UCLA tops team recruiting rankings
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With the late signing period ending on Wednesday, the class of 2008 is coming to a close. Which school reeled in the best basketball recruiting class? Which teams made significant jumps since last fall? Rivals.com is proud to release the top 30 team rankings for the incoming freshmen.
BRUINS FIND NEW STARTING FIVE
After making it to the Final Four the last three seasons, UCLA is reaping the rewards off the court. Ben Howland and his staff have reeled in the nation's top overall recruiting class in 2008.
The Bruins landed a late addition to an already-strong class when J'Mison Morgan officially announced his intention to play for UCLA next season. Morgan, a 5-star prospect from South Oak Cliff (Texas) High School, originally signed with LSU in the early period but asked for – and was granted - a release earlier this month.
After adding Morgan to the mix, UCLA has a signing class that could essentially be a starting five for any school in the country.
Howland and staff signed four in-state prospects in the early signing period, which was good enough for the second best class in the nation last fall.
The class is spear-headed by Jrue Holiday, the nation's No. 2 player. He's joined by Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson, both highly ranked four-star prospects, in the backcourt.
"It's not often that you see a program bring in five top-50 prospects in one recruiting class. In fact, UCLA's group could easily be on the court together as freshmen," Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer said. "You have three stellar guards led by Holiday and then two post players – Gordon, who is a high energy player, and Morgan, who is a big-bodied offensive low-post presence."
A return trip to the Final Four is not out of the picture for UCLA considering the class that is coming to Westwood. Sure, replacing the likes of last year's team won't be easy. However, Meyer believes this class has the talent to do special things.
"It's tough to win a National Championship with freshmen, but if there was ever a group of freshmen who could get it done, it is the five headed to UCLA next year," Meyer said. "Holiday is college-ready. He has the size and skill package to play any of the three perimeter positions. Morgan and Gordon are physical players who will fit in well with the returning post players. Anderson and Lee will see minutes as well backing up Darren Collison and playing alongside him. With Collison's experience and leadership, don't be surprised if the Bruins ride their talented freshmen to another Final Four – and possibly beyond."
ROCK, CHALK, RELOAD
Apparently there is a trend brewing in college basketball recruiting. Winning a national championship on the hardwood helps teams in the race for the recruiting national championship.
With all five starters from Kansas's title team either graduating or leaving early for the NBA Draft, coach Bill Self and his staff needed to upgrade and/or add depth at each position. Consider it done with the 2008 class, the second best class in the country.
Kansas landed two of the top junior college prospects in the country in Tyrone Appleton and Mario Little. JucoJunction.com ranks Appleton and Little among the top three players in the junior college ranks. When Tom Crean left Marquette for Indiana, former MU signee Tyshawn Taylor looked at several different options, but eventually found his fit in Lawrence.
"Kansas might not have a marquee five-star recruit, but the Jayhawks are reloading after a national championship run with an impressively deep class and intriguingly diverse class," Meyer said.
After the fall signing period, Kansas reeled in the eighth best class in the nation. Philadelphia twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris highlighted the early haul.
Marcus checks in at No. 29 in the 2008 individual rankings while Markieff is No. 50. Local product Travis Releford and New Jersey forward Quintrell Thomas, both Rivals150 prospects, round out the class.
EVANS, WITHERSPOON BOOST MEMPHIS
Perhaps no team scored bigger from a star standpoint than the Memphis Tigers. John Calipari's program made a huge jump in the team rankings thanks to the addition of two future standouts.
Memphis secured commitments and signed National Letters of Intent from five-star guard Tyreke Evans and four-star wing Wesley Witherspoon. Both players picked John Calipari's program after the high school season was complete.
With Evans and Witherspoon on board, Memphis jumped to fifth overall in the national team rankings after not breaking into the top 30 team rankings in the fall. Also on board for the Tigers are four-star prospects Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins.
Connecticut also makes a strong debut in the national team rankings. The Huskies check in at the seventh overall position in the team rankings thanks to the addition of five-star forward Ater Majok, one of the biggest risers of the entire 2008 class.
The 6-foot-10 versatile forward picked UConn over the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and UCLA. Majok is the No. 13 ranked player in the nation. He joins five-star point guard Kemba Walker, who also climbed in the national rankings.
HOPSON HELPS VOLS HOP UP IN RANKINGS
Tennessee made a big jump from No. 24 to 10th in the national team rankings, thanks in large part to the signing of Scotty Hopson - the biggest coup in the Southeastern Conference this recruiting season.
The NBA prospect is the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation. He wasn't the only player that inked with Bruce Pearl's program late. Junior college point guard and former Oklahoma player Bobby Maze and Michigan guard Daniel West also signed with the SEC school.
STRONG DEBUTS BY OTHERS
Vanderbilt's solid four-man class and the addition of Jeff Taylor and Brad Tinsley helped push the Commodores into the 15th overall position in the new rankings.
West Virginia makes its first crack at the team rankings at No. 18, thanks in large part to the signing of Devin Ebanks. He is one of the few players in the class of 2008 with true star potential.
Washington State and Cincinnati check in a 29 and 30, respectively.
ROOM FOR CHANGE
With players like Emmanuel Negedu and Rashanti Harris still uncommitted, there will be some slight changes to the team rankings if and when the players make their decisions.
Negedu will consider Georgia Tech, Indiana, Memphis and Tennessee. Harris could potentially qualify, but it is not expected to make it. It has been reported that Memphis could be a player for the Mississippi big man.
Rivals.com will also update the rankings after the prospects enroll in college to reflect any academic causality that may occur.