While a few new names were inserted into the mix of the refreshed 2011 college basketball recruiting rankings, the top five remains unchanged.
The debate over the No. 1 player in the 2011 class is a healthy one involving guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park), power forward Anthony Davis (Chicago, Ill. /Perspectives Charter) and small forward Michael Gilchrist (Somerdale, N.J./St. Patrick), the top three overall players. No. 4 Quincy Miller (N. Chicago, Ill./Westchester CD), who suffered a season-ending knee injury, and No. 5 James McAdoo (Chesapeake, Va./Norfolk Christian) also stay put.
For a number of reasons, we're sold that Davis is the top long-term prospect in the class. The former guard continues to grow into his body, while displaying tremendous instincts and putting up great numbers. If one looks at all the elite players, Davis has the worst surrounding cast, but the great news is that despite being outmanned he's committed to producing. Is he still learning the game and scratching the surface? Absolutely. Do we think he can finish No. 1? We certainly do.
In fact, we nearly moved Davis into the top slot, but didn't this time around. With the major all-star games and the practices that go with them coming up, we'll have a few more chances to evaluate Davis with his peers and continue to gauge his development. He hasn't rushed his development to date, so we're taking his approach and plan to put him under the microscope one final time in Chicago, Ill.
Rivers and Gilchrist have been the royalty of the class. The entire 2011 class, at one time or another, has been measured against them and they continue to excel. Each has his own strengths and noted areas for improvement.
ESPN Recruiting's Paul Biancardi summed it up best when he said Gilchrist gives you the best chance to win right now; his St. Patrick team is No. 1 in America, and there's a chance he will close out his storied career as a national champion to complement the gold medal he won last year at the FIBA U17 World Championship. Meanwhile, Rivers is the guy you want to take the last shot, and Davis would be the top pick if this were a draft.
Our list is not a draft; it's merely a ground-level chapter in the development of college and potential professional players. However, with our No. 1 ranking, we want to see the top dog succeed at three different levels (high school, college and NBA). Our choice for No. 1 remains Rivers, but not without much internal debate.
This time around, we welcome LeBryan Nash (Dallas, Texas/Lincoln) to the top 10. Nash, a beast of a small forward with outlandish explosion, could no longer be denied from the top 10, coming in at No. 6. The Oklahoma State Cowboys can't get ahold of him fast enough.
We are also particularly interested in the point guard race. Texas signee Myck Kabongo (Toronto/Findlay Prep) is the best overall natural point in the class, while Kentucky signee Marquis Teague (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) is the top talent. Teague's jaunts and his knack for scoring are impressive, but Kabongo's command of a team is unmatched in this class. We've placed Teague and Kabongo alongside each other in the rankings and have an open mind for the final result.
Another reason for our midseason update is to slide new, worthy candidates into the rankings and give them their due. Small forward Otto Porter (Sikeston, Mo./Scott County Central) debuts at No. 42 and Malcolm Gilbert (Philadelphia, Pa./Academy of New Church) checks in at No. 53, largely because the Pittsburgh signee is one of the most imposing defensive players in the class. For two years, we worried if the proverbial light would come on, and it has at both ends.
Other newbies include Boston College-bound Ryan Anderson (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Terry Whisnant (Cherryville, N.C./Cherryville), who has been in the ESPNU 100 before and slides in this time at No. 94, largely because we believe he owns an elite stroke.
We're tough graders
In November, we decided to tighten up our ranking system in order to demonstrate the contrasts in players. Essentially, we became more stringent graders and adjusted the 2011 rankings to fit our profile. Now we're giving the 2012 and 2013 lists the same transformation.
Our readers may notice changes not only in where a player is ranked but also in his Scouts grade. Those changes reflect our current grading system and are merely a byproduct of updating all our evaluations.
Drummond rules 2012
We've long held the belief that when Andre Drummond (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More) decides to put distance between himself and his classmates, it will be insurmountable for the second-ranked player. We saw no conceivable reason to move Drummond from the top spot. The interesting note regarding the 2012 list is that eight of the top 10 prospects are power forwards or centers.
It's our belief that the class will go a long way toward replenishing the frontcourt depth in college basketball. It will also struggle to produce great backcourt players. Heading into the spring travel season, the point guard and small forward positions appear to be the thinnest in the junior class.
This spring, we'll be on the lookout to see which point guard separates himself from the pack. L.J. Rose (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist) has long been labeled the top dog and is returning from an injury. He'll feel the heat from newly minted North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Mar), Indiana commit Kevin Ferrell (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor) and Villanova-bound Ryan Arcidiacono (Langhorne, Pa./Neshaminy).
2013 belongs to Randle
Ranking the 25 best sophomores in the country is not easy, except for one spot. Like Drummond in the junior class, Julius Randle (Dallas, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) is the undisputed top player in the class. Randle, a mix of Caron Butler and Marvin Williams, is a dominating force in both the high school and AAU circuits.
The updated ESPNU Terrific 25 is merely setting the table for the next two years of coverage. By the end of April, this list will change dramatically as new talent is discovered. Here are a few names to be on the lookout for:
Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton) and Jabari Parker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) are elite prospects. Noel, a center, has all the physical ability to morph into a dominant player at both ends. Parker, a cerebral combo forward, is the son of former NBA player Sonny Parker and the owner of scholarship offers from the nation's elite programs.
A set of twins -- Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison (Houston, Texas/Travis) -- cracked our top 10, and they are good enough to stick around a long time. Remember, of all our lists, this is the one even Albert Einstein would regard as the least scientific.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.