This not assuming these players are shoe-ins for the WNBA or that they are currently nearly as good as the players in the W, but it's being used as a stylistic comparison to how they play and their ceiling. This is a different kind of ranking conversation and a different kind of view.
To paint the picture and give some transparency to the methodology here, this projection is different than a general ranking of any particular class. In the rankings there are a handful of things that are weighed: skill, athleticism, size, production and statistics, impact on winning now and at the next level, projection in regards to all of the above, consistency, and the current impact on the game within the given class as compared only to peers (regardless of projected potential). There is a "total résumé" aspect to rankings of players in a given class. That is how we approach that philosophically.
In this case when talking top 10 regardless of class,more projection comes into play and weighs heavier in the grading rubric. The thing that has to be considered and weighed differently is the notion of professional projection -- and with that comes some study of the WNBA. Physical tools, size, consistency, basketball intelligence, and an elite skill level are the general prerequisites. Some of these players have more time to grow into that projection (class of 2025 and 2026 in this case) than others.
This is all an inexact science and should be interpreted as general opinion based on experience. These players are showing particular promise based on the evolving grading rubric which is determined by the evolution and changing pattern of the game at all levels.
To play this game for a long time, and therefore project favorably, there are a few things that are non-negotiable: strong overall fundamental skills, elite aspects of skill and a feel for the game beyond physical talent -- decision making and situational awareness, physical and performative consistency.
The other aspect to this is how rare a particular player is in terms of combination of size, skill, and athleticism. There are some players who can physically do things that others cannot do -- they are blessed with the coordination and athleticism that give them a natural advantage. Those things combined with the competitive drive to win and succeed keep them in rare air. So, the projection of one of these players is higher simply because they do not come along every day. Read: Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, and A'Ja Wilson -- they are outliers.
In terms of any given player in the top 100 of a class, they, by definition are rare and elite. If 500,000 players play a sport in high school -- that means approximately 125,000 players play in each respective recruiting class. To be in that top 100 means a player is in the top .08% of their particular class. Not bad. Some players are closer to their physical ceiling than others and that is where the projection comes into play -- and factors such as athleticism, size, growth (literal), and patterns of improvement in habits and play are weighed heavily.
These players have the potential to play this game for a very long time. This plays out like a draft board and sometimes you have to bet on some projection and potential in the draft. Interestingly enough, none of them have committed to a school yet.
Let's see how they currently project.
*Special thanks to Jason Key and "Basketball Bob" Corwin for the discussion and debating as the thoughts were formulated for this article.
No. 1 Sarah Strong
Grace Academy Sanford (NC) | Team Lady Strong
Strong heads into the fall as the No. 1 player in the 2024 class. She may be the most unique player in the country in terms of her versatility and skills. Powerful in the paint but with a feathery touch out to the 3-point line, Strong is comfortable all over the floor. She reads actions well, communicates the game on a high level, and makes teammates better with her patience, passing ability, and overall IQ. Her aggressiveness and overall game were on full display as she won the FIBA 3X3 U18 tournament recently in Hungary.
What can she add? Strong can add some technical aspects and discipline to her defensive game. "You are who you can guard" is a common phrase in basketball circles. She is fully capable, but to maximize versatility guarding perimeter players, and therefore perimeter actions, she needs some experience and consistency.
No. 2 Sienna Betts
Grandview (CO) | Hardwood Elite
Betts has emerged as arguably the best post player from a projection standpoint in the country. The lefty post is 6-4, and there are not many bigs in the country with her skill set. Betts has the requisite skills inside to post up and demand double teams, but also has the game expansion elements that make her elite. With the ability to play away from the paint and on the perimeter by reading the floor and being a quality passer, she is a dynamic matchup problem. She has proven to be able to put the ball on the floor with both her right and left hands as well as knock down the 3. Betts fits into the new-age post player mold.
What can she add? Betts will up her projection stock with more trust in her right hand and playing more consistently through a strong and low base. She has started to show more willingness to her right hand to finish, but can rely on old habits at times of stubbornly getting back to her dominant left. As one of the taller players on the floor, playing in a low stance as a habit will aide in mobility and playing through contact.
Pro Comparison: A'Ja Wilson + Dorka Juhasz
No. 3 Olivia Vukosa
Christ the King (NY) | Philly Rise
Mobile, strong, and skilled with size, we see these things packaged into only a few players on this list. Vukosa, although one of the youngest players mentioned here, projects very well in all areas. Over the last calendar year, the improvements in her strength and agility as well as conditioning have grown leaps and bounds. She was thrown into the fire in a big role as a freshman at Christ the King. Vukosa has an advanced handle, face up game, and range on her shot well beyond the 3-point line. Her experience playing for Croatia in the FIBA W U16 European championship showed a glimpse of the uptick in aggressiveness and confidence on the floor we've been waiting for.
