With the late signing period ending on Wednesday, the class of 2008 is coming to a close. Which school reeled in the best basketball recruiting class? Which teams made significant jumps since last fall? Rivals.com is proud to release the top 30 team rankings for the incoming freshmen.
BRUINS FIND NEW STARTING FIVE
After making it to the Final Four the last three seasons, UCLA is reaping the rewards off the court. Ben Howland and his staff have reeled in the nation's top overall recruiting class in 2008.
The Bruins landed a late addition to an already-strong class when J'Mison Morgan officially announced his intention to play for UCLA next season. Morgan, a 5-star prospect from South Oak Cliff (Texas) High School, originally signed with LSU in the early period but asked for – and was granted - a release earlier this month.
After adding Morgan to the mix, UCLA has a signing class that could essentially be a starting five for any school in the country.
Howland and staff signed four in-state prospects in the early signing period, which was good enough for the second best class in the nation last fall.
"It's not often that you see a program bring in five top-50 prospects in one recruiting class. In fact, UCLA's group could easily be on the court together as freshmen," Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer said. "You have three stellar guards led by Holiday and then two post players – Gordon, who is a high energy player, and Morgan, who is a big-bodied offensive low-post presence."
A return trip to the Final Four is not out of the picture for UCLA considering the class that is coming to Westwood. Sure, replacing the likes of last year's team won't be easy. However, Meyer believes this class has the talent to do special things.
"It's tough to win a National Championship with freshmen, but if there was ever a group of freshmen who could get it done, it is the five headed to UCLA next year," Meyer said. "Holiday is college-ready. He has the size and skill package to play any of the three perimeter positions. Morgan and Gordon are physical players who will fit in well with the returning post players. Anderson and Lee will see minutes as well backing up Darren Collison and playing alongside him. With Collison's experience and leadership, don't be surprised if the Bruins ride their talented freshmen to another Final Four – and possibly beyond."
ROCK, CHALK, RELOAD
Apparently there is a trend brewing in college basketball recruiting. Winning a national championship on the hardwood helps teams in the race for the recruiting national championship.
With all five starters from Kansas's title team either graduating or leaving early for the NBA Draft, coach Bill Self and his staff needed to upgrade and/or add depth at each position. Consider it done with the 2008 class, the second best class in the country.
Kansas landed two of the top junior college prospects in the country in Tyrone Appleton and Mario Little. JucoJunction.com ranks Appleton and Little among the top three players in the junior college ranks. When Tom Crean left Marquette for Indiana, former MU signee Tyshawn Taylor looked at several different options, but eventually found his fit in Lawrence.
"Kansas might not have a marquee five-star recruit, but the Jayhawks are reloading after a national championship run with an impressively deep class and intriguingly diverse class," Meyer said.
After the fall signing period, Kansas reeled in the eighth best class in the nation. Philadelphia twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris highlighted the early haul.
Marcus checks in at No. 29 in the 2008 individual rankings while Markieff is No. 50. Local product Travis Releford and New Jersey forward Quintrell Thomas, both Rivals150 prospects, round out the class.
EVANS, WITHERSPOON BOOST MEMPHIS
Perhaps no team scored bigger from a star standpoint than the Memphis Tigers. John Calipari's program made a huge jump in the team rankings thanks to the addition of two future standouts.
Memphis secured commitments and signed National Letters of Intent from five-star guard Tyreke Evans and four-star wing Wesley Witherspoon. Both players picked John Calipari's program after the high school season was complete.
With Evans and Witherspoon on board, Memphis jumped to fifth overall in the national team rankings after not breaking into the top 30 team rankings in the fall. Also on board for the Tigers are four-star prospects Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins.
Connecticut also makes a strong debut in the national team rankings. The Huskies check in at the seventh overall position in the team rankings thanks to the addition of five-star forward Ater Majok, one of the biggest risers of the entire 2008 class.
The 6-foot-10 versatile forward picked UConn over the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and UCLA. Majok is the No. 13 ranked player in the nation. He joins five-star point guard Kemba Walker, who also climbed in the national rankings.
HOPSON HELPS VOLS HOP UP IN RANKINGS
Tennessee made a big jump from No. 24 to 10th in the national team rankings, thanks in large part to the signing of Scotty Hopson - the biggest coup in the Southeastern Conference this recruiting season.
