The 11 story lines for the Class of 2011
Over the next few days, we're going to inundate you with rankings, trends and analysis. We're going to spin signing day a thousand different ways. Before we overload you with information, this is a good time to break down the Class of 2011 from 11 different angles.
The Calipari effect
This season, the SEC added four top-10 recruits and eight players in the top 25 of the ESPNU 100. That's the most of any league in America and Kentucky is a driving force behind the numbers. The Wildcats have three of the top six players, and four of the top 16. In fact, in the two years prior to John Calipari's arrival, the league signed just four top-10 players and seven top-25 prospects. During the three years Calipari has been in the SEC, the league has 11 top-10 prospects and 19 top-25 players. Basically an entire league has stepped up its game in response to UK's recruiting success.
Who will finish No. 1?
Austin Rivers is the most lethal scorer in the senior class. Since his freshman season he has sported a scoring package that belies his age. So far, it has worked pretty well for him as he currently sits atop the ESPNU 100. The player in his rearview mirror is Anthony Davis. The fastest-rising late bloomer of the decade is every bit the prospect and he'd dazzle the NBA guys if they saw him. With Michael Gilchrist and Quincy Miller in the conversation, buckle up for a great year.
Gone, baby, gone
When Myck Kabongo recommitted to Texas last week, he helped the Horns beat the odds. Within the Class of 2011, 32 players reneged on verbal commitments. Only Kabongo and center Chris Coleman (committed to Florida International) made their way back to their original schools. If your favorite team loses a commitment, by our math, there's a mere 6 percent chance of getting him back. Ouch.
The Big East's reputation on the hardwood is well-earned. It's a league that sports Hall of Fame coaching and lots of tournament bids. It's also a league that doesn't need to do it with top-10 high school players. That's right, in the past five years the Big East signed three top-10 prospects, tying with the Big Ten for the fewest among the power conferences. By comparison, the SEC has 15, the Big 12 10 and the ACC nine. "I do think, in the Big East, more than star players, there are star teams," former St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "In the Big 12, you might see more star players but not as many star teams. Villanova, Pittsburgh, those are star teams and there's more of that in the Big East."
Rutgers coach Mike Rice didn't inherit a pretty situation. He had playing time to sell and needed a talent infusion, so Rice returned to his roots and now has a top-15 recruiting class coming in. Four of his signees are from the fertile New York/New Jersey region, two more are Washington, D.C., products. His D.C. corridor connection is associate head coach David Cox, a former D.C. Assault coach. Two of the seven recruits are in the ESPNU 100, but that's not important. The key here is that this class was needed and Rice delivered the goods a year ahead of schedule.
Arkansas spreads its Wings
The Hogs needed a big-time recruiting class and coach John Pelphrey and his staff got it done. Adding players and talent is one thing, but recruiting built-in chemistry with a penchant for winning is another. Three of Arkansas' signees played on the Arkansas Wings national championship AAU team. Another, point guard B.J. Young, led his squad to a fifth-place finish in the same event. Pelphrey capitalized on the local talent in a year he needed a big class and won't have to worry about the intangible of winning with this group.
Regardless of whether Duke defends its national championship in April, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils will undergo a makeover. Seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are gone, exiting after distinguished careers. Frankly, the idea of Kyrie Irving in Durham for more than a season looks like a pipe dream. Enter Rivers, the perfect guy for a bridge season from a chemistry standpoint. Next season Duke will need a dominant offensive personality and Rivers is just that, a dominant offensive personality.
Hitting the boards
Last year, picking the best rebounder was easy. Jared Sullinger, now at Ohio State, was hands down the guy who patrolled the paint with a passion for the glass. This time around, the task is tougher. In theory, the ESPNU 100 should include at least 40 bigs. This year, the senior class is shallow in the frontcourt and less than a third of our top 100 slots were reserved for guys with size. The class lacks a dominant power player in the paint. Right now, the best offensive rebounder is Branden Dawson, while the most instinctive board man in the class overall may be Dorian Finney-Smith. Dawson is 6-6 and Finney-Smith is 6-7; this isn't a good sign for college basketball. If you're looking for a Kevin Love or Emeka Okafor you're in the wrong class.
