The midterm grades are in for the ESPNU 100.
The updated Class of 2010 features seven new faces while several existing players shuffled ranking slots. The timing for this update reflects the progress of players during the fall and the first half of their high school seasons.
"We've followed and evaluated the prospects since our last rankings came out in August," explains Paul Biancardi, ESPN's national recruiting director. "These latest player rankings reflect the carryover from the summer period."
Harrison Barnes of Ames High (Ames, Iowa) and Jared Sullinger of Northland (Columbus, Ohio) remain atop the class while Florida State-bound guard Ian Miller of United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) made the biggest splash coming in at No. 39 after he was previously left off the ESPNU 100.
Biancardi is impressed with Barnes and Sullinger.
"Harrison has consistently put up double-doubles this season," he said. "He's also handing out a boatload of assists and is the main reason his Ames team is still undefeated."
"Jared is an amazing player. He is the best low-post player in the nation and has led his team to wins over two high-profile programs [Findlay Prep and Oak Hill Academy] on national TV this season.
"You have to put one of them at No. 1, but really, they are like 1a and 1b; there's very little if any separation between these guys."
Miller, on the cusp of the ESPNU 100 in August, earned his way in following several tremendous performances. "He's putting up big numbers, playing with confidence and is a tenacious defender," Biancardi said.
Also joining the rankings are: No. 77 Allen Crabbe of Price (Los Angeles); No. 85 Stargell Love of Quality Education (Winston-Salem, N.C.); No. 86 Maurice Jones of Arthur Hill (Saginaw, Mich.); No. 90 Geron Johnson of Dunbar (Dayton, Ohio); No. 91 Cameron Wright of Benedictine (Cleveland); and No. 99 Joe Young of Yates (Houston).
At 5-foot-6, Jones is the shortest player but is a blur on the court. Jones signed with Southern California while Johnson is undecided.
Crabbe, a California recruit, earned kudos fueled by a high-level perimeter game.
Other significant upward moves were made by Tony Mitchell (Dallas/Pinkston), Josh Hairston (Spotsylvania, Va./Montrose Christian), Terrence Ross (Portland/Montrose Christian) and Gerard Coleman (West Roxbury, Mass./The Tilton School). Conversely, Ralston Turner dropped 25 slots to No. 65 and Jelan Kendrick fell 19 spots, checking in at No. 43.
Mitchell, a 6-7 forward, is pushing center Perry Jones of Duncanville as Texas' player of the year. Mitchell, No. 19 in the ESPNU 100, will be a perfect fit for Missouri's up-tempo, frenetic style of play.
Analyst Reggie Rankin has charted Mitchell's progress throughout the year but was most impressed with his performance at the Texas Jamboree in late November.
"He was the best player at the event, which featured Perry Jones, Phil Pressey and L.J. Rose," Rankin noted. "He had a high level of energy and effort at both ends of the floor. He rebounded above the rim and is an excellent ball handler for his size. Tony runs the floor like a gazelle, with long, powerful strides."
Coleman, who signed with Providence, is a lefty shooter who is putting up ridiculous numbers at Tilton School, a prep school in New Hampshire. "He's had several games of 30 points or more," Biancardi said.
The seven newcomers replaced players who will remain on the cusp of the ESPNU 100 and could earn their way back in when the final rankings are released later this year.
Players dropping out are Jay Harris (Oswego, Ill./East), Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/Westchester), Jonathan Graham (Towson, Md./Calver Hall), Jacob Thomas (Columbia Heights, Minn.), Royce Woolridge (Phoenix/Sunnyslope), Jordan Sibert (Cincinnati/Princeton) and Evan Anderson (Eau Claire, Wisc./North). Sibert, an Ohio State signee from Princeton (Cincinnati), slipped out following a nagging leg injury which hampered his game since last spring.
The month of January continues to churn out several key events that will help shape the national rankings and sharpen teams as they approach the postseason. A bulk of the action is concentrated on the East Coast, but events in Illinois and West Virginia also pack plenty of star power.
Check out these four events this weekend.
