Toasting the Class of 2012
May, 18, 2012
By David Auguste | ESPN.com
Kelly KlineWe think UK recruit Nerlens Noel is headed toward a bright future both on and off the court.With graduation right around the corner, it’s almost time to bid adieu to the class of 2012. Before the veteran ballers flip that tassel, we’re going to bless them with some last-second love and immortalize them in the form of senior superlatives. We’ll gaze into our crystal ball to make a few predictions as well as reflect on the myriad achievements of this talented crew.
These are our picks, but feel free to chime in with your selections on Twitter @espnhs.
Most important commitment
Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
Sure, Anderson’s commitment to UCLA might have been overshadowed by the subsequent pledges of Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker. But who knows if the Bruins would’ve landed those two prized recruits had it not been for Anderson -- the ultimate team-first guy and winner -- jumping on board first. Anderson's versatility will be valuable as the heralded class looks to restore UCLA's lore after a tumultuous last few years.
Runner-up: Baylor lands Isaiah Austin, Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)
Most likely to succeed in the NBA
Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
We’re not the only ones envisioning Muhammad going toe-to-toe with Bron Bron and the rest of the league's heavyweights. The consensus among pro scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit was that ‘Bazz was the most pro-ready domestic prospect in the class. His Kobe-like demeanor and ability to get buckets in a variety of ways should bode well for whatever squad scoops him up in the Association.
Runner-up: Anthony Bennett, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Most likely to land an acting role
Nerlens Noel, Tilton (Tilton, N.H.)
The high top fade alone should be enough to land this menacing shot blocker in the reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or if they ever recast Kid or Play for the next “House Party.” Combine his tight 'do with his affable personality and his ability to take over defensively on the hardwood, and we could be looking at a star both on and off the court.
Runner-up: Justin Anderson, Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)
Rodney Purvis, Upper Room Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.)
He may not be rated No. 1 by talent evaluators, but Purvis is tops when it comes to the fans. That much was evident after the NC State recruit and Jordan Brand Classic MVP took home the 2011-12 ESPNHS Fans’ Choice Player of the Year award in March. Rodney’s fans go so hard in their support of the ankle-breaking guard, they’ve adopted the nickname “The Purverts.” Now that’s love.
Most likely to coach
Marcus Smart, Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas)
ESPN Senior Analyst Dave Telep dubs this Oklahoma State recruit “Smartacus,” and for good reason. Smart boasts an exceptionally high basketball IQ and his leadership qualities could land him a gig on the sideline -- that is once he’s done tormenting defenders on both ends of the floor. And, come on, what player is going to question a move made by a coach named Smart?
Runner-up: Marcus Paige, Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa)
Best performance on National TV
Brandon Ashley, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
Trailing by 15 points with a quarter to play and the National High School Invitational crown on the line, Ashley took over to propel the Pilots to an improbable 86-83 OT victory over Montverde. The Arizona commit and McDonald’s All-American pumped in a team-best 31 points -- 15 coming during the pivotal fourth-quarter run -- in a breathtaking effort that will go down as one of the best in the event’s history.
Runner-Up: Muhammad lights up No. 5 DeMatha for 37
Kelly KlineShaquille Johnson has become a YouTube sensation thanks to his spectacular leaping ability.
Shaquille Johnson, Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.)
Johnson led the nation in head-above-the-rim dunks this winter. OK, so we made up that stat, but the dude carries the twitter handle @Sir_bounceALot for a reason. The Auburn recruit’s enticing blend of creativity, power and dumb hops made him an instant hit on YouTube during his time at Milton. Plus, how could we deny the guy who leaped over 6-foot-9 Tony Parker to beat a dunk contest field that included T-Wolves rook Derrick Williams at Elite 24?
Runner-up: J.P. Tokoto, Menomonee (Menomonee Falls, Wis.)
Best on Twitter
Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.)
No one is safe from @tonyparker32 once he gets his fingers working on Twitter. For instance, while most people will show you love when you proudly Instagram yourself going up for a dunk, TP will say you probably got hung. Tweets like that are what make the Miller Grove center the class’ most entertaining tweeter. His e-stand-up routine includes joking about other players' ESPN bio photos, going "Fashion Police" on his head coach and calling out other ballers for lacking swag. Parker was trending nationwide the day of his commitment, which included a shoutout from Skip Bayless.
Runner-up: Archie Goodwin, aka @A1Laflare10, Sylvan Hills (Little Rock, Ark)
Katin Reinhardt, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Ask players around the country which shooter you never want to leave alone, and Reinhardt’s name usually tops the discussion. He displays a marksmen's touch from deep and is equally adept at knocking down jumpers off the bounce. The UNLV recruit had his stroke going in a nationally televised win over Christ The King (Middle Village, N.Y.), canning a school- and Hoophall-record nine treys to finish with 35 points and plenty of props from the awe-struck crowd.
Runner-up: Rasheed Sulaimon, Strake Jesuit College Prep (Houston)
Tyler Lewis, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Just throw on a tape of Oak Hill’s win over Miller Grove and see how Lewis dismantled the then-No. 2 team in the country with his superior court vision and pin-point passes. The NC State-bound floor general can thread the needle with the nation’s best and creates a litany of easy deuces for teammates. He was pivotal during the Warriors' run to No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
Runner-up: Yogi Ferrell, Park Tudor (Greenfield, Ind.)
Most exciting player
Kelly Kline Gabe York will take his exciting style of play to Arizona where he is sure to be a fan favorite.
Gabe York, Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.)
This kid produces so many highlight-reel plays, mixtape sites could plead Yorksanity and drop a Gabe York video every week. York has ridiculous range and a killer crossover to boot, but what gets people out of their seats are his jaw-dropping flushes. Despite standing only 6-foot-1, York has posterized his share of big men and had arguably the dunk of the year, channeling his inner LeBron to leap over a taller defender and finish an oop.
Ricardo Gathers, Riverside Academy(LaPlace, La.)
Boasting a frame more likely to be found on the gridiron, people know better than to step in front of this 6-foot-7, 240-pound bulldozer on the break. The Baylor commit punishes post defenders and rims equally and regularly clears out the paint to pad his already robust rebounding stats.
Runner-up: Mitch McGary, Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.)
David Auguste is an associate editor and basketball writer for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @DAugusteESPN or email him at David.Auguste@espn.com.