Re-ranking Recruiting Classes: Who are the 25 best players from the Class of 2009?

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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:

source:
Kawhi Leonard (Getty Images)

READ MOREThe complete Re-ranking the Classes series

1. Kawhi Leonard (No. 48): Leonard was a star in Southern California in high school but overlooked by the bigger programs in the state because he was a tweener — a power forward in a shooting guard’s body. He ended up getting picked 15th in the 2011 draft after two seasons at San Diego State, quickly becoming a full-time starter and one of the NBA’s best — and most underrated — players. And he just turned 24.

2. John Wall (No. 1): Wall’s ascension came during the summer before his senior season in college, as he became the nation’s top recruit, spending one season as Kentucky before going No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft. He’s always been able to put up numbers, but it wasn’t until the last two seasons where he was able to get the Wizards to the NBA Playoffs. This year, a broken wrist might have cost him a trip to the conference finals.

3. DeMarcus Cousins (No. 2): Cousins averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 boards, 3.6 assists and 1.7 blocks for the Kings last season. He’s a top five talent in the NBA. He’s also never played in a playoff game. I believe “enigmatic” is the PC word to use here.

4. Khris Middleton (No. 140): Middleton played three seasons at Texas A&M before heading off to the NBA. He was a second round pick that played 27 games with Detroit as a rookie. Then, after joining the Bucks, he found his groove, becoming a starting wing that averaged 13.4 points this past season. He just inked a deal with $70 million over the next five years.

5. Derrick Favors (No. 3): Favors has grown into being one of the better young power forwards in the NBA. Still just 23 years old, he averaged 16.0 points and 8.2 boards for the Jazz this past season. Favors was the No. 3 pick in the 2010 draft after playing one season at Georgia Tech.

RELATED: Re-ranking the classes 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008

6. Eric Bledsoe (No. 23): Bledsoe was impressive enough in his one season at Kentucky to get picked 11th in the 2010 NBA Draft. After three seasons backing up Chris Paul with the Clippers, he was traded to the Suns in the deal that brought J.J. Redick to LA. The last two years, he’s averaged 17 points, six assists and five boards.

source: Getty Images
John Wall (Getty Images)

7. Avery Bradley (No. 4): Bradley was underwhelming during his one season at Texas, but it didn’t keep the Celtics from snagging him with the 11th pick in the 2010 draft. He became a starter in his second season and has thrived under Brad Stevens, as he averaged 13.9 points this past season.

8. Mason Plumlee (No. 55): Plumlee was a four-year player at Duke, becoming an all-american during his senior season. He was picked 22nd in the 2013 draft and developed into a starting center for Brooklyn and a member of Team USA at the 2014 World Cup. He’s since been traded to Portland in the deal that brought Steve Blake and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to NYC.

9. Alec Burks (UR): Burks came out of nowhere to turn into a first round pick after two seasons with Colorado. He was averaging 13.9 points as a full-time starter with the Jazz this past year before a shoulder injury ended his season.

10. Lance Stephenson (No. 11): It took Born Ready a while to find a role above the high school level. He ended up at Cincinnati for his one-and-done season and was picked 40th in the 2010 draft. He was a bit player for two years with the Pacers before becoming a key piece during the 2013-14 season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 boards and 4.6 assists. He signed with Charlotte for this season, but had a disappointing year.

11. Hassan Whiteside (No. 87): Whiteside went one-and-done after his freshman season at Marshall, but was a second round pick. He played just 19 games with the Kings his first two seasons in the league, then spent two years overseas. But in 2014-15, he made his was back to the NBA and ended up as the starting center for the Miami Heat, averaging 11.8 points, 10.0 boards and 2.6 blocks. Was that a fluke-year?

12. C.J. McCollum (UR): McCollum had a sensational career at Lehigh, becoming an all-american sparking an upset of No. 2 seed Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament. He was the No. 10 pick in the 2013 draft and has since found a role with the Blazers off the bench. He averaged 17.0 points for Portland in the playoffs this season.

13. Kelly Olynyk (UR): After two years in a bench role and a redshirt junior season, Olynyk exploded on the scene as an all-american in his fourth year at Gonzaga. He’d go on to become a lottery pick and a key piece for the Celtics as they reached the playoffs this season. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 boards in his second season in the league.

14. John Henson (No. 5): Henson spent three seasons at North Carolina before turning pro. He was the 14th pick in 2012 and has gone on to become a key front court piece on one of the more promising young teams in the NBA. This past season, he averaged 7.0 points, 4.7 boards and 2.0 blocks in just over 18 minutes.

15. Derrick Williams (UR): Williams went from under-recruited to an all-american in two seasons at Arizona, getting picked second in the 2011 NBA Draft. His career in the NBA has been less-than-stellar through four seasons, as he’s never played for a winning team and has yet to average more than 12.0 points or 5.5 boards in a single season.

source: Getty Images
C.J. McCollum finishes over Miles Plumlee (Getty Images)

16. Thomas Robinson (No. 31): It took him three years to develop at Kansas, but as a junior, Robinson became a first-team all-american and the No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft. In the last three years, he’s bounced around to a handful of teams and has yet to find his role in the NBA. He’s still just 24 years old.

17. Isaiah Canaan (UR): After a two-year run as an all-american at Murray State, Canaan was a second round pick in 2013. He’s last two years in the league, starting 21 games this past season. He was the piece Houston traded to Philly for K.J. McDaniels this season.

18. Solomon Hill (No. 27): Hill spent four seasons at Arizona before getting picked late in the first round by the Indiana Pacers. He ended up starting 78 games this past season, his second in the NBA.

19. Ryan Kelly (No. 20): It took a couple of seasons, but Kelly eventually blossomed into a productive player at the college level. It was his foot injury that played a major role in Duke’s upset loss to No. 15 seed Lehigh in 2012. He’s lasted two years in the NBA as a part-time starter with the Lakers.

20. Greg Smith (No. 93): A college teammate of Paul George at Fresno State, Smith has lasted four seasons in the league as a big body off the bench. He played 70 games in 2012-13 with Houston.

21. Hollis Thompson (No. 63): Thompson, who played three years at Georgetown before turning pro, has been a productive bench player for the last two seasons with Philly.

22. Jordan Hamilton (No. 6): Hamilton lasted two seasons at Texas before heading to the professional ranks. He’s bounced between the NBA and the D-League for the last four years, latching on with the Clippers for 14 games in 2014-15.

23. Xavier Henry (No. 8): Henry was the No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft after spending one season at Kansas. His best season came in 2013-14 with the Lakers, when he averaged 10.0 points in 43 games.

24. Mike Muscala (UR): Muscala was a second round pick in 2013 after a terrific career at Bucknell, and while he’s played just 60 games in two seasons in the NBA, he’s seemingly found a role as a stretch-four for the Atlanta Hawks.

25. Royce White (No. 19): White has an insane amount of ability, as we saw in 2011-12 when he averaged 13.9 points, 9.3 boards and 5.0 assists for Iowa State, leading him to get picked 16th in the 2012 draft. That was the only season where he actually played a full year since leaving high school.

NOTABLES

Renardo Sidney (No. 16)
Demetrius Walker (No. 115)
John Jenkins (No. 15)
Tyler Haws (No. 145)
Peyton Siva (No. 39)
Daniel Orton (No. 22)
Michael Snaer (No. 7)
Cory Jefferson (No. 51)
Travis Wear (No. 60)
Jared Cunningham (N0. 76)
Darius Morris (No. 77)
Erik Murphy (No. 79)
Tim Frazier (No. 109)
Nate Wolters (UR)
Erick Green (UR)

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.