Primetime Shootout, Morgantown, W.Va.: Event director Jeff Hewitson heads back to his college roots, taking his show on the road for two days, starting Friday with four games at Morgantown High. The feature game tips off at 9 p.m. with Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) versus Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Action resumes at two locations Saturday, with a tripleheader starting at 8:30 a.m. at the high school before shifting to the WVU Coliseum at 5:30 p.m. for four solid games. The second session is: South Charleston (W.Va.)-Lake Clifton (Baltimore), 5:30; Logan (W.Va.)-City College (Baltimore), 7; Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 8:30; Rice (Manhattan, N.Y.)-Westchester (Los Angeles), 10.
Coalition to House the Homeless, Elizabeth, N.J.: For the 16th straight year, New Jersey's best teams play at Elizabeth High's spacious Dunn Center in an event to help the homeless. Saturday's lineup is St. Mary's (Elizabeth)-Scotch Plains (Fanwood), 5 p.m.; Elizabeth-Ridge (Basking Ridge), 6:45; and St. Patrick (Elizabeth)-St. Benedict's (Newark), 8:30.
Face it, the attraction is the nightcap between two of the nation's top teams. St. Patrick lost a one-point game to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) on Monday, and St. Benedict's is rolling after an upset loss to Winter Park (Fla.) last month at the City of Palms Classic.
High School Hoops Showdown, Hoffman Estates, Ill.: Saturday's 13th annual event returns to the Sears Centre Arena with three games featuring Chicagoland schools, which regularly attracts 5,000 fans. The games are (all times Central): Glenbard East (Lombard)-Jacobs (Algonquin), 4:30 p.m.; Aurora Central Catholic-Marmion Academy, 6:30; and Neuqua Valley (Naperville)-West Aurora, 8:30.
The third game pits neighboring rivals who have not met in the regular season. Saint Louis-bound 6-5 forward Dwayne Evans leads Neuqua Valley while up-and-coming 6-4 sophomore Juwan Starks is the best bet for West Aurora coaching legend Gordon Kerkman.
IZOD High School Showcase, Caldwell, N.J.: The inaugural event at Caldwell College's Newman Center. The four games showcase some of New Jersey's top programs, promoting educational enrichment programs which assist students in SAT preparation and provide tutoring.
The four games are: St. John Vianney (Holmdel)-Immaculata (Somerville), 12 p.m.; Long Branch-St. Benedict's (Newark), 2; Blair Academy (Blairstown)-NIA Prep (Newark), 4; St. Anthony (Jersey City)-Christian Brothers (Lincroft), 6.
The third game pairs schools with fifth-year players. Keep an eye on NIA's 6-6 forward Shaquille Thomas, while Blair's Yale-bound guard Jesse Pritchard and 6-9 Lionel Gomis, a member of the Sudanese National Team, are star-watch players.
Team USA selections
In case you missed it, USA Basketball chose the first nine members and the coaching staff for the 2010 USA Junior National Select Team, which plays a World Select Team in the 13th annual Nike Hoop Summit on April 10 in Portland, Ore.
The Hoop Summit features America's elite, young athletes against a World Select Team comprised of top international players 19 years old or younger. The final roster spot for the USA team will be announced at a future date.
The USA roster includes: Harrison Barnes, Ames (Iowa); Will Barton, Brewster (N.H.) Academy; Reggie Bullock, Kinston (N.C.); Kyrie Irving, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.); Brandon Knight, Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.); Kendall Marshall, Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.); Tobias Harris, Half Hollow Hills West (Dix Hills, N.Y.); Terrence Jones, Jefferson (Portland, Ore.); and Jared Sullinger, Northland (Columbus, Ohio).
Bob Cimmino of Mount Vernon (N.Y.) will coach the team; he will be assisted by Rich Gray, an AAU coach from St. Louis.
"It's a tremendous honor to be associated with USA Basketball and the Nike Hoop Summit, and I'm absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to work with 10 of the best players in the United States against 10 of the best players in the world," Cimmino said.
Cimmino is impressed with USA's talent.
"I think the roster has been set up so that the coaching staff has the talent, we just have to get down to business early and work very hard in our practices. We want to bring the title back to the U.S."
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys' and girls' basketball.