Now that the regular signing period has come to a close, we have a chance to look back and see what stood out about the 2011 class and give some predictions for the future.
Who will have an instant impact in college?
Paul Biancardi: Ever since Michael Gilchrist (Somerdale, N.J./St. Patrick) was a freshman, he had a reputation to live up to and the game to back it up. The best way to live up to the hype is win, and that's what he does. Gilchrist led his St. Patrick team to its first City of Palms championship in one of the strongest fields ever and was instrumental as his team went 26-1 playing a national schedule with the bull's-eye on him every night. When he lands at Kentucky, he will influence and impact the program with his work ethic and production on the floor.
Adam Finkelstein: Texas is used to losing players early to the NBA, but the hit is particularly hard this year with Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph all leaving Austin. Joseph's departure clears the way for Myck Kabongo (Toronto/Findlay Prep) to come right in and take ownership of the program from Day 1. While his versatile talents make him arguably the top freshman point guard in the country next season, his high character and natural leadership abilities will be just as important for a program that will be searching for a bit of an identity with only one returning player who averaged more than three points per game last season.
Joel Francisco: I expect Josiah Turner (Sacramento, Calif./Quality Education) to have an immediate impact at Arizona the moment he arrives on campus. Coach Sean Miller doesn't really have a true point guard in the program and Turner's physicality and passing prowess should warrant early playing time.
Mike LaPlante: Rarely does a school in the Southern Conference, like Charleston, get a player of Adjehi Baru's (Richmond, Va./Steward School) caliber and ranking. The Ivory Coast native had programs from the ACC trying to secure his services, but the young, improving center made a decision out of the norm that could have a tremendous impact on Bobby Cremins' program. Baru could be one of the top rebounders/shot blockers in the nation as a freshman and will give the Cougars equal footing in the post when playing against the big boys.
Reggie Rankin: Dorian Finney-Smith (Portsmouth, Va./Norcom) is the most versatile player in the 2011 class. He possesses the size, skill, basketball IQ, passion, unselfishness and ability to play and defend positions 2-4. He is a matchup nightmare and stat-sheet stuffer who finds a way to help put his team in position to win games. His ability to score inside and out, as well as rebound, is a thing of beauty. The Virginia Tech signee reminds me of a young Scottie Pippen or Joe Smith, and Finney-Smith will make his presence felt immediately in Blacksburg. He is my pick for ACC Rookie of the Year in a conference that is routinely loaded with five-star recruits, and this year is no different, especially with Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) set to put on a Duke uniform.
John Stovall: Anthony Davis (Chicago/Perspectives Charter) could be the most skilled player in college basketball next year! If there was an NBA draft of current college-eligible players, my money is on Davis to be the first player picked. All that being said, he may not start at Kentucky next season. The center spot is open for the Wildcats and aside from the banging, Davis is well equipped to play the position. Heck, he is equipped to play every position except point guard. The power forward spot may be manned by Terrence Jones, and there are a multitude of talented wings at Kentucky next season. However, Davis at center is intriguing. Offensively he is unguardable by a collegiate center, and defensively he is a good enough rebounder and tremendous shot-blocker. The one downside is that he has no girth and can be moved around inside, but ultimately center is where Davis could make an immediate impact.
Dave Telep: The Florida Gators will have a bona fide professional basketball player-in-waiting in their backcourt next season. Bradley Beal (St. Louis/Chaminade) is a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball and team captain. He's as feisty and fiery a competitor as this class has -- short of Gilchrist. Coach Billy Donovan has himself a self-motivated weapon on offense and a difference-maker defensively. Beal's talent, work ethic and penchant for winning will rub off on the Gators from the moment he steps onto campus.
Paul Biancardi is the national director of basketball recruiting. Adam Finkelstein is a frequent contributor, both in player evaluations and event coverage. Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator and has been evaluating high school prospects for over 20 years. Michael LaPlante is a recruiting coordinator who has over 20 years of coaching and recruiting experience. Reggie Rankin, a recruiting coordinator, has coached in the Mid-American, American East, WAC, SEC, Big 12 and Atlantic 10 conferences over a span of 14 seasons. John Stovall, a recruiting coordinator, has worked as director of scouting for Prep Spotlight Scouting Service and magazine for 15 years. Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com.