Like presidential elections and Academy Award campaigns, college basketball recruiting has grown from occupying a relatively short period of time to filling the calendar year round. The normal recruiting carnival is currently at its peak, with coaches zooming around the country trying to get verbal commitments from young men, while young men try to determine the best road for their future amongst the battery of information being lobbed their way. Meanwhile, fans of the schools closely monitor the Twitter pages of the young recruits, hoping to find nuggets of information in the tea leaves that are the athletes' tweets.
It can be difficult for recruiters to assess talent in high school kids playing against less-than-stellar competition, thus they are often drawn to big men, keeping in mind the aphorism "you can't teach size." This year's recruiting class offers a number of intriguing prospects at the power forward position, from a couple of kids from the controversial recruiting factory Findlay College Prep to a 6'8" part-time wide-receiver who runs the 40 in 4.6.
23 of ESPN's Top 100 recruits are power forwards, and even the lowest ranked of these are receiving strong interest from storied programs like Kansas and Stanford. Here we take a look at the top 11 power forwards in the 2012 recruiting class, and where they are likely to play college ball.
Mitch McGary is widely considered the best power forward in the 2012 recruiting class, and might be the second most sought after recruit overall after Shabazz Muhammad. At 6’10” and 225 pounds, McGary plays a strong, physical game, and is capable of racking up big rebound numbers and dominating the paint on both sides of the court.
McGary’s most likely landing spots at the moment are Michigan, North Carolina and Duke, with Florida, Kentucky and Maryland still up for consideration. On his ESPN blog, McGary spoke highly of his visits to Michigan, North Carolina and Duke, also mentioning his in-home visit by Florida, North Carolina and Duke. McGary mentioned that he still wants to visit Kentucky, Maryland and Florida, but did not sound absolutely committed to such visits.
Of the three top schools, McGary seemed most impressed by his visit to Michigan, writing on his blog at length about the warm welcome given to him by Michigan fans. CBS Sports reports that McGary’s parents favor Duke, while his AAU coach hopes to see him playing for the Wolverines.
McGary says that he is no rush to make a decision, so fans of the schools targeting him will have to resort to parsing his words on his blog to determine which way he is leaning.
Best Guess: Duke
Brandon Ashley is one of the two top power forwards in the 2012 recruiting class who have committed to the University of Arizona, along with Grant Jerrett of La Verne, CA. With the additional commitment of shooting guard Gabe York, the Wildcats have built perhaps the best recruiting class in the nation.
Ashley was strongly recruited by several schools, and many thought he was likely to go to UCLA, where his former AAU teammate Dominic Artis committed.
After the departure of Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne, and with Jesse Perry in his final year of eligibility, the Wildcats have room for Ashley to make his presence felt immediately. Ashley is 6'8" and lean, and as his body continues to develop he could quickly become the focal point of the Wildcats' game plan.
Another top name out of the recruiting factory that is Findlay College Prep is Anthony Bennett, a Canadian power forward who stands 6'8" and 230 pounds. Bennett has developed his perimeter game, and recruiters have been encouraged by his maturity and physical strength.
Bennett recently confirmed to NBE that he is still considering nine schools: UNLV, Florida, Washington, Ohio State, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Connecticut and Oregon. Bennett currently has no visits scheduled and does not plan to sign until late spring, so there's little evidence to look to in determining what school Bennett will sign with. Bennett has made some positive comments about Florida, and they have shown great interest in him. If a likely school has to be named, it is the Gators, but Bennett's future is unknown to everyone, including Bennett.
Best guess: Florida
Grant Jerrett was one of the first elite recruits in the nation to commit to a school, joining the Arizona Wildcats last November. Since his commitment, the Wildcats have assembled what is perhaps the best recruiting class in the country.
Jerrett possesses talent both as a shooter and inside the paint, and is an aggressive scorer. Scouts have expressed concern about his lack of defense, but his offensive production has overshadowed those worries.
Jerrett will be playing along with fellow elite recruit Brandon Ashley, another power forward. Both young men are adaptable players, and can likely split the 3 and 4 spots on the floor.
While he did not make a commitment, Jarnell Stokes had his heart set on attending the University of Tennessee and playing for Bruce Pearl before the coach was fired in March. Though Stokes initially removed the school from consideration, it is now one of the five schools he is considering, along with Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Memphis.
Memphis has spent the most time recruiting Stokes, with head coach Josh Pastner becoming a fixture in the stands at Stokes's high school games. Stokes is very close with his family, and told ESPN that his final decision will be made entirely by him and his father.
Stokes's decision to reconsider his transfer to Oak Hill Academy in southwest Virginia in favor of Southwind High School in his native Memphis could be a sign of a desire to stay in his hometown, but Stokes has indicated that he will put off making a final decision for quite awhile.
