- Reggie Rankin, College Basketball Recruiting
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With the high school basketball season wrapping up, here is a look at the top players and biggest surprises in the Southwest for the 2011 class.
LeBryan Nash, SF (Dallas, Texas/Lincoln)
The Ron Artest of high school basketball is as talented as any player in the class. His strength and athletic ability allows him to attack the rim and finish through contact. Nash scores inside and out and will dunk on opponents on the break. Nash, who has been a Big 12 recruiting target since he arrived in high school, will make an immediate impact for Oklahoma State.
Sheldon McClellan, SG (Bellaire, Texas/Bellaire)
McClellan has great size and is a terror on the break, where he displays his athletic ability and body control to finish difficult shots in traffic. He uses his good first step to slash to the basket either between, over or around defenders. Expect McClellan to excel in Texas' transition game and develop into a multiple position defender for Longhorns coach Rick Barnes.
Ben McLemore, SF (St. Louis, Mo./Christian Life Center Academy)
Kansas and Missouri battled for the super athletic wing for months but when Mike Anderson left Mizzou for Arkansas it became a done deal for the Kansas Jayhawks, which was probably going to land McLemore anyway. He is a highlight waiting to happen on all clear paths to the rim, especially along the baseline where we have seen him dunk on help-side defenders. He can also spot up and knock down open 3-pointers. McLemore reminds me of a better shooting Kenny Gregory, who provided a few highlights for Jayhawks fans.
Jamal Branch, PG (Humble, Texas/Grace Prep Academy)
Branch decided to become an Texas A&M Aggie during his freshmen season and, despite wavering slightly, will be a terrific lead guard for Mark Turgeon. Branch has excellent size and feel for his position. He can deliver the ball with either hand and get where he needs to be on the floor with his nice handle. Branch scores mostly inside the arc off the bounce and has all the tools to run the team. Expect him to develop into a leader and contribute right away.
Jonathan Holmes, PF (San Antonio, Texas/ Antonian College Prep)
Holmes brings to Austin the ability to score inside and out. He is a combination post who will be a matchup problem and also makes his presence felt on defense by blocking shots and rebounding at a high rate. Holmes is a post who rapidly improved and after having a big summer showing, high-major programs went crazy after him but the home state Texas Longhorns got it done.
D'Angelo Harrison, SG (Missouri City, Texas/John Foster Dulles)
St. John's coach Steve Lavin pulled a very confident scorer out of Texas who can drop big numbers in a short period of time. Harrison beats defenders off the bounce and can hit the jumper from deep. Harrison has the offensive package to break games open. They will love him in the Big Apple when he gets into a scoring groove.
Antwan Space, SF (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto)
Space has a sweet stroke from beyond the arc and does a great job of taking advantage of smaller defenders inside and out by simply shooting over them with his tremendous length. Space has tons of talent and potential and will give Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton a big-time scoring wing option.
Julien Lewis, SG (La Marque, Texas/La Marque)
Lewis is a combination wing who gets it done by attacking the rim on the break, where he scores through contact with his strength and physical perimeter presence. He has a flawless midrange game and has the toughness to cause havoc in the Texas Longhorns' pressure man-to-man defense.
TaShawn Thomas, PF (Killeen, Texas/Killeen)
Thomas is a long, lean forward who has continued to improve and plays with great urgency. He scores in and around the lane with touch and length, not strength. His relentless approach to the game allows him to make his presence felt on the glass as well. Thomas has great upside and should be able to contribute right away for the Houston Cougars.
Josh Richardson, SF (Santa Fe, Okla./ Edmond Sante Fe)
Richardson's length and quickness is impressive, in addition to his great energy and urgency with which he roams the court. He is an alert and active defender who can rebound in and out of his area. A nice midrange scoring package makes Richardson a nice late signing pickup for new Tennessee Vols coach Cuonzo Martin.
Ryan Spangler, PF (Blanchard, Okla./Blanchard)
The combination post makes plays in the lane, where he finishes extremely well. Spangler competes on the glass, is a good passer and has a pretty good overall feel for the game. Spangler is a good on-ball shot-blocker as well. The young forward has good upside and should develop nicely under Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
Keaton Miles, PF (Dallas, Texas/Lincoln)
Miles has improved and developed into a stretch forward who can score inside with half hooks and does a nice job on the offense glass. He can knock down the midrange jumper and attacks with short drives. His competitive fire will serve him well with West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
Kyan Anderson, PG (Fort Worth, Texas/North Crowley)
Anderson has the ability to score and also knows how and when to get others involved. He also has the speed and quickness to be a defensive menace. Anderson does a good job of finding a way to take advantage of what defense gives him in order to help his team be successful.
Karim York, PF (Del Valle, Texas/Del Valle)
The extra long, athletic lefty forward has excellent skill. York can hit open jumpers from the arc and handles the ball on the break. York's versatility and energy on the floor is fun to watch. He is a true matchup problem and has terrific upside. Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating will have some fun moving York around in the offense.
Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986 to 1990 and was a first-team All-MAC selection his senior season. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
LeBryan Nash, Ben McLemore and Jonathan Holmes among best in the Southwest, writes Reggie Rankin.