After sending national scout Jerry Meyer and Director of Basketball Tim Watts on the road for the last five months to watch the nation's best prospects in action numerous times, Rivals.com's search for the No. 1 prospect in the 2005 class has been whittled down to six players. All possess the size, athleticism and skill level to succeed not only on the college level but also to have successful careers in the NBA.
It is important to note that certain areas of a player's game are more easily developed than others and the developmental curve of a prospect is of utmost importance. Rankings are more about what a player will become than where he is right now. But at the same time, where a player is right now says a lot about where a player could be.
The AAU summer basketball season will finish with a flurry with major tournaments in Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Los Angeles over the next two weeks. Rivals.com will release the updated rankings for the 2005 class on Aug. 2, but the race is currently still wide-open for the top spot.
Here is a look at the six candidates vying for the post-summer No. 1 ranking in the class of 2005:
Gerald Green (6-foot-7, 190 pounds, shooting guard, Gulf Shores Academy, Houston) - While the rest of the country tried to figure out whether or not Green was a top 50 prospect, Rivals.com dropped him in at the No. 9 spot in the April rankings. Since that time, Green has made it obvious that he is one of the elite players in his class and the best the state of Texas has to offer. Green might just have the best combination of size, athleticism and skill in his class. Whether from well beyond the three-point line, in the midrange or around the basket, Green is a constant scoring threat, always capable of creating a shot. Green can also handle the ball and creates well.
National Scout Jerry Meyers' Take: "Green fits the mold of high-scoring NBA small forwards like Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. He has that type of height and mobility, and he scores off NBA-type moves. He does need to get stronger to finish on the higher levels. His defense and rebounding need to improve, but they should improve as he gets stronger and tougher."
Director of Basketball Tim Watts' Take: "The thing I like most about Green is his versatility. He can get his shot against any defender and has nice range and a great stroke on his jumper. If a small man is on him, he will post him up on the baseline and shoot a nice turnaround or use his size and handle to get to the basket. He prefers the perimeter game, and I believe that's because he's not strong enough to take the physical pounding that goes on under the basket. His strength is his only weakness."
Josh McRoberts (6-foot-10 1/2, 241 pounds, power forward, Carmel (Ind.) High School) - Currently ranked No. 27 in the class of 2005, the former small forward seemed to adjust to his taller and bigger body during the course of this summer, and his game is a combination of power forward strength and small forward skills. His range is pretty consistent out to 17 feet, and he can make the three-pointer. In the post he has a plethora of moves and finishes, all based around his patented up-and-under move.
Meyers' Take: "McRoberts' game really turned a corner at the Olympic Festival as it looked like his game grew into his new height and weight. He was so much more aggressive and explosive, even driving it baseline and dunking on defenders. Just as skilled with the ball as most wing players, he can drive it and pass it proficiently with either hand. No one on the circuit ignites the fastbreak with the outlet or the dribble bust out like McRoberts. He can also score from midrange and in and is a solid defender. On top of all this, he is consistent and always competitive."
Watts' Take: Seeing how much he had changed physically from last summer to this summer was quite the shock. Last year, I thought he would play the three (small forward) is college or at least be a high-post player who the offense went through, but now he is much heavier and stronger. When I saw him at the Kingwood, he was apparently still getting used to his new frame. I like how he passes and sees the floor real well. His shot is effective from the midrange, so if he's developed the low post skills he needs then he would be the complete player at the four (power forward). I haven't seen him as much as Jerry, but I will take a long look at him this week in Vegas."
Richard Hendrix (6-foot-8, 263 pounds, power forward, Athens (Ala.) High School) - Currently ranked No. 4 in the class of 2005, Hendrix possesses as good a set of hands of any big man on the circuit. With strong hands and good instincts, he is an excellent rebounder. In the post, he has the ability to attack the rim or score over bigger players with a jump hook. He can also put it on the floor and hit the midrange pull-up jumper.
Meyers' Take: "Hendrix has the size, strength and quickness off the floor to carry him a long way. Add his feel for the game and his ever-increasing skill level, and you have the makings of a dominant player. Is there another prospect who can score consistently with his back to the basket, lead a fastbreak, pull up for a midrange jumper and block shots from the weak side like Hendrix?"
