In advance of the early signing period, we polled Dave Telep, Evan Daniels, Greg Hicks and Eric Bossi and gathered their thoughts on the Class of 2009
1) Looking at the Class of 2009 the past few seasons, who is the one person who defines this group and what is your greatest memory of him so far?
Dave Telep: I think the defining player is Lance Stephenson. This group has many faces but he's been possibly the most publicized kid in the entire class. He's had a video entourage and a drama filled high school career. For every moment of brilliance on the court there seems to have been a moment like when he was cut from the USA Basketball team. "Born Ready" carries the weight of NYC on his shoulders and his situation has been played out on the national stage. Sometimes positive, others negative but always in the news.
Evan Daniels: Looking at the class as a whole, Derrick Favors is the guy that I think defines this class. Off the court Favors is a quiet, humble kid, but once he puts on his jersey and gets on the court, he turns into a different type of person. Although still quiet, he wrecks havoc on both ends. During his junior season, he put up ridiculous, video game like numbers and met virtually every challenge put in front of him. There's a reason we have him as our top prospect and with the way he's wired, mixed with his work ethic, I think he'll certainly live up to the lofty expectations that many have for him.
Greg Hicks: Abdul Gaddy. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. His performance at the Cactus Classic was among the best I saw this past year.
Eric Bossi: It's never an easy choice to pick one guy, but for me it's got to be John Henson. Here's a kid who got to his level the old fashioned way, he earned it. That isn't to say that the other players haven't worked hard to get where they are, because they have. But Henson is a kid who is a bit of a late bloomer and everything he's gotten is based off ability and not reputation. I'll always remember getting a chance to watch him and get to know him a little bit at the 2007 Nike Hoop Jamboree. His attitude was refreshing and it's nice to see that it hasn't changed.
2) Sometimes the best high school player is the not the top college or pro player. Who will be the best collegian and who will be the top pro player from this class?
Dave Telep: College:I think Kenny Boynton is going to be the best college basketball player of the bunch. I find his capacity to win games extraordinary and he's a winner. He'll get his chance to play in the pros one day and if he takes his time the NCAA Tournament will one day heat his stock extremely high. Pro: I thought since watching him at the LeBron Academy that John Henson could wind up being the top professional player from this class. I watched John Wall in his first scrimmage and after the first five minutes I caught myself rethinking this answer.
Evan Daniels: Personally, I think Favors will be the top college player. He's equipped to score on the block, runs the floor, can dominate defensively and rebounds in and out of his area. What more can you want from your big man? With that said, I think the top pro prospect will end up being John Henson. Over the course of a year, the 6-foot-10 versatile post player has made tremendous strides. At this point strength is holding Henson back, but he has the size, length and skill set to be a heck of a player at the college level and down the road in the NBA.
Greg Hicks: Tyler Honeycutt as the best college player. His offensive versatility is going to cause headaches for a lot of opposing coaches and he may still be growing. I'll go with Abdul Gaddy as best pro. He's going to be a terrific college player, but I think he'll go to a whole different level as he matures and gains strength.
Eric Bossi: I really wouldn't be surprised to see either Kenny Boynton or Avery Bradley emerge as the top college players from this class. I really like their ability to play at both ends of the floor, how they can create on offense and how hard they bring it each time out. As for the best pro, I think I'm going to surprise some people and go with DeMarcus Cousins. As long as he keeps everything together, I think he has the chance to be a terrific pro. He's strong, much more skilled than he ever gets credit for and I think his strengths set up well for the NBA game.
3) Who is the big sleeper in this class?
Dave Telep: When I think of guards, Jordan Hulls comes to mind. Heck, as late as May he wasn't on our Top 100 list. Others are better prospects but how many can lead like he can? Let's be honest, the kid wasn't even thought of a serious prospect for the Hoosiers as a junior and he resides in Bloomington! As far as bigs not in our Top 100, I'll toss the name Cadarian Raines out there. Virginia Tech has an explosive guy with great athleticism and a knack for blocking shots.
Evan Daniels: The biggest sleeper in the class of 2009 could be Mike Moser out of Portland (Ore.). He's not a guy that has received a ton of attention, but is ranked in our Top 75. With his length and ability to play multiple positions, I think he's got a tremendous upside and is the type of guy that will be a tremendous impact on the school he ends up at. He can defend three positions and is an efficient spot up shooter out to 22-feet. I think this is the type of guy that could find himself on an all-conference team by the end of his college career.
