Semaj Christon and Grant Jerrett headline this year’s biggest risers

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See the rest of our posts on the Consensus 2012 Recruiting Rankings here.

I know what the numbers say, but calling Jakarr Sampson the biggest riser in the Class of 2012 is a bit disingenuous.

Players reclassifying is not a new phenomenon. Aaron Thomas, who checks in at second on the list of biggest risers in our Consensus Recruiting Rankings, was also originally in the Class of 2011. But Sampson didn’t voluntarily reclassify like Thomas did. He was forced to return to Brewster Academy for a prep year because he — along with Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett — was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.

Sampson wasn’t in the Class of 2012 rankings last July because he wasn’t in the Class of 2012. That change isn’t the result of an improvement in his game.

The same can be said for Steven Adams.

The future Pitt Panther as been widely regarded as a potential lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft for quite a while, but he only came to the United States in January of this year. The uncertainty surrounding his enrollment at Notre Dame Prep led to some outlets keeping out of their rankings last July, while the ones that did rank him had him in the top ten. So while the numbers may say that Adams has made an unbelievable improvement over the course of the school year, the fact of the matter is that his adjustment to American basketball hasn’t been ideal.

Here is a breakdown of the Class of 2012’s 26 highest risers (and to see the rest of the Consensus Class of 2012 Rankings, click here):

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Not everyone on this list is the benefactor of fluky numbers.

Take Semaj Christon as an example. He’s the perfect example of the benefit of exposure.

Christon, a point guard that ranks 47th in our Consensus Rankings (and who would rank much higher if ESPN’s Dave Telep ranked prep players), is a fifth-year player at Brewster Academy. He spent his high school years playing in Cincinnati and traveling the AAU circuit with the Cincinnati Knights, which isn’t a big time program. Combined with the fact that he was a bit of a late-bloomer, and Christon’s ranking suffered from the fact that he simply hadn’t been seen by the right people.

That wasn’t the case at Brewster.

“When he played at Brewster, he was surrounded by a ton of talent and people saw him play all the time,” CBSSports.com’s recruiting analyst Jeff Borzello said. “It was just clear how good he really was. We saw him consistently play really, really well against really good competition. I think that helped him. And it’s a weak point guard class, and when you compare him to other guys in the class, he deserved the higher ranking.”

That’s the key to earning a high-ranking. Playing your best against the best competition in front of people that matter. Therein lies the value of the major AAU tournaments and high school events. It gets the best teams in the same place at the same time, which is a cheap way for talent evaluators to see a high-number of players.

The problem is that it’s not possible for every elite talent to get to all — or any — or these events.

“I want to see these kids as much as I can,” Scout.com’s Evan Daviels said. “If I have it my way, I’ll get to watch the kid over a long period of time. There are certain kids I’ve seen since they were freshmen. I mean, that’s how I prefer. To wtch their development over the course of their four years. Unfortunately, there are kids that aren’t at the big camps and you don’t get to see a ton and you may only get to see once or twice.”

There is a downside to the kids that make their way to each and every high-profile event.

“The first few times you see a kid, you try to find his strengths,” Borzello said. “But as you see them more and more, you try and pick their game apart. … You don’t want to oversaturate yourself where you start focusing on weaknesses.”

And, according to Borzello, that’s a problem that Grant Jerrett ran into. He had a presence on the summer circuit, and  evaluators started to pick apart his game more and more. Instead of focusing on what he can do, they were nitpicking at the things he couldn’t do.

But Jerrett, who climbed 19 spots to ninth in the final Consensus Rankings, simply kept playing and kept playing well.

“This year, you saw what he does well, and he does a lot of things really well,” Borzello said. “He played well in big tournaments. When you play great against another really good opponent in front of 10 or 15 ranking sites, people are going to remember that more than the way he played last July.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.