January 23, 2009

Meyer's mailbag: Rankings climb for Tech

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Jan 16: Buckner is one to watch
Jan 8: Has Duke found its big man?
Jan 4: Pieces falling into place for Texas
Georgia Tech recently received a commitment from Derrick Favors, one of the top big men in the class. How far up the team recruiting rankings does Favors push the Yellow Jackets?

Which prospect will take the No. 1 spot in the shooting guard rankings?

Who will be the impact players in the SEC next year?

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

Jerry's Mailbag
Big impact?

What impact will Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel have at Connecticut next year?

-- Chris from Bristol
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For starters, it is going to be tough for any of the big men on the Connecticut roster next year to keep Oriakhi out of the starting lineup. Hasheem Thabeet seems a sure bet to leave for the NBA after this year, and Oriakhi has the physicality, skill and mentality to take over his spot.

A five-star prospect, Oriakhi is a physically imposing athlete with a solid back-to-the-basket game. A right-hander, Oriakhi's go-to move is a left-handed jump hook - which is supported by a nifty spin move to the baseline. The move can also result in a reverse dunk.

A bouncy athlete, Oriakhi is also a strong defender who can both fight for position and block shots from the weak side.

But more than anything, coach Jim Calhoun will love Oriakhi's competitive spirit. A true warrior, Oriakhi doesn't back away from a challenge. He attacks the rim with a purpose offensively, hawks the ball defensively, runs the floor with urgency and goes for nothing less than the kill when he detects weakness in his opponent.

Coombs-McDaniel will give Connecticut three quality combo forwards along with Stanley Robinson and Ater Majok. I would expect these three players to rotate between the two positions with Coombs-McDaniel primarily playing the small forward.

What I love about Coombs-McDaniel is that he is the ultimate glue player in the mold of a Tasmin Mitchell at LSU. Coombs-McDaniel won't be the scorer early in his career - or maybe never - that Mitchell is for the Tigers. However, like Mitchell, Coombs-McDaniel is a tough competitor who can do everything on the court well but isn't dominant in any specific way. He defends multiple positions, rebounds, handles, sees the floor and will make timely shots in a variety of ways.

Barnes breakdown

Can you break down Harrison Barnes' skill set? What player does he compare to? What kind of chance does Duke have to sign him?

-- Kyle from Winston-Salem
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Barnes is a prototypical small forward with the strength and athleticism to play up a position as a power forward. His midrange game and post-up game are his strength as a scorer, but he also shoots the ball well from the outside. In time, I expect him to be a quality 3-point shooter which leads us into the comparison.

There is never the perfect comparison, but the one I like best for Barnes is DaJuan Summers of Georgetown. Summers has a couple inches on Barnes but their skill sets, athleticism and impact on the game are quite similar.

The latest message board rumor already has Barnes committed to Duke, but there are no legs on this one. As expected, Barnes refuted the rumor when asked by about it by Rivals.com, and once again reasserted that he is wide open at this point. Duke, however, does have a great shot at landing the elite forward. He has taken an unofficial visit to Duke. The Blue Devils - along with Kansas, Florida and hometown Iowa State - are considered his unofficial favorites.

Pick one

Which guard would you take and why - Kenny Boynton, Avery Bradley or Michael Snaer?

-- Alvin from Las Vegas
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All three of these shooting guards are tremendous players, but Bradley is my pick. Presently Boynton is ahead of Bradley in the rankings, but Bradley is on a crash course toward being the No. 1 shooting guard in the country. He's only 6 feet 3, but he has great functional height with long arms, broad shoulders and a short neck. His midrange game is well documented as possibly the best in the country, but also his first step and explosiveness at the rim are unmatched by any shooting guard in the country. Defensively, he can dominate any perimeter player - whether it be a point guard or a wing.

The questions about his game are: 1. At how high a level can he rebound? 2. Does he only have toe-the-line shooting range? These are very fair questions which presently have him at No. 3 in the shooting guard rankings instead of No. 1. But with further thought and observation, I'll take him over any of the other shooting guards in the class.

Rankings jump

With the commitment of Derrick Favors to Georgia Tech, where do they stand in the 2009 team recruiting rankings? Can you also talk about Kammeon Holsey and Glen Rice?

-- Nelson from New York
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On Thursday of next week we will release the updated 2009 ranking, and it looks like Georgia Tech's class - which was ranked No. 9 - will jump into the top 5 in the country with the addition of Favors. Villanova is in the mix for the No. 1 spot with the addition of Dominic Cheek, and Georgia Tech, Texas and North Carolina will be near the top. One thing to note is that these team recruiting rankings will be based on the present prospect rankings. Shifts in the updated Rivals150 in the spring could shake up the team recruiting standings.

In regards to the second part of your question, early in the summer we were questioning whether Holsey had the game and physical strength to merit a four-star ranking. Holsey answered those questions at the Lebron James Skills Academy in July. He posted up with strength and scored the ball on a variety of moves. He also rebounded well and defended his position. I do think he will struggle early as a four man against stronger power forwards when he first suits up at Georgia Tech. But ultimately I expect him to be a valuable player for the Yellow Jackets.

Rice isn't quite the player you would expect considering how pure of a shooter his father was. Instead, Rice is an up-and-down shooter whose main strength is the way he can get into the lane and make unorthodox shots. He also sees the floor well and can get the ball to the open man. Early on Rice will probably struggle on the defensive end, but the future is very bright for him. He has a unique feel for the game and a lot of upside.

Impact in the SEC

The SEC is struggling this year. A lot of experts think it is the weakest conference of the power conferences. Are there any difference-makers coming into the conference next year?

-- John from Columbia
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The SEC didn't come in last place in the conference recruiting rankings after the early signing period, but it was only better than the Pac-10 among the "Big Six" conferences. I don't know how much better the freshmen will make the conference next year, but here is a list of prospects who I think can be difference-makers:

Kenny Boynton - Florida will expect big things from Boynton as a freshman. He is a big-time scorer as a shooting guard and an ultra-competitive player. His jumper is reliable in the clutch, and he is an excellent defender.

Daniel Orton - Kentucky will likely lose its two best players to the NBA, so a lot will be placed on the back of five-star prospect Orton. At 6 feet 10 and 260 pounds, Orton is capable of carrying a lot. He is a significant defensive presence in the paint and is capable of producing points on the offense as well. The question will be whether he can carry the heavy load that Kentucky will need him to carry next year.

Reginald Buckner- At 6 feet 8, Buckner is a hybrid forward who impacts the game in pretty much everyway imaginable. He is a slasher who can finish and make the pass. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions and is an active shot blocker and rebounder. Ole Miss got a good one here.

John Jenkins - Jenkins, who is averaging 41 points per game and is one of the best shooters in the class of 2009, is sorely needed by a Vanderbilt team that struggles from behind the 3-point arc. Shan Foster just broke the career 3-point record at Vanderbilt, but it might not stand long once Jenkins starts bombing away for the Commodores.

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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