. Trust me, I am in the gym as much as I can be and am not omitting players to simply omit them because that is not fair to the player and tarnishes my integrity. If you see a player that is omitted from the list who I very obviously missed, please let me know and my contact information will be below. The following below is an explanation of what goes into player rankings.
To start, there are many factors that go into the decisions I make on moving players around throughout a rankings list. It isn’t as simple as sliding kids up or down because they did or didn’t play well in the span between the old list and the new list. I actually take every prospect I consider and assign them a rating first…a rating and a ranking are very different. A rating is a non-numerical value associated with a prospect’s projected level of college play. I assign this to prospects based on their “recruitability”. Several prospects in a single class might share the exact same rating, and I will detail that later in this article. A ranking is the numerical value of simply organizing the final list, placing someone #1, someone #2, someone #3, etc.
When assigning a rating, a lot of it is the “eye test”, and me simply using my better judgment and experience in approximating what collegiate level a prospect fits into. I often attend close to ten college games at various levels each season, so I firsthand see how fast and physical the game is at different levels, and what those players are capable of athletically. I also like to compare current prospects to players from the past, and look at how someone who maybe graduated in 2015 (or whatever previous class) fit in at their college destination. I also spend a lot of time speaking with college coaches and asking them what they are looking for, what they like/dislike about specific kids, and I’ll even ask them where I’m incorrect in my thinking on a specific prospect and why.
Now, I think there are several misconceptions when it comes to organizing rankings as well. For example, statistics are not meaningless, but they are just a small part of what is to be considered for projecting a prospect to the next level. I probably use statistics as about 5% of my thinking on a prospect. If a prospect averages, let’s say, 20+ points per game in a 1A schedule during the winter, it doesn’t hold as much water as a prospect who averages 15 points per game on a 5A schedule. Productivity is definitely important, but who are you being productive against? I also think it’s interesting when people tell me “well, we shut her down” or “when we played them, our player scored more”. Once again, perception is reality, and those two statements might be true, but in what context? Not in every case, but in most cases I come to find out that the player who was “shut down” still contributed in other ways, and they did so with the entire opposing team chasing her around all game long. In many cases, coaching and game-planning go a lot farther during the high school season with days to prepare for an opponent than they do during the summer when it’s usually a game every three to four hours, with straight-up 1-on-1 man defense or a passive zone, and you can really see what a player is capable of offensively.
I also think in today’s day and age, we get so caught up in a player emotionally because they are a great kid or they work extremely hard at their game. Those are both important factors in the makeup of a basketball player, but they are also just pieces of what a college coach is looking for in a prospect to help their program be successful. You still have to be able to handle, shoot, pass, and defend, and you still have to be able to run and jump to some degree. Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment…if I came to you and said I had a kid who is the greatest kid on the planet, she works charity events, volunteers at the local children’s hospital, and she carries a 4.3 GPA, plus when she’s in the gym she practices and plays harder than anyone else on the team, dives on the floor for loose balls, takes charges, and is a great teammate…is that enough for you to recruit her? What if I followed that up by saying she is a 5’5 senior power forward? Does that change your thinking when it comes to your team being successful on the floor? I exaggerate for effect, but hopefully you understand my point. Circling back, I just think there are several people today who get so emotionally attached with one specific player or a small group of players because they are hard-working, great kids, that we lose sight and completely forget there are other really good basketball players out there who might be more skillful or more talented athletically.
Below I wanted to share with you my rating system as adopted from PGH Indiana’s Brandon Bradley, and how I organize prospects based on what I determine is their “recruitability”. Each time I watch a prospect, even if I watch them multiple times throughout a single weekend, I write down a projection for them. The following week, I go back through my notes and compare what I have thought about each prospect over time, and I assign an updated rating to them based on what I think their “recruitability” is at the current time. Below is a look at the projections I use, and a brief explanation for how I look at each projection.
HM+ D1 – these are prospects who I feel can play at any college in the country, and they are prospects who the elite programs like Notre Dame and UConn would offer…these are National Top-10 type of kids
HM D1 – these are prospects who will pick up several High-Major offers (Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, etc.), they fit at MOST High-Major schools, but they might not be a good fit for the most elite programs like a Notre Dame or UConn
MM to HM D1 – these prospects are either on the cusp of being High-Major D1, or they are in my opinion talented enough but haven’t earned those offers yet, or they may have offers/interest from the bottom teams in High-Major conferences, and they probably have offers/interest from just about every Mid-Major D1 in the Midwest (like the MAC, MVC, Horizon, etc.)
MM D1 – these prospects might have some light High-Major D1 interest, but they likely aren’t going to draw any High-Major D1 offers (or maybe they get an offer or two from a bottom team in a Mid-Major+ to High-Major conference), but they do have multiple D1 offers/interest from the better teams in the MAC, MVC, Horizon League, etc.
