Favors, Henry remain atop 2009 player rankings
As we approach the summer evaluation period, it is time to update our Class of 2009 player rankings. Our most recent ratings list for this class was done in mid-March. Since then, players have participated with travel teams in several spring tournaments and showcases, so there have been significant changes.
At the very top, the rankings have remained relatively stable. But there has been some significant movement in the top 10; 6-foot-3 2G Kenny Boynton (Plantation, Fla./ American Heritage) elevated to No. 3 from No. 12, 6-6 G/F Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's) jumped from No. 5 to No. 9 and 6-3 PG John Wall (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) went to No. 7 from his No. 16 ranking.
Other significant upward moves include: 6-7 WF Christian Watford (Irondale, Ala./Shades Valley) going to No. 11 from No. 24; 6-9 P/WF Milton Jennings (Summerville, S.C./Pinewood Prep) jumping to No. 16 from No. 27; and 6-3 PG Abdul Gaddy (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) moving up to No. 17 from No. 26.
The following are our pre-summer Top 10 player rankings for the Class of 2009:
Maintaining the No. 2 rating is versatile 6-6 G/F Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City). Henry is a gifted outside shooter and an explosive athlete when he slashes to the hoop. He somewhat reminds us of Kobe Bryant as a high schooler. His father played basketball at Kansas, and the Jayhawks are considered the favorites to land Henry's services, though he also is interested in other schools, including Texas, UCLA and Memphis. Henry is the mainstay of the talented Athlete's First traveling team. This month, he is expected to attend the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va., and Nike's Paul Pierce Skills Academy in Los Angeles.
The No. 3 prospect is prolific scoring 6-3 combo guard Kenny Boynton. He had a superlative spring, scoring points in bunches; he is one of the true shooting stars of this class. He is much better qualified to be a shooting guard -- with his phenomenal shooting touch -- than a point guard, although he has the skills to play both positions. Boynton will attend the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June, then travel with his Team Breakdown to the Adidas "It Takes 5ive Classic" on July 6-8. Boynton's list of schools includes Florida, Duke, Texas, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami, Louisville, Connecticut, Wake Forest and Villanova.
Now rated No. 4 is the pride of the Big Apple, 6-5 G/F Lance Stephenson (New York/Lincoln). Stephenson has an NBA body and is a gifted scorer from all shooting ranges. He most definitely has the talent and will get all of the New York City hype to push him toward looking like the top player in this class. However, he is somewhat of an enigma to us. We have seen him lose his composure on and off the court, and he has participated in a limited number of events outside the New York area this spring.
Our No. 5 prospect is G/F Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's), the top returning player from No. 1 St. Anthony's. Cheek is one of the premier outside shooters in this class; he has been well schooled in the basics by Bob Hurley, one of the nation's best high school coaches. He likely will play the second guard position in college. He needs to add strength and weight to play at the next level. The current favorites from his long list of schools appear to be: Villanova, Tennessee, Texas, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Kansas and North Carolina.
At No. 6, but with the size, talent and potential to become the ultimate dominator of this class is 6-foot-10, 260-pound center/forward Renardo Sidney (Los Angeles/Fairfax). Like Stephenson, Sidney is somewhat of a riddle. His abilities are obvious, but he has a tendency to disappear in some games. Perhaps Sidney is one of those guys who plays well only when he feels like it. He has been missing in action from most of the top spring events. Reportedly Sidney will attend the Reebok All-American Camp in Philadelphia from July 8-10.
Rated No. 7 is the nation's top point-guard prospect, 6-3 John Wall (Raleigh, N.C.). Wall has the explosive quickness of Brandon Jennings and is 3 inches taller. Few defenders can stay with him when he rockets down the court. Wall's primary weakness is inconsistent outside shooting. His strengths are his awesome speed and quickness and his innate ability to finish around the hoop. Wall has yet to narrow his list of colleges that includes: Memphis, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, N.C. State, Indiana, Kansas, Baylor, Ohio State, Miami and others. He will attend the NBPA Top 100 Camp this month.
The No. 8 player is another versatile backcourt prospect, 6-4 combo guard Leslie McDonald (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian). McDonald, who committed to North Carolina this week, has outstanding athleticism and is exceptionally strong and well built for a guard. We were impressed by his ability to score in a variety of ways as well as his all-around backcourt skills that he displayed when playing for his Memphis YOMCA team at the Boo Williams tournament in Hampton, Va., in early April. McDonald will attend the NBPA Top 100 Camp this month and will be at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, in July.
At No. 9 is another up-and-down player who has the potential to rank as the best in this class, versatile big man, 6-11 C/F DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore). This early commit to UAB relocated to LeFlore after he was ruled ineligible to attend other high schools in Alabama. He has exceptional shooting range for his size, and when he is on his game, he's difficult to contain in the low post.
Rounding out our 2009 top 10 is North Carolina commitment, 6-3 1/2G Dexter Strickland (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick). Strickland has the quickness and skills to play either guard position at the next level. He is a tenacious defender and performed well in an ESPN nationally televised game against O.J. Mayo during his sophomore year. During a Sunday news conference at Madison Square Garden, Strickland announced he had chosen the Tar Heels over Florida. He should be a high school All-American this coming season and will travel to Africa as a member of the Adidas Nations team this month.
Our pre-summer Class of 2009 player rankings, undoubtedly, could change significantly after we evaluate player performances during the summer events. To see our complete list of the 2009 Top 100 players, click here.
Bob Gibbons is a national recruiting director for ESPN.com. Also the editor and publisher of the All Star Report, he is widely regarded as the recruiting guru of college basketball. Drop Bob a line in his mailbag.
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