October 16, 2008

Meyer's Mailbag: KU commit best at one skill

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Oct 9: Wall vs. Rose
Oct 2: KU, UM battle for top guards
Sept 26: Breaking down the big commits
What type of player is Kansas getting in recent five-star commitment Thomas Robinson?

Where does Kentucky's 2009 recruiting class stack up nationally?

And will Ryan Kelly thrive at Duke or will he be another Duke big man who fails to live up to the hype?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer addresses these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Special skill

Big Kansas fan here and I was wondering what your thoughts on Thomas Robinson are? Do you think he is better than Daniel Orton? I've only seen one clip of him but he looks pretty athletic.

-- Colin from New York City
If you look at our rankings, you'll see that we have Robinson ranked at No. 18 and Orton at No. 22. So we do think Robinson is a better prospect, but not by much. What makes Robinson so special is his ability to rebound the basketball. In fact he would get my vote as the top rebounder in the class, and I also think he can make a living in the NBA on his rebounding ability alone. If he adds a reliable midrange jumper, then he is a surefire NBA power forward.

Robinson is so successful as a rebounder because he plays with a low center of gravity and has terrific body balance. He basically always maintains leverage against his opponent. Also, he has a terrific motor, hardly ever taking a play off and chasing down basketballs outside his area. Yes, he is a terrific athlete who can go up and get a ball with anyone, but more impressive is the amount of space he can cover horizontally on the court. He also has a feel for where the ball is going to end up, and his sure hands rarely lose a ball once they get a hold of it.

Next time you watch a basketball game, notice at what height most of the rebounds are secured. Very few are above the rim in the college game. The vast majority of rebounds are secured below the rim through positioning, physically strength, quickness and sure hands.

But I don't think Robinson will just be a rebounder at Kansas. He runs the floor extremely well. He can defend in the low post and away from the basket. It will be difficult to set the high ball screen with his man because of Robinson's ability to move his feet. Offensively, he has a developing game which I expect to blossom at Kansas, where they do a great job developing post players. Look at the success Darnell Jackson had at Kansas, and Robinson is a more talented and more athletic version of Jackson.

All hype?

Do you think Ryan Kelly is going to be yet another Duke big man who doesn't live up to his hype, or is he a real-deal five-star forward who can make a significant impact? If so, how soon?

-- Tyler from Charleston
Kelly is a legitimate low-level five-star prospect because he is comfortable with the basketball and can get it in the hole. Notice that a lot of the big men that don't pan out lack natural confidence in scoring the basketball. Now, Kelly is on the low end of the five-stars primarily because he plays a finesse game and tends to shy away from contact.

So in projecting him as a player at Duke, Kelly should be able to score the ball and score it early on in his career. Defending and rebounding will likely be troublesome areas for him until he gains more physical strength. The big question of how much of an impact he has right away will be dependant upon how well he shoots the ball from the deeper three-point line. Kelly is a great mid-range shooter, but struggled with his consistency shooting the ball from behind the arc during the travel team season. With the line back a foot farther, it will be interesting to see if he can stretch the defense to three-point range in the high post. If he is able to stretch the defense like this, he will have a big impact even if he is physically weaker than his opponent.

So in a couple years, I expect Kelly to be an impact player and legitimize his five-star standing, just as I expect a stronger Chandler Parsons at Florida to legitimize his five-star standing during his sophomore season. The two things to watch with Kelly early on is whether he is physically strong enough to get it done and how far out he can consistently make shots.

UK's class

Jerry- You may have already been asked this hundreds, if not thousands of times by the UK Faithful, but with Orton's commitment where does UK stand in your updated 2009 teams rankings? Daniel Orton, Jon Hood and GJ Vilarino is a nice looking group. Thanks.

-- Ryan from Carterville
Orton's commitment pushes Kentucky's recruiting class to No. 8 in the team rankings, behind Illinois and right in front of Duke and Louisville. Orton is a big presence inside defensively and he also runs well. His size and athleticism give him a high upside. Once he learns to value every possession and play hard and take care of the basketball, he will be a force in the SEC. Then if he can focus in on a couple of scoring moves in the low post and get them down pat, he could be a dominant big man on a national level.

Kentucky will get a lot of mileage out of Hood's versatility on offense. He just needs to build his body up and improve on the defensive side of the ball.

Vilarino should give the Wildcats a reliable backup point guard behind DeAndre Liggins. It's possible you could play the two together, but neither player shoots the ball at a high level from the outside right now and that would make it tough to do.

Best class combination?

Well with Duke's recent commitments in the classes of 2009 and 2010, who do you think has the better classes between Duke and UNC when it comes to their 2009 and 2010 classes?

-- Keith from Willingboro
Duke presently has the No. 9 ranked recruiting class in 2009 with commitments from five-star prospect Ryan Kelly and four-star prospect Mason Plumlee. Duke's 2010 recruiting class is shaping up quite well with three commitments already in the books from five-star prospect Joshua Hairston and four-star prospects Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton.

North Carolina sits at No. 1 in the 2009 recruiting class rankings with two five-star commitments from John Henson and Dexter Strickland and three four-star commitments from Leslie McDonald, David Wear and Travis Wear. North Carolina is also off to a strong start in 2010 with a five-star commitment in Reggie Bullock and a four-star commitment from Kendall Marshall.

Certainly a No. 1 class gets the edge over a No. 9 class, and although Duke has one more commitment in its 2010 class than North Carolina does, it is not enough to close the gap. North Carolina has the better combination of the two classes.

In looking at the prospects rankings, the seven North Carolina commitments in the two classes average out at a No. 37 ranking. The five Duke commitments average out at a No. 33 ranking. However, subtract North Carolina's 2 lowest ranked commitments, and the top five commitments average out at a No. 24 ranking. So by the numbers North Carolina gets the edge.

Versatile prospect

Jerry, I know that Washington is putting out a lot of major talent from the Pacific Northwest, but how much do you know about the 6-8, 215-pound, 1-thru-5 doing-everything Terrence Jones out of Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon class of 2010?

-- Paul from Portland
I know a good bit about Jones after watching him play in at least three different events over the spring and summer. At the high school level, you are exactly right - Jones can play every position on the court. He handles and passes the ball well, and he has the size at 6 feet 6 and 200 pounds to play down low as well. At the college level, Jones, who is the No. 50-ranked prospect in the Rivals150, projects as a small forward who can also move up or down one position. If he gets another inch or two, he would be terrific as a skilled four man. Even if he doesn't get another inch, a lot of coaches would love to go small with a skilled player like Jones in the high post.

Right now Jones has the size and ball-handling skills of a high-level prospect. Where he can improve is consistently making good decisions with the ball, developing a method to consistently score at the next level and improving his foot speed.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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