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Friday, November 20, 2009
Updated: November 21, 5:26 PM ET
Best classes in every D-I conference

By Scouts Inc.
ESPN.com

A conference-by-conference look at who had the best recruiting classes after the early signing period.

American East Conference

Best class: Boston University
Players signed: 7
Top player: SF Travis Robinson (Philadelphia/Friends Central). He's an excellent athlete who can score, defend and rebound.
Why it's the best: BU's class has size, talent and depth as first-year coach Pat Chambers and his staff came up huge. In addition to Robinson, they added 6-8 PF Dominic Morris (Philadelphia/Friends Central), who is a big body, is agile and has great hands. He will be a big threat in the paint.


Atlantic 10 Conference

Best class: Xavier
Players signed: 4
Top player: SG Justin Martin (Indianapolis/Mountain State University Academy). Martin is the owner of one of the smoothest strokes in the nation. He is a good athlete, is very comfortable shooting off the catch and has range out to 25 feet.
Why it's the best: This class is deep and extremely athletic, and will keep Xavier at the top of the always tough A-10. Martin is a big-time scorer who will be a difference-maker right away.


Atlantic Coast Conference

Best class: North Carolina
Players signed: 3
Top player: SF Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa/Ames). Barnes has a unique combination of talent, size, IQ, skill and toughness. There is nothing not to like about Barnes' game. He's not flashy, just extremely productive.
Why it's the best: This class, which ranked No. 3 in the country, possesses the best group of perimeter players in the nation. Barnes will make an instant impact, and SG Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C./Kinston) and PG Kendall Marshall will contribute immediately.


Atlantic Sun Conference

Best class: Stetson
Players signed: 3
Top player: Power forward/center Steve Forbes (Clermont, Fla./East Ridge). Although he is far from a finished product, with his size and agility Forbes is a steal at this level. He will give Stetson a low-post scoring and rebounding presence for the next four years.
Why it's the best: Coming off the heels of the most notable recruiting class in his tenure, Derek Waugh and his staff have again outhustled some higher-level programs to put together another impressive group of future Hatters.


Big 12 Conference

Best class: Missouri
Players signed: 4
Top player: PG Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal School). He is the perfect point guard for the Tigers' style of play because he is always in attack mode. Pressey can not only score and distribute, but also apply intense ball pressure.
Why it's the best: Coach Mike Anderson not only added the player ranked 31st in the ESPNU 100 in Pressey, but found another great piece to the puzzle in skilled power forward Tony Mitchell (Dallas/L.G. Pinkston), who sits at No. 57. Anderson also added a big-time shooter in local star Ricky Kreklow (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) and a shot-blocking presence in power forward Kadeem Green (Markham, Ont., Canada/Charlotte [N.C.] United Faith Christian Academy).


Big East Conference

Best class: Syracuse
Players signed: 4
Top player: G Dion Waiters (Philadelphia/Life Center Academy [N.J.]). Waiters is a powerful combination guard who can create scoring plays for himself or others. Think Dwayne "Pearl" Washington.
Why it's the best: This class is loaded with size, athletic ability and skill that also includes tremendous rebounding and shot-blocking along with perimeter playmakers. Three ESPNU 100 players headline this class with Waiters at No. 14. Seven-foot center Fabricio Melo (Weston, Fla./Sagemont) is No. 20 in the ESPNU 100 and scorer C.J. Fair (Baltimore, Md./Brewster [N.H.] Academy) is No. 59. Add defensive stopper Baye Moussa Keita (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy) and the Orange added enough to challenge in the Big East for the next few years.


Big Sky Conference

Best class: Portland State
Players signed: 1
Top player: Brandon Cataldo (Rainier, Ore./Rainier), a 6-10 center, has the size and skill to dominate the moment he steps on campus.
Why it's the best: Montana has three solid recruits coming in next season, but when you can snag a center who could have played in the Pac-10 in the massive Cataldo, Portland State gets the nod for the No. 1 class.


