Order has been restored on the recruiting trail in 2022, with the two recruiting powerhouses back atop the rankings. The Blue Devils and Wildcats were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in either order each year from 2014 to 2018 and again in 2020, with Memphis, Michigan and Gonzaga battling their way into the mix in 2019 and 2021.
Despite the introduction of name, image and likeness, as well as Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement announcement, Duke and Kentucky are fighting again for No. 1. The Blue Devils edged out in front after Dereck Lively‘s commitment Monday night.
Lively was the primary Duke-Kentucky recruiting battle in 2022, as both programs looked like the favorites at different points over the past three months. Both schools hosted Lively for a visit in June and made him a priority on the recruiting trail during the July live period. But the Blue Devils won out, landing the No. 2 prospect in the class, giving them their third top-10 prospect this cycle.
Lively joins top-ranked small forward Dariq Whitehead, skilled center Kyle Filipowski and elite shooter Jaden Schutt in Duke’s four-man class. The Blue Devils still have top-30 prospects J.J. Starling and Mark Mitchell on their board, too.
Don’t count Kentucky out of the race, though. While landing Lively would have sealed the No. 1 class for the Wildcats, John Calipari’s program still has the overall No. 1 prospect in Shaedon Sharpe along with two other five-star prospects in Chris Livingston and Skyy Clark. Five-stars Cason Wallace and Adem Bona are in the Wildcats’ crosshairs.
If both Duke and Kentucky land their remaining targets, will the order at the top flip? That remains to be seen.
What is clear, though, is that nobody else is catching either Duke or Kentucky in 2022.
Previous ranking: 1
It was imperative that the Blue Devils start strong on the recruiting trail after they announced Jon Scheyer would succeed Mike Krzyzewski for the 2022-23 season. With Coach K not out this summer, Scheyer and his staff have solidified the Duke brand by landing three five-star talents in Dereck Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kyle Filipowski. Lively’s commitment is the one that ultimately could give the Blue Devils the top class in America. He’s an elite shot-blocker with a skill set offensively that includes range out to the perimeter. Whitehead is an elite defender and competitor with natural leadership skills and tons of intangibles. He has been a high-profile prospect since he was younger, but has maintained his humility and continued to improve with each passing year. Filipowski, on the other hand, has come on strong in the last two years. A playmaking big man who stands just under 7 feet but can still attack off the dribble and facilitate for others, Filipowski’s game has exploded alongside a new commitment to conditioning and consequent gains in mobility and quickness off his feet around the rim. Duke also landed top-50 guard Jaden Schutt, one of the best shooters in the 2022 class.
Previous ranking: unranked
Kentucky is the one program that can catch Duke in the class rankings — although it’s a task that became much harder when Dereck Lively picked the Blue Devils over the Wildcats. But John Calipari already has three five-star prospects in the fold and can be perceived as the favorite for two more. No. 1 overall prospect Shaedon Sharpe wasn’t ranked at all last summer, but he established himself this past summer as the premier scoring guard in the class. He has good size and strength and is an elite athlete and finisher at the rim. Chris Livingston has been a name to watch since early in his high school career, and he remains one of the top 15 prospects in 2022. He’s a versatile weapon at both ends of the floor and is at his best in transition. Then there’s Skyy Clark, a 6-foot-3 point guard who missed the summer with an ACL injury. Clark pledged to the Wildcats last October, and despite rumors of a reclassification to 2021, he has remained in 2022. Kentucky is still heavily in the mix for Cason Wallace (No. 9) and Adem Bona (No. 17).
Previous ranking: 2
While Bill Self has built one of the best rosters in college basketball this season by conquering the transfer market, he once again has the Jayhawks recruiting the high school market at an elite national level. It began with a commitment from local Kansas product Gradey Dick last spring. Dick will provide them with a productive and reliable big wing who is proven against elite competition and well-rounded with his floor game. M.J. Rice gives them a power wing with an improved skill level. He’ll remind Jayhawk fans of Wayne Selden a little bit and provide an ideal complement to Dick on the wing. Zuby Ejiofor is a throwback-style power forward who could play some small ball 5 in the modern game. He’s powerful, explosive and ultra-aggressive with a high motor.
