North Carolina reloaded for another run
North Carolina's national championship is still fresh on many fans' minds, but Roy Williams is hardly one to be complacent. And who could blame him?
The ACC is year in and year out the toughest league in America, so the fact that Williams has a group of blue-chippers bound for Chapel Hill will allow the Heels to vie for the title with some tough challengers. Of course, the list of schools hoping to knock Carolina from the top spot includes Duke, which is bringing in two much-needed big guys in its 2009 class, and Clemson, which landed its highest-profile recruit in years.
Boston College commits: none Grade: Incomplete
The Eagles' staff has been very successful evaluating and landing recruits who are overlooked and under-recruited. This year, however, there wasn't much need for Al Skinner to hit the trail. Losing only one senior -- All-ACC guard Tyrese Rice -- and returning 10 players, Boston College will load up on the 2010 class. The Eagles already have landed a commitment from Danny Lawhorn (Hartford, Conn./Public). The 5-foot-10 quick guard could be a dynamic player in Skinner's system.
Clemson commits: three
Head coach Oliver Purnell has brought in another strong group of athletes. The Tigers will have a nice infusion of fresh talent to go with a strong returning group. The big fish is McDonald's All-American Milton Jennings (Summerville, S.C./Pinewood Prep), who is one of the best shooters in the class. At 6-9, Jennings has great skill and can go inside to score. He can be a matchup nightmare for opponents. He can drive the ball into his jumper or get to the rim against bigger, slower foes. The way the Tigers press, trap and score from their defense will allow Jennings tons of 3s in transition along with run-outs for easy baskets. He can be a versatile defender in the half court, with the ability to defend multiple positions. Although Jennings grabs all the attention in this class, Devin Booker (Union, S.C.), the brother of current Clemson forward Trevor Booker, should be an instant-impact frosh. He can score on the blocks with effort and intensity and displays good ability to connect from the midrange. Slashing guard Donte Hill( Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Christian) excels in transition and can make shots from the outside. He is a solid defender who will give the Tigers depth in the backcourt.
Duke commits: two
In Ryan Kelly (Raleigh, N.C./Ravenscroft School) and Mason Plumlee (Arden, N.C./Christ School) the Blue Devils landed a pair of stud forwards with advanced skills. What is so impressive about these young men is that both can play very effectively facing the basket -- shooting, driving or passing the ball. They will stretch defenses and open up the floor for greater court spacing. They had outstanding senior seasons, and we expect that momentum to continue in Durham. Kelly scores the majority of his points facing the basket with exceptional range on his jumper; he can knock it down off the catch or dribble equally well. Kelly will be tough to stop in two-man, pick-and-pop action. His solid footwork and soft hands prepare him well to score. He has a strong basketball IQ: His high school coach Kevin Billerman, a former college coach, has played a big part in his development. Kelly needs to produce more on the glass -- Duke will be counting on both these players to contribute with their rebounding -- and add strength to elevate his game. Plumlee is an athletic post with skill, versatility and agility. He can score with his back to the basket and shoot it out to 17 feet comfortably. He is a willing runner who can beat other teams' posts down the floor on a consistent basis. He has enormous long-term potential because of his great size, skill and good instincts on the floor. Like Kelly, Plumlee must make a strong commitment to the weight room for strength and balance.
Florida State commits: two
When you bring in only two recruits you want to make sure you bring players who can make a difference. Leonard Hamilton did that with this class, which consists of two hard-nosed players who are primed to be very good in the ACC.SG Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde) emerged over the season and impressed everyone with his high-powered scoring ability. He gives the Seminoles a perimeter player who can help replace the void of Toney Douglas' departure. What separates Snaer from his peers is long-range shooting ability. This scoring guard will bring toughness and superb athletic ability to FSU's roster. On the defensive end, Snaer has a stopper's mindset, and he can, and will, guard multiple perimeter positions. Terrance Shannon (Forsyth, Ga./Mary Persons) is a hard-working power forward who outhustles his opponents for rebounds and position inside. He will drive the ball from midrange and get to the rim when the opening presents itself. He loves to rebound the ball for his team and will be a valuable glue guy.
