- Bob Gibbons, Scouts Inc. Basketball Recruiting
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For the most part the Class of 2008 is now history. With the exception of a very limited few, most players have already chosen their future college and are preparing to take the court as collegiate freshmen next year. There was a flurry of players being released from the letters of intent they signed last November, and others did not qualify and will be attending a prep school or junior college next year.
Overall, the level of talent in the Class of 2008 was good but lacks the exceptional star power of the Class of 2007. There was not a Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon or O.J. Mayo this year. And this crop of seniors was dominated by wing players and power forwards, accentuating the shortage of truly elite point guards. In fact, of our final top 50 rated players, only four are what I would classify as true lead guards.
After analyzing player performances and accomplishments during the 2007-08 high school season and their play in all of the postseason all-star games, the following are our final player rankings for the Class of 2008.
Maintaining the No. 1 ranking, as he has all year, is Arizona signee 6-1 PG Brandon Jennings (Los Angeles/Oak Hill Academy). Jennings is not only the nation's best player, he has the potential to become a high draft pick after his first season at Arizona. Although Jennings does not have the size or strength of Derrick Rose, he is quicker, more creative and could have a similar impact for Lute Olson to what Rose achieved for Memphis.
Remaining as the No. 2 player, 6-9 C/F Samardo Samuels (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's), will likely start at power forward next year for Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals. In an informal poll of the players at the McDonald's All-American Game, Samuels was the near unanimous pick as the best player and top future prospect at that event. This Jamaica native could become a high draft pick after one collegiate year. Look for Samuels to battle Jennings for national freshman of the year honors.
Moving up to No. 3 is Memphis' late signee 6-6 2G Tyreke Evans (Aston, Pa./American Christian School). Evans showcased his outstanding scoring abilities in all the all-star games, and he will likely be the replacement next year for Chris Douglas-Roberts if Douglas-Roberts stays in the draft. Evans is an uninhibited shooter and has an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons.
Now rated No. 4, multi-talented 6-4 2G Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood, Calif/Campbell Hall) is perhaps the most all-around gifted backcourt player in this class. Holiday has the ability to play three positions, including point guard. However, he will likely be a guard/forward in Ben Howland's three-guard alignment at UCLA next year.
Moving up to the No. 5 ranking from No. 8 is talented big man, 7-1, 260-pound center B.J. Mullens (Canal Winchester, Ohio). Mullens played well in the all-star games and will likely become the starting center for Ohio State as a freshman. He has all the low-post tools, is very mobile and has the size and strength to power with all the big guys.
Vaulting to No. 6 from No. 13 is Alabama recruit, 6-9 PF JaMychal Green (Montgomery, Ala./St. Jude). Green is a relentless court warrior and the best rebounder in this class. He was Mr. Basketball in Alabama and played well in the postseason all-star games. He is an almost certain starter for Mark Gottfried's Crimson Tide next season.
Rated No. 7 is North Carolina signee 7-0 C/F Tyler Zeller (Washington, Ind.). "The next Tyler" at UNC is not the same court warrior as Tyler Hansbrough but will make his own mark as a key contributor for Roy Williams. Zeller runs the court better than any big man I can recall and is a terrific finisher. He has superb shooting abilities for his size and is an effective rebounder with excellent passing skills. With added strength and muscle, Zeller will become a major force for the Tar Heels. He was named Mr. Basketball in Indiana.
At No. 8 is perhaps the premier athlete in this class, Southern California signee 6-6 WF Demar DeRozan (Compton, Calif.). DeRozan easily won the slam dunk contest at the McDonald's All-American Game and is Vince Carter-like in his explosive elevation to the hoop. He does need to perfect his perimeter shooting. However, he will likely be an immediate starter and help fill the void left by O.J. Mayo's departure for Tim Floyd's Trojans next year.
Elevating to No. 9, is previously No. 16 rated Scotty Hopson (Hopkinsville, Ky./University Heights). Hopson, a 6-6 G/F who was a late addition to Tennessee's class, was outstanding in the postseason and was a major recruiting catch for Bruce Pearl's Volunteers. Hopson has the quickness to soar to the hoop and the shooting touch to effectively score from outside. He committed early to Mississippi State but changed his mind and signed during the spring period with Tennessee. He could help offset the loss of fellow Kentuckian Chris Lofton.
Rated No. 10 is "shooting star" Oklahoma signee, 6-5 G/F Willie Warren (Fort Worth, Texas/North Crowley). Warren is one of the most prolific scorers in this class and proved in the all-star games that he can match anyone in point production. The challenge for his future college coach Jeff Capel is to get him to fit into the team concept, which I believe he will. Warren has the skills to play three positions, including point guard, but he is best suited to be a shooting guard at the next level.
At No. 11 is North Carolina recruit 6-9 PF Ed Davis (Richmond, Va./Benedictine), a multitalented forward somewhat in the mold of former Tar Heels freshman standout Marvin Williams. Davis, the son of ex-NBA player Terry Davis, can sky to the hoop and score from outside. He could play both power and wing forward next season. If several of UNC's players go in the NBA draft, Davis could become a starter or key reserve next season.
Rounding out our dandy dozen at No. 12 is future Ohio State Buckeye, 6-5 G/F William Buford (Toledo, Ohio/Libbey). Buford is a highly-gifted wing player -- he is comparable to former Ohio State standout Daequan Cook as an athlete and high-scoring wing player. Buford will likely start next year.
Others that made significant moves in our final 2008 Rankings include: Rutgers signee 6-3 2G Mike Rosario (Jersey City, N.J.) up to No. 16 from 25; Wake Forest recruit 6-9 forward Al-Farouq Aminu (Norcross, Ga.) slips down to No. 17 from 5; Georgetown-bound 6-10 PF Greg Monroe (Harvey, La.) falls to No. 20 from No. 12; 6-7 PF Emmanuel Negedu (Wolfeboro, N.H.), now open after being released from Arizona, moves up to No. 23 from 37.
Other changes of note: recent UCLA addition 6-10 C J'Mison Morgan (Dallas) jumps to No. 26 from 42; Indiana recruit 6-5 G/F Nick Williams (Mobile, Ala.) rises to No. 35 from 40; late Duke signee 6-9 PF Miles Plumlee (Arden, N.C.) ascends to No. 47 from 68; recent Memphis recruit 6-7 G/F Wesley Witherspoon (Lilburn, Ga.) goes from No. 72 to 48; recent Kansas addition 6-3 1/2G Tyshawn Taylor (Jersey City, N.J.) moves from No. 106 to 86; and Duke signee 6-7 PF Olek Czyz (Reno, Nev.) leaps from No. 103 to 87.
For a complete listing of our final rankings for this senior class see our updated ESPN 100 for the Class of 2008.
Bob Gibbons is a national recruiting director for ESPN.com. Also the editor and publisher of the All Star Sports Report, he is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.
JaMychal Green and Scotty Hopson made the biggest jumps in the final player rankings for the Class of 2008, writes Bob Gibbons.