Commentary

UCLA signs top 2008 class

Originally Published: November 26, 2007
By Bob Gibbons | Scouts Inc.

The early signing period for college basketball ended on November 21, and although there could be some additional signings because the NCAA allows 21 days for letters of intent to be received by member institutions, we do not anticipate any significant changes to these fall recruiting rankings. This is especially true since 47 of the top 50, 91 of the top 100 and 137 of the ESPN 150 high school seniors have now signed.

There were a few surprises, and some late additions and deletions, but for the most part, the upper echelon of the previously top-rated classes did not change dramatically. Programs such as Georgetown, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Marquette did escalate into the Top 20 with their November recruiting successes. And since some players that had committed but decided not to sign a binding national letter are not counted as recruits, several schools, including Mississippi State, Louisville, Southern California and Connecticut, dropped in our fall rankings.

With the large number of signings, generally there was good overall talent distribution, and many schools appear to have significantly strengthened their programs with their fall recruiting. Very few institutions got exactly the players they had initially targeted, and those that did received bonus points in our evaluations.

Our recruiting rankings are based upon (1) the skill, talent and rating of recruits; (2) fulfillment of primary future roster needs; (3) getting most-wanted recruits, particularly from near-home territories; (4) keeping the class intact, especially players that make very early commitments; and (5) the composition of the class, including the character, attitude, team play and the projected compatibility of the recruiting class.

Ben Howland
AP Photo/Paul SakumaBen Howland's UCLA recruiting class may have him cutting down more nets in the coming years.
Steadfast at the top of our 2007 Top 25 recruiting classes is UCLA, with four top-30 rated signees. As coach Ben Howland said after his four newcomers had officially signed, "You got a happy coach in Westwood because I feel like we have a great recruiting class. Not only in terms of their abilities -- because you have four of the best players in the country -- but also all of them are great kids from great families."

I think John Wooden would also have been a "happy coach" with this recruiting class.

1. UCLA, 4 signed prospects
The Bruins' best class since the Wooden era includes No. 5-rated 6-4 G/F Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood, Calif.), No. 24-rated 6-5 G/F Malcolm Lee (Riverside, Calif.); No. 29-rated 6-9 PF Drew Gordon (San Jose, Calif.) and No. 36-rated 6-3 PG Jerime Anderson (Anaheim, Calif.). To reiterate that few programs are successful in getting every player they want, UCLA had hoped to sign a center, No. 37-rated 6-10 J'Mison Morgan (Dallas), but lost him to LSU; this cost the Bruins a "Fab Five" recruiting class.

2. Arizona, 4 signed prospects
Even with unexpected the leave of absence by longtime head coach Lute Olson, the Wildcats signed all four of their early commits and retained the No. 2 spot in our class rankings. This is primarily on the star power of ESPN's No. 1 rated prospect, 6-2 PG Brandon Jennings (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), who is destined to become one of the premier players in college hoops next year. Supporting him are relentless court warrior and No. 17-rated Emmanuel Negedu (Wolfeboro, N.H.), most promising big man and No. 39-rated 7-0 C Jeff Withey (San Diego) and versatile guard and No. 87-rated 6-4 Brendon Lavender (Mesa, Ariz.). Arizona successfully accomplished its recruiting objectives.

3. Georgetown, 4 signed prospects
After getting three gifted recruits early, John Thompson, III hit the jackpot in getting No. 4-rated 6-10 PF Greg Monroe (Gretna, La.), who could become the top 2008 player. Monroe lifts the Hoyas' class to No. 3. He joins vastly underrated by some, highly-skilled, team-oriented, No. 32-rated 6-4 2G Jason Clark (Arlington, Va.); No. 46-rated 6-10 C Henry Sims (Baltimore) and a player destined to ascend above his present No. 59 rating, 6-8 PF Chris Braswell (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). Braswell has been a very productive player at his new school, Hargrave Military Academy (Va.).

