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Who was the most impressive player at the ESPN RISE tournament?”- Alex (Pennsylvania)

Although Villanova-commit Tyrone Johnson was clearly the tournament MVP, and Duke-commit and McDonald’s All-American Quinn Cook had the best performance in the tournament, Montrose Christian (MD) junior Michael Carrera was the most impressive player. Carrera came into this event under a lot of people’s radar but averaged over 17 points and 13 rebounds throughout the three days and was the energy-source for his team. He also did a great job on defense as he rarely fouled opponents while challenging and altering their shots. The most impressive performance for Carrera was his 20 point, 13 rebound game in the championship round against a much bigger Oak Hill (VA) squad in which he kept his team within one or two possessions by scoring close to half of his team’s points in the first half (10).

See related articles: ESPN RISE NHSI Bracket Released, ESPN RISE NHSI Preview, ESPN RISE NHSI Day 1 Recap, ESPN RISE NHSI Semifinals Preview, Montrose Christian wins ESPN RISE NHSI Championship, ESPN RISE NHSI Championship Notes

*Feel free to send me your question via e-mail at joshpaunil@gmail.com, twitter @http://twitter.com/#!/RecruitSpotligh, or by leaving a comment.

This (Tokoto’s commitment to UNC) should help UK even more for Shabazz Muhammad, don’t you think?” (via twitter) -Patrick (Mt. Washington, Kentucky)

Initially, I would say yes since both Tokoto and Muhammad play the wing and are very similar players between their great athleticism and excellent play in transition. However, I do have Muhammad ranked 30 spots ahead of Tokoto so while they do have similar styles I think Shabazz is an elite player who could start over J.P. for any collegiate program in the country. This isn’t a knock on Tokoto, but Muhammad simply is an unstoppable scorer inside the arc whether it be inside in the paint or in the mid-range game. Muhammad’s defense also has the potential to be very good which really makes him one of the top players in the class of 2012. In my opinion, I think UK is the favorite for Muhammad because of a few reasons: Calipari is the best recruiter in the country and seems to get whoever he wants, Muhammad tweeted about his visit very positively, and Muhammad fits into UK’s style of play better than anyone else’s but I wouldn’t be surprised if Duke was able to sneak in to get him, although they will be loaded with wing players by the time he gets there between Alex Murphy, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Michael Gbinije. However, Muhammad still has a lot of time to make his decision so some other schools could increase Muhammad’s interest in them but he will heavily help whoever he plays for from day one and that’s for sure.

*Feel free to send me your question via e-mail at joshpaunil@gmail.com, twitter @http://twitter.com/#!/RecruitSpotligh, or by leaving a comment on the blog

How does this year’s recruiting class for Kentucky compare to the Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, and Orton class?”- Dave (Lexington)

Like I said in my class rankings, this Wildcat recruiting class legitimately rivals the ’09 class. However, I would take the ’09 class over this one because it’s very difficult to do better than two first-team All-Americans, a 35 win season, two top-five picks (including the #1 overall pick), and four first round picks. This class is definitely rated higher coming out of high school with three of the top four prospects and four top-25 players, but I would argue that the ’09 class is better and if you were to go back and re-rank that class Wall and Cousins would easily be the top two recruits. Although he didn’t make a huge impact, JUCO recruit Darnell Dodson also made the most three-pointers for the 2009-2010 Kentucky team, which was clearly their weakness. However, the Wildcats aren’t finished with their recruiting class yet since DeAndre Daniels and Trevor Lacey are both still considering them so if Kentucky lands either prospect that would definitely push this class over the ’09 one.

*Feel free to send me your question via e-mail at joshpaunil@gmail.com or by leaving a comment on the blog.

