Pac-10 is loaded at the top
The Pac-10 is looking to rebound after an uncharacteristically meager postseason showing (only Washington and Cal earned NCAA bids). However, that should change quickly because the Pac-10 has landed 11 ESPNU 100 prospects to help elevate the conference's status amongst the nation's elite.
(Note: Classes that were ranked outside the top 25 with identical letter grade are listed alphabetically.)
The Bruins' class could turn out to be better than its No. 15 ranking if McDonald's All-American Josh Smith (Kent, Wash./Kentwood) gets into ideal playing shape. On the other hand, it could drop significantly if the aforementioned doesn't play out. Smith is an ultratalented big with a great pair of hands and terrific feet. Tyler Lamb (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is as solid as it gets. He has a mature game and demeanor that fit Ben Howland's defensive-minded system. Sharpshooter Matt Carlino (Bloomington, Ind./South) and juco point guard Lazeric Jones (Carterville, Ill./Logan Comm. College) should see playing time immediately because UCLA is currently experiencing a major talent drought.
Johnny Dawkins needed to plug some holes on his roster and he did so by landing two of the most underrated prospects in the country in Dwight Powell (Monteverde, Fla./IMG Academy) and Anthony Brown (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View). Powell has the skills and savviness to be an NBA player someday, but he needs to play with more urgency at both ends. Brown has great upside at the small forward position due to his shooting and passing ability. Dawkins' class has a lot of depth as well. Josh Huestis (Great Falls, Mont./ C.M) is an athletic power forward with a high ceiling, but the sleeper of the bunch is Stefan Nastic (Thornhill, Ontario/Thornhill Secondary), who needs to add bulk to bang in the Pac-10, but has an intriguing skill set. John Gage (Vashon Island, Wash./Vashon Island) is also a solid face-up 4-man and Aaron Bright (Issaquah, Wash.) is a crafty left-handed point guard with a high basketball IQ.
The Bears are coming off a strong season, but will need immediate help from this recruiting class, considering they lost their entire starting five. Although the class is void of interior types, it does have a plethora of perimeter prospects led by one of the better small forwards in the country in Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles/Price). He is a knockdown shooter who also rebounds at a high rate. Coach Mike Montgomery also corralled two of the better shooters in the nation in Gary Franklin (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) and Alex Rossi (Winnetka, Ill./New Trier). Emerson Murray (Surrey, British Columbia/St. George School) is yet another 2-guard, but his game is different as he gets to the rim at will. Richard Solomon (Los Angeles/Price) needs to get stronger, but he's bouncy and can shoot it consistently from the elbow.
Herb Sendek did an outstanding job of filling needs, especially out on the perimeter. Keala King (Compton, Calif./Mater Dei) is a versatile talent who could play multiple positions. Corey Hawkins (Goodyear, Ariz./Estrella Foothills) can score in a variety of ways, while evolving point guard Brandon Dunson (Bloomington, Ind./Wabash Valley College) will get the opportunity to replace three-year starter Derrick Glasser. The Sun Devils also nabbed one of the better shooters in the Midwest in Chanse Creekmur (Marshalltown, Iowa/Marshalltown). Jordan Bachynski (Calgary, Alberta/Centennial) needs to gain strength, but he has a soft shooting touch and good hands.
Kevin O'Neill signed two potential impact talents in Bryce Jones (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) and Maurice Jones (Saginaw, Mich./Arthur Hill). Bryce is a bouncy SG/SF who should adapt nicely into O'Neill's defensive-minded system due to his length and defensive prowess. Maurice is a menace to stop off the dribble and can hit the 3-point shot with regularity. The Trojans also landed a late-blooming wing in Garrett Jackson (Portland, Ore./Westview), who needs strength and skill development, but has a solid upside. Curtis Washington (Elizabethtown, Ky./Elizabethtown) is a project, but he does have length and upside.
Although Lorenzo Romar was stung at the last moment when Terrence Jones (Portland, Ore./Jefferson) reneged on his commitment and joined Kentucky, the Huskies still have an impressive class, especially with the late addition of Terrence Ross (Portland, Ore./Jefferson). Ross should excel in Romar's fast-paced tempo, where he can finish at the rim or nail the 3-point shot. Desmond Simmons (Richmond, Calif./Salesian) fits into that Quincy Pondexter mold and the Huskies' staff is very high on the potential of Aziz N'Diaye (Lake Forest, Ill./College of Southern Idaho).
After having its streak of 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances broken, Arizona has done a solid job of replenishing its back court. Daniel Bejarano (Phoenix/North), a former Texas commit, will provide a high motor at both ends as well as a prolific stroke from the perimeter. Jordin Mayes (Los Angeles/ Westchester) has shown the ability to play both guard spots due to his savviness and smooth jump shot. Coach Sean Miller also snagged juco standout Jesse Perry (St. Louis, Mo./John A. Logan Community), who can play the 3 or the 4 due to his versatile skill set.
Craig Robinson, who is entering his third season at the helm, exhibited his recruiting prowess by signing a terrific duo in 5-6 point guard Ahmad Starks (Chicago/Whitney Young) and 6-8 power forward Devon Collier (Bronx, N.Y./St. Anthony). Starks may remind some in the Northwest of former Oregon standout Tajuan Porter, while Starks has a lethal touch out to the stripe and is very quick. Collier is a lefty with a blue-collar mentality and polished face-up game. The Beavers also believe they have a major sleeper in Chris Brown (Sugarland, Texas/Ocean Academy). He is a massive center (6-11, 245 pounds) who can shut down the middle on defense as well as rebound at a high rate.
The Cougars have been known to develop under-the-radar types into all-conference performers. Faisal Aden (San Diego, Calif./Hillsborough CC) has the scoring punch to one day reach that level. Patrick Simon (Ephrata, Wash./Ephrata) is a solid face-up 4-man with an excellent shooting touch and Andre Winston (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) is a clever point guard with a bevy of savvy and toughness. Coach Ken Bone also went "down under" to snag Dexter Kernich-Drew (Melbourne, Australia/Caulfield Grammar School), who may need a year or two to adjust to the Pac-10, but the budding wing-type is very skilled.
The newly hired Dana Altman got a late start on the recruiting front, but he still managed to haul in one of the better-kept secrets out West in 5-9 point guard John Loyd (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman). He will be asked to help out immediately because Porter has finished up his career in Eugene. The Ducks received some other good news when Tyrone Nared (Bronx, N.Y./Monroe Community College) decided to follow Altman to Oregon after originally signing with Creighton. Nared needs to get stronger, but he has the inside-outside game and length to play at the Pac-10 level.
Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting.
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