In order for a class to be considered elite, there are a few things that need to be present, and none are more important than projected professionals (one-and-done prospects or sure-fire first-rounders). From a positional standpoint, the two greatest positions of need are always point guards and centers. Although the 2012 class has solid point guards at the top and not a lot of depth, it has an inordinate amount of talented centers, including five in the top 15 overall prospects.
Center is the one position where productivity is not the overriding factor in evaluating a player. Good hands and light, quick feet are greater assets and often the determining factors in a post player being good versus great. There are a lot of players in this class that have those two elements going for them.
Andre Drummond (Middletown, Conn./Wilbraham & Monson)
6-foot-10, 275 pounds
He has all the physical tools for greatness. Drummond is long and athletic but he needs to improve his skills (which are solid but not great) and increase the consistency of his effort. He is the most unstoppable force in the 2012 class when he is motivated to dominate. He plays with power and finesse and has the strength and length to be a great rebounder and defensive force. If there were a draft of the players in the 2012 class, there is not much doubt he would be taken any lower than second.
Isaiah Austin (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep)
7-0, 200 pounds
Although Drummond is the best physical specimen, Austin is the most talented post player. He is a fantastic shot-blocker who can take away the rim defensively. Plus, he is a solid ballhandler for a center with a good shooting touch and range to 20 feet. However, Austin can drift a little too much on the perimeter at times. He also needs strength and girth in order to do battle underneath the boards. The Baylor commit is a truly unique talent and has as much upside as anyone in the country.
Kaleb Tarczewski (Claremont, N.H./St. Mark's)
7-0, 220 pounds
Tarczewski is another skilled big man with loads of potential. He has a solid body and can beat you with power or skill. He is a solid shooter to 17 feet and can play on the low block or the high post. Tarczewski is a good athlete for a center and has improved a great deal every year of his high school career. We won't see the best of Tarczewski for a couple of years, but when he puts it all together, watch out!
Others to watch
Cameron Ridley (Fort Bend, Texas/Bush)
6-10, 230 pounds
He is a big, strong, powerful and productive brute inside. Ridley has decent skills, scores well around the key when he gets touches and is a good rebounder in the paint. The Texas commit is a pure center who has no delusions of moving outside, and although his conditioning needs to be monitored, he will have a big impact at Texas.
DaJuan Coleman (Dewitt, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt)
6-10, 280 pounds
He is another monster on the low block who has very good hands and is a solid finisher in the paint. Coleman also needs to make sure he stays in the best shape possible, improve defensively and become a better rebounder, but he has the tools to be very good.
Shaquille Cleare (Houston/The Village)
6-9, 270 pounds
He is similar to both Coleman and Ridley in size and game. Cleare is not quite as assertive offensively as Ridley and Coleman, but he has really been coming on during the summer. Don't be surprised if he surpasses some of the other centers in the rankings before all is said and done. Cleare is a little bouncier than the other big-bodied post players and is putting the pieces together at just the right time.
Willie Cauley (Spearville, Kan./Olathe Northwest)
6-11, 210 pounds
Cauley is raw offensively but that is not where his bread is buttered at this point. He is a very long and thin, and is super shot-blocker who can change the game on the defensive end. He needs to add weight and strength, which should come as his body continues to mature but Cauley has a great upside and is not totally inept on the offensive end. He can face to 12 feet and is developing a solid jump hook.
Daniel Ochefu (Westtown, Pa./Westtown School)
6-9, 225 pounds
He is a solid post player who has the ability to do a little bit of everything. Ochefu has good length and skills with the ability to face up and shoot out to 15 feet. The Villanova commit is also a willing passer and active rebounder and will be a very good player once he arrives on campus.
Adam Woodbury (Sioux City, Iowa/East)
6-11, 225 pounds
The lefty is a long, improving pure post player who can be a little awkward, but is productive. Woodbury's game is all within 15 feet of the basket and he is an excellent passer. He is so good that the offense can be run through him.
Best of the rest
Prince Ibeh (Garland, Texas/Naaman Forest)
6-10, 225 pounds
He is another very raw and developing center who is also very long and athletic. Ibeh is a good shot-blocker who can make spectacular plays, and as he continues to improve, he could become a true force by his second collegiate year. He has a long way to go, but his tools are unmistakable.
Steven Adams (New Zealand/Notre Dame Prep)
6-10, 235 pounds
Adams is a newcomer from New Zealand who has yet to play an organized game in the United States. He is very talented and could easily be ranked in the ESPNU 100 (probably good enough to be top 20 overall). Adams is good now, has a very nice upside and is a great get for Pitt.
John Stovall, a recruiting coordinator, has worked as director of scouting for Prep Spotlight Scouting Service and magazine for 15 years.