We will address five pressing questions about the boys and girls basketball scene every week throughout the 2009-10 season.
1. Who was the most important early signer in boys' basketball?
It might seem like an impossible question to answer, but we'll take a stab at it. It's Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) big man Josh Smith, the nation's top-ranked center in the ESPNU 100. Smith could help UCLA rebound from a rocky period ever since the Bruins made three consecutive Final Fours between 2006-08. The burly 6-foot-10 star's letter of intent became bigger when former Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) big man Drew Gordon checked out of UCLA six games into this season. Smith didn't have the greatest summer, so his development this year will be key for the Bruins, who were thin up front even before Gordon's departure.
2. Whose credentials from the ESPN RISE All-Decade team were questioned the most? What players were snubbed?
Though most of the top five picks weren't surprising, the selection of Dajuan Wager caused some head scratching. The Camden (Camden, N.J.) combo guard extraordinaire won championships, excelled against tough competition and had as big a national following as anyone not named LeBron. Mainly due to health issues, Wagner's pro career didn't go as planned, but the All-Decade team was based on high school accomplishments. Louisiana's Demond Carter, who played six varsity seasons and scored a national-record 7,457 points, and Jon Diebler, Ohio's all-time leading scorer, were two prominently mentioned snubs. Naming either of them as one of the decade's best is a stretch, however. Chris Paul could have made a case for inclusion, too.
3. Why didn't Kentucky freshman sensation John Wall make the All-Decade squad?
The answer is simple. He was considered a fifth-year senior during his best season at Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.) last year. ESPN RISE doesn't select postgraduates to its annual All-American teams, so we didn't take his final season into account for All-Decade, either. Wall, who played JV as a freshman and was cut from varsity as a sophomore, had two other solid high school seasons, but only his fifth year warranted a spot among the decade's best. As the likely No. 1 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall will certainly get the last laugh.
4. Will the Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas) boys' team rebound in 2009-10?
Yes, but only because expectations might be down a notch. In 2006-07, Duncanville finished 39-0 and ranked No. 4 in the final FAB 50 with an underclass-dominated squad. Duncanville opened 2007-08 ranked No. 1 in the nation, dropping to No. 10 by the end of the season with a 36-2 record. With a senior-oriented group, Duncanville again opened up No. 1 last year but faltered badly. The Panthers lost in their regional final and finished 27-10. With senior Perry Jones serving as the focal point in this year's young lineup, preseason No. 47 Duncanville might fare better with less expectations. We'll get a chance to see how Duncanville looks early in its ESPNU-televised game against Lincoln (Dallas, Texas) on Dec. 11.
5. Are governing bodies giving Chloe Wells a raw deal?
It sure seems so. Wells, the cat-quick guard who's ranked the nation's No. 62 baller in the Class of 2010 by HoopGurlz, played her junior season at Apex (Apex, N.C.) after starring as a freshman and sophomore at A.B. Miller (Fontana, Calif.). After leading Apex to a 25-1 record last year, Wells wanted to return to Fontana to enjoy her senior year with friends. The Wells family didn't think it would be a problem for Chloe to return to the school she once attended, but California's CIF Southern Section, which is bombarded with hardship requests and has granted many over the years, reviewed the facts of the case and declared her ineligible. The Wells family has appealed the ruling and still hopes to play this season. The irony of the situation is that Chloe will eventually return to North Carolina regardless of the appeal. She inked with Duke during the early signing period.