While the 2006 basketball class seemingly is one of the best in recent history, early indications are that are that the 2007 group, at least near the top, will be as strong as its predecessor.
Finding the top prospect among the current sophomores is not an easy task. Although many of the top 2007 players were seen at various 17-and-under events this summer, Rivals.com was also in attendance at the Nike Hoops Jamboree, the 15-and-under AAU national and 16-and-under nationals. Numerous 2007 prospects also participated in one of the three shoe company camps, which were all covered by Rivals.com.
Rivals.com rankings are about projecting a prospect's long-term ability. Certainly where a player stands now says a tremendous amount about how good that player will eventually be. Especially with players this young, however, a great deal of change can take place in the upcoming years in size, skill level and emotional maturity. So this list is a work in progress.
Leading the way for the 2007 class is combo guard O.J. Mayo. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound scorer came onto the AAU circuit with the D-1 Greyhounds already boasting a national reputation and only enhanced it with his exceptional play.
Known as a prolific score, Mayo can not only fill it up but has a well-rounded offensive game that includes a good handle, excellent court vision and a shot selection beyond his years. In addition, he rebounds his position well and is athletic enough to play above the rim when necessary. He's as versatile as anyone in the country, regardless of class.
Breaking down the rest of the top 10
Chicago native Derrick Rose comes in at No. 2 despite being a lower-profile player this summer while playing with his 15-and-under Ferrari team. Rose, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, has an amazing blend of point guard handle and vision to go with a solid three-point shot and freaky athleticism. His offensive arsenal is almost complete and few are as quick with the ball. He's also an excellent defender with good instincts and court awareness.
The top big man in the sophomore class is Portland power forward Kevin Love, who spent the majority of his summer traveling the Nike circuit with Oregon Select. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is as skilled and smart as any big man on the circuit, performed well all summer, and at times dominated the 17-under circuit. With strong hands and a wide, strong body Love, is force on the glass. Offensively, he is strong in the paint and also shows flashes of a mid-range game that is still developing.
Oregon native Kyle Singler, the top small forward in the class of 2007, provided a vision of the future with his dominating all-around play at the Nike Hoop Jamboree. Singler, 6-foot-7, 180 pounds, is an impressive scorer with range beyond of the arc to go along with good athleticism and an excellent mid-range game. With a high basketball I.Q., Singler is also a high-energy guy who works hard on both ends of the floor. Over the summer, he played well on the 17-under circuit with his teammate, Kevin Love.
Maryland combo guard Nolan Smith showed as much upside as any prospect in the 2007 class while playing with the D.C. Assault. Smith, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, is a smooth prospect with nice size who boasts size 18 shoes and will likely continue to grow. He has a massive wingspan and is a good defender because of his basketball smarts. Smith is a three-point offensive threat who can score by driving to the basket or knocking down his mid-to-long range jump shot.
Minnesota power forward Cole Aldrich from gets the nod at No. 6 in the 2007 class and is the nation's second-best best big man. While Love is the more advanced prospect at this early stage, Aldrich (6-foot-10, 230 pounds) is a better athlete. While still developing, he has shown the potential to be a dominating factor on both ends of the floor. At this point in his career, his defense is more advanced than his offense, but he has the size and flexibility to be an excellent low-post scorer.
You know that a class has the potential to be special when a combo guard like Jerryd Bayless doesn't see his name announced until No. 7. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder was one of the most impressive underclassmen on the AAU circuit this summer while playing with the Arizona Magic. He specializes at getting to the free-throw line, where he shoots a high percentage. He uses his jump shot and body control to score, has a solid handle and is capable of playing either guard position.
Small forward Bill Walker, an AAU teammate of Mayo, entered the summer season with less of a national reputation but with "freak" athleticism and the tendency to produce highlight clips in massive quantities. He checks in at No. 8. Walker, 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, is a bouncy and long player who is still refining his perimeter game, but with massive hops and long arms, he is a force near the basket.
Louisiana small forward Leonard Washington is another athletic prospect who is still developing but already has a college body. The 6-foot-6 left-hander is at his best in transition, where he plays above the rim and finishes with authority. He uses his strong body to defend and clear the glass and shows the ability, although he is still inconsistent, to bang in three-pointers. Washington's mid-range is solid and he has enough handle to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.
It's not hard to overlook a player such as Eric Gordon when he spent the summer playing with Josh McRoberts, Greg Oden and Daequan Cook, among others, with the Spiece Indy Heat. But the 6-foot-2, 175-pound combo guard certainly had his moments, including 20-point outbursts at the Kingwood Classic and championship game at the Tournament of Champions. With nice form and sweet stroke, Gordon is dangerous from the perimeter, but also capable of getting into the lane to score and find teammates for easy baskets.