Brandon Knight headlines list of 2008-09 returning standouts

Brandon Knight is the top point guard in his class. Courtesy of Adidas

High school basketball season is rapidly approaching, and to prep you for what's to come we present ESPNHS.com's players to watch, a 55-player squad of the returning standouts from the 2008-09 school year. We also list 10 freshmen to watch, including a few who could make impacts on ESPNHS FAB 50 teams. (The Preseason FAB 50 boys rankings will be released the first week of November.)

Headlining the selections from the classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 is Brandon Knight, a 6-foot-3 combo guard at Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). As an eighth-grader, Knight helped the Panthers to their first state final four berth in more than 40 years. He averaged 25 points per game and was named national freshman of the year in 2006-07. Knight missed the first 14 games of his sophomore season following back surgery but came back strong, and last season led Pine Crest to its second straight Class 3A state title, averaging 31.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 3.0 steals. He not only edged out ESPNU 100 No. 1 prospect Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) and Ohio Mr. Basketball Jared Sullinger (Northland, Columbus) as class player of the year among juniors for the 2008-09 season, he also became the first player from Florida to earn Gatorade National Player of the Year honors.

(Note: ESPNHS editors have selected all-America teams and compiled national rankings for 20 years. Similar to the selections on the EA SPORTS All-American team, these lists do not include players who have exhausted their regular high school eligibility. The team is based on high school performance last season and not necessarily college potential.)

Class of 2010 Players To Watch:
G -- Keith Appling (Pershing, Detroit, Mich.) 6-2
F -- Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) 6-6
F -- Will Barton (Brewster Academy, Wolfeboro, N.H.) 6-6
G -- Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.) 6-6
G -- Tony Chennault (Neumann-Goretti, Philadelphia, Pa.) 6-0
C -- Carson Desrosiers (Central Catholic, Lawrence, Mass.) 6-10
G -- Gary Franklin (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-3
G -- Tyrone Garland (Bartram, Philadelphia, Pa.) 6-1
F -- Josh Hairston (Montrose Christian, Rockville, Md.) 6-8
G -- Kyrie Irving (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-2
G -- Joe Jackson (White Station, Memphis, Tenn.) 5-11
F -- Terrence Jones (Jefferson, Portland, Ore.) 6-9
G -- Cory Joseph (Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev.) 6-3
G -- Brandon Knight (Pine Crest, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 6-3
F -- C.J. Leslie (Word of God Academy, Raleigh, N.C.) 6-7
F -- Nate Lubick (St. Mark's School, Southborough, Mass.) 6-8
F -- Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) 6-7
F -- Terrence Ross (Montrose Christian, Rockville, Md.) 6-6
C -- Josh Smith (Kentwood, Covington, Wash.) 6-9
F -- Roscoe Smith (Wallbrook, Baltimore, Md.) 6-8
F -- Jared Sullinger (Northland, Columbus, Ohio) 6-8
F -- DeShaun Thomas (Luers, Fort Wayne, Ind.) 6-7
C -- Jeremy Tyler (San Diego, Calif.) 6-10*
G -- Royce Woolridge (Sunnyslope, Phoenix, Ariz.) 6-3
G -- Joseph Young (Yates, Houston, Texas) 6-2

*Will forgo senior season to play pro basketball

2008-09 Junior Player of the Year: Brandon Knight

Knight has a great feel for the game and an improved outside shot, as he finished his junior season with a school record 127 3-pointers. Knight will enter his senior season with school records of 259 career three-pointers and 2,589 points, as the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year already owns eight school records. Knight is the first-ever junior honoree from the state of Florida and next year could become the Sunshine State's first-ever Mr. Basketball USA honoree.