Big South Conference

Best class: Liberty
Players signed: 2
Top player: Steven Baird (San Antonio, Texas/James Madison). The 6-8 power forward is versatile and has the skills to develop into a small forward in college.
Why it's the best: This class brings a strong combination of talent and skills. In addition to Baird, PG John Caleb Sanders (Houston/Homeschool Christian Youth Association) is always a threat to score and is also a terrific passer.


Big Ten Conference

Best class: Ohio State
Players signed: 6
Top player: PF/C Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland). Sullinger, ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 100, is the best low-post player in the class. He is by far the best rebounder in the country. He has the ability to score down low as well as step out and hit 17-footers. He has improved his handle and passing ability so he is now a complete player.
Why it's the best: This class, ranked No. 2 in the county, has everything. Depth, top-line talent and it fills needs.


Big West Conference

Best class: Long Beach State
Players signed 3
Top player: Jacob Thomas (Columbia Heights, Minn./Columbia Heights) is a member of the ESPNU 100 and widely considered one of the most prolific jump shooters in the country.
Why it's the best: The trio of Thomas, Shelton Boykin (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Nick Shepherd (Houston/Westbury Christian) is as good a threesome as you'll find around the country at the mid-major level.


Colonial Athletic Association

Best class: William & Mary
Players signed: 4
Top player: Fred Heldring (Winnetka, Ill./New Trier). This skilled post can score inside with picture-perfect moves and step out and hit the perimeter jumper to 18 feet very comfortably. Heldring is also a precise passer, especially out of the post.
Why it's the best: This class has immediate contributors in the post and on the perimeter. Excellent all-around size and skill.


Conference USA

Best class: Memphis
Players signed: 7
Top player: 6-6 shooting guard Will Barton (Baltimore/Brewster [N.H.] Academy). As one of the most electrifying scorers in the country Barton could be a short-timer with the Tigers, but his time in the Bluff City should have the faithful buzzing.
Why it's the best: After securing the nation's No. 1 class, if there were any questions as to whether Josh Pastner was going to be able to continue the recruiting success enjoyed under John Calipari, consider them answered. This is a deep and talented class loaded with playmakers.


Great West Conference

Best class: North Dakota
Players signed: 1
Top player: SG Troy Huff (Brookfield, Wisc./Brookfield Academy). Huff is a long and athletic combination guard who possesses excellent skill. He has range beyond the 3-point arc, and although he needs to add strength, he does an excellent job of getting to the rim.
Why it's the best: Not a lot of schools in the conference signed players, but Huff's athletic ability and skill, along with his improved maturity on the court, make him special. He has nice upside and should be an offensive threat right away for North Dakota.


Horizon Conference

Best class: Detroit
Players signed: 2
Top player: PF Jordan Manuel (Indianapolis/T.C. Howe). Manuel is one of the best athletes in this class. He has great upside and if his skills continue to develop, watch out.
Why it's the best: A powerful two-man class that brings great size, the 6-9 Manuel is joining by 6-5 G Frank Williams (Raytown, Mo./Raytown). Coach Ray McCallum is building Detroit back to the top of the Horizon league.


Independents

Best class: SIU-Edwardsville
Players signed: 3
Top player: SG Michael Messer (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette). Messer is an excellent shooter and has matching basketball IQ. He is a smooth wing who can get it going from behind the arc.
Why it's the best: Perimeter skill and depth along with a post presence makes this class complete with possible immediate contributors.


Ivy League

Best class: Harvard
Players signed: 3
Top player: SG Laurent Rivard (St. Bruno QC Canada/Northfield [Mass.] Mount Hermon). Harvard needed someone to replace senior Jeremy Lin and Rivard might be just the guy with a lethal 3-point stroke, college-ready body and great feel for the game.
Why it's the best: The Crimson hung around until the end with Dwight Powell, Rod Odom and Austin Carroll only to see them go to high-major conferences, but their Plan B of Rivard, Ugo Okam (Montverde, Fla./Montverde) and Matt Brown (Barrington, R.I./Northfield [Mass.] Mount Hermon) was still good enough to be the conference's best.


Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Best class: Siena
Players signed: 2
Top player: PF Melsahn Basabe (Glen Cove, N.Y./St. Mark's [Mass.]). Basabe said no to the Big East in order to play immediate minutes and contend for a conference championship.
Why it's the best: Siena needed two potential stars to replace Kenny Hasbrouck and Edwin Ubiles, and it just might have gotten them.


Mid-American Conference

Best class: Central Michigan
Players signed: 4
Top player: G Derek Jackson (Cleveland, Ohio/Benedictine) is an athletic and multi-skilled combo guard. He is a good shooter and slasher to the basket. He can shoot with range to 20 feet. He should be an immediate impact player in the conference.
Why it's the best: It is very close between Central Michigan and Ohio U. Jackson could be a stud. 6-7 PF Colin Voss (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids), 6-10 C Nate VanArendonk (Grand Haven, Mich./Grand Haven) and 6-7 PF Jevon Harden can be a great front line in the conference. Voss will be very tough.


Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Best class: North Carolina A&T
Players signed: 1
Top player: PF Ray Lester (Crete, Ill./Crete Monee). Lester is a high-level athlete who competes on both ends. He finishes around the basket and is a terrific rebounder on both ends.
Why it's the best: Lester's high energy, toughness and ability to raise the level of play of his teammates will earn him immediate playing time.


Missouri Valley Conference

Best class: Drake
Players signed: 3
Top player: PG Karl Madison (Springfield, Ill./Lanphier). Madison is a true point guard and leader on the floor. He can play fast or slow, and takes great care of the ball. He can knock down the open 3 and find the open man when he draws a crowd.
Why it's the best: The Bulldogs added perimeter size, strength and skill. This class can hit the 3 or score through contact on physical drives and has the point guard to run the show in Madison.


Mountain West Conference

Best class: New Mexico
Players signed: 2
Top player: Alex Kirk (Los Alamos, N.M./Los Alamos) is a finesse center-type who could be deadly in a pick-and-pop set and his passing skills are high-level as well.
Why it's the best: Kirk is the top player in the Lobos' class, but 6-6 Tony Snell (Phoenix, Ariz./Westwind Academy) is the most promising prospect. Snell has an intriguing skill set that could eventually lead him to being a point-forward type someday.


Northeast Conference

Best class: Quinnipiac
Players signed: 2
Top player: SG Dominique Langston (Bridgeport, Conn./St. Thomas More). Coach Tom Moore excels at developing his stars and Langston has the tools to grow into that role in the NEC.
Why it's the best: Quinnipiac's 2009 class was off the charts, and Langston and PF Ike Azotam give the Bobcats a great start in 2010 with two guys who will be ready to play right away.


Ohio Valley Conference

Best class: Murray State
Players signed: 2
Top player: 6-9 center Shawn Jackson (Live Oak, Fla./Melody Christian Academy). With his size and strength, Jackson gives coach Billy Kennedy the type of low-post presence needed to compete successfully against the big boys outside the league.
Why it's the best: Because of its facilities, resources and extremely high expectations, Murray has the most pressure of any job in the conference. But thanks to securing a couple of solid mid-major-level players, Kennedy's incoming class is distinguished from the rest.


Pacific-10 Conference

Best class: Stanford
Players signed: 5
Top player: ESPNU 100 recruit Dwight Powell (Toronto, Canada/IMG [Fla.] Academy) has the potential to have the most significant impact in the conference due to the fact he possesses a variety of skills at 6-10.
Why it's the best: UCLA has an impressive twosome in ESPNU 100 recruits Joshua Smith (Kent, Wash./Kentwood) and Tyler Lamb (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), but the Cardinal have a deep and talented class arriving next season led by Powell and highly skilled Anthony Brown (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View).


