There is no better time to review the growth of prospects than after their freshman season, where many of these young men have begun to separate themselves from one another. First and foremost, these are not Phenom Hoops’ official rankings. They are simply based on the opinions of the writer. Additionally, this class has a ton of talent and narrowing this list to only five players was a particularly difficult task. There were multiple different candidates for this final spot on this list and, honestly, there’s an argument to be made for each of them—based on need and/or general preference.
6’5 MJ Rice (Durham Academy/Team Wall)
It’s extremely challenging to award anyone other than Rice the top spot in North Carolina’s Class of 2022, given his physical gifts and sheer reign of dominance throughout the last calendar year. His trajectory has been something to marvel, considering how unbelievably fast he went from an intriguing seventh-grader to a walking highlight reel in eighth grade to an unstoppable two-way force by his freshman season. Rice has so many positives and no real negatives to his game. The biggest “knock” on him is his three-point stroke, but he’s become more than formidable from beyond the arc. Rice possesses terrific size, strength, and intelligence, which allows him to properly highlight his two-way versatility on nearly every possession. He can control the game with relative ease and understands how to dominate while playing unselfishly. Right now, Rice has no foreseeable ceiling and should certainly be able to maintain his top-ten national status throughout his high school journey.
6’3 Jaden Bradley (Cannon/B. Maze Elite)
There’s no secret that Bradley arguably has the best reputation of any prospect on this list, especially given how he’s become a complete offensive player since entering the high school ranks. He’s an incredibly polished point guard with the natural ability to lead an efficient offense, both in scoring and assists. Bradley scores the ball quite well from all three levels and possesses a lot of craftiness when looking to create space or make plays for his teammates. He understands how to effectively use his change of pace to get by defenders when attacking the basket. Bradley is smart and shifty enough to get wherever he wants on the court but also understands how to mix it up offensively. He displays excellent defensive instincts and forces turnovers at a terrific rate. There’s a legitimate discussion to be had fro Bradley as the top floor general in the country for the Class of 2022.
6’4 Jalen Hood-Schifino (Northside Christian/Team Charlotte)
Like the previous prospect, Hood-Schifino already has a real case the top floor general in the country. He’s displayed an unbelievably sharp feel for the game for quite some time now and understands the game as well as anyone in North Carolina, regardless of class. Few point guard prospects can match his size and overall maturity level, both on and off the court. Hood-Schifino has always been a phenomenal threat off the bounce and is capable of manipulating opposing defenses with relative ease. He’s noticeably improved as a defender and perimeter shooter over the last year or so, yet still remains the best playmaker of this group. Hood-Schifino leads by example and simply understands how to make his surrounding teammates better in virtually every facet of the game. He’s only gotten better while maintaining an extremely consistent foundation and approach to the game over the years. Expect Hood-Schifino to only accrue more high-level offers as his high school career continues.
6’6 Daniel Sanford (Vance/Team United)
Many folks would consider the aforementioned trio North Carolina’s “big three” in the Class of 2022, but there’s a lot to be excited about with Sanford. He’s already physically advanced and possesses incredibly fluid athleticism, especially for his size. Sanford has elite explosiveness and is willing to meet any opponent at the rim, especially when attacking the basket. He’s a particularly strong rebounder with an active motor and quality defensive instincts. Sanford moves very well without the ball and is capable of truly overwhelming the opposition in transition. As impressive as he already is, there’s reason to believe that he’s only beginning to scratch the surface of his long-term upside. Sanford has the chance to become a dominating type of force, especially if he continues to develop and trend upward.
6’3 Jaydon Young (Wayne Christian/Team CP3)
As mentioned above, the final spot on this list was unbelievably tough to decide, but we ultimately went with Young. There’s a legitimate case to be made for each of DJ Nix, Deante Green, or Kheni Briggs, and none of them would be a poor choice. Young was the selection based on his exceptional blend between productivity and long-term potential. He possesses elite physical tools in addition to a very strong feel for the game, which makes him a true matchup problem for opposing guards. Young go out and effortlessly lead the offensive charge, both with his high-level scoring ability and with his natural creation skills. He makes excellent reads with the ball in his hands and rarely has a lapse in judgment. Young is already arguably the most polished scorer on this list and absolutely deserves to be in the same breath as the other guards mentioned here.