Commentary

Class of 2009 superlatives: Shooting guards

Originally Published: September 25, 2008
By Reggie Rankin | Scouts Inc.

A shooting guard scores in a variety of ways, such as sprinting the lane in transition for a layup, coming off screens in the half-court offense, attacking the defender off the dribble to create a shot, or posting up when he has a size advantage. He also can make a midrange pull-up or spot up a 3-pointer.

[+] EnlargeJohn Jenkins
Jason O. Watson for ESPN.com John Jenkins is one of the most lethal shooters in the Class of 2009.
Ironically, jump-shooting has become a lost art. When a player displays a good midrange jumper or consistent 3-point range, he becomes a must-have for college coaches. That's because in recent years, many guards have been able to score only off the dribble.

Size, strength and athletic ability also play a major role in success at the position. A shooting guard who has good size and athleticism often has the ability to elevate higher than taller defenders. Strength is a must when attempting to score in the post.

Good court vision also is a key skill. A shooting guard must find the open man when he is double-teamed coming off a screen or when dribble penetration is contained by a second defender.

Finally, the most important traits that a shooting guard must have are a scoring mentality and tremendous confidence. Shooting guards cannot be affected by missed shots. They must be ready to shoot the next open shot or make a play off the dribble when the game is on the line.

Best long-range shooter

What we look for: A player with shooting form, elevation and range beyond the 3-point arc off the catch and dribble. We also look at the player's shot-making consistency and level of confidence.

1. Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, Fla./American Heritage)

Boynton has all the aforementioned requirements to be a great shooting guard. But his shot-making ability, deep range and confidence earn him the distinction as the best outside shooter in this class. He can knock down the long ball with consistency when open or over outstretched hands. He sprints the lane in transition, spots up ready to shoot when his man helps defend dribble penetration and comes off screens in attack mode every time.


2. John Jenkins (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp)

With range to about 23 feet, Jenkins will fit right in Vanderbilt's spread-out offensive attack. Jenkins also moves well without the ball and does a good job of reading the defense so he can make the right scoring cut. He can make shots from any spot on the floor, and his confidence allows him to pull the trigger without hesitation. His shot release is not lightning quick, but he gets off his shot fast enough. At 6-4, he has good size to go along with his scoring mentality.


3. D.J. Byrd (Crawfordsville, Ind./North Montgomery)

Byrd, a Purdue commit who is 6-5 and slightly more than 200 pounds, is a tough and strong shooter. He can score in bunches with range to about 23 feet. He is best when his feet are set in a spot-up, catch-and-shoot situation in which he can use his quick release to get off his shot before the defense recovers. Missed shots don't affect him, and he will learn how to be effective in Purdue head coach Matt Painter's motion offense.

Best middle game

What we look for: A player who has the ability to score inside the 3-point arc with slashes, drives and pull-up jumpers. He also must get to the rim consistently.

1. Avery Bradley (Tacoma, Wash./Findlay College Prep (Nev.))


Bradley, a Texas commit, is very explosive and can get to the rim at will. He finishes through contact or with a clear path to the rim for a big-time dunk. Bradley also scores with slashes and drives into the lane by beating his defender with a variety of dribble moves. The midrange pull-up jumper is another great weapon for this 6-3 athlete. His quick first step and ability to elevate higher than defenders make him a special offensive talent.


2. Dexter Strickland (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick)

The University of North Carolina-bound Strickland is strong, physical and very athletic. He excels in transition, and in the half court he's difficult to handle inside the arc. He has great body control when he drives into the lane from the top of the key or from the wing. Strickland can finish through contact or can use his quick first step to beat the baseline help and finish above the rim. On a rare occasion when the defender beats him to the spot, he'll bounce into a pull-up jumper after one or two power dribbles.



3. Leslie McDonald (Memphis, Tenn./Briarcrest)

McDonald, who also has committed to UNC, has excellent speed and quickness with the ball. At 6-5, he is long and loves to attack the lane from both sides. McDonald also likes to score with his one or two dribble pull-up jumpers or sprinting off down screens to catch and shoot.

Best scorer

What we look for: Shoot it. Drive it. This is the guy who finds ways to score. This elite player has the total offensive package. He can score by shooting the deep jumper. He can slash or drive all the way to the rim to complement his scoring mentality. Regardless of what the defense attempts to do to stop him, he always is in attack mode and will not be denied.

1. Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City)


The ESPNU 100's No. 1 player can flat-out change the scoreboard. This past summer, I never saw Henry score fewer than 20 points in an AAU game. His combination of power and skill is the best in the 2009 class. This 6-6, 230-pound lefty is very athletic and can score inside and out. Henry can get to the rim in transition and score over or around opponents. In the half court, Henry can post or step out for the deep 3. He also is a physical driver from the wing who finishes through contact as smaller guards bounce off his NFL-sized body.


2. Lance Stephenson (New York/Lincoln)

Stephenson has the ultimate scoring mentality. He thinks he can score on anyone, at any place and any time. Stephenson is in attack mode on every catch. He is a shot creator in transition. In the half court, he is a physical driver and threat to get all the way to the rim, shoot the pull-up jumper or knock down the open 3. Stephenson has the killer instinct on the offensive end of the floor.



3. Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's)

This long and athletic wing is super explosive when attacking the basket. Cheek can hit the pull-up jumper or step out beyond the arc for a 3. He is excellent at drawing contact and finishing plays. Cheek is one of the most complete guards in the class because of his ability to play multiple positions and execute other skills such as rebounding. He can score inside and out on a consistent basis throughout the game, making him a matchup nightmare.

Best on-ball defender

What we look for: A player who's blessed with great lateral foot speed and quick hands. He plays in a low defensive stance and has the toughness to compete on the defensive end. He takes it personally when the opponent scores.

1. Avery Bradley (Tacoma, Wash./Findlay College Prep)


Bradley plays with great effort and intensity. His ball pressure is consistent and constant. He has great lateral movement when he is down in his defensive stance. Bradley has quick and active hands that are ready to make a play on the ball at all times. He also is excellent at anticipating passes and turning them into baskets.


2. Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde)

This 6-5 physical guard competes on the defensive end on every possession, especially when the opponent has a scoring reputation. Snaer also has great foot speed that allows him to apply pressure on the ball and keep the ball handler's full attention on him and not on running the offense or looking to score. Snaer has an attitude on the defensive end that coaches want to spread throughout the team.



3. Garrius Adams (Apex, N.C./Middlecreek)

Adams, a Miami commit, is a hard worker who accepts the challenge on defense. He has a low textbook stance and does a great job of applying excellent ball pressure. He also beats the ball handler to the spot that he wants to get to on the floor. Adams takes full advantage of his length and foot speed to excel on the defensive end of the floor.

Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986 to 1990 and was an All-MAC first-teamer his senior season.

Reggie Rankin

College Basketball Recruiting

ALSO SEE