Kind Of A Big Deal

May 12, 2022

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Remember when Dee Brown, Deron Williams, AND James Augustine were invited to the USA Basketball training camp? It was then that we knew that that trio was way better than their recruiting rankings. In the RSCI, Dee was ranked 19th, Deron 48th, and Augie 78th, but all three being invited to a Team USA camp confirmed that this might be a class of three top-30 players in one class.

It was. Augie did not make the eventual team, but Dee and Deron were the starting backcourt, and that confirmed for us that we might eventually have the top backcourt in the nation. We did.

Remember when Ayo Dosunmu and Talen Horton-Tucker were both invited to the 2018 USA Basketball U18 training camp? And how we were nervous that THT would make it and Ayo would not? And then Ayo made the final roster (THT did not) and Ayo led the team in assists as the 6th man, confirming for us that he should have absolutely been a five-star in the class of 2018? Remember that? It was only four years ago - you should remember that.

OK I'll give you a refresher. 32 players were invited to that training camp (to be cut down to a roster of 12). Invites came from both the 2018 recruiting class (18 year-olds) and the 2019 recruiting class (17 year-olds). Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey seemed like locks for the backcourt (they were). So to grab one of the guard spots, Ayo would have to battle with Coby White (now with the Bulls, obviously), Quinten Grimes (now with the Knicks), Scottie Lewis (Hornets), Jalen Lecque (Suns), DJ Carton (Ohio State then Marquette), Rocket Watts (Michigan State to Mississippi State), and several other wings like THT and Josiah-Jordan James. Odds were slim.

Then, not only does Ayo get selected for the team, he's the sixth man off the bench. Cole Anthony and Quentin Grimes start every game, Coby White and Tyrese Maxey split the other starting spot (each starts 3 games in the tournament), but Ayo, as the sixth man, ends up playing the fifth-most minutes. The top seven scorers on that gold-medal-winning team: Coby White (15.3 ppg), Quentin Grimes (14.7), Cole Anthony (14.3), Matthew Hurt (14.0), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (10.7), Ayo Dosunmu (9.5), Tyrese Maxey (8.8), and Armando Bacot (7.8). What's the one thing that sticks out there? Ayo was the only 4-star in the group.

And you need to keep in mind that there were many guards ranked ahead of Ayo in the 2018 class who weren't even invited to training camp. Some, like Romeo Langford, had already turned 19 and were ineligible for the U18 Tournament. But several players ranked ahead of Ayo, like Darius Garland, Andrew Nembhard, and Tre Jones, weren't even selected for the training camp. And he also beat out guys like Kevin Porter Jr (and THT) at the training camp to make the roster of 12.

What does that mean? It means that this was a giant flashing light around Ayo's name in the rankings pointing out that he was ranked way too low. Rankings are just a set of experts saying "I think this player is better than this player". This was an actual set of coaches choosing an actual team and saying that Ayo was better than Rocket Watts, DJ Carton, Darius Garland, Andrew Nembhard, Tre Jones, and Kevin Porter Jr. (and many others). The sixth-leading scorer on a team of 2018 and 2019 recruits should at least put him in the top-15 in his class. If not the top 10.

He then went out these last four years and proved nearly this exact ranking. Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey are clearly better. He's right there battling with Coby White (literally) and Quentin Grimes to see who would be the third-best guard among that group of 2018 and 2019 guards. And he's clearly better than Darius Garland, Andrew Nembhard, DJ Carton, Tre Jones, etc etc etc.

That's why I lean so heavily into the USA Basketball roster selections and camp invites. James Augustine was invited to training camp over 50 players ranked ahead of him? He must be way better than his ranking shows. Armando Bacot was selected as the third "big" on the 2018 USA Basketball team over all those 5-star bigs in the 2018 and 2019 classes? I bet he'll be really good at some point. Ty Rodgers was one of ten players in the 2022 class invited to the U18 training camp? Move him up 30 spots in the rankings right now.

In my mind, Rodgers getting selected to go to these tryouts is the recruiting story of the spring. To me, this is a bigger endorsement than some recruiting service naming him a 5-star or him getting an invite to the McDonald's All American game or something. Eleven players from the 2022 class invited, and Ty Rodgers was one of them.

