Last summer, we ran a series called Looking Back where we went through past recruiting classes to see how the players from those classes developed.
Well, for starters, it was a fun and interesting thing to do. You're not interested in the fact that Josh McRoberts and Gerald Green were once considered the best high school basketball players in the country? Its also an interesting way to keep fans from getting too excited when a top 25 recruit pledges to their school. Projecting the long-term ability of 17 year old hoopers is an inexact science, and never is that more evident than when you look back at past recruiting rankings.
This summer, we are going to go back through the Team Rankings. In other words, we want to see if the team that the pundits said had the best recruiting class really did have the best recruiting class. The science here will be a bit inexact. For starters, its tough to find consistent rankings. Rivals has them dating back to 2003, Scout to 2005, and ESPN to 2007. Its also tough to determine exactly what players had what effect on a given season. Did UConn's 2007 recruiting class -- which featured Donnell Beverly and, well, Donnell Beverly -- really have much influence on the 2011 national title?
For our purposes, we will be looking at the success that each member of each program's recruiting class had individually in college as well as the success that the team at while those players were member of the program. Like I said, it will be inexact, but inexact science makes for better arguments. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.
Re-ranking the 2003 recruiting classes
Re-ranking the 2004 recruiting classes:
1. Florida (Rivals: 12): Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Taurean Green, Jack Berry, and Cornelius Ingram
For my money, this recruiting class is as successful as any this decade, maybe ever. Seriously. As freshman, Noah, Horford, Brewer, and Green were all major contributors for a team that finished tied for second in the SEC and won the SEC Tournament. After getting knocked out in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh both declared for the NBA Draft and David Lee graduated, meaning that Billy Donovan was left with a young team that few expected much from. But those Gators really meshed, winning their first 17 games. They struggled a bit through SEC play, but the Gators clicked again during the postseason, winning both the SEC and NCAA Tournament titles. All four players returned for their junior seasons, and the Gators once again rolled through the regular season, winning a second straight national title. Noah, Horford, and Brewer all went in the lottery of the 2007 NBA Draft, while Green was picked in the second round. Berry was never more than a bench player, and Ingram was a football player that played one season.
2. UCLA (Rivals: 5): Aaron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Josh Shipp, and Marcus Everett
From the first day they stepped on the UCLA campus, Afflalo, Farmar, and Shipp were starters for the Bruins. As freshmen, they played a supporting role to senior Dijon Thompson, helping lead the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament. As sophomores, however, is when this group really started to shine. In 2006, Shipp was injured four games into the season, but Afflalo and Farmar carried the Bruins to an outright Pac-10 title, a Pac-10 tournament title, and a trip to the national title game. Farmar was a first round pick after his sophomore campaign, but the return of Shipp along with Afflalo gave Ben Howland a potent wing combo. As a junior, Mata-Real also went from being a role player to being a starter. That UCLA team won the Pac-10 regular season title and once again made it to the Final Four. Afflalo entered the 2007 NBA Draft and was taken in the first round, but with talents like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Darren Collison in the program, UCLA against made the Final Four in 2008. Shipp and Mata-Real were starters, but not the stars, on that team. Shipp returned for a fifth year in 2008-2009 and helped lead UCLA back to the NCAA tournament, but the Bruins were knocked out in the second round. Everett was a football player.
3. Kansas (Rivals: 2): Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson, Alex Galindo, and CJ Giles
The 2004 Jayhawk recruiting class were, simply put, winners. Galindo played just one season at KU and Giles played only two, but the other three -- Kaun, Robinson, and Jackson -- went 111-19 in their careers and 52-12 in Big 12 play. They won a share of the Big 12 title in each of their four seasons -- winning the outright league title in 2007 -- and were Big 12 Tournament champions every year except for their freshman season. Finally, in 2008, Kaun, Robinson, and Jackson were all key pieces on the 2008 national title team. None of the three were ever stars for the Jayhawks, as Bill Self continued to bring in talented players, but each of the three played an important role every season they were in Lawrence. Jackson and Kaun both were picked in the second round of the 2008 draft after graduating.
