College Basketball Recruiting: Grading the Classes for Each of the Top 25 Teams

Andy BrownAnalyst IIJune 5, 2011

College Basketball Recruiting: Grading the Classes for Each of the Top 25 Teams

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    Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson, Mason Plumlee, Ashton Gibbs and Tu Holloway.

    All names college basketball fans became accustomed to hearing last season (particularly the first three); all of which spurned the NBA and elected to return to college for another season, making their teams even better than anyone had hoped.

    The number of high level talent that decided to come back to college signifies the potential of a truly special season in 2011-12.

    There's also the next recruiting crop, which looks pretty impressive as a whole. There doesn't appear to be any Kevin Durant's in this group, but there are quite a few young ones that could make a huge impact on good teams.

    This list focuses on grading solely the recruiting classes of the teams in the preseason top 25.

    The preseason list I will be using will be from ESPN's Andy Katz as of last month. Please keep in mind that his ranking DOES NOT indicate the relative strengths of each recruiting class, but the strengths of the program as a whole.

    For example, he lists the Missouri Tigers at No. 22, but they don't even have a recruit coming in this season.

25. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SG Gary Bell Jr. (No. 67 overall, No. 18 shooting guard)

     

    Head coach Mark Few is notorious for bringing in under-the-radar recruits from the west coast, and he's done so again with this large recruiting haul led by 6'2" combo guard Gary Bell Jr.

    Bell is an absolute scorer. He's able to knock down the three-pointer while still being able to drive the lane and finish despite his diminutive stature.

    The Robin to Bell's Batman in this class is point guard Kevin Pangos, a kid who will likely end up being the next great Gonzaga floor general.

    Both Bell and Pangos have a good chance to either start, or at least be key players off the bench with the graduation of Steven Gray and the transfer of Demetri Goodson (both guards).

    The rest of the class consists of 6'5" shooter Kyle Dranginis, 6'8" post Ryan Spangler, 6'0" guard Chris Sarbaugh and 6'5" JUCO Guy Landry.

     

    Grade: B

24. George Mason Patriots

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: C Erik Copes (No. 55 overall, No. 6 center)

     

    The Patriots took advantage of some late coaching changes and landed their most highly regarded prospect in school history when Erik Copes committed to George Mason after George Washington fired its coach Karl Hobbs.

    Copes, at 6'8", will probably start from day one. While he's limited on the offensive end, he'll be a game-changer on defense. He's a terrific shot blocker and rebounder that will provide intimidation in the paint. If he's able to score, watch out.

    The rest of the recruits consist of point guard Corey Edwards, who's not much of a scorer but is a solid distributor, and 6'5" wing Vaughn Gray, a long term prospect with some potential to be a solid scorer.

    I wouldn't expect either to see the floor too much in their first couple years, but they're four year guys anyway, so they'll be key players once they mature.

     

    Grade: B-

23. Michigan Wolverines

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SG Carlton Brundidge (No. 74 overall, No. 21 shooting guard)

     

    John Beilein managed to build off a surprisingly good season that saw the Wolverines take Duke down to the final minutes in the NCAA Tournament with a quality class.

    Carlton Brundidge (great name), a Michigan native who elected to stay home, is a small combo guard (only 6'1") who can fill it up inside the three-point arc.

    The other highly regarded recruit, and the one who may start from day one, is point guard Trey Burke. Burke actually played on the same high school team as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger (and yes, they were ridiculously good), and has the winner's mentality needed to be an effective point guard.

    Due to the defection to the NBA of star point guard Darius Morris, Burke will be a prime candidate to replace him. Burke is similar to Morris in that he's effective scoring or distributing. He'll need to add some weight (only 170 pounds), but he and Brundidge are the future backcourt for the Wolverines.

    The other recruit coming in is 6'8" forward Max Bielfeldt, an energy big man all teams need.

     

    Grade: B

22. Missouri Tigers

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    Total commits: 0

     

    Well, not a whole lot to say considering the Tigers don't have a single recruit coming in. Most of their team returns so there wasn't a huge need to bring in recruits this year. Still, not bringing in any new blood will hurt down the road.

