With recruiting being one of the few continuing basketball activities at the present time, this seems like a good moment to rank history’s best efforts in that area.
By “history,” we mean the one-and-done era. The NBA’s eligibility rule has been the law of the recruiting land now for 15 years. Plenty long enough, in other words, to compile some rankings.
This ranking of the 25 best classes ever signed is based solely on where players were ranked coming out of high school. It is not — repeat, not — a ranking of which classes turned out to be the best in terms of college performance. (Though that might make an interesting list in its own right.)
Now that we’re all on the same page, here are the top 25 recruiting classes of the one-and-done era.
(Player rankings in parenthesis are ESPN’s rankings, except for 2006, which was before ESPN’s recruiting database began. For 2006, we used the Recruiting Services Consensus Index.)
1. Kentucky 2013: Julius Randle (No. 3), Andrew Harrison (No. 5), Dakari Johnson (No. 7), James Young (No. 8), Aaron Harrison (No. 9), Marcus Lee (No. 25)
When it was finally signed and delivered, John Calipari’s 2013 class was considered by many to be perhaps the greatest recruiting class of all time. It had everything. Five top-10 prospects, six McDonald’s All Americans. There was top-end talent and depth in the class. Randle was the prize of the class, choosing Kentucky over Kansas, Florida and Texas. The elite backcourt of Andrew and Aaron Harrison gave Calipari the No. 1 prospect at three different positions. Johnson was a dominant big man, and Young was a smooth-scoring wing. To add to it, late bloomer Lee joined the group. Calipari also added two in-state prospects in three-stars Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. It’s clearly the best recruiting class of the one-and-done era, and even a Duke group that included the top three prospects in the country doesn’t come close.