It's tough not to get excited when talking about the basketball prospects that Tad Boyle and CU are bringing in as part of the 2012 recruiting class. The group is ranked in the top-25 by most of the scouting services and a number of the players look ready to contribute right away. You'll get a different answer each place you look about who has the most upside of the five **** (Update: it's now six!) guys we are bringing in, but nearly everyone agrees that they all are good and have the potential to be great.
After the success of true freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, it's not out of the questions to expect 3 or more of these guys to have pretty big impacts next year. And we're going to need at least three of them to contribute to continue to have success on the court, if not all five of them.
Josh Scott is one of three in-state kids that make up the 2012 basketball recruiting class. Mr. Scott was one of the top 100 players in the nation and was recently voted the Colorado bball player of the year in Colorado. He's listed at, 6'8", 6'9" or 6'10", depending on the site, and between 215 to 225 lbs. CU listed him as a power forward in their Signing Day press release, but he has the skills of a 3. He has a solid handle and can play both inside and out. He may be able to provide us with a real post-presence on offense eventually. Scott played HS ball against lower-level competition, but also proved himself against other top forwards during AAU ball. Like all of these guys, he will benefit from the pre-season trip that the team is taking to France, as well as getting practice time against Andre Roberson and Shane Harris-Tunks. It will be huge for the team if he can contribute right away, as he can be a focal point of the offense inside. Best case scenario is he is able to step right into the role that Austin Dufault held this past season, only with a more effective post game and more athleticism. But he may need some time to adjust to the college game and the quality of the defenses he'll need to overcome now. But he has supposedly improved a ton since the Buffs started recruiting him, and that's always a good sign.
Wesley Gordon and Scott happen to be buddies and high school rivals. Another Colorado kid and one with a ton of upside. He has a similar game to Andre Roberson but with a frame that can add more weight. He's still very raw on the offensive end, but he's an instinctive and talented shot-blocker and rebounder that is aggressive on both ends. He is listed anywhere from 6'7" to 6'9" and 205 to 215 lbs. I'm very excited to get him into the program. He has the opportunity to learn from another guy who is slightly undersized for his position (Roberson) but who can wreak havoc on the boards. The more he sees the floor, the better, and I could see him getting time early, especially if Roberson finds himself in foul trouble.
Next on the list is one of the non-Colorado kids, Chris Jenkins. He's a slashing 3 that can shoot from outside who was asked to play a lot at the 4 and 5 for his high school team. Tad likened him to Alec Burks because he's from Detroit, played in one of the highest classifications of BBall there and was one of the top players in his league, and yet he wasn't recruited by the Michigan schools. He apparently has a big chip on his shoulder like Burks did, and that is a very good thing for Colorado basketball. He's versatile and improved on his aggressiveness throughout his senior season. He has the skills to be an excellent wing player for us that can also take the ball inside. His midrange game could be the answer to losing Carlon Brown. While he hasn't quite gotten the acclaim that Scott or the next guy on this list have, I think he could end up being a real sleeper in this class and a guy that proves to be a real matchup problem for defenses.
Some people think that Xavier Johnson is the brightest spot in this class. Another top-100 player in the nation, Johnson is excellent at finishing around the rim and is a good rebounder on both sides of the court. He can do a little bit of everything but isn't polished on the offensive end yet. He could be a star, though, as his instincts and awareness are well above average. He's in the running to be voted Player of the Year for all of Southern California, has been seen dunking over previous top high school recruits and can get to the basket on just about anyone. It will be interesting to see who between Scott, Jenkins and Johnson are the offensive stars of this class. But he also has a chance to be one of the better defensive players in this group as well, and could end up being the best overall.
Xavier Talton (yes, another 'Xavier') is the guy most overlooked in this class. He played at a low level of basketball here in Colorado, but has the tools to be pretty darn good. He has a chance to step right into the starting lineup as the point guard with Nate Tomlinson leaving and Askia Booker being such a great boost off the bench. He's a better athlete than he's given credit for and is very capable of running the offense or playing the 2. I think he's the perfect guy to add to the guard rotation with Dinwiddie and Booker, because all three can handle the ball but are also offensive threats and work well at the 2. Talton can add to the versatility that Boyle is looking for on offense.
**** As of 3/22, Tad Boyle added a sixth member to the class of 2012-2013. He had an extra scholarship to give w/ Damien Cain leaving the team. He returned, though not on scholarship, and then left again. It looks like he won't be back (but there's probably still a chance). Either way, it paved the way for Eli Stalzer, a teammate of Xavier Johnson at Mater Dei. He is a 6'3" point guard who didn't score a ton in high school, but he also was on a team with 4 top-100 players in the nation, so he wasn't asked to score much. He does know how to run the fast break and is pretty solid defensively, which bodes well for us. He can get to the rim and finish off his drives. And as an added bonus, Stalzer already has chemistry with Johnson, who figures to be a big part of what we do in 2012-2013. We did need another guard on the team, though some were already unhappy with giving a scholarship in this class to Talton. I can only imagine what they think of giving out yet another scholarship to a guy who wasn't highly recruited. But I have to say, I think Tad Boyle and his staff have proven to be pretty good evaluators of guard-talent. Both Booker and Dinwiddie were guys that other teams overlooked (at least throughout most of the recruiting process), and both had huge impacts in year 1. I think it's a lot to expect both Talton and Stalzer to have similar impacts, but I also think Boyle wouldn't be bringing them in if he didn't believe that they could fill the needs we have going into 2012-2013. Considering how often Boyle trotted out a lineup that included Booker, Dinwiddie and Tomlinson (lack of forward depth aside), I think he's expecting at least one of these two guys to be able to give him minutes like that. We need at least one more guard to be able to play with and spell Booker and Dinwiddie right away next year.
These five (**** Six!) kids could propel the Colorado basketball program to heights not seen in Boulder in half a century. It's not out of the question to expect the Buffs to start slow as these five guys (provided they all arrive on campus without any problems) adjust to the college game and find their roles on the squad. We may need as many as three of them to become starters before we get to the Pac 12 portion of our schedule. If most of these guys can make the jump, there's no reason why we can't be in the running for the Pac 12 regular season title, and then make some more runs in the post season tournaments.