We were billing this group the ‘Super Seven' but now we are down to the ‘Final Five'. Spencer Hawes got things started off in Vegas by eliminating the Cats from his list of schools. This was no great surprise, but if you are a Wildcat fan it is a shame. Hawes proved at the Main Event and then at the Las Vegas Hoops Showcase Finals that he is a legitimate top-five player and probably the best big man other than Greg Oden in the class.
Darrell Arthur has not officially eliminated the Cats, but he is no longer listing them in recent interviews. He seems set on staying in Texas and that could mean a nice get for the Longhorns. If he is one and done don't be shocked if hometown SMU is not a player.
It should come as no surprise but Chase Budinger is the Cats' top target. Lute Olson was at every game and it was easy to see why. He is an amazing talent. He is a tall, long, athletic wing who can do a lot of good things. He is a high flyer and can finish in transition. He is also a very solid shooter, though his stroke is a bit awkward.
He says Arizona, UCLA and USC are all involved, but most sources say that UCLA is a distant third and that the Cats are in great shape. Frank Burlison believes a commitment to the Cats is imminent and a few other recruiting analysts said the same thing. Others believe that USC is the team in control as his dad is a USC grad and Tim Floyd is promising immediate playing time.
Of all the wings the Cats are pursuing, Budinger is the safest bet to be a star.
If Budinger does not commit expect the Cats to make a push for Quincy Pondexter. The 6-7 wing from Fresno is being patient with the Wildcats, but maybe not for long. He blew up at the Super64 as he was a major reason EBO won the event and then beat Main Event Champion Friends of Hoop.
Pondexter is an explosive, athletic wing. His outside shot is getting better and he can really do some damage getting to the hoop. He has wonderful length and is getting stronger. Many feel he has more long term potential than Budinger, but at this stage he is not quite as good.
He is still listing Arizona and Washington as his leaders, but he was quick to point out that other teams are really coming on strong. His list is actually expanding, with schools such as Tennessee and Memphis really making a push.
Although he and Budinger are both outstanding players, but don't expect the Cats to take both. Without a player or two leaving, there is just too much of a logjam at the small forward/shooting guard spot.
At this point Seth Tarver seems to be the third wing on the list. It is no knock on the talented player from Portland, but he just isn't in the class of a Budinger and Pondexter. He has a great build and is a hard worker, but he just isn't as athletic as the other two. He is a better inside player than he is on the outside and has not developed as much from last year as the other two have. He may have already reached his peak as an athlete.
He is listing Arizona and Oregon State as his co-leaders. Right now he is patient to wait to see how things play out, but a number of other teams are trying to get involved and he seems to be open to the attention. The Beavers are showing the most love and his brother is a freshman basketball player at the school.
Lance Thomas is a priority for the Cats as well. If they can get Thomas and a wing they would be very happy. Budinger and Thomas would be the ultimate class of the players remaining.
Thomas is a combo forward who is much more comfortable inside at this time. He does most of his scoring on the inside. He wants to play the wing by the time he leaves college, but he needs to improve his outside shooting and perimeter defense.
Thomas is a long, lean power forward. He has amazing length and athleticism, but lacks the bulk to really pound on the inside. He uses his speed and athleticism to score inside against bigger players. He has a nice touch from midrange and can hit consistently with his fade-away.
If Thomas looks elsewhere, the Wildcats have a decision to make. Southern California power forward Alex Stepheson is very interested in the Cats, but do they want to take him and risk scaring away an elite player in the 2007 class? Stepheson is a legit 6-9 and can run the floor. He has a very nice build and is very aggressive going to the glass.
The knock on Harvard Westlake product is that he has not drastically improved over the last year. He is still a very good player, but he hasn't shown he can be an elite player who can take over a game. There is also some concern about his basketball sense and overall feel for the game.
Nic Wise has been playing in these events for years and now they are coming to an end. Wise will never be the long, tall point guard that the Cats have coveted in the last few classes. Wise is short but extremely quick and has a great handle. He is a pass first player, but can score when his team needs a big bucket.
The frustrating thing about Wise is that he is inconsistent. He plays phenomenal in big games, but can disappear when things are not as competitive. One minute he looks like a player who is capable of taking a team to the Final Four and the next he looks like nothing more than a four-year role player.
Jordan Hill has everything you want. He has height, length and athleticism. He's a legit 6-10 and can run the floor. What he does not have a lot of is experience and instruction. He is still learning the game of basketball and is a nearly blank slate for the Wildcat coaches to work with.
In Vegas Hill did not score much, but he was a solid rebounder and a shot blocking presence in the middle. Although he has a nice stroke, most of the points we saw him score came from dunks or put-backs. He has all the athleticism you would want to develop into a big time player, but he is a long way from there right now.
We'll have evals of the 2007 and 2008 players over the next few days.
E-mail Brad at email@example.com