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:

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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)

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
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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

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.