The Steal Of 2003

Who is the best player that you won't find on any top 100 national rankings? Our vote goes to Marcus Slaughter, a 6-8 power forward from Riverside (Calif.) North...

Who are the top three power forwards from the West Coast class of 2003? If you looked at our rankings prior to Saturday night, you saw that we had Leon Powe #1, Ekene Ibekwe #2 and Mohamed Abukar #3.

However, after watching Marcus Slaughter -- 6-8 Riverside (Calif.) North -- play in the Slam ‘N Jam league Saturday afternoon, we had to change our rankings. We didn't see Slaughter with his high school team this past season and we were surprised at how much he's improved. Not only is Slaughter a better prospect than both Ibekwe and Abukar, he's probably better than Leon Powe. At least, he's better than the Powe we saw in Las Vegas prior to Christmas. But since Powe was less than a year removed from ACL surgery when we saw him in December, we decided that he deserved to stay at #1 in our rankings, since we assume that he'll eventually get back to his pre-injury form. But even if he does get all the way back, it might still be Powe 1A and Slaughter 1B.

Slaughter signed with San Diego St. in the fall. We said at the time that it was a steal – we thought Slaughter was a Pac-10 level player -- but we still didn't realize the magnitude of the theft pulled off by the Aztecs. Slaughter is a very skilled and versatile four man who can step out and shoot the jumper or take a defender off the dribble and finish strong at the rim. He has a very live body – great quickness and explosiveness for a guy his size He's also active at both ends of the court – very good shot blocker and rebounder.

We spoke with Slaughter after his game and he's obviously very happy with his decision to attend San Diego St. When we commented that he would probably be hearing from elite programs across the country if he were unsigned, Slaughter said, "Hey – the big name schools aren't everything. I'll be fine with the Aztecs." If Slaughter develops the way we think he will, things will be more than fine for Steve Fisher and the Aztecs.

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