Re-ranking the recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players from the Class of 2006?

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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 2006, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

READ MOREThe complete Re-ranking the Classes series

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1. Kevin Durant (2): This is an easy choice. After spending one season at Texas (25.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg), Durant has developed into one of the best players in all of basketball and won NBA MVP honors in 2014. Durant’s also won a scoring title (2010) and played in the NBA Finals for the Thunder.

2. Stephen Curry (NR): Curry was a mere afterthought in most recruiting circles, as much wasn’t made of his decision to attend Davidson. Three years later, however, the sharpshooter was a key figure in their Elite 8 run in 2008 and a lottery pick the following year. Now, there are questions as to whether or not the reigning NBA MVP is the greatest shooter of all time.

3. Russell Westbrook (NR): Westbrook went from being a late addition to UCLA’s 2006 recruiting class to be a lottery pick within the space of two seasons in Westwood. From there he’s paired up with Durant to form one of the NBA’s best tandems, and with the former MVP out due to injury this season Westbrook put together a stretch of four straight triple-doubles.

RELATED: Re-ranking the Class of 2004 | and the Class of 2005

4. Brook Lopez (10): Brook and twin Robin were both impact players at Stanford, helping to lead the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 in 2008. From there Lopez has been a quality center in the NBA, averaging 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the Nets. Lopez was an All-Star in 2013 (injury replacement for Rajon Rando).

5. Mike Conley Jr. (18): Conley spent just one season in college but it was a good one, as he helped lead Ohio State to the national title game where they lost to Florida. Since then Conley’s (13.4 ppg, 5.6 apg for his career) developed into one of the top point guards in all of basketball, and all that stopped him from being an All-Star with Memphis this past season was how loaded the West is at the point.

6. Ty Lawson (9): Lawson won a national title on a team led by Tyler Hansbrough in 2009, and during that season he was also named ACC Player of the Year and a second team all-American. Outside of a brief stint in Lithuania during the 2011-12 season due to the NBA lockout Lawson’s spent his entire career in Denver, where he averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists per game last season.

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7. Greivis Vasquez (46): Vasquez put together an excellent four-year run at Maryland, where he became the first player in ACC history to compile at least 2,000 points, 700 rebounds and 600 assists in a career. He’s played for four different franchises in the NBA since 2010, and thanks to a trade from Toronto to Milwaukee on draft night that number will grow to five next season.

8. Taj Gibson (32): Gibson put together a good three-year career at USC, earning Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors in 2007 and winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009. From there he was a first-round selection of the Chicago Bulls, and he’s carved out a nice career for himself in the Windy City. Gibson averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season.

9. Thaddeus Young (5): The Memphis native averaged 14.4 points per game in his lone season at Georgia Tech, and while he’s played for multiple teams in the NBA Young has been a solid pro. Wednesday morning it was reported that he’s re-upped with the Nets on a four-year, $50 million deal.

10. Gerald Henderson Jr. (11): Henderson played three seasons at Duke, earning first team All-ACC honors as a junior. From there it was off the Charlotte, where in six years as a pro he’s averaged 12.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

11. Ryan Anderson (98): The 6-foot-10 forward led the Pac-10 in scoring as a sophomore (21.6 ppg), and he’s put together a solid career as a pro as well. In six seasons, Anderson’s averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for three franchises.

12. D.J. Augustin (49): Augustin played two seasons at Texas, averaging 16.9 points and 6.2 assists per contest on the Forty Acres. In the NBA he’s been productive despite suiting up for five franchises after playing his first four seasons in Charlotte. Augustin’s averaging 10.0 points and 4.1 assists per contest in nine seasons as a professional.

13. Spencer Hawes (6): Like a few other players on this list Hawes played one season of college basketball (Washington) before moving on to the NBA. Picked tenth overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Hawes (who was traded to Charlotte last month) is averaging 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds as a pro.

