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Top 10 Incoming Classes

August 18, 2003 Columns No Comments

New Talent, Same Old College Basketball Fun

by Phil Kasiecki

Recruiting remains a major challenge for college basketball coaches these days, as indicated just partly by the NBA Draft. Five players decided to skip college to declare for the NBA Draft, leaving three schools without one of the best talents they recruited.

Declaring for the NBA from the class of 2003 were LeBron James (6’7″ SF, Akron (OH) St. Vincent-St. Mary’s HS), Memphis signee Kendrick Perkins (6’10” PF-C, Beaumont (TX) Ozen HS), Arizona signee Ndudi Ebi (6’9″ SF-PF, Houston (TX) Westbury Christian HS), Mississippi State signee Travis Outlaw (6’9″ SF-PF, Starkville (MS) High), and unsigned James Lang (6’9″ PF, Birmingham (AL) Central Park HS). Lang was the only one who was a possible academic non-qualifier.

Even with these defections, there is still a very talented class of newcomers entering the college ranks this winter, though many have been eagerly awaiting the loaded class of 2004. But even among the class of 2003, there is much to look forward to, especially at schools that landed some of the best groups of players. Here, we take a look at the top recruiting classes in the country and some other schools that landed classes that will help them this season. We also tip our caps to schools who have small classes that will help them out.

1. Louisiana State

John Brady and his staff secured a terrific crop this year, with most of the talent coming in the frontcourt. The gem is homegrown stud Brandon Bass (6’8″ SF-PF, Baton Rouge (LA) Capitol HS), who will be an instant impact player, while Regis Koundjia (6’7″ SF, Laurinburg (NC) Charter) is a superb athlete on the wing. Solidly-built Taurean Minor (5’11” PG, Houston (TX) Washington HS) will get some time right away at the point, though he tends to look for his own offense a bit much. Ross Neltner (6’8″ PF, Ft. Thomas (KY) Highlands HS) and Darnell Lazare (6’7″ SF-PF, Shreveport (LA) Woodlawn HS) will add depth.

2. Maryland

Gary Williams rode the 2002 national championship to some great recruiting success with his first class after winning it all. It starts with big-time wing stud Michael Jones (6’5″ SG-SF, Braintree (MA) Thayer Academy), who should be an instant scorer next season. Combo forward Ekene Ibekwe (6’9″ SF-PF, Carson (CA) High) has loads of potential, especially if he gets stronger, while D.J. Strawberry (6’4″ SG, Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei HS) will get plenty of time as well. The Terps also added plenty of size with two big men that will see some time immediately, massive Hassan Fofana (6’11” C, Worcestor (MA) Hargrave Military Academy) and improving Will Bowers (6’11” C, Severn (MD) Archbishop Spalding HS).

3. Florida State

Leonard Hamilton wasted little time putting together a class that will get the Seminoles moving up in the ACC rankings. He said he would move this program forward, and he has definitely done that. They started by landing a stud on the wing in Von Wafer (6’5″ SG-SF, Cleveland (TX) Heritage Christian HS), but what put the class over the top was late signee Alexander Johnson (6’9″ SF-PF, North Bridgton (ME) Bridgton Academy), a legitimate combo forward who will also be an instant impact player. Giving the Seminoles another big presence up front, as well as experience, is spring junior college signee Diego Romero (6’10” PF-C, Lon Morris College (TX)), who should be an instant impact player. Fellow JuCo signee Antonio Griffin (6’7″ SF-PF, Scottsdale (AZ) CC) gives them another good athlete who will help in the frontcourt.

4. Kansas

Roy Williams had another big haul before heading to North Carolina, and all of their newcomers decided to honor their commitment after he left and Bill Self took over. That means the Jayhawks will still be among the nation’s top teams. The jewel of the class is David Padgett (6’11” C, Reno (NV) High), the top big man in the class of 2003. Padgett is an excellent inside player with the ability to face the basket and hit mid-range jumpers. J.R. Giddens (6’6″ SG-SF, Oklahoma City (OK) Marshall HS) is one of the best athletes in the class and should start immediately, while Omar Wilkes (6’4″ SG, Los Angeles (CA) Loyola HS) will get some time on the wing as well. Jeremy Case (6’0″ PG-SG, McAlester (OK) High) and Nick Bahe (6’3″ SG, Lincoln (NE) Southeast HS) will add backcourt depth.

5. Oklahoma

Kelvin Sampson’s team will stay right in the thick of the Big 12 race with this class, especially with the backcourt help it brings after losing their starting guards. Leading the way are two players who will remain teammates into the college years, lightning quick floor leader Andrew Lavender (5’7″ PG, Columbus (OH) Brookhaven HS) and exceptional athlete Brandon Foust (6’7″ SF-PF, Columbus (OH) Brookhaven HS). Lavender is an exciting floor leader, while Foust will be a star once his skills catch up to his athleticism. Jaison Williams (6’2″ SG, Southern Idaho JC (ID)) will get some minutes at shooting guard, while Lawrence McKenzie (6’1″ PG, Minneapolis (MN) Henry HS) and Jimmy Tobias (6’4″ SG, Ft. Lauderdale (FL) Dillard HS) add depth. The Sooners will have Jason Detrick back after he redshirted last season, so they will be overloaded at shooting guard, and Tobias could be a redshirt candidate this season.

