Syracuse among the elite
Syracuse's No. 5 overall class highlights the Big East, while Marquette, Connecticut and Georgetown round out the top classes in the conference.
(Note: Classes that were ranked outside the top 25 with the same letter grade are listed alphabetically.)
Jim Boeheim's class has remained the same from the early signing period and so did Syracuse's grade. McDonald's All-American center Fabricio Melo (Weston, Fla./Sagemont), attacking combo guard Dion Waiters (Philadelphia/Life Center Academy), scoring machine C.J. Fair (Baltimore, Md./Brewster Academy) and defensive specialist Baye Moussa Keita (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy) give this class tremendous size (Melo and Keita are both in the 7-foot range), scoring and athletic ability. The zone defense and transition offense are also in great hands with these high-level performers.
The Golden Eagles went out and added to an already-impressive early haul by signing 2010 juco player of the year, 6-6 wing Jae Crowder (Villa Rica, Calif./Howard College), who led Howard College to the NJCAA national championship. Center Davante Gardner (Suffolk, Va./Kings Folk) and shooting guard Devonte Newbill (Philadelphia/Strawberry Mansion) will provide depth. Combo guard Vander Blue (Madison, Wis./Memorial) is the star of the group and is a potential starter. Shooter Jamail Jones (College Park, Ga./Montverde Academy) and physical lead guard Reggie Smith (Thornton, Ill./Thornton) round out this group and there is no doubt that Buzz Williams and his staff finished strong.
Jim Calhoun went out and locked up two impact perimeter players to go along with wing scorer Jeremy Lamb (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who signed early. ESPNU No. 34-ranked player Roscoe Smith (Baltimore/Oak Hill Academy) is an impact player on the wing and scoring point guard Shabazz Napier (Randolph, Mass./Lawrence Academy) will graduate a year early and join the Huskies' 2010 class. Smith is a high-energy, long-range shooter and Napier has reminded some scouts of a young Dana Barros, the former Boston College star and NBA player. Power forward Tyler Olander (Storrs, Conn./E.O. Smith) is a local product with skill and upside. Post Michael Bradley (Chattanooga, Tenn./Tyner Academy) has excellent skill, as well.
Coach John Thompson III added to the two ESPNU 100 players he inked early. Center Moses Abraham (Camp Springs, Md./Progressive Christian Academy) is a raw rebounder and shot-blocker, while former Marquette commit Aaron Bowen (Jacksonville, Fla./Quality Academy) is a long, athletic scorer. They join ESPNU 100 prospects Nate Lubick (Southborough, Mass./St. Mark's) and Markel Starks (Bethesda, Md./Georgetown Prep). Lubick is a skilled big and Starks is a do-it-all lead guard. This class is athletic and they all are good defenders with matching basketball IQs, which should help them excel in the Princeton style offense right away.
Power forward Brice Kofane (Charlottesville, Va./The Miller School) joins a pair of shooting guards in Gerard Coleman (West Roxbury, Mass./The Tilton School) and Joseph Young (Houston/Jack Yates) who both have deep range and can score in bunches. Power forward Ron Giplaye (Lowell, Mass./Notre Dame Prep) is similar to Kofane who can rebound, block shots and finish above the rim with authority. With the recent addition of skilled 6-9 forward Alex Gavrilovic (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy), the Friars' class has two scoring machines and three forwards that have a combination of size, athletic ability and skill.
Coach Jamie Dixon locked up this excellent group early. Isaiah Epps (Plainfield, N.J./Hargrave Military Academy) is a speedy point guard, while wings J.J. Moore (Brentwood, N.Y./South Kent) and Cameron Wright (Cleveland, Ohio/Benedictine) have good size. Moore is an ESPNU 100 prospect who can score and Wright, a former Ohio State commit, is a versatile athlete who can defend and excels in the open court. The Panthers filled their needs and added quality depth.
Small forward James Bell (Orlando/Montverde Academy) will be a treat to watch in transition with his highlight-reel athletic ability. Add in McDonald's All-American power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston (Brownsville, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin Memorial), who is undersized at 6-6 but is a tough, blue-collar player that can create matchup problems, and Jay Wright has bounce and power at both forward positions. Both players will be ready to compete early in the talented, tough and deep Big East.