Now, this does not mean he's then the 11th-best player in the 2022 class? Some players destined for NBA stardom, like Dereck Lively, will sometimes opt out of USA Basketball events. I don't know if that's the case with Lively, but you'll never see the top five players in the rankings all selected for a USA Basketball training camp. And some of these high school seniors turned 19 years old before January 1, 2022 and are therefore ineligible to compete in a "U18" event. So no, I'm not saying "Ty Rodgers should be ranked in the top 10" here. If he makes the roster of 12, then yes, we can claim he should have been a five-star, but with all of that talent being invited to camp from the 2022 and 2023 classes (the majority being 5-stars), he has a really tall hill to climb.

Still, Rodgers being one of the 11 players from the 2022 class selected for this training camp means he's likely not properly ranked. Let's start by listing his current ranking on the four services.

And as I say that and go to the page to pull the specific ranking numbers, the page refreshes and all of the numbers change. He was #52 on the Composite rankings when I opened the page an hour ago, and now he's up to 47th. Looks like 247 updated their own rankings in the last hour here. Their updated rankings for our recruiting class (not the Composite rankings - the individual rankings from 247):

Skyy Clark down from 26 to 31
Jayden Epps up from 48 to 43
Ty Rodgers up from 61 to 47
Sencire Harris up from 98 to 84

This should cement the first three inside the RSCI top-100. And it should be enough for Harris to lock it in (depending on what happens with the other rankings). Using the RSCI methodology, Harris gets 16 points from 247 (for being 84th), 42 points from Rivals, 23 points from On3, and 0 points from ESPN (not in their current top-100). That gives him 81 points, which last year would have put him 78th in the RSCI. So as long as On3 and Rivals don't drop him a significant amount in their final rankings, he should be the fourth RSCI top-100 player in this class.

But this post is about Ty Rodgers getting the USA Basketball invite. Where was I? Yes - "let's start by listing his current ranking on the four services":

Rivals: 55
247: 47
On3: 107
ESPN: 52

Before you get angry at On3, let me just note that I want lots of variety when it comes to individual rankings. I much prefer the On3 team to saying "we don't think he's a top-100 player" over "the other services all have him around #50 - let's move him to 50."

I will now talk out of the other side of my mouth and say this: On3 shouldn't move him to 50. On3 should move him to 28. Why? Because of his USA Basketball invite. I'm finally getting to my point.

Using the Composite rankings (and this is the second time I've done this research because the numbers I put together this morning are all all incorrect after this update), here are the 10 players from the 2022 class invited to this training camp. Why 10 and not 11? It looks like Eric Dailey has reclassified to the 2023 class (perhaps going to prep school?) so there are only 10 recruits from the 2022 class invited to this camp. Their rankings in the updated 247 Composite:

Nick Smith Jr. - 3
Amari Bailey - 7
Kel'El Ware - 9
Cam Whitmore - 13
Anthony Black - 17
Jordan Walsh - 18
Seth Trimble - 34
Dior Johnson - 36
Ty Rodgers - 47
Mark Armstrong - 48

What's my takeaway there? All of the ranking services should take a look at their rankings for Seth Trimble (UNC), Dior Johnson (Oregon), Ty Rodgers (Illinois), and Mark Armstrong (Villanova). USA Basketball - not some all-star game, not some ranking service biased towards certain conferences and regions - USA Basketball invited those four players (and not dozens of players ranked ahead of them) to their training camp.

If I was the CEO of 247 or Rivals, I would have a standing "no player invited to a USA Basketball tryout should be ranked lower than 30th; no player that makes the final squad of 12 should be ranked lower than 15th" rule. Yes, I'm team "here's hoping the rankings are wildly different because it shows that true evaluations were done", but USA Basketball, to me, is a trump card. Selections for the U18 and U19 teams identified Dee and Deron as two of the five best guards in the country (they were), identified James Augustine as a top-30 player (he was), and identified Ayo Dosunmu as a top-10 player in his class (he was). They're not in the business of ranking players, they're in the business of studying all eligible players and choosing the best ones so that they can continue to win international tournaments.

Think of it like soccer. Somewhere there's a website listing all of the future soccer stars in the US. And that list has Bobby Stonefoot as the #3 player. There's a big international U19 tournament, and many players from that list are selected for the US team but Bobby Stonefoot is not. The player at #87 on that list, Stephen Thumper, is selected to go to training camp with the U19 squad. Well then the next time that guy updates his top-100 list, he'd be smart to drop Bobby Stonefoot and bump Stephen Thumper, right? A random internet list looks pretty bad if it has a guy ranked 87th who is selected for a national team.

