Everytime a great center steps onto the court, his inside presence alters the game. Guards think twice about going to the rim if these guys are prowling in the paint. Also, good centers offer a big target on the block and are able to take over a game with their overpowering size. Unfortunatelynot many teams have players with this kind of a presence because this year’s class of centers is very weak, especially compared to the class of their frontcourt-mates at power forward. It seems to me that there is a clear-cut number one center, but after that ranking these players proved to be a great challenge.
1. BJ Mullens: As the best combination of size and athleticism at the center position, Mullens will be the premier center in the nation as a freshman. He’s 7 feet tall, and has incredible quickness and explosiveness, which reminds me a lot of his Ohio State predecessor Greg Oden. He may not have the pure shot blocking ability of Oden, but he has a good mid-range game, something Oden didn’t possess. Mullens will instantaneously become a star for the Buckeyes and as he develops his game, will become a strong candidate for a top 3 pick in the NBA Draft.
2. AJ Ogilvy: Shan Foster attracted a lot of the media attention for the Commodores last season, but Ogilvy’s contributions as a freshman can’t be ignored. The Aussie averaged 17 PPG and grabbed 6.7 RPG andshot 58.8% from the field in 26.4 min./game. In watching Ogilvy last season, I saw a very intelligent player with a great all-around offensive game. He’s very tough to guard off the pick and roll and has a great set of post moves. I’m a little skeptical on how Ogilvy will fair with the departure of Vandy’s other top scorers, but he has a great ability to pass out of a double team, enabling him to get good one on one match-ups down low.
3. Hasheem Thabeet: As a freshman, Thabeet came into UConn as a 7’3″ center who could block shots and that’s about it. Since then, he’s greatly improved his offensive game but still has a lot of work to do in order to become a good scorer. Thabeet was uncomfortable with the ball in his early days as a Huskie, but has become better on the low block by adding a couple of good post moves. The reason he is at #3 is his great shot blocking ability. He averaged 4.5 BPG last season and his mere presence virtually shuts off the paint for the opposing team. If Thabeet polishes his offensive game on the block and becomes stronger with the ball, he will become a stud center.
4. DeJuan Blair: Blair is short for a center at 6’7″, but makes up for his lack of size with heart and not to mentiona 7’3″ wingspan. He plays his hardest every second he’s on the floor and loves to bang bodies down in the low post. He averaged close to a double-double last year as a freshman with 11.6 PPG and 9.1 RPGbut Blair’s contributions to the Panthers can’t all be found on the stat sheet. If Blair works on his footwork, adds a couple of post moves and uses his broad shoulders down low, he can become a good scorer. Pitt returns many of the same faces for next season, giving Blair one on one opportunities on the block.
5. Jordan Hill: Hill saw his scoring go up nearly 9 points and grabbed almost 4 more rebounds per game from 06-07 to 07-08. He isn’t a big time offensive threat with 13.2 PPG last season, but he shot 62% from the field meaning he takes good shots. Hill will have to work for his own shots more often with the departure of Jerryd Bayless and the absence of Brandon Jennings but I think he has the talent to become a good low block scorer.
6. Jarvis Varnado: At 6 foot 9, a bit undersized for a center, Varnado is surprisingly the best shot blocker in the country. He averaged 4.6 BPG for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, which is unbelievable for a guy his size. He swatted nearly everything that came his way (as seen in photo on the left) and had 10 blocks against Miami, Kentucky and Georgia last year. This guy’s shot blocking ability is the lone reason he’s at #6. He only averaged 7.9 PPG and 7.8 RPGlast year, but his shot blocking presence as second to none. If he keeps his shot blocking up and improves on his offensive game, he’ll be one of the premier big men in the SEC.
7. Luke Nevill: As a sophomore, Nevill averaged 16.8 PPG and 7.7 RPG and shot 63.7% from the field and 74.1% from the stripe in 31.3 min./game. Entering his junior season, a lot of people expected Nevill to improve his game enough to get drafted. Instead, he saw a slight decrease in his numbers for every statistic except for blocks. This is inexplicable for me, but if the 7 foot Aussie becomes stronger in the post he could be a dominant player in the MWC and a mid to late 2nd round pick.
8. J’Mison Morgan: Morgan is a 6’9″ wide-bodied incoming freshman out of South Oak Cliff High School and is part of the stacked recruiting class for Ben Howland and the Bruins. It’s tough to fill the hole that Kevin Love left in UCLA’s frontcourt, but Morgan has the body andtalent to do so. He’s a great finisher around the rim and isn’t afraid to bang bodies in the post. He could use a couple of years to develop his basketball IQ and his quickness, but if he improves on that, Morgan has a great chance to be a futrure lottery pick.
9. John Bryant: Bryant put up some pretty impressive statistics for Santa Clara last year with 18 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 2.5 BPG which included 15 double-doubles. At 6’10″ 350 lbs. he’s a load down on the block and uses his great combination of power and touch around the rim. Bryant’s post presence will help Santa Clara compete with the top opponents in the WCC: Gonzaga, San Diego and Saint Mary’s.
10. Mac Koshwal: As a freshman for the Blue Demons last year, “Mac Daddy” averaged 10.7 PPG and brought down 8.4 RPG. He was a raw talent last year with plenty of upside for the future. He runs the floor very well and is a very explosive center for DePaul. He needs work on his post moves, but other than that he has all the athletic tools to enable him to become a well-known name in the Big East.
Also Considered: Ty Walker, Trevor Booker, Connor Atchley.