The month of December and the first of January is a busy time for college basketball recruiting junkies. Looking at the first half of the season, RivalsHoops Recruiting Analyst Justin Young went through his piles of notes and dug up his players. He attended the Marshall Co. Hoopfest in Kentucky, the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon, the Reebok Peach State Classic in Atlanta, and the Dell Curry Shootout in Charlotte as well as a number of individual games in the Southeast. Here is a look at his top performers that he saw on the recruiting trail.
Top Senior: Josh Smith, SF, Oak Hill (VA) Smith gets better and better every time we see him in action. He led Oak Hill to two big victories against Lanier (MS) and Lexington Catholic (KY) at the Marshall Co. Hoopfest. Because of his high flying act, he was named game MVP twice. The Indiana signed and perhaps NBA bound small forward handed over his second award to junior Monta Ellis. Smith also displayed his range and improved defensive skills. It is, for good reason, easy to understand why he sits at No. 2 on the Rivals150 list.
Top Unsigned Senior: Rajon Rondo, PG, Oak Hill (VA) One of the reasons why Smith looked so strong was because of the play of Rondo. The point guard really turned his game on in the month of December. He controls the game at a fast pace but stays disciplined within himself rarely making foolish mistakes and scoring at will. As a floor general, he understands each of his teammates strengths and finds a way to utilize them in game situations. Colleges are lining up to get Rondo in their program.
Honorable Mentions (all seniors): Shaun Livingston, PG, Peoria Central (IL); Brian Johnson, PF, Oak Hill (VA); Maarty Leunen, SF, Redmond (OR); Jeremiah Dominiguez, PG, South Salem (OR); Brandon Emerson, PF, Mays (GA); Cliff Hammonds, G, Cairo (GA); Joe Wolfinger, C, Aloha (OR); Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown Prep (DC); Troy Mathis, PG, Laurinburg Charter (NC); Taj McCullough, SF, Carver (GA); Marcus Sarden, PG, South Atlanta (GA); Anthony Morrow, SF, Charlotte Latin (NC); Tristan Blackwood, PG, Eastern Commerce (Toronto); Avery Smith, PG, Laurinburg Institute (NC); Draelon Burns, SG, Laurinburg Institute (NC); Hatila DeSouza, PF, Laurinburg Institute (NC); Glen Dandridge, SG, Mt. Zion (NC); Roy Bright, F, Mt. Zion (NC); Albert Weber, G, Mt. Zion (NC)
Top Junior: Josh Tarver, G, Jesuit (OR) This was a difficult honor to name because of solid performances from several juniors but Tarver, a 6-foot-2 guard, led Jesuit to the 2003 Les Schwab Invitational title in his home state of Oregon. The smart shooter was consistently strong as the Crusaders won their first ever LSI. Tarver is an ideal PAC-10 guard with perimeter scoring skills and composed play. Plus he anchors a very strong and underrated Jesuit team - a team that wins and wins.
Honorable Mentions (juniors): Monta Ellis, G, Lanier (MS); JuJuan Spillman, G, Pleasure Ridge Park (KY); Mike Gerrity, PG, Mater Dei (CA); Kevin Swinton, F, Dudley (NC); Brad Hodge, F, Hillsboro (OR); Brian Morris, PF, Jefferson (OR); Omar Leary, PG, Lincoln (OR); Uriah Hethington, PF, Cairo (GA); Kiwan Smith, F, Laurinburg Charter (NC); Jeremy Goode, G, Geringer (NC); Brandon Rush, F, Mt. Zion (NC); Ryan Boyd, G, Seagoville (TX); Octavious Spann, SF, Banneker (GA); Sharad Curry, G, Wheeler (GA); Lou Williams, G, South Gwinnett (GA); Mike Mercer, G, South Gwinnett (GA)
Top Sophomore: Vernon Macklin, PF, Norcom (VA) Again, this class was difficult to find a top performer but Macklin's ability to take over a game won us over. He can play all three frontcourt positions and has an array of moves around the basket that is hard to match. There wasn't a player at the Peach State Classic that could stop him. Matt Shaw of California was a very close second.
Honorable Mentions (sophomores): Randon Cavette, F, Graves Co. (KY); William Graves, G, Dudley (NC); Marquis Hall, G, Jefferson (OR); Seth Tarver, G, Jesuit (OR); Matt Shaw, PF, Verbum Dei (CA); Ben Finney, SG, Norcom (VA); Antoine Watson, PG, Laurinburg Charter (NC); Tracy Smith, PF, Mt. Zion (NC); Jamie Skeen, PF, North Mecklenburg (NC); Orlando Walker, SG, Roanoke Catholic (VA); Donald Sloan, PG, Seagoville (TX); Wesley Matthews, SG, South Cobb (GA)
Top Freshman: 6-foot-8 Kevin Love was a force to be reckoned with at the Les Schwab Invitational, claiming MVP honors and led his Lake Oswego team to the LSI championship game. Love joined an illustrious group after taking home top honors. The previous three MVPs from the Portland based tournament are Ndudi Ebi ('02), Carmelo Anthony ('01) and Tyson Chandler ('00).
Love battled through foul trouble and a leg injury in a semi-final game against Lincoln (OR) at the LSI and scored the game-winning bucket with 1.6 seconds on the clock. We toyed with the idea of making him top player in the month of December, too. He is that good.
Top Individual Performance: Junior guard Monta Ellis scored 41 points against a loaded Oak Hill Academy. The 6-foot-2 junior went off for 41 points including six three pointers and a handful of dunks in traffic. He made a strong case for top guard honors in a relatively weak 2005 class.