Over the past few years we at Scouts Inc. have watched tons of tape and personally scouted the players in the Class of 2009. Some of these kids, such as Lance Stephenson (New York/Lincoln) and Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South), have been on our radar from Day 1. Other prospects, such as John Jenkins (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) and Kawhi Leonard (Riverside, Calif./King), were not as quick to emerge, but with their play over the past year they showed themselves to be guys with very good potential at the next level.
With last week's National High School Invitational completed, the high school basketball season is done. Along with that, it is time for us to rate the talent in this class one final time. Here's a look at the final ESPNU 100 for the Class of 2009.
A new No. 1
While attending the McDonald's All-American Game, I had the chance to see the nation's best up close and personal. The practices leading up to the game featured a combination of skill work and scrimmage. It gave me an opportunity to study work habits and see how coachable each individual can be.
This class has its star power like all others. The frontcourt is loaded with size and skill forwards who possess the ability to step away from the basket and score, pass with vision and handle well for their size. In terms of guards, this class has great scorers and distributors who can really make the players.
When analyzing the top player in this class, we look at their body of work, productivity and long-range potential. Obviously, we are talking about the type of guy who can be his college team's go-to option and be a difference-maker. Also, keep in mind that we are projecting this player's college potential and beyond.
In our eyes, explosive athlete Avery Bradley (Tacoma, Wash./Findlay College Prep (Nev.)) has emerged as the No. 1 player in the land. He was named the MVP of the National High School Invitational in Washington, D.C. He guided Findlay to victories over Mountain State Academy, No. 8 Montrose Christian and No. 1 Oak Hill Academy. In each of those games, it was evident that Bradley was the difference.
Bradley is the most complete player in the class and is a difference-maker both offensively and defensively, which is rare. This young man has steadily risen up the rankings since last season. Initially it was his defensive play that propelled him. Bradley plays with great intensity each and every possession, and from a defensive standpoint he is an absolute lockup on-the-ball defender, the best in his class. He uses his length with superior quickness and intelligence to force the offensive player into bad situations. He is committed to keeping his man out of the lane, chasing him off screens and contesting jump shots.
While Bradley built his reputation as a defender, the strides he made on offense are what enabled him to ascend to the top of our rankings. He excels in the open floor, often grabbing a rebound, running with it and finishing with a dunk. In the half court, he works hard to get open and takes what is given without hunting down shots. His midrange game is outstanding, both off the dribble and off the catch. Of late, he has hit the 3-point shot with regularity, which would make him hard to guard with an already strong dribble drive and pull-up jumper. This young man scores, defends and makes everyone around him better. He leads his team to wins and, more importantly, championships.
The other candidates
While Bradley finished with the top ranking, he's far from the only elite prospect in the 2009 class. Two other players held the top spot in our 2009 player rankings throughout this recruiting cycle, and many others were in contention at one time or another. We want to give special mention to Derrick Favors and Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City), who both showed awe-inspiring ability during their high school careers.
When it comes to the cream of the crop in the frontcourt, Favors rises to the top. The aspect of his game that is most impressive is his constant effort and the ensuing results. He impacts the game with his athletic ability, rebounding and shot blocking. Don't sleep on this young man offensively, either. His face-the-basket game has improved greatly: He can hit a wide-open 3 and consistently knocks down shots from 15 feet and in. He led South Atlanta to a state championship, averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds per game for the team that finished ranked No. 15 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50.
Henry started the season with injuries from a car accident, then suffered a foot injury. Still, he had a good season, leading Putnam City to a state title. This powerful 6-foot-6 shooting guard is now in terrific physical shape. He has a stroke well out to the NBA line and understands how to create space for himself by using the dribble step back move. He also can create for himself with the dribble, carrying defenders on his hip as he uses a quick first step. Henry rebounds on both ends of the court and is a willing passer. He can be an excellent on-ball defender when he concentrates on that aspect of his game. Henry's future is extremely bright at the next level and beyond with his work ethic.
The super sleeper
No. 49 Terrell Vinson (Baltimore/St. Frances) is a versatile player who can play both the power forward and small forward positions and fill up the stat sheet. He's a threat to score at most spots on the floor and is especially adept in the low post because of his soft touch and extension on his release. Vinson has a good face-up game; he can really make the defense pay from 17 feet and in or slash his way to the hoop. He plays under former Temple star Mark Karcher who instills defensive intensity and a hard-nosed attitude in all his players. An unsigned recruit, Vinson is being pursued by UMass, Maryland, South Florida, Providence and Cincinnati.
