Sprinkled among the top 2009 prospects at the LeBron James Skills Academy were some talented underclassmen. Here is a breakdown from national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer on the top five underclassmen at the event.
LeBron James Skills Academy Top Performers: Underclassmen
Not only does Barnes pass the look test as a big-time small forward, he also has a complete game that places him in the elite prospect category. Capable of stroking jump shots from deep, Barnes also has the strength and athleticism to score and rebound inside. On the defensive end, he can guard multiple positions. Although he is a more than adequate ballhandler, that is the one area of his game that has the most room for improvement.
Gilchrist placed his name squarely in the discussion of the No. 1 player in the class of 2011 with his inspired play at the camp. Long and athletic and only 14, Gilchrist put constant pressure on his defenders with his ability to slash to the basket. His speed and length make him a dangerous defender as well. With time, his jumper will improve, giving him a chance to be a truly complete player.
A terrific athlete, Smith was at his best in transition and on the boards - he plays well above the rim. Like Barnes and Gilchrist, he also is a versatile defender. Presently a combo forward, Smith has the skill base and length to develop into a small forward as well as a skilled face-up power forward. Smith's best basketball clearly is ahead of him.
Thomas - who already has committed to Ohio State - might not be the elite talent some billed him to be early in his career, but there is no denying he will be a highly productive player at the next level. Scoring and rebounding are important aspects of the game, and Thomas gets results in both areas. A bull in traffic with a soft touch, Thomas could really elevate his game with a little more creativity off the dribble.
Pressey draws the top compliment that can be given to a point guard: He makes the players around him better. In his final camp game, Pressey put on a show with his deft ballhandling and creative passing. Even better, Pressey also can score with an array of shots, and he is a downright pesky on-the-ball defender.