Commentary

Small forwards come up big in 2012

No. 1 prospect Shabazz Muhammad highlights a strong crop of SFs

Originally Published: August 17, 2011
By Michael LaPlante | ESPN Recruiting

Although the Class of 2012 has been deemed "the year of the big man" due to its unique quality and depth, the small forward position is, by far, the most talented individual position. The small forward position is not only the deepest spot with 29 wing players represented in the ESPNU 100, but also includes six in the top 25.

The 2012 class is littered with big, skilled, versatile and athletic wings who will have a chance to have a major impact as college freshmen. One additional interesting tidbit on the recruiting front is the fact the top six small forwards have yet to declare and are still on the board.

Top prospects

Muhammad
Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman)
6-foot-6, 215 pounds
Muhammad has been considered one of the elite players in his class for some time, but his consistent high-level play, production and effort this summer not only earned him the right to be called the top small forward but also propelled him to the overall No. 1 spot in the ESPNU 100. His competitiveness, athleticism and work ethic set him apart from his peers. The fact he still has major upside and the drive to improve on his game is evidence we haven't seen the best of Muhammad yet.

Anderson
Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J./St. Anthony)
6-8, 220 pounds
The debate on Anderson's true position has been well chronicled on this site, as the 6-8 playmaker is able to successfully play all five spots on the floor. The phrase "old school" is often tossed around when describing Anderson's game and it is meant as a major compliment. He is as complete of a basketball player as there is in the 2012 class and he possesses a unique combination of size and playmaking ability that has drawn comparisons to Jalen Rose and Magic Johnson.

House
Danuel House (Sugarland, Texas/Hightower)
6-6, 185 pounds
House's jump from No. 70 to No. 15 in the ESPNU 100 was one of the biggest surprises this summer, as he exploded up the rankings with his consistent high level of play against the best in the country. Always considered an outstanding athlete who excelled in transition, House showed his developing well-rounded game with his ability to impact the game in both up-tempo and half-court settings. The rangy playmaker has a great feel for the game and has improved his shot consistency out to the 3-point line. His size, length and athleticism create mismatches on the wing that he exploits without forcing the action.

Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast)
6-7, 215 pounds
Poythress has been on the national radar as an inside/outside combo-forward who could play on the perimeter versus certain matchups. However, with an improved handle and 3-point stroke Poythress has made a smooth transition to the wing position, where he dominates his competition with his overpowering size and strength. He has great hands and rebounds his position as well as any small forward in the country. Poythress understands how to use his shot fake to lift his defender and attacks the basket, where he is adept at drawing contact and getting to the free throw line.

Devonta Pollard (De Kalb, Miss./Kemper County)
6-7, 200 pounds
You have to watch Pollard a couple of times before you figure out which is his dominant hand, as the ambidextrous, smooth wing makes plays from 15 feet and in with equal effectiveness. He also has a deadly midrange game, using his length to knock down pull-up jumpers over his defender, and keeps opponents honest with his improved 3-point shooting. Pollard, who is ultra quick off the floor, is a terror on the offensive glass and a very good shot-blocker who forces opponents to account for his whereabouts on the floor.

[+] EnlargeTJ Warren
Courtesy Dave TelepT.J. Warren is the No. 24 overall player in the 2012 class.

T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy)
6-7, 215-pounds
Warren may have decided to take his talents to a Northeast prep school, but that won't stop the talented small forward from being a major target for teams along tobacco road. The big-bodied wing is a deceptive athlete with a high basketball IQ who understands how to move without the ball and utilize screens to free himself. Once he catches the ball, he becomes a handful for opponents because he is effective in all three phases of the game. When attacking the rim, he is not only a great finisher through contact, but makes you pay at the free throw line, as well.

Others to watch

• Wisconsin commit Sam Dekker (Sheboygan, Wis./Sheboygan Lutheran), who is a perfect fit for the Badgers, has proved himself to be one of the toughest customers on the circuit. The fans in Madison are going to love this kid because he is very versatile with his ability to score inside and out. While Dekker has a knack for scoring, he also has a great feel for passing the ball to go along with outstanding court vision.

Jerami Grant (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic), who has great bloodlines (Harvey Grant is his father), had a tremendous summer and his ranking could easily rise as he continues to develop. The long, bouncy and athletic wing covers a lot of ground and is just beginning to show a dominant scorer's mentality.

Jordan Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga./Oak Hill Academy) pledged his commitment to UCLA in June and then went on a tear in July. He is an excellent shooter who has always reminded me of a Dennis Scott-type forward who can stretch the defense and has shown the ability to go on some amazing scoring runs. Could he be the first of many Georgians to follow assistant coach Korey McCray to the West Coast?

Rest of the pack

Michigan has a good one coming in 6-6, 175-pounder Glenn Robinson (St. John, Ind./Lake Central), as the smooth wing will have a chance to play early in coach John Beilein's system. … High-major programs are in strong pursuit of Jake Layman (Wrentham, Mass./King Phillip Regional), as he proved to be one of the most efficient players in the country. Plus, he's a winner. … It seems like the whole country has thrown its hat in the ring for Rosco Allen (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman), as the hard-playing forward continues to impress. … Indiana commit Jeremy Hollowell (Indianapolis/Lawrenceville Central) is a talent who has improved his consistency and is continuing to come on strong. … Marcus Hunt (Riverdale, Ga./North Clayton) has been one of the big surprises of the spring and summer and has many in the SEC and ACC fighting for his services. … Virginia-bound Justin Anderson (Montross, Va./Montross Christian) is a high-level athlete with a college-ready body. If he can positively channel his emotions, he will have a chance to make an immediate impact with the Cavaliers. … Notre Dame commit Cameron Biedscheid (St. Louis/Cardinal Ritter College Prep) is a major talent with upside who has a chance to be another special player in South Bend. … Transition specialist Damien Wilson (Austell, Ga./Oak Hill Academy) committed to Josh Pastner in May and gives the Memphis faithful something to be excited about as he is one of the best finishers in the country. … Marquette commit Steve Taylor (Chicago/Simeon) can be an explosive scorer with range on his jumper. … North Carolina locked up J.P. Tokoto (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) in March and the athletic scorer showed he should thrive in an up-tempo system. … Winston Shepard (Fresno, Texas/Findlay Prep) is an active, aggressive wing who makes things happen on both ends.

Mike LaPlante, a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting, has over 20 years of coaching and recruiting experience.

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