Georgia Tech commits: six
Georgia Tech's solid recruiting class became outstanding with the addition of Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South). Favors has the ability to be a program-changer in the ACC. His presence combined with the Yellow Jackets' other recruits and returning players should help Tech rebound from a subpar 2008-09 season. Favors can dominate the game in the paint with his strong defensive presence in the low post while cleaning up the defensive glass. He will greatly improve Tech's defensive field goal percentage; he will challenge, change and block his share of shots. He is learning to score with his back to the basket and has displayed an improving 15-foot jumper from the high post. This hard-working big will be an impact in Atlanta from day one. Kammeon Holsey (Sparta, Ga./Hancock Central) will provide an athletic power forward who scores best by taking his man off the dribble inside. He can post up and hit the offensive glass. Another frontcourt forward is Brian Oliver (New Castle, Del./William Penn), who will bring energy and effort on a consistent basis, which is a must to be productive in ACC league play. Point guard Mfon Udofia(Stone Mountain, Ga./Miller Grove) is tough-minded and extremely athletic. He can penetrate his way to the basket and loves to push the ball in the open floor, where he is most comfortable at this point in his career. This lefty has good size for a point guard and is a sound floor general. Glen Rice Jr. (Marietta, Ga./George Walton Comprehensive), the son of former NBA sharpshooter Glen Rice, should become a solid role player. The last addition to this class is Daniel Miller (Loganville, Ga./Loganville Christian), who was going to Georgia until Dennis Felton was let go. Miller has the tools to score both inside and outside. With his 6-10 frame, soft hands and solid footwork, he could develop into an all-league performer.
Maryland commits: two
The Terps needed size to bang and score inside and they got it. Bruising power forward James Padgett(New York/Lincoln) is an active inside force who will rebound and is adept at finishing the dump-off pass from penetration around the basket. He is battled tested, having played a tough schedule for Lincoln with Lance Stephenson by his side. Padgett will be joined by another rugged big guy in 6-10 Jordan Williams ( Torrington, Conn.). Williams is a wide-bodied post whose offensive game is improving every day. He possesses strong hands with a soft touch in the paint. Down low, he rebounds below the rim but takes up a good deal of space and positions himself well for the board. He must really work at keeping himself in top physical condition.
Miami commits: four
This class has all the ingredients to win many games for head coach Frank Haith. The marquee name of this year's class is big-time scoring guard Durand Scott (New York/Rice). Like most New York City guards, Scott can find his way to the basket, but he also brings an unrivaled intensity. Scott plays hard on a consistent basis; that intensity will earn him immediate respect as a freshman in the ACC. He will play both ends of the floor and will bring a refusal to lose to the Hurricanes' locker room. Garrius Adams (Apex, N.C./Middle Creek) will provide a long-range threat; he'll have no trouble connecting from the college 3-point line. Donnavan Kirk (Detroit/Country Day) is an athletic power forward who can jump through the roof. His forte is rebounding and blocking shots. Offensively, he can score with basic post moves along with finishing dribble penetration off dump-off passes. Late addition Antoine Allen (Baltimore, Md./Mississippi Elite Christian Academy) will be a perimeter player who can man the point guard position; he gets into the lane with quickness and athleticism.
North Carolina commits: five
There were plenty of departures from North Carolina's national championship team, but Tar Heels fans need not worry; there is help on the way. UNC's 2009 class has received plenty of hype, and it's all well deserved. Although the Tar Heels spent the entire recruiting cycle as our top-ranked class before getting bumped by Kentucky in our final rankings, this class has everything a coach could dream of: players with dominating size, advanced skill level and explosive athletic ability. These five players will help to continue the successful tradition of North Carolina basketball. Long and super-athletic big man John Henson (Tampa, Fla./Sickles) may have the most upside of any frontcourt player in the Class of 2009. He possesses the scoring abilities of a small forward at 6-10, though he does weigh in at less than 200 pounds. He can shoot the ball facing up and handle the ball with confidence when he attacks the basket. Henson is a willing and good passer. Because of his slight frame, it will take time for Henson to fully develop his body to hold post position effectively, but he has soft hands, good footwork and excellent length to score with his back to the basket. The NBA will come knocking in time if he does his part. David and Travis Wear (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) have great ball skills, work on defense and display a strong basketball IQ. They come from one of the strongest high school basketball programs in the country in Mater Dei. Both players also possess deceptive shooting range -- especially for 6-10 centers. Dexter Strickland (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) is an ultra-athletic scoring guard who could be needed to play some backup point guard next season. He excels in the open floor and is a great finisher on the break, as he goes hard to the hole with power and speed. Strickland needs to improve his long-range jumper and middle game to get defenses to play him on the perimeter. Speaking of shooting, that's exactly what Leslie McDonald will bring to Chapel Hill next season. This big guard can play anywhere on the perimeter with his size and savvy for the game.North Carolina State commits: six
Although coach Sidney Lowe is still in the game for a few top recruits, his 2009 class is loaded with scoring ability, skill and excellent size. Lowe seems to be really coming into his own on the recruiting trail. Guards Lorenzo Brown (Roswell, Ga./Centennial) and Scott Wood (Marion, Ind./Marion) both have great size, at 6-4 and 6-6, respectively. Brown is an extremely talented combo guard who can shoot with range to 20 feet, slash to the basket and find his teammates. He has all the tools and athleticism to be a great 1 but needs to be aggressive and assertive on every possession. Wood is an exceptional shooter with range to 25 feet. He moves well without the ball and gets open. He's good at reading screens and comes off them ready to shoot. He must learn to stay low in his defensive stance to guard the ball effectively. A threat on every possession, he needs to add strength before facing ACC competition.Richard Howell (Marietta, Ga./Wheeler) is a highly skilled power forward who can create his offense from the high post with a jump shot or off the dribble. He also is an excellent passer for a 4-man. He will add immediate help to the Wolfpack's frontcourt.
