With more and more programs orchestrating their offense with four perimeter players around a single post, true power forwards have become a bit of an endangered species in the current climate of college basketball.
Instead, face-up 4-men have become the trend as coaches value frontcourt players who can stretch opposing defenses out to the 3-point line and open the lane for dribble penetration.
This evolution is spearheaded on two different fronts. The first is the impact of the international game, because skills have taken precedent over raw power for years now. Second, and equally important, is the lack of true power forwards. Simply put, there isn't adequate supply for more than a few programs to play with two posts anymore, causing some programs to recruit face-up 4s simply because of necessity.
The change has allowed the "4" position to apply to a wide range of players, some of whom specialize at doing the dirty work on the interior, some whose calling card is their athleticism and others who prefer the finesse game of the perimeter.
Mitch McGary (Chesterton, Ind./Brewster Academy)
6-foot-10, 225 pounds
McGary is a throwback-type who puts the power in the power forward title. He's built in the mold of Tyler Hansbrough, and his physical strength is exceeded only by his relentless motor. He plays tremendously hard on both ends of the floor, gives constant energy and motivates his teammates to do the same. But the southpaw also has a deceptive skill set that allows him to make open jumpers out to the arc, put the ball on the floor to start the break after grabbing a defensive rebound or intrigue you with his passing instincts from the post.
Brandon Ashley (Oakland, Calif./Findlay Prep)
6-8, 215 pounds
Ashley isn't necessarily the prototypical power forward or face-up 4-man. Instead, he's more of a hybrid 4-man because his game is based more on his length and athleticism. He's an explosive finisher and shot-blocker with terrific feet that allow him to move laterally as easily as he gets off his feet. Although he doesn't necessarily have a polished game yet, that's part of what makes him so intriguing since he's still got a long way to go before reaching his ceiling.
Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Canada/Findlay Prep)
6-7, 230 pounds
Although power and skill can sometimes be a sliding scale, that isn't the case with Bennett. He can physically dominate the paint by combining tremendous power with high-level athleticism, but he also has the skill to step out to the perimeter. He has the proper approach to the game, playing inside-out and imposing his will on the interior before showing his shooting range and consistently making open 3s. His offensive versatility is a major asset and he's also one of the best rebounders in the class.
Others to watch
• Arizona commit Grant Jerrett (La Verne, Calif./La Verne Lutheran) gives Sean Miller a high-level athlete with a complimentary skill set. He's a long, rangy athlete with good hands and feet, range to 22 feet on his jumper and a very high basketball IQ.
• Jarnell Stokes (Memphis/Oak Hill Academy) is the prototypical power forward. Built like an NFL linebacker, he has a massive frame with tremendous power in both his upper and lower body. He provides a physical presence on the interior and consistently plays through contact, but must work to extend his skill set.
• Shaq Goodwin (Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb) isn't just built like an college tight end prospect, he is one. The two-sport star combines his size and strength with good athleticism and productivity on the glass. He can make an occasional shot from the perimeter, but tends to be more effective closer to the rim.
• Amile Jefferson (Philadelphia/Friends Central) has the build of a small forward, and may ultimately project at that position, but right now the pure scorer does his best work attacking the rim, either in transition or operating out of the mid-post in a half-court set.
• Robert Carter (Thomasville, Ga./Shiloh) combines the wide body to produce in the paint with the skill set to thrive on the perimeter. He's tremendously agile for a 6-8, 250-pounder and is one of the most consistent low-post scorers in the class. Plus, he's equally dangerous playing pick and pop thanks to the consistency of his jumper.
• For programs putting a premium on skill, Danrad "Chicken" Knowles (Houston/HCYA) will be a top priority at the position. He's a long but extremely lean forward who can dribble, pass and shoot. He has a good feel for the game, creates all kinds of mismatch problems and thrives in the mid-post area.
Adam Finkelstein has been a coach or scout at the high school, college and pro levels. He was an assistant coach in Division I by the age of 24 and also worked as a scout for Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting.