A Glimpse Into The 2008 Future

College basketball can be a forward looking game. Take for instance the insane number of high-major prospects from the current junior class that are already committed. At last count, of Scout.com's Top 50 juniors, 15 had made verbal pledges. Only Elizabeth Taylor has said yes more times than America's juniors!

On Monday night, another member of the junior class pledged his allegiance and said "yes" to an offer from the Fightin' Illini. Bill Cole, a 6-foot-9 outside-inside forward out of Illini-friendly Peoria, became Bruce Weber's second verbal commitment. UI's first pledge was from highly regarded wing Eric Gordon out of Indianapolis.

Well, since so many juniors have committed, it begs the logical question: who's next?

Ah, the Class of 2008.

We'll begin our introduction with Tyreke Evans. The 6-foot-4 Aston (Pa.) American Christian guard accounted for 24.7 points as a freshman. Already this year he's fared well in a made-for-local TV showcase game against Wayne Ellington. Indications are that he's the top dawg in the sophomore class and intends to hold the title a long time.

Evans has an advanced body to go with a scoring arsenal most sophomores – in college – don't get to utilize. An astute passer, by all accounts a hard worker and a charismatic smile have him pre-destined for stardom. If you haven't heard of him by now, it won't be long.

Our next contender for top spot hails from Jamaica via St. Benedict's in New Jersey. Samardo Samuels, a 6-foot-8 center with perimeter skills, dominated at the Nike Hoop Jamboree, earned his way into the big camp and took home MVP honors at this fall's Eddie Griffin Challenge.

On a team laced with strong Division I talent, Samuels finds his way. He's getting double-figure points while playing alongside potential high school all-american Lance Thomas. The college guys love his game. Elton Brand is a good comparison and some guy from the Utah Jazz wasn't bad in his day either.

"He reminds me a little of a young Karl Malone," one Big East head coach told Scout.com. "He's going to be great. The thing is that his skill level is a lot better than people think. He can shoot and he seems like he's just a power player but he's a skilled guy too. He's power and he's skill. Because he's so powerful, people forget about his skill level."

The opposite of power (for now) is 6-foot-9 big man Xavier Gibson out of Dothan (Ala.) Northview. While Evans and Samuels are busy running up their career point totals, Gibson is impressive not so much for who he is now but what he can become later.

"He's got a great body for his age and he's getting better and better every year," an SEC assistant coach said. "The best basketball is in front of him as his body matures and he continues to work on his game. He's long and athletic and he's pretty skilled. He can step out and make a 15-footer."

Gibson is a prospect. He's one of those thin guys who as he fills out will become more of a producer and continue looking better and better. From a stock market standpoint, you buy him low and sell high down the road.

Out in Kansas City, there is talk about a special underclassman. Kansas City Central sophomore Travis Releford is the rage. In his debut season last year he went for 22.7 points, 7 boards and managed nearly 5 assists.

A potential multi-positional big guard down the road, Releford is a scorer who can handle the basketball. We'll see how clever he is with his recruitment because Kansas has offered him already and a lineup of heavy hitters is likely to make the trek into K.C. to check on him.

Yancey Gates (pictured) dropped 20 points in his Cincinnati Hughes debut this season. After a freshman campaign in which he offered up 13 points a game, the bump in scoring was to be expected.

Gates, a strong and diverse power forward, has that unique blend of ability and size. He goes 225 pounds and so far in his career he's found ways to make his presence felt.

Out in California, Brandon Jennings has been the toast of the town the last 6 months. One L.A. newspaper wrote an article about the search for the No. 2 point guard in Southern California. Jennings wasn't much of a factor in the piece since they handed him the top guard distinction in the story's lead.

Already this season Jennings has turned in a 9-assist game and UCLA and Arizona think he's pretty good as does the rest of the big timers in college buckets. Since running with the So Cal All-Stars last summer, Jennings has been dotting the high-major radar each time out.

File away the names of kids like Greg Monroe out Gretna, La., two-sport star Terelle Pryor from outside Pittsburgh, Milwaukee's best Korie Lucious and Portland sensational big man Andy Poling. Before the end of the season, plenty of newcomers will emerge (like Richmond's Ed Davis, son of a former NBA player) and be recognized as big timers from this sophomore class but since no less than 6 high-major programs have accepted sophomore commitments, we thought it might be time to introduce a few of them to you.

2008 Committed Players

  • Walter Offutt, SG (Ohio State)
  • B.J. Mullers, C (Ohio State)
  • Cordell Passley, G (Tennessee)
  • Martez Walker, SF (Louisville)
  • Antoine Young, PG (Creighton)
  • Malik Story, SG (USC)
  • Matt Gatens, SG (Iowa)
  • Jeremy Robinson, PF (Mississippi)

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