With August slipping away from us ever-so-rapidly, it's time to lock in my Top 25 seniors for the coming high school season.
The criteria used in shaping the list were the performances I watched at a half-dozen "national" events in June and July: the USA Basketball Youth Festival (in San Diego), the adidas Superstar Camp (in Suwanee, Ga.) and the Nike All-America Camp (in Indianapolis), along with the three July 22-26 tournaments in Las Vegas – the Reebok Big Time; the adidas Super 64; and the Main Event.
Fifth-year (prep school) players were excluded from consideration.
Ready . . . set . . . here you go!
1. Greg Oden
Comments: After the considerable offensive improvement he displayed in June and July, his game has become nit-pick proof.
2. Spencer Hawes
Comments: As he displayed in July at the Nike All-America Camp, the Peach Jam Tournament and the Main Event, there isn't a player with better offensive skills on the high school level – O.J. Mayo included.
3. Brandan Wright
Comments: His rebounding and shot blocking abilities are nearly the equal of Oden's. And that qualifies as a heap of praise.
4. Wayne Ellington
Comments: He is as clearly the top prospect at his projected college position (shooting guard) as Oden is at center.
5. Kevin Durant
Comments: Once he gets stronger and realizes that his effectiveness in the low post is just as critical to his success as a player as his ability to launch 3-pointers, he'll be as good as anyone in this class.
6. Mike Conley
Comments: OK, so there may be players with more "upside" as college and, eventually, NBA prospects. But get this straight up front: He is the best point guard in the Class of 2006 – hands down.
7. Brook Lopez
Comments: He gets the slight edge right
now as the No. 1 prospect in a very good
8. Tywon Lawson (Mouth of
Comments: The comparisons to Raymond Felton when he shows up in
9. Robin Lopez
Comments: No one in the Class of 2006 improved any more from June until the end of July than did this half of the Stanford-bound twins.
10. Chase Budinger
Comments: He might be competing for Olympic gold some day – in volleyball – while earning NBA paychecks.
11. Deshawn Sims
Comments: A eye-catching performance at
the Nike All-America Camp was repeated a few weeks later in
Comments: If Brandan Wright isn't the best senior prospect in the South, then this is the guy.
13. Gerald Henderson
Comments: His jump shot is the only part of his game that isn't already dynamic.
14. Duke Crews
Comments: No matter how long I ponder the question, I can't come up with the name of a high-level prospect that played harder than Crews did in July.
15. Lance Thomas
Comments: Ditto the comments about Gerald Henderson.
Comments: He teamed with Duke Crews to give the Boo Williams All-Stars a pair of rebounders second only to the Lopez Twins on EBO/EA Sports on the traveling team circuit.
17. Daequan Cook
Comments: Along with Gerald Henderson, he is one of the two best 6-5 or shorter "finishers" in the senior class.
18. Sherron Collins
Comments: If someone suggests to you that Collins is the quickest player in the senior class, take them at their word.
19. Thaddeus Young
Comments: Early exits at the USA Basketball Youth Festival in San Diego (with an ankle sprain) and in the adidas Super 64 Tournament in Las Vegas (when his team was upset in the first round of the playoffs) kept me from watching him as often as I wanted to.
20. Derrick Caracter
Comments: Consistency of effort and
physical conditioning are his only roadblocks to becoming an exceptional college
21. Javaris Crittenton
Comments: He seems to be making the transition from "scorer" to "true point guard" fairly well, which has to please his future college coach, Paul Hewitt.
22. Darrell Arthur
Comments: He was one of the most "up and down" players of the summer. At times he was spectacular; at others, you almost forgot he was on the floor.
23. James Keefe (Rancho Santa Margarita, Ca., Santa Margarita) 6-8
Comments: No one aspect of his game "wows" you. The sum of the individual parts does, though.
Comments: Once his jump shot becomes consistently accurate and he learns to play on balance all the time, there will be few more promising wings in college.
25. Phil Nelson
Comments: There are a lot of better all-around players right now but his phenomenal deep shooting ability – and the "P" word is certainly apt – gets him the final spot.
An April inductee into the USBWA
Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert
and is also a columnist for the