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November 26, 2008MORE: Conf. breakdown | VOTE: Big East's top class? | No. 1 Big 12 | No. 2 ACC | Next: No. 4 Big Ten
Fast-forward to the class of 2009 and things are a bit different. The star power isn't nearly as strong, but several schools loaded up with players who should help early - as well as down the road.
Villanova, a team known for securing great guard talent, wanted to get bigger and better in the post. The Wildcats succeeded. Coach Jay Wright and his staff secured the nation's fastest summer riser in Mouphtaou Yarou. The 6-foot-10 post player was a complete unknown at the start of the spring, but by the end of the summer nearly every high-major school had watched the big man from Benin. Yarou is the highest-rated player coming into the Big East next year.
Yarou won't be alone in the low blocks. His Montrose Christian teammate Isaiah Armwood also officially joined the team last week. The 6-8 forward has inside-outside capabilities.
The Wildcats did lock up the best point guard to come from Philly since Kyle Lowery and Sean Singletary. Maalik Wayns, a five-star prospect, is as tough as his city mates and one of the best battle-tested guards in the class of 2009.
Biggest recruiting coup
Of all of the teams in the Big East, it can be argued that Pittsburgh does the best job of finding players that fit the identity of its program. The Panthers did it again in the class of 2009. Big man Dante Taylor, a five-star prospect, is a rough and tough forward who should see plenty of minutes from the outset.
The 6-9 star picked the Panthers over Connecticut and Syracuse, which were deep in the mix with Taylor along with Kansas and Memphis.
The top-50 prospect was coveted up and down the West Coast, and he was on the speed dial of every major coach in the Pac-10. Siva is the latest talented player from the rich basketball area of Seattle to be recruited nationally. Washington and Arizona were high on his list. But with the lure of playing for Pitino and listening to a hard sell from fellow Seattle star Terrence Williams, Siva said goodbye to Seattle and hello to Louisville.
Villanova's incoming duo of Yarou and Armwood, along with Pittsburgh's Taylor, should help immediately. Connecticut big man Oriakhi has never backed down from a challenge and should be a major contributor for the Huskies.
Rakeem Buckles, a Louisville signee, shouldn't be overlooked. The Cardinals have a potential star in the South Florida prospect. He's one of the toughest matchups in the frontcourt among his peers.
The depth at the power forward and center positions is strong in the Big East class of 2009, making for great matchups in time within conference play.
Murray, a 6-10 center from Concordeville (Pa.) Glen Mills, signed with La Salle. Marshall, a 7-footer from McKeesport (Pa.), inked with Akron.
Murray, a top 40 national recruit, was on the short list for Villanova, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Murray entertained the Big East schools but felt comfortable with La Salle and should prove to be one of the best big men in the Atlantic 10.
Marshall was on the radar for Pittsburgh. He committed in the spring, long before many of the high-majors had a chance to recruit him. Akron did its homework and closed the door before it swung open with Big East coaches.
Durand Scott is one who got away. The four-star guard considered a pair of Big East programs but went elsewhere during the signing period.
Pittsburgh has deep New York ties, and Scott said throughout his recruitment that he felt a bond with the team - citing his relationship with its New York players. Connecticut was also a major player for Scott's signature. His former Rice teammate Kemba Walker is a freshman at Connecticut, and the Huskies have recruited Rice High School quite well over the years.
In the end, however, Scott couldn't turn down the warm weather and beach life at Miami. Scott, a top 10 shooting guard, spurned the Big East for the ACC.
Best storyline to watch
Keep an eye on the Lance Stephenson recruitment. Basketball mavens in New York believe that the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln star could join St. John's if he doesn't pursue a European career next year, a la Brandon Jennings.
Stephenson has been on St. John's campus often this year, and coach Norm Roberts and his staff are working hard to keep the local star.
If Stephenson does decide for college and does decide on St. John's, Stephenson will be the prized recruit who has eluded Roberts since he took over the fragile program.