The Future Is Now

In this age of "What's Next?" the Class of 2004 is already yesterday's news, right? Here's the lowdown on the top high school hoop players in the Class of 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Top '05, '06 and '07 Players
(listed in alphabetical order by class)

Class of 2005

Tyler Hansbrough - Poplar Bluff High (Mo.)
Power Forward, 6-8, 220
Hansbrough's stock has continued to rise throughout the past year as he's put on weight to fill out his frame. He's the best of both worlds — a skilled, athletic big man who can score in the paint and a hard-nosed player not afraid to mix it up underneath. Florida, North Carolina and Missouri are all in the running to land him.

Richard Hendrix - Athens High (Ala.)
Power Forward, 6-8, 250
Unlike Hansbrough, Hendrix is already a physical force at 250 pounds, and his power-packed game is perfect for the college level. And if his dominance in the paint isn't enough, Hendrix has started improving his mid-range jump shot to add another element to his game. Alabama will certainly be in contention, but North Carolina, Duke and Auburn are among the other schools actively recruiting him.

Tasmin Mitchell - Denham Springs High (La.)
Power Forward, 6-7, 235
Mitchell might be the top player nationally in the Class of 2005. He's an extremely skilled and versatile player who can easily play either forward spot and create huge matchup problems with his ability to play in the paint and on the perimeter. LSU is thought to be the recruiting leader, but North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville round out his top four.

Martell Webster - Seattle Prep (Wash.)
Small Forward, 6-6, 235
Webster missed most of this season with an ankle injury, but that hasn't hurt his stock. He is a big-time scorer who can also rebound with the best of them, and his high school coach compares him to Paul Pierce. Webster has the talent to be the nation's top player next season. Arizona is reportedly the leader, but North Carolina, Oklahoma and UCLA are also in the mix.

Louis Williams - South Gwinnett High (Ga.)
Shooting Guard, 6-2, 170
Williams is the premier scorer in the Class of 2005 — arguably in the entire country — averaging better than 30 points per game and able to explode for 40 or even 50 at any given time. Questions about his position (point or shooting guard?) have hurt his stock in the eyes of some, but the only thing that matters is the kid can play. Williams has already committed to Georgia.

Class of 2006

Derrick Caracter - Scotch Plains-Fanwood (N.J.)
Power Forward, 6-9, 285
Caracter is an absolute beast in the paint, but he's also very skilled for a player his size and age. He's actually working to drop some weight and become more agile without losing his strength. Caracter runs the floor well, is a good passer and can even knock down the 3, though he's at his best in the paint.

Jawan Carter - Tatnall School (Del.)
Point Guard, 6-0, 165
Carter is a wizard with the rock, but behind his flashy play is a solid point guard who can do it all. He can score, dish, penetrate and hit the 3-pointer, and he more than held his own at several elite showcases this past summer. Carter has a chance to be the best point guard in the Class of 2006.

Vernon Macklin - Norcom High (Va.)
Center, 6-9, 190
Macklin definitely needs to bulk up, but all the tools are there for him to be a dominant inside player. He's extremely long and athletic, allowing him to block shots and rebound at a high level. Macklin is also a very good ball-handler for his size, so he can take opposing centers away from the basket and drive to the hoop.

Greg Oden - Lawrence North High (Ind.)
Center, 6-11, 230
Oden exploded onto the national scene this past summer and has justified his standing as one of the country's top post players with a stellar sophomore season. He has legitimate center size, and his skills are already well advanced for such a young player. Oden is creating such buzz that there's already talk of him being the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Nic Wise - Hightower High (Texas)
Point Guard, 5-9, 170
Wise made a name for himself last spring when he became the first player in the Class of 2006 to make a college decision, committing to Arizona. And he's backed up the hype, proving to be a heady point guard who runs the show like a veteran floor leader. He should continue Arizona's tradition of strong point guard play.

Class of 2007

Taylor King - Mater Dei High (Calif.)
Small Forward, 6-6, 190
King received an unbelievable amount of attention before ever playing a high school game because he committed to UCLA last summer. And playing for one of the nation's top high school teams as a freshman, King hasn't disappointed. He can shoot the lights out, but he's also an underrated passer and rebounder. King was averaging 14 points and eight boards a game at press time.

OJ Mayo - North College Hill (Ohio)
Shooting Guard, 6-4, 185
Only a freshman, Mayo has been playing varsity ball for three seasons and already draws comparisons to LeBron James. He's a smooth, athletic baller who glides down the court and shows the poise of a player much older. Mayo was showcasing his all-around skills by averaging 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists per game at press time.

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