Re-ranking recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players from the Class of 2004?

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July’s live recruiting period is right around the corner, meaning that the Class of 2016 will have a chance to truly prove themselves to the recruiters and the recruitniks around the country. Scholarships will be earned and rankings will be justified over the course of those three weekends in July.

But scholarship offers and rankings don’t always tell us who the best players in a given class will end up being. Ask Steph Curry. Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be re-ranking eight recruiting classes, from 2004-2011, based on what they have done throughout their post-high school career. 

Here are the 25 best players from the Class of 2004, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

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1. Dwight Howard (No. 1): Seven-time All-Star. Five-time First-Team All-NBA center. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I’d say he’s done alright.

2. LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 16): The No. 2 pick in 2006, Aldridge has spent his entire career in Portland, becoming one of the best power forwards in the entire world. He averaged 23.2 points and 10.2 boards this past season, but has yet to get the Blazers past the second round of the playoffs. He’s a four-time All-Star with three All-NBA appearances.

3. Rajon Rondo (No. 25): Rondo has never been the easiest player to deal with, but there’s no questioning his ability. He was the starting point guard for the 2008 NBA champion Celtics and a four-time All-Star that was routinely among league leaders in assists and steals. He was traded to Dallas in the middle of the season.

4. Joakim Noah (No. 75): After three seasons at Florida — which included back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007 — Noah was the No. 9 pick in 2007. He’s since developed into one of the best centers in the NBA, having made a pair of All-Star teams, even getting named a first-team All-NBA center in 2014.

5. Al Horford (No. 36): Like Noah, Horford went from winning back-to-back NCAA titles to going top ten in the 2007 NBA Draft. And like Noah, he’s developed into one of the best big men in the league. He’s dealt with injury issues throughout his career, but he is a three-time All-Star.

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AP Photo

6. Roy Hibbert (UR): Hibbert’s development from 7-foot-2 stiff to college star to No. 17 pick to one of the better centers in the NBA was a stunning development, as was his complete disappearance in the 2014 playoffs. Hibbert is a two-time All-Star.

7. Kyle Lowry (No. 28): Lowry was the No. 28 pick in the 2006 draft after two seasons at Villanova, but he’s developed into one of the most productive guards in the NBA in the last four years. He averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 boards last season as he made his first All-Star team.

8. Al Jefferson (No. 4): Jefferson was the 15th pick in 2004 after bypassing college and entering the NBA Draft. He’s become one of the most productive big men in the NBA, averaging 17.0 points and 9.1 boards during his 11 seasons. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.0 boards as recently as the 2013-14 season, but has managed to play in just seven playoff games since he was a rookie.

9. Jeff Green (UR): Green became an all-league player and a lottery pick after three seasons with Georgetown, going fifth in 2007. He’s averaged 14.8 points in his career, thriving as a complimentary scorer in both Boston and Oklahoma City. He finished this season with Memphis. Green missed the 2011-12 season with a heart issue.

10. Josh Smith (No. 3): Smith has been a terrific fantasy player in his career, averaging 15.1 points, 7.7 boards, 3.4 assists and 2.0 blocks in his 11 seasons. His best seasons were in Atlanta, but after being lambasted as one of the least valuable players in the NBA for Detroit, Smith was a critical midseason pickup for the Rockets as they reached the Western Conference Finals.

11. Rudy Gay (No. 5): Gay was the 8th pick in the 2006 draft after spending two years at UConn. He hasn’t averaged less than 18.2 points since his first season in the league, but he’s also managed all of seven career playoff games, all of which were during the 2011-12 season.

12. J.R. Smith (No. 9): The enigmatic Smith was the No. 18 pick in 2004, bypassing college altogether. He’s been a double-figure scorer in the NBA since his second season, but his penchant for reckless shots — both on the court and in a bar — has kept him from reaching the full potential given his talent. He’s currently with the Cavs. Smith was Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13.

