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November 20, 2009

Meyer's Mailbag: How good is the Memphis class?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Nov 13: Tigers could sign top class
Nov 6: Barnes or bust for UNC?
Oct 23: Duke class could be great
So if the 2010 Memphis recruiting class is tops in the country, how well does it stack up with the top recruiting classes from the past four years?

Does Missouri crack the national rankings after landing five-star forward Tony Mitchell?

Does Ohio State's talented 2010 recruiting class have a special edge because four of its members played on the same highly successful AAU team?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer answers these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Fast start

With the signings of Jelan Kendrick and Tarik Black, I would assume that Memphis' class will move to No. 1 in your next team rankings. How does the Memphis class stack up with other top-ranked classes of recent years (Kentucky in 2009, UCLA in 2008, Florida in 2007 and North Carolina in 2006)?

-- Lance from Memphis, Tenn.
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No doubt, coach Josh Pastner has signed a terrific 2010 class that is easily the best in the country. Making this recruiting haul even more impressive is the fact that Pastner accomplished this feat as a first-year head coach.

As far as comparing this Memphis class to the top recruiting classes dating back to 2006, Memphis compares favorably to the 2008 UCLA class and 2007 Florida class. I don't view it as a better class than the 2009 Kentucky class or the 2006 North Carolina class.

Kentucky's 2009 class was composed of four five-star prospects, including the top two prospects in the country - John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe were ranked in the lower half of the five-star range. The class also included Jon Hood, the No. 40-ranked prospect, and Darnell Dodson, a junior college standout who is presently starting for Kentucky.

Memphis has three five-stars - Kendrick, Will Barton and Joe Jackson - the No. 47-ranked prospect in Black, the No. 66-ranked prospect in Chris Crawford and two non-ranked prospects in Antonio Barton and Hippolyte Tsafack.

North Carolina's 2006 class was made up of six ranked prospects. Three of those prospects - Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and Tywon Lawson - were ranked in the top 10. North Carolina also had Alex Stepheson (No. 41), Deon Thompson (No. 72) and William Graves (No. 105).

Top-20 class

Do you think Missouri would have a top-20 recruiting class if they land Tony Mitchell?

-- Alex from Kansas City, Mo.
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Missouri did land Mitchell, the No. 15-ranked prospect in the Rivals150, after his visit last weekend. The Missouri recruiting class also has four-star point guard Phil Pressey, forward Kadeem Green and shooting guard Ricky Kreklow.

The class is close to being a top-10 class, but will probably fall a few spots short.

What is most intriguing about this class is that it is not the typical under-the-radar group of prospects coach Mike Anderson is known to recruit. Instead, it is headlined by an elite five-star athlete in Mitchell and a true point guard with a dynamic floor game in Pressey.

The best in 2011

Although Mike Gilchrist and Quincy Miller seem to be at another level in the 2011 class, can you compare LeBryan Nash with Adonis Thomas?

-- Alex from Portsmouth
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Gilchrist is certainly at another level in the 2011 class, and Marquis Teague is a unique talent at the point guard position. Those are the two prospects who have the most separation from the rest of the class.

Miller is a top talent with loads of potential, but he still needs to produce on a more consistent level and develop a more physical game.

After Gilchrist, Nash (No. 5 overall) and Thomas (No. 11 overall) are the top two small forwards in the class. Their games are similar in that they are both athletic and physical. Offensively, they are both quite adept at slashing to the rim. Nash, however, has an edge over Thomas as a perimeter shooter. Similar to Lance Stephenson, Nash can overpower defenders to get to a spot on the court and then shoot the ball with touch off the dribble.

Both players are good ballhandlers and passers but are primarily wired to score.

Defensively, Thomas gets the edge over Nash. Thomas takes great pride in his defense and is one of the best, if not the best, perimeter defenders in the 2011 class.

Both are tremendous prospects, with Nash having the slight edge over Thomas because of his better size and scoring ability. Nash, however, has been a dominant player for years, and Thomas is just beginning to hit his stride as an elite prospect. So a swap in future rankings would not be a surprise.

Travel teammates

Ohio State signed four players off the same AAU team. Has this been done before, and is it better to have built-in chemistry or to try to piece together highly ranked players that have never played together?

-- Vince from Salt Lake City
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The biggest high-profile, one-team AAU haul that I recall in recent times was Purdue's 2007 class, which revolved around three members of the SYF Players squad - E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin.

Similar to the four Ohio State signees from the All Ohio Red squad, the Purdue threesome came from a team that was highly successful on the circuit and played strong team basketball. They had built-in chemistry and knew how to play.

When a coach can recruit four talented prospects like Jared Sullinger (No. 3), Jordan Sibert (No. 37), Aaron Craft (No. 104) and J.D. Weatherspoon (No. 137) who have played together for a winning team, he can't ask for anything more.

At least initially, it is a lot easier to deal with freshmen with a built-in chemistry than it is to manufacture that chemistry among highly ranked players. When those freshmen are also talented like Ohio State's 2010 prospects, it gives a team a great chance to be successful right from the start.

Duke's backup plan

With the recent commitment of Harrison Barnes to UNC, does Duke have a backup plan?

-- Richard from Durham, N.C.
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Duke does have a quality backup plan in Oak Hill Academy forward Roscoe Smith, the No. 31-ranked prospect in the Rivals150. Whether Duke can execute the plan after spending so much time and effort pursuing Barnes is another issue.

Smith does have Duke in his top three along with Connecticut and Georgetown, and he will likely make a decision over the Thanksgiving holiday - when he is able to spend some time back in Baltimore with his family.

If Duke were to land Smith, it would push its class to No. 4 in the national team recruiting rankings behind Memphis, Ohio State and North Carolina.

Word is also circulating that Duke has been on the phone with Trey Zeigler since losing out on Barnes. Zeigler, the No. 26-ranked prospect in the Rivals150, is the son of Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler and is waiting until the spring to sign.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.



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