A lot can be accomplished and established over a hot summer in the world of basketball recruiting. It's when you find guys who love the game, practicing long hours in the gym, working diligently on their skills and competing in AAU basketball against all types of talent.
After our staff watched games all over the country and evaluated and re-evaluated hundreds of prospects, we have revised the ESPNU 100 and crowned a new No. 1 prospect.
For a player to be No.1 he has to separate himself from all the rest. A truly great player consistently dominates his opponents through some statistical manner (scoring, rebounding, assists or blocks) and non-statistical manner (on-ball defense, team defense, hustle plays, passion). That player also should make everyone around him better. He has a personality that extracts the best out of his teammates while performing at a high level. The best players always help their team win games and championships.
Six-foot-6 SG Xavier Henry's (Oklahoma City/Putnam City) game rose to another level this summer and earned him the No. 1 ranking in the ESPNU 100. The lefty is a prolific scorer who can take over a game with his high skill level, long-range shooting and a chiseled, strong frame with good wingspan.
Rising to be No.1 takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication -- staying there takes more. Six-foot-9 PF Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South Atlanta), who falls only slightly from No. 1 to No. 2, is in his own right a dominating player and a force around the basket. He played very well and was consistent all summer, but Henry's performance was extraordinary.
In leading his Athlete's First AAU team to the invitation-only AAU Super Showcase title in Orlando, Henry had incredible performances in all his games and played his best as the tournament progressed and the intensity built. Besides developing a midrange game -- the hardest shot for young players to learn -- and improving his right hand, he is the total package.
Henry can take and make from the NBA 3-point line, and with his size and elevation on his jumper, he shoots over most defenders. His signature move right now is his step-back jumper, on which he takes a hard dribble to create space before stepping back for the shot. What makes him most dangerous is he uses his dribble-drive very effectively to complement his accurate shooting. He drives with power to the basket and can absorb contact, score the ball and get to the free-throw line for the old fashion 3-point play. Defensively -- when motivated -- he is an excellent on-ball defender.
Currently undecided on his college choice, his leaders are Kansas and Memphis.
More ESPNU 100 Movers
Through his very strong play this summer, particularly at the LeBron James Skills Academy and the Nike Global Challenge, 6-10 PF John Henson (Tampa, Fla./Sickles) demonstrated why he should rank among the nation's elite prospects. The North Carolina verbal moves up from No. 16 to No. 3 in the ESPNU 100.
Henson has the ability to step away from the basket and connect on jumpers out to the 3-point line, but he needs to become a more consistent shooter. He excels in the transition game and finishes above the rim with ease, using his great leaping ability and length. Henson also rebounds the ball well and generally plays hard on both ends of the court. He blocks shots very well both coming from the weakside and on the ball. Henson also has the ability to handle the ball in the open court and passes well for his size. He has a great deal of upside and his best basketball lies ahead of him.
Six-foot-8 SF Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.) displayed his amazingly versatile offensive skill set throughout the summer, especially during the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas, and vaults from No. 70 to No. 34.
He has very nice touch to go along with a textbook high release on his jumper, which allows him to hit perimeter shots beyond 3-point territory. He also can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. His versatility really comes to the forefront when his team plays him as a power forward instead of at his more natural small forward slot. Honeycutt, despite giving up muscle and girth, battles for rebounds on both ends. He also has decent vision and passing skills and rarely forces the issue on offense. He will become an even better offensive talent with when he adds more strength and muscle to his frame.
6-3 SG Avery Bradley (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) effectively used the summer AAU circuit to catapult in the national player rankings from No. 49 to No. 15. He put together strong performance after strong performance in a number of events, especially in Las Vegas, the Best of the Summer in Los Angeles and the Nike Global Challenge in Portland.
Bradley makes use of his outstanding athletic ability to score the ball with ease. He has great quickness off the dribble and can get to the rim and score at the rim or connect on a pull-up jumper in the midrange. When Bradley gets to the rim, he has the leaping ability to produce highlight-reel, above-the-rim finishes. Bradley has also improved on the defensive end, using his lateral quickness to place good pressure on the ball.
Six-foot-7 SF Royce White (Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins) made significant strides during the summer, especially through stellar play at the LeBron James Skills Academy. The Minnesota commit now ranks as the No. 23 prospect, jumping from No. 61.
He truly plays as an inside-outside threat with his ability to score close to the basket as well on the perimeter. White will hit the jump shot, but he has really improved his ability to create his own shot off the dribble. When he operates off the bounce, he also uses his good vision and passing skills to locate open teammates for easy shots either on the perimeter or in the paint. White also does a very good job of playing defense and has the size and quickness needed to defend the shooting guard, small forward and sometimes power forward spots.
Six-foot-5 SG Durand Scott (New York/Rice) used his ability to score in bunches to climb the ladder in the ESPNU 100 to No. 43 from No. 56. He scored with relative ease throughout the summer, using events such as the Boston Shootout, the NBPA Top 100 Camp and the LeBron James Skills Academy to further strengthen his position on the national landscape. Scott can create his own offense off the dribble by attacking the rim with great persistence. Once at the rim he has good body control and makes adjustments to connect on a number of difficult shot attempts. He also has the ability to hit pull-up jumpers in the midrange, though he needs to continue to improve his jump shot consistency; he tends to become a streak shooter from the perimeter.
Six-foot-9, 290-pound center Keith Gallon, who has transferred from Oak Hill Academy (Va.) to Word of God Academy (N.C.), enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 21. When positioning himself in the paint, he dominated opponents all summer long. His wide body, soft hands and nimble feet allow him to score easily in the paint. He possesses terrific skill facing the basket; "Tiny" has range to 17 feet and passes well in a high/low game.
At times he is lazy whether it is in low-post defense or running the floor. With that said, at the Nike Main Event in Las Vegas, he had numerous double-doubles. In Orlando at the Super Showcase and the AAU Nationals, he was productive again scoring double-figure points and rebounds. When he decreases his percentage of body fat and plays with intensity consistently, he will be hard to stop.
Six-foot-7 SF Khris Middleton (North Charleston, S.C./Porter-Gaud) has a well-rounded game and enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 64. The Texas A&M commit played extremely well in the adidas It Takes 5ive Classic.
He is a very good athlete who scores in a variety of ways. He rebounds well and can take it on the break himself, and his shot selection is good; he knocks down the open 3-point shot. He is a long, wiry athlete who is a solid defender on the ball and anticipates for steals well off the ball.
If you have not heard of 6-8 PF Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy) by now, you will soon. Entering the ESPNU 100 at No. 54, he really blew up at the Reebok camp in July; he showed the ability to handle the ball in the open floor while doing what he does best -- rebound.
This strong, hard-working power forward rebounds both inside and outside of his area. At the Nike Main Event, he scored in the paint with a jump hook or drop step and from the high post demonstrated a sweet go-dribble to the basket.
In Orlando playing for Team Florida at the AAU nationals, 6-10 C Kyryl Natyazhko (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) displayed a strong skill package. He enters the ESPNU 100 at No. 31.
Natyazhko can shoot the jumper out to the 3-point line and is a terrific passer. What is so impressive is his mobility for his size and feel for the game. He would be ideal in a two-man pick-and-pop game with his ability to spread out the defense.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis, is the sole national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League coach of the year honors in the 2003-'04 season.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.