Friday, July 23, 2010

Looking Back: The class of 2004

We have now officially entered the dog days of summer. As the temperature rises, news in our college hoops universe comes to a standstill. Recruiting news, on the other hand, doesn't. There are two extremely important observation periods during the month of July, and more than a few scholarships, and spots on top 100 lists, are on the line. Unfortunately, BIAH doesn't pay the rent (click on some ads people!!!), which means we can't be out on the road at events like Nike's Peach Jam. In other words, we won't be putting out top 100 lists for the class of 2013. But since it is July, and since basketball in July is dedicated to recruiting, we are going to spend these next few weeks looking back past recruiting classes and rankings. Some of the results will surprise you.

Class of 2003

Class of 2004

The Class of 2004 didn't see many of their best players ever make the collegiate ranks. The top six players, and eight of the top 15, went directly to the NBA. Of the guys that went to college in the top 50, quite a few developed into good NBA players, but the impressive part of this class was the number of guys that fell through the cracks and turned out to be pretty damn good basketball players. Oh, and 2004 produced arguably the best single season recruiting class for one team this decade. Can you guess who that is? I'll give you a hint: none of the four players were ranked in the top 30, but three ended up as lottery picks.

Click the chart to enlarge.
Top 20

1. Dwight Howard: We all know who Dwight Howard is, right? The consensus No. 1 player in the class went straight to the league and was the first pick in the 2004 draft. He would go on to average a double-double as a rookie and developing into arguably the best center in the NBA today.

2. Shaun Livingston: Livingston, a 6'7" point guard that went straight to the pros and was selected by the Clippers with the fourth overall pick, was on his way to developing into a dangerous NBA player. He was averaging 9.2 ppg and 5.1 apg for the Clippers in 2007 when he suffered one of the worst knee injuries I've ever seen. (Warning: I'm sure most of you have already seen that clip, but if you haven't, beware -- it is brutal.) Livingston missed the entire 2007-2008 season, earning a few ten day contracts over the last two years before finally latching on with Washington at the end of last season. The 9.2 ppg and 4.5 apg he averaged was enough to earn him a two-year, $7 million contract from Charlotte.

3. Josh Smith: Smith, who played for the Atlanta Celtics with Howard and Randolph Morris at the AAU level, was the 17th pick in the 2004 draft. He immediately made an impact in the NBA, especially as a shot blocker. Smith has played with the Hawks his entire career, utilizing his length and athleticism to become a potential all-star and one of the better all-around defensive players in the game.

4. Al Jefferson: Jefferson originally committed to Arkansas, but opted to go pro and was the 15th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by Boston. He battled issues with injuries and playing time during his first two seasons, but in 2006-2007 he got a chance to play big minutes and delivered. His performance that season was enough to make him the centerpiece of a deal that sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. While playing with the T-Wolves, Jefferson has developed into a consistent 20-10 threat.

5. Sebastian Telfair: Bassy, a cousin to Stephon Marbury, was a sensation in Coney Island in high school, going to NYC's Lincoln High School. He committed to Louisville before going pro, getting picked 15th in the 2004 draft by the Blazers. Telfair bounced around the league for a while, and had a couple of run-ins with the law. Last season, he played with the Clippers for 39 games and with the Cavs for four games.

6. J.R. Smith: Smith was the 18th pick in the 2004 draft, going to New Orleans. He played for two seasons in New Orleans before being traded to Denver by way of Chicago. Smith has developed into one of the better bench players in the league, averaging 14 ppg in his four seasons in Denver and becoming a dangerous three-point threat. Smith has had quite a few run-ins with the law, especially regarding his driving. It came to a head when he spent 24 days in jail and was suspended for seven games when a friend of his died as a result of an accident when Smith was driving.

7. Rudy Gay: Gay, a product of Baltimore's basketball hotbed, chose to go to UConn over Maryland in a controversial bit of recruiting by the Huskies. The "Rudy Gay Clause" is a rule implemented that disallows teams to pay to scrimmage AAU programs. UConn spent $25,000 on a scrimmage against the Beltway Ballers, an AAU team from Baltimore. Gay spent two years at UConn, including the 2005-2006 season when he was the best player on a loaded Husky team that saw five players get drafted. He was the 8th pick in the 2006 draft, going to the Memphis Grizzlies. Gay has averaged around 19 ppg and 6 rpg the last three seasons, which was enough to get him a 5 year, $82 million contract from Memphis.

8. Marvin Williams: Williams went to UNC, where he came off the bench to average 11.3 ppg to help a very talented team win a national title. Williams would go on to become the second pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, going to the Atlanta Hawks. He hasn't quite developed into a star, but Williams has turned into a solid starter, averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds in his four seasons.