Virginia commits: two
New coach Tony Bennett has lot to do in recruiting as he begins to make in-roads with future classes in the fertile state of Virginia. The Cavs are hurting for point guard depth, so look for incoming recruit Jontel Evans (Hampton, Va./Bethel) to handle the ball to help the Cavaliers on the perimeter. Evans is a standout football player, so he has the strength and toughness needed to compete in the ACC. He is a good on-ball defender and always plays hard. He also excels in transition by pushing the ball all the way to the basket or finding guys for shots. His 3-point shot is streaky and needs to be more consistent. The combination of strength, quickness and explosive athleticism with a handle makes him one of the rare point guards prepared to step in and compete from day one at the collegiate level. He does an excellent job in the open floor in creating scoring opportunities for himself and others; he's a steal for UVa. The more lauded recruit in this class is Tristan Spurlock (Woodbridge, Va./Word of Life). A big, strong and athletic small forward, Spurlock catches and shoots extremely well off screens and is a consistent shooter out to 17 feet. He has NBA size for the small forward position but needs to work on his dribble-penetration game. He is effective on the glass, plays hard and gives a good effort. With his body and Tony Bennett coaching him, he can be an outstanding defender.
Virginia Tech commits: four
The loss of Lamont "Momo" Jones to USC certainly hurts the Hokies. Seth Greenberg did get good news, however. Former Florida forward Allen Chaney is transferring to Tech. The big-bodied Chaney should be an impact player when he takes the court in the 2010-2011 season. As for this class, it's led in the backcourt by Erick Green (Winchester, Va./Paul VI) and Ben Boggs (Roanoke, Va./Hidden Valley). Green is a scoring point guard with range out to 20 feet. He has great size and length for the position. He will run the team and execute the game plan for Greenberg. Boggs is a tough and scrappy shooting guard. He can knock it down behind the arc or pull up for a midrange jumper. He has a solid middle game and always will give a great defensive effort. Big man Cadarian Raines (Petersburg, Va.) is athletic and long with the tools to be a great rebounder and shot-blocker. His potential is based on his strong body and good athletic ability. He'll be joined in the frontcourt by Manny Atkins (Stone Mountain, Ga./Tucker). Atkins is a solid athlete who is good in transition and can slash to the basket. He has improved his shot tremendously and has range out to 20 feet. If he works on his handle, he will be more effective playing either shooting guard or small forward.
Wake Forest commits: two
A year after coming up huge in the early signing period, with a class led by ACC freshman standout Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest did a nice job of putting together a class of players who should contribute immediately. This class is led by Ari Stewart (Marietta, Ga./Wheeler). The athletic combo forward might even be a bit underrated at this point. He was one of the top players in the South, and has skills that could make him a star at the college level. Over his senior season he increased his range behind the arc. He's versatile enough to play small forward or power forward. His athletic ability catches your eye; he loves to finish above the rim. With some added strength, his game will skyrocket. C.J. Harris (Winston-Salem, N.C./Mount Tabor) is a solid point guard prospect who can shoot the ball out to 20 feet consistently. He is an extension of the coach on the floor -- he knows what he needs to do and where his teammates need to be. Harris has a high basketball IQ. He loves the ball in his hands at crunch time and usually delivers in a big way. Konner Tucker (Lon Morris College, Texas), a one-time Kentucky signee, can help the Demon Deacons in the backcourt. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis University, is the national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League coach of the year honors in the 2003-04 season.