Greg Hicks: Brandon Davies is the best player nobody talks about and BYU got a steal with his commitment. He's good enough to play at any school in the country. Great feet and hands, with a high skill level.
Eric Bossi: I know he's highly rated by a lot of people so it's hard to call him a sleeper, but I think that Zeke Marshall could end up that guy. He's going to Akron so some people are going to forget about him because he's playing at a "mid major". But, that doesn't change the fact that the young man has immense potential in that seven foot frame and a few years from now I won't be surprised to see him doing big things.
4) Is there one player you'd say is the most improved?
Dave Telep: Tommy Mason-Griffin. As a freshman his body mirrored what it is now. In truth, he's got the perfect frame and body to be a running back. Though he was a stud early – he was stronger than everyone – I wondered if he'd get better. In the middle part of his H.S. career I personally thought he was leveling off. Last spring, he flipped the switch and became a great leader and improved passer. Physically guys have caught up and he's still stronger. Armed with more of an offensive game, he's used a true point guard approach to get better.
Evan Daniels: The guy that I think grew the most over his four years in high school is Durand Scott. Throughout his career he was considered a top 100 prospect, but over the course of a few years he continued to work on certain aspects of his game. In particularly, his shot is what I saw improve the most. Not known for his ability to knock down jumpers as a sophomore, Scott showed up on this past summers circuit as a capable jump shooter with range to the three-point line. Another guy that we watched blossom over the course of his career was Maryland commit Jordan Williams. The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder went from no college interest to scholarship offers from a handful of ACC and Big East schools. He improved his skill set and ability to score on the block. His coming out party was this summer despite playing in a loaded frontcourt on the New England Playaz team.
Greg Hicks: In the west, Tyler Honeycutt is the easy answer. He had always been intriguing due to his length, but his skill level improved dramatically in the last year. As he gained confidence with his performance in the spring, you could see his game go to a whole different level in the space of a couple months.
Eric Bossi: Easy answer, John Henson.
5) There's an emphasis on shooting returning to the college game. Who's got the best stroke in the senior class?
Dave Telep: Every time Kenny Boynton shoots I think its going in. Gotta give it up for Matt Vogrich who might have made more 3s in the summer than anyone.
Evan Daniels: There are a number of guys that could take home the prize on this one. I considered Matt Vogrich, John Jenkins, Kenny Boynton, Mike Marra, Steven Pledger, Maurice Creek and Michael Snaer, before going with Vanderbilt commit John Jenkins. Over the course of his career, Jenkins has proven himself as a long range marksmen, equipped with a quick release and range that extends well past the three-point line.
Greg Hicks: There aren't a lot of great shooters in the west, I'll go with C.J. Wilcox.
Eric Bossi: There's plenty of good guys to choose from. I think that Ryan Kelly is in the mix, especially given his size. But, I'll go with John Jenkins. I've never seen him have an off day. Also, I think a big part of shooting the ball is being able to work away from the ball to get yourself easy shots and he's as good as anybody in the country at that.
6) What one decision by a recruit surprised you the most?
Dave Telep: I'm going with Terrell Vinson to Loyola Marymount. I knew they had a connection and were getting listed, so that wasn't a surprise. What got me was when he actually did it. Typically when mid-majors score guys from our Top 100 list it's been with guys that have some baggage and there's a reason why the mid-major won out. Not with this guy, he had BCS level suitors.
Evan Daniels: Maybe the biggest surprise decision actually came just a few weeks ago. Having already decommitted from Arizona once, Abdul Gaddy did it again once Lute Olson stepped down as Arizona's head coach. The second decommitment wasn't the surprise, it was the fact that he went with Washington over UCLA. The Bruins spent a lot of time recruiting and catering to Gaddy, but finished second for the third time in his recruitment. The first two times he went through the recruiting process, it always appeared that Washington was in the outside looking in, so when the lead guard went with them it was a bit of a shocker.
Eric Bossi: I think that one has to be Rashanti Harris. I understand that he has a great relationship with the guys at Georgia State. Still, a recruit of that magnitude heading there is an unbelievable pull.