“What’s the best position in this year’s recruiting class?”– Jake (Maryland)

Looking at the top-50, there are more elite players at the two guard then any other position.  There are seven shooting guards in the top 21 and two in the top six between #1 overall recruit Austin Rivers and #6 overall Bradley Beal. A big reason the shooting guards are so good is because they are the best scorers in the class. Another important thing to consider is most of them create open shots for their teammates so even when they aren’t having a good night they can get the rest of their team involved. Wayne Blackshear and Michael Carter-Williams are two more examples of why the shooting guards in the class are so productive since they are good secondary ball-handlers and are even good enough passers to run the point at times. This group of shooting guards is also very good on defense and have the length and quickness to guard multiple perimeter positions such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

*If you would like to submit a question send me an e-mail at joshpaunil@gmail.com or post a comment with your name and location.

Who has the biggest downside in your top five prospects for 2011?

Every prospect who is in the top-five already possesses a lot of talent and has shown that they are elite in one way or another. For example, Rivers is the best scorer, Gilchrist is the best all-around player, Teague is the best point guard, Davis is the most versatile, and Miller is the most explosive. However, with that being said, the guy who is in the top-five and has more potential and less skills than everyone else is Anthony Davis. That’s not saying Davis isn’t a great player, but his skill set just isn’t at the level of everyone else’s. The reason he is in the top-five is because of his potential since he is close to seven feet tall and has great shot-blocking and rebounding abilities. Also, he has good perimeter skills on the perimeter since he used to play guard before he grew seven inches in a year. Here’s the evaluation for Davis:

Saying Anthony Davis is versatile at 6’11” is an understatement. The former guard is a force down low being a tremendous shot blocker and rebounder and is very good at guarding the perimeter against smaller players. He can also handle the ball well and is a good passer. Davis is very unselfish and has the ability to create shots for his teammates. Additionally, being a former guard, he can score off the dribble and can play with his back to the basket or facing the basket. He is just a very tough match-up due to his versatility. His shooting is respectable and is a dominant offensive rebounder which allows him to get a lot of easy put-backs. Davis’ potential is unlimited and the sky is the limit for this him, which is why he is ranked #4. He can improve by putting on some muscle to his 200-pound frame but you got to give him some time given that he grew seven inches in the past year. He can stay out on the perimeter too much at times but as he gets more used to his newfound height he will camp out more in the paint. Look for Davis to dominate at Kentucky next year and be an impact-player in the NBA.

Feel free to submit your own question in my mailbag at joshpaunil@gmail.com or by leaving a comment!

“Who is the biggest boom or bust prospect in the class?”

The biggest boom or bust prospect is probably Norvel Pelle, who is heading to St. John’s. Pelle is a big man with great length and shot-blocking abilities. He is one of the more athletic big men and loves to run the floor too. He also has a solid offensive game when he’s facing the basket and gets a lot of easy put-backs on the offensive glass. However, he’s had his effort questioned and he also needs to heavily improve on his rebounding because he has all the physical tools needed to dominate the boards. His offensive back-to-the-basket game is lagging as well. However, I expect Coach Steve Lavin to turn Pelle into a quality player for the Red Storm and to increase his low-post presence, which is why I’m leaning towards him being a “boom” than a “bust” prospect.

*If you would like to ask a question, send me an e-mail at joshpaunil@gmail.com or submit a comment.

“How has the recruiting class of the last few national champions affected their success?” -Conor from Maryland

This is a very interesting question, lets start with the defending National Champions, the Duke Blue Devils. Last year, Duke won the National Championship because of “The Big Three” and Brian Zoubek. The only freshman that had much impact at all on the Blue Devils’ success was Andre Dawkins, who played less than 13 minutes a game and scored less than five points per game. The other freshman for Duke was Ryan Kelly who averaged around 4-5 minutes a game so it’s clear that their recruiting class didn’t have much impact.

If you look back to North Carolina in 08-09 and Kansas in 07-08 it’s more of the same story. The Tar Heels had only one freshman who averaged double-digit minutes (Ed Davis) when they won and the Jayhawks didn’t have any. However, this question brings up an important point about college basketball, that it’s very difficult to win a National Championship with a freshman-led team (i.e. Kentucky last year) and that you win with upper-classmen led teams. Duke was led by two seniors and two juniors, North Carolina was led by three upperclassman, and Kansas was led by two upperclassman. The bottom-line is that a team full of one-and-done players like Kentucky last year probably won’t win a national championship and you need some senior (or junior) leadership.

