Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Incoming: SEC rookies ready to lead
Buckle up. The SEC just became a little more interesting. The upcoming season of basketball in the conference will have John Calipari, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Renardo Sidney (maybe), Kenny Boynton, Anthony Grant and Mark Fox on the sidelines for the first time.
Recruiting in the SEC started late with the new hires but boy are there some superstars coming to the league this year. In what will prove to be several years of wow moments in recruiting, the 2009 recruiting classes tipped things off in a big way.
RANKING THE CLASSES
1. Kentucky - You could make an argument that this incoming group of Wildcats is one of the best recruiting classes of all-time, at least on paper. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (pictured above) are lottery picks. Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton could be All-Americans in two years (or less).
2. Mississippi State - Assuming Renardo Sidney plays (and that is a big assumption right now), this class is scary. Sidney is a mega-talent when he is focused. John Riek is a project but his size (7-3) is game-changing. Guys like Shaunessy Smith and Wendell Lewis will help now and even more down the road.
3. Florida - Kenny Boynton is the gem of the class and with the influx of talent coming to Lexington, the Sunshine State star is overlooked. He’s a game-changer that should shine from day one. Erik Murphy bolsters the frontline.
4. Vanderbilt – The Commodores are only brining in one player. And boy is he a good one. John Jenkins could be the top scoring freshman in the league. He has NBA range and a knack for shining in the moment.
5. LSU - A lot to like with this two man class. Both Aaron Dotson and Eddie Ludwig are perfect for Trent Johnson’s system. The two are heady players that can pass and score. Dotson (see below) has a chance to be a stud.
6. Tennessee - Bruce Pearl and his staff didn’t need much in 2009 but they got enough. Kenny Hall is an ideal big man in the team’s up-tempo style. He has long term star potential in the system. Melvin Goins, a junior college transfer, will be an important bench player.
7. Arkansas - A lot of depth to work with for the Razorbacks. The team went for size and got it. Marshawn Powell should see the most time of the bunch right away. Junior college transfers Jemal Farmer and Delvon Johnson could be factors early, too.
8. Alabama - After missing the cut academically a year ago, Tony Mitchell is finally in Tuscaloosa. He was a top 50 player in the 2009 high school class. He is a big-time scorer. The junior college transfers – Charvez Davis and Chris Hines – could be asked to play significant roles this year.
9. South Carolina - Long term, Lakeem Jackson should be the star of the bunch. In the here and the now, don’t be surprised to see Steve Spinella as the team’s starting two guard. Ramon Galloway could be the SEC freshman sleeper though.
10. Ole Miss - The Rebels know how to find ‘em. Reginald Buckner, a Memphis native, will factor into the Rebels frontline rotation early and often. He’s a big, strong, athletic and versatile forward.
11. Auburn - The Tigers added players with good size at their respective positions as well as depth in the frontline. Earnest Ross and Andre Malone could develop into good scoring wings in the SEC.
12. Georgia - The two man class of DeMario Mayfield and Vincent Williams won’t strike fear into any team in the SEC. Both will likely be role players during their college careers.
Best perimeter scorer: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best low post scorer: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Best passer: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Best shooter: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Best rebounder: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Best shot-blocker: John Riek, Mississippi State
Best defender: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Most versatile: Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss
Best basketball IQ: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Best pro prospect: John Wall, Kentucky
Best speed: John Wall, Kentucky
Best motor: John Wall, Kentucky
Best strength: Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Best leaper: Lakeem Jackson, South Carolina
Best toughness: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best leader: Ben Eblen, Alabama
Impact player: John Wall, Kentucky
Biggest sleeper: Shaunessy Smith, Mississippi State
Sleeper class: LSU
THREE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. The Kentucky kids will have the Wildcats in the Final Four. John Calipari has been in the headlines more than any college basketball coach since the Final Four. One of the reasons why is his tremendous first recruiting class at the University of Kentucky. He and his staff reeled in the nation’s top player, John Wall, and a host of other players that should not only play right away but should have this playing for the National Championship.
Wall could be the best player in college hoops this season. He’s certainly the best point guard in college hoops. There are some that even subscribe to the thought that Wall is better than Derrick Rose at this stage of the game.
DeMarcus Cousins was though to be the best high school player in the country as a junior. The Alabama native is a major talent and is one of the most skilled big men to come out of the high school ranks in some time. His impact should be equally important to UK as Wall.
Fellow big man Daniel Orton’s impact may not be as big right away but the Oklahoma native is a very important sign for the Wildcats. The Billy Gillespie holdover
Keep an eye on Eric Bledsoe. He’s too good to play second fiddle. His impact will be greater than people realize. He and Wall will play together and in the up-tempo style that UK will play. And the two could be the best backcourt in the country. And Bledsoe could be one of the elite guards in the nation by the season’s end, too.
Darnell Dodson and Jon Hood are sometimes lost in the big shadow cast by Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and Orton.
2. LSU’s Aaron Dotson will be the steal of the class of 2009 recruits. There is a lot of star power entering the league (see Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, etc.) and it is easy to lose sight of some of the other players coming into the conference. Don’t lose sight on Dotson. He picked the perfect system and the perfect coach. Dotson’s skill set will have him on the floor early and often for the Tigers. His impact may not be eye-popping from a numerical standpoint as a rookie but over the course of time, Dotson will prove to be one of the best guards to join the SEC in the 2009 class.
3. Georgia transfer Gerald Robinson will be an all-conference level player for the Bulldogs. The former Tennessee State guard won’t play this season because of transfer rules. And that hurts in the here and now. What doesn’t hurt is Robinson’s amazing speed and athleticism. Robinson led TSU in scoring last year at 17.8 points a game. There is no reason to believe he can’t score the same amount of points a game. His addition will lay low this season simply because he is out of sight, out of mind.
When John Jenkins committed to nearby Vanderbilt, the pledge made a small splash on the national scene. Little did the hoops recruiting world know that the 6-foot-5 guard from Gallatin, a town just 40 minutes away from Vandy, could be the one of the top scorers entering SEC play as a rookie.
Jenkins is one of the deadliest scorers and shooters in all of college basketball, even as a rookie. He averaged 42.3 points a game as a senior in high school and ended his high school season about as good as any prep player nation wide.
Kevin Stallings and crew beat the nation to the punch on the local star and their efforts should pay off as Jenkins has an absolute star potential in the SEC.
There is reason to believe that if Dennis Felton landed Derrick Favors, he would still be the head coach of the Bulldogs. Favors went to Georgia Tech instead and Felton was fired from Georgia two weeks later.
Kentucky freshman Eric Bledsoe was committed to Ole Miss for one day. The top 25 prospect made the call and pledged his services to the Rebels and as quick as he said yes, he reneged later that night.
Mississippi State is doing just fine in the frontline thanks to the addition of Renardo Sidney, John Riek and sleeper Wendell Lewis. But the Bulldogs had a legitimate shot at Houston big man Keith Gallon. His sister played on the women’s basketball team and MSU had the current Oklahoma freshman on campus a couple of times.
Rarely do Alabama natives leave the state. But Christian Watford left. The 6-foot-8 forward from the Birmingham area would have been a major score for either Alabama or Auburn. Both teams could have used an instant impact player on the low blocks.