Commentary

A layman's guide to the Class of 2012

Originally Published: July 26, 2011
By Eamonn Brennan and Dave Telep | ESPN.com

The July recruiting period is the most important offseason month of the college hoops calendar. The first 10-day stretch caused a handful of players to move up or down on the ESPNU 100. The second 10-day stretch -- highlighted by tournaments in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. -- began Friday and ends July 31.

So which players do you need to know about? I'm no recruiting expert, but I do happen to work with one, so I asked him -- him being ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep -- to drop some knowledge on the biggest recruiting developments of July.

Below are Dave's recommendations for players worth watching in the last few days of July and in their upcoming senior seasons, followed by my take on the potential impact of their decisions for the schools each prospect is currently considering.

Call it a July evaluation period tag team. It may be the first of its kind. It may also be the last.

Editor's Note: Keep in mind, these are only the Class of 2012 players who are still being sought after and have yet to commit to any school, thus no evaluation for top-15 prospects such as Isaiah Austin (Baylor), Cameron Ridley (Texas) and Grant Jerrett (Arizona).

Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6, SF (Las Vegas)

[+] EnlargeShabazz Muhammad
David Dixon with Next Level Shabazz Muhammad might soon be our top recruit in the 2012 class.

Telep: "He's about to leap from No. 3 to No. 1 in ESPN's rankings if he closes the summer strong. There's a major recruiting tussle for him. Memphis bowed out during the break between evaluation periods. UCLA is the clubhouse leader over Duke, hometown UNLV has emerged as a legit option and there continues to be whispers about Kentucky. Muhammad can shoot and leap tall buildings in a single bound, thus making him an elite impact player."

Brennan: The importance of Muhammad's recruitment for UCLA can't really be overstated. Ben Howland has struggled on the recruiting trail in recent years, but his 2012 class at UCLA is already shaping up to be a good one, and -- understatement alert -- Muhammad would officially announce the return of the "three Final Fours in three years" Howland regime. The Kentucky angle is interesting too, because John Calipari's 2012 class is uncharacteristically shallow at this juncture. Knowing Calipari, whose 2011 class might be the best of any school's in the last 10 years, he'll probably end up with another monster class. Could this Las Vegas native be his first get?

Andre Drummond, 6-10, C (Middletown, Conn.)

Telep: "This is the top post talent in the class. Drummond has an NBA body, talent and size. He doesn't turn 18 until later in the summer. There's been chatter involving him enrolling in the fall, but it looks now like Connecticut, West Virginia, Kentucky or Georgetown will get him."

Brennan: More Kentucky talk, which is something you should probably get used to; it seems every player on this list is considering the Wildcats either casually or seriously. Any of three Big East schools in play would be ecstatic to land him, especially the home-state Huskies, who have enjoyed a recruiting resurgence of late. But you could argue Georgetown -- which has suffered from the lack of a true post presence since Greg Monroe left for the NBA last summer and may be headed for a holdover year in 2011-12 -- needs him more than most.

Mitch McGary, 6-10, PF (Chesterton, Ind.)

Telep: "He may be college basketball's next Tyler Hansbrough; he's that intense an individual and a more diverse offensive player. McGary isn't doing much talking to colleges this summer, but schools are nonverbally communicating with him. Head coaches from Purdue, UConn, Florida, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas are omnipresent at his games."

Brennan: First of all, I love the idea of nonverbal recruiting communication. Does the NCAA have rules on telepathy? (I've always said Dr. Charles Xavier would make a great hoops coach. OK, I've never said that. But it's definitely true.) Second of all, if there's one clear underdog on that list, it's Purdue. For all the progress the program has made under Matt Painter, it's never been a recruiting power, while the rest of those teams are annual 800-pound recruiting gorillas who seem to pick and choose from the best talent in the country each and every year. This would be a coup for the Boilermakers. If it doesn't work out for Purdue, in 2012 Painter will be contending with the delayed loss of Robbie Hummel and staring at a lineup with a handful of solid post pieces but no true star to carry the program after the departures of Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson.

Brandon Ashley, 6-8, PF (Oakland, Calif.)

Telep: "He may be having the best summer production-wise of any big. Will Arizona add to its haul and reel him in? If they do, the Wildcats will be in for a long run in the Pac-12. Syracuse, Texas, Oregon, Kentucky, Georgia Tech and UCLA are trying to position themselves for fall visits."