LM to MM D1 – these prospects will have a lot of interest from good Mid-Major schools, they might even earn an offer or two at that level, but a majority of their interest/offers will come from the bottom teams in those conferences, the better teams in Low-Major conferences, and even interest from the elite D2, D3, and NAIA programs
LM to LM+ D1 / D2 – these prospects might have some light Mid-Major D1 interest, they might even get an offer or two from a bottom team in a Mid-Major conference, but they will have a lot of interest/offers from Low-Major D1 programs, most D2 programs, and the better NAIA and elite D3 programs
LM D1 / D2 / NAIA – these prospects will have some D1 interest, maybe even an offer or two from the bottom D1 teams in the country, and they will have interest/offers from most D2, D3, and NAIA programs
D2 / NAIA – these prospects might have some light D1 interest, no D1 offers, and they will have interest/offers from several D2, D3, and NAIA programs, but maybe not from the elite small college programs
D2 / D3 / NAIA – these prospects are leaning more towards mid-level D2, D3, and NAIA interest/offers, and they still may be recruited for full-scholarship opportunities at those levels, but they will likely be getting a high percentage of an athletic scholarship offered to them
NAIA / D3 – these prospects are likely drawing just mid to low-level NAIA and D3 interest with fractions of scholarships offered to them at the NAIA level instead of full scholarships
Once again, this is a system I adopted from Brandon Bradley over at PGH Indiana that is best for me when evaluating as many prospects as I do and trying to group them into recruiting categories. It’s broad enough to not pigeonhole anyone into too specific of a level, but it’s also narrow enough to help colleges figure out who they do and don’t need to see depending upon what category they fall into as a program.
The Ranking Process
At the point I finally sit down and begin assembling the numerical rankings you will see on PGH Iowa, I start by grouping the players by their RATING as indicated above. Now, I want to walk you through a hypothetical class and ranking list. I am going to assemble a Top-125 list of kids in this hypothetical class. There are:
1 – HM+ D1 prospect
2 – HM D1 prospects
4 – MM to HM D1 prospects
1 – MM D1 prospect
7 – LM to MM D1 prospects
12 – LM to LM+ D1 prospects
11 – LM D1/D2/NAIA prospects
27 – D2/NAIA prospects
32 – D2/D3/NAIA prospects
86 – NAIA/D3 prospects
Now, that adds up to 183 prospects, so 58 aren’t going to make it into the Top-125. The one HM+ D1 prospect will be #1. The two HM D1 prospects will be #2 and #3. The four MM to HM D1 prospects will be #4, #5, #6, and #7…and so forth. Once I get through the 32 D2/D3/NAIA prospects, I’ll be through 97 prospects. From there, I’ll need to determine the most “recruitable” 28 prospects from the 86 NAIA/D3 prospects to finish up the list. There are two more questions that will be posed at this point, so I’ll address them below.
(1) How do I differentiate which kids within a specific rating group will be ranked in what order?
This would be so much easier if I was a college coach, because I would likely have a need (we need a point guard, or we need a post player, etc.). That would create more value for specific positions. As an evaluator, though, I attempt to arrange prospects based upon who I think college coaches would prefer if they could take the best available prospect, regardless of position. It’s not easy, because these kids are all really close. In this rankings example above, Prospect #39 and Prospect #65 (and everyone in between) will share the same rating (D2/NAIA), so it really comes down to personal preference when putting them into numerical order. I like them all fairly equally in terms of “recruitability”, but in order to arrange them numerically to create rankings lists, I select who I think college programs would like more.
(2) Why do some kids move so far up and down the list each time the lists are updated?
There are a variety of reasons kids will move throughout rankings lists, and RARELY does it ever happen because they just aren’t as good as they were or as I initially thought. In some cases, especially with the younger classes like 2021 and 2022, new names pop up, and they turn out to be better than several prospects already ranked. In other cases, younger prospects improve quicker, and kids just develop their skillset or develop their physical ability and become taller, stronger, and/or more explosive. But in the end, a lot of movement comes from a player’s rating changing, even if slightly. For example, if a player was previously rated as a D2/D3/NAIA prospect and was #92 in the state, but I now consider them D2/NAIA, which isn’t a huge climb rating-wise, the lowest they could now be ranked is #65. So, from just changing one level in terms of rating, they will have climbed 27 spots (or more) in terms of their rank.
Like recruiting, this isn’t a perfect science, and there is some subjectivity involved in it, but I try to do my best to remain objective and unbiased, to look at prospects as a college coach would, and I try to be thorough. Like I said at the beginning, this isn’t as simple as just sliding kids up or down because of how they played; research and analytics are involved, and I feel like it’s the best way for me to keep everything as fair as possible. I would never ask you to share the exact same opinions on kids that I do, but please understand and respect how we do this job before you assume what we think about different prospects. If you think someone has been left off that is deserving, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I will NOT edit the rankings, but if that player is deserved of a spot she will be added once the rankings are updated/expanded once again later this spring. The best way to reach me would be on Twitter (@masonhasher), or you can send me an email email@example.com
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