The first release of the ESPNU 100 for the 2012 class doesn't have a change at the top, as C Andre Drummond (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More) holds on, but these rankings are far from final. And it was a decision that was, and remains, a debatable topic.
As the spring season wraps up, we've identified Drummond and fellow center and Baylor commit Isaiah Austin (Mansfield, Texas/Grace Prep) as the two top prospects in the class. Now, here's the kicker: Are they going to remain that way the next few months?
ESPN analyst John Stovall summed it up best in a recent meeting when he said Drummond and Austin clearly have the biggest ceilings as prospects. However, both can no longer live on potential and it's time they begin producing to meet their level of expectations. These two bigs are NBA prospects and have physical attributes and talents no one else in the class possesses. The next step is proving it beyond a shadow of a doubt. They're built like pros, they look like pros and we don't need them to play likes pros -- though it's not too much to ask for consistent, impactful efforts.
Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) brings the sizzle and showmanship to the class. Muhammad, the son of a former Southern Cal standout, owns the highest name recognition and biggest star power of anyone in the group. The lefty has been on point this spring and he's the type of player who can shoulder the scoring load.
We've postulated for a long time that 2012 would be the year of the big man and our No. 4 prospect is far and away the fastest-rising player in America. Mitch McGary (Chesterton, Ind./Brewster Academy) reclassified to the 2012 class and enrolled at Brewster Academy, which has paid off. Armed with an attitude and a restructured body, the Indiana native made the biggest leap onto our list. He's a spot ahead of No. 5 DaJuan Coleman (DeWitt, N.Y./Jamesville-Dewitt) who is high school basketball's version of Zach Randolph.
The No. 2 prospect from the West Coast is Brandon Ashley (Oakland, Calif./Bishop O'Dowd). A lengthy power forward, Ashley could finish higher on this list with well-timed command performances in the summer. One of the big guns from the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) is Rodney Purvis (Raleigh, N.C./Upper Room) and the former Louisville pledge puts up points in a hurry.
Purvis and No. 8 Archie Goodwin (Little Rock, Ark./Sylvan Hills) are engaged in a battle with No. 13 Ricardo Ledo (Providence, R.I./Notre Dame) for the right to be called the top shooting guard in America.
Speaking of Anderson, there wasn't a more debated player in the class within our staff than him. He is an exceptional passer with super court vision and size. In the past three years, Anderson is the only Top 100 member to occupy time as a power forward, point guard and small forward. When it comes to evaluating him, we're nearly about finished with putting a positional tag on him. Plain and simple, he's a basketball player.
On the offensive end, he's going to have the ball in his hand and be the facilitator. We don't question his handle or his decisions; he's earned everyone's respect and his offense is improving. Defensively, he guards power forwards and that's fine by us. Bottom line: He's the most unique talent in the class and we're done picking him apart. We're celebrating the unique style he brings to the point forward position.
Would the best point guard please stand up?
A quick glance through the Top 25 reveals an omission of an entire position. As a staff, we could not identify with absolute certainty the top point guard in this class. In a year when none have put much distance between the others, we elected to pass on putting any in the Top 25 and are perfectly fine with watching, gathering more information and seeing who separates himself the next few months.
North Carolina commit Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Marr) is our consensus choice as the point with the most natural attributes to his game. He can flawlessly run a team and is a better scorer than he's been given credit for. As a staff, we felt he earned the right to be the top point guard heading into the summer.
J-Mychal Reese (Bryan, Texas/Bryan), Florida commit Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, N.C./United Faith), Indiana commit Kevin Ferrell (Indianapolis/Park Tudor) and Villanova commit Ryan Arcidiacono (Langhorne, Pa./Neshaminy) round out the top five. L.J. Rose (Houston/Second Baptist) has widely been considered the top point in the class until now. Rose was bitten by the injury bug last year and hasn't returned to form; it's too early to eliminate him from the conversation. Be on the lookout for Kris Dunn (New London, Conn./New London) as he's the fastest riser in the bunch.
Combo guards ready to step up
Purvis wants to be a point guard. So does Gabe York (Orange, Calif./Orange Lutheran) and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Indianapolis/North Central). These three enter the summer as volume scorers with the ability to go for big numbers. Purvis has the size to one day be a big point, but it's not a position that comes naturally to him. York and Smith-Rivera are undersized scoring guards. This summer we're putting them under the microscope to see if they demonstrate the attributes needed to play the position at the collegiate level. They could each wind up pushing the current pack of points.
Trading paint in the lane
There are only 24 spots on the McDonald's All-American team. Entering the summer, a case could be made for 16 kids who should feel like they have a legitimate shot to lock down a position. That makes for big-time battles inside. In fact, every time one of these aircraft carriers matches up with a competitor, the gym will be buzzing. That means the slightest attributes and performances will separate the best of the best.
McGary is a man on a mission. He's charged the hardest up the charts but he's not alone. Shaq Goodwin (Decatur, Ga./SW DeKalb) and Robert Carter (Thomasville, Ga./Thomasville) have been impressive nearly each time out in the spring. They're joined by Tony Parker (Lithonia, Ga./Miller Grove), giving Georgia three Top 25 big men.
Small forwards, big movers
Entering the spring, we listed Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast) as a power forward. Not anymore. Poythress proved that he's a beast along the baseline and improved to the point he can fire 3s with accuracy. As good as he's been, the biggest mover on the small forward list is the super athletic Devonte Pollard (DeKalb, Miss./Kemper).
Our plan is to spend the next few weeks in gyms coast-to-coast and reassess our list one more time before we hit the road for the pivotal evaluation month of July. Change is coming, we just aren't sure which direction it's coming from.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.