Breaking down the big men
The talent, size and skill level of frontcourt players in the Class of 2012 are as advanced as they have been in a long time. The development of frontcourt players has been influenced by the European game, and we see bigs who can shoot, handle and pass equally well, which increases their versatility.
When we analyze a frontcourt player, we look for some basics that will help the prospect grow in a consistent, maybe even dominating, fashion. At the core, we look for a post player's mobility to run the floor, strong hands that can catch a pass, soft hands to score the basketball, nimble feet to get in position and a basketball IQ to think while playing the position.
Remember, the development of big men takes time, as they need to grow into their bodies and get comfortable with their size. It takes years of practice to go from playing from a low stance to a high stance, and they need to build strength and skill and understand how to play the game with their minds as well as their physical size.
Here's a look at some of the top big men in the Class of 2012.
Drummond is a physical specimen who has a college/NBA-ready body and has the complete package for a post player. He's a great athlete who scores by finishing a break at the rim, or with his skills in the high or low post. You notice his passing instincts whether he has his back to the basket or is facing the action. Drummond has the speed to outrun defenders, and the length and timing to block shots and rebound. Overall, he has an outstanding combination of size and skill level. He'll need to challenge himself on a daily basis to get better, but he has the potential to be a dominant college freshman.
Austin possesses a unique skill set, as he is a legitimate 7-footer with the skills of a wing player. He looks like a young Sam Bowie and has the skill package of a young Ralph Sampson. His enormous wing span makes him a rim protector, and his ball skills make him so versatile offensively. Once his body matures and accepts weight, he will be an even tougher matchup in the low post.
Ashley is a long, athletic post who runs the floor like a deer, competes on the glass and blocks shots. He is still far from a finished product as far as his skill development, but his talent is undeniable. He does so many things that you can't teach.
Ridley is a powerful inside presence in the paint who is not afraid to use his frame. He's a relentless rebounder who plays with a high motor. He scores inside by grabbing offensive rebounds or with the jump hook over his left shoulder. Ridley needs to develop counter moves, such as a drop step or an up-and-under, but he has demonstrated the concept of playing low to high, which is why he is so productive.
McGary has always been a solid prospect, but the high-energy power forward has used the spring evaluation period to catapult up the rankings. He has become one of the better rebounders in the 2012 class and can stretch the defense with his ability knock down the face-up jumper out to the 3-point line.
Coleman carves out his position on the blocks with his big body and is a force in the paint. He has great hands and agile feet, which (when he puts his mind to it) make him one of the best rebounders in the 2012 class. His game puts him at the free throw line, which is a very good thing. He has improved his body and level of conditioning, and it has shown by how constantly active and productive he has been recently.
Because of his size and ability to dominate the paint, Tarczewski might be the top true center prospect in the 2012 class. Whereas most big guys want to show their guard skills, he understands his strengths and rarely deviates from them. Tarczewski has shown consistent improvement every year throughout his high school career and earned his top-10 ranking.
You can just tell Goodwin enjoys playing the game of basketball. He plays with a perpetual smile on his face while destroying the competition. Goodwin plays with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and some say he is Morehead State F/C Kenneth Faried, who's expected to be a first-round pick in June's NBA draft, with a jump shot. Goodwin has great size and athleticism along with a physical disposition that carries over from his time spent playing football.
Jerrett is a very savvy player who utilizes his basketball smarts to get the advantage on his opponents. He is a difficult matchup because of his ability to shoot from the perimeter. The long and rangy hybrid 4-man covers a lot of area defensively and is a very good rebounder despite having a thin frame.
Carter has been operating in the shadows of other players for a couple of years, but he has played his way into the spotlight and is now considered one of the elite players in the 2012 class. He is a powerful force around the basket who secures any ball he can get his hands on. Carter also possesses a soft touch from the perimeter when shooting the 3.
This elite big man utilizes his wide body, soft touch and skills to be a true inside-outside scoring threat. His jumper has range to the arc, and he can put a defender on his back and power up to the rim. His scoring ability makes him dangerous from all spots on the floor. If he continues to improve his body and keep his stamina up, he should consistently produce double-doubles.
This power forward has been on our radar since he was a freshman. Blessed with gifts to score the ball, Ellis does a good job of cutting to the basket and finishing on the move. He is impressive scoring when facing up from the mid- or low post, and now is when he gets stronger and puts it all together.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter. Mike LaPlante contributed to this article.
With the 2011 class in the books, it's never to early to look ahead to 2012, 2013 and 2014.