Top talent headed to the Pac-10
[rl]Half of the Pac-10 reeled in recruiting hauls that are among the top 20 classes in the country, a few of those teams aren't traditional conference powers.
Talk about a major upgrade.
The West Coast's power conference checks in as the second-best league in the country in terms of recruiting the class 2007.
New programs making waves
Everyone knows UCLA, Arizona and Washington can recruit regionally and nationwide. All three programs have done that in 2007.
But what about USC and Arizona State? They aren't exactly old favorites on the recruiting front – at least when it comes to basketball.
The Trojans are taking a page from USC football coach Pete Carroll's recruiting handbook. Tim Floyd and his staff have a standout coming from across the country.
O.J. Mayo, one of the most promising playmakers in some time to come to college, might be the most famous West Virginian in Southern California since Jerry West. Mayo, one of the top five players in the nation, won't be wearing a USC jersey for long. However, his presence helped the Trojans claim the No. 3 spot overall in the national team recruiting rankings.
Arizona State's recruiting class – ranked No. 19 by Rivals.com - is highlighted by the signing of James Harden from California. The McDonald's All-American is a winner and one of the most talented players coming into the conference. The 6-foot-5 guard should help Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils from the outset.
Naturally, Arizona reeled in another nationally ranked recruiting haul. The Wildcats focused hard on in-state product Jerryd Bayless, who committed early and then opted to look around before finally signing with Arizona. Fans had to sit on pins and needles for a couple of weeks before the drama unfolded. Bayless is one of five signees that helped Arizona claim the fifth overall spot in the team rankings across the country.
After back-to-back trips to the Final Four, UCLA continues to land players that will help the Bruins stay in contention for the national title. Ben Howland kept Kevin Love, the most storied player in Oregon high school basketball history, on the West Coast. Love said he picked the Bruins in large part because of tradition. The five-star center helped the Bruins check in at No. 11 nationally.
Washington has proved to be a major contender on the recruiting front since Lorenzo Romar took over as coach. The Huskies have done it once again with the 20th ranked class nationally. Matthew Bryan-Amaning, the No. 47 prospect in the country, is the highest rated player coming to Seattle. Despite his four-star rating, Justin Holiday might be the biggest sleeper coming into the conference.
Jerry Meyer's take: With O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson, USC is bringing in exactly what it needs to replace the production of early draft entries Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt … Arizona will count on Jerryd Bayless to make an immediate impact in the backcourt … UCLA didn't bring in a big class, but with Kevin Love the Bruins have the low-post presence that could push them over the hump in their quest for a national title. The Bruins also are bringing in Chace Stanback, a sleeper prospect who should eventually turn some heads … Herb Sendek has a potential superstar in James Harden, around whom he can build his program.
Star power coming to the Pac-10
The five best incoming freshmen will give the conference a major shot in the arm.
Mayo and Love are instant starters and the first options for Southern Cal and UCLA, respectively. Mayo is hoping to make a Kevin Durant-like impact, and the Trojans have the talent around him to help Mayo earn a spot in the 2008 NBA Draft lottery. Love is the cornerstone for UCLA and could potentially be a 20-point, 10-rebound per game player as a freshman.
For the first time since Ike Diogu inked with the Sun Devils, Harden gives Arizona State fans a sure-fire star to root for next season.
Jamelle Horne, the heir apparent to Chase Budinger, brings a lot to the table for Arizona. Like Budinger, Horne is a San Diego native whose game is played well above the rim. The 6-foot-7 athlete is perfectly suited for Arizona's style of play. Horne is one of the most overlooked recruits in the country, which was evident by his omission from the McDonald's All-American game. Horne and Bayless form one of the most athletic duos coming into college basketball.
Los Angeles is home to the stars. In 2007, it will be the place where two of the best incoming freshmen will lay their heads. Who will be the face of the city – Love or Mayo? The two friends have different roles for their respective teams. Each will have plenty of media coverage.
In Arizona, there is a certifiable rivalry in the making. Arizona State has an instant starter and likely star in Harden, who is a dynamic scorer. Arizona inked the best in-state prospect since Mike Bibby in Bayless, who is perhaps the most athletic guard in the Pac-10. It will be fun to watch the two elite scorers trade buckets in conference play.
Inside the numbers
The incoming class to the Pac-10 is star heavy. Of the 17 players in the Rivals150 that inked with a Pac-10 school, 12 are within the top 100. Five are listed as five-star players, and four of those are inside the top 15.
USC and Arizona boast four players each in the national top 150. Washington checks in with three. Six of the 10 schools in the Pac-10 have a player listed in the Rivals150. Ten of the 17 nationally ranked players are guards.