Patriot League

Best class: Holy Cross
Players signed: 3
Top player: PF Dave Dudzinski (Maple Park, Ill./Kaneland). First-year coach Sean Kearney finds the perfect interior piece for his motion system with a smooth inside-out skill set.
Why it's the best: American may have the league's best overall prospect, but Holy Cross adds three players who can contribute immediately and develop into future starters.


Southeastern Conference

Best class: Tennessee
Players signed: 3
Top player: PF Tobias Harris (Half Hallow Hills, N.Y./West). As a top-10 player, Harris made big news by signing last-minute on the last day of the early signing period. He gives the Volunteers a skilled forward who matches perfectly with Bruce Pearl's system.
Why it's the best: Tennessee is bringing in a class full of talented scorers who all should have an immediate impact on the program.


Southern Conference

Best class: Georgia Southern
Players signed: 4
Top player: Eric Ferguson (Statesboro, Ga./Winchendon [Mass.] School). The 6-8 small forward is a local product who has prepped a year. He is a highly skilled, under-the-radar talent who has a chance to develop into a high-major-level player.
Why it's the best: Coach Charlton Young wasted little time in putting together a class that will quickly allow him to compete for conference championships.


Southland Conference

Best class: Lamar
Players signed: 4
Top player: Point guard Nuno Muandaumba (Scottsdale, Ariz./West Wind Prep). The fifth-year point guard plays with the savvy of an older player and will provide instant leadership on the floor.
Why it's the best: Lamar coach Steve Roccaforte answered needs both on the perimeter, with a combination of point guards, and in the post with wiry 6-9 forward Michael Kyser, who is skilled and can be effective in transition.


Southwestern Athletic Conference

Best class: Alabama A&M
Players signed: 1
Top player: 7-1 center Justin Banks (Oxford, Ala./Oxford). Banks, who has made great strides of late, is a developing post player who is an intriguing prospect because of his upside.
Why it's the best: Coach Vann Pettaway has never been afraid to take a chance on a big kid with potential. Banks could wind up developing into a difference-maker within the conference.


Summit Conference

Best class: South Dakota State
Players signed: 2
Top player: PF Jordan Dykstra (Rock Valley, Iowa/Rock Valley). Dykstra creates matchup problems with his size and ability to score inside and out. He has range to the arc and can put it on the floor and get to the rim.
Why it's the best: Interior size, skill and depth make this class special.


Sun Belt

Best class: Florida International
Players signed: 5
Top player: Power forward Dominique Ferguson (Indianapolis, Ind./Hargrave Military Academy [Va.]). Obviously any time a team from a mid-major conference scores a top-50 player like Ferguson, it is big news. Ferguson, who scores and rebounds, gives FIU a player to build around.
Why it's the best: Say what you want about coach Isiah Thomas, but following this stellar recruiting class that features a couple of high-major players, notice has been served to the rest of the league that FIU is a serious player.


West Coast Conference

Best class: San Diego
Players signed: 4
Top player: SG Ben Vozzola (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial). One of the major recruiting headlines on the West Coast was when San Diego lured the multi-skilled Vozzola away from the Pac-10.
Why it's the best: After hauling in an impressive group of perimeter prospects last season, Bill Grier and his staff went big, adding potential All-Conference types in 6-9 Simi Fajemisin (Lynnwood, Wash./Lynnwood), 6-8 jumping jack Trevor Fuller (Dallas/Episcopal School) as well as the multi-skilled Dennis Kramer (Carlsbad, Calif./La Costa Canyon).


Western Athletic Conference

Best class: Utah State
Players signed: 2
Top player: If 6-2 combo-guard James Walker (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos) becomes a consistent 3-point shooter, he should become an all-conference performer sooner rather than later.
Why it's the best: Along with Walker, the Aggies signed a 6-8 smooth-shooting face-up 4-man in Ben Clifford (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham).

Scouts Inc.'s Paul Biancardi, Joel Francisco, Reggie Rankin, Michael LaPlante, John Stovall and Adam Finkelstein all contributed to this report.