Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Looking Back: Re-ranking the 2005 recruiting classes

Last summer, we ran a series called Looking Back where we went through past recruiting classes to see how the players from those classes developed.


Well, for starters, it was a fun and interesting thing to do. You're not interested in the fact that Josh McRoberts and Gerald Green were once considered the best high school basketball players in the country? Its also an interesting way to keep fans from getting too excited when a top 25 recruit pledges to their school. Projecting the long-term ability of 17 year old hoopers is an inexact science, and never is that more evident than when you look back at past recruiting rankings.

This summer, we are going to go back through the Team Rankings. In other words, we want to see if the team that the pundits said had the best recruiting class really did have the best recruiting class. The science here will be a bit inexact. For starters, its tough to find consistent rankings. Rivals has them dating back to 2003, Scout to 2005, and ESPN to 2007. Its also tough to determine exactly what players had what effect on a given season. Did UConn's 2007 recruiting class -- which featured Donnell Beverly and, well, Donnell Beverly -- really have much influence on the 2011 national title?

For our purposes, we will be looking at the success that each member of each program's recruiting class had individually in college as well as the success that the team at while those players were member of the program. Like I said, it will be inexact, but inexact science makes for better arguments. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section.

Re-ranking the 2003 recruiting classes

Re-ranking the 2004 recruiting classes

Re-ranking the 2005 recruiting classes:

1. North Carolina (Rivals: 5, Scout: 4): Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor, Dewey Burke, Surry Wood, Thomas Wilkins, Will Robinson, and Michael Copeland

This crop of Tar Heels was as successful as any group in recent memory. After winning the 2005 title and losing Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton, and Marvin Williams to the NBA, not much was expected out of the 2005-2006 team. But they finished 22-7 and second in the ACC, making the second round of the NCAA Tournament. From then on, this group won at least a share of the next three regular season titles, the 2007 and 2008 ACC Tournament titles, the Elite 8 in 2007, the Final Four in 2008, and the national title in 2009. Everyone knows what happened with Hansbrough. He was the first freshman to make 1st team all-ACC and never looked back, becoming a perennial all-american, a national player of the year, and one of the best college basketball players of all-time. Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard, who were both role players as freshman, became key starters by the end of their career while Bobby Frasor was a spot-up shooter and change of pace point guard for four years.

2. Kansas (Rivals: 1, Scout: 1): Mario Chalmers, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Micah Downs, and Matt Kleinmann

With Kansas graduating the likes of Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, and Aaron Miles in 2005, Chalmers, Wright, and Rush all played significant roles as freshman (Downs did as well, but he transferred to Gonzaga midway through his freshman season). All three of the players entered the NBA Draft by 2008, but in those three years, they were quite successful, winning at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title and the Big 12 tournament title every season. Wright entered the draft in 2007 and was picked in the lottery. Rush did as well, but he tore his acl during the workout process and had to come back to school as a junior. It was a blessing in disguise, as both Chalmers and Rush were starters on the Jayhawk's 2008 national title team. Rush was a first round pick in 2008 while Chalmers went in the second round but has become a key piece for the Miami Heat.

3. UCLA (Rivals: 16, Scout: 13): Darren Collison, Alfred Aboya, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Michael Roll, DeAndre Robinson, Kelvin Kim, Nican Robinson, and Ryan Wright

This recruiting class entered the UCLA program as the Bruins were experiencing a resurgence under Ben Howland. In their first three seasons in Westwood, the Bruins won the Pac-10 regular season title (and the tournament title in 2006 and 2008) and advanced to the Final Four, making the title game in 2006. Mbah a Moute was a starter from the minute he set foot on campus, while Collison was Jordan Farmar's back-up and Roll, Wright, and Aboya were all key bench players. With Farmar entering the draft in 2006, Collison moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and slowly developed into one of the best point guards in the country by his senior season. Mbah a Moute entered the draft after his junior season, becoming a starter for the Bucks despite being a second round pick. Roll and Aboya became starters by their senior season. Wright transferred to Oklahoma after his sophomore season.

