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April 11, 2012

Sulaimon gains five-star status

Rasheed Sulaimon had little to prove when he stepped onto the hardwood for his final high school season. He was already committed and soon to be signed with Duke University and was simply placing his focus on improving and leading his team to a state championship.

While he and his Strake Jesuit teammates fell short of their championship goals, the 6-foot-4 senior saw his skill set grow significantly over the course of his final season in the prep ranks.

Sulaimon entered his final high school basketball campaign ranked No. 32 in the nation as seen by Rivals.com. The status grouped him with a number of talented prospects and earned him a four-star rating, placing him just below the elite level players.

Though Sulaimon certainly was not placing much stock in ratings or using them as fuel to improve his game, one of the results of his outstanding play earned him a significant jump in Rivals.com's final rankings, which was released Wednesday afternoon.

Sulaimon was moved to No. 18 overall in the Rivals.com 150 and was listed as the nation's No. 6 rated shooting guard.

The jump in rankings also provided him with an extra star beside his name, moving him into five-star, elite status.

Eric Bossi, a Rivals.com national recruiting analyst, had the opportunity to watch Sulaimon on several occasions throughout last summer and into his high season and believes his willingness to become more aggressive played a role in his climb up the rankings.

"It wasn't just the McDonald's All-American game and practice [that helped Sulaimon make the jump]," Bossi said. "I had the opportunity to see him during the high school season as well and just felt that he had improved his overall game and become a much more assertive player overall."

Sulaimon has long been noted for his ability to shoot the ball, particularly from beyond the arc, but many believed he needed to improve other areas of his game.

Like most Duke signees and commitments, Sulaimon sought head coach Mike Krzyzewski's opinion on what he needed to improve upon. The message was simple, work on your overall game and play hard.

He did exactly that. The result was a continued evolution from being a shooter to a scorer. Following the McDonald's All-American game, Rivals.com labeled the senior as one of the top 10 scorers in the 2012 class.

That alone was enough to move him up the rankings, but his improvements in other aspects held just as much weight.

"I just took a look at his overall package from where he was last summer to where he is now," Bossi said of his thought process when moving Sulaimon to No. 18 and adding an extra star. "He's gotten a little more physical, shoots the ball well, is a willing defender and has improved his ball handling and playmaking."

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