After five months of extensive travel, covering AAU tournaments from Orlando to Houston to Los Angeles, Rivals.com is prepared to release the post-summer rankings for the class of 2005.
Unlike any year in recent memory, the race for the top spot in 2005 was wide open, with as many as 10 prospects competing for the No. 1 ranking heading into July, which proved to be the pivotal month for the summer basketball season.
It should be noted that certain areas of a player's game are more easily developed than others, and the developmental curve is of utmost importance. Rankings are more about what a player will become than where he is right now. However, where a player is now says a lot about where he could be.
After his MVP performance at the ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J., 6-foot-8 small forward Gerald Green earned the reputation as one of the elite players in the 2005 class. Previously ranked No. 9 by Rivals.com, the Houston Gulf Shores Academy product led the ABCD in scoring at nearly 20 points per game. His offensive arsenal includes using his impressive size and solid handle to get off a nice long-range jump shot in addition to impressive athleticism.
Green, who committed to Oklahoma State in June, traveled the AAU circuit this summer with Houston Elite. Coach Rick Nelson said Green is only tapping into his potential.
"He's only just now realizing how good he can become," Nelson said. "He has improved so much this past year, and I think he will continue to become better as his career continues. In two or three years he is going to be on top of his game and then people will see what he can do. He's just scratching the surface."
Green said he is honored to be considered among the top players in the 2005 class.
"I've played against some of the big name guys, and there are so many great ones out there that it's overwhelming to think I might be the best," he said. "I've worked so hard and had so many blessings this year. I entered this summer with the goal of playing hard and trying to earn a scholarship and just hoping that I would be able to attend college.
"I'm already working hard, trying to get bigger and stronger. I want to finish my high school career strong and keep my grades up. I owe a lot to the people around me like my parents and Coach Nelson, who keep me focused on the big picture and make sure I understand there is more to life than just basketball."
The most prolific scorer among his peers, Georgia combo guard Louis Williams was a consistent summer performer, leading the Georgia Stars to championships in Kingwood Classic in April and the AAU Nationals this past weekend.
Williams, 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, entered the AAU season with the reputation for being a big-time scorer with unlimited shooting range and the athleticism to produce highlight dunks that never fail to excite the crowd.
However, the Georgia commitment took his game to a new level in July when he showed an aggressive approach to attacking the basket, which had previously been scarce, and also a patience with the ball that shows promise for him making the transition to point guard in college. No other player finished the summer stronger than Williams, and he was strongly considered for top honors.
Flash back one year ago. Carmel (Ind.) High School standout Josh McRoberts was a 6-foot-9, 200-pound small forward who could shoot the mid-range jump shot and excelled at passing out of the high post.
One year and 40 pounds later, he has grown into a 6-foot-11, 240-pound rebounding machine and has developed a versatile offensive repertoire in the low-post while also maintaining his previous small forward skills. In addition, the Duke commitment used his new girth and muscle to become a dominant force for the Spiece Indy Heat.
McRoberts got off to a slow start this summer while still recovering from a major back injury that occurred during his junior season at Carmel. However, his play at the USA Youth Festival, where he was perhaps the top big man in attendance, showed that not only has he recovered, he is better than ever.
In late July, playing alongside 2006 top player Greg Oden, McRoberts was forced to sit out the final two days at the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas due to a twisted ankle and watched Spiece win the championship. But his strong play and impressive physical change puts him in at No. 3 on the Rivals150.
It is always interesting to note which prospects develop over the course of a year. Bodies change, games improve and players who were previously a blip on the radar screen emerge and earn their spots among the elite players.
Big men come at a premium in the class of 2005, and none rose to the occasion faster or better than Vernon Goodridge. The Brooklyn native headed into the AAU season with little national exposure but quickly displayed the knack for defending in the post and snatching rebounds off the glass.
The bouncy center is still defining his low-post offense, but he has a nice 15-foot face-up jumper. Georgetown, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Connecticut and Virginia Tech are the finalists for his services. He rose in the charts from No. 150 to No. 24.
A 6-foot-11, 270-pound center is a rarity in college basketball. Add the fact that he is 16-years-old, and it's easy to see why college coaches are hot after New Jersey native Lee Bynum. The St. Joseph High School star has seen his stock rise steadily throughout the AAU season due to his soft hands and pure low-post game.
Potential is the key word and the young big man has a ton of it. Connecticut, Georgetown, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Rutgers are eager to have his signature. He cracks the Rivals.com 150 at No. 28.
With Louis Williams getting most of the spotlight in Georgia as the nation's top shooting guard, Lewis Clinch,from Cordele, Ga., burst onto the AAU scene this summer with the Smyrna Stars.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder put on a shooting exhibition in the June and July that caught the attention of almost every major program in the country and sent coaches scurrying to get some face time with one of the nation's hottest prospects.
The Crisp County High School star can fill it up with a beautiful long-range jumper that he shoots equally well off the bounce or coming off a screen. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Miami, N.C. State, Tennessee and Wake Forest make up his list of favorites. Clinch makes his debut in the Rivals150 at No. 36.
When opposing guards first glance at South Carolina Raven point guard Devan Downey and his diminutive 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, they might get the wrong impression. An impressive first step, lighting-quick hands and a strong handle quickly rectify that misconception and turn what might have been smiles into a furrowed brow and a look of frustration.
The Chester (S.C.) High School standout has a three-point shot that he can shoot from numerous sets and likes to penetrate for easy finishes or pretty assists. Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee are in the race for his services. He makes the jump to No. 42 in the Rivals150.