Over the past 20 years, college basketball has seen some truly revolutionizing recruiting classes hit the hardwood. Some received too much hype, and never quite panned out, while others flew under the radar and achieved success none ever dreamed was possible of them. Some remained stars throughout their careers, while some couldn't live up to their lofty expectations. Either way, they were all part of a memorable recruiting class for their respective school.
The following list is a ranking of the best 21 recruiting classes of the past 20 years. These rankings are based on a combination of high school praise, college success and NBA careers. Keep that in mind with these fantastic 21 college basketball recruiting classes.
The vaunted Michigan Wolverines Fab Five recruiting class of 1991 is a tale heard many times since their revolutionizing introduction to the college game. Four of the five recruits came to Ann Arbor as McDonald's All-Americans. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all ended up starting as freshman.
They carried the Wolverines to both the 1992 and 1993 national championship games, where they lost to Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. The Fab Five all entered the college game as top-100 recruits, with four of them being in the national top 10.
Not only did they dominate on the court, but they changed the culture of the game with their bald heads, baggy shorts, black socks and trash-talking ways. No other recruiting class in history made their mark on the game quite like this group.
Proving to pundits that recruiting rankings aren't everything, the Florida foursome of Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Joakim Noah led the Gators to unprecedented heights during their time in Gainesville.
None of the bunch were ranked in the national top 30 of their senior class, yet that didn't stop them from leading the SEC school to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. As if that wasn't enough, all four were selected in the 2007 NBA draft. Three of the four are currently enjoying NBA careers, while Green plays professionally overseas.
The "Thad Five" was only intact for one season in Columbus, but what a season it was. They led the Buckeyes to the 2007 national championship game, where they lost to the Florida Gators.
The group consisted of Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, David Lighty and junior college transfer Othello Hunter. All four of the high-schoolers were ranked in the national top 40 of their high school class, and Hunter was sought after by many big-name programs before choosing Ohio State.
Greg Oden ended up becoming an All-American in his only college season, before becoming the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft. Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook were also first-round selections in the draft.
The Syracuse Orangemen's 2002-2003 team virtually come out of nowhere to claim a national championship. Three of the main reasons why were their dazzling freshmen Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin.
Carmelo tore through everyone in his path that season, carrying the Orangemen on his back all the way to the title game. He averaged 22.2 points and 10.0 rebounds on the season. He was also a unanimous All-American selection in his only season at the Big East school.
Gerry McNamara averaged 13.3 points and 4.4 assists a game, using his outstanding three-point shooting and solid ball-handling skills to be a steadying force for the team. Billy Edelin showed 'Cuse fans his versatile game all season long, becoming the third key freshman contributor for the team.
Obviously, Anthony left after just one season, but this class left their imprint on the program in the only season they played together.
John Calipari's first major recruiting haul in Lexington consisted of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe and Jon Hood. Their accolades included 2010 SEC champions, 2010 SEC tournament champions and a trip to the 2010 Elite Eight.
John Wall flourished in his only season in Kentucky blue, bringing home National Player of the Year honors, averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. DeMarcus Cousins averaged 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while taking home All-SEC honors as well.
Along with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, fellow freshmen Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton became first-round NBA draft picks in the 2010 NBA draft, based on the tremendous glimpses of potential shown in their only season in Lexington.
The Illinois recruiting class of 2002 was a special group. Dee Brown and Deron Williams were the headliners, and that proved true until the very end of their careers, where they led the Illini to a national title game appearance in 2005, where they lost to a loaded Carolina squad.
They made college basketball history, starting the season 29-0, winning Big Ten Conference and tournament championships. They ended the season with an astounding 37-2 record, becoming one of the best NCAA teams to not win a championship.
During their magical junior seasons, both Brown and Williams earned All-Big 10 first-team status, as well as prestigious All-American honors. After that season, Williams left for the NBA. Brown finished his career the next season, again earning All-American honors, before being drafted into the NBA.