Going For The Gold
Kobe, LeBron and D-Wade are making an impact at the high school level. It's cool to play for USA. The junior and senior national teams were strongly supported by the Class of 2011. USA captured a pair of gold medals last summer and was powered by 11 of ESPN's top 25 seniors, including seven players from the top 10. Canada's program was bolstered by Kabongo and Kyle Wiltjer. The 6-foot-9 Wiltjer has dual citizenship and opted to play for Canada with the hopes of making its Olympic team one day.
Syracuse puts premium on size
The shortest player Syracuse signed in the past five years was Jonny Flynn (6 feet) and he blossomed into a lottery pick. Aside from Flynn, it's pretty clear that Jim Boeheim's preference is slanted toward size and length. Last year, he went all in for aircraft carrier Fab Melo. This time around, Boeheim added Rakeen Christmas, an above-the-rim shot-blocker with good length. The Cuse also added Michael Carter-Williams (6-5), who is right up its alley with his extendable wing span. A guy like 6-4 Trevor Cooney is going to get a complex.
When you add up the numbers, the ACC, SEC and Big 12 combined to sign 17 of the top 25 prospects in America this time around. The Big Ten, Big East and Pac-10 fell behind in the arms race this season and there's cause for long term concern. In the past five classes, the SEC has the most top-10 players with 15. The Big 12 has 10 and the ACC comes in with nine. Combined, the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East have just 11.
The Best Of The Best
While the majority of the players in the ESPNU 100 have already committed, that doesn't mean every one of them is a household name. ESPN Recruiting has been watching their development for years and offers in-depth evaluations of all the nation's top players.
|SG||6-4||189||Duke||Rivers might be the most prolific offensive player in the class. More|
|PF||200||Kentucky||Davis, one of the class' most versatile players, has huge upside. More|
|SF||6-7||210||Kentucky||Gilchrist takes defending and rebounding personally. More|
|PF||6-9||210||Baylor||Miller is an elite player and one of the top NBA prospects in his class. More|
|PF||6-8||216||UNC||McAdoo is an old-school throwback who is highly skilled and fundamentally sound. More|
|PG||6-2||175||Kentucky||Teague is the most dangerous open court player in the 2011 class. More|
|SG||6-3||177||Florida||Beal is a pure shooter who draws comparisons to Ray Allen. More|
|SF||6-6||210||Memphis||He is too strong and athletic for SFs to guard, and too skilled and quick for PFs to handle. More|
|PG||6-2||170||Texas||Kabongo is an intelligent player with great leadership skills and a coach's feel for running a team. More|
|C||6-9||222||Syracuse||Christmas is one of the top post players because of his consistent ability to block and alter shots. More|
Let's see ... three of the top six players in the country and four of the top 16 have committed to play for Kentucky. Is that any good? A class that includes PF Anthony Davis, SF Michael Gilchrist, PG Marquis Teague and PF Kyle Wiltjer will be tough for anyone to top.
Duke Blue Devils
Landing the nation's best player will help any class ranking, but this class is more than just SG Austin Rivers. There's an elite PG in Quinn Cook and a familiar name at center in 6-foot-11 Marshall Plumlee, who will joins his brothers Miles and Mason at Durham. Also add in smooth-scoring 6-6 wing Michael Gbinije to this impressive class.
Perhaps the biggest surprises of the class rankings, but this is no fluke. The Hogs have five-star PG B.J. Young, plus three four-star players in SG Ky Madden, SF Aaron Ross and 6-10 PF Hunter Mickelson (Jonesboro, Ark./Westside). Don't forget Devonte Abron, a high three-star PF.
Three to watch
It wasn't a make-or-break year for the Jayhawks on the recruiting trail, but one has to think Bill Self is anxious to sign a big-timer. They're involved with ESPNU 100 power forward Angelo Chol (San Diego, Calif./Hoover), who he will sign late. The Jayhawks' lone chance for an early period splash is wing Ben McLemore (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill), who has the Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers on his list.
The Volunteers have a pair of players committed and both are expected to sign. There's a signing ceremony for Chris Jones (Oak Ridge, N.C./Oak Ridge Military) on Wednesday at his school. Guard Kevin Ware (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County) is committed to Bruce Pearl and was on campus two weeks ago. Both have national letters of intent in their possession and despite NCAA investigation, remain on board.
For those of you who guessed coach Brad Stevens would blow up his recruiting model following the Final Four, you guessed wrong. Stevens approached this year the "Butler Way" and signed another class that mimics what the program is all about. Butler is a finalist for Cody Zeller (Washington, Ind./Washington) and he's a top-20 prospect who will sign early with either the Bulldogs, Hoosiers or Tar Heels.