6. Connecticut

Jim Calhoun didn’t need a big haul since he’ll have the nation’s preseason number one team, but he got a good class nonetheless thanks in part to a great last-minute pickup. Charlie Villanueva (6’10” SF-PF, Blairstown (NJ) Blair Academy) made the smart decision to go to college for at least a year, and he gives the Huskies another good option in the frontcourt. Marcus Williams (6’2″ PG, Los Angeles (CA) Oak Hill Academy) is the point guard of the future and will get some good time behind Taliek Brown this year. Josh Boone (6’8″ PF, Colora (MD) West Nottingham Academy) is a solid student and post player who is very crafty around the basket. Ryan Thompson (6’6″ SF, Western Nebraska (NE) JC) will help on the wing. The Huskies also added Georgia Tech transfer Ed Nelson in the spring, but he will count for next year since he will sit out next season.

7. Michigan

Probation didn’t stop Tommy Amaker from putting together a nice class for the future. No player stands out far ahead of the others in terms of potential, but the big signing is probably in-state stud Dion Harris (6’3″ SG, Detroit (MI) Redford HS) since he’s a local kid. Brent Petway (6’8″ SF-PF, Griffin (GA) High) is an exceptional athlete who’s currently between positions, but with added strength and more skill development will be a nice player. Courtney Sims (6’11” C, Dedham (MA) Noble & Greenough HS) is one of the better big men in the class. Walk-on John Andrews (6’6″ SF-PF, Orchard Lake MI) St. Mary’s HS) completes the class.

8. California

Ben Braun will keep the Golden Bears among the contenders in the Pac Ten with a solid group of in-state talent. The stud is Leon Powe (6’7″ PF, Oakland (CA) Tech), a warrior in the paint who has gained strength and has shown few ill effects from his torn ACL over a year ago. Ayinde Ubaka (6’1″ PG, Oakland (CA) High) is the point guard of the future, while California native Marquise Kately (6’5″ SF, Pittsfield (ME) Maine Central Institute) will give them scoring on the wing if he qualifies academically. Regardless of Kately’s status, Dominick McGuire (6’6″ SG-SF, San Diego (CA) Lincoln HS) will get plenty of time on the wing to help out.

9. Syracuse

The cupboard won’t be bare for the national champs, despite Carmelo Anthony’s expected early departure for the NBA. Jim Boeheim is reloading with a solid class that will complement the returning players well. Late in the spring, he added Darryl Watkins (6’11” C, Paterson (NJ) Catholic), an enigmatic post player with plenty of upside. He may not qualify academically. In the fall, he solidified the frontcourt with versatile Demetris Nichols (6’7″ SF, Barrington (RI) St. Andrew’s HS) and Terrence Roberts (6’9″ SF-PF, Jersey City (NJ) St. Anthony’s HS), both of whom will see plenty of minutes in their inaugural campaign. Louie McCroskey (6’4″ SG, Bronx (NY) St. Raymond’s HS) has a deadly stroke from long range and always comes to play, meaning he will see his share of minutes.

10. Arkansas

Stan Heath is wasting little time getting the talent base back to where it once was in Fayetteville. Leading the way is Olu Famutimi (6’5″ SF, Flint (MI) Northwestern HS), an exceptional athlete with big-time potential. Ronnie Brewer (6’6″ SG-SF, Fayetteville (AR) High) is a big local pickup for the Razorbacks and figures to be an immediate contributor. The frontcourt has key additions in promising Julius Lamptey (7’0″ C, New Hampton (NH) Prep), who is still trying to qualify, and local product Vincent Hunter (6’9″ PF, Little Rock (AR) Fair HS). Rounding out the class is Preston Crawford (6’6″ SF, Heber Springs (AR) High), who will walk on.

Just Missing

Michigan State
Wake Forest

Sleeper Classes Worthy of Mention

Boston College:
Sean Marshall (6’5″ SF, Rialto (CA) Eisenhower HS) leads a solid group of four players that will keep the Eagles competitive in the Big East.

Kansas State:
Cartier Martin (6’7″ SF, Houston (TX) Nimitz HS) is the best of a seven-man class that should make the Wildcats competitive in the Big 12 very soon.

Tubby Smith continues to get good players, even if they aren’t elite talents. Big man Shagari Alleyne (7’2″ C, New York (NY) Rice HS) has the most upside of this four-man group.

Louisiana Tech:
The Bulldogs add rapidly improving Paul Millsap (6’7″ PF, Grambling (LA) High) along with four JuCo transfers, three of who previously played for Division I schools.

Exciting Guillermo Diaz (6’1″ PG-SG, Miami (FL) Christian HS) leads a group with good talent, but academic questions abound with the Hurricanes’ class.

John Chaney snuck in some good pickups in the spring, led by warrior Dion Dacons (6’6″ SF-PF, Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy).

A terrific class will keep them atop the Mid-Continent, with Oumar Sylla (6’6″ SF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American) leading a class with three high-major prospects.

Small In Stature But Not In Quality: Classes With One or Two Players

(best player noted)

Arizona (2): Mustafa Shakur (6’3″ PG, Wynnewood (PA) Friends Central HS)

Duke (1) Luol Deng (6’7″ SF, Blairstown (NJ) Blair Academy)

Villanova (2): Will Sheridan (6’8″ PF, Hockessin (DE) Sanford School


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