The 1997 recruiting haul of Elton Brand, Shane Battier, William Avery and Chris Burgess led the Blue Devils to two Final Four appearances and a national championship. Three of the four prospects (Brand, Burgess and Battier), were all ranked as the top senior in the country by various recruiting services coming out of high school.
The wild card of the class was William Avery, who left after his sophomore season and become a first-round NBA draft pick. Obviously, Elton Brand and Shane Battier went on to become well-known NBA athletes, while Burgess never lived up to his lofty rankings, fizzling out as a transfer at the University of Utah.
Consider this team to be Roy Williams' first "real" title team at North Carolina. Sure, he won them a championship in 2005, but that was with players that he hadn't really recruited himself. However, once the Heels dominated Michigan State for the 2009 national championship, the haters had to give credit where it was due.
Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson were part of the lauded bunch who helped bring Roy his second title in Chapel Hill. They were a unanimous favorite to bring home the crown from the beginning of the season. In the title game, they easily defeated the Spartans 89-72. Ty Lawson led the charge with 21 points, eight assists and six steals.
All three members of the class of 2006 were standouts nationally, while Brandan Wright was also a part of the class, before exiting after his freshman year for the riches of the NBA. The three most-hyped members of the class are currently enjoying NBA careers (Ellington, Lawson, Wright).
Kansas powered its way to a Final Four appearance in 2002 and a 2003 national championship game appearance, thanks to the special recruiting class of Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden and Nick Collison.
All three were a part of the 2002 team, when as juniors they fell to Maryland. The following season, when Gooden was playing in the NBA, Hinrich and Collison again led the Jayhawks deep into the NCAA tournament, this time to the final, where they lost to Syracuse. All three players had their jerseys retired at Kansas, where they are comfortably resting in the rafters of Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
The North Carolina Tar Heel class of 2005 brought Roy Williams his first title in Chapel Hill. Leading the charge for the team were three former McDonald's All-Americans in Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May. That season, they played Illinois in the national championship, where they won 75-70.
All three highly acclaimed members earned All-ACC honors as juniors, before leaving for the NBA. Each of which were drafted in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft, along with freshman teammate Marvin Williams.
They played in one of the best national title games to date, with both North Carolina and Illinois being favored to make the championship game from the very beginning of the season.
The 2005 Kansas Jayhawk recruiting class came into the college game with plenty of hype. Featuring four national top-40 members, including Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright, when the sun had set on this class, their time in Lawrence justified the hype.
Though Micah Downs transferred to Gonzaga, and Julian Wright left for the NBA after his sophomore season, Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers delivered a 2008 national championship to head coach Bill Self.
In the process, Brandon Rush became only the second player in Big 12 history to make the All-Big 12 team three years in a row, while Chalmers was a three-time All-Big 12 defensive team selection. All of the recruits but Downs are currently playing professionally in the NBA, while Micah plays professionally overseas.
Back-to-back national championship game appearances for this group. That would be a historic feat for any major school recruiting class, but it is even more special for a Butler Bulldog recruiting class, featuring virtually no hyped national recruits.
As sophomores, the bunch made a surprise trip to the title game, where they lost to Duke on a barely missed, halfcourt heave by future NBA player Gordon Hayward.
The following season, Mack and Nored led the Bulldogs back to the championship, where they lost this time to Connecticut and their superstar Kemba Walker. Shelvin Mack was drafted this year by the Washington Wizards.
Three mid-major recruits, two NBA draft choices and two national championship game appearances. Amazing.
The 2003 Connecticut recruiting class of Charlie Villanueva, Josh Boone and Marcus Williams brought the Huskies another national championship, this one coming in 2004. Each of the elite talents made national headlines with their play in their careers, and each was drafted to the NBA.
When it comes to quality recruiting classes, not many can top this bunch. They are all still playing for money.
From purely a talent standpoint, the 1993 North Carolina Tar Heel class is better than most. Three members, three future NBA standouts. Rasheed Wallace headlined the group. All three were 1993 McDonald's All-Americans, with both McInnis and Stackhouse hailing from North Carolina.