The Cardinals landed two very good players this spring in ESPNU 100 shooting guard Justin Coleman (Richmond, Va./Huntington Prep) and sleeper big man Gorgui Sy Dieng (Dakar, Senegal/Huntington Prep). Coleman is a 6-5, super athletic scorer and Dieng will surprise with his skill for a 6-10 center to go along with his excellent rebounding and shot-blocking ability. Point guard Russell Smith (Briarwood, N.Y./South Kent) is an excellent athlete who can really pass the ball, while Elisha Justice (Pikeville, Ky./Shelby Valley) was an invited walk-on who recently earned a scholarship thanks to his excellent play this past high school season.
New Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell should be pleasantly surprised with the class he inherited. Point guard Brandon Young (Washington, D.C./Edison-Friendship) has been impressive since last summer on the travel circuit and is a true sleeper. Small forward Moses Morgan (Las Vegas/Palo Verde) can knock down shots from the wing and power forward Walter Pitchford (Grand Rapids, Mich./New Creations Christian) is a factor athletically. Former Connecticut commit, power forward Cleveland Melvin (Baltimore/ Notre Dame Prep), adds even more bounce to this class. Purnell is known as a program builder (Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson) and he has a good foundation in place with this class.
Bulls coach Stan Heath hit the juco ranks hard this spring and landed a trio of impact players to go along with early signees Lavonte Dority (Chicago/Foreman) and post player Waverly Austin (Fredericksburg, Va./Heat Basketball Academy). Dority is a strong, physical point guard, while Austin is effective around the rim and has excellent upside. Shedrick Haynes (Bradenton, Fla./Lackawanna College), who averaged 18.5 points per game, will bring much-needed depth and experience. Jawanza Poland (Wichita, Kan./Hutchinson Community College) is a terrific athlete with three years of eligibility and Hugh Robertson (Macon, Ga./Tallahassee Community College) is athletic and can knock down 3-pointers. Haynes shot 42 percent from 3-point range and Robertson 38.3 percent, so they will be able to help spread the floor.
Bob Huggins went to the Lone Star State and found a potential sleeper in athletic, skilled lefty Darrious Curry (Houston/ Stratford), a 6-7 combination forward who was released from UTEP when coach Tony Barbee left for Auburn. Huggins already had the state's best player in the fold, in ESPNU 100 point guard Noah Cottrill (Logan, W.Va./Logan), and also added some size with 7-0 center David Nyarsuk (Sudan/Mountain State Academy), who will be a defensive presence immediately. Expect this group to be an asset for the Mountaineers under the intensity and passion of Huggins from Day 1.
Coach Mike Brey added quality depth and toughness with this class. ESPNU 100 small forward Jerian Grant (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic) is the one to watch in this group because of his great versatility on the perimeter. Eric Atkins (Columbia Md./Mt. St. Joseph's) is a defensive-minded lead guard with excellent quickness and Alex Dragicevich (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) should flourish in the motion offense with his ability to shoot the ball.
The Bearcats landed two teammates in ESPNU 100 power forward Justin Jackson (Jacksonville, Fla./Arlington Country Day) and shot-blocking expert Kelvin Gaines (Ocala, Fla./Arlington Country Day). Both are excellent finishers in transition, defensive presences and high-energy players with live legs. Plus, these two won't have to worry about chemistry problems.
Super athletic Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/Westchester), a former USC commit, changed his mind and made the trip across the country to join new coach Steve Lavin in the Big Apple. Lavin showed he still has juice on the West Coast from his days at UCLA by landing Polee, who was one of the best available players in the country during the late signing period. Polee will be an immediate contributor mainly because he is such a high-level athlete.
New coach Kevin Willard has brought in an excellent group of young talent to develop as he prepares for year one in the Big East. Post presence Patrik Auda (Canary Islands/Canarias Basketball Academy) is a strong rebounder and inside scorer. Fuquan Edwin (Patterson, N.J./Patterson Catholic) is a versatile wing, who had an excellent senior year. Anali Okoloji (Brooklyn, N.Y./Impact Basketball Academy) is a 6-8 skilled combo forward.
Mike Rice takes over as the coach at Rutgers after doing a terrific job at Robert Morris. After having only Austin Carroll (Bedfor, Mass./Brewster Academy) in the fold after the early period, the Scarlet Knights add a pair of St. Benedict's Prep teammates in 6-8 power forward Gilvydas Biruta (Newark, N.J.) and small forward 6-5 Mike Poole (Springfield Gardens, N.Y.). Biruta is a strong, explosive finisher who can score inside and out and Poole is a well-rounded wing with excellent upside.
Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986 to '90 and was an All-MAC first-teamer in his senior season.