Re-ranking Recruiting Classes: Who are the 25 best players in the Class of 2011?

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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 2011, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

source:
Anthony Davis (AP Photo)

READ MOREThe complete Re-ranking the Classes series

1. Anthony Davis (2): This is an easy choice. Davis was the Most Outstanding Player on Kentucky’s national title team in 2012 and then picked first overall by New Orleans in the 2012 NBA Draft. He hasn’t slowed down either, emerging as one of the top players in the NBA and leading the Pelicans to the playoffs this past season.

2. Bradley Beal (4): Like Davis, Beal spent one season playing in the SEC as he was part of a Florida team that reached the Elite Eight. From there it was off to Washington, where he’s combined with John Wall to form the Wizards’ backcourt of the present and future.

3. Elfrid Payton (UR): Payton arrived at Louisiana-Lafayette to little national fanfare, but after spending his freshman season in a reserve role he took a step forward as a sophomore. Payton turned that year into a spot on the United States’ U19 team, and after a standout junior campaign he was taken in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery by the Magic. Payton was a first team NBA All-Rookie Team selection this past season.

4. Andre Drummond (UR): Drummond moved back into the 2011 class from 2012, joining the UConn program for one season. From there he was a lottery pick of the Pistons in the 2012 NBA Draft, where he’s averaged 12.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in three seasons.

5. Trey Burke (142): Burke spent two seasons at Michigan, the second of which included a National Player of the Year award and a run to the national title game where the Wolverines fell to Louisville. Burke was selected 9th overall by the Jazz in the 2013 NBA Draft, and he’s averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 assists per game game in two seasons.

6. Michael Carter-Williams (29): Carter-Williams was a backup at the point during his freshman season at Syracuse, and as a sophomore he helped lead the Orange to the Final Four in 2013. Picked in the 2013 NBA Draft lottery by Philadelphia, Carter-Williams was an NBA Rookie of the Year in 2014. Traded to Milwaukee during the 2014-15 season, he averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 assists per game.

7. Ben McLemore (34): McLemore’s college career was delayed by a season, as he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2011-12 campaign by the NCAA. In his lone season of play at Kansas, McLemore averaged 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest. Picked seventh overall by the Kings in the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore’s averaging 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game as a pro.

source:
Bradley Beal (AP Photo)

8. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (3): Kidd-Gilchrist teamed up with Davis on a loaded Kentucky team to win a national title in 2012, then moved on to the NBA where he was the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Always a good defender, Kidd-Gilchrist has worked to improve his abilities as a shooter since entering the NBA and wound up averaging 10.9 points per game last season.

9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12): Caldwell-Pope took a major leap forward in his second season as a pro, averaging 12.7 points per game for the Pistons in 2014-15 (5.9 ppg as a rookie). Prior to that KCP played two seasons at Georgia, where he was SEC Player of the Year in 2013 after averaging 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

10. Austin Rivers (1): Rivers averaged 15.5 points per game in his lone season at Duke, which included a memorable game-winning three at North Carolina. As a pro the road hasn’t been as smooth, with his best run of play coming as a reserve with the Clippers (where his dad’s the head coach and president) following a trade from New Orleans this season.

11. Otto Porter (37): Like McLemore, Porter was a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft as he was taken third overall by the Wizards. Unlike McLemore, Porter played two seasons of college ball (and Georgetown) and was named Big East Player of the Year and a first team All-American in 2013. With Paul Pierce moving on to L.A., 2015-16 could be a breakthrough campaign for Porter.

12. Cody Zeller (15): Zeller played two seasons at Indiana, where as a sophomore he was a first team All-Big Ten and second team All-America selection. Picked in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft by Charlotte, Zeller’s averaged 6.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in two seasons as a pro.

RELATED: Re-ranking the classes 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

13. Shane Larkin (72): Larkin, originally a DePaul commit, wound up at Miami where he helped lead the program to heights it had never visited as a member of the ACC. Larkin ran the point for a team that won the program’s first ACC title and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000, sharing ACC Player of the Year honors in 2013. Larkin didn’t play much in Dallas as a rookie, but he saw more time in 2014-15 with the Knicks (6.2 ppg, 3.0 apg).