4. LSU (Rivals: NR): Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, and Garrett Temple
Davis was the only member of LSU's 2004 recruiting class that actually played as a freshman. Both Temple and Thomas redshirted their first year with the Tigers, but Davis was an immediate impact player, combining with Brandon Bass to form one of the best frontlines in the country and helping to lead the Tigers to a first-place tie in the SEC West. LSU lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament that season, but the following year Davis became a certified star, winning SEC Player of the Year as LSU won the league's regular season title. Thomas became a starter and a double-figure scorer, while Temple was a reserve guard. LSU would go on to make the Final Four in 2006, which would lead to Davis and Thomas declaring for the NBA Draft. Temple played out his eligibility in Baton Rouge, become a starter as the Tigers struggled in 2007 and 2008. But during his senior season, he helped lead the Tigers to a 13-3 finish in the SEC and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. All three wound up playing in the NBA.
5. Georgetown (Rivals: NR): Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Tyler Crawford, and Cornelio Guibunda
These four players weren't the only newcomers to the Georgetown program in 2004, as the Hoyas hired John Thompson III. Combined, this group helped usher in a new era for Georgetown hoops. After finishing second to last in the Big East in 2003-2004, this group helped Georgetown improve to 8-8 in Big East play and advance to the NIT in 2005. Green was the biggest contributor, winning the 2005 Big East newcomer of the year award. Hibbert was a reserve big man, while Crawford saw limited minutes off the bench -- which would be his role throughout his career. As sophomores, Green and Hibbert combined to form one of the more promising front lines in the conference, leading the Hoyas to a 21-9 record and a trip to the Sweet 16. As juniors, the Hoyas would win both the Big East regular season and tournament titles, advancing all the way to the Final Four. Green, who became a certified star, would leave school to become the fifth pick in the draft. Hibbert returned for his senior season, where once again he led the Hoyas to the Big East regular season title. After getting upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Stephen Curry, Hibbert was picked in the lottery.
UPDATE: As a commenter pointed out, we -- inexcusably -- left Jonathan Wallace off this list. Wallace (who didn't show up on the lists of recruiting classes we looked at, probably because he was a walk-on) started as a freshman for the Hoyas and was an incredibly important piece in their two Big East titles. With Wallace in the mix, there's an argument to be made for Georgetown moving up as high as third on this list.
6. UConn (Rivals: 10): AJ Price, Rudy Gay, Ed Nelson, and Antonio Kellogg
In their first year with the Huskies, Gay and Nelson (who transferred in from Georgia Tech) helped the Huskies win a share of the Big East regular season title. Nelson played a limited role off the bench while Gay was a starter from his first day with the team. The following season, UConn was as loaded with talent -- four first round picks, five overall in the 2006 draft -- as any team the past decade. But after winning another share of the league title, the Huskies lost in the first round of the Big East Tournament and struggled to make the Elite 8, where the were upset by George Mason. Gay went pro and Nelson graduated, and the following season -- the first that AJ Price would play due to an aneurysm and a suspension for stealing laptops -- the Huskies struggled. Price became a star and a leader for UConn his last two seasons, however, carrying the team to a 2008 NCAA Tournament appearance and a Final Four appearance in 2009, despite having torn his acl in that 2008 NCAA Tournament. Kellogg transferred without having an impact.
7. Texas (Rivals: 3): LaMarcus Aldridge, Mike Williams, Daniel Gibson, Dion Dowell, Connor Atchley, and Kenton Thornton
This was a loaded recruiting class for the Longhorns, but not everyone stuck it out with the program. Williams and Dowell both transferred after their sophomore seasons without becoming impact players. Thornton never made it to Texas, eventually playing football for North Carolina. Gibson had a monster freshman season, but due to a series of injuries, the Longhorns struggled, finishing 9-7 in the Big 12 and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The following season, Aldridge blossomed into one of the best and most versatile big men in the country. Gibson's numbers took a bit of a hit, but he became more of a point guard. Texas won a share of the Big 12 title, made the Big 12 Tournament title game and advanced all the way to the Elite 8. Both Gibson and Aldridge went pro following the season, but Atchley -- who redshirted his first year in Austin -- played out his eligibility. He was a key role player throughout his career, joining Kevin Durant in 2007 and playing a part of the 2008 Texas team that won a share of the Big 12 regular season title and, again, lost in the Big 12 tournament title game and the Elite 8.