4. Florida, 5 signed prospects
Billy Donovan's Gators are fixtures in the top five. This year's class includes five top-70 high school seniors, led by two towering big men, No. 23-rated 6-10 C Kenneth Kadji (Bradenton, Fla.) and No. 27-rated 6-11 Eloy Vargas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Other talented future Gators are No. 53-rated 6-5 G/F Rayford Shipman (Opa Locka, Fla.), No. 61-rated super sleeper 6-9 PF Allan Chaney (New London, Conn.) and No. 66-rated, mighty-mite floorleader, 5-7 Erving Walker (Middle Village, N.Y.). This class should perfectly complement Donovan's current group of ultra-talented young players.

Top 25 by conference
Conference Top 25 classes
Big East 6
Pac-10 4
SEC 4
ACC 4
Big Ten 3
Big 12 3
Ivy 1
WAC 1
Mountain West 1

5. Ohio State, 4 signed prospects
Coach Thad Matta signed the nation's top big man, No. 6-rated 7-1 C B.J. Mullens (Canal Winchester, Ohio), to play alongside 7-0 C/F Kosta Koufos next year. The Buckeyes also bagged high-scoring, No. 11-rated 6-5 2G William Buford (Toledo, Ohio), No. 84-rated, athletic defensive stopper, 6-3 Walter Offutt (Indianapolis) and No. 89-rated 6-2 PG Anthony Crater. Crater is showing good improvement at his new school, Brewster Academy (N.H.). Ohio State had hoped to recruit a power forward, but did not get its man.

6. Arkansas, 6 signed prospects
Coach John Pelphrey's Razorbacks catapulted into the top six with a superb late recruiting surge. Arkansas signed the nation's No. 1 junior college player, 6-7 WF Danny Payne (Coffeyville, Kan., C.C.) and perhaps the premier three-point shooter in the high school ranks, No. 101-rated 6-0 PG Rotnei Clarke (Claremore, Okla.) on the final day. Add them to four earlier outstanding signees, top-5 post-grad 6-0 PG Courtney Fortson (Lenoir, N.C.), top-10 post-grad 6-10 C/F Andre Clark (Mendenhall, Miss.), top-40 post-grad 6-2 guard Terrance Joyner (Mendenhall, Miss.) and much-improved Hurricane Katrina victim, 6-9 C Brandon Moore (New Orleans, La.), and Pelphrey has the replacements for his six graduating seniors.

7. Kansas, 5 signed prospects
Coach Bill Self did not attain all of his recruiting priorities, but he assembled an excellent early class which included the No. 2 rated junior college player, 6-5 WF Mario Little (Chipola, Fla., C.C.). Other top new Jayhawks are top-5 post-grad 6-9 P/WF Marcus Morris (Cherry Hill, N.J.), top-15 post-grad and twin brother, 6-10 C/F Markieff Morris (Cherry Hill, N.J.), No. 56-rated 6-5 G/F Travis Releford (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) and No. 88-rated, rugged 6-8 PF Quintrell Thomas (Newark, N.J.). The Jayhawks have reloaded.

8. Wake Forest, 3 signed prospects
This outstanding trio of tall, talented, top-50 athletes is the best class ever recruited by the late Skip Prosser. To their credit, they honored their commitments to Wake Forest and will play next year for new head coach Dino Gaudio. They are destined to become a part of Prosser's lasting legacy. These estimable young men are No. 13-rated 6-8 WF Al-Farouq Aminu (Norcross, Ga.), No. 28-rated 6-10 C/F Tony Woods (Rome, Ga.) and No. 50-rated 7-0 C Ty Walker (Wilmington, N.C.). The Demon Deacons had three scholarships and awarded them to the three prospects they wanted most, completing a remarkable recruiting year. Skip Prosser has to be smiling from above.