Best Guess: Memphis
Shaq Goodwin is by far the most intriguing prospect of all the power forward recruits in the nation; in fact, he is probably the most intriguing prospect at any position.
Goodwin is not only the state of Georgia's top basketball recruit, he is also an outstanding wide receiver who wants to play football in college. Goodwin stands at 6'8" and 245 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds, tantalizing figures for any college coach. Goodwin has stated that he wants to go to a school with both strong basketball and football programs, which limited his options. Goodwin is currently considering Georgia, UCLA, Florida, Memphis and Arizona, having recently removed Alabama from consideration despite his mother's approval of the school.
UCLA has an inside advantage in that their assistant coach, Korey McCrary, was Goodwin's AAU coach before joining the Bruins. Goodwin has yet to visit his top schools, his time being limited due to his football commitments, so a decision is unlikely in the very near future.
Best Guess: University of Georgia
Robert Carter joins Shaq Goodwin and Tony Parker as one of the three power forwards from Georgia who are amongst the nation's top recruiting prospects. Carter has received interest from nearly every major in the southeast, and is currently considering offers from Kentucky, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Rhode Island and Maryland.
Rumors have circulated in the past that Carter had already committed to Kentucky, and many believe it is only a matter of time before he joins the Wildcats. He has a nice shooting touch and is a beast in the paint, and his talent has blossomed as he has developed his body into that of an elite power forward. He would be an excellent fit for the Wildcat program, and it wouldn't be surprising if Carter is one of the next top recruits to announce his school of choice.
Weighing in at only 190 pounds on his 6'7" frame, Amile Jefferson will have to gain a significant amount of bulk in order to be a credible inside force in the college game. Despite his needed growth, his excellent ballhandling skills and basketball IQ have interested recruiters nationwide. While most recruits are beginning to narrow down their list at this time of the year, Jefferson has recently added to the list of schools he is considering.
He is being lobbied most heavily by Illinois and North Carolina State, but has also received strong interest from Villanova, his hometown school. He would most likely be pure power forward at Villanova, while other schools might make him a combo forward, an added draw for Jefferson. Additionally, NBE Basketball reports that some of Jefferson's closest friends have committed to both Villanova and St. John's, and are strongly encouraging Jefferson to join them at one of the two schools. To add yet another monkey wrench to the equation, Jefferson has demonstrated increased interest in Alabama lately.
At this point it's a crap shoot guessing where Amile Jefferson will commit.
Best Guess: Villanova
After injuring himself early in the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Brice Johnson had fallen off of the radars of top recruiters. He then turned in a spectacular performance at the Peach Jam, raising the value of his stock so much that North Carolina made an offer shortly after.
As well as the Tar Heels, Johnson is also considering Florida, North Carolina State, Connecticut, Ohio State, Marquette and his hometown schools Clemson and South Carolina. Johnson is enjoying the attention that has been lavished on him recently, and seems unlikely to commit in the near future.
Johnson has retweeted claims by two people who state that his top choices are Florida, North Carolina and North Carolina State. None of the three schools have received commitments from a top power forward. While Johnson could shine in all three systems, his combination of size and athleticism could thrive under Roy Jones.
Best Guess: North Carolina
While several schools recruited Ricardo Gathers, the 6'7" 240 pound Louisiana power forward, LSU fans had hopes that the winner of the Mr. Louisiana Basketball award would stay close to home. Gathers, enticed by the chance to play in New York City, spurned the Tigers to commit to play for Steve Lavin at St. John's.
Gathers told ESPN that he was drawn to playing in New York after seeing the film He Got Game, and the first hand exposure to the city that he gained while playing at the IS8 Nike Basketball Tournament seems to have cemented the deal. Gathers also told ESPN that he was impressed with Lavin's recruiting and was impressed by the team's success under Lavin.
Gathers brings a strong rebounding presence, coupled with a solid mid-range jumper, to the Red Storm, where the team will attempt to improve on its second-round exit from the 2011 NCAA tournament.
At 6'9" and 270 pounds, Tony Parker is one of the biggest power forward recruits available in the 2012 recruiting class. The Georgia native received over 30 scholarship offers, and is still undecided as to where he will commit. Parker announced that he will be officially visiting Duke, UCLA, Ohio State, Memphis and Georgetown.
Rumors have been flying lately that Parker is leaning toward UCLA after he tweeted that he had a good in home visit with UCLA, and then posted a picture of himself wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers shirt. He has future visits scheduled well into October, so it is unlikely that Parker will be announcing his decision in the near future.
Best Guess: UCLA