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Top Five Early Recruiting Classes

January 11, 2004 Columns No Comments

Top Five Early Recruiting Classes

by Keith Irizarry

With the change in the NBA, College, and High School Game, it’s not always who you can get but how long you can get them for. With all respect to Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony, the 2003 National Champions, the college game needs to recruit players that will be around for 2 or 3 years. Take a look at the past Final Fours, with teams like Kansas, Duke, Maryland, Texas, and Kentucky who had team leaders that were juniors or seniors. These are the programs that you will consistently see making a splash in the NCAA tournament. Their recruiting classes had a stud and then some other players that would develop in each respective system. With that said, here’s a look at this year’s Top 5 recruiting class winners and next week I will round out the top 10 as well as look at the best high schoolers in the nation yet to commit.

1. Texas Longhorns

Texas gets the nod, early in the signing period as the best incoming class. With four excellent players already signed, and a verbal from 6-11 center LaMarcus Aldridge, this class has the potential to not only do something in the future, but make a major dent for the Horns next season. Forward Mike Williams is a man amongst boys. After a great 2003 ABCD Camp, he went on to have a solid summer. He can power the ball up down low and face up from 15-17 feet. Guard Daniel Gibson, from Texas, may be a McDonald’s All American and has the abilities to have a major role for the Longhorns next season. Texas forwards Dion Dowell (Texas City) and Connor Atchley (Houston) are those types of players that can be great in a system and if LaMarcus chooses the college game over the allure of the NBA he can dominate in the paint.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels

The second best recruiting class comes from the ACC, North Carolina. Roy Williams and the Tar heels went out and got a future NBA player in 6-8, 215 pound power forward, Marvin Williams. Marvin missed most of the summer camps with injuries, but was highly recruited by every major college. Williams may be a one and done. What makes this class so good is the “other” guys. Earl Smith, known as J.R., can do it all. At 6-6, 220, he can bang with the big boys and has decent outside touch. JamesOn Curry is more than an interesting name, the incoming point guard may be the answer to UNC’s point guard future (note: this Hoopville writer doesn’t see Raymond Felton staying at Chapel Hill, the NBA riches await). Curry is quick and has court vision. California guard Quentin Thomas rounds out the goods for North Carolina.

3. Indiana Hoosiers

Once you get past the top 2, the difficulties lie in whether some players will test out the professional waters, or go to school. Assuming Josh Smith chooses to attend Indiana, the Hoosiers recruiting class is stellar and may have warranted a higher ranking. Smith, at 6-9 and 210 pounds can play the two, three, four, or five. He can shoot, handle, bounce, and get nasty down low. I doubt he heads to college, but if he does, Josh can have the same effect on Indiana as Carmelo Anthony had at Syracuse, and guys like Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva are currently having at Duke and UConn respectively. D.J. White is a double-double just waiting to happen in every game. At 6-9, 230, from Alabama, he’s got those southern bloodlines that always seem to turn out some hounds on the boards. A.J. Ratliff and Robert Vaden can be quality contributors and if James Hardy officially signs (has verbally committed), the Hoosiers will be dangerous.

4. Duke Blue Devils

Back to the ACC we head for number 4 on the recruiting path, and boy will the Cameron Crazies love these players. Duke brings in arguably the top point guard in the country in Illinois point god, Shaun Livingston. It’s hard to find a purer, silkier, more dangerous chief, with better court vision to go along with savvy, than Shaun. He stands 6-7, and a lanky 180 pounds. Livingston is of the breed of a young Penny Hardaway but with a better handle and less of a jump shot. Shaun’s nickname should be the dime machine because he will pay dividends; he will immediately make Duke better (how scary is that?). DeMarcus Nelson and David McClure are 2 more potential McDonald’s All-Americans, and you can see why Duke continues to be a powerhouse in Division 1 Men’s basketball. Nelson is built like a man, at 6-3, 195 pounds of muscle. He is a scorer who has never seen a shot he didn’t like (nice future pairing with a Livingston who loves to pass). McClure is a little rawer and may take more time to adjust on the college level.

5. Louisville Cardinals

Rounding out my top 5 is Rick Pitino and Louisville. Pitino, since taking over continues to prove to be a genius. He knows New York guys have that grittiness he needs for his constant press (see Francisco Garcia, from NYC, currently ripping it up in Blue Grass country). Rick’s next New York find has been under the media radar since he was 14. Early he was known as Stephon Marbury’s little cousin, but 6-foot point guard Sebastian Telfair is making a name for himself, and hopes to claim the title as the “next” in NYC point guard legends. Telfair fits the prototypical PG mold, small, crafty, and hard-nosed. He can shoot, although his jumper is a little erratic at times. When you want a taste for the flair and court vision, in the High School game, only second to Livingston, (and they are comparable, believe that) you go to Coney Island to see “Bassy.” Pitino did a great job with this class, as well, with getting the parts you need. He signed three “bigs” in Terrance Farley (6-10, 195), Brian Johnson (6-9, 245), and Donta Smith (6-7, 215) along with a smooth wingman in Lorenzo Wade (6-5, 185).


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