13. DeMarre Carroll (No. 148): Carroll spent five years in college — two at Vandy, two and a redshirt season at Missouri — before getting picked at the end of the first round in 2009. It took him a while to find his role in the league, but he was a key piece in Atlanta’s emergence as an Eastern Conference contender the last two seasons.

14. Corey Brewer (No. 31): After winning back-to-back national titles with the Gators alongside Noah and Horford, Brewer went seventh in the 2007 NBA Draft. He’s managed to remain a starter on the wing for playoff caliber teams. Brewer was traded to Houston during the 2014-15 season and averaged 11.2 points for the Rockets during their playoff run.

15. Glen Davis (No. 13): A second round pick out of LSU in 2007, Big Baby won an NBA title with the Celtics as a rookie in 2008. He’s since blossomed into an solid role player in the NBA, spending four seasons with the Celtics before heading to Orlando. He spent this past season as a bench player with the Clippers.

16. Nick Young (UR): Young was the 17th pick out of USC in 2007. He’s always been able to score — he averaged 17.4 points for Washington in 2010-11 and 17.9 points for the Lakers in 2013-14 — but his claim to fame is his relationship with Iggy Azalea.

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17. Shaun Livingston (No. 2): Livingston was the fourth pick in the 2005 draft, skipping college. He was averaging 9.4 points and 5.3 assists as a 21-year old in his third season when he suffered one of the worst knee injuries I’ve ever seen. He won an NBA title as a back-up wing with the Warriors this season.

18. Arron Afflalo (No. 26): Afflalo lasted three seasons at UCLA before becoming the No. 27 pick in the 2007 draft. After two seasons with limited minutes in Detroit, Afflalo turned into a regular starter and excellent role player on good Denver teams. He averaged 18.2 points in 2013-14 for Orlando.

19. Rodney Stuckey (No. 131): Stuckey averaged 24.4 points and 4.8 assists over two seasons with Eastern Washington, Stuckey was the 15th pick in 2007. He caught on with the Pistons at the tail end of their reign in the mid-aughts and while he’s never been an all-star, he’s averaged double-figures for the last seven seasons and started 300 games in his career.

20. Marvin Williams (No. 11): Williams was the No. 2 pick in the draft after playing as the sixth-man on North Carolina’s 2005 national title team. He spent seven solid but unspectacular seasons with Atlanta — reaching the playoffs five times — and has since moved on to Utah and Charlotte.

21. Jordan Farmar (No. 22): Farmar’s been mostly a career back-up after being a late-first round pick by the Lakers in 2006. He best individual seasons came with the Nets and the Lakers in the last three years. This past season, he was on the Clippers, but managed just 36 games.

22. Anthony Morrow (No. 96): Morrow put up some big numbers for mediocre Georgia Tech, going undrafted in 2008. But the one thing he’s always been able to do is to shoot and score. He has averaged 10.5 points in his career, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.

23. Dorell Wright (No. 12): Wright went straight to the NBA, getting picked 19th in 2004. He’s spent much of his career being a role player and specialist, but in 2010-11, he started all 82 games and averaged 16.4 points for the Warriors.

24. Tyrus Thomas (UR): Thomas exploded onto the college scene in 2005-06 as a redshirt freshman, helping LSU to the Final Four and playing his way into a top four pick. His best season in the league came in his third year, as he averaged 10.8 points and 6.4 boards. He played two games for Memphis in 2014-15. He’s made more than $37 million in his career.

25. A.J. Price (No. 32): Price was a late-second round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, having helped UConn to a Final Four after missing two seasons due to a serious health issue and a run-in with the law. He played for three different NBA teams in 2014-15.

NOTABLES

Sebatian Telfair (No. 6)
Randolph Morris (No. 10)
Robert Swift (No. 14)
D.J. White (No. 15)
Daniel Gibson (No. 29)
Greg Stiemsma (No. 45)
Toney Douglas (No. 66)

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.