9. Malik Hairston: Hairston went to Oregon, where he averaged 14.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg over his four seasons there. Hairston would go on to be the 48th pick of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Spurs. In his two seasons as a pro, Hairston has bounced between the Spurs and their D-Leauge affiliate.

10. Glen Davis: Big Baby, a native of Louisiana, made a name for himself in high school when he body slammed Shaq on LSU's campus, but it was his play for the Tigers in 2006 that got him noticed by the NBA. Davis was the 2006 SEC player of the year as a sophomore, helping to lead the Tigers to the Final Four that season. He would eventually go pro, getting picked 35th by the Celtics. In his three seasons in Boston, Big Baby has turned into an important reserve, playing a role in the 2008 title and last year's trip to the Finals.

11. Randolph Morris: Morris has two claims to fame, neither of them good. He was the "other guy" on the notorious Atlanta Celtics team in 2003, joining Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. He didn't go pro out of high school, but he did after his freshman season. He didn't sign an agent, and after Morris went undrafted, he was allowed to return to school, technically as a free agent because he was not allowed to enter another draft. Five days after his Kentucky team was eliminated in his junior season in 2007, he signed with the Knicks, becoming the first player to play in the NBA and the NCAA in the same season. Unfortunately, in four professional season, Morris has yet to become a player of note.

12. Dorell Wright: Wright initially committed to DePaul before opting to go straight to the draft. He was picked by the Heat with the 19th pick. He played sparingly his first few seasons, but he did pick up a ring in 2006. Since then, Wright developed into a solid reserve for the Heat, before signing with the Warriors back in June.

13. Robert Swift: Swift, the last player in our rankings to go straight to the NBA, was drafted with the 12th in 2004 Draft by the Sonics. But he was never able to really find a role in the NBA. He played in just 97 games, partly due to injury and partly due the fact he just wasn't that good. After Oklahoma City released him in 2009, he played two games in the D-League before leaving the team for personal reasons. It looks like Swift, just 24 years old, may be done with basketball.

14. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge made an immediate impact as a freshman at Texas, but it was the 15 ppg, 9 rpg, and 2 bpg that he averaged as a sophomore that got the attention of the NBA. Aldridge was the second pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, and after Joel Pryzbilla was injured in February of Aldridge's rookie season, the Blazers started to realize just how good this kid was. Since then Aldridge has developed into a consistent 18 and 8 power forward.

15. Joe Crawford: Crawford originally committed to Michigan, but eventually headed to Kentucky where he got stuck on the bench during his freshman season. He initially asked for a release from his scholarship, but eventually decided to finish his college career in Lexington. After a solid, if unspectacular, four year career, Crawford was picked 58th by the Lakers. He's played all of two games in the NBA.

16. D.J. White: White was the Big Ten freshman of the year in 2005, but he missed 2006 with a foot injury. After returning to form as a junior, White became the Big Ten's player of the year as a senior. He would eventually get picked 29th by the Pistons in the 2008 NBA Draft, but has spent his two professional seasons with Oklahoma City. Both seasons were cut short due to surgeries.

17. Jordan Farmar: After a storied high school career in Southern California, Farmar headed to UCLA, where he was named the national freshman of the year. After an even more impressive sophomore season, which saw Farmar lead the Bruins to a Final Four, he entered the NBA Draft, where he was selected 26th by the Lakers. Farmar had four productive seasons in LA, playing a vital role of the bench and winning two titles, before signing a three year, $12 million deal with the Nets this offseason.

18. Jawann McClellan: Despite being one of the most highly touted recruits in the country. McClellan never really developed at the collegiate level, as he failed to ever average in double figures. McClellan has bounced around professional leagues since.

19. Rajon Rondo: Rondo went to Kentucky, where he spent two seasons. Many believed that Rondo was not going to be a great NBA player, and some were surprised when he was taken with the 21st pick in the 2006 draft. Nonetheless, Pheonix traded Rondo to Boston on draft day, and Rondo has since developed, alongside the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, into one of the best point guards in the NBA.

20. DeMarcus Nelson: Nelson had a storied high school career in California, becoming the state's all-time leading scorer. He played four seasons at Duke, eventually becoming a 14 point scorer as a senior. Nelson wasn't draft, but he did sign with the Warriors. He went up and down between Golden State and the D-League in 2008-2009, and after being waived by the Bulls, Nelson bounced around Europe before spending this summer with the Milwaukee Bucks in Summer League.