Previous ranking: 4
Hubert Davis is making quick inroads on the recruiting trail. He was ahead of the curve when it came to Seth Trimble, a big point guard from Wisconsin who pledged to the Tar Heels in June, a few weeks prior to delivering a huge performance during the July recruiting period. Jalen Washington is a highly skilled big who can stretch the floor, pick-and-pop and also play alongside another post should Davis elect to explore bigger lineups. Will Shaver is a true big man inside. He won’t be ready to make the same immediate impact that Trimble and Washington will, but he’ll provide the type of multiyear player that programs need to develop in order to achieve continuity. Davis rounded out the group with skilled ESPN 100 forward Tyler Nickel, who will bring an added dimension to Carolina’s frontcourt with his shooting ability.
Previous ranking: 3
No one has done more work early in this recruiting class than Chris Holtmann and his staff at Ohio State. Not only do they hold four early pledges, including three ESPN 100 prospects, but they’re all strategic additions who fit their system and culture. Bruce Thornton is the leader. A proven point guard and consummate winner, he’ll put his stamp on the program from day one. Roddy Gayle is a versatile wing who is capable of scoring in high volume but also of blending his individual talents with other high-level players. Felix Okpara is a bouncy big man in the middle with a very high long-term ceiling. Bowen Hardman is a local product from the state of Ohio who adds perimeter shooting and floor-spacing to the attack. Together, they form a group that complements each other and has as much depth as any class in the country to date.
Previous ranking: 5
Virginia’s 2022 recruiting class is shaping up to be one of the best the program has seen since 2016, which was the class that ultimately led Virginia to a national championship. Isaac McKneely is a skilled big guard who is tough, smart and capable of playing either on or off the ball, not unlike Ty Jerome once did for the Cavaliers. Leon Bond is an attacking wing with a strong body, burst in the open floor and all the attributes to evolve into a high-level defender. Isaac Traudt is a skilled 6-foot-8 forward who can stretch the floor to the arc and also operate off of different spots on the floor within offensive structure. Together, that trio gives Tony Bennett not just three ESPN 100 prospects, but three players with complementing skill sets who should all fit into his system. And then Bennett went out and landed fast-rising wing Ryan Dunn, who didn’t have a single Division I offer six months ago. At 6-foot-6, he has size and length and can make shots from the perimeter.
Previous ranking: unranked
Andy Enfield has recruited elite frontcourt prospects at a higher rate than most coaches in the country, and he’s continuing to stockpile talent up front in the 2022 class. The Trojans will welcome one of the better inside duos in the country in five-star center Vincent Iwuchukwu and top-40 power forward Kijani Wright. Iwuchukwu has steadily improved throughout his high school career and emerged as one of the most productive big men on the Nike EYBL circuit in July. Wright is a throwback big man who does most of his damage in the paint and on the backboard. He’s a physical, effective rebounder. Four-star Oziyah Sellers is the third member of the Trojans’ 2022 group; he’s a local product who should make an impact on the offensive end.
Previous ranking: 6
What did Scott Drew do after winning a national championship? He landed one of the very best players in high school basketball, local product Keyonte George, out-dueling in-state rival Texas and a variety of others. George is one of the most polished shot-creators in high school basketball and tailor-made to make an immediate impact at the college level. He’s joined by Dillon Hunter, another multi-dimensional offensive threat in the backcourt who has length, shooting touch and evolving playmaking ability to match.
Previous ranking: 7
Coming off last year’s Final Four run, Mick Cronin has the Bruins poised to rejoin college basketball’s elite. He built off the momentum of last March’s run by delivering a star-studded early recruiting class with some of the top prospects on the West Coast. Amari Bailey isn’t just one of the best players in high school basketball; he’s also one of the most visible, and so his commitment, which actually happened last February, will attract other players to follow suit. One such player is Dylan Andrews, a dynamic big guard with an attacking style who excels in the open floor but will also have the ability to defend the way Cronin demands.
Previous ranking: 8
Year in and year out, the Ducks continue to recruit at an elite level. Last year, it was one of the best incoming frontcourts in college basketball, and this year, it is one of the most college ready point guards in Dior Johnson. A true alpha who has grown up under the microscope after establishing himself as an elite prospect at a young age, Johnson appeared to be bound straight for the professional ranks before Oregon landed his pledge. He’s joined by one of the most intriguing prospects in the ESPN 100 Kel’el Ware, a highly talented big man with size, skill, mobility and leaping ability, but a still inconsistent motor. If and when he figures that out, we could be looking at one of the best incoming tandems in the country yet again this year.