     

    Grade: F

21. Florida State Seminoles

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 3

    Top recruit: SF Antwan Space (No. 70 overall, No. 18 small forward)

     

    The Seminoles and coach Leonard Hamilton wanted to bring in wing players for this class, and they accomplished just that by signing three of them, all in ESPNU's Top 100.

    Antwan Space, a 6'7" small forward, leads this class. Space is a do-it-all type player who can score from anywhere on the court, and will help a Seminole team that had tons of trouble scoring the rock all last season. His effort isn't always there, but he has tons of potential.

    Two guards, Aaron Thomas and Terry Whisnant, also found their way into the Top 100 at 71 and 99, respectively.

    Thomas is a scorer who lets the game come to him and has the ability to take games over. His three- point shot still isn't there, but everything else is.

    Whisnant is a pure shooter who unlike Thomas, can absolutely knock down three-point shots. He will probably be the designated bomber until the rest of his game develops.

    The final recruit coming to FSU is a JUCO 6'11" center in Kiel Turpin, who should provide solid depth up front.

     

    Grade: B+

20. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Total commits: 2

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: PG Jamal Branch (No. 50 overall, No. 9 point guard)

     

    Despite the departure of head coach Mark Turgeon to Maryland, the Aggies are still bringing in a stud guard in Jamal Branch, along with another wing in Jordan Green.

    Branch is one of the better recruits to come to A&M. He has all the tools to be a great college point guard as he is a willing and effective distributor, but he can also score off the bounce if needed. Defensively, he's no slouch, either. When Branch is aggressive, he's tough to stop.

    With the Aggies losing three guards to graduation, including starter B.J. Holmes, Branch should be a key player from the first tip.

    Jordan Green, on the other hand, is much more of a project. At 6'3" and only 165 pounds, his body is not ready yet for the college game. He's got tremendous upside, but it will be awhile before he's a consistent contributor for the Aggies.

     

    Grade: B

19. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 0

    Top recruit: SF Shaquille Thomas

     

    Head coach Mick Cronin elected to focus on quantity over quality with this class, though there are still some quality players that could make an impact sooner rather than later.

    The primary candidate for that is small forward Shaquille Thomas. Talent-wise, he's one of the best in the class. He's incredibly athletic and can make shots from anywhere inside 24 feet. However, for whatever reason, he's never been consistent enough to be a dominant player. If Cronin is able to fix that, then this is the next great player for the Bearcats.

    The rest of the class fills in the holes that will be left by the six graduating seniors.

    On the perimeter enters 6'4" Jermaine Sanders (more of a small forward than a guard), 6'2" Ge'Lawn Guyn (great name and solid defender, but hasn't figured out how to run a team yet), and 6'3" Jeremiah Davis (big guard who can play both positions).

    Up front, Cincy brings in 6'8" Octavius Ellis (skinny shooter who needs to put on weight) and 6'9" Cheikh Mbodj (JUCO transfer with a name impossible to pronounce). Both will be counted on to help replace contributors Rashad Bishop, Ibrahima Thomas and Darnell Wilks.

     

    Grade: C+

18. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SF Ben McLemore (No. 48 overall, No. 15 small forward)

     

    With the Jayhawks losing six impact players to either graduation or the NBA, the four incoming recruits will have as much pressure to perform as any in the country.

    Picking up wing Ben McLemore in the late signing period really helped. At 6'5", McLemore is able to play either wing position, and has the talent to be a big-time scorer from the beginning. He's still learning how to play on the perimeter, but his skills and ability to shoot from three will help the transition be less difficult.

    The other highly regarded recruit coming in is point guard Naadir Tharpe, ranked 84th overall. Tharpe is the next great floor general coming into the Jayhawk program. His court vision and ability to make the game easier for teammates is as good as any recruit in the country. He can score using a multitude of shots, but needs to improve on his consistency.

    The other two recruits who will come in to attempt to help fill the void left by the Morris twins down low are 6'8" big men Jamari Taylor and Braeden Anderson.

    Taylor is a more physical player, and will have the strength to survive down low.

    Anderson is not as physical, but is a better offensive player.

    Both are still projects with plenty to learn, but with the Jayhawk roster so depleted, they may end up learning in games instead of on the bench.