9. North Carolina, 3 signed prospects
The Tar Heels uncharacteristically missed on some early recruiting targets before eventually righting the ship and signing three top-30 prospects. Their prime catch was the nation's most mobile and skilled big man, No. 10-rated 7-1 C/F Tyler Zeller (Washington, Ind.). Coach Roy Williams was also very pleased to get No. 19-rated 6-9 PF Ed Davis (Richmond, Va.) and one of the nation's best floorleaders, No. 31-rated 6-1 PG Larry Drew (Woodland Hills, Calif.). North Carolina might possibly look to sign a combo guard in the spring.

10. Louisville, 3 signed prospects
Coach Rick Pitino's prize was No. 3-rated 6-9 C/F Samardo Samuels (Newark, N.J.), an almost certain starter next year. The Cardinals also signed No. 94-rated 6-7 WF Jared Swopshire (Bradenton, Fla.) and top-15 rated post-grad, the much-traveled, enigmatic, 6-10 C Terrance Jennings (Notre Dame Prep, Mass.). Two early commits did not sign -- No. 82-rated Melquan Bolding (Fitchburg, Mass.) and No. 147-rated Kyle Kuric (Evansville, Ind.). Pitino hopes to land the nation's best still available player, No. 2-rated 6-5 2G Tyreke Evans (Aston, Pa.), who will make his decision in the spring. The addition of Evans would elevate Louisville to the No. 2 class.

11. Oregon, 5 signed prospects
Coach Ernie Kent recruited his best ever class at Oregon. The new Ducks are No. 41-rated, powerful 6-10 C Michael Dunigan (Chicago), No. 63-rated, versatile 6-6 G/F Matthew Humphrey (Chicago), No. 92-rated, late addition 6-5 WF Teondre Williams (Norcross, Ga.), No. 146-rated, sharp-shooting 6-7 WF Drew Wiley (Thurston, Ore.) and 6-8 PF Josh Crittle (Chicago).

12. Florida State, 5 signed prospects
Coach Leonard Hamilton and his hardworking staff closed with a flourish to finish with the No. 12 class. The new Seminoles are No. 30-rated 6-8 PF Chris Singleton (Dunwoody, Ga.), No. 62-rated 6-10 C/F Xavier Gibson (Dothan, Ala.), No. 135-rated, multi-position capable 6-5 Luke Loucks (Clearwater, Fla.), top-25 post-grad and skilled marksman, 6-4 2G Deividas Dulkys (Findlay Prep, Nev.) and unrated, 5-11 PG Pierre Jordan (Dunwoody, Ga.). Florida State also received a commitment from top-5 rated junior college player, 6-4 1/2G Derwin Kitchen (Iowa Western C.C.), but he cannot sign until next April.

13. Michigan State, 3 signed prospects
Coach Tom Izzo is one of the nation's most efficient recruiters. His Spartans had three scholarships, got three early commitments from top-rated prospects and signed all of them on the first day. Mission accomplished. Michigan State's newcomers are No. 7-rated 6-8 PF Delvon Roe (Lakewood, Ohio), No. 77-rated 6-8 Draymond Green (Saginaw, Mich.) and No. 85-rated, gifted 6-0 PG Korie Lucious (Milwaukee, Wisc.). Izzo and company are now working on their 2009 recruiting.

14. Alabama, 3 signed prospects
The Crimson Tide ended up with their three early commits, headed by No. 15-rated, powerful rebounder and insider dominator, 6-8 C/F JaMychal Green (Montgomery, Ala.). Coach Mark Gottfried also signed No. 55-rated 6-7 WF Tony Mitchell (Swainsboro, Ga.) and No. 58-rated 6-3 2G Andrew Steele (Birmingham, Ala.). Alabama was unsuccessful in getting several big men it really wanted.