Brennan: What Arizona coach Sean Miller has done in his short time in Tucson is nothing short of remarkable. Sure, that phrase is overused, but in this case it's true. If the Wildcats land Ashley, they will add an impact big man to what is already the No. 3-ranked class in the country. Considering Miller already has the seventh-ranked class arriving on campus this fall -- a class led by point guard Josiah Turner, who might be a star as soon as he steps foot on that cactus-laden floor -- well, yeah, the Pac-12 should be quaking in its boots if he signs up this Findlay Prep product.

[+] EnlargeDaJuan Coleman
Andrew ShurtleffTo lose a rare top-5 recruit from the Syracuse area would be a tough blow to the Orange.

DaJuan Coleman, 6-10, C (DeWitt, N.Y.)

Telep: "For three years, he's pretty much been on the ticket list for games at Syracuse. At one point, Jim Boeheim and the entire Syracuse staff was posted up watching him at the Peach Jam. Could a native of the Syracuse area really leave home? Kentucky is wedged in there with him and is threatening to throw a wrench into the plan to put him in orange."

Brennan: See what I mean about Kentucky? A defection by Coleman would be devastating for the Cuse, though it's not as if Boeheim has any shortage of young forwards to pick from in the coming seasons. In addition to the talent already on campus -- talent which may no longer include once-prized freshman Fab Melo, pending the school's reaction to Melo's involvement in a domestic abuse case with his ex-girlfriend this summer -- Boeheim has Rakeem Christmas, the No. 2-ranked center in the Class of 2011, arriving this fall. Still, it seems the recruiting world would be shocked to see Coleman head south to play for the Big Blue. But we've seen Calipari pull rabbits out of his hat before.

Rodney Purvis, 6-4, SG (Raleigh, N.C.)

Telep: "He's a litmus test recruit for Mark Gottfried at NC State. The Raleigh resident, since decommitting from Louisville, has been the new State coach's top target. Missouri accepted a commitment from his high school teammate and then took another player from his AAU program. Duke was in the mix but isn't recruiting any more guards this year. Will it come down to the Pack versus the Tigers, or will others get involved? Everyone recruiting him knows that he will immediately get buckets on the college level."

Brennan: As Dave said, this is a pretty big one for Gottfried. Purvis would be the first high-profile recruit of the new era at NC State, one that began after Sidney Lowe's talented 2010 class underwhelmed in his final year at the school. The Wolfpack have some talented youngsters on the squad, specifically forward C.J. Leslie, who could be in for a big year this season. But the long-haul expectations of the NC State fan base -- which is rightfully tired of seeing Duke and UNC cherry-pick top young talent on an annual basis and eager to rise to a similar, if not identical, level -- demand a recruiting breakthrough that feels less like a quick fix and more like the start of something special. There may not be a more important recruitment on this list.

Archie Goodwin, 6-5, SG (Little Rock, Ark.)

Telep: "He's coming back from a wrist injury, but trust me, no one is evaluating him. Programs are all-in on Goodwin. Arkansas, the home-state school, needs to have him to make a statement. Kentucky, UConn, Missouri, Kansas and Baylor are in there, chipping away this summer. Goodwin is one of the most competitive wings in the class."

Brennan: Dave said it all about the Razorbacks. Mike Anderson should be successful right away in his return to Fayetteville, thanks in large part to his up-tempo style and a swath of talented players recruited by former coach John Pelphrey. But if Arkansas is truly going to return to the Nolan Richardson-era glory days, Anderson will have to make recruiting strides of his own.

Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, C (Claremont, N.H.)

Telep: "Surely we thought Mike Krzyzewski would be all over this Polish center. However, it's the other residents of Tobacco Road that made Tarczewski's list, North Carolina. The Tar Heels are locked in a battle with presumed leader Kansas and Arizona to snag him -- and Kentucky was recently eyeballing him in Vegas. He'll play in the NBA one day and will be a major piece for an elite program."

Brennan: Choosing among Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina is a little like choosing between filet, lobster and foie gras; whatever you choose, you're probably going to be happy with the choice. Zona might not need the big man quite as much as the other two, though. Kansas might well be dealing with the loss of Thomas Robinson, who is primed for a lottery-pick-worthy breakout this season. North Carolina likely will be stuck trying to replace John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes (and maybe James Michael McAdoo). The Wildcats, on the other hand, have already snagged power forward Grant Jerrett in this class and have a pair of ESPNU 100 big men starting school this fall, although none are true centers like Tarczewski.