4. Memphis (Rivals: 7, Scout: 6): Robert Dozier, Shawne Williams, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson, Kareem Cooper, Andre Allen, Chance McGrady, Travis Long, Jared Sandridge, and Ricky Sanchez

Half of this recruiting class -- Dozier, Williams, Cooper, and Allen -- were members of the 2005 recruiting class, but didn't end up playing with the Tigers after failing to qualify. The core of this group may have been the winningest recruiting class of all-time, going 149-15 overall and an astounding 73-1 in Conference USA play and winning both the league's regular season and tournament titles all four years. They made two Elite 8's, one Sweet 16, and the 2008 National Title game. Williams only lasted one season with the Tigers, entering the 2006 NBA Draft. Dozier and Anderson became all-league caliber players by their senior seasons while Douglas-Roberts became an all-american in 2008, entering the NBA Draft. Allen was the only other player from the class to get significant minutes with the Tigers as the back-up point guard, but his career ended in 2008 after failing a drug test during the NCAA Tournament.

5. St. Mary's (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Omar Samhan, Diamon Simpson, Ian O'Leary, and Wayne Hunter

Since Randy Bennett took over the St. Mary's program, the Gaels have been on a steady rise. But this class, as much as any in his tenure, keyed the surge that allowed them to challenge Gonzaga (and now BYU, I guess) as the premiere program in the West Coast Conference. The only player from this group to actually experience any kind of WCC title was Omar Samhan, who redshirted his first season in Moraga and was the centerpiece of the team that won the WCC Tournament title in 2010. But they finished second in the regular season in four of those five year (third in the other). Wayne Hunter (two years) and Ian O'Leary (four years) were key role players during their careers. Diamon Simpson had an immediate impact as a freshman before becoming a double-double machine forming one half of the best front court out west. The other half was Omar Samhan, who graduated in 2010 as one of the best true centers in college basketball. The Gaels qualified for both the 2009 and 2010 NCAA Tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2010 while knocking off No. 2 seed Villanova.

6. Marquette (Rivals: 22, Scout: 14): Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Jamil Lott, and Matt Mortensen

This recruiting class didn't hang banners for the Golden Eagles, although they did have quite a bit of team success. After winning 20 games as freshmen, this group won at least 24 games their last three seasons. they never finished below fifth in the Big East standings and made the NCAA Tournament all four years. They won their first round game in both the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Tournaments. What makes this class so impressive is just how good James, McNeal, and Matthews ended up being. All three started for their four seasons at Marquette. James was one of the best point guards in the conference throughout his career despite having his last two seasons slowed with injuries and shooting woes. Jerel McNeal was a double digit scorer throughout his career and developed into one of the best all-around players in the country as a senior, getting the nod as the Big East player of the year according to us. The least heralded player of the group was Matthews, but he's gone on to have the best professional career.

7. Villanova (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark, Dwayne Anderson, Bilal Benn, and Frank Tchuisi

This crop of recruits joined the Wildcats at the peak of the Villanova program during the 2000's. As freshmen, Cunningham, Clark, and Anderson were all key bench players for the Big East regular season co-champions, a team that lost to national champion Florida in the Elite 8. The next two year, all three slowly saw their minutes and value to the program increase, but the Wildcats to find that same level of success as a team. They finished in the middle of the back in the Big East both seasons, although they did reach the Sweet 16 in 2008. As seniors, Cunningham became a star for Villanova as a face-up four while Clark and Anderson were the versatile, defensive-minded forwards that allowed the Wildcats to succeed. That team finished fourth in an absolutely loaded Big East (the three teams above them in the standings were all No. 1 seeds) and advanced to the Final Four. Cunningham would end up getting drafted.

8. Pitt (Rivals: 24, Scout: 23): Sam Young, Levance Fields, Tyrell Biggs, and Doyle Hudson

As with the rest of the Big East schools on this list, the accolades and the banners that were hung by Pitt during the tenure of this recruiting class won't be all that impressive due to the fact that they entered college just as the Big East changed to 16 teams and became the nation's premiere college hoops league. This group only won one Big East championship -- the tournament title in 2008 -- but they were a No. 1 seed in 2009 and won at least one game in four different NCAA Tournaments. They also made the 2007 Sweet 16 and the 2009 Elite 8. Biggs was a career role player for the Panthers and Hudson transferred out of the program, but Young and Fields both became stars. Young was a reserve power forward his first two seasons before moving to the wing as a junior and becoming one of the best small forwards in the country his last two seasons. Fields moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and by his senior year was the best distributor in the Big East and one of the premiere point guards in the country.

