Pat covered the best of the best in the Class of 2008 rankings. Today, I thought I’d tackle the early developments for the class of 2009 in this lull period in college basketball (late June after the draft to the end of the summer can often be brutal). There’s been some new signings in the last few days out of the Arizona front and, even though the top three prospects in the class have not committed this early, four of the top 15 have verballed to their school of choice. While it’s quite early to tell, it appears the strength of the 2009 class hails from the South: Atlanta, Raleigh, Round Rock, Oklahoma City, Mobile, Roswell, etc.
Here’s a brief summation on how the 2009 recruiting rampage has played out thus far:
North Carolina is turning into an all-time recruiting machine- Roy Williams coaches at a storied program with a long history, passionate fans, and a winning tradition since he arrived on campus. So why shouldn’t he completely reload once his fabled class of 2005 and 06 departs? Williams has already been able to lure in four top 60 recruits and the 08-09 season hasn’t even begun yet. John Henson, ranked #4 overall and the top power forward, is an athletic Brandan Wright-type who Williams managed to scoop out of Texas. He received verbals from the Wear twins from California, because 6’9 225 at the power forward spot is always beneficial. He’s also been able to get the #12 and #26 ranked players in the nation, guards Dexter Strickland from New Jersey as their next big-time scorer, and Leslie McDonald from Memphis, respectively. Talk about spanning the country for top dogs.
Mike Davis making his mark- When UAB hired Mike Davis as his job-after following the painful dismissal from Indiana, they knew they were getting a coach who could recruit. Davis showed his muscle by reeling in the number two center in the nation, DeMarcus Cousins, from Mobile, to play in Conference USA, rather than receive more attention at a school like Indiana, Kentucky or Memphis. Of course, if we’ve learned anything from Memphis, it’s that Conference USA schools can receive plenty of attention if they build a winning atmosphere under a respected coach. And contend for an undefeated mark annually.
Bill Self looking to build another national champion in three years- The Jayhawks are in contention for the #2 and #6 players in the 2009 class. By having both commit, they’d be the first team since UNC with Lawson and Ellington to receive multiple top-6 players. Wingman Xavier Henry is the #1 SG in the class, a player with an extremely versatile game- a plus long range jumper and excellent slashing ability. His father also played at KU. They’re battling for Henry with Memphis and North Carolina. Also being recruited heavily by Self is Lance Stephenson, a 6’5 SF from Sebastian Telfair’s high school in Brooklyn. Kentucky is also making a stronger push for Stephenson, and I’m surprised Pitino isn’t involved.
New Big East recruiting power emerges- Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been absolutely tremendous recruiting two outstanding players in the 2009 class. Just recently, Wright received a commitment from talented forward Isaiah Armwood from Rockville, a creative and versatile post player from Maryland who has been playing with the Baltimore Stars. He also got his point guard of the future from Philly. Maalik Wayns can even be better than Scottie Reynolds as a pure PG with excellent court vision and passing ability.
Some stunners- It’s not just the Connecticut’s, North Carolina’s and Duke’s of the world getting all of the best players (well mostly). Akron has a commitment from the #7 center in the nation, Zeke Marshall. San Diego, an up-and-coming program, reeled in the #12 center in the nation, Vander Joaquim. Also, Oklahoma, Baylor, Illinois, Marquette, and especially Clemson, are putting together excellent classes.
Did Duke finally get its big man?- Duke’s main Achilles heel the last few empty years have been due to a lack of a strong, reliable inside presence (and don’t give me Josh McRoberts). 6’11, 210 center Mason Plumlee from Arden, NC has been able to exert himself offensively in the paint with much more frequency, coupling that with an advanced mid-range game. Or he could be another McRoberts.
Predictions: Derrick Favors goes to Georgia Tech, Xavier Henry heads to Kansas, John Wall goes to Kentucky, Renardo Sidney heads to Texas, Lance Stephenson to Memphis, Kenny Boynton to Florida, Abdul Gaddy plays for Arizona, and Daniel Orton goes to Ohio State to round out the top ten.