Today’s edition was originally going to include four players, however we have added a couple of other guys that we probably should have included in previous editions. As always, this list is merely an introduction to potential prospects from the class of 2006 that Kansas fans can use for reference when we start discussing players more seriously.
THE FINAL SIX
Wayne Ellington, 6-4 PG/WG, Merion (PA) Episcopal- A player who has always been well known and highly regarded, Ellington has taken his game to an entirely new level this winter. Thanks to some monstrous performances at talent laden events this slick guard has matured into perhaps the single best perimeter prospect the class of 2006 has to offer.
If you need him to bury a crucial three, Ellington can do that. Need a tough drive and a strong finish around the basket, Ellington has that. His mid range game is as good as it gets at his age and he’s learning to run a team and create just as much for others, what isn’t there to like? He does need to add some strength and get a little more consistent on the defensive end but there are a lot of good reasons he’s been anointed as possibly the best Philadelphia area prospect since Kobe Bryant.
Obi Muonelo, 6-4 WG/WF, Edmond (OK) Sante Fe- A well constructed wing player who burst onto the national scene last summer, Muonelo is best known for his ability to get to the basket. However, he specializes in much more than slashing to the basket.
Like many wing in the class of 2006, he has shown the ability to pull up for mid range jumpers off of one or two dribbles. Thanks to his powerful frame he’s also an above average rebounder who is a capable enough ball handler to grab long rebounds and start a fast break. Shooting from beyond the three point line is still spotty at times and he can get a bit out of control. Not a finished product yet, but one with significant upside if he’s willing to put in the work.
Jerry Smith, 6-2 WG/PG, Wauwatosa (WI) East- A player similar to Duke freshman DeMarcus Nelson, Smith is a strong combo guard with a lightning quick first step and a streaky jumper from deep. He’s quietly adding more point guard skills to his game and added ball skills will only make him that much more dangerous.
There is always room for scorers on the next level and that is exactly what Smith does best. He uses that first step to blow by defenders for strong finishes at the hoop and he is adept at creating his own shot against even the best defenders. The mechanics on his jumper have improved significantly and as a result he’s gone from an average shooter to dangerously streaky while working his way to consistency. He’s already got the strength to play at the next level and his ability to help out on the glass is underrated and endearing.
Lance Thomas, 6-8 WF/BF, Newark (NJ) St. Benedict’s- It is still to early to say that Thomas will play on the wing exclusively in college, but that’s certainly what he wants to do. Because he has proven that he can defend in space and get to the rim on slashing drives it isn’t unreasonable to think that he will develop into a true wing.
However, part of what makes Thomas so valuable is his rugged style of play. He isn’t the type to back down from a challenge and smacks around much bigger players in the post on a regular basis. He’s shown some ability to hit the free throw line jumper and is an underrated passer, but he must improve his ball handling and overall feel from the perimeter. Essentially Thomas really doesn’t have a natural position but there is no disputing that he changes the game favorably whenever he’s on the court.
Tre’Von Willis, 6-3 WG, Fresno (CA) Washington Union- One thing is for sure, Willis isn’t bashful about shooting the basketball and he knows how to get his offense. Whether it be off of slick drives set up with his low and quick crossover dribble, deep threes or athletic finishes in transition this is a kid who is always in attack mode.
While he is prone to taking some shots that will undoubtedly frustrate coaches on any level, you have to admire his killer instinct. Defensively Willis uses quick feet to stay in front of his man and anticipates well to get in passing lanes. As talented as he is, Willis isn’t the most fundamentally sound player out there and he’s got to learn that the simple play is just as effective, and often times more successful, than the spectacular.
Thaddeus Young, 6-8 WF, Memphis (TN) Mitchell- Unique in his abilities both on and off the court, Young is a bit of a revelation these days. Even though he is a natural wing who can dominate a game from the outside, the slender lefty is more than happy to play on the inside or be a set-up guy if that’s what his team needs him to do.
You don’t see many guys who eschew much of the summer camp and shoe tournament circuit to take college prep courses, but Young is remarkably mature. That maturity is evident on the court where he patiently waits for the right moment before exploding to the basket with equal amounts of grace and power. He’s go to get a little stronger physically and with the ball, but it is pretty easy to see why so many consider him a threat to make the immediate leap to the NBA following his senior season.
Editor's note: Rather than just having a focus of "who is leaning where", this series of articles by Phog.net Recruiting Analyst Eric Bossi is designed to help KU fans familiarize themselves with the talent the KU coaches are evaluating for the Jayhawks' 2006 basketball recruiting class. You may wish to bookmark these stories for future reference.
Previous editions of "Focusing on 2006":