Solomon Hill (Los Angeles/Fairfax) made the biggest jump in this final installment of the 2009 player rankings, moving from 96 to 54. Hill, a versatile forward, showed he can dominate the game from inside the arc this past season. His passing skills and ability to take defenders off the dribble set him apart from other his size. At 6-6, he is a very good rebounder, who isn't afraid to mix it up down low. He has also shown to be a big-game player; he was the key to Fairfax's upset of top-ranked Mater Dei late in the season.
Also moving up: John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) from 6 to 5; Jordan Hamilton (Compton, Calif./Dominguez) from 9 to 8;
Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, Fla./American Heritage) 10 to 9; Mason Plumlee (Warsaw, Ind./Christ School) 11 to 10; Mouphtaou Yarou (Rockville, Md./Montrose Christian) 27 to 18; John Jenkins (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) 30 to 21; Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde); Tommy Mason-Griffin (Houston/Madison) 37 to 24; Elijah Johnson 69 to 28 (Las Vegas/Cheyenne); Lorenzo Brown (Roswell, Ga./Centennial) 49 to 29; Noel Johnson (Fayetteville, Ga./Fayette County) 65 to 30; Jamil Wilson (Racine, Wis./William Horlick) 62 to 31; Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy) 58 to 40; Aaron Dotson (Seattle/Rainier Beach) 66 to 45; Shawn Williams (Duncanville, Texas) 72 to 53; Kawhi Leonard 78 to 56 (Riverside, Calif./King).
Most of the players who moved down did so because others just had a great season. All the players in our rankings are excellent players and prospects.
Tristan Spurlock (Woodbridge, Va./Word of Life Christian Academy) is a small forward with good size and athleticism. Although he is a pretty good shooter to about 17 feet, Spurlock's lack of a long-range shot hurts him; he fell from 59 to 80 in the ESPNU 100. Spurlock also needs to work on his ability to change speeds with the ball off the bounce. Spurlock is a solid player, and as he works on his skills he will be ready for the next level.
Also moving down:
John Henson 3 to 6 (Tampa, Fla./Sickles); Xavier Henry 1 to 3 (Oklahoma City/Putnam City); Renardo Sidney (Los Angeles/Fairfax) 5 to 7;
Lance Stephenson (New York/Lincoln) 8 to 12; Ryan Kelly (Raleigh, N.C./Ravenscroft) 12 to 17; Dexter Strickland 21 to 27 (Rahway, N.J./St. Patrick); Leslie McDonald (Memphis/Briarcrest) 24 to 32; Erik Murphy (South Kingstown, R.I./St. Mark's) 22 to 38; Deniz Kilicli (Beckley, W.Va./Mountain State University Academy) 28 to 47; Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.) 35 to 51; DaShonte Riley (Detroit/Country Day) 33 to 58;
Aaric Murray (Concordville, Pa./Glen Mills) 34 to 59; Kammeon Holsey (Sparta, Ga./Hancock Central) 43 to 63; DeShawn Painter (Norfolk, Va./Hargrave Military) 38 to 64; Jeronne Maymon (Madison, Wis.) 55 to 79; Tyler Griffey (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette) 71 to 91; Lakeem Jackson (Charlotte, N.C./Christ School) 76 to 93.
New to the ESPNU 100
USC-bound PF Derrick Williams (La Mirada, Calif.) made his debut in the ESPNU 100 at No. 72. He has really showed remarkable improvement the past two years. His versatility could be an asset for USC coach Tim Floyd. Williams posses a strong basketball IQ and is effective off the dribble. However, his jumper could use a little work. If he does that, Williams could really capitalize on his great potential.
Also joining the ESPNU 100: Dan Jennings (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Thomas More) 60; Chris Colvin (Chicago/Young) 77; Brandon Paul (Warren, Ill.) 87; Jon Hood (Madisonville, Ky./North Hopkins) 92; Darius Morris (Los Angeles/Windward) 100.
Falling out of the rankings
Any time you have players moving in to the Top 100, some are going to fall out. Terrence Boyd (San Diego), formerly No. 54, fell out mostly because of circumstance. The talented swing forward was ruled ineligible because of complications with his transferring schools.
The spring and summer circuit has been Boyd's only chance to play recently. He excels in the transition game and gets where he wants on the floor with the dribble and should be a good defender with his strength and athleticism. It was a tough season for this young man, and going to Western Kentucky will be a perfect home.
Also dropped out: Greg Smith (Diamond Bar, Calif./Westwind Prep) 64; Talib Zanna (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) 86; Jack Cooley (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) 92; Brandon Triche (DeWitt, N.Y.) 95; Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio) 100.
Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Antonio Williams, John Stovall, Reggie Rankin and Joel Francisco contributed to this report.