14. Jabari Brown (19): Brown didn’t last all that long at Oregon, transferring to Missouri after playing just two games in Eugene. Once at Mizzou the shooting guard became of the SEC’s top perimeter players as a junior in 2014 (first team All-SEC; 19.9 ppg). After spending time in the NBA D-League Brown’s now with the Lakers, where he averaged 11.9 points per game this season.

15. Tony Wroten (14): Wroten played just one season at Washington, averaging 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in 2011-12. A first round pick of the Grizzlies in the 2012 NBA Draft, Wroten’s averaged 11.2 points per game in three season for two franchises (Philadelphia being the other). Wroten suffered a torn ACL in January.

16. Maurice Harkless (41): Harkless played one season at St. John’s before being drafted by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. The Sixers traded Harkless to Orlando, where he’s averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in three seasons as a professional.

17. Nick Johnson (18): Johnson played three seasons at Arizona, where he was a mainstay for Sean Miller’s program. Not only was he Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2014, but Johnson was also a first team All-American. Drafted in the second round by the Rockets in 2014, Johnson’s bounced between the NBA and NBA D-League the last two seasons.

18. P.J. Hairston (13): To say that the sharpshooter’s college career was a tumultuous one would be an understatement, as NCAA issues ended his time in Chapel Hill before the 2013-14 season began. Hairston lit up the NBA D-League for a season before being taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by Miami, which traded him to Charlotte on draft night.

19. Rodney Hood (16): Hood was an SEC All-Rookie Team selection at Mississippi State before transferring to Duke, where he played one season under Mike Krzyzewski. A first round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by Utah, Hood averaged 8.7 points per game as a rookie.

20. Frank Kaminsky (UR): Kaminsky went from being a three-star prospect to the National Player of the Year in his four season at Wisconsin, which included two Final Four appearances and Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. He was picked in the lottery by Charlotte last month. (Mistakenly left off this list.)

source: Getty Images
Trey Burke helped lead Michigan to the ’13 title game (Getty Images)

21. Kyle Wiltjer (22): Wiltjer still has another season left to play in college, but he’s put together a solid resume at that level. As a freshman he was part of a national champion squad at Kentucky, following that up with SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors as a sophomore. He transferred following the 2012-13 season, and after sitting out a year Wiltjer was both WCC Newcomer of the Year and a second team All-American at Gonzaga in 2014-15.

22. Spencer Dinwiddie (146): Dinwiddie put together a very good run at Colorado before suffering a torn ACL in a road game at Washington during his junior campaign. That would be the last time he’d play in a CU uniform, as he moved on to the NBA where he was taken in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Pistons. Dinwiddie saw time as the team’s backup point guard once Brandon Jennings went down with a ruptured Achilles.

23. Quincy Miller (7): Miller played just one season at Baylor, averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest in 2011-12. Picked in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by Denver, Miller played two seasons with the Nuggets before splitting time with the Kings and Pistons in 2014-15.

24. Johnny O’Bryant III (46): O’Bryant played three seasons at LSU, where he was a first team All-SEC choice in both 2013 and 2014. A second-round pick of the Bucks in the 2014 NBA Draft, O’Bryant played 10.8 minutes per game (34 games played) as a rookie on a team that reached the playoffs.

25. Ryan Boatright (42): Boatright wasn’t selected in last month’s NBA Draft (playing with the Nets in Summer League), but his four-year career at UConn was a highly productive one. Boatright, who won a national title in 2014, left Storrs as one of just two players in the history of the program to be ranked in the Top 10 of the school’s scoring and assists lists (Shabazz Napier being the other).

Notables:

Marquis Teague (5)
James Michael McAdoo (8)
Khem Birch (9)
DeAndre Daniels (10)
Josiah Turner (11)
Tony Wroten (14)
Branden Dawson (20)
Chane Behanan (21)
Jahii Carson (33)
Quinn Cook (38)
Sir’Dominic Pointer (44)
Amir Garrett (68)
Norman Powell (69)
Dez Wells (76)
Chasson Randle (78)
Wesley Saunders (88)
Malcolm Brogdon (104)
Josh Richardson (124)
Pat Connaughton (128)
DaVonte Lacy (138)
Marcus Thornton (UR)
Darrun Hilliard (UR)
Ron Baker (UR)
Alex Len (UR)

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.