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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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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

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.

Notables:

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)

Howland clarifies UCLA point guard picture

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The UCLA Bruins have had many problems over the past couple-three years, many of them materializing off-court. One problem that has persisted on-court is the lack of a strong point guard presence. Not since the days of Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison has the ball really seemed to be in good hands the majority of the time.

You’ll forgive us if we still consider that to be a major problem for this year’s highly-touted version of the Bruins. UNC refugee Larry Drew II gets the nominal job of primary ballhandler this season, after going down in flames in that role in Chapel Hill. Ben Howland has already acknowledged that Drew is not his one and only as lead guard, however, now that freshman Kyle Anderson has been cleared to play by the NCAA. If anything, Howland looks forward to putting both players on the floor at the same time, according to the Charlotte Observer.

One is a freshman, the other a fifth-year senior. One hails from the East (New Jersey), the other the West (Los Angeles). One stands 6-foot-9, the other is 6-2.

But both are point guards, and coach Ben Howland said Thursday they’ll often be in the same lineup.

“I’ve always loved having two point guards on the floor,” Howland said at the Pac-12 Conference’s men’s basketball media day.

Howland noted that he employed that tactic when Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook wore Bruins blue.

Playing Anderson and Drew in tandem – for stretches at least – helps solve the riddle of which maestro will conduct UCLA’s potentially potent offense. They both will.

The distinction matters primarily when the team is on offense – either player may bring the ball up the floor, a tactic that was employed to great effect during the Bruins’ tour of China this summer. Defensively, Anderson is expected to guard opposing small forwards, a task to which his lanky frame is more naturally suited. Point guards will be assigned to Drew and his true backup at the point, 6’3″ Norman Powell.

There’s little doubt that this UCLA team is intriguing. It could be a good sort of intrigue if all of these diverse parts coalesce into a team. It could be a bad connotation of the word if cameraderie once again eludes a Howland-coached squad of Bruins.

The latest on the NCAA’s investigation of UCLA

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The most intriguing story line heading into the 2012-2013 season is the investigation surrounding the loaded recruiting class currently enrolled at UCLA.

Many expect the Bruins to make a return to national prominence this season, thanks in large part to the additions of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams. Muhammad and Anderson are universally considered two of the nation’s top three incoming freshmen, along with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.

The latest?

Over the weekend, news leaked out that the NCAA was investigating three of those four freshmen — Muhammad, Anderson and Parker. On Labor Day, UCLA released a statement around the same time as a report was published that, essentially, said Parker was cleared, but that Anderson and Muhammad still had NCAA amateurism issues to work out.

Muhammad’s issues have long been out in the open. Back in late February, news broke that Muhammad’s connection with a pair of financial advisors had piqued the NCAA’s interest. And according to the latest reports, the questions that are being asked about Anderson involve his association with an agent by the name of Thad Foucher, the Wasserman Media Group’s Executive Vice President of Basketball. From the Sports Agent Blog:

Foucher’s name is being mentioned in basketball circles because there is talk that he is on the NCAA’s radar in its investigation focusing on UCLA.  Specifically, Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com reported that the NCAA is looking at a possible relationship between Foucher and UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson, which may concern some kind of recruiting violation.

Foucher has been a Wasserman Media Group employee since 1998.  His clients includeLaMarcus Aldridge, DJ Augustin and Russell Westbrook.  Prior to joining Wasserman, Foucher was the head coach of a very successful New Orleans, Louisiana-based AAU team.

And while UCLA claims that only two of their recruits are being investigated by the NCAA, there are those in the media who are insistent that Parker is still involved:

Now, there are a couple of parts of this story that are quite interesting. For starters, much has been made of the fact that Howland hired an AAU coach, Korey McCray from the Atlanta Celtics, prior to signing this class. There’s a stigma associated with AAU basketball, but the two guys that came from Atlanta — Parker and Adams — are the two guys that have had the fewest rumors circulate about them.