What can she add? As Vukosa has displayed some skills beyond her years, there is an efficiency factor that would help her take her game to a new level. As a young player this is not a knock, but if we are talking about getting to her potential ceiling, it is a factor. Increasing finishing percentage around the rim and overall shooting percentage will be important. Defensively, she has a lot to learn in terms of the technical aspects of post defense and guarding actions within a game plan. The good news: these are controllable and with time, she should be just fine.
Pro Comparison: Stefanie Dolson
No. 4 Kate Koval
Long Island Lutheran (NY) | Exodus
Koval is another post player with size, mobility, agility, and skill. She is no stranger to a strong schedule being the anchor of Long Island Lutheran, as well as NY Exodus for the last two years. She has back to basket game, face up game, and range out to the 3. She made a very memorable play at last year's Nike TOC in Phoenix, where she sprinted the floor and broke down with impeccable foot work for the spot up 3 from the wing to put LUHI up late in the fourth quarter of the final. Koval's poise and patience in the post are very key. She passes well out of the double team, scores in the face up, carves out space for rebounds, and can move well defensively.
What can she add? Koval is about as consistent as it comes on the floor, so we will have to get rather detailed here. As is the case with many post players, sometimes they miss the chance to bring their physical advantages to the floor because they do not always have to. When talking preparing for the next level and above, Koval can make sure to always run the floor hard and to bring physicality when it comes to screening or easy duck-in post opportunities. Posts are utilized better as the level of play gets higher and that is usually when we see players improve in these areas. Her ability to guard on-ball screen situations will be key.
No. 5 Kennedy Smith
Etiwanda (CA) | Cal Sparks
Smith's last calendar year is one for the ages. Her Etiwanda (CA) team won the Open Division State Championship and then she led her Cal Sparks team to the Nike EYBL Championship in July. Kennedy is a relentless competitor who brings a versatility to the floor that is hard to match. She plays the game with the physicality of a forward, but the smooth skills of a wing. It is rare that you find a player that can play both positions of a pick-and-roll, but she can. She is extremely bouncy and that helps her going to the rim and on the glass. Over the course of the last year, she improved her handle and now is able to attack in transition more effectively as well as the half court. Defensively, she can guard anyone on the floor -- perimeter or inside. That may change a bit in college, but she will hold her own if her team needs her to switch onto a big.
What can she add? Again, when talking about reaching the next elite level, the improvements are granular. In this case for Kennedy, she will play more perimeter minutes as her level increases to collegiately and likely beyond. Improvements in shiftiness and tempo changes with her handle are going to be on the list in the future. Reading different ball screen coverages as well as the technical aspects of coming off dribble-hand-offs or perimeter screens will increase her game as well. She will be an elite defender so film study of opponents' habits and nuances will be key for her.
No. 6 Joyce Edwards
Camden (SC) | FBC United
Activity level and motor are separators when it comes to higher level basketball. Edwards brings an intensity and activity level to the floor not many can match. She has a knack for getting her hands on rebounds and moves very well relocating without the ball to put herself in positions to score. She has expanded her jumper and scores the ball with extreme efficiency in and around the paint. Although at times it can look unorthodox, Edwards has a style of her own and is a stat stuffer -- flirting with triple doubles at times.
What can she add? Edwards can add some advancement to her handle and some face up elements to her game that would help her take the next steps. She is very efficient in her movements and does a great job playing without the ball in her hands and being ready to receive. As a player who is fully capable, adding some sharp change of direction skills as well as footwork for the face up opportunities would make her more of a threat on the floor.
Pro Comparison: Nneka Ogwumike
No. 7 Aaliyah Chavez
Point guard, 5-10
Monterey (TX) | Cy Fair Elite
Chavez is arguably the best shooter in the country. She is a three-level scorer who is consistent from the three, the pull-up jumper, the floater, and has a variety of finishing moves and foot work to the rim in her skill set. She hunts shots better than anybody at the high school level and knows how to create space for her jumper. She knows how to get to the free throw line and cashes in, and she pushes tempo by immediately putting pressure on the defense when she gets the outlet pass. She sees the floor well, and has a flair for playmaking that brings an entertainment and production combination that garners attention.
