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March 24, 2014

Starting Five: Jackson not going anywhere

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

Over the weekend, Josh Jackson -- the No. 1 player in the class of 2016 -- won himself a state title in Michigan. In Missouri, Texas signee Jordan Barnett had an epic performance to help his team win one. Those two and much more are featured in this week's Starting Five.

Jackson cements top billing

On Friday, we will update our rankings for the class of 2016. In a previous Starting Five, it was mentioned that the top wasn't likely to see much change. After watching current No. 1 Josh Jackson's performance for Detroit (Mich.) Consortium in Michigan's Class C title game there is no reason to hide that Jackson will retain his top billing.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Jackson battled through early foul trouble to finish with 22 points, 13 rebound and four assists (official box gave him three). While that is certainly a fine stat line, it wasn't an absurd or abnormal line for a star player -- regardless of ranking -- to string together. But there was nothing normal about the way Jackson achieved those numbers.

Though not a point guard by any means, Jackson is a very deft ball handler and passer. He doesn't just dribble and make the correct pass, he does both at a high rate of speed, and his ability to freestyle on the basketball floor without getting clumsy is quite remarkable for a sophomore. He has tremendous size for his position to go along with his athleticism and skill. Oh yeah, he is a dangerous shooter who gets tremendous elevation on his jump shot, which combined with a lightning release makes him virtually unguardable.

Of course, even the nation's best sophomore has plenty to improve on. Jackson isn't just thin, he is a string bean; and that lack of bulk and strength can allow some lesser players to body him up and slow him down. At times, Jackson is also a little careless with the ball, so cutting down on turnovers is also important. Then, like any other young player, Jackson has to keep learning how to bring his "A" game each time he touches the floor.

Jackson's recruitment is going to end up taking place at the highest level as local big boys Michigan and Michigan State try to fight off others such as Kentucky, Louisville and Kansas plus many more for his services. His development should be plenty of fun to watch regardless of where he ultimately ends up in the rankings. But for now, his spot at the top of 2016 is safe.

Epic game for Barnett

There's no need to sugarcoat it: The knock on senior Jordan Barnett has been that his effort has been spotty and he wasn't always the most physical of players. After watching his progression at St. Louis (Mo.) CBC, it is probably time to go ahead and dispatch with those notions.

On Saturday, Barnett scored 43 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead CBC to an overtime win over Columbia (Mo.) Hickman to claim a class 5A state title. He shot 15-of-22 from the floor and made 12 of 15 free throws. He dominated in the paint, finished on the break, hit some jumpers and played with lots of emotion. It was a performance that will long be remembered in his home state.

Currently a four-star prospect ranked No. 106 in the class of 2014, the 6-foot-7, 190 pounder headed to Texas was already likely to get at least a little bit of a bump up in the rankings based on his play in front of Rivals.com in December. Now, Barnett has made a pretty strong case to be included somewhere in the top 50-75 players in his class.

Big decision on hand for five-star

The recruitment of 2015 five-star prospect Luke Kennard will be over before Monday ends. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard who currently ranks No. 16 in the Rivals150 is going to announce his decision during a 7:45 p.m. ET press conference at Franklin (Ohio) High.

. He has a much longer list filled with big names, but his decision is essentially going to come down to Duke, Kentucky or perhaps Ohio State. A big-time shooter, Kennard was at Duke officially earlier this month and has seen plenty of the other campuses. On decision day, the behind-the-scenes buzz has him leaning in the direction of Duke. Neither the Wildcats or Buckeyes would be a surprising choice, but the expectation as of early Monday is that he will be a Blue Devil.

Don't expect a decision from Turner on his birthday

Monday just happened to be the 18th birthday of 2014 five-star Myles Turner. Far and away the most high profile player who still has a decision to make, the No. 6 player has been the subject of plenty of rumors.

The most recent rumor over the weekend was that the Trinity (Texas) Euless post man would announce a decision to celebrate his birthday or by midweek. As far as Rivals.com can tell, there is no truth to the rumors.

Turner has remained steadfast that he will visit Texas officially before making a decision, and he will make the trip to Austin on Thursday and Friday.This weekend, Turner will begin his tour of the nation's All-American games by heading to Chicago for McDonald's All-American festivities.

It is quite possible that Turner has a better idea of where he is leaning and when he wants to announce his decision than is being let on. However, for now it would not appear that any date has been set, and there has been nothing from the Turner family about any decision date or timeline.

Spring travel begins this weekend

With the end of the high school basketball season, the grassroots season has begun. At Rivals.com, we will hit our first event this Saturday when we travel to the Washington, D.C., area for the Metro Challenge 60.

A one-day showcase event featuring much of the DMV area's top talent from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017, the event looks to be a great one. The area is one of the most talent-rich in the country and all indications are that the event will be loaded.

After finishing up in D.C., we'll be off to Chicago for McDonald's All-American game festivities beginning with Sunday. Unfortunately, a few of the workouts are closed to the media (but open to those like myself who have a vote for the game) so we won't be able to report on each and every session. But there will still be plenty to talk about.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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