[+] EnlargeAnderson
Andrew Shurtleff/ESPN.comKyle Anderson is the latest star from Jersey power St. Anthony.

Kyle Anderson, 6-7, SF (Fairview, N.J.)

Telep: "Anderson won a high school national championship as a junior. He's a 6-8 point guard ala the Magic Johnson family -- notice I didn't say he was Magic Johnson, there's a difference. St. John's, Florida, Georgetown, Seton Hall and UCLA made the final cut. To recap: He's a winner, can pass and other guys respect him."

Brennan: St. John's might have the best young crop of talent of any team in the running for Anderson's services, so it wouldn't be a killer to lose out on the unconventional point guard. Seton Hall, just now recovering from the mess that was the Bobby Gonzalez era, is in the biggest need of a high-profile recruiting upset. Perhaps the scariest prospect, at least for the rest of the SEC, is Florida's hope that Anderson will show up in time to play a year alongside shooting guard Bradley Beal, who will be a freshman of the year candidate in Gainesville this season.

Shaq Goodwin, 6-8, PF (Decatur, Ga.)

Telep: "He's a cross-sport recruit. Goodwin is adamant about playing football, which has the schools recruiting him all befuddled. UCLA, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Memphis are on the list. UCLA is working its new Atlanta pipeline, and he's the big prize if they can get it done. From what we can tell, he's not the same level football prospect and might not understand that these sports in this day and age are mutually exclusive on the college level."

Brennan: UCLA's Atlanta pipeline development is certainly worth watching; Howland's decision to hire Atlanta-area AAU power-broker Korey McCray might already have paid dividends with the commitment of ESPNU 100 small forward Jordan Adams. But the football aspect of Goodwin's recruitment is the trickiest issue here. Most hoops recruits seem to consider Memphis more attractive than Alabama, but what if football swings the pendulum? Did Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant just stumble on a brave new recruiting strategy?

Gary Harris, 6-4, SG (Indianapolis)

Telep: "Indiana and Purdue took a ton of early commitments, but neither landed Harris, Indy's top prospect. Will he see room for himself at those schools, or will he venture out to places like Michigan State, Louisville, Illinois, Notre Dame or Michigan? Harris is smooth, mature and easy for other guys to play with. He can score for any team in America."

Brennan: If Indiana lands Harris, it would only add to what Telep and his colleagues believe to be the best 2012 recruiting class in the country. It would also be a major blow to Purdue, which will see the aforementioned departures of star players Moore, Johnson and Hummel coincide with Tom Crean's emergence as a major force in the state's loaded recruiting scene. It would also make IU an immediate Big Ten title contender in 2012-13, something Hoosiers fans are desperate to experience after years of Mike Davis- and Kelvin Sampson-induced turmoil. But with all those talented players already in the fold, might Harris find the idea of playing at Purdue a more attractive option? Or will he go out of the state entirely?

Perry Ellis, 6-8, PF (Wichita, Kan.)

Telep: "Kansas and Kentucky have been tangling a lot since Bill Self arrived at KU and John Calipari took the Kentucky job. Ellis is an in-state kid the Jayhawks want. Danny Manning's son plays on Ellis' AAU team. Kentucky, Memphis [Ellis' sister hoops for the Tigers], Kansas State and Oklahoma are in the mix. Duke liked him during the early period and is trying to get involved. This one is getting interesting."

Brennan: Kansas and Kentucky -- that sounds familiar, doesn't it? UK's situation is always more difficult to read, because the Wildcats have tended to specialize in one-year players in Calipari's tenure. Of course, that's not to say Kentucky won't be able to use Ellis, especially if forwards Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Gilchrist depart for the NBA next spring. KU, as I wrote above, will be looking for an elite big man in the likely wake of Thomas Robinson's departure. One thing is for sure: As Dave said, this isn't the first time Kansas and Kentucky have gone after the same top recruit. As long as both coaches stay in their respective posts, it certainly won't be the last.

Eamonn Brennan covers college basketball for ESPN.com. You can see his work throughout the week in the College Basketball Nation blog. To contact Eamonn, e-mail collegebasketballnation@gmail.com or reach him on Twitter (@eamonnbrennan). Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at espndt@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.