Re-ranking the recruiting classes: Who are the 25 best players in the Class of 2008?

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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 2008, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

 (Paul George/Getty Images)

READ MOREThe complete Re-ranking the Classes series

1. Paul George (UR) – From unranked to a two-time All-NBA third-team selection, George has become one of the NBA’s best two-way players and a star on the wing. Also making two All-Defense selections and two all-star games, hopefully George can return to full strength from the gruesome leg injury suffered during the USA Basketball scrimmage last August.

2. Damian Lillard (UR) – Another unranked player who has become one of the faces of the NBA, Lillard is a two-time all-star himself and earned third-team All-NBA honors in 2014. After four years at Weber State, Lillard was ready to produce immediately at the NBA level and he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2013.

3. Klay Thompson (51) – The only member of the re-ranked top 25 to be initially ranked, Thompson earned an NBA title, third-team All-NBA recoginition and a spot in the All-Star Game in 2015. During a breakout 2014-15, Thompson set an NBA record with 37 points and nine 3-pointers in one quarter against the Kings.

4. Nikola Vucevic (UR) – Playing with the Orlando Magic, Vucevic had a breakout fourth season and took a step forward as one of the league’s best offensive big men. Already a dynamic rebounder, Vucevic also shot 52 percent from the field as a primary scoring option last season.

5. Gordon Hayward (UR) – The multi-faceted Hayward has had two consecutive very good campaigns and improved his shooting percentages in 2014-15. If Hayward continues to stay consistent, he has a chance to be a potential All-Star.

6. Greg Monroe (8) –Earning a recent big contract from the Milwaukee Bucks, Monroe averaged a double-double at 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season and he’s also a good passer with quick hands for a big man.

7. Draymond Green (122) –One of the breakout performers of this past season, Green thrived in Steve Kerr’s new system and put up his best all-around numbers (11.7 pts, 8.2 reb, 3.7 ast, 1.6 stls, 1.3 blks) and also earned first-team All-Defense honors.

8. Demar DeRozan (3) – The first one-and-done on the list, DeRozan has turned into an all-star two-guard, capable of big scoring numbers. Also a member of the USA Basketball team in 2014, DeRozan has helped lead the Raptors into one of the better teams in the East.

9. Jrue Holiday (2) – Ben Howland didn’t find the best way to use Holiday in his brief time at UCLA, but at point guard, Holiday has thrived and made an all-star appearance in 2013. Battling injury since his best season, Holiday has struggled at times to regain that form in New Orleans.

source: Getty Images
(Klay Thompson/NBAE/Getty Images)

10. Brandon Jennings (4) – Jennings famously played his lone season before the NBA in overseas instead of college and he’s carved out a nice career so far with the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. Through half of the 2014-15 season, Jennings was off to a great start before a season-ending Achilles’ injury set him back.

11. Tyreke Evans (6) – Coming out of the gate strong, Evans was Rookie of the Year in 2010 before his scoring numbers and efficiency numbers took a dip. Still a consistent threat with the ball in his hands, Evans has good career numbers and is a steady performer in New Orleans.

12. Kemba Walker (14) – Walker has averaged over 17 points per game the last three seasons, but his shooting percentages took a dip this season as Charlotte missed the playoffs.

13. Isaiah Thomas (92) – The final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Thomas has carved his niche as a small scoring guard. Thomas played a big part in the Boston Celtics making the playoffs after being traded there mid-season.

RELATED: Re-ranking the classes 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007

14. Markieff Morris (49) – Playing all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns last season, Morris saw career bests in points, rebounds, assists and steals and stretches the floor at forward.

15. Reggie Jackson (115) – After being traded to Detroit, Jackson put up big numbers in Stan Van Gundy’s offense, averaging 17.6 points, 9.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in 27 games for the Pistons.

16. Marcus Morris (29) – Though he had the better career at Kansas than brother Markieff, Marcus hasn’t had as much of an impact at the NBA level. A valuable role player, Marcus was traded to the Pistons this week.

17. Iman Shumpert (39) – More defensive-oriented than offense, the former McDonald’s All-American showed flashes of offensive play in the NBA Playoffs playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

18. Ed Davis (15) – As a career reserve forward, Davis has been a really good energy guy off the bench, collecting rebounds and scoring at a high percentage. Davis signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers this week.

19. Al-Farouq Aminu (7) –Aminu has been a durable role player on the wing who can rebound and defend. Playing with the Clippers, Hornets and Mavericks, Aminu also signed with the Portland Trail Blazers this week.

(Damian Lillard/AP Photo)

20. Tyler Zeller (33) – In the best season of his brief career, Zeller looked like a rotation big man for the Boston Celtics, averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

21. Jae Crowder (UR) – Another Celtic who had a very good season as a reserve, Crowder thrived playing for Brad Stevens, as he had career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals last season.

22. Miles Plumlee (101) – After a very good 2014-15 season for the Phoenix Suns, the oldest Plumlee never regained that form last season with the Suns and Bucks.

23. Kent Bazemore (UR) – An outstanding wing defender, Bazemore showed more of a scoring tough as a Laker and has become a valuable role player for the Atlanta Hawks.

24. Kyle O’Quinn (UR) – Through the first three seasons of his NBA career, O’Quinn has played double-digit minutes in every season and improved enough to be a bit of a stretch option for the Orlando Magic.

25. Shelvin Mack (UR) – Playing as a reserve guard for the Hawks, Mack has been tough on the defensive end to go along with steady numbers as a floor general.

Byron Mullens (1)
Samardo Samuels (9)
Willie Warren (10)
Devin Ebanks (11)
Chris Singleton (12)
Elliot Williams (16)
DeAndre Liggins (28)
Trey Thompkins (30)
Luke Babbitt (31)
Jeff Withey (36)
Darius Miller (42)
Henry Sims (48)
Jeff Taylor (52)
Larry Drew (71)
Tyshawn Taylor (77)
Quincy Acy (84)
Kim English (111)
Travis Leslie (116)
Demetri Goodson (132)
Terrelle Pryor (UR)
Bernard James (UR)
Jorge Gutierrez (UR)
Andrew Nicholson (UR)

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.