Versatile prospects lead 2011 rankings
The overall depth in the 2011 class is impressive. More significant is the versatility demonstrated by the top prospects.
As we expand our 2010 ranking from the Terrific 25 to the Super 60, what makes this class unique, at this point, is that it features many standouts who can play, produce and have the potential to perform at multiple positions. The first real true center we see is Mike Chandler (Indianapolis/Lawrence North). The Louisville-bound big man checks in at No. 16 overall.
Everybody likes Mike
The top prospect in the 2011 class is a good example of the tremendous skill of this class. Over the years, Michael Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) has been a dominant player as a power forward. The 6-foot-7 Gilchrist has recently honed his skills facing the basket. With his yeoman's work, Gilchrist is slowly shaping into an outstanding small forward. He is doing a little bit of everything.
The 2011 ESPNU Super 60
The Class of 2011 is balanced in terms of positional talent. Here's a look at the nation's top-10 rated juniors. Be sure to check out the complete Super 60.
Player Pos. State 1. Michael Gilchrist SF N.J. 2. Austin Rivers SG Fla. 3. James McAdoo PF Va. 4. Marquis Teague PG Ind. 5. Tony Wroten Jr. SG Wash. 6. LeBryan Nash SF Texas 7. Johnny O'Bryant PF Miss. 8. Damien Leonard SG S.C. 9. Marquis Rankin PG N.C. 10. LaQuinton Ross SF Miss.
Gilchrist's ability to take over a game still hinges on his athleticism. He finishes plays at the rim along with active rebounding and by scoring from the post. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he does not shy away from going to work in the post and asserting an inside threat for his team. Gilchrist has displayed a swagger and confidence, knocking down the 15-footer with consistency. At times, his range extends beyond the 3-point line.
He has shown the skill to handle the ball driving to the basket while being productive in dribble handoffs or reversing the ball out high to get into pick-and-pop situations. His potential on the defensive end is virtually limitless. His lateral speed, wingspan and agility allow Gilchrist to guard several positions effectively. Most important to Gilchrist's development is his attitude. He is a hungry and humble young man who will work to maximize his skill set.
Guards to watch
Combo guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) has ascended to the No. 2 spot in our Class of 2011 player rankings. Rivers can flat-out shoot the ball with deep range and accuracy, although he can be a bit streaky. This young man has a great long-range jumper and a good middle game. His athletic ability is very good; Rivers is not afraid to get to the rim and flush it.
Rivers' basketball IQ is advanced at a young age; I wouldn't expect anything less from Doc Rivers' son. He handles the ball with confidence while possessing a tight handle with a crossover dribble that gets defenders on their heels. He understands how to move without the ball to free himself for a shot, or use his teammates' screening action to get open. Rivers understands how to get his shot by moving the defender in a one-on-one situation with shot and ball fakes, which is a lost art. His dad was a student of the game during his strong career in the NBA; he is now coaching and led the Celtics to a world championship last season. It's rare you see a player who is this dangerous on and off the ball. Rivers has committed to Florida.
Not to be outdone, true point guard Marquis Teague (Indianapolis/Pike) is among the fastest-rising prospects in the 2011 class. Teague, who checks in at No. 3, is a scoring point guard with elite athletic ability. His quickness and ability to change speeds allows him to get to the rim almost at will. Teague is also an explosive finisher who doesn't hesitate to throw one down. He also has a terrific midrange pull-up. Like Rivers, Teague has outstanding basketball bloodlines. His bother Jeff was an all-conference selection at Wake Forest this past season, while his father, Shawn, played for Rick Pitino at Boston University.The third guard ranking in the top five prospects in the 2011 class is Tony Wroten Jr. (Renton, Wash./Garfield). A combo guard who can beat the defense with his jumper, Wroten is at his best taking the ball to the basket. With good size at 6-5, Wroten has no problem finishing down low for an old-fashioned 3-point play. He also is capable of making plays to set up his teammates because of his great court vision and selfless attitude. When facing off against Lance Stephenson in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 last summer, Wroten showed he doesn't back down from anyone.[+] EnlargeKelly KlineTony Wroten is among the top scoring guards in the 2011 class.
Bigs making an impact
James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Christian) checks in at No. 4 in the 2011 Super 60. He's a hybrid of an old-school fundamentals player and the high-level athlete of today's game with the ability to affect a game in so many areas that he can have an off night in one area and still be a dominant player on the floor by excelling at another phase. He is a willing runner with speed up and down the floor who rebounds outside his area on both backboards and shows an innate ability to block shots. This skilled forward has no problems scoring the ball. He can operate from the high post and make the defense pay by either shooting the midrange jumper or putting the ball on the floor. In time, because of work ethic, basketball intelligence and skill, he will likely develop into an elite small forward at the next level.
Big man Johnny O'Bryant (Cleveland, Miss./East Side) can play both center and power forward. O'Bryant plays with urgency and energy. He will try to post up and use his long body with good hands to dominate. He will not hesitate to shoot a jumper from the 12-14 foot range if he's left open. His passing from the high post is very impressive for a rising junior. Defensively, he is active with his hands and feet on the ball and is effective at blocking his own man's shot or coming over from the weak side to erase it.
Of course, these players have a lot of maturing to do before they are finished products. It should be interesting to see if Gilchrist can maintain his top spot for the duration of this recruiting cycle.
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.
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