     

    Grade: B+

17. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Total commits: 4

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: C Khem Birch (No. 11 overall, No. 1 center)

     

    Head coach Jamie Dixon got a big surprise when Khem Birch, originally scheduled to graduate in 2012, decided to graduate early so he could enroll at Pitt this fall instead of waiting another year.

    Birch is one of the best low post defenders in the 2011 class. He can block shots, rebound on both ends effectively, and can shut down opposing bigs as well as anyone. Offensively, he still has work to do, but is capable of using his tremendous athleticism to make shots over defenders, as well as throw down thunderous dunks. Expect him to replace the graduating Gary McGhee in the starting lineup.

    Dixon is also bringing in another highly regarded center in Malcolm Gilbert (No. 57 overall). If Birch isn't the best low post defender in the class, then Gilbert might be. He isn't as athletic, but has the IQ to keep bigs from getting to where they want on the block. His offense is almost non-existent, but for the first few years Gilbert will be used as a defensive stopper, which will allow him to work on his offense for the future.

    The other two recruits help make this class a balanced one, as both Durand and John Johnson (no relation) are perimeter players.

    At 6'7", Durand Johnson is a typical wing player who has a solid jumper but is prone to the bad shot. Playing for a quality team such as Pitt will hopefully alleviate that.

    John Johnson is a 6'1" scoring point guard who's still learning how to play the position, and he's getting better at it. He'll probably see much of the bench this season to help him learn and develop his game.

     

    Grade: A-

16. Baylor Bears

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: PF Quincy Miller (No. 6 overall, No. 3 power forward)

     

    Normally when a player like LaceDarius Dunn leaves from a program that couldn't make the NCAA tournament, that team doesn't find themselves in the preseason top 25.

    Such is the case for the Bears, who return Perry Jones and bring in one of the top players in the country in power forward Quincy Miller.

    Miller is a do-it-all 6'9" big who can dominate down low and can shoot three's with solid success. His off-the-charts athleticism and decent dribbling make him a matchup nightmare for any defender. As long as he's not staying on the perimeter all game, Miller is one of the most dominant players in the country and a future NBA lottery pick. Expect for Miller to be a favorite to win the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award.

    The other stud coming in for the Bears is 6'4" Deuce Bello (No. 53 overall). Bello is regarded as arguably the best athlete in the class; his speed and quickness are up there with any player in college right now and he uses that to his advantage with his defensive aggressiveness and ability to thrive in transition. His jumper and dribbling skills need work, but it'll be hard for coach Scott Drew to keep him on the bench.

    The final prospect is junior-college transfer Pierre Jackson, a 5'11" point guard who's highly regarded and is expected to challenge for the point guard position and could become the starter.

     

    Grade: A-

15. Xavier Musketeers

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SF Dezmine Wells (No. 47 overall, No. 14 small forward)

     

    With the loss of six seniors, including two starters, the Musketeers are relying on this new group of kids to pick up where guys like Dante Jackson and Jamel McLean left off. Bringing back Tu Holloway for another season makes them the favorites in the A-10, but if this batch of recruits are able to make an impact, X could make yet another run in the NCAA Tournament.

    Highlighting this group is 6'5" wing Dezmine Wells, who may remind X fans of Dante Jackson at first. At 220 pounds, Wells is ready for the grind of a college season. He loves contact and is a solid free throw shooter. His shot inside the three-point arc is consistent. Defensively, he's a pest, and enjoys the challenge of shutting down top players. Dribbling is a concern for Wells, and his quickness is not the greatest. Still, he should be an impact player from the start.

    Xavier rounds out the group with a big in Jalen Reynolds, a 6'9" big that can score and who needs to put on weight, and 5'10" point guard Darwin Davis, a guy who has elite dribbling skills but needs work on his shot and could put on some weight.

     

    Grade: B-

14. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Total commits: 6

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 2

    Top recruit: SG Levi Randolph (No. 29 overall, No. 9 shooting guard)

     

    One of the bigger snubs of last season's NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide have brought in an excellent class looking to make sure the Tide are tournament bound in 2012.

    Levi Randolph leads a group that brings in a player at every position. Randolph is a versatile scorer and at 6'5", can play either wing position. Chances are he'll provide the scoring punch from the perimeter with the departures of two senior guards who saw major playing time in Charez Davis and Senario Hillman.