The NBA prospect is the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation. He wasn't the only player that inked with Bruce Pearl's program late. Junior college point guard and former Oklahoma player Bobby Maze and Michigan guard Daniel West also signed with the SEC school.
STRONG DEBUTS BY OTHERS
Vanderbilt's solid four-man class and the addition of Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley helped push the Commodores into the 15th overall position in the new rankings.
West Virginia makes its first crack at the team rankings at No. 18, thanks in large part to the signing of Devin Ebanks. He is one of the few players in the class of 2008 with true star potential.
Washington State and Cincinnati check in a 29 and 30, respectively.
ROOM FOR CHANGE
With players like Emmanuel Negedu and Rashanti Harris still uncommitted, there will be some slight changes to the team rankings if and when the players make their decisions.
Negedu will consider Georgia Tech, Indiana, Memphis and Tennessee. Harris could potentially qualify, but it is not expected to make it. It has been reported that Memphis could be a player for the Mississippi big man.
Rivals.com will also update the rankings after the prospects enroll in college to reflect any academic causality that may occur.
UCLA's backcourt is in good hands for the foreseeable future. Led by elite prospect Jrue Holiday, the Bruins' recruiting class also includes four-star guards Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee. All three of these guards hail from the Los Angeles area, and the Bruins also snagged energetic big man Drew Gordon out of Northern California. J'Mison Morgan's late switch from LSU boosted the Bruins into the No. 1 spot.
Previous rank: 2
After winning the National Championship, the Jayhawks expected some roster changes. Leading the way are four-star twins Marcus and Markieff Morris. Bill Self and staff landed two of the top junior college prospects in the country in Tyrone Appleton and Mario Little. KU also scored late with former Marquette signee Tyshawn Taylor. Previous rank: 8
Quality big men are hard to come by, but Wake Forest managed to land three five-star big men in its 2008 recruiting class. Al-Farouq Aminu has the versatility to do damage inside and outside. He has the polish to his game to make an instant impact. Tony Woods and Ty Walker still need some seasoning, but have very high ceilings.
Previous rank: 1
Coach Rick Pitino has a post player in Samardo Samuels who has the physicality and skill level to anchor a team in the low post from Day One. His five-star counterpart, Terrence Jennings, has unique athleticism for a big man. Jared Swopshire is a versatile wing who should fit in well into Louisville's system. After originally thought to be a preferred walk-on, Kyle Kuric will have a scholarship to play for the Cardinals.
Previous rank: 4
The Tigers landed the jewel of its recruiting class with the spring signing of elite five-star prospect Tyreke Evans. The rangy combo guard is expected to step in for the departed Derrick Rose and run the show in Memphis. Joining Evans are athletic four-star forwards Wesley Witherspoon, Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins.
Previous rank: NR
Ohio State enjoyed the services of athletic 7-footer Greg Oden for a year, and now they will have the services of another athletic 7-footer. B.J. Mullens is on board for at least the 2008-2009 season. Joining the top-ranked prospect in the 2008 class is five-star shooting guard William Buford. The Buckeyes looked to add help at the point guard spot and with interior depth. The program found the answers in the junior college ranks. Point guard Jeremie Simmons could be a starter next season, while Nikola Kecman should see minutes because of the need at his position. Previous rank: 6
Jim Calhoun took care of his needs at point guard in the fall with the signing of five-star prospect Kemba Walker. This spring he snagged the big man his program needed with five-star forward Ater Majok. The Huskies also have a shooter on the way in Scottie Haralson and are hoping that four-star Nate Miles can make the cut academically.
Previous rank: NR
Coach Leonard Hamilton can celebrate his new contract extension with an impressive signing class. Top target Chris Singleton selected the Seminoles over the Kentucky Wildcats during the early signing period. Four-star big man Xavier Gibson has battled recent injuries, but he has amazing potential. On the perimeter, four-star prospects Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks are highly skilled players. Junior college standout Derwin Kitchen signed a Grant-In-Aid and joins the Seminoles' already strong class. His experience should be put to the test right out of the gate.
Previous rank: 10
Coach Billy Donovan isn't letting up after back-to-back national championships and the No. 1 class of 2007 recruiting haul. The Gators have the No. 9-ranked 2008 recruiting class, largely because of four-star post players Eloy Vargas and Kenny Kadji. Florida's other three recruits are also ranked in the Rivals150.
