While the 2005 class is largely devoid of quality big men, the same can't be said of the 2006 group. In fact, the top five spots in the new Rivals.com rankings are occupied by players who are 6-foot-8 or taller. And while the initial Rivals.com list didn't change much at the top, several prospects played their way onto the expanded list of 100.
Beginning with the Tournament of Champions and Memorial Day Classic this weekend, the RivalsHoops.com staff will attend close to 20 national events between the end of May and early August. As a result, the Rivals150 for the 2006 class should be released before the end of summer.
The pre-summer No. 1 prospect left no doubt that he is the best
Indianapolis (Ind.) center Greg Oden started the AAU season as the top prospect in his class and proved at the Kingwood Class that he was not willing to relinquish that title.
Playing with his Spiece Indy Heat team in Texas, Oden, 6-foot-11, 225 pounds, showed an even more impressive offensive arsenal. Despite being taller than everyone else, Oden spent the last year developing a baby hook and perfecting his low post moves, which often end in strong dunks.
Defensively, nothing has changed, and Oden is a big-time shot blocker. His timing is better and he is avoiding the cheap fouls that often plague young big men.
Oden has been reluctant to discuss his college favorites and the riches of the NBA that likely await.
Tennessee standout has been missing from the 17-and-under circuit
Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy star Brandan Wright spent the early part of the AAU circuit playing with the 16-and-under Murfreesboro Stars. The lack of exposure hasn't hurt the 6-foot-9 Wright, nor has it diminished his reputation as a consensus top five player in 2006.
Blessed with size and skill, Wright is capable of playing the shooting guard, small forward or power forward positions. That versatility is what has most of the major colleges salivating over his potential.
While the younger age division doesn't hold as much competition for Wright, he doesn't have anything to prove and is more comfortable playing with his friends in the local area.
Golden State loaded with top big men
College coaches who are looking for big men need look no further than California, where three of the nation's best reside.
Harvard-Westlake High School power forward Alex Stepheson emerged as the nation No. 3 ranked player during the Pump N Run Tournament in Las Vegas. Stephenson, 6-foot-8, is a beast on the low blocks, where he shows nice footwork and the ability to finish.
Not far behind is Santa Margarita High School power forward James Keefe, who has shined for the California Elite squad.
Keefe, 6-foot-9, is a skilled post player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He also does a good job of positioning himself on the glass. Keefe debuted as No. 13 in the Rivals.com rankings.
While Keefe is more of a finesse player, his AAU teammate, 6-foot-8 Matt Shaw of Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles, is the muscle.
Shaw boasts an impressive offensive arsenal from within five feet of the basket, where he gets high percentage shots. Shaw is the nation's No. 21 player.
Spiece Indy Heat well represented in rankings
The 2006 Spiece Indy Heat class is best known for featuring Oden, but two other prospects who rate among the nation's top 25 are on the roster.
Shooting guard Daequon Cook of Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio, is a high-flying athletic scorer who is equally effective from the perimeter as he is at filling the lanes.
The 6-foot-4 Cook was at his best in April at the Kingwood Classic, where he electrified the crowd with several rim-rattling dunks. He also proved to have a solid handle and to be a lock-down defender. He is currently the nation's sixth-best player.
Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis has played the early part of the AAU season with a broken left hand, but the injury has hardly slowed him down.
He has proven capable of running an offense with his deft ball-handling and ability to penetrate to the basket. When not sporting a cast, he also has a solid outside jumper that keeps defenders honest. Conley is the nation's No. 24 prospect.