- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
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Here's a team-by-team breakdown of the ACC's 2011 recruiting classes after the early signing period.
The hardest part about success is not achieving it, but maintaining it. The crown jewel in the class is clearly the No. 1 overall player in the class, SG Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park), who has an advanced offensive game with many polished moves to dominate the game from a scoring aspect. He wants the ball in his hands at important moments in the game. Others in this class are talented and vital for Duke to maintain its quest of greatness. Michael Gbinije (Chester, Va./Benedictine) is a versatile scoring small forward who allows the game to come to him and will contribute on both ends of the floor. Quinn Cook (Hyattsville, Md./Oak Hill Academy) may be the most valuable member of the class because he plays point guard and could conceivably replace Kyrie Irving if he leaves for the NBA. Marshall Plumlee (Warsaw, Ind./Christ School) rounds out this class and has the size, talent and intensity to make a difference. This is a complete class and will keep the Blue Devils at the top of the ACC.
The Tar Heels are bringing in a couple of five-star recruits who will be tremendous inside-outside threats in PF James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Christian) and SG P.J. Hairston (Greensboro, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy). McAdoo has such a good feel for the game and plays under control, which is rare for a young post. He displays excellent skill out to 15 feet and understands how to use his body to maintain positioning inside. At the high post, he shows a consistent jumper and a drive to score. Hairston is a dynamic shooter who is improving his overall game. He can break open a game and make teams come out of their zone defense because of his range and accuracy. PF Jackson Simmons (Sylva, N.C./Smoky Mountain) rounds out the class and he will do the little things and make the hustle plays.
With so much talent and experience walking out the door after this season, Hokies coach Seth Greenberg and staff brought in an outstanding class. The difference-maker of the bunch is Dorian Finney-Smith (Portsmouth, Va./Norcom), who is a very skilled forward who shows the ability to play in different spots on the floor and be very effective at all times. In the open floor, he can deliver assists or attack the rim. In the half-court set, he can knock it down behind the arc and then some. But perhaps he is most dangerous on the offensive glass as he hunts down misses. His versatility, skills and aggressiveness will have the fans excited. PF C.J. Barksdale (Danville, Va./Hargrave Military Academy) will be a matchup problem for opposing defenders. His skill, versatility and extra long body will make him an excellent forward who is hungry and ready to produce. On the perimeter, SG Robert Brown (Clermont, Fla./Hargrave Military Academy) comes in with a scorer's mentality, while PG Marquis Rankin (Charlotte, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy) has great speed from end line to end line.
Once again, coach Leonard Hamilton has loaded up with another gifted group. SG Aaron Thomas (Cincinnati, Ohio/Aiken) beats defenders off the bounce with quickness and Terry Whisnant (Cherryville, N.C./Cherryville) has a deep-range jumper, which opens up the floor for dribble penetration and post play. SF Antwan Space (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) oozes with potential, displaying a feathery touch out to 22 feet. He arrived on the national scene late and then came the rush from all high-majors and the Seminoles scooped him up. Another one to watch is junior college C Kiel Turpin (Normal, Ill./Lincoln College).
Coach Tony Bennett is backing up last year's terrific class with another group of players who will continue to push UVa up the standings in the ACC. Malcolm Brogdon (Norcross, Va./Greater Atlanta Christian School) could surprise folks when he gets to Charlottesville because he is a high-percentage shooter with great size and a strong body. Another guy who can dial it up from long distance is SF Paul Jesperson (Merrill, Wis./Merrill), which sets up well for his driving game. He's a threat on the floor wherever he plays because of his deep range and confident demeanor. The inside presence of Darion Atkins (Clinton, Md./Landon) will be a welcome addition to the roster. His game is still developing, but he will rebound, block some shots and has an ultra-competitive nature.
Coach Gary Williams scored a major local product in SG Nick Faust (Baltimore, Md./Baltimore City College). He is a long, athletic perimeter player who plays with a high level of energy and possesses excellent all-around skill. His size (6-foot-6) at the shooting guard position also allows him to see the rim over most perimeter defenders. He is a versatile defender who can guard all three perimeter spots and also rebounds his position. Faust exploded on the national scene over the spring and continued his work over the summer, earning him the reputation as one of the elite shooting guards in the country. Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) will come in and help run the point, but more importantly he brings a tough demeanor with a highly competitive spirit to the floor.
