Duke and North Carolina, two of college basketball’s bluest blue bloods, square off Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Chapel Hill with four 247Sports Composite five-stars on each side. Here is a look at the ranking and college production of each team’s top eight players.
No. 5 NORTH CAROLINA (21-4)
*Senior forward Brice Johnson, No. 45 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2012
Johnson made a huge impression at the Peach Jam in July prior to his senior year with his athletic and bouncy game. Prior to that showcase, there had been flashes and potential was evident, but production wasn’t always there.
At North Carolina, Johnson has blossomed into the Tar Heels’ leading scorer and rebounder at double-double clip of 16.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. As a lower-level top 50 prospect, Johnson has positioned himself as a No. 42 pick in this year’s draft by Draft Express.
*Senior guard Marcus Paige, No. 31 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2012
Marcus Paige was a consistently high producer on the travel team circuit. The questions that kept the Iowa product just out of the five-star range were his explosiveness as an athlete at his size. There was no doubt, however, about his high skill level and ability to run a team.
Paige has consistently developed over his four years at UNC and is the unquestioned leader of the squad. As a senior he is averaging 13 points and 3.7 assists to only 1.1 turnovers per game. He is projected as the No. 49 pick in the draft per Draft Express.
*Sophomore guard Joel Berry, No. 30 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2014
Like Marcus Paige, Joel Berry was a consistent high-level performer at point guard on the travel team circuit. His ranking wavered on the four-star/five-star border throughout and he finished as a very high four-star player.
As a sophomore he has established himself as one of the more critical pieces of the UNC puzzle with his tough play and production of 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.2 rebounds per game.
*Sophomore forward Justin Jackson, No. 9 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2014
With his length and scoring ability, Justin Jackson was always considered a five-star prospect coming out of Spring, Texas two years ago — ranked ahead of current NBA wings like Trey Lyles, Justise Winslow and Devin Booker.
Jackson finished his freshman year on a strong note but hasn’t wowed scouts in his sophomore year. His stock has flatlined and he is considered a bubble first/second round draft prospect. He is averaging 12.1 points and 3.8 points per game while only shooting 24 percent from three.
*Junior center Kennedy Meeks, No. 58 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2013
Kennedy Meeks always intrigued me with his overall skill level. The question was ability to run and keep up with the game. He, nonetheless was named a McDonald’s All American and held his own during the event’s practices and game.
He dropped the necessarily weight and has been a valuable contributor to the program throughout his three years in Chapel Hill. So far this year he is averaging 10.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in 21.9 minutes of play. He is considered a second round pick if he enters the draft this year.
*Junior forward Isaiah Hicks, No. 16 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2013
Isaiah Hicks was a promising athletic prospect coming out of high school. The read, however, was that he was a long term project considering his raw skill set to go with his 6-foot-8 frame.
It has been a slow and steady progression, though, as Hicks has settled into his role as a player off the bench. The promising thing is his minutes have increased each season and so has his production, with 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
*Junior guard Nate Britt, No. 121 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2013
Nate Britt hit the national scene early on as a highly ranked point guard prospect. His ranking dropped dramatically throughout his high school career and he finished as a three-star recruit.
As a junior he has been a valuable reserve, playing 16.9 minutes while putting up 6.5 points and 2 assists per game.
*Sophomore forward Theo Pinson, No. 15 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2014
Theo Pinson was a name on the travel circuit for multiple years with his athletic game. But even as a low five-star prospect, Pinson engendered questions about his shooting range and overall skill level.
Next year looks to be the breakout year for Pinson as flashes of brilliance have occurred over the first two years at UNC. This year he is averaging 5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game in 19.9 minutes of game.
No. 20 DUKE (19-6)
*Sophomore guard Grayson Allen, No. 25 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2014
Grayson Allen caught my eye in high school with his scoring ability and fearlessness attacking the basket. With questions about his ability to defend and involve teammates, his ranking hovered on that four-star/five-star border.
His freshman year was largely uneventful until he played a pivotal roll in Duke’s National Championship win. Allen carried that momentum into his sophomore year leading the team in scoring at 20.6 points per game while also averaging 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while paling a team leading 35.3 minutes per game. He scored the game-winning bucket against Virginia on Saturday.
*Freshman forward Brandon Ingram, No. 3 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2015
Ingram was considered a high five-star prospect coming out of the travel team circuit prior to his senior season. Concerns lingered, however, about his ability to produce against more physical competition. During the McDonald’s All American Game practices, Ingram was a dominant performer and impressed NBA scouts as much as No. 1 ranked Ben Simmons.
Ingram’s freshman year at Duke, however, started out slower than expected, and the earlier questions about him quickly came up again. Then the thoroughbred settled in and has established himself as a go-to player, averaging 17.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Draft Express currently has him slated as the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.
*Freshman guard Luke Kennard, No. 21 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2015
Luke Kennard put up mega numbers for his high school in Ohio, surpassing LeBron James as the all-time scorer in the state. The five-star shooting guard was a lethal threat on the travel circuit as well.
Production has been up and down as a freshman for Duke, but Kennard has established himself as an integral contributor, averaging 12 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. When he gets hot from downtown, watch out.
*Junior guard Matt Jones, No. 37 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2013
Matt Jones was a McDonald’s All American despite being at the end of the top 40 according to the industry driven 247Sports Composite,
After hardly playing as a freshman, Jones played an important role in Year 2, logging 21.7 minutes and scoring 6 points per game. As a junior, Jones is averaging 11.7 points in 33.7 minutes of action per game while shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range.
*Senior forward Amile Jefferson, No. 30 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2012
Amile Jefferson hovered on the 247Sports Composite five-star range as some scouts saw him as a go-to type scorer to go along with his strong all-around play down low while others saw didn’t see him as a go-to scorer and thought he was a little undersized for his position.
Jefferson worked his way up in minutes to just over 20 per game his sophomore and junior years, averaging just over 6 points and 6 rebounds per game. Before suffering a prolonged foot injury this year, he was averaging a double-double of 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game. Jefferson is eligible for a medical redshirt if he doesn’t return this season.
*Freshman guard Derryck Thornton, No. 14 in 247Sports Composite
Derryck Thornton was a member of the 2016 class with the capability of moving up to the 2015 class. When Duke realized Tyus Jones was likely headed to the NBA, head coach Mike Krzyzewski convinced the five-star point guard to move up to 2016 and join the Blue Devils.
Thrown into a tough position, Thornton has averaged 25.8 minutes, scoring 8.1 points and dishing 2.7 assists to 1.8 turnovers per game.
*Senior center Marshall Plumlee, No. 62 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2011
Marshall Plumlee certainly had the lineage of two older brothers playing at Duke, but the rawness of the youngest Plumlee kept him out of the top 50 range. Regardless of ranking, Plumlee was named a McDonald’s All American.
After averaging less than 10 minutes per game his first three years at Duke, Plumlee has evolved into a critical component of the Duke attack, playing 30.1 minutes while averaging 8.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
*Freshman forward Chase Jeter, No. 15 in 247Sports Composite, class of 2015
Chase Jeter was a standout at both Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman High School and on the travel team circuit. The five-star product earned McDonald’s All American honors.
Jeter has struggled to find the court as a freshman, playing only 7.1 minutes per game. The expectation is that he will develop into an impact player next year.
Jerry Meyer is the Director of Basketball Scouting for 247Sports
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