Previous rank: 5
The SEC school landed a premier prospect in Scotty Hopson, a five-star standout and national top-10 player, in the late signing period. His addition was a major coup for Bruce Pearl's program. Junior college guard Bobby Maze and Michigan native Daniel West will challenge for time at the point guard position. The Vols looked long and hard for a big forward that could stretch the defense but also crash the boards when needed. They found their man in California top-60 prospect Renaldo Woolridge. Coach Bruce Pearl and his staff locked up in-state big man Phillip Jurick early in the spring.
Previous rank: 24
After securing five-star forward Ed Davis late in the summer, North Carolina went into Big Ten country and landed another five-star big man. Tyler Zeller, whose brother Luke Zeller is on the Notre Dame roster, will help carry on the tradition in Chapel Hill. Davis and Tyler Zeller are skilled, finesse-type players who should thrive in the up-tempo Tar Heel system. Four-star guard Larry Drew and late addition Justin Watts round out the class for coach Roy Williams.
Previous rank: 9
The Georgetown basketball program continues its rise back to national prominence with a stellar 2008 recruiting class. The crown jewel in the class is five-star big man Greg Monroe, who chose the Hoyas over almost every other program in the country. The Hoyas didn't add anyone in the late period. In fact, the program lost four-star big man Chris Braswell. The 6-foot-8 forward has yet to qualify academically and will spend another year trying to take care of business in the classroom.
Previous rank: 3
Coach Mark Gottfried is bringing a strong 2008 recruiting class to Tuscaloosa. Five-star power forward Jamychel Green leads the class, and his blue-collar approach should translate into a number of double-doubles in the SEC. Andrew Steele, the brother of current Tide star Ron Steele, is a physical combo guard. Wing scorer Tony Mitchell has the athleticism to thrive at the next level. The Tide wanted experience at point guard and found that in junior college veteran Anthony Brock.
Previous rank: 11
The drama continues. Emmanuel Negedu, one of the gems of the class, asked for a release from his National Letter of Intent and will not play in Tucson next season. Losing the four-star forward hurts. The Wildcats added Kyle Fogg, a late-rising sleeper, in the final hour. The Wildcats continue tradition of Point Guard U with top-10 prospect Brandon Jennings.
Previous rank: 7
With four four-star recruits in the fold, Kevin Stallings is bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in school history. Brad Tinsley will fill a major void in the backcourt while Jeff Taylor, Lance Goulbourne and Steve Tchiengang will vie for major minutes in the frontcourt. Previous rank: NR
A couple four-star backcourt players, Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clarke, lead the class. Athletic big men Brandon Moore and Andre Clark are a good fit for the SEC. The Razorbacks added four-star wing Jason Henry, which was a coup for the SEC program. Montrell McDonald signed late and he should prove to be a nice sleeper from the junior college ranks. Terrance Joyner signed in the fall but was not accepted to Arkansas. He is no longer a part of the class.
Previous rank: 14
Oregon and coach Ernie Kent have found a home away from home in the Windy City. Four-star prospects Michael Dunigan and Matthew Humphrey and three-star big man Josh Crittle all hail from the Chicago area. The prize recruit in the class, Dunigan gives Oregon an inside presence it is not used to having. Oregon went into the Southeast to land ultra-athletic four-star wing Teondre Williams and after a coaching change at Cal, Oregon native Garrett Sim had a change of heart and will stay in-state to play for the Ducks.
Previous rank: 12
The late signing of five-star prospect Devin Ebanks pushed a solid West Virginia recruiting class into a top 20 class in the country. Ebanks has the ability to immediately be the go-to guy in Bob Huggins' attack while Kevin Jones, Roscoe Davis and Darryl Bryant should also contribute immediately.
Previous rank: NR
Coach Lorenzo Romar has consistently landed top-20 recruiting classes, and this year is no different. Four-star forward Tyresse Breshers leads the way with his shot-blocking ability and low-post scoring prowess. Another four-star prospect, Isaiah Thomas, returns home from prep school and will be counted on to be a 3-point threat. Versatile wings Scott Suggs and Elston Turner round out the class.