You don't have to have big recruiting numbers to have a good recruiting class and the Yellow Jackets are a great example. With basically their whole roster returning, coach Paul Hewitt and staff did a very good job with the limited scholarships they had to give out. Julian Royal (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) is one of the more versatile prospects in this year's class. He is a skilled power forward who can score inside and out and also causes matchup problems. What's impressive is that he can score in the paint with his back to the basket, go to the midpost and face up defenders, knock down midrange jumpers to the arc and drive by less mobile forwards with ease.
Bishop Daniels (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) is an electrifying athlete who can turn an ordinary transition situation into a highlight reel. There is no denying his talent for scoring the basketball, especially in transition. The Hurricanes' plan is to convert him to the point guard position in time. Daniels' jumper has improved and when he gets on a roll he can be a legitimate spark. He has great athletic ability and when you see his explosiveness and lateral foot speed you get excited and think what a good defender he can develop into, if committed. He must work on his decision-making to transition over to the most important position on the floor and that will come in time from practice and time spent with coaches in the film room.
With so much perimeter power returning for the Wolfpack next season, they needed size inside. With C Joseph Uchebo (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy) they are getting just that. He's an active post player who is still raw offensively, but always improving. As a young center, he knows how to post up, shows a good target to the passer and displays good hands. His size and length are difficult to score over and he has good timing when blocking or altering shots. His frame will allow him to gain some much-needed muscle to hold his position inside within the confines of the ACC. PF Tyler Harris (Dix Hills, N.Y./St. Benedict's Prep) is the younger brother of Tennessee freshman Tobias Harris. The lefty can score the ball with the jumper and get on the glass. He certainly has good instincts for the game and will contribute.
New coach Steve Donahue comes in after building Cornell into the champion of the Ivy League. He did it with upperclassmen, while putting a premium on recruiting highly skilled players with strong basketball IQs. He has taken that successful philosophy and landed a pair of three-star post players -- Ryan Anderson (Long Beach, Calif./L.B. Polytechnic) and Dennis Clifford (Bridgewater, Mass./Milton Academy) -- who fit his system. Anderson's strength is his shooting stroke and savviness, while Clifford's a true center who has made steady progress thanks to his solid work ethic. Both prospects will need time to develop their bodies to compete with the physical nature of the ACC and when they become upperclassmen their talents will be maximized.
The Tigers will be changing their style of basketball to a more half-court, man-to-man and motion offensive approach. PF Bernard Sullivan (Huntersville, N.C./Davidson Day School) uses his size to create space, while having a nice arsenal of quick and polished moves at his disposal. He is equally effective at the mid- or high post, has a smooth stroke and is capable of knocking down shots from 3. Ultimately, what sets him apart is his versatility and ability to score the ball in so many different ways. Daniel Sapp (Oakland Park, Fla./Northeast) is a strong, skilled combination guard who makes scoring plays for himself and teammates. He scores by getting to the rim, where he finishes in heavy traffic, and is a good open midrange shooter with range to the arc, but is a bit streaky. He's also a willing rebounder at his position which adds to his value. Good news for new coach Brad Brownell is that he is taking over a program that is in great shape and former coach Oliver Purnell left the cupboard full of talent.
New coach Jeff Bzdelik has hit the ground running looking to recruit players with a high skill level and a good understanding of how to execute. SG Chase Fischer (Ripley, W.Va./Ripley) fits that mold for the Demon Deacons because he can flat-out stroke it from deep. If you surround him with drivers, he will spot up and if you run him off screens he will stretch the defense. Fischer thrives in catch-and-shoot situations, shows good basketball knowledge and is poised on the floor. PF Daniel Green (Grapevine, Texas/Grapevine) is more of a prospect than a player right now, but should pay off down the line.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
Duke and UNC, No. 2 and No.5 overall, highlight the top recruiting classes in the ACC, writes Paul Biancardi.