The landscape of college basketball has changed dramatically in the past decade. Ten years ago, scouts would come off the road in July and organize their lists for the top seniors. Nowadays, the rising senior class isn't enough.
Nationally, amongst fans and coaches alike, there's a great demand to learn about the younger players. Frankly, the dynamic has changed our approach. For instance, Scout.com's 2011 rising sophomore database is significantly larger than its ever been. It's growing daily as we attempt to keep the numbers tight in an effort to gradually populate our lists with the best basketball players America has to offer.
Each summer at this time, we like to produce a Top 10 list. Could we go beyond 10? Sure, but not with much accuracy. While we've seen a ton of underclassmen – more than ever – between watching the juniors and seniors, there are only so many eyeballs around.
Our approach with the young kids stems from the belief that we'll grow our lists slowly, allow the players chances to mature and develop at their own pace. We attempt to keep they "hype" to a minimum but are always looking for the guys who raise their games.
In our database you won't find many 5 and 4 star players. There's much to learn about these young men and as we see more and more of them and evaluate them with a critical eye. We'll certainly be increasing the star values as needed.
The younger classes are typically held in higher regard at this stage because less is known about each player and in turn, the entire group. At first glance, the deepest positions in 2011 appear to be the shooting guard and power forward slots. We've also been intrigued by the young centers in the group.
Since April, Scout.com's No. 1 (and we imagine a lot of other people's choice) has been Tony Wroten. Coming off a strong initial high school season, Wroten demonstrated legitimate star power in the backcourt. That's not to say he's a finished product but his passing, vision and overall athletic ability give him a leg up on the competition.
When making our current Top 10 list, really three players were considered for the top slot. Wroten made the pick relatively easy this time around but small forwards Michael Gilchrist and LaQuinton Ross were in the next cut of players.
Here's where the list begins evolve into a debate. We singled out Austin Rivers and Marques Teague for a number of reasons. Forget about them as prospects and let's talk about one of the characteristics, which makes both of them special: competitivenss.
Rivers, the son of the Boston Celtics head coach, loathes losing. It eats him up and seems to drive his game. Savvy beyond his years, once he gains strength and confidence we assume he'll play to this ranking and beyond.
Teague is the brother of Wake Forest freshman Jeff Teague. While Jeff was a late bloomer, his brother is out of the box much quicker. Another competitor, he's shown to be a stud in late game situations.
Players 5-10 punched their tickets in different settings. James McAdoo was the highest rated player at his position at the Hoop Jamboree and looked strong with Boo Williams. This power forward is the son of a pair of Old Dominion standouts.
Kevin Johnson, well, he's got beast potential. We were aggressive with his rating because of the belief that he's not going to let his power game fade away.
Over the course of the past few months, center Rakeem Christmas emerged as one of the top shot blockers in his age group. Philly has been known for guards lately but Christmas could be the city's best big since Eddie Griffin.
Mike Shaw has received the most ink of the forwards on this list. Ultra-talented, Shaw has moonlighted at the small forward slot. However, he's been at his absolute best when he's committed himself inside and gone to work. BTW, there are two Chicago prospects on this list right now but a third could be brewing. Watch for wing Sam Thompson to have a big sophomore season.
We've laid out the Top 10 but there are other contenders. Here's a list of players by position to play particular attention to in the next year.
SHOOTING GUARDS – Sam Thompson, Damien Leonard, Trevor Lacey, Dai-Jon Parker, Brandan Kearney, Rodney Hood, Deuce Bello, Nick Johnson, Matt Carlino, P.J. Hairston, Bishop Daniels, Bradley Beal, Andre Hollins,