Sautter: The debate between Shereef Mitchell, Brady Heiman for No. 1 in the 2018 class

Shereef Mitchell, left, and Brady Heiman are the two best boys basketball players in the state of Nebraska for the 2018 class.

Crafting the final player rankings for a class is always challenging, and the 2018 class was no exception.

I reviewed box scores and notes from what I saw during the high school season. The most recent AAU season also factored into the decisions.

As a general rule, I start with players who have committed or are being recruited at the highest levels. Those players move to the top of the list. From there I use feedback from high school coaches, AAU coaches, college coaches and the hours I spent in gyms watching practices and games.

The top seven players in the 2018 class remain in a group of their own with little movement between them. The most debate came at the top, though, with what do with the No. 1 spot.

Platteview’s Brady Heiman held onto that top spot for more than a year and is the only player in the state currently headed to a power-conference school. Heiman, a Nebraska signee, is a skilled shot-blocker and has developed his face-up game.

Omaha Burke guard Shereef Mitchell had a fantastic summer on the AAU circuit and followed that up with a great high school season. The state’s Gatorade player of the year has improved tremendously on the defensive end and in my opinion is a power-conference-level defender.

Ultimately, I went with Mitchell at No. 1.

Typically the highest-ranked player is automatically the one with the best scholarship offer. In this class, that would be Heiman, and there was thought to moving Mitchell to the 2019 rankings because he is planning to attend a postgraduate school after finishing up at Burke. But I kept Mitchell in the 2018 rankings because he won’t be playing high school ball in Nebraska next season, and that postgraduate year should lead to power-conference offers.

Mitchell currently has nine scholarship offers, all at the mid- to low-major level. But one of those offers is from Loyola of Chicago, a Sweet 16 team in this year’s NCAA tournament. That’s a program on the rise in the Missouri Valley and says a lot about Mitchell’s potential.

Heiman certainly has a bright future in Lincoln, but Mitchell will be playing Division I basketball, too. And based on what he showed this season, it could eventually be at the highest level.

Close calls at Nos. 5 and 6

Omaha Central’s Roman Behrens keeps his No. 5 ranking ahead of Millard South’s Tyrell Carroll, but that was the second-toughest debate in the class. Carroll had a great season with multiple triple-doubles, and Behrens led the state in assists. The nod went to Behrens after looking at the season statistics.

Behrens and Carroll are point guards, but Carroll had fewer assists (5.9 to 7.0) with more turnovers (2.5 to 1.7). Behrens also shot much better from 3-point range, hitting 39 percent of his attempts compared to just 7 percent by Carroll.

Biggest risers

Grand Island guard LeBeck Warren made the biggest move in the class, going from unranked to No. 18. Lincoln Southwest’s JaQuaylon Mays (No. 22) also moved into the rankings from the watchlist.

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