8. Kentucky (Rivals: 1): Rajon Rondo, Patrick Sparks, Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley, Lonnell Dewalt, and Adam Williams
The Wildcats didn't have as much team success as Big Blue Nation likely hoped from this group. They made the NCAA Tournament every season from 2005-2008, winning the SEC regular season title in 2005 and reaching the Elite 8. But that was the only year they made it out of the first weekend. That said, this recruiting class had plenty of individual success. Sparks, a transfer from Western Kentucky, made an immediate impact as a clutch shooter, averaging double figures over the course of two seasons. Rajon Rondo only lasted two seasons in Lexington before becoming a first round pick and one of the best point guards in the NBA. Morris went pro after his freshman season, but was undrafted. The NCAA allowed him to return to school, and he eventually became a force in the paint. After his junior year, the Knicks signed him to a contract immediately after UK's season ended. Crawford and Bradley slowly developed, but by their senior seasons, they were one of the best back courts in the country. Williams transferred out of Kentucky after one year, while Dewalt was a football player.
9. North Carolina (Rivals: NR): Marvin Williams, Quentin Thomas, and JR Smith
Obviously, Smith never made it to campus, heading straight to the NBA. Williams joined Smith in the league a year later, but not before he became a valuable sixth man for the Tar Heel's in 2005. And that 2005 was stacked, with Sean May, Ray Felton, and Rashad McCants the reason that Williams was forced into a supporting role. UNC won the ACC regular season title in 2005 before earning Roy Williams his first national championship as a head coach. Thomas would never become more than a back up point guard, but he was a part of a number of very, very good basketball teams. In 2007 and 2008, the Heels won the ACC regular season and tournament titles before advancing to the Elite 8.\
10. West Virginia (Rivals: NR): Mike Gansey, Darris Nichols, and Luke Bonner
The Mountaineers never had much regular season success with this group. But they were as good as anyone once the postseason started. Gansey, who transferred into WVU from St. Bonaventure, immediately became a star in John Beilein's system. He -- along with Kevin Pittsnogle -- was a huge reason for the Mountaineer's 2005 run from the bubble to the Big East title game, a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Elite 8, where they lost a thriller to Louisville. In 2006, the Mountaineers once again made an NCAA Tournament run, this time to the Sweet 16 where they, again, lost in a thriller to Texas. Gansey graduated in 2006, but Nichols was one of the players that stepped up in his absence. WVU missed the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but still made a postseason run, winning the NIT. In 2008, Joe Alexander became the West Virginia star, but Nichols played a major role for the Mountaineers as they won the Big East Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16, which included an upset of Duke.
11. BYU (Rivals: 17): Trent Plaisted, Lee Cummard, Keena Young, Chris Miles, David Burgess, Sam Burgess, Josh Reisman, and Matt Pinegar
12. Villanova (Rivals: NR): Kyle Lowry and Dwayne Anderson
13. Indiana (Rivals: 4): Josh Smith, DJ White, Robert Vaden, AJ Ratliff, James Hardy, and Lucas Steijn
t14. Butler (Rivals: NR): AJ Graves, Brandon Polk, and Gary Patterson
t14. Gonzaga (Rivals: NR): Josh Heytvelt, David Pendergraft, JP Batista, and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes
15. Tennessee (Rivals: NR): Chris Lofton, Erik Ainge, Andre Patterson, and Damien Harris
The most disappointing classes:
- Alabama (Rivals: 8): Its tough to really find fault with Alabama in the 2004 recruiting class, as five-star recruit Ron Steele's knees simply never cooperated with him. He did averaged double figures in two different seasons, but never quite lived up to the hype. JuCo transer Jean Felix played two seasons as a role player. Albert Weber lasted just one year in Tuscaloosa, while Glenn Miles never played a game. The Crimson Tide did make the 2005 and 2006 NCAA Tournaments, but never got past the first weekend.
- Louisville (Rivals: 7): The Cardinals signed a ton of talent in 2004, the issue was getting that talent on the court in college. Both Sebastian Telfair and Donta Smith went to the NBA. Lorenzo Wade transferred to San Diego State after one season. Brian Johnson transferred to Mississippi State after two. Terrence Farley played four years with the Cardinals, but averaged more than 10 minutes per game just once. Juan Palacios was the only impact player from the 2004 class for Louisville, but he struggled as a junior and senior after a promising first two seasons.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Last summer, we ran a series called Looking Back where we went through past recruiting classes to see how the players from those classes developed.