Previous rank: 13
The Trojans are getting spoiled. With O.J. Mayo doing his thing in the Land of Troy this season, USC has another pro prospect coming town in local product Demar Derozan. Known primarily as a top-flight athlete, the Compton (Calif.) native showed off a much-improved scoring touch from the wing over the spring and summer.
Previous rank: 16
Billy Gillispie went right to work in the 2008 class and extended his reach to Chicago for five-star guard DeAndre Liggins. The 6-foot-5 point guard was a major catch for the Wildcats. A month later, Gillispie landed top-50 forward Darius Miller, who should be perfect for the Wildcats' style of play. The Wildcats added a pair of players in the late signing period and went to the junior college ranks to find them. Kevin Galloway, a former USC Trojan, will have two years of eligibility in Lexington. Josh Harrelson, who signed with Western Illinois out of high school, will also have two years to play for the Wildcats.
Previous rank: 19
Once again the Spartans have landed a class with the following qualities: great motors, good speed, good scorers and versatile players. The gem of the class is Ohio forward Delvon Roe, a likely McDonald's All-American that embodies Tom Izzo's style of play. Korie Lucious is a scorer that will blend in nicely with the current backcourt. Big man Draymond Green is a highly touted in-state forward with a winning resume.
Previous rank: 17
Kentucky fans weren't pleased with Tubby Smith's recruiting efforts, but Gopher fans have a lot about which to be excited. Smith's first recruiting class at Minnesota includes three Rivals150 prospects, including four-star prospects Ralph Sampson III and Devoe Joseph. Junior college prospects Devron Bostick and Paul Carter round out the class.
Previous rank: 20
Oklahoma secured the signature of its main target, Willie Warren, during the early signing period. The five-star combo guard gives Jeff Capel a physical, impact player who can be a difference-maker as a freshman. Wing prospect Ray Willis and junior college big men Orlando Allen and Kyle Cannon round out the class.
Previous rank: 21
The Atlantic-10 has no match for Xavier's top dog in 2008, center Kenny Frease. The big man committed to the Musketeers early and could have pledged to almost any high-major school. Frease will help the Musketeers from Day One. Sean Miller also wanted guards in the 2008 recruiting class, and he got them. Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons, Brad Redford and Brian Walsh should provide depth in the backcourt.
Previous rank: 27
The Wolf Pack doubled its recruiting haul in the late period and picked up three important signees. Former Indiana wing forward Joey Shaw signed with the program, while high school big men Ahyaro Phillips and Dario Hunt both inked with the mid-major powerhouse. Reno native Luke Babbit originally committed to Ohio State, but decided he wanted to play in front of friends and family instead. Seattle area shooting guard Mark McLaughlin, a top-100 talent, committed to Washington State early but reneged and pledged to Nevada instead. Texas point guard London Giles rounds out the class.
Previous rank: 23
As is usually the case, Duke landed its top guard target in five-star prospect Elliot Williams of Memphis, Tenn. Nevada big man Olek Czyz fills the role of athletic, energetic big man that the Blue Devils seem to always have on the roster. The Blue Devils landed Miles Plumlee in the late signing period. Plumlee signed with Stanford but asked for a release when Trent Johnson left for LSU. Duke stepped in and landed the skilled big man. His brother, Mason, is a 2009 Duke commit.
Previous rank: 26
The Bulldogs have made it a point to lock up the borders and keep the top in-state players at home. That philosophy paid off with top-30 prospect Howard Thompkins, who picked the Bulldogs over Florida and North Carolina. In-state sleeper Dustin Ware is a gamer and will surprise people. So will big man Drazen Zlovaric, a 6-foot-10 forward with good athleticism. The Bulldogs also wanted to find an athletic wing and a shooter. The program was able to do that in the late period and signed Rivals150 prospect Travis Leslie and shooting guard Ebuka Anyorah.
Previous rank: 30
Tony Bennett has a knack for finding under-the-radar recruits who exceed expectations in college. His top recruit, Klay Thompson, blossomed early and jumped up into a four-star ranking after his stellar senior season. Michael Harthun could be the next Derrick Low, and these two guards are joined by four quality three-star prospects. Previous rank: NR
Big man Yancy Gates, who has always had a great deal potential, put his game together for a highly productive senior season. The five-star prospect will be counted on heavily as a freshman. High-scoring four-star guard Cashmere Wright is also expected to add scoring punch to the Bearcats' attack. Previous rank: NR