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May 29, 2009

Meyer's Mailbag: 2010 prospects emerging

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
May 22: UK roster far from set
May 15: Will Ross remain No. 1 in 2011?
May 8: Stephenson to Tucson?
The book is almost closed on the 2009 class, and fans are ready for some in-depth analysis on the 2010 and 2011 classes.

Is coveted four-star prospect Terrence Jones more of a small forward or power forward?

Why isn't Keith Appling a five-star prospect?

And what is the breakdown on Naadir Tharpe, one of the better 2011 point guards?

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer tackles these questions and more in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
Growing game

Describe the game of Terrence Jones? Is he more of a SF or a PF? Also, what school do you think will land him? Will he stay on the West Coast?

-- Travis from Greenville
Last summer, Jones projected as a 6-foot-6 small forward. The lefty impressed with his ballhandling and passing abilities, but he was an average long-distance shooter and had average quickness for a small forward. Hence, his ranking was in the middle of the four-star range.

This spring, however, I was taken aback when I saw Jones. If he is not 6-9 now, he is awfully close. He still has his advanced ballhandling and passing skills, and his shot appears to be improving. As a skilled four man at 6-9, and with above-average quickness for his new position, Jones' stock rose to the top of the four-star range. I have a hunch that by the end of the summer, Jones will convince Rivals.com that he is a five-star prospect and a future pro.

As to where Jones will end up is a tossup among a bunch of schools. He has said that he is not anchored to the West Coast; he has family scattered across the country and his former teammate and friend Terrence Ross is a Maryland commitment attending Montrose Christian on the East Coast. Schools such as Arizona, Florida, Georgetown, Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and a number of Pac-10 schools have offered, and a couple of traditional powers in North Carolina and Kansas are keeping up with Jones.

Quieting concerns

Can you report on prize Cincinnati recruit Chane Behanan? Cincinnati fans have heard nothing on this guy recently. Some are concerned. Others just want to read about this kid's commitment to Cincinnati and what he is doing with his basketball skills over the summer.

-- Vince from Cincinnati
I enjoyed watching Behanan and the rest of talented Ohio Basketball Club 16-Under team last weekend at the Tournament of Champions. I didn't see anything to be concerned with in Behanan, but I did see a promising prospect.

At a healthy 6-7 and 235 pounds, Behanan has a presence in the paint and efficiently scored when I watched him. He finished with power inside and showed some touch from the midrange. He looked to have good hands, and he was strong on the boards as well.

Moving up

Why isn't Keith Appling a five-star player? At 6 feet 3, he dominates at the point guard position as well as the shooting guard position. He is definitely the best player coming out of Michigan's 2010 class.

-- Ron from Flint
Here is where I agree with you, Ron, after watching Appling for the first time this spring at the Tournament of Champions last weekend. He is the top 2010 prospect in Michigan, and his ranking needs to reflect that when we reshuffle the rankings in about a month. Now ranked at No. 41, Appling needs to be at least around No. 30. It's possible he needs to be a top-25 player depending on the gauge I get on him in future viewings.

Based on what I saw this past weekend and last year when I saw him, here are the strengths of Appling's game. First and foremost, he is an outstanding scorer off the bounce. He gets to the basket going either direction and deals well with contact in the lane. He has a midrange game. And he will hurt you from deep off the high-ball screen if the defender goes under the screen. I love how he uses his body to get leverage on his defender and has a poised scorer's disposition. I also thought he passed the ball well in the open court and in trapping situations.

The questions I have are these. Is he capable of being a full-time point guard at Michigan State who can balance scoring with distributing the ball? I never saw him kick the ball after penetrating the first level of the defense, and he got picked twice in the backcourt by an aggressive defender in the game I watched. Not delivering a verdict at this point, but I am interested to see more of Appling playing the point. There is also the question of whether he is quick enough laterally to defend a high-level point guard. K.C. Ross-Miller had a very good showing against Appling in the game I saw last weekend.

Now, as you stated in your question, Appling can also play the shooting guard position. The two questions I have in regards to that position are how well he will rebound and how well he shoots the ball off the catch without dribbling first. Again, these are questions that will be answered over the summer.

Regardless, scoring the basketball off the dribble is a special gift that a lot of players don't possess, but Appling does. And as I answer this question, I think of Corey Fisher at Villanova as a comparison for Appling.

Buckeyes PG options grow

Now that Aaron Craft opened up his recruitment, does this open the door for Ohio State to offer, or are Cory Joseph, Phil Pressey, Lavonte Dority and Joe Jackson still options No. 1? Furthermore, Lenzelle Smith has been looking good at guard. Is another PG really needed for OSU?

-- Jonathan from Westerville
Smith did impress me as a point guard at the Tournament of Champions. I'm just not sure, however, how good he would look if he were going up against a point guard with better quickness. His matchups in the game I saw had average quickness at the point guard position. Ohio State does play a lot of zone, but I'm sure the Buckeyes want to have man-to-man as an option. In that case, it is important to get a true point guard and have the flexibility to use Smith as the multi-positional player that he is.

The safe money says that point guard will be Craft. Tennessee was a little ahead of the curve in offering Craft last year. Now that he is no longer below the radar, an option much closer to home is available at Ohio State.

I definitely like Joseph and Jackson better as prospects, but those guys would be a whole lot tougher to land than Craft, who is from Findlay, Ohio.

Another big-time PG

Jerry, I saw that you liked Naadir Tharpe this weekend at the Tournament of Champions. He has been thought of as an Arizona lean for some time now. What do you think of his game and potentially his ranking in the 2011 class? I have heard that he is a top-five point guard in 2011.

-- Joe from Gilbert
He might very well be a top-five point guard in the 2011 class. Marquis Teague and Austin Rivers are certainly ahead of him in the rankings, but after those two prospects I'm not sure how much separation there is between the second-level point guards.

Tharpe brings a confidence to the court that I love. He isn't a big guy, but he uses his body to control space, has a burst, maintains vision and has the ball on a string. I'm not certain at this point how well he shoots the ball, but regardless of how well he shoots it, he projects as at least a top-50 prospect nationally.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.

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