Watts' Take: "I really think with college basketball shrinking that Hendrix has a chance to be the next dominant force on the NCAA level. He's big, strong and physical. and while he's not quick or fast off the floor, he is explosive off his first jump. His midrange jumper is developing nicely and he's even knocked down a few threes this summer, although I don't think he will ever do that consistently. His post moves are strong, he runs the floor well and is ultra-competitive. Right now, he's facing a lot of sagging defenses or double teams, but he'll see less of that in college and have a better chance to showcase his skills."
Louis Williams (6-foot-1/2, 177 pounds, combo guard, South Gwinnett High School, Snellville, Ga. )- Currently ranked No. 3 in the class of 2005, Williams has been a dominant player in his age group for years despite his size. It is difficult to imagine a player just over 6-feet being the best in the country, but Williams possesses the athleticism, skill and determination to possibly pull it off. Blessed with both smooth and explosive athleticism, Williams is a prolific scorer as well as a strong all-around offensive player.
Meyers' Take: "There is no one I would rather have with the ball in his hands during a pressure situation than Williams. He has the winner's mentality and the ability to make all the plays on the court. He does have those lapses where he is careless with the ball and makes bad decisions. Maturity and strength will take care of those offensive issues. Maturity and strength will also improve his ability to guard the ball, but lateral quickness has room for improvement as well. But the bottom line is that it would be tough to pass over him if you were picking a team."
Watts' Take: "Louis is like the old man in the class because he's been on everyone's radar for the last four years. I'm not sure if there is a better scorer in the country, and his outside jumper has sick range. He can get his shot off anytime and will extend a defense to 30 feet. It helps that he can put the ball on the floor, but my biggest question is whether or not he will develop point guard skills and that mentality. He's long and athletic, and most of all he's a gamer who wants that shot when the game is on the line."
Brandon Rush (6-foot-5 1/2, 202 pounds, small forward, Mt. Zion Academy, Kansas City, Mo.) - Currently ranked No. 21 in the class of 2005, Rush has been up and down in the rankings due to his inconsistent play. Rush certainly has the best combination of size (8-foot-4-inch reach) and athleticism in his class. He is also adept at putting the ball on the floor and getting into the lane where he can finish with either hand.
Meyers' Take: "Rush apparently found his game at the Olympic Youth Festival. He attacked the basket on a consistent basis, finishing with either hand. He also peppered in midrange pull-ups and some threes and pulled down offensive rebounds. With unparalleled athleticism on the amateur level, Rush has the skill base to be a pro as long as he learns to defend and give a consistent effort. As with most of these guys, gaining strength will go a long way in helping Rush complete his game."
Watts' Take: "Athletically there aren't any better prospects among the 2005 prospects, but Rush has been as inconsistent as anyone who is so highly regarded. It seems like every game he shows you just enough to get you excited, whether it be running the break and finishing in transition or using his length to grab a rebound or cut off the passing lanes. From a talent standpoint, he has a chance but he has to be more consistent. Apparently he's playing well this month, and I'll see him again in Las Vegas this week."
Andray Blatche (6-foot-10 1/2, 236 pounds, power forward, South Kent Prep School, Syracuse, N.Y.) - Currently ranked No. 12 in the class of 2005, Blatche has the size and offensive skills to make him a contender for the top spot in the country. Offensively, Blatche plays more like a small forward than a power forward. One of his greatest assets on offense is his passing ability. When the outlet pass is not available, Blatche is capable of taking the ball down on the fastbreak himself.
Meyers' Take: "I have seen the best and worst of Blatche, and both bring out an emotional response. At his best, you can't help but love a guy with his size and mobility who can dribble, pass and score with his gliding athleticism. Yet, at his worst, you can wonder what kind of player he will turn out to be. He will never be an explosive athlete, but if he ever learns to relish contact, he could be an extremely special player."
Watts' Take: "The problem with Blatche is when he's on, he's on like nobody else, and when he's not, he's non-existant. His play this weekend in Atlanta is a prime example where he struggled against an average frontcourt, and then his last day against a 6-foot-9 guy with some talent, he was great. He's more of a three, or at least that's what he prefers because he doesn't like to bang in the point. Blatche is a terrific passer who sees the floor well and has a promising jump shot from 15 feet and in. Physically, he's ready, but mentally he has to get tougher."