    Fellow shooting guard Trevor Lacey is the other ranked prospect coming to Tuscaloosa in the fall. Lacey was one of the final prospects to commit and elected to stay home in Alabama. This kid is most effective off the ball and coming off screens, kind of like Rip Hamilton of the Pistons.

    The two post players of the class are Nick Jacobs (a 6'8", 255 pound truck who can score inside but has trouble rebounding) and Moussa Gueye (a 7'0" center from Africa who has skills on defense, but no offensive game). These two will provide depth at the Tide's already stacked frontcourt.

    The final two players coming to 'Bama are Rodney Cooper, a 6'5" long range shooter, and 6'1" Retin Ojomoh, a point guard who plays for the Belgian U20 National team.

     

    Grade: A-

13. Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Total commits: 3

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 0

    Top recruit: SF Juan Anderson

     

    Coach Buzz Williams lost a good one with a graduation of Jimmy Butler, but he is bringing in an under-the-radar class with potential.

    Juan Anderson has similar size to Butler at 6'6", 210 pounds (Butler was an inch taller) and could be his heir apparent. Anderson is a typical small forward in that he can do a little bit of everything. He's a solid rebounder, can dribble, and slash to the basket and draw contact. His only deficiency right now is his jumper, which could use some work. Considering the Golden Eagles are primarily made up of good shooters, it's only a matter of time before Anderson improves it enough.

    The other two recruits are both guards in 6'0" point Derrick Wilson and 6'3" wing Todd Mayo (O.J. Mayo's younger brother). Wilson is a big guard at 205 pounds who can score in the lane but is still learning the position, while Mayo is a pure scorer like his brother but needs the ball in his hands to do so, and he isn't much of a point guard.

     

    Grade: C+

12. Florida Gators

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    Total commits: 2

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: SG Bradley Beal (No. 4 overall, No. 2 shooting guard)

     

    Losing essentially the entire frontcourt for last season aside from Patric Young, I find it pretty surprising the Gators are listed this high. Then I remember their backcourt is returning, along with transfer Mike Rosario, and I'm not so disgusted.

    And then, I realize that Bradley Beal, arguably the best shooter in the 2011 class, is coming to Gainesville. Beal has been compared to Ray Allen, only the best shooter in NBA history statistically. As for weaknesses, well, there aren't any big ones. His ball handling could use some work as he's only 6'3", but that's about it.

    I fully expect coach Billy Donovan to go small this season with returning guards Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Brad Beal making up one of the quickest and best backcourts in the country.

    With Donovan's other commit, he addressed the frontcourt depth question by bringing in 6'9" forward Walter Pitchford. Pitchford is very raw but has crazy athleticism that will allow him to see some time on the floor, but he probably won't be a major impact player until a couple years pass.

     

    Grade: B+

11. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Total commits: 5

    ESPNU Top 100 commits: 1

    Top recruit: PF Jarrod Uthoff (No. 88 overall, No. 14 power forward)

     

    It's pretty rare for Wisconsin to bring in highly regarded players to their program. Coach Bo Ryan is known for bringing in guys who may not necessarily be that talented, but who fit his system and are team players. Once again, Ryan is bringing in a quintet of players that don't necessarily jump out at you, but it's clear these guys will one day make a name for themselves in Madison.

    Leading the way for this group are a pair of post players in Jarrod Uthoff and Frank Kaminsky.

    Uthoff is an athletic 6'8" forward who's pretty raw, though he is a solid rebounder. Once he puts on some weight (only 200 pounds), he'll be a quality player.

    Kaminsky is a 6'10", 260 pounder who's a solid outside shooter (a common trait in most Wisconsin big men) and, like Uthoff, a good rebounder with good potential. Expect to see him play sooner than Uthoff because of his more mature frame.

    The other three commits are a trio of guards in Traevon Jackson (son of Ohio State star Jim Jackson), George Marshall, and Jordan Smith.

    Jackson, at 6'2", is a combo guard that's a better slasher than he is shooter. His quickness is lacking, but he's got the scoring ability like his father.

    Marshall is guy who's still developing as a point guard. There have been some comparisons to recent Badger grad Trevon Hughes because of his ability to score.

    Smith is coming to Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on and has the ability to eventually earn a scholarship.

     

    Grade: B

10. Arizona Wildcats

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