The more fascinating part of this story is the gossip in recruiting circles about how Howland managed to land a class this talented. Generally speaking, in situations like this, where there is smoke, there usually is fire. But there was — and still is — plenty of smoke surrounding the Baylor basketball program, and an NCAA investigation was only able to turn up excessive phone calls. In other words, the NCAA only caught Scott Drew breaking a rule that no longer exists. An investigation by no means guarantees significant sanctions.

This whole mess feels a lot like the plot of Blue Chips, doesn’t it?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No shortage of stars in the 2014 high school class

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After every July evaluation period, college basketball recruiting junkies put an eye towards their favorite school’s current recruiting class. It’s hard not to take an early look out a little bit further, though, and dig into the underclassmen stars who will be making an impact as college freshmen.

There already is significant excitement in the 2014 recruiting class, as many members of the basketball community already are familiar with 6-7 wing forward Andrew Wiggins, the native of Canada who recruiting analysts and NBA scouts already believe is the best overall prospect current in the high school basketball ranks. He plays in West Virginia for Huntington Prep, and is believed to be weighing Kentucky and Florida State (where is father played). A player with athleticism and explosiveness as calling cards, Wiggins looks like he’s ideally forged to be a long-time NBA player.

All summer long, it’s been rumored that Wiggins will jump up to the 2013 recruiting class, a move many top stars have made the last few years. With Wiggins being the same age as many 2013 stars, it would make sense for him to do so. If he does reclassify, the top of the 2013 class is still deep and talented, though lacking in the “sure thing” pizzazz that Wiggins represents. Two lead guards on opposite borders of the country, Tyus Jones of Minnesota and Emmanuel Mudiay (pictured) seem poised to fill the gap at the head of the class if Wiggins does reclassify. Jones is the Chris Paul of the high school ranks, while Mudiay is a long, sleek and attacking point guard that has some Russell Westbrook in him.

If Jones and Mudiay don’t do it for fans in terms of excitement, then two Windy City big men, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander have the post prowess to turn heads. Okafor has a FIBA Americas U17 gold under his belt, and his nearly immovable at over 250 pounds solidly on his 6-9 frame. Alexander has the explosiveness near the hoop to make him unstoppable in drawing fouls and converting, and he has some nasty to his game. At 6-9, 230 pounds, Alexander projects as an elite-level power forward when he refines his skills and harnesses his talent.

An X-factor in the 2014 class is burgeoning combo forward Noah Vonleh. He was a road warrior all spring and summer, taking on all comers in adidas and Nike sponsored events. He’s caught in a no man’s land between small forward and power forward, but at 6-8 he has time to clarify his ultimate position. A long, gazelle-like mover who can just as easily start breaks as he can finishing them, Vonleh can also ascend to the head of the class if Wiggins is gone.

As mentioned above, the core of the best players in the class already have two summers of undefeated play in international competition under their belt. The 2013 class is far from in the books, and certainly has not decided how the top player is, but 2014 has the makings of something special, at present.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Report: Anthony Davis to be a finalist for Team USA

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According to a report from Sam Amrick of SI.com, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis will be getting a shot as a replacement candidate to compete with Team USA in this summer’s Olympic Games in London.

There has been quite a bit of speculation about Davis’ potential candidacy, but with the torn ACL that Derrick Rose suffered in the opening game of the NBA Playoffs, Team USA is now down four players from the group of 20 finalists that were announced in January.

The current finalists for Team USA include: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Odom, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.

There is no guarantee that Davis would make the team, but with his skill set and potential, it would make sense to get him involved with the National Team program as early as possible.

As a sophomore in high school, Anthony Davis was a 6-foot-2 shooting guard for a bad high school team in Chicago. As a junior, he was a 6-foot-6 forward getting recruited to places like Cleveland State. After one season in college, he’s got a shot to be on Team USA.

That, my friends, is a meteoric rise.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.