Mike Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) has been among the nation's most talked about players for much of his prep career, and there's good reason for that. Gilchrist, a small forward, has the talent to be an instant-impact freshman at the next level. With that said, Gilchrist remains our top-ranked player in the 2011 class.
Each time we see him, Gilchrist shows noticeable improvement. He has an extremely bouncy, athletic body. His skill on the perimeter is improving. Moreover, the 6-foot-7 forward has continued to dominate games in the paint. He has nearly unrivaled athletic ability and skill, which have helped him become one of the leading scorers and rebounders for St. Patrick. His recent performance at the Hoophall Classic, during which he posted 19 points and 8 rebounds on a sprained ankle, showed why he has superstar potential. Many younger players go in the tank when they face that kind of adversity; Gilchrist rose to the occasion.
Gilchrist might be the most talked about and talented junior in the country, but he has some company at the top. Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) is a superb prospect in his own right. The 6-4 shooting guard has improved physically over the past year. He is stronger and you can see the amount of time he's invested in his game. Always a prolific scorer, he's now a drop-dead shooter. Specifically, his midrange game has become a much bigger weapon in his arsenal. He is accepting and learning how to beat double-teams, box-and-ones. When you're No. 2 in the country a lot of guys would rest, and maybe enjoy that ranking. Rivers has invested time in his game and it is reflected in his production.
Both of these guys exhibit enormous talent, but they really play within the framework of their teams, which impresses me. Gilchrist and Rivers are superstars, but they don't really take unnecessary shots or force the action, which is very attractive to a college coach. They're only selfish when they have to be for the sake of their teams.
Deville Smith (Madison, Miss./Callaway) is one of the players making a big splash in our new junior rankings. Previously unranked, Smith comes in at No. 28 this time around. The coach at Callaway, Wayne Brent, has helped Smith's development. Brent is a former SEC assistant, and he knows what it takes for a player to succeed at the next level.
Texas-bound junior Myck Kabongo (Toronto/St. Benedict's) has become a complete point guard these past few months. He was an exceptional scoring lead guard as a sophomore. Now, he is learning how to play the point position better under the tutelage of Danny Hurley. Kabongo, who has jumped from No. 18 to No. 9 in our revised ESPNU Super 60, is becoming more of a decision-maker and less of a risk-taker. These days, he plays much more under control than he did as a youngster. He also has extended his range to the 3-point line, which makes his offensive skill package that much more potent.
Another player generating a good amount of buzz in recent months is 6-6 forward Branden Dawson (Gary, Ind./Lew Wallace). Dawson, who moved up from No. 29 to No. 10, is as strong as an ox. A tremendous athlete, Dawson is incredibly productive around the basket. He's a relentless rebounder with strong hands and developing skill. We've been very impressed with his energy and effort.
Norvel Pelle (Long Beach, Calif./Price) is a long athletic 4 man with a lot of potential. He has all the athleticism any coach could desire in a power forward and he has the frame to add good bulk. At times, Pelle takes plays off. We'd like to see him approach the game with more intensity. Formerly ranked No. 46, Pelle has dropped out of our Super 60.
Sophomore bigs battle for the top spot in 2012 rankings
Although things held at the top of the 2011 rankings, there has been a change at No. 1 in the sophomore class.
Formerly the No. 2 rated player in the class, DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt) now checks in at the top spot. Coleman's productivity has gone sky high in the fall and high school season. He's powerful inside, has great hands and is getting more comfortable every time he steps on the floor. The big guys have such a hard time improving because they depend on the guards to get them the ball, but Coleman has clearly grown as a player. A Josh Smith type, conditioning is the big factor with him reaching his ceiling. Double-doubles came with ease for Coleman, so he has to learn to challenge himself and engage himself every game.
Andre Drummond (Hartford, Conn./St. Thomas More) has tremendous potential but his results have been inconsistent. That inconsistency causes him to drop to No. 2 in the sophomore class. He's an Amare Stoudemire type because he can do it all -- Drummond is an excellent runner, explosive athlete, blocks shots and can score facing the basket. He has an opportunity to dominate the game, but his performances haven't lived up to his potential yet. That should come in time. It's all about consistent production with these guys and Coleman has been more consistently productive.
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.