*Feel free to email me your questions any time at joshpaunil@gmail.com. Also, please provide your first name and where you’re from but it isn’t required.

“Who do you think are the three most underrated prospects on national lists compared to yours?- Dylan from Maryland

One of the most underrated prospects in my opinion is Josiah Turner, who is heading to Arizona next year. Turner is the most physically gifted point-guard in the class and has a great combination of scoring ability and passing. He has great handles and gets to the bucket easily. He is a very exciting player who is quick, fast, and strong. Turner only needs to improve on his outside shooting but his mid-range game is good and he finishes well with his left hand when he is forced to by defenders. He simply has great moves to make scoring opportunities for him and his teammates that are hard to explain in words (just watch his highlight tape by clicking his name). He will be a big-time player at Arizona next year and will make a huge impact.

Another very underrated prospect is Duke-commit Quinn Cook. Cook is a very nifty passer who has great floor vision. He is excellent at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates and is a great finisher when he gets in the lane. He is very good at penetrating and kicking out (which is perfect for Coach K’s offense) and is fast and quick. His intangles are also all there being widelyand is a tremendous leader who has a high basketball IQ. Some areas Cook needs to work include his shooting, although it’s respectable, and his strength and shot selection. A nice quality about him is that he can handle defensive pressure well and apply it himself when he’s on defense himslef. He should be a very good point guard at Duke by the time Irving is gone.

Ben McLemore is another severly underrated prospect, who is undecided on where he’s going to college. McLemore is an explosive athlete who can stroke it beyond the arc and can finish strong when he gets into the lane. He sets his feet extremely well before he shoots whether he’s shooting from 5 feet out or 25 feet out. He can catch and shoot well and can play any of the perimeter positions. He is a solid rebounder and great defender due to his length and quickness, and has an advantage over some other recruits due to the competition he plays day-in and day-out by playing for the best high school team in the country (Oak Hill). McLemore needs to add muscle to his frame and improve his ball-handling but look for him to keep improving his game and to help out whoever he decides to play for.

*Feel free to email me your questions any time at joshpaunil@gmail.com. Also, please provide your first name and where you’re from but it isn’t required.

“Which prospect will make the most impact on their team next year as a freshman?”

The first three names that come to mind are LeBryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Tony Wroten Jr. (Washington), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia). However, Jabari Brown (Oregon) seems like the person who will make the most impact since the Ducks are one game above .500 and lose their best scorer, Joevan Catron, and their best guard, Jay-R Strowbridge. Between the two, Oregon will lose over a third of their points per game which ranks 169th in the NCAA. Brown is just what the doctor ordered for the Ducks since he is a big-time scorer who can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He is a great shooter with outstanding range, is strong and big which allows him to finish through contact and post-up smaller defenders, and has a very good mid-range game which compliments his ability to get to the basket very well. Brown will also have a senior point guard who averages four assists per game (which is top-3 in the Pac-10), Malcolm Armstead, who can dish him the ball when he gets open. However, the great thing about Brown is he has the ability to create his own shot so while Armstead is a luxury he is not a necessity. Expect Brown to win All-Pac-10 honors as a freshman and to be a very important player for the Ducks.

*If you would like to have your question answered e-mail me at joshpaunil@gmail.com.

Why don’t you have Marshall Plumlee in your top 50? ESPN has him at #37.”

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t have Plumlee in my top 50, the biggest being his post-play. On offense, he doesn’t have a variety of effective post-moves and can disappear at times because he simply has no effect in the game. Also, on both offense and defense he needs to become a more effective rebounder. His strength needs to improve as well so he can improve on his scoring and rebounding and become more of a presence on the defensive end as well. However, although I don’t agree with his high-ranking I do think he has a lot of potential given he is seven feet tall and athletic. He runs the floor well and is a very good shot-blocker as well.

*If you would like to have your question answered e-mail me at joshpaunil@gmail.com.

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