It's that time of the year again when RivalsHoops.com takes an extensive look at the top 20 recruiting classes produced for 2003.
Fans and readers do have to remember that these classes are compiled assuming the players that have signed will be playing basketball next season for their respective schools. There are some schools that feature players who have either (a.) yet to qualify, or (b.) have put his name into the NBA draft. It should also be noted that when these two processes are cleared up, RivalsHoops.com will publish a final 2003 top 20 class in the summer:
1. FLORIDA STATE: Leonard Hamilton has them excited at Florida State. The recent signing of talented forward Alexander Johnson propels this class into the top spot. Johnson has the ability to dominate a game offensively from the low post and the perimeter. He will create deadly mismatches for Florida State opponents because of his size and agility. He is certainly one of the top 20 players in the 2003 class. Swingman Von Wafer is also one of the top recruits in this year's class. He is an outstanding scorer who has a great first step to the basket. If you try to hound Wafer at the perimeter, he will dart past you with his dribble. If you lay off Wafer to defend against the dribble-drive to the basket, Von will damage you from the three-point line. Wafer and Johnson are going to put a lot of points up for Hamilton's squad. Both have the ability to carry a team on their shoulders with their offensive skills. Johnson's size, 6-foot-9, makes him especially tough for matchups since Alexander can score from the perimeter. JUCO pickups Diego Romero and Antonio Griffin make this a solid and deep class. Florida State is also still involved with Linas Kleiza, one of the best big skilled player in the 2003 class. If Florida State lands Kleiza, this class becomes one of the best ever to be produced in the ACC.
2. OKLAHOMA: Andrew Lavender is one of the most exciting players in the 2003 class. He can zip past you with his dribble or drain long-range jumpers. His high school teammate, Brandon Foust, joins him at Oklahoma. Foust is a slashing type of player who thrives in transition. Lawrence McKenzie is also an outstanding recruit who can hit long-range shots. Jimmy Tobias, Jaison Williams, and Longar Longar are also quality pickups for the Sooners.
3. MARYLAND: Head coach Gary Williams capitalized on winning a National Championship two years ago with this class. He struck early and often with five quality recruits in Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe, Hassan Fofana, Will Bowers, and D.J. Strawberry. Jones is an athletic two guard who can dazzle a crowd with dunks while Ibekwe can score from the floor or on the drive. Fofana is a big man with great upside to his game and will be an impact player for the Maryland program.
4. LSU: Small Forward Regis Koundjia and combo forward Brandon Bass are top 30 pickups for the LSU program. If Tack Minor can discipline his shot selection, this class is even better than it looks on paper. Darnell Lazare and Ross Neltner, two power forwards that go about 6-foot-8, round out this terrific class.
5. ARKANSAS: Guards Olu Famutimi and Ronnie Brewer are the eye-opening pickups in the Arkansas 2003 class. Both players have the ability to light it up from the perimeter as well as get to the basket with their drive. Centers/power forwards Vincent Hunter and Julius Lamptey are big pickups along the front line. Small forward Anthony Gray was also signed too.
6. CALIFORNIA: Prior to suffering an injury, Leon Powe was one of the top five players in the 2003 class. His inside play is inspiring at times to watch. Marquis Kately is also another warrior on the glass in this year's 2003 California class. Kately loves to gobble up rebounds despite his size at 6-foot-5. Point guard Ayinde Ubaka is a solid leader on the court while wing player Dominic McGuire was also signed.
7. SYRACUSE: You can't replace Carmelo Anthony, who left Syracuse after one year with a National Championship and a pot of gold waiting for him in the NBA. However, the Orangemen staff still did a great job in landing top 50 players Terrence Roberts, a 6-foot-8 combo forward, and Demetris Nichols, a small forward from St. Andrew's in Barrington, Rhode Island. Both Nichols and Roberts can make an impact right away because they are highly skilled recruits who can score from both inside and the perimeter. St. Raymond's guard Louie McCroskey is also a talented pickup. He has the ability to play a couple of different positions and has the size to cause some mismatches along the perimeter.
8. KANSAS: Center David Padgett is the key to this class. Padgett is a warrior on the court and a great competitor. And he's pretty darn talented. Padgett moves well from one end to the other. He has the touch to drop in some jumpers. He will be a major impact player once he strengthens his frame. J.R. Giddens is also an impact player from the wing. He can go above people with his athletic skills and score also from the wing. Omar Wilkes, Jeremy Case, and Nick Bahe round out this top ten class.
9. PITTSBURGH: Chris Taft is an exceptional inside player who also has a soft touch from the outside. Taft is so tough to keep off the low post with his big frame at 6-foot-10, 230-pounds. Aaron Gray also gives more strength to the Pittsburgh middle. Gray also has a sweet touch on his shot and goes about 7-foot, 280-pounds. Walter Waters is also a big forward (6-foot-9, 265-pounds) while Dante Milligan has some skills at 6-foot-8 to be a force from the perimeter.
10. Arizona: Mustafa Shakur is one of the best point guards in the 2003 class. He is smooth and can beat a defender with his dribble. Kirk Walters is another player who will have an impact for the Arizona program too. Walters, 6-foot-10, should be an impact player inside. But Ndudi Ebi has put his name into the NBA draft. The question is whether he keeps his name in. If he plays at Arizona, this class is higher. If he doesn't, the class takes a dip.