As sophomores, the famed Duke class of 1999 won an NCAA championship against Arizona 82-72. As freshmen, they helped lead the Blue Devils to a Sweet 16 as well. Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Jason Williams all did significant damage on the college level, before each took their game to the pros.
Jason Williams did the most damage of any of them, winning a National Player of the Year award in his sophomore season and becoming one of the most popular and successful college players in decades.
The 1995 North Carolina Tar Heel recruiting class of Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison definitely left their mark on the game of basketball. Both players went on to have standout careers in the NBA, but before doing so, they put in work at UNC.
As you would expect, Carter was known for his extreme athleticism in college, dunking on anyone in his path, while Jamison ended up winning a National Player of the Year award before his time was through on Tobacco Road. Both ended up with their jersey being retired.
The 2007 Kansas State recruiting class helped put the Wildcats back on the map. Featuring top-five national talents in Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, along with future All-American Jacob Pullen, this bunch set the current standard for Kansas State basketball.
They led the team to a 21-10 record (10-6) and a second-round NCAA tournament appearance. Along the way, Beasley shattered school and national records, averaging 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds. He helped them beat an undefeated Kansas team at home for the first team since 1983. Walker was also a standout, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. Jacob Pullen was also a significant contributor as a freshman, starting at guard and scoring 20 points in their upset victory over the Jayhawks.
After the season, both former Parade All-Americans bolted for the 2007 NBA draft. Since then, Beasley stars for the Minnesota Timberwolves while Bill Walker plays a significant role for the New York Knicks. Pullen finished his career at K-State last year, setting numerous school records along the way, leading the Wildcats to an Elite Eight in his junior season.
One of the most memorable classes to hit the Big East in quite some time was the 2005 Marquette class of Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal. While they never made it to a Final Four, they did bring a lot of wins to the program.
Each of these talents accumulated accolades during their time in Milwaukee, and they were known as a "three musketeers" bunch of best friends taking on the world. Wesley Matthews is currently enjoying a successful NBA career, while James and McNeal are playing professionally around the world. This was a fun group to watch in college.
Before LeBron James and O.J. Mayo were the "it" boys of high school basketball, there was JaRon Rush. The Kansas City star seemed destined for greatness. The 1998 McDonald's All-American headlined a group headed to Westwood that included national top-50 recruits Dan Gadzuric, Jerome Moiso and Ray Young.
This group was hyped more than almost any recruiting class in history, but they never lived up to their billing. The farthest they took the Bruins was to the Sweet 16 in 2000. After doing so, the class went their separate ways. JaRon Rush, Jerome Moiso and Dan Gadzuric enjoyed time in the professional ranks, but never stood out.
The biggest disappointment was Rush, who was supposed to be an NBA superstar.
DePaul made headlines in 1998 with their recruiting class of Chicago Public League stars Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons and Lance Williams. This was another group who never lived up to the hype. Though Richardson became an All-American and NBA standout, along with Simmons, the group never starred together at the college level.
Lance Williams was a bit of a disappointment for the Blue Demons, he came into the program as a national recruit, but never dominated the post for the Conference USA team. This bunch was supposed to put DePaul back on the map, keeping talented recruits from Chicago at home, but it never worked out that way.
The 2000 Seton Hall Pirates made waves under young head coach Tommy Amaker. He reeled in the nation's finest talent that year, Philadelphia big man Eddie Griffin, who seemed destined for greatness. They also brought in famed New York point guard Andre Barrett and New Jersey swingman Marcus Toney-El, both being national top-50 recruits.
Soon after the season began, their illustrious recruiting class and dream season began falling apart. Though Griffin dominated the nation as a freshman, leading the nation at 4.4 blocks a game, the Pirates were never able to be successful as a team. He left for the NBA after his freshman season.
Andre Barrett enjoyed a standout career for the Pirates, breaking school records before making it to the NBA. Toney-El never really panned out, but he still had a decent career in a Seton Hall uniform.