That's how I feel about Ty Rodgers at the moment. Who cares about lists putting him at 47, 52, 55, or 107? The US National Team evaluated all players 18 years of age and under and chose him as one of the 27 athletes to invite to the training camp (1 from the 2021 class, 10 from the 2022 class, and 16 from the 2023 class). Yes, there are some 2022 recruits who turned 19 as seniors in high school and are ineligible to be selected for this. But still, this is USA Basketball, at a minimum, saying that Rodgers is one of the top 25 players in the class of 2022. Maybe even top-15.

Does it mean he's a lock to be a college superstar? No. Kamaka Hepa made the final roster in 2018 (the team Ayo was on). He then went to Texas, averaged 1.9 ppg as a freshman, 2.9 ppg as a sophomore, and 2.9 ppg as a junior before transferring to Hawaii. This does not mean "if Ty Rodgers makes the final roster he's going to be Ayo 2.0." There are top-5 NBA draft picks who are busts. Nothing is guaranteed.

But Rodgers getting this invite does suggest, at a minimum, that he's significantly under-ranked. And just with this one invite I now see his ceiling as much higher than I did before.

Let's get him on the final roster so I can write a "Ty Rodgers - Top Three Illini Recruit In The Last Decade?" article in June.


baconface on May 12, 2022 @ 03:25 AM

Such a great break down. Seriously excellent.

I have to pick one nit... Darius Garland is better than all the guards mentioned here.

Robert on May 12, 2022 @ 04:02 PM

Shows my knowledge of the NBA. I looked up a couple lists of guards drafted in 2020 and 2021 - forgot to check the 2019 draft. Yes, seeing those stats, Garland definitely should be on top.

(Wonder why he didn't get a USA Basketball invite in 2018? He was born 9 days after Ayo, so he would have been eligible.)

FightingIllini618 on May 12, 2022 @ 03:57 AM

Yeah, was going to point out the Garland error as well. He was a top 5 pick and made the AS Game. I would also say stating that making the team automatically makes you a top 15 player lacks a little nuance too. If you have the 2 best scoring guards in the country already on the roster, you’d probably rather grab an elite role player (what Ayo was on that team) than the 3rd best scoring guard. I think Ty is probably in a similar spot where he’s not a scorer so he can do all the little things well while the stars do the star things. Landing the “little thing” guys that play 3-4 years in college is still a great formula though. Much easier to recruit those USA players and develop scorers than consistently recruit the most talented scorers every year.

AGig21 on May 12, 2022 @ 02:53 PM

you had me up until, "Think of it like Soccer"...

Robert on May 12, 2022 @ 04:02 PM

How did I lose you with that? It's a genuine question, not a challenge. I'm always curious about the places where I lose people.

ILLhaveaBrewski on May 13, 2022 @ 11:53 PM

A lot of basketball fans don't follow soccer

IlliniJoe81 on May 12, 2022 @ 04:12 PM

Underwood basically called a special press conference to rave about Ty Rodgers when he signed. That said a lot to me. He sees him as a Draymond Green type of impactful player.

There's a reason why he's talking about playing 5 wings this year. It's because Ty Rodgers can do it all.

Robert on May 12, 2022 @ 04:53 PM

Totally agree with this. And it's kind of what I was referencing the other day when imagining Painter and Underwood sitting on the sidelines at some AAU event discussing the rankings. It has to be hilarious to them how much credence is given to these rankings (by the fans).

Say for a moment that Ty Rodgers was the #14 recruit in the country and our first true 5-star since Dee. Well then everything else makes sense. That over the top Underwood press conference. The Jordan Brand Classic invite. The battle to try to keep him playing HS ball in Michigan with MSU-friendly folks vs. playing HS ball in Chicago with Illinois-friendly folks. This USA Basketball U18 invite. Everything would align with what we've seen and we'd be discussing him like Underwood talks about him.

Instead, three guys in charge of three rankings (247, Rivals, and ESPN), who all look at each other's work and self-standardize, slotted him around 50th and that's that.

Efrem on May 12, 2022 @ 06:47 PM

Great stuff Robert

Eagle on May 12, 2022 @ 09:19 PM

Agreed. Top drawer research.

22 on May 13, 2022 @ 10:51 PM

Loved this article. And loved to see the Darius Garland defenders (he of 6 magnificent games at Vanderbilt) in the comments :) -Bryce

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