11. KANSAS STATE: Head coach Jim Wooldridge is slowly moving his program in the right direction. Cartier Martin is the headliner in this class who will play the shooting guard or wing forward position and has great success scoring from either location. Dez Willingham, a 5-foot-11 point guard from De Soto, Texas is the point guard of the future and should make a lot of frontcourt players happy with the number of assists he'll dish out. Jeremiah Massey, a 6-foot-7 forward has a nice touch around the basket and should earn starter like minutes his first year. Lance Harris, Dramane Diarra, Justin Williams and Tyler Hughes are also part of this solid class.
12. FLORIDA: The pickup of forward Mohamed Abukar makes the class even more attractive for Gator fans. Abukar, who recently committed to Billy Donovan's program, can shoot it from the perimeter despite his 6-10 frame. Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard, and Ryan Appleby are all players that can contribute to the Gator program as freshmen.
13. MICHIGAN STATE: Tom Izzo has already had great success recruiting the guard position and this year is no different. Shannon Brown, a 6-foot-4, combo guard is one of the best in the class. It doesn't matter if he's bringing the ball up the court or receiving a pass from a teammate, he can flat out shoot the ball. Brandon Cotton, a 6-foot-0 point guard looks to share duties with Brown, but it's more than likely that you'll see these two players on the court together. Derrick Outlaw and Drew Naymick round out the class.
14. CONNECTICUT: Josh Boone is the big man the UCONN coaching staff really wanted. Boone selected the Huskies over the Kansas Jayhawks, so you know he can play. There is no doubt that Boone is best suited for the power forward spot, but he can also step outside and hit from 15-17 feet. Marcus Williams, a 6-foot-2 point guard is the point guard of the future. He can score from just about anywhere on the court, but he has a real knack of getting his teammates involved. Ryan Thompson, a shooting guard/small forward combo rounds out the class. He isn't as polished as the other two players are, but he can drive to the basket and make some positive things happen, when he does that.
15. IOWA STATE: Point guard Will Blalock is the cream of the crop in this year's Cyclones recruiting class. Standing 6-foot-2, he has a good range on his jump shot, can drive the lane, penetrate and kick the ball to an open man. Damion Staple, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward/center will provide immediate help down low, but don't be surprised to see him take his game to the perimeter, as he does have a pretty nice shot. Curtis Stinson (6-foot-2) is a tough competitor who just helps a team win games. Expect Stinson to play a few positions since he is flexible. Stinson is a better shooter now but scores mostly on drives to the basket. Justin Holt and Reggie George are the final two pieces in the class. George, who hails from the same school as Blalock, should provide some help with his inside muscle.
16. WAKE FOREST: Point guard Chris Paul is the third best point guard in the class of 2003 and there is a good reason for that. He can score, rebound, defend and get his teammates involved. Point guards are often criticized if they don't score enough. This will not be the case for Paul. Kyle Visser, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward/center has a soft touch from the paint area, but can also float around the perimeter. There is no doubt that his game is better suited for the low block area. Jeremy Ingram will quickly become a fan favorite with his outside shooting and hustle on the defensive end of the court. Todd Hendley, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound center will see his biggest production occur on defense.
17. VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers might have addressed more needs than any team this year. J.R. Reynolds will dazzle opponents with his offensive skills. Gary Forbes is another player that can help out right away on the offensive side. In the spring, Virginia landed 5-foot-11, 160-pound T.J. Bannister, who will have a chance to get minutes right away. Virginia also landed 6-foot-4 Marvin Richardson, 6-foot-9 Jason Cain and 6-foot-8 Donte Minter. However, Richardson was recruited as a football player but can help out on the hoops side.
18. KENTUCKY: The Wildcats are hoping Shagari Alleyne (7-foot-3) and Lukasz Obrzut (7-foot-1) will be able to provide some strength inside. Alleyne and Obrzut will provide immediate help on defense, but they'll need some time to establish an offensive game in such a rough conference like the SEC. Bobby Perry is a 6-foot-6 wing forward that happens to have a sweet stroke and a smooth drive. Sheray Thomas, a combo forward from Montreal, can post you up in the lane with his short jumper.
19. ILLINOIS: There is a new coaching staff at Illinois, but that didn't stop 6-foot-8 forward Brian Randle and 6-foot-3 shooting guard Richard McBride from staying home and honoring their commitments. Randle played in wing forward position in high school and was a force from any location on the court. He might play the wing at Illinois, but he will probably play the power forward spot, too. McBride is a can't miss player who will destroy his opponents with his outside shooting and dribble penetration. McBride is also a lock-down defender and won't give up a lot of points. Warren Carter, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound combo forward will see quite a few minutes his first year if he can adjust to the defensive system that Illinois will run.
20. MISSISSIPPI STATE: Center Jackie Butler looks to be the star of this year's class. However, Butler may not qualify academically. If Butler does make the grade, Jackie has outstanding strength and should provide some help scoring in the low blocks. Look for him to be a force on the defensive end of the court, especially rebounding the basketball. Travis Outlaw, who put his name in the NBA draft, would be a great addition to the Mississippi State. The 6-foot-10 big man looks to score from the perimeter, but he also has the ability to post of his defender. Much like Butler, look for Outlaw to be a force on defense. But both Butler and Outlaw are question marks in this class. If they do not play for Mississippi State next season, then this class dips out of the top 20. But if Butler and Outlaw are eligible next year, then this class will be rated higher.