What can she add? As a talented guard, Chavez will learn the value of shot selection and efficiency as she ascends levels. Guards learn the value of getting off the ball and picking their spots as defenses get more disciplined and game plans get focused. She will learn that sometimes there is not a play to make, despite her complete skill set. Defensively, as she will be tasked with guarding a point guard or a two-guard, she will learn to be more locked in off the ball, as well as in ball-screen defense.
Pro Comparison: Kelsey Plum
No. 8 Jerzy Robinson
Sierra Canyon (CA) | Team Why Not
Robinson has game well beyond her years and the confidence to go with it. One of the youngest on this list and in her class, she brings an elite physicality to the guard spot. She has shown -- whether it is on the EYBL circuit or with USA Basketball -- she's one of the most elite players in the country regardless of class. She has gone from a power guard that lived in the mid-range to someone who is a threat from 3 and can lead the break. She makes good decisions with the ball and will even get some time at the lead guard position. She led her Desert Vista team to a state championship in Arizona as a freshman and, ahead of her sophomore year, transferred to Sierra Canyon (CA) ahead of her sophomore year where they will play a nationally competitive schedule.
What can she add? As a player going into her second season in high school, there is plenty that Jerzy will learn about the defensive end of the court. With her physical capabilities, a lot will be expected of her as she will be able to guard multiple positions -- each coming with its own nuances of knowledge. Offensively, we should expect to see an improvement in the occasional shot selection and it will help with her overall shooting percentages.
No. 9 Jazzy Davidsion
Clackamas (OR) | Northwest Select
Davidson, as a lefty guard, is comfortable everywhere on the floor. She has all the skills you would want in a guard -- scoring prowess and the ability to run the team at the lead guard spot. She is exceptional without the ball in her hands coming off of different actions, whether it's dribble handoff, playing in the extended Kobe-post area, the pinch post, or off of pin downs and staggered screens. She's a very good cutter, a very good passer, and a savvy defender. As she gains strength, she could be a Swiss Army knife on the floor.
What can she add? With her attributes, Davidson can add whatever she wants to her game. Her frame could use some strength added as she prepares for the next level. It will help regulate her shooting consistency, especially from behind the arc. She has the ability to take over a game, and since there is the potential, we want to see her grow into the mentality of a closer in tight and competitive matchups.
Pro Comparison: Ariel Atkins
No. 10 Saniyah Hall
Laurel School (OH) | Legends U
Hall has shown elements of being the total package. Debuting at the 17U level this summer, she was asked to carry a heavy load and helped take her team to the Select 40 finals. As a big guard with length, she is versatile and has shown to have a foundation of fundamentals that she can build upon in the coming years. She has a smooth shot from the 3 all the way to the rim where she elevates and can finish with contact and use her length to battle bigger defenders. She has a post-up game and advanced foot work that help her in iso situations and to create space to get off her jump shot. Defensively she competes hard, gets in passing lanes, and does a good job on the ball. She was often tasked with defending the opponents' best perimeter player.
What can she add? One area we could see some improvement is occasionally she's a little over aggressive defensively, and can find herself in foul trouble. She will get better at this with experience and the development of habits. Shot selection for a talented young player is usually something that can improve. With her size, athleticism, and length she can make more of a difference on the glass as well.
Pro Comparison: Jackie Young
Mikayla Blakes, (Guard, 6-0, Rutgers Prep (NJ) | Philly Rise)
Jaloni Cambridge, (Point guard,5-6, Montverde Academy (FL) | FBC United)
Toby Fournier, Duke commit (Forward, 6-2 Crestwood Prep (CAN) | Kia Nurse Elite)
Jordan Lee, (Guard, 6-0, St. Mary's Stockton (CA) | Jason Kidd Select)
Alivia McGill, (Point guard, 5-9 Hopkins HS (MN) | MN Metro Stars)
Arianna Robinson, (Forward, 6-4, Clark HS (TX) | Player First)
Zania Socka-Nguemen, (Forward, 6-3, Sidwell Friends (DC) | Team Durant)
Syla Swords, (Guard, 6-0 LUHI (NY) | Kia Nurse Elite)
Allie Ziebell, UConn Commit (Guard, 5-10, Neenah HS (WI) | Wisconsin Flight)
Divine Bourrage, (Point guard, 5-10, Davenport North (IA) | All Iowa Attack)
Aalyiah Crump, (Guard, 6-1, Minnetonka HS (MN) | North Tartan)
Zakiyah Johnson, (Guard, 6-0, Sacred Heart Academy (KY) | WV Thunder)
Emilee Skinner, (Point guard, 6-0, Ridgeline HS (UT) | Utah Lady Prospects)