ESPNU Signing Day Special
With the early signing period set to begin Wednesday, ESPNU is the place to be for all of your recruiting coverage with Friday's "Basketball Signing Day Special" (1 p.m. ET). Some of the nation's best players will discuss their college choices and college basketball's top coaches will talk about their recruiting classes with host Lowell Galindo and analysts Paul Biancardi and Dave Telep.
ESPNU Basketball Signing Day Special
Friday, 1 p.m. ET
Top Uncommitted Point Guard
5-8, 150 pounds | Full eval
Player rank: NR
Position rank: 35
Why they want him: While he doesn't possess ideal size, Daniels has other skills that make up for it. He has high-level speed and quickness, especially in transition and off the bounce. His handle is slick and deceptive (he has a terrific crossover) and he has a quick burst to get by his defender. He can deliver the nifty assist in traffic or settle for one of his patented floaters. He always has his head up in transition and is ultra-competitive.
Recruiting update: There hasn't been much talk about Daniels, but the latest is that while UCLA is sniffing around, Tim Floyd and UTEP are leading the way.
• All uncommitted point guards
Top Uncommitted Shooting Guard
(Huntsville, Ala./S.R. Butler)
6-3, 200 pounds | Full eval
Player rank: 52
Position rank: 16
Why they want him: Lacey is considered a winner because he already has two state championships, but he also is a jack-of-all-trades on the court who can hit open tough shots with range to the arc. Lacey has an excellent basketball IQ to go along with his great physical strength for a perimeter player.
Recruiting update: The word on the street is that Alabama and Auburn are in a heated in-state battle, and the Kentucky Wildcats also are heavily in the mix. Kansas and UConn have made some headway. While he could pull the trigger next week, we've heard Lacey might hold out until the spring.
• All uncommitted shooting guards
Top Uncommitted Small Forward
(Woodland Hills, Calif./IMG)
6-7, 191 pounds | Eval
Player rank: 35
Position rank: 11
Why they want him: As one of the elite scoring wings in the 2011 class, Daniels, who has the potential to be a point-producing impact player, possesses an offensive arsenal that is more developed than most of his peers and has great size and length (7-2 wingspan) for his position. He is a solid rebounder who is developing into a better defender and teammate.
Recruiting update: Daniels, who originally committed to Texas, looked hard at potentially coming out with the 2010 class, but decided to work on his game at IMG Academy and reclassify to the 2011 class. He intends to wait until the spring to make a final college decision and should be an extra-hot commodity because he is one of the top remaining players left on the board. He has too many schools interested in his services to list them and many more sure to jump in.
• All uncommitted small forwards
Top Uncommitted Power Forward
(San Diego, Calif./Herbert Hoover)
6-8, 210 pounds | Full eval
Player rank: 64
Position rank: 11
Why they want him: Chol is a hybrid 4-man who can hurt the opposition inside and out. His energy level is contagious and he has a terrific court demeanor. His go-to move is a potent left-handed jump hook and he's a big-time rebounder and shot blocker as well. His face-up game has continued to progress, but he still needs to get more consistent with his jump shot out to the stripe.
Recruiting update: Chol has set his announcement date for Feb. 17. He has already been to Alabama and Kansas and has planned visits to UNC (Jan. 2), Arizona (Jan. 29) and Washington (Feb. 12). There are no leaders at this point and he has kept his recruiting pretty close to the vest. In addition, all the schools mentioned above will lack quality depth at the 4-spot heading into next season.
• All uncommitted power forwards
Top Uncommitted Center
(Birmingham, Mich./Country Day)
6-10, 220 pounds | Full eval
Player rank: 39
Position rank: 2
Why they want him: Williams is a hybrid post with the length, athleticism and quick bounce to make plays above the rim on both ends of the floor. He beats opposing bigs from rim to rim to score in transition, blocks shots from the weak side of the floor and rebounds on both ends. His offensive skills are also consistently evolving with an emerging low-post and face-up game.
Recruiting update: Williams recently trimmed his list to just five with Purdue, Ohio State and Florida thought to be the favorites. He is in the midst of taking his visits now, having just returned from Purdue last weekend, traveling to Michigan this weekend and having a trip scheduled for Ohio State Nov. 12.
• All uncommitted centers
Video: Kabongo's Decision