14. Robin Lopez (28): While twin brother Brook has been the more polished offensive piece, Robin’s been a valuable defender at the NBA level. After his two seasons at Stanford, Lopez has bounced around some but his interior presence has made the Fresno native a valuable commodity on the free agent market (which opened at 12:01 am today).

15. Patrick Beverley (65): Beverley’s career at Arkansas ended after his sophomore season due to an academic issue, and since then he’s been a solid pro both overseas and now in the NBA. Currently a free agent, Beverley averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in Houston before injuring his knee this past season.

16. Jodie Meeks (39): Meeks was a four-star recruit entering Kentucky, and by the time he left Lexington he made 177 three-pointers and held the school record for points in a game (54) and made three-pointers in a game (10). Since then Meeks has played for five NBA teams, averaging 9.9 points per game.

17. Jordan Hill (NR): In three seasons at Arizona, Hill went from being a three-star prospect to a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. His misfortune was being picked by the dysfunctional Knicks, where he languished on the bench before being traded to Houston in 2010. Hill’s best years have come with the Lakers, where he averaged 12.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this past season.

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18. Marreese Speights (51): Speights was a role player on Florida’s 2007 national title team, and as a sophomore he averaged 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. From there it was on to the NBA, where he’s averaging 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in six seasons (he won the NBA title with Curry last month).

19. Wayne Ellington (8): A national champion as a junior, Ellington’s bounced around since playing his first three seasons in the NBA in Minnesota. Ellington averaged ten points per game this past season for the Lakers, his fourth team in the last four years.

20. Hasheem Thabeet (NR): Opinions on the 7-foot-3 Thabeet varied before he joined the UConn program. In three seasons in Storrs emerged as a dominant defensive presence and helped lead the team to the Final Four in 2009. Thabeet was picked second in the 2009 NBA Draft, and his pro career did not pan out.

21. Sherron Collins (21): Collins’ pass to Mario Chalmers led to the three-pointer that sent the 2008 national title game (which Kansas ultimately won) to overtime, and from there he enjoyed a productive career at KU. Collins was a two-time consensus all-american (second team in 2009, first team in 2010).

22. Luke Harangody (104): Now playing in Spain, Harangody was an outstanding player for Mike Brey at Notre Dame. After earning Big East All-Rookie Team honors as a freshman, Harangody was a first team All-Big East selection three straight years and Player of the Year as a sophomore. Also of note: he is the first (and only) player to lead the conference in both scoring and rebounding in consecutive years (2008 and 2009).

23. Da’Sean Butler (147): Butler put together a very good career at West Virginia, where he developed into a first-team All-Big East selection as a senior and helped lead the Mountaineers to the Final Four. Unfortunately a knee injury suffered in their loss to eventual champion Duke didn’t help his NBA prospects, and since being taken in the second round that year by the Heat he’s played most of his career overseas.

24. Trevor Booker (NR): Booker earned All-ACC honors in each of his last two seasons at Clemson, landing on the second team in 2009 and the first team in 2010. Since then he’s played four seasons in Washington and one in Utah, averaging 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

25. Greg Oden (1): This spot is going to take some heat due to Oden’s injury-plagued pro career. But that shouldn’t lead to forgetting just how dominant he was both as a high school player in Indianapolis and during his one season at Ohio State. Hopefully he can get back into the NBA and be a contributor in the near future.


Brandan Wright (3)
Chase Budinger (4)
Javaris Crittenton (7)
Derrick Caracter (25)
Lance Thomas (42)
Quincy Pondexter (48)
Donald Sloan (55)
Trevon Hughes (58)
Jarvis Varnado (62)
Jon Scheyer (71)
Edger Sosa (74)
Scottie Reynolds (76)
Tweety Carter (91)
Nic Wise (120)
J.T. Tiller (136)
Lazar Hayward (NR)
Omar Samhan (NR)
Ishmael Smith (NR)

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.