The conclusion of July signifies the end of the most intense month of talent evaluation for college coaches. For players, it allows a welcome break from a hectic schedule that usually involves playing more than a game a day. With the club season in the books, it seemed like the perfect time to re-evaluate our 2010 ESPNU 100.
The race for No. 1
Much has changed in this latest installment of the rankings. The very top spot, however, has remained the same.
Shooting guard Harrison Barnes' consistent excellence earned him the No. 1 spot when we expanded our player rankings to 100 early in the spring. This summer Barnes (Ames, Iowa) was nothing less than spectacular.
He's the complete package in his skills and his demeanor. He is a creative scorer with a textbook pull-up jumper. He can put points on the board with his shot, which extends well beyond the 3-point line, or by getting to the basket. He also demonstrated a killer instinct: Against the best of the best at the Nike Global Challenge, Barnes scored 46 points for the USA Midwest squad against Serbia.
Speaking of excellent college players, Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) absolutely has the talent to be one. The 6-foot-8 power forward moves up to the No. 2 spot in our new ESPNU 100.
Sullinger, an Ohio State commit, is a proven winner: His All-Ohio Red club has been one of the best on the AAU circuit the past few years.
Neither Sullinger nor Barnes possesses the most pro potential in the 2010 class. That distinction belongs to rapidly rising big man Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas). Jones, who holds the third spot in our new rankings, might have been the summer's breakout prospect.
The 6-11 Jones, a Baylor commit, rebounds, blocks shots and handles the ball. He can make a 15-foot jumper and is a deft passer from the high post. He doesn't have the tenacity of a Kevin Garnett, but in terms of skills he has that type of frame and that game. The biggest thing for Jones is he needs to be an everyday player, not a when-I-feel-like-it guy. Still, this kid is an absolute matchup nightmare.
In our mind, the recipe for ratings is productivity, potential, study of the game and intangibles. In addition to the aforementioned trio, a few other players really seem to have distinguished themselves from the pack and have the potential to end this class as the nation's No. 1-ranked prospect. That group includes elite talents like No. 4 PG Brandon Knight (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest), who missed part of the summer with an injury; No. 5 SG Will Barton (Baltimore/Brewster Academy); No. 6 PG Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick); and No. 7 PF Tobias Harris (Brookville, N.Y./Half Hallows).
These three players shot up the charts because of their play in recent months:
Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton) missed considerable time last high school season, making it hard for scouts and coaches to get a good read on him. What we saw this summer was a player capable of taking over games from the point guard spot. Selby moves from No. 24 to No. 8. He is extremely quick and crafty; he gets wherever he wants to on the floor with his dribble. He wants to take the big shot, and he has the ability and the mindset to make it.
Brazilian-born center Fabricio Melo (Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School) sat out last high school season after transferring to the States. His play on the circuit has propelled him from No. 59 to No. 20 in the new ESPNU 100. Melo is one of the only true centers in this class, and he plays very hard. He changes games on the defensive end with his shot-blocking and rebounding. He also shows a surprisingly consistent face-up jumper. The recent Syracuse commit does have some work to do: His low-post skills are very raw, and like many big men, his conditioning could improve.
Dwight Powell (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) is another big man who shot up the charts -- from No. 86 to 37 -- in the new player rankings. Powell is one of the most skilled big guys in the country: He knocks down 3s and midrange jumpers without hesitation. He is capable of leading the fast break off a rebound. We'd like to see the 6-11 center use his body to his advantage a bit more. He needs to be more physical on both ends and hit the glass consistently.
Of course, every player ranked among the nation's top 100 is an elite recruit. However, when some move up, others have to fall. These three players moved down in the new ESPNU 100:
Formerly ranked No. 2, PF Tristan Thompson's lack of rebounding and scoring production this summer causes him to dip slightly in our rankings to No. 11. Thompson (Henderson, Nev./Findlay Prep) is still an elite prospect, but his added strength might be hindering his explosiveness. This high school season will be a key for Thompson's development. The Texas commit will be playing for one of the nation's elite high school programs in Findlay Prep. Both Findlay's game schedule and rigorous practices could give him the extra push he needs.
When he's on, big man Joshua Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) is an explosive and powerful athlete. Smith, however, looked out of shape at times this summer. He drops from No. 6 to No. 10 in our new rankings. He needs to add some face-up moves to his arsenal and work on his conditioning. Smith is a guy with the potential to dominate games, but he needs to find a killer instinct. Still, he has great hands and a high ceiling.
Recent Florida International commit Dominique Ferguson (Indianapolis/Hargrave Military Academy) is as good an athlete as there is in the Class of 2010. Still, his struggles at a few major events this summer have dropped him down from No. 8 to No. 46. When he's fired up and focused, he's a top-20 player. Those attributes have been lacking in recent months. Of course, he's a tremendous pickup for Florida International. If he becomes more consistent in his approach, Isiah Thomas is getting a player who can really affect the game.
These players are among those making their first appearance on the ESPNU 100:
PF James Johnson (San Diego/Morse) plays an active, intense brand of basketball. He debuts at No. 69 in our latest rankings. Johnson has a versatile offensive game: He can pull opposing posts away from the hoop with his jumper. The 6-9 post is a skilled rebounder on both ends of the floor. Like so many big men at this stage, we'd like to see him be a little bit more consistent.
SG Stacey Poole (Jacksonville, Fla./Jackson) really showed to play at the AAU national tournaments. Poole, who makes his debut on the ESPNU 100 at No. 51, is extremely athletic and can finish at the rim and pull up in the lane. His jumper is making progress from beyond the arc. He has steadily improved and could be a very good four-year college player.
This isn't a great year for talent on the West Coast, but a few bigs from that region caught our eye this summer. Alex Kirk (Los Alamos, N.M.), a skilled shooter and passer, falls under that category. Kirk checks into the rankings at No. 97. At 6-9, he's more of a finesse big. Although he might not be a traditional low-post type, his skills could be utilized at the college level.
ESPNU 100 notes
We mentioned him above a potential candidate for No .1, but we were very impressed with PF Tobias Harris' work ethic. He hit the gym hard in the offseason, and it showed at several marquee events. Harris has versatile skills that make him a very difficult defensive assignment for opponents. One name you won't see on this list is Andre Dawkins (Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores Christian). The former top-10 prospect is attempting to reclassify as a 2009 recruit and enroll at Duke. We are assuming that will happen. PG Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) has really came on the past year. The recent Nike Global Challenge MVP is skilled off the dribble and can score with the best of them. He has established himself as one of the nation's elite point guards with a high basketball IQ.
Reggie Rankin, Joel Francisco, John Stovall and Mike LaPlante contributed to this report.
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.