Thursday, April 8, 2010
Barnes, Sullinger hold top spots
By Paul Biancardi ESPN Recruiting
When the 2010 class is viewed as a whole, it might not have as much elite, one-and-done talent as the past two classes. That fact doesn't mean this class is devoid of star power. The guys who stay in school will develop to be pro players in time. Guys like Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) and Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) will have no problem making noise in the college ranks and, eventually, becoming high NBA draft picks.
Harrison Barnes is as versatile as they come.
With last week's National High School Invitational completed, the high school basketball season is done. Along with that, it is time for us to rate the talent in this class one final time. Here's a look at the final ESPNU 100 for the Class of 2010.
The high five
1. Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa), SF, signed with North Carolina
Barnes has been the top-rated prospect in the nation since we expanded our 2010 prospect list to 100 players at summer's end. He has done nothing but prove himself worthy of such a distinction with his play over the past season. When you achieve the No. 1 spot -- as a team or player -- and you sustain that ranking for an extended period of time, you've accomplished the toughest challenge in sports.
Barnes understands how to play to his numerous strong suits better than any other prospect in this class, and having guided Ames to a second consecutive state title, he's a winner. He has the right attitude and approach as well. Barnes is well aware that he needs to continue improving as he continues to climb in the world of athletics. He never seems to be satisfied. He has a lot of accolades, a lot of talent and he understands that he has to keep working.
Skillwise, there isn't a more versatile player in the 2010 class than Barnes. Against smaller guys, he takes them closer to the basket and beats them in a post-up situation. He takes bigger, slower guys away from the hoop and looks to shoot and can drive. He can also shoot over smaller defenders.
2. Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland), PF, signed with Ohio State
The gap between Sullinger and Barnes is as narrow as it gets. (In fact, the duo shared MVP honors at last week's McDonald's All-American Game.) Both players were aware that they were taking the court with a target on their back. Both rose to the challenge.
Sullinger will be outstanding from the get-go for Ohio State. As a low-post threat he makes and maintains contact with his defender to open passing lanes better than anyone else in the class. What truly separates him from the other bigs in this class is his consistent production as a scorer, and his ability to rebound -- especially on the defensive end.
Despite his frame, Sullinger is surprisingly athletic. He'll score immediately with his back to the basket at Ohio State. He utilizes his body better than anyone in the class. He makes a back-to-the basket move, and if the defense takes it away, he has a countermove. He's well-polished in the post with exceptional hands and good footwork. He has all the instincts a prospect needs to be a force in the pain.
Complacency never set in for Sullinger. He was constantly working to improve his game. He has refined his jumper, which is now effective from 15 feet and in, and can take his man off the dribble from the high post. The thing that really puts the icing on the cake is he is a terrific free throw shooter. He's proved to be clutch from the line. That was evident when Sullinger hit a pair of game-winning free throws in the final seconds of Northland's win over Oak Hill at the Hoophall Classic. He finds a way to make his team win.
3. Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), PG, signed with Duke
Irving is one of three point guards in the top five in the ESPNU 100. Of that trio, he is the most well rounded. He can run a fast break to perfection. He excels in transition by scoring and creating for others and he can execute in the half court. He's a tremendous creator and facilitator for his team. He knows what the coach wants and what the team needs. He can put up big numbers at any time and knows when and how to take over games.
Kyrie Irving will take over the point for the national champs.
Duke hasn't had a point guard like Irving in years -- with the ability to blow by defenders. Although you can put a value on the experience of departing senior Jon Scheyer , the Blue Devils' backcourt won't miss a beat -- Duke also adds Liberty transfer Seth Curry. Irving is a true point guard who can run a team efficiently and effectively.
4. Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), PG, uncommitted
Knight, the Gatorade National Player of the Year, was brought up to be a scorer, and there might not be a player in the country who's better at that particular skill. He'll beat people with his speed in transition. He drives past defenders off the bounce -- with a quick first and much improved body strength -- and in the half court. He has a tremendous pull-up jumper in the lane and he has made himself into a good 3-point shooter with range. Wherever he has played he has had to help his team score to win.
As a point guard, Knight will be an elite scorer as a freshman, but he'll have to make an adjustment to lead a team. Becoming an all-around point guard and the leader of a major college program is the hardest thing to learn and master for a high school prospect. When he picks up the nuances of the position, coupled with his ability to score, he will be very dangerous. Knight is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Connecticut and Syracuse. He is expected to make his decision during the late signing period, which begins April 14.
5. Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton), PG, uncommitted
Like Knight, Selby is constantly in attack mode. He loves to compete and loves this game. He gets to the rim very regularly and is great at finishing through contact. In fact, his strength might be his finest asset.
Neither Selby nor Knight had the had the opportunity to become a complete point guard; their prep needs counted on them to score. Both players are thinking score first and create second. It's important that they develop that point guard's mindset, and they will with time and coaching. Selby is considering Kansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Connecticut and Tennessee.
Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles/Price) has moved from 77 to 57 in our latest rankings. He is a West Coast prospect who really improved his stock with a strong senior campaign, which culminated with his leading Price to a national title. Crabbe, a Cal commit, has improved steadily. The high-rising 2-guard can stroke it from deep, and he's one of the better rebounders for his size in the country. He is going to stretch the D and make 3s at Cal. He'll help the Bears get second-chance points on offense. He'll really help them on the defensive end as well. He contributes a lot immediately and brings a winning mindset to the program.
Shooting guard Allen Crabbe is a key recruit for Cal.
Josh Smith (Kent, Wash./Kentwood) is without a question the most physically imposing player in the class. However, conditioning issues have caused Smith, a UCLA signee, to fall from 11 to 20 in the final ESPNU 100. He's always been someone who needs to get into top physical condition. At his best, he dominates the game in the paint with his powerful body, tremendous hands and good footwork. Smith, who was injured during parts of his senior season, needs to concentrate on changing his body and improving his conditioning. When that happens, he can be an impact player. If you're going to play for Ben Howland you have to play defense first or you don't play. Smith will have to get himself into the kind of shape necessary to utilize his gifts on that end of the court.
Few players have generated the ink that recent Kentucky commit Enes Kanter (Turkey/Stoneridge Prep) has. Kanter, who checks in at 25 in our final ESPNU 100, is skilled and strong and plays with a high motor. He shoots it comfortably to 17 feet and plays the game with tenacity and relentlessness. With his body and skill he's going to produce double-doubles at the college level. Kanter, a native of Turkey, is one of the most discussed guys in the class. He has always played against older guys and that's why he has such great instincts for the game.
Paul Biancardi is a veteran of the coaching ranks with years of college experience. He has recruited on a national level, with stops as an assistant coach at Boston University and Boston College, associate head coach at Ohio State and most recently as an assistant at Saint Louis University. Biancardi was head coach at Wright State University from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, he was named Horizon League Coach of the Year. He is a selection committee member for the prestigious McDonald's All-America Game and the Gatorade Player of the Year award.Mike LaPlante, Joel Francisco, Reggie Rankin and John Stovall contributed to this report.