15. LSU, 4 signed prospects
Coach John Brady and his staff worked hard to get most-wanted center, No. 37-rated 6-10 J'Mison Morgan (Dallas). This helped to offset the disappointment of losing top instate prospect Greg Monroe. LSU also got former Baylor commit, rugged rebounder, No. 52-rated 6-8 PF Storm Warren (Monroe, La.), No. 73-rated high-flyer, 6-6 WF Delwan Graham (Dunwoody, Ga.), and 6-9 PF Dennis Harris (Jonesboro, Ga.), who has a chance to make the ESPN 150.

16. Oklahoma, 4 signed prospects
Coach Jeff Capel added a sensational late recruit, No. 20-rated, prolific scoring guard, 6-5 Willie Warren (Fort Worth, Texas), to bring his class up to No. 16. The Sooners also signed top-10 junior college player, 6-8 PF Kyle Cannon (San Jacinto, Texas, College), top-40 junior college player, massive 6-11 C Orlando Allen (Paris, Texas, C.C.) and superb athlete, 6-6 WF Ray Willis (Atlanta).

17. Missouri, 6 signed prospects
Coach Mike Anderson signed the best class Missouri has in quite a while. Topping the list of talented new Tigers are No. 7-rated junior college player, 6-9 C/F Keith Ramsey (Okaloosa-Walton, Fla, J.C.), top-5 post-grad, 6-5 G/F Kim English (Notre Dame Prep, Mass.), No. 102-rated, talented 6-1 PG Miguel Paul (Lakeland, Fla.), No. 128-rated, rugged 6-9 C/F Steve Moore (Independence, Mo.), potential ESPN 150 player, 6-2 1/2G Marcus Denmon (Kansas City, Mo.) and 6-7 P/WF Laurence Bowers (Collierville, Tenn.).

18. Washington, 4 signed prospects
The top signee for Lorenzo Romar was superb shooter, No. 48-rated 6-4 Elston Turner, Jr. (Missouri City, Texas). The Huskies also signed slender, skilled marksman, No. 70-rated 6-7 WF Scott Suggs (Washington, Mo.), hulking power player, No. 131-rated 6-7 Tyreese Breshers (Los Angeles) and top-20 post-grad, 5-9 PF Isaiah Thomas (South Kent, Conn.).

19. Minnesota, 5 signed prospects
Coach Tubby Smith and his staff crossed into Canada to get valuable late signee, 6-3 guard Devoe Joseph (Ajax, Ontario/Pickering), one of the top international prospects. The Gophers also signed a pair of promising big men, No. 133-rated 6-11 C/F Ralph Sampson, III (Duluth, Ga.) and No. 137-rated 6-10 C Colton Iverson (Yankton, S.D.). Smith filled his class with two junior college players capable of upgrading his program next year, No. 8-rated juco, 6-5 WF Devron Bostick (Southwestern Illinois J.C.) and top-25 rated, 6-8 PF Paul Carter (Missouri State-West Plains J.C.).

20. Marquette, 4 signed prospects
Like his mentor Tom Izzo, Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean is one of the best recruiters in the business. Marquette reached deep into Mobile, Ala., to snare a top prize who just might become a high school All-American, No. 35-rated G/F Nick Williams. Crean and his staff went east to sign No. 90-rated 6-3 1/2G Tyshawn Taylor (Jersey City, N.J.). They traveled west to Texas to snare potential ESPN 150 player, 6-10 C Chris Otule (Fort Bend, Texas). And finally, they went into the junior college ranks to get top-20 rated 6-7 WF Joseph Fulce (Tyler, Texas, J.C.). The Golden Eagles soared to a top-20 class.

21. Syracuse, 3 signed prospects
Veteran coach Jim Boeheim truly knows the recruiting game. He set his sights early and successfully got his men. Joining the Orange are No. 34-rated, multi-talented 6-6 G/F Mookie Jones (Peekskill, N.Y.), No. 54-rated, gifted Canadian import 6-7 WF Kris Joseph (Washington, D.C.) and No. 107-rated 6-7 P/WF James Southerland (Fitchburg, Mass.).

