NBA

ESPN’s 2023 Rankings Stir up Controversy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California
Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN

ESPN recently released their initial high school basketball player rankings for the highly touted Class of 2023.

Big names on the 25-player list included LeBron James Jr, more commonly known as Bronny. However, it is Mikey Williams, the rising sophomore from San Ysidro, California, who many consider being the best in his class.

Williams is among the biggest names in high school sports, with over 2 million Instagram followers. He burst onto the scene as a rising middle school prospect (who played with Bronny) and followed up with a tremendous freshman season this past school year. But to the surprise of some fans, he wasn’t the top-rated recruit.

That title currently belongs to D.J. Wagner of Camden, New Jersey, son of former high school phenom and sixth overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft: DaJuan Wagner.

Mikey must be second then, right? Wrong.

6’8” center Jalen Lewis from Oakland, California rounded out the top two ahead of Williams.

Though both players are far less known than Mikey, they’re undeniably deserving of high rankings on ESPN’s list. Wagner helped lead his school to a 29-1 record on over 18 points per game, while Lewis holds offers from the likes of Kansas, Cal, and USC. Both have received lofty praise from scouts.

Mikey Williams is an incredible prospect in his own right, one that many would argue is deserving of the number one spot. And it’s easy to see why. He averaged 29.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game as a freshman. He’s also been offered by a total of 28 schools already.

But there’s obviously far more that goes into high school rankings besides individual freshman stats. Simply watching D.J. Wagner’s highlights will show that he’s on track to be a superstar at the next level, possibly even more so than Williams. He has much more physical growth to undergo, and he still is dominating as a freshman. Furthermore, Wagner plays much tougher competition than Williams.

Despite playing his entire freshman season against elite high school competition, Wagner displayed an extremely well-polished and mature offensive game that looked far beyond his years. That alone is tough to rank any player over. Nonetheless, Williams’ spot still raised some eyebrows, likely due in part to his popular reputation and flashy mixtapes.

These rankings are worth noting and provide good input on where certain prospects stand heading into their sophomore year. But frankly, they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Other well-established recruiting sites like 247Sports & Rivals are yet to release any rankings for the Class of 2023. Once those are released, it’s very likely that they’ll differ from ESPN’s.

It’s also inevitable that each player’s ranking is subject to change as time passes. So many things can happen in these prospects’ next 3 seasons of high school to warrant a rankings change. In fact, the class’s eventual best prospect might be far under the radar right now.

In other words, fans who have lobbied for Mikey Williams to take the top spot in the rankings will have plenty of time to see it potentially happen.

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