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Recruiting: Evaluating The Big Ten’s 2017 Guards–Part I

Part one of our look at the Big Ten’s large crop of 2017 guards, highlighted by a pair of Big Ten East commits

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There is a varied group of prospects listed as guards that are committed to Big Ten schools. Some will play the two, while others appear destined for roles as primary ball handlers.

This list could get bigger if Maryland can land five-star M.J Walker, but he has recently been trending to Florida State.

Let’s take a look at a few of the Big Ten’s next stars in the backcourt.

In case you missed them, you can find the last three positional previews here, here and here.

Big Ten’s Top 2017 Guards:

-Jordan Poole (Michigan)

The 6’4 four-star out of Wisconsin but finished his high school career at La Lumiere in Indiana, is the jewel of Michigan’s class of 2017. He’ll join a guard heavy lineup in Ann Arbor and will likely battle class of 2016 recruit Ibi Watson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews for playing time alongside Xavier Simpson in Michigan’s backcourt next season.

According to Scout’s evaluation of Poole, he is a guy that can shoot the three from anywhere. Based on that, alone, he should be a great fit in John Beilein’s offence at Michigan.

Brian Snow ($) says:

The first thing that Poole does is he shoots the basketball. It goes without saying that John Beilein loves his teams to be full of shooters who can stretch the defense. Poole absolutely can do that.

To add to that, Poole says he has been studying the NBA’s premiere sharpshooter, Steph Curry. According to 247Sports’ Steve Lorenz:

Part of why Poole believes he's improved is because of what he says is a newfound confidence for young shooters because of the success players like Steph Curry are having in the NBA.

Curry's quick release is something Poole has worked to emulate. He already knows he can shoot the ball well, but says Curry's game has helped eliminate the mental block for good shooters to take what most would originally have said was a "bad shot".

Another part of Poole’s upside is his versatility. Not only is he a lethal shooter from the perimeter, he can also be a primary ball handler. According to Maize n’ Brew’s Anthony Broome:

He's not a slasher by any means, but he shows the ability to get to the rim and finish. His crossover is pretty good, as well. He has the ability to handle the ball and play the point. Beilein likes to mix his lineups up, so having a player with Poole's skill set gives Michigan options with its floor combinations.

Jordan Poole is certainly a Beilein-type player, and is someone Michigan will be able to do a lot with once he gets on campus.

-Sasha Stefanovic (Purdue)

The three-star out of Indiana committed to Purdue just a few weeks ago after receiving a late offer from the Boilermakers.

According to Luke Srodulski of 247Sports, Stefanovic models his game after a current NBA player:

The “style” Stefanovic refers to can be hard to define. For his high school team, he might take the four spot one possession and play point guard the next. He’s viewed as a guard at the next level, but he takes after former Creighton standout and Bulls forward Doug McDermott.

“That’s the person I’ve modeled my game after,” he explained, “just playing off the ball, putting myself in positions where I could score the basketball and put pressure on the defense constantly, moving without the ball and making open shots.”

Brian Snow has a similar opinion on Stefanovic:

Stefanovic has good size and a quick release which allows him to get his shot off, and then the range extends well beyond the three point line. Also while he isn’t athletic, Stefanovic does show good craftiness and knows how to move without the ball.

Stefanovic joins a large Purdue class, led by four-star wing Nojel Eastern. He’ll have a tough road to playing time in 2017, but if he can prove that he can be as lethal from the perimeter as he’s been in high school, Purdue will quickly learn that there is indeed always room for a shooter.

-Jamir Harris (Minnesota)

The three-star from New Jersey committed to Richard Pitino and the Gophers over a solid list of other offers in September and has since signed an LOI.

Jamir is listed as a combo guard by 247Sports and by the looks at his tape, that’s probably because he’s a guy who has shooting guard skills but point guard size.

According to Scout’s Ryan James, Harris can absolutely get hot from behind the arc:

The 180-pound Harris competed for the NJ Playaz EYBL team, where he averaged 11.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in more than 30 minutes per contest, while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range.

“I believe Jamir is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country,” Pitino said. “He is a competitor, an extremely hard worker, and a tremendous person. He comes from a great family and he will be a terrific addition to our basketball program.”

And another piece of good news is that Harris has some familiarity with top-100 point guard and Minnesota commit Isaiah Washington:

In this contest, he and fellow backcourt mate Jordan Walker put such intense pressure on the opposition, with their combination of penetration and perimeter shooting. For Gophers fans, Harris can combine a similar dynamic with future teammate Isaiah Washington, a four-star point guard Minnesota commit from St. Raymond's.

Washington and Harris could form a formidable backcourt duo in Minneapolis for the next few years.

-Anthony Gaines (Northwestern)

The three-star from New Hampshire committed to the Wildcats in September over a very respectable list of other offers. He’s listed as a shooting guard on 247Sports, and his length makes him perfect for that spot. He is Northwestern’s lone commitment in the class os 2017, and he’ll likely step into a team fresh off its first tournament appearance in program history.

Different outlets differ on his height, but there variation isn’t enormous as he consistently falls within that 6’4-6’5 range.

According to Luke Srodulski of 247Sports:

At 6-foot-5 with long arms and great bounce, Gaines can be an intimidating force with the ball in his hands. He doesn't rely much on his jumper, instead attacking the rim with rare aggression. On the defensive end, he gets his hands in passing lanes and finishes possessions by flying high for rebounds. Like [Vanderbilt commit, Maxwell] Evans, he brings toughness and a want to run the floor.

Brian Snow of Scout seems to agree with the sentiment that Gaines is an aggressive player on the court:

Running with the Albany City Rocks in the EYBL, Gaines put up some big numbers. He averaged 14.7 points and 9 rebounds per game. That rebounding rate was one of the best on the entire Nike circuit despite being less than 6-foot-5. Gaines gets it done with length, toughness, athleticism, and an elite motor.

One of the knocks on Gaines, however, is his shot. According to BTPH’s Brian Sonnenberg:

His jumper is also an area where he could improve, or at least become more dynamic. His mechanics look good; he’ll just need more reps, and to look for ways to expand his offensive game so he’s not one dimensional.

Once he gets into the college setting, he’ll get to work on adding that dimension to his game and become an offensive catalyst in Evanston.