22. West Virginia, 3 signed prospects
Coach Bob Huggins is off to an excellent recruiting start at his alma mater, West Virginia. Huggins surprised many by luring No. 42-rated 6-7 PF Kevin Jones (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) to his Mountaineers program. West Virginia also signed No. 97-rated, tenacious, versatile 6-2 1/2G Darryl "Truck" Bryant (Bronx, N.Y.) and No. 103-rated, much improved 6-10 C Roscoe Davis (Hargrave Military Academy, Va.).

23. Virginia, 3 signed prospects
Coach Dave Leitao cornered the market on "bergs." The Cavaliers signed No. 45-rated 6-6 G/F Sylven Landesberg (Flushing, N.Y.), No. 60-rated 6-11 C John Brandenburg (St. Louis) and a very raw big man with the potential to become a "future dominator," No. 143-rated 7-0 C Assane Sene (South Kent, Conn.). Too bad for Leitao that the most-wanted recruit he missed on was not named Elliot Williams-burg. (Just kidding).

24. Pittsburgh, 4 signed prospects
Coach Jamie Dixon had to scramble at the end of the period, but landed a sleeper with much upside, 6-8 PF Dwight Miller (Houston), to have the No. 24 class. Other outstanding new Panthers are No. 79-rated, competitive 6-6 WF Nasir Robinson (Chester, Pa.), No. 98-rated, hard-nosed 6-0 PG Travon Woodall (Jersey City, N.J.) and No. 119-rated, productive wing scorer 6-4 2G Ashton Gibbs (West Orange, N.J).

t-25. New Mexico, 5 signed prospects
Coach Steve Alford and his staff went nationwide to sign five new Lobos. This class includes No. 57-rated, major talent, 6-5 2G Phillip McDonald (Cypress Springs, Texas), Top-20 post-grad, 6-4 2G Curtis Dennis (Findlay Prep, Nev.), top-25 post-grad, 6-9 C Isaiah Rusher (Genesis One, Miss.), talented 6-3 PG Nathen Garth (Memphis, Tenn.) and capable 6-8 PF Will Brown (Patterson School, N.C.).

t-25. Nevada, 3 signed prospects
Coach Mark Fox brought in yet another outstanding Wolf Pack class. The top recruit is potential All-American, No. 16-rated 6-9 PF Luke Babbitt (Reno, Nev.). He is joined by two other gifted newcomers, No. 83-rated, primetime shooter 6-4 2G Mark McLaughlin (Kenmore, Wash.) and likely ESPN 150 prospect, 6-3 PG London "Cotton" Giles (Dallas).

t-25. Harvard, 6 signed prospects
New head coach Tommy Amaker went far above the norm for the Ivy League to get a deep class with six recruits, all capable of playing at a higher level if they had chosen. We acknowledge Amaker's exceptional accomplishment with this top 25 class ranking. The primary new Crimson recruit is No. 80-rated, powerful insider, 6-9 C/F Frank Ben-Eze (Arlington, Va.). Other impressive additions are top-30 post-grad, 6-9 Andrew Van Nest (Northfield-Mt. Hermon, Mass.), potential ESPN 150 player, 6-5 G/F Max Kenyi (Washington, D.C.), 6-7 Peter Boehm (Winnetka, Ill.), 6-3 2G Oliver McNally (Ross, Calif.) and late addition 6-7 C/F Keith Wright (Norfolk, Va.).

Top ten classes with two or fewer signed prospects

1. Kentucky, 2 signed prospects
Coach Billy Gillispie signed No. 21-rated 6-6 1/2G DeAndre Liggins (Henderson, Nev.) and No. 33-rated 6-7 WF Darius Miller (Maysville, Ky.). The Wildcats will likely sign more players, including a big man, in the spring.