9. Syracuse (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Arinze Onuaku, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins

Devendorf was the jewel of this recruiting class, and he played like it as a freshman, starting alongside Gerry McNamara for a team that made one of the most memorable runs through the Big East Tournament. After losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Orange would -- somewhat controversially -- miss the tournament the next two seasons. Onuaku missed the 2006-2007 season with a knee injury, but Devendorf became a star for the Orange while Rautins became a valuable shooter. In 2007-2008, both Devendorf and Rautins would miss the season with knee injuries while it was Onuaku's turn to move into the starting lineup. In 2008-2009, with all three players technically juniors, the Orange would return to the NCAA Tournament and make the Sweet 16. Devendorf went pro after the season, bouncing around basketball's minor leagues, while Onuaku and Rautins came back and played vital roles for the Orange's 2010 Big East regular season championship team. Rautins would eventually get picked in the second round of the draft.

10. Baylor (Rivals: 11, Scout: 18): Henry Dugat, Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers, Muhammad Kone, and Jari Vanntaja

Scott Drew's 2005 recruiting class at Baylor didn't hang any banners. Hell, they only managed to make one NCAA Tournament, in 2008. But what they did was take a Baylor program that was still reeling from the the scandal in 2003 -- when Dave Bliss tried to frame Brian Dennehy as a drug-dealer after he was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson to cover up the illicit benefits he was providing -- and lay the groundwork for the program that Baylor is today, one that competes for the top recruits in the country and one that made the 2010 Elite 8. Jerrells, Dugat, and Rogers started throughout their careers. Jerrells was the best of the bunch, developing into one of the best point guards in the country by his senior season, while Dugat and Rogers averaged double-figures for their careers.

11. VCU (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Eric Maynor

12. West Virginia (Rivals: NR, Scout: NR): Joe Alexander, Alex Ruoff, Nate Tallman, Josh Sowards, and Sean Martini

13. Notre Dame (Rivals: 18, Scout: 18): Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller, and Zac Hillesland

14. Wisconsin (Rivals: NR, Scout: 20): Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, DeAaron Williams, Devin Barry, Morris Cain, and Kevin Gulkison

15. Washington (Rivals: 4, Scout: 16): Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, and Artem Wallace

The most disappointing classes:

- Duke (Rivals: 3, Scout: 2): Greg Paulus, Josh McRoberts, Eric Boateng, Jamal Boykin, and Martynas Pocius

This group never lived up to their lofty expectations. Josh McRoberts, who along with Gerald Green was considered one of the two best players in the high school class, never appeared tough enough to play major college basketball and left school after his sophomore season to enter the draft. Greg Paulus had a better-that-you-think collegiate career, but was bumped from the starting lineup as a senior for Nolan Smith. Pocius was a career reserve that could never really crack the rotation, while Boykin and Boateng transferred to Cal and Arizona State, respectively.

- Oklahoma State (Rivals: 2, Scout: 3): Byron Eaton, Mario Boggan, Gerald Green, Roderick Flemings, Terrell Harris, Jamaal Brown, Keith Brumbaugh, Kenneth Cooper, and Torre Johnson

For how hyped this group was, the Cowboys had minimal success with them. Two of the three five-stars recruits never played a game for Pokes. Gerald Green entered the NBA Draft while Keith Brumbaugh had a series of arrests before eventually starring at a JuCo and entering the 2009 NBA Draft. Roderck Flemings played one season and transferred to Hawaii. Kenneth Cooper played two years and transferred to Louisiana Tech and then UAB. Jamaal Brown lasted just one season with the Cowboys. Mario Boggans, a transfer via Florida and a JuCo, had two very good years for the Cowboys but was never able to get them to the NCAA Tournament. Byron Eaton did as a senior, when he was one of the best point guards in the Big 12. Terrell Harris was a solid scorer throughout his career. But with the amount of talent Oklahoma State signed, one NCAA Tournament from this group was a major disappointment.

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