Class of 2011 Players To Watch:
G -- Bradley Beal (Chaminade, St. Louis, Mo.) 6-3
G -- Gary Bell (Kentridge, Kent, Wash.) 6-1
C -- Angelo Chol (Hoover, San Diego, Calif.) 6-8
G -- Quinn Cook (DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md.) 6-1
F -- Mike Gilchrist (St. Patrick's, Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-8
G -- P.J. Hairston (Dudley, Greensboro, N.C.) 6-5
G -- Joe Hanstad (Dickinson, N.D.) 6-3
F -- LaDontae Henton (Eastern, Lansing, Mich.) 6-5
G -- Trevor Lacey (Butler, Huntsville, Ala.) 6-3
F -- James McAdoo (Norfolk Christian, Norfolk, Va.) 6-9
F -- LeBryan Nash (Lincoln, Dallas, Texas) 6-7
F -- Johnny O'Bryant (Eastside, Cleveland, Miss.) 6-8
G -- Chasson Randle (Rock Island, Ill.) 6-2
G -- Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) 6-3
C -- Julian Royal (Milton, Alpharetta, Ga.) 6-8

F -- LaQuinton Ross (Murrah, Jackson, Miss.) 6-8
F -- Mike Shaw (De La Salle, Chicago, Ill.) 6-7
F -- Adonis Thomas (Melrose, Cordova, Tenn.) 6-6
F -- Kyle Wiltjer (Jesuit, Portland, Ore.) 6-9
G -- Tony Wroten Jr. (Garfield, Seattle, Wash.) 6-3 * *

** Will miss junior season because of injury

2008-09 Sophomore Player of the Year: Mike Gilchrist

Playing on a team with senior guard Dexter Strickland, a second team All-American, and junior All-American Kyrie Irving, Gilchrist not only emerged as the Celts' top player but as tops in the Garden State. He can rebound and block shots and is the first New Jersey sophomore player of the year since Paterson Catholic's Tim Thomas in 1993-94.

Class of 2012 Players To Watch:
F -- Justin Anderson (Montrose Christian, Rockville, Md.) 6-4
C -- DaJuan Coleman (Jamesville-Dewitt, Dewitt, N.Y.) 6-8
F -- Perry Ellis (Wichita Heights, Wichita, Kan.) 6-7
F -- Jack Flournoy (Oak Hill, W.V.) 6-6
G -- Shabazz Muhammad (Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev.) 6-3
C -- Tony Parker (Miller Grove, Lithonia, Ga.) 6-8
F -- Reggie Ragland (Bob Jones, Madison, Ala.) 6-3
G -- J-Mychal Reese (Bryan, Texas) 6-1
G -- Ladarius White (McComb, Miss.) 6-4
G -- Gabe York (Lutheran, Orange, Calif.) 6-2

2008-09 Freshman Player of the Year: DaJuan Coleman

Playing alongside Syracuse recruit Brandon Triche, Coleman averaged nearly 12 points a game for a team that lost only once and won the New York Federation Class A state title. The 6-8, 245-pound center came up big in the state title victory over Peekskill, finishing with 18 points and 18 rebounds. Coleman was the fifth New Yorker to earn national freshman of the year honors since the 1986 season but the first from outside New York City's five boroughs.

Freshmen to Watch:
F -- Beejay Anya (DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md.) 6-9
F -- Brian Bridgewater (Episcopal, Baton Rouge, La.) 6-6

F -- Austin Colbert (St. Patrick, Elizabeth, N.J.) 6-8
F -- Alex Foster (De La Salle, Chicago, Ill.) 6-7
C -- Thomas Hamilton (Whitney Young, Chicago, Ill.) 6-8
G -- Peter Jok (Roosevelt, Des Moines, Iowa) 6-3
F -- Roschon Prince (Poly, Long Beach, Calif.) 6-4
G -- Rodney Purvis (Upper Room Christian Academy, Raleigh, N.C.) 6-2
F -- Ishmael Wainwright (Raytown South, Raytown, Mo.) 6-4
G -- Nigel Williams-Goss (Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev.) 6-1

Ronnie Flores and Doug Huff cover high school sports for ESPNHS.com.