2. Duke, 2 signed prospects
The Blue Devils have missed on big men during the past two years. Last year, it was Patrick Patterson, and this year Greg Monroe. Coach K and his staff did get an outstanding guard in No. 12-rated Elliot Williams (Memphis, Tenn.). They also signed No. 111-rated 6-7 PF Olek Czyz, a native of Poland. Look for Duke to now focus on 2009 post players.

3. Cincinnati, 2 signed prospects
Coach Mick Cronin got off to a strong start with two early additions, No. 26-rated, rugged big man, 6-9 C/F Yancy Gates (Cincinnati) and talented floorleader, No. 69-rated 6-1 PG Cashmere Wright (Savannah, Ga.). The Bearcats will sign additional players in the spring.

4. Mississippi State, 2 signed prospects
Coach Rick Stansbury had what appeared to be a top-12 class. Then his top recruit, No. 8-rated 6-6 G/F Scotty Hopson (Hopkinsville, Ky.), announced that he would not sign early and will likely reopen his recruitment. This is not good for the Bulldogs, since rumors are circulating that Hopson is considering other schools. Stansbury did sign two talented prospects, No. 380-rated 6-7 P/WF Romero Osby (Meridian, Miss.) and top-10 post-grad, 6-2 PG Demarquis Bost (Hargrave Military Academy, Va.).

5. Texas A&M 2 signed prospects
The Aggies had only two available scholarships, and Coach Mark Turgeon used them to fill his primary needs. Turgeon signed a quick, smart floorleader in No. 51-rated 6-1 PG Dashan Harris (Montverde, Fla.) and a budding future star in reclassified (from 2009) No. 81-rated 6-9 PF David Loubeau (Davie, Fla.).

6. Maryland, 2 signed prospects
The Terrapins missed on a few, but Gary Williams did get two good men. At the top of the list is No. 43-rated, intense competitor, 6-4 G/F Sean Mosley (Baltimore). The Terps also got last year's Virginia Tech recruit, who chose not to go there after the shootings, 6-9 PF Augustus Gilchrist (Temple Hills, Md.). Expect Maryland to recruit other players in the spring.

7. Vanderbilt, 2 signed prospects
Coach Kevin Stallings signed two excellent athletes for his Commodores program. They are No. 65-rated, skilled 6-9 PF Steve Tchiengang (Montverde, Fla.) and No. 91-rated, constantly improving 6-7 WF Lance Goulbourne (Princeton, N.J.). These two recruits should play significant minutes for Vanderbilt next year.

8. Tennessee, 2 signed prospects
Coach Bruce Pearl missed on a couple of his top targets but still landed two quality recruits. The new Vols are No. 96-rated, outside shooting 6-8 WF Renaldo Woolridge (North Hollywood, Calif.) and strong, skilled big man, No. 99-rated 6-11 C Phillip Jurick (Chattanooga, Tenn.). We predict that Pearl will add to this class during the spring.

9. Baylor, 2 signed prospects
Coach Scott Drew is one of the hardest-working head coach recruiters in college basketball. He signed two newcomers that should become instant impact players for the Bears next season. The two Baylor signees are No. 93-rated 6-10 WF Anthony Jones (Houtson) and late addition, top-25 junior college player, 6-9 C/F Artem Valov (Three Rivers, Mo., J.C.). Drew and the Bears were very disappointed to lose early commit Storm Warren to LSU.

10. N.C. State, 2 signed prospects
Coach Sidney Lowe had two available scholarships, and he wisely used them to strengthen two weak spots in his program. The Wolfpack signed talented in-state prospect, No. 117-rated 6-6 G/F C.J. Williams (Fayetteville, N.C.). Lowe added needed depth to his point guard position by recruiting No. 125-rated 6-2 PG Julius Mays (Marion, Ind.), who has been well coached at one of the top high school programs in Indiana and should get considerable playing time next year.

Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.

Bob Gibbons | email

Scouts Inc. Basketball Recruiting
Bob Gibbons is the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports report and is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball.