HOOPS: Recruiting Watch For Class of 2008

Now that things are all quiet on the AAU circuit, recruiting will take on a more serious tone for the remaining uncommitteds in the class of 2007. There are still some plums to be picked for 2007 but already attention is turning to the class of 2008 which could prove to be the best and deepest recruiting class top to bottom in years.

Here are the best 10 players for the class of 2008 that I saw personally during the summer along with five that are going to be a lot of fun to watch. I saw each of these kids play at least twice and I talked to at least one Division I coach about each of the players on my list.

1. DELVON ROE (6-8, PF, St. Edwards, Lakewood, OH): If you’re looking for the one player in the recruiting class of 2008 that would be ready to make the jump immediately to the NBA, then this is your guy. This big lefty can absolutely take over a game and once he gets the ball in the low blocks, he’s practically unstoppable. He’s got a nice jump shot and he plays defense like he actually enjoys it. He’s a very good shot blocker. As a dunker there aren’t many that throw it down with the kind of power he’s shown yet for all that strength, he’s got a soft touch on his jumper. Everybody in the world is after him and while it would seem that he’s locked up for Ohio State the way the Buckeyes have been recruiting lately, Michigan State, Florida and North Carolina are also very high on his list.

2. TYREKE EVANS (6-5, PG, American Christian, Aston, PA): He has made the transition from a wing guard to the point this summer with spectacular results. He can control the game when he’s got the ball in his hands and he’s got awesome range on his jumper. He’s a very sound passer that seems to make the game easy for his teammates. He’s still got to figure out that he can’t drive the lane every time he’s got the ball but once he figures out how to play totally under control, he is going to be a serious difference maker. He averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists per game as a sophomore. North Carolina is his favorite and Louisville is next in line. All the Big East and ACC schools are trying to get his attention, too.

3. GREG MONROE (6-10, C, Helen Cox, Harvey, LA): His performance at Peach Jam was so impressive. He’s skinny but smooth and already a tremendous rebounder that fires the outlet pass as well as anyone in the country. He scores at will on the inside. He’s got a suspect outside shot and needs work on his defensive fundamentals. His timing is so good that it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the total dominator on the defensive end of the court. LSU is all over him and it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to steal him away from John Brady. Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are trying really hard, though, and there’s talk that he really likes North Carolina a lot.

4. DONTAE ANDERSON (6-3, SG, Eastside, Gainesville, FL): He’s become a meteor, rising faster and stronger than anyone on the class of 2008 charts. This is a scoring guard. Not so much a shooting guard although he can go on some pretty impressive streaks from long range, but a scorer. He just finds ways to get his points. As an open court defender, he’s already the best in the class of 2008. He’s relentless as a rebounder and has no fear going against taller, physically stronger opponents. He exploded on the scene at the ABCD Camp this summer and then built on that with spectacular performances with Jacksonville Lee Bulls at the AAU nationals. Billy Donovan isn’t about to let this one get out of Gainesville.

5. ED DAVIS (6-8, PF/C, Hanover, Mechanicsville, VA): He’s the son of former NBA player Terry Davis, who starred at nearby Virginia Union. Davis has very long arms and legs and most observers think he’s got another inch or two of growth in him. He’s a lefty with nice touch on the inside and range to 15 feet on his jumper. He rebounds very well on the defensive end but needs to become a better offensive rebounder. He tries to block too many shots but he’ll improve in that area with some maturity. Played with Patrick Patterson on the Boo Williams team this summer so he’s faced some top competition. Georgetown already is all over him but North Carolina is trying to make up ground.

6. DEVIN EBANKS (6-8, SG, Patterson School, Patterson, NC): The $64,000 question in 2008 is what to do with Devin Ebanks? Do you let him play the point which is what he ultimately wants to do? Do you make a shooting guard out of him where he’s a serious matchup problem because of his height (already 6-8 and likely to grow another inch or two)? Do you put him on the wing where he can slash to the basket? Do you trust him to put on the weight and strength to play in the post? It’s going to be a real dilemma where to play him but a nightmare for whoever has to defend him. He’s got to learn to take better shots and he needs to make the game easier by discovering the sound, fundamental pass that gets you two is better than going for the spectacular finish. He was at Florida’s camp and the Gators are high on his list along with Louisville, Connecticut and everyone else in the Big East.

7. CHRISTIAN MORRIS (6-8, PF, South Kent Prep, South Kent, CT): He broke a backboard at Peach Jam but the one he’s proudest of was the one he got at Rucker Park with Joakim Noah watching. He’s already 260 pounds so everybody is watching to make sure he doesn’t eat his way out of contention but if he concentrates on the weights and not so much on Twinkies and root beer, he’ll have everyone in the country after him. On the inside, there’s nobody that can contend with him once he establishes position. He’s a lazy defender and prone to foul trouble because he doesn’t always remember to move his feet but everybody is expecting him to improve by leaps and bounds at South Kent Prep this year. At Peach Jam he said all the Big East schools are recruiting him and that he’s getting a lot of love from the Gators.

8. WILLIE WARREN (6-4, SG, Cedar Hill, TX): Showed his toughness this summer when he came back from a fractured vertebrae to play at a very high level with Team Texas. He lit it up in the underclassman game at the Nike Camp and then followed that up by lighting it up at Peach Jam. He’s always had the ability to score off the dribble but he’s added a jumper that can be rather streaky. He might hit 10 in a row but then again he might miss the next 15. He needs to play defense with the same kind of intensity that he has when he’s got the ball in his hands. He likes Florida, Texas and UConn among others. The Gators like him too since he can handle the ball well enough to play the point in a pinch.

9. SCOTTY HOPSON (6-4, SG, University Heights, Hopkinsville, KY): Florida is all over this long range bomber from Kentucky. He played only one varsity game as a sophomore but he lit it up for 30 and grabbed 15 rebounds the night he got called up from the jayvee team. On the AAU circuit, he’s continued to bomb away from the outside and shown that he can put it on the deck and get to the rim. He’s an excellent leaper that could even play small forward in a pinch. He needs work on his defense, but the potential is definitely there.

10. XAVIER GIBSON (6-10, C, Northview, Dothan, AL): The lights went on for him at the AAU nationals in Orlando when he figured out that he’s supposed to be a dominator in the paint. Once he stopped thinking three-balls and started thinking getting to the rim and blocking shots, he started showing flashes of dominance. If he follows up his last month of AAU ball with a great high school junior year, he will be on everybody’s must get list in 2008. Alabama already wants him bad as does Georgia Tech. He likes North Carolina and Duke and you can bet he’ll get plenty of love from them in return.


1. J.T. THOMPSON (6-6, SF, Hope Christian, Marshville, NC): He’s already committed to Virginia Tech but he’s really fun to watch. A true slasher that gets to the rim and gets to the foul line with regularity. In an up and down game, this is a guy you want to have on your team. He will play the small forward in college but he’s not afraid to take on anyone no matter how big on defense and when he has the ball in his hands, he’ll go to the rack with authority.

2. ANTHONY JONES (6-10, C, Houston Yates): One of these days the lights will go on for Anthony and when they do, someone’s going to have a dominating center. He’s got very long arms, jumps well and has great hands. He’s still growing, too. But, he’s going through growing pains and his mind and body don’t always connect. The mind is willing but the feet don’t always cooperate. He’s skinny now and needs strength, but on those nights when everything is working, he can be spectacular. Arizona is already all over him and Texas is getting into the mix, too.

3. NATE MILES (6-6, SG/SF, Cornerstone Christian, San Antonio, TX): He’s an Ohio kid and an AAU teammate of Delvon Roe. He’s going to go to prep school in Texas this year with the hope of getting his grades up so he can play Division I. He can flat out play. He shoots from anywhere and knocks it down, puts the ball on the deck well enough that he could play the point in a pinch and he plays defense with a tough-guy mentality. He’s almost too unselfish, though. He will go through stretches when he almost disappears because he tries so hard not to hog the ball. Gambles too much on defense but that can be corrected. Texas, Georgetown, Michigan State, Kansas and Illinois are all after him in a big way.

4. ROTNEI CLARK (6-0, PG, Ventigris, Claremore, OK): Not all that many people knew him when he arrived at Peach Jam with Team Texas. By the time he left Augusta, everybody was talking about the kid who shoots three-balls from the parking lot. He can shoot it when he’s wide open and he’ll launch it when he’s covered and it still goes in. Not much of a threat to take it all the way to the rack but he has learned how to use the dribble to set up a jump shot. He’s a defensive liability but someone you want on your team to bust up a zone. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and all the usual Big 12 suspects are on him.

5. TY WALKER (6-11, C, New Hanover, Wilmington, NC): This is the North Carolina version of Anthony Jones. He’s long, lean and athletic but the lights haven’t gone on quite yet, at least not all at once. He’s still growing. He’s gone from size 14 to size 18 shoes in the last two years. Right now he’s most dangerous as a shot blocker. He really needs to learn an inside game. Right now he likes shooting jumpers. If he gets a mean streak in him and some physical strength, he could become a real dominator. All the ACC schools want him and there will be plenty more after him due to a nice week at the AAU nationals in Orlando.

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.