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After spending countless hours driving, flying and talking on the phone with recruits, coaches finally get a sigh of relief today when their commits sign their National Letters of Intent. With the signatures rolling in, we’ll take a look at the winners of this years crop of players.
Clearly UCLA is the biggest winner, as they sit atop the class of 2008 rankings with a host of talented guards. To go with their trio of quality guards (Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson), the Bruins have one of the best defensive big men in the country in Drew Gordon. Ben Howland has re-energized UCLA’s program. He’s been to the Final Four the past two years and with this group of talent it won’t surprise us if he makes a return trip in the near future.
Just behind the Bruins sits Ohio State. The Buckeyes continue to pick up talented prospects on the recruiting trail and they’ve had their class of B.J. Mullens, William Buford, Anthony Crater and Walter Offutt wrapped up for quite some time. They fill needs at each position and they have two likely McDonald’s All-Americans in Mullens and Buford.
Mullens Ranks No. 6
Georgetown came in at No. 3 in the 2008 rankings, as they picked up a handful of talented big men including the best player in the country. To go with Greg Monroe, Henry Sims and Chris Braswell in the paint, the Hoyas also have a Jason Clark, of Arlington (Va.) Bishop O’Connell, who is ranked No. 89 overall. While Clark adds depth at the wing position, it was clear John Thompson III main concern was to lock up some quality big men in the 08 class and he certainly succeeded, as he picked up three big men ranked in Scout.com’s Top 60. Monroe is clearly the best of the bunch, and is ranked as the best player in the country.
As mentioned above, the Bruins picked up a heck of a backcourt, as they have three guards ranked inside Scout.com’s Top 30. Jrue Holiday leads the way and a case can be made for him as the best guard in the country. He’s an excellent defender, can play three positions and is one of the best scorers in the entire class. Malcolm Lee, who came in at No. 22 overall in the most recent rankings, is a 6-foot-4 guard that, like Holiday, will likely see time at three different spots on the floor and is a great passer. Anderson rounds out the group and will likely play majority of his minutes at the point guard spot. Ranked No. 28 overall, Anderson is good at creating for teammates and is capable of getting buckets as well.
After the Bruins there are a host of schools that have put together classes with good backcourts. Arizona has a one man wrecking crew in Brandon Jennings. Mississippi State’s backcourt class of Scotty Hopson and Dee Bost is a pretty good one, as is Alabama’s class of Tony Mitchell and Andrew Steele. Connecticut also did a great job locking up Kemba Walker and Nate Miles, as both will likely make an impact for the Huskies.
The backcourt category is a no-brainer, but the frontcourt category is a different story. We considered a number of schools for this one. Wake Forest, Louisville and North Carolina all have impressive frontcourts.
Wake Forest’s class of Al-Farouq Aminu, Tony Woods and Ty Walker was an impressive haul, and Dino Gaudio and his staff deserve a lot of credit for being able to keep those guys in tact after Skip Prosser’s passing. Aminu is one of the premier wings in the class of 2008 and will provide an instant impact, especially in terms of scoring. Tony Woods, who is ranked No. 47 overall, and Ty Walker will provide the Demon Deacons with instant credibility up front. Both are above average athletes that can block shots with the best of them in the 2008 class.
Based on talent we picked the Cardinals frontcourt class, as Samardo Samuels, Terrence Jennings and Jared Swopshire will suit up for Rick Pitino in 2008. Samuels, who is ranked No. 2 overall, is probably the most dominant prospect in the entire class, as he uses his 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame to overpower opponents in the paint. To go with Samuels, the Cardinals also have Jennings, who is ranked as the 3rd best post grad prospect. Although Jennings is extremely talented and among the most athletic big men in the country, he does have some question marks, as he’s bounced around high schools his entire high school career. If he proves he’s reliable, he can be among the best bigs in the entire class. Swopshire addes depth in the front court and will see some time on the wing and in the post.
The Tar Heels can also make an argument for the best frontcourt, as Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, who are both ranked in Scout.com’s Top 20 are set to attend North Carolina. While Louisville’s big men are big and athletic, the Tar Heels two frontcourt stars will beat defenders with their skill and ability to run the floor. Davis, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound PF, has a variety of moves inside, and can also face the basket. Zeller, who committed to North Carolina in early November, is impressive in the open court, as he runs the floor as well as any big man in the country.
Honorable Mention goes to Florida and Georgetown, as all they both put together more than respectable front court classes. The Gators picked up Kenny Kadji, Eloy Vargas and Allan Chaney. The Hoyas frontcourt prospects in the 2008 class consists of Greg Monroe, Chris Braswell and Henry Sims.
Best of the Mid-Majors
There are a number of mid-major programs that made waves in the 2008 class. The top classes include Nevada, Pepperdine New Mexico and Southern Illinois and each could make a case for the best class.
The Wolfpack has arguably the best player headed to a mid-major program in the last decade in Luke Babbitt. Babbitt, who is ranked No. 19 overall, is a versatile forward that can score with the best of them in the class of 2008. To go with Babbitt, Nevada also has Mark McLaughlin, who is ranked No. 76.
Just like Nevada, the Waves have a pair of Top 100 prospects (Paul McCoy and Brad Tinsley) in their four man class. They also secured Paul George, a 6-foot-7, 190-poound wing, and Ameer Shamsud-din, of Portland (Or.) Benson Polytechnic.
New Mexico did a great job in the state of Texas, as each of their five commits have spent some time in the Lone Star state. Phillip McDonald headlines the class and is ranked as the 17th best shooting guard in the 2008 class. Curtis Dennis will also provide help on the wing, as he’s one of the better spot up shooters in the entire class. Will Brown, Isaiah Rusher and Nathen Garth are also set to sign with the Lobos.
Chris Lowery has put together a heck of a 2008 class as well. The Salukis are expected to sign four prospects in the early period, including four star prospect Anthony Booker. They also picked up Kevin Dillard, Torres Roundtree and Chris Parrish.
For what it’s worth, we don’t count Xavier as a mid-major program based on how they have recruited recently. They’ve consistently shown that they can recruit against high-majors and win recruiting battles, despite being in a mid-major conference. If they were considered, they would have certainly been in the discussion with commitments from Kenny Frease, Brad Redford, Mark “Cheeks” Lyons and Brian Walsh.