Saturday, May 7, 2011

Barnes' big summer makes him the top dog in the Class of 2010

Saturday, May 7, 2011

And the universality of Barnes' status does not impugn in any way the talents of the other top-five prospects in the class. It's just that Barnes was so consistently spectacular, winning or losing, at team and individual events, that no discussion was needed to determine the top dog.

Possibly the finest prospect to emerge from high school since Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in the class of 2006, Barnes' long-term future likely is at shooting guard in the NBA. For a player who stands a legitimate 6-7, he'll be a huge guard who can physically dominate opponents at even the highest level of the sport.

Accordingly, the Ames High (Iowa) product is the subject of a ferocious recruiting war between some of the nation's elite programs. Iowa State obviously is working feverishly to keep him at home, but Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and UCLA also are in the mix.

Moving on, No. 2 senior Brandon Knight also boasts terrific pedigree. The Florida native is a prototypical NBA guard in terms of size (6-3), strength and straight-line speed, and his shooting range extends to 22 feet. He has drawn criticism from some scouts because of his tendency to focus on his own scoring, but his style of play is ideally suited for pick-and-pop sets. He also has proved to be a potentially outstanding defender.

In contrast to Barnes and Knight, No. 3 Jared Sullinger may not excite NBA scouts to the same extent. A native of Ohio who committed long ago to the home-state Buckeyes, Sullinger is an undersized (6-9) post player who features more of a power game rather than the finesse frequently exhibited by today's lanky four-men.

Sullinger lacks terrific explosiveness and doesn't shoot with much range, but he consistently causes his teams to win because of his ability to deliver on the low block thanks to his strength, toughness and interior skill. Moreover, given the difficulties Ohio State has faced keeping its prime recruits in college for more than one season, Buckeyes fans should welcome a blue-chipper who may be compelled to spend at least a couple years on campus.

The biggest surprise among the elites during the spring and summer was Kyrie Irving. Though he began to garner hype during his junior season at famed St. Patrick High in New Jersey, Irving didn't cement his elite national status until a series of scoring performances at national events during the summer.

Compared with Knight, Irving isn't as strong or fast but is a more controlled halfcourt distributor and may be a more versatile perimeter scorer.

Baylor lays claim to the No. 5 player on the senior list. After uneven play in the spring, big man Perry Jones demonstrated top-shelf talent during the summer. He boasts the springy leaping ability and long arms to become a high priority in some future NBA draft. In the near-term, he is a signature recruit for Bears coach Scott Drew.

Overall, the class of 2010 has been maligned in some quarters for lacking depth. That said, even the most critical observers grant that the class is appears superior to the 2009 and 2008 crops.

Along with that, 12 of the top 25 seniors still have not made their college decision. That's an unusually high number of undecided prospects compared with recent years, and the result is that the fall will continue to mark a period of enhanced suspense throughout the grassroots world.

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