Center depth defines junior class

You hear it all the time. Talented centers are becoming increasingly rare in basketball. While in days past many teams predicated their offenses around a prime post scorer, interior offenses largely have become an artifact as basketball continually shifts toward a perimeter game.

But now, a bevy of giants await their turn in the sun. The new recruiting cycle won't bloom fully until April, but already enough evidence has surfaced to foretell the primary storyline for the Class of 2015.

In's updated junior rankings, nine of the top 25 overall prospects reside at center. That number represents a stark departure from recent history, when the big man draught began to be viewed as less of a draught and more of an altered climate.

On our 2014 list, for example, just four of the top 25 prospects are centers. By contrast, the 2012 class served as the high water mark for the past decade, nine of its 25 also occupying the center position. But no other class has featured more than six, and 2013, 2011 and 2005 featured three or fewer. The dearth of elite NBA centers sprung from the dearth of high school centers, and perhaps the junior class will help.

Caveats do apply. For one thing, our final rankings invariably will differ substantially from this version. It's also possible that positional changes will occur and that perhaps some of the skinnier centers ultimately project best as power forwards.

On the other hand, some of the power forwards may grow into center, and a handful of centers proximal to the top 25 — including Chance Comanche — could rise to that esteemed stature.

It helps that four of the top seven prospects play that position. Those four are Diamond Stone, Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo and Skal Labissiere. Even as the inevitable rankings maneuvering occurs, the big guys are assured of holding a distinct place atop the class. Moreover, if he continues growing, No. 1 prospect Ivan Rabb could project long-term at center as well.

But despite the prevalence of centers in the class, don't interpret this group as a throwback. Some of the best prospects, including Zimmerman and Labissiere, clearly prefer a finesse, perimeter game. Skilled frontcourt players dot NBA rosters at every franchise in the league, and everyone always asks about the brutes.

Thankfully, this 2015 class appears to feature commendable balance. Some of the elite prospects compete with a bulldog style, a list that includes but is not limited to Diallo, Thomas Bryant, Elijah Thomas and Tyler Davis. Daniel Giddens doesn't presently crack the top 25 but could become a defensive and rebounding monster as well.

Let's be honest: This class generally raises eyebrows due to its lack of perceived overall talent. The point guard position, in particular, is generating considerable angst from college coaches needing to sign a floor general from that class. For that reason, then, not only are the centers good in an absolute sense, they are relatively even better than that when compared with their peers at other positions.

Coverage from spring and summer events undoubtedly will veer toward the post very frequently, as will many of the most heated recruitments to unfold between now and November.

You can count on it. As it stands, none of our top 15 centers has announced his college choice. That number undoubtedly will increase over the next few months, but we safely can say that immense drama awaits the fall and quite possibly even the 2015 spring.

But first things first, soon we'll turn our attention to this spring and observe along with coaches and fans alike the machinations of a rejuvenated class of big men.

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