Other Notable 2004 Prospects:

23. Arron Afflalo: Afflalo, an LA native, was spent three seasons at UCLA, twice being named first team all-conference and, as a junior, being named Pac-10 player of the year and first team all-american. He would go 27th to the Pistons in the 2007 Draft, spending two years in Detroit before being traded to Denver, where he would move into the starting lineup.

25. Daniel Gibson: Gibson spent two seasons at Texas, twice being named third team all Big XII, before entering the draft. He would end up going 42nd to the Cavs, where he has played for four seasons.

31. Kyle Lowry: Lowry joined a Villanova back court that also included Randy Foye, Allan Ray, and Mike Nardi. After a sophomore season that saw Lowry explode onto the national scene, he went pro and was selected with the 24th pick in 2006. He spent two and a half seasons with the Rockets before being traded to Houston, where he recently signed a four year, $24 million contract.

32. Corey Brewer, 34. Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Taureen Green: Did you get it right? Brewer, Horford, Noah, and Green came into Florida as an unheralded recruiting class, playing limited minutes in their first season. As sophomores, they began the season unranked, but ran through the SEC to earn a three seed, eventually winning a national title. Noah, Horford, and Brewer all could have been lottery picks in 2006, but they decided to return to school, where they went on to win a second straight title. In the 2007 draft, Horford went third to Atlanta, Brewer went seventh to Minnesota, and Noah went ninth to Chicago. Green went 52nd, but his NBA career only lasted 17 games. He's playing in Spain and Greece.

33. AJ Price: Price had a storied high school career in New York, but it took him two years to get on the court at UConn, as he dealt with a life-threatening battle with bleeding in his brain and a punishment for stealing lap-tops. In his three seasons with the Huskies, Price eventually developed into one of the best point guards in the country. He would go 52nd to Indiana, and in his rookie season last year, he eventually became the Pacer's backup point guard.

57. Nick Young: Young had academic troubles in high school, flunking out of two schools and needing three attempts to get a qualifying score on the SATs. He eventually landed at USC, where he played three years and was twice names first team all-conference. Young would go pro in 2007, getting pick 16th by the Wizards. In three years in Washington, he worked his was into the starting lineup and has averaged 9.1 ppg.

Anthony Morrow: Morrow had an up and down college career, averaging 14.3 ppg as a sophomore and then 16.0 ppg as a senior. He would go undrafted in 2008, but he was signed by Golden State, who saw him set a record for undrafted rookies by scoring 37 points in a game. Morrow would eventually lead the league in three point shooting at 46.7%, and last seasons averaged 13.0 ppg as a part-time starter.

Toney Douglas: Douglas committed to Auburn out of high school, scoring 16.9 ppg as a freshman. But after declaring for the draft and withdrawing, he transferred to Florida State to play the point. After sitting out a season, Douglas would play three years for the 'Noles, averaging 21.4 ppg as a senior. He was picked 29th by the Lakers and traded to the Knicks, where he would start 12 games as a rookie.

Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert: Both Hibbert and Green committed to Georgetown under Craig Esherick, but never played a game for him. Fortunately, John Thompson III got the job, and his Princeton offense allowed Hibbert and Green to show off their all-around games. Green would go fifth to Oklahoma City via Boston in 2007, where he is now a 15 ppg scorer and a starter. Hibbert was picked 17th in the 2008 draft, and has become the starting center for Indiana.

Courtney Lee: Lee played at Western Kentucky, where he was a four-time all-Sun Belt first-teamer and the 2008 Player of the Year. He would eventually go 22nd in the 2008 draft to Orlando, where he had a successful rookie season. Lee was traded to the Nets, where he became a started and a double digit scorer.

Tyrus Thomas: Thomas was a late-bloomer, just 5'10" as a freshman in high school. He only played two years of high school basketball, but as he continued to grow, he became an all-state player and got offered a scholarship by LSU. Thomas redshirted his first season in Baton Rouge, but in 2005-2006 was named SEC freshman of the year after he averaged 12 points, 9 boards, and 3 blocks. He would help LSU get to the Final Four before becoming the fourth pick in the 2006 draft. Thomas has been an effective pro, averaging 10 points and 6 boards in 2008-2009 as a starter with the Bulls. Midway through last season, he was traded to Charlotte, where he resigned this offseason for a $40 million contract.

Chris Lofton: Lofton was named to multiple all-american teams his first three seasons at Tennessee, but he had a disappointing junior season. It would later come out that throughout the season, Lofton was battling testicular cancer. Only his coach and his parents knew about it. I can never get enough of that story.

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