When Michigan landed the famed Fab Five in 1991, many thought the impressive group was the best recruiting class ever assembled. That was before Greg Oden picked a college. The five-star center is headed to Ohio State along with three other top prospects, bringing the debate back to the forefront: What is the greatest recruiting class ever?
Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson are often considered the bench mark for recruiting classes. Steve Fisher reeled in four McDonald's All-Americans (Jackson was the lone player not in the game) and advanced to two national championship games.
The five were the most dominate collection of freshmen in college basketball, but several programs have came close to the group that wore the maize and blue.
UCLA landed a great class in 1998 with three McDonald's All-Americans in Dan Gadzuric, Jaron Rush and Ray Young. The other two players in the class, Matt Barnes and Jerome Moiso, have spent the last two years in the NBA.
Duke's 2002 class featuring J.J. Redick, Sheldon Williams, Shavlik Randolph, Sean Dockery, Michael Thompson and Lee Melchionni generated a buzz and even was tabbed as the "Super Six" by recruitniks.
North Carolina's trio of Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants was also in the class of 2002 and all three went in the lottery in Tuesday night's NBA Draft.
Several schools have come close to Michigan but none have had the core five freshmen that made such an immediate impact like Webber and company did.
This current Ohio State bunch could certainly give a run. The Buckeyes now hold commitments from Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Daequan Cook and David Lighty. Both Oden and Cook are rated by Rivals.com amongst the top 10 players in the class of 2006 and Lighty, another five-star player, checks in at No. 20 overall. Conley is rated as the seventh-best point guard in the country by Rivals.com. All four have been mentioned in McDonald's All-American discussions.
Tim Watts, the director of basketball for Rivals.com, says the Buckeyes have reeled in a great class even without Oden in the equation.
"It certainly gives Ohio State the top class at the moment and one of the best in recent memory. It gives them Mike Conley, Jr., who is one of the nation's top play makers and two wing guards who can shoot and are athletic," Watts said. "That combination is a terrific class in itself but when you throw in Greg Oden, he takes it to a different level from several standpoints."
In today's college game, the absence of the dominant big man is one of the major differences between NCAA basketball now and just 10 years ago. Oden is the most dominate big man to join the college ranks in some time and that interior presence, says Watts, gives OSU an immediate advantage.
"The most noticeable is the inside threat it will give the Buckeyes and perhaps the most dominating big men to enter college since Tim Duncan. Also, he was considered a lock to the NBA for the last two years so he could be labeled a steal," said Watts.
"Oden will over shadow the rest of the class but Oden, Lighty and Cook are all special players in their own right. Depending on how they finish this class could be considered better than the legendary "Fab Five" that signed with Michigan 15 years ago."
Time will be the ultimate test on where Ohio State's group ranks amongst the all-time best. For now, though, the group looks awfully good.
The Thad Five
Michigan was tabbed as the Fab Five. Ohio State wants to complete the Thad Five. Who is next? Thaddeus Young? Matta shadowed the Memphis superstar at the Real Deal on the Hill and almost got the No. 3 player in the country to visit Columbus with Oden and Conley. Young is the most versatile player in the country.
Nearly every school in the country is hot after Young. Certainly with the addition of the nation's top player, Ohio State feels like they can land anybody in the country. Young is now the highest rated player that remains uncommitted.
"If they can land a power forward of significant capability, I think they'll have a Fab Five-like class," says Rivals.com National Scout Jerry Meyer. "The thing with the Fab Five is that all five of them came in a made significant contributions at the same time."
Perhaps Luke Harangody is that player. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Indiana native has the Buckeyes in his final four along with Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana. His decision could come in the next month during the July period.
"He's the prefect type of guy to come in and work hard, especially alongside a guy like Oden," Meyer said of Harangody.
Raymar Morgan, a 6-foot-7 forward who helped pilot his Canton (Ohio) McKinley team to the high school AND1 National Championship, also holds an OSU offer. He's an under-the-radar kind of guy. Physically, he can make an impact right away both inside and out.
Another option is Jamil Tucker, a 6-9 sweet shooting wing player from Gary, Ind. He's holding an offer from Matta, too. Tucker, the No. 45 ranked player in the class of 2006, says Ohio State is his current favorite school.
So who will be the fifth member to one of the best recruiting classes of recent memory? The Buckeyes want to stake their claim to the top. The clock is ticking.