Our basketball staff spent the spring evaluating the top players in the rising junior class and looked long and hard at as many players from the class of 2010 as possible.
UP FOR GRABS
Parity has struck the rankings. There are a number of prospects worthy of the top spot. Picking one at this stage for the class of 2010 is a difficult task. There isn't a clear-cut No. 1, at least not yet. That is why Jeremy Tyler remains at the top of the 2010 rankings.
Tyler, a 6-foot-9 forward from San Diego, has the highest ceiling of any of the prospects in the country at this stage. He also might be one of the toughest players to read. Immensely talented, Tyler can split the middle with outstanding performances and dubious duds on the grand stage.
"To be honest, we are still waiting for someone to establish himself as the top prospect in the class," national basketball recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said. "Tyler has been up and down in the last year, but when he is on his game, he is a dominant player. He has a great blend of athleticism and physicality to his game.
"His explosiveness around the basket and his upside are intriguing. The question is whether he can develop the mentality to produce day in and day out and to develop his game to what it could be."
No. 2 is Toronto native Tristan Thompson, an early commitment to Texas. Thompson, a forward at Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict, has enjoyed a big spring. He was considered for the top overall spot, especially after his head-to-head matchup against Tyler at the NBPA Top 100 camp, which Thompson won. A strong finish in July and a deeper look at his overall skill set could propel him into the top spot.
"I was really impressed with Thompson's motor at the NBA Players Camp," Meyer said. "He competed on both ends of the court and made a lot of plays with his hustle. Against Tyler, Thompson had success driving the ball to the basket and showed a physical edge to his game.
"If Thompson continues to improve his skill set and physical strength, he certainly has the opportunity to establish himself as the No. 1 prospect."
It could be argued that Jared Sullinger, an early commitment to Ohio State, is the best overall high school player right now. Sullinger probably will have a similar high school career to that of Samardo Samuels, a five-star prospect from the class of 2008.
"As far as production goes, Sullinger likely is the top producer in the class. He is a walking double-double with his size and skill set," Meyer said. "Sullinger does have more athleticism than you'd give him credit for in analyzing his physique, but his thick lower body does raise concern about his upside as a long-term prospect."
Nipping at Sullinger's heels is Seattle big man Josh Smith, who has a similar build and approach to the game. Smith, a 6-9 monster in the middle, is a rare breed of player who understands his strengths are best-served around the basket. His hands and footwork are about as advanced as any player in the class.
"Smith has slimmed down and is playing with more athleticism than he played with last year," Meyer said. "He has great hands and feet and a good feel for the game. Just how good Smith can be depends largely on what type of shape he can get his body in."
Schools looking for a shooting guard are in luck in 2010. There are 25 shooting guards in the top 100. Point guards are close behind, with 24 in the top 100. The rest: There are 24 power forwards, 21 small forwards and six centers.
WHERE THE TALENT IS
Of the top 100 players, 14 are from the Mid-Atlantic region – nine are from Maryland, four are from Virginia and one hails from Washington, D.C. As for the state with the most, Maryland is tied with North Carolina with nine. California and Indiana each have six in the top 100, while Florida, Illinois and New Jersey each have five. Georgia, New York, Ohio, Texas and Virginia each have four.
WHERE'S THE TALENT GOING?
Of the top 100 players, 19 have made commitments, with most of those – seven – headed to schools in the Big Ten. That is more than any other conference. The Big 12 has four commitments to date, the ACC three, the Big East two and the Atlantic 10, Pac-10 and SEC one each.