Finding a top center never easy


College basketball has slowly started to evolve into a perimeter dominated, European-style game with an emphasis on players with ballhandling and perimeter skills playing away from the basket. But the center position still is -- and always has been -- the most coveted position in college recruiting.

It is a numbers game. Take a look at ESPN.com's Top 100, which includes only eight centers, and it's easy to see why a big man who can dominate the paint is such a hot commodity.

The centers of the 2010 class are more defined by their potential than the possibility of being a sure-fire dominant low-post player. There are no obvious Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Ralph Sampson, Patrick Ewing, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard or Greg Oden types who are destined for stardom. Instead, many of the centers in this class have the potential to develop into outstanding college players, but have a lot of work to do before attaining that dominant franchise status.

Starting Five

Joshua Smith, 6-foot-9, 280 pounds
Covington, Wash./Kentwood
College: Undecided

Smith is a load in the low block area who has good feet and knows how to use his body to create space. He has great hands with a soft touch around the basket and has shown he can be a go-to scorer. However, he needs to develop a dominant attitude and a more consistent work ethic if he wants to reach his potential.

Fabricio Melo, 7-0, 275
Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School
College: Syracuse

After sitting out last season as a transfer student, the behemoth from Brazil has exploded on the basketball scene as one of the hot prospects in the 2010 class. The future Orangeman plays with passion and is quickly developing an offensive arsenal to go along with his defensive presence. Like Smith, he needs to concentrate on getting into better condition, but has the potential to blossom into a center who can carry a team deep into the NCAA tournament.

Dwight Powell, 6-10, 212
Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy
College: Undecided

Easily the most skilled of the centers in the 2010 class, Powell could end up as a face-up 4 man at the collegiate level. He has the ability to knock down perimeter jump shots and is effective in pick-and-pop or trailer situations. He needs to get stronger and develop a more assertive low-post game to go along with his perimeter skills.

Meyers Leonard, 7-0, 220
Robinson, Ill./Robinson
College: Illinois

Leonard is a player whose stock has steadily risen throughout the spring and summer events. He has a great feel for how to play and understands the post position. He is improving as a low-post scorer and is a threat facing up from 15-17 feet. He has a great work ethic and should flourish under Bruce Webber's tutelage.

DaMontre Harris, 6-9, 200
Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School
College: Undecided

Because of his athleticism and quickness, Harris is another center who with continued skill improvement could develop into a power forward at the college level. At around 200 pounds, he obviously needs to fill out and develop some strength in the low post, but his energy level and attitude allow him to compete against bigger, stronger players.

One To Watch

Evan Anderson, 6-11, 250
Eau Claire, Wis./North
College: Wisconsin

Anderson is your typical Big Ten center who can both bang down low in the post and shoot the face-up jump shot from 15 feet. He is fundamentally sound and has been well taught in positioning and footwork. He has gained confidence in his abilities, becoming a more assertive offensive force.

One Sleeper

Baye Moussa Keita, 6-11, 210
Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy
College: Syracuse

Syracuse has cornered the market on this year's crop of post men with big upside. Keita is a long, lean center with good feet and a quick bounce that should continue to develop under Steve Smith's coaching. The Senegalese center continues a successful lineage of outstanding West African post players at Oak Hill. If his offensive game catches up with his defensive prowess, Syracuse will have a dominant duo at the center position.

Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.