Wiry is the new long (cont.)
Harrison Barnes, 6-6, 206, Ames, Iowa: Allow me to damn Barnes with faint praise. For someone who is widely recognized one of the top three players in his class, he's a little underwhelming. He's not a freak athlete by any measure, and he certainly does not strike me as a candidate to be one-and-done. That said, I can see why so many schools (Duke and Kansas are among the leaders) covet him so zealously. He's extremely smooth and efficient, and for a player with his size and athleticism, he is an amazing long-range shooter. Barnes tends to settle for the outside shot a little too much, but when he does decide to attack the rim, he is very effective. He's also a highly skilled interior passer. He has drawn comparisons to Shane Battier, but I'd say he's a little more flashy (and a much better scorer) than Battier was at this stage. In conversation, Barnes comes across as very serious and intelligent. It's quite obvious he will be an asset to any college campus, and not just on the basketball court.
Will Barton, 6-6, 170, Baltimore: No player better exemplifies the wiry-ness of this year's senior class. Barton's arms are longer than War and Peace. You get the idea that a stiff breeze could knock him off his feet. Yet, put a ball in his hand and give him the slightest alley to the rim, and the kid will get that ball into the net. He is equally effective on the defensive end jumping into the passing lanes. Barton is still developing his perimeter game, but he did show a nice mid-range touch. I can see why Memphis fans were so excited when Barton committed to play for new coach Josh Pastner. To get such an elite prospect out of Baltimore out of the gate has given Pastner a lot of credibility after taking over for John Calipari.
Stacey Poole, 6-5, 190, Jacksonville, Fla.: Here's another wiry high-flyer. His father played for Florida two decades ago, and it was no coincidence Billy Donovan was at every one of Poole's games in Philly. It's hard to say how skilled Poole is in a half-court setting, because the games at the Reebok were such sloppy, up-and-down affairs. South Carolina and Clemson are hot on Poole's trail as well, but in the end it's hard to envision him turning down his home-state school, especially when it's also his dad's alma mater.
Austin Rivers, 6-3, 180, Winter Park, Fla.: Ask someone what he thinks about Rivers, and you'll invariably get the answer, "Typical Florida player." Believe me, that's a compliment. Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has already committed to the Gators. He is as pure a shooter as they come, but he can also put it on the deck and score in a variety of ways. He's a little lean and, yes, wiry right now, but once he grows into his body he'll become a major pro prospect on the wing.
LeBryan Nash, 6-7, 212, Dallas: You can't help but notice Nash right away for one simple reason: He bears an uncanny resemblance to Ron Artest. Also, his name is a gift from the basketball gods, an exquisite combination of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. That said, Nash has much in his game to write about, too. He has good size and strength but appears most comfortable facing the basket. He is also very good at using reversals, fakes and misdirections to score along the baseline. Right now, Nash is primarily considering Big 12 schools. His style fits that conference well.
Jared Sullinger, 6-8, 260, Columbus, Ohio: There's nothing wiry about this guy. But my reaction to Sullinger is similar to one I had with Harrison Barnes: If Sullinger is the best big man in the class, then this is not a great class. Sullinger has committed to Ohio State, and Buckeye fans need not worry about his following Greg Oden and B.J. Mullens to the NBA after one year. That said, I do expect Sullinger to be able to start from Day One and be an effective scorer and rebounder down low. He may be a below-the-rim guy, but he has terrific fundamentals. He does a great job establishing position and using angles to score near the basket.
Patric Young, 6-8, 220, Jacksonville, Fla.: If you see a Gators theme emerging, that is no accident. Young has also given Donovan his verbal commitment, and all it takes is one look at him to know that he's the kind of physical specimen down low the program has lacked. Young reminds me a lot of Amare Stoudemire. He is not quite as explosive, but Young has the chiseled muscles and wide shoulders to make you believe he'll be a high-level rebounder right away. Like Stoudemire, Young is also very raw offensively. If he stays in college long enough, he will have a chance to develop an offensive game much like Al Horford did.
Johnny O'Bryant, 6-10, 218, Cleveland, Miss.: O'Bryant may be the best big man in the junior class, but he is just as comfortable -- perhaps too comfortable -- playing on the wing. I saw him make a couple of three-pointers during the King City Classic, but he still does his best work down low. O'Bryant is really active, especially on the defensive end, and though his low-post moves lack polish right now, he's the kind of center who can thrive in both a half-court setting as well as an up-tempo game. It's a little early to tell where O'Bryant might be headed, but it's a safe guess he'll stay in the south.
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