This is the second installment of our Top Recruit Series, which will outline the recruiting history since 2000 for each of the seven power conferences. Here, we examine the Big Ten.
What an embarrassment of recruiting riches Big Ten programs have had over the years. You might think the league's been near par, but you'd be wrong. We're ranking the top 25 recruits from current Big Ten programs since 2000, and yet, with this conference I could've gone 40 deep and not felt like I was putting too many names out there. Michigan State, Ohio State and Indiana dominate the list. Maryland, which was recruiting out of the ACC for most of the past 16 years, has a few spots as well.Some of these names ... what a flashback.
The Big Ten has always been an interesting league from a recruiting perspective because, outside of Chicago and Indiana, there haven't been consistent hotbeds for talent. Still, the Midwest has given the sport some of its most interesting prospects of the past decade and a half.
Let's take a fun look back. You've probably forgotten a lot of these names, while others have become synonymous with their high prep ranking. Below the top 25, let's get into the biggest overachievers and underachievers -- while making room to mention a lot of the players who don't fit into any of these categories. There's plenty of love to go around.
|1. Greg Oden||Ohio State||C||2006|
|2. Zach Randolph||Michigan State||PF||2000|
|3. Eric Gordon||Indiana||SG||2007|
|4. B.J. Mullens||Ohio State||C||2008|
|5. Jared Sullinger||Ohio State||PF||2010|
|6. Kelvin Torbert||Michigan State||SG||2001|
|7. Jared Jeffries||Indiana||PF||2000|
|8. Shannon Brown||Michigan State||SG||2003|
|9. Brian Butch||Wisconsin||C||2003|
|10. Diamond Stone||Maryland||C||2015|
|11. Cody Zeller||Indiana||PF||2011|
|12. Paul Davis||Michigan State||C||2002|
|13. Marcus Taylor||Michigan State||PG||2000|
|14. Bracey Wright||Indiana||SG||2002|
|15. Rick Rickert||Minnesota||PF||2001|
|16. Dee Brown||Illinois||SG||2002|
|17. Miles Bridges||Michigan State||SF||2016|
|18. Sam Dekker||Wisconsin||SF||2012|
|19. Kosta Koufos||Ohio State||C||2007|
|20. Noah Vonleh||Indiana||PG||2013|
|21. Delvon Roe||Michigan State||PF||2008|
|22. Kris Humphries||Minnesota||PF||2003|
|23. D.J. White||Indiana||PG||2004|
|24. Daequan Cook||Ohio State||SG||2006|
|25. Glenn Robinson III||Michigan||SF||2012|
A lot of standouts there. And that's before getting to guys like Maryland's Chris Wilcox, who was the 23rd-best prospect in his class, a five-star guy in 2000. Another recent Maryland player, Alex Len, wasn't rated because he played internationally. A current player who would make the top 30: Purdue's Caleb Swanigan.
Greg Oden was a transcendent talent. Some of that is lost now, but go back and watch videos of him at Ohio State. He was thoroughly dominant. The top 25 is ranked only based on reputation heading into college, but by any measure he's a top-three player of basketball skill in the Big Ten in the past 17 years. Zach Randolph was a problem at Michigan State -- and I say that in a mostly good way. The league was truly different then. Shannon Brown played for three years (97 games) with Sparty, earning All-Big Ten honors before being taken 25th in the 2006 draft.
Remember the drama surrounding Eric Gordon? If not, basically: Gordon was an Illinois kid, and that recruitment was one of the most intense of the era. He was was a one-and-done player at Indiana, averaging 20.9 points in 34.7 minutes for an IU team that went 25-8 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Noah Vonleh was also one-and-done; he was taken with the ninth pick in the 2014 draft. D.J. White wound up being a pivotal player at IU, staying four years and winning Big Ten Player of the Year as a senior in 2007-08. Christian Watford was a highly rated recruit who wound up giving Indiana one of its biggest moments ever when he drained a 3 at the buzzer to beat Kentucky and signal the program's return to national relevance.
Ohio State's had some studs, man. Guys who didn't even make the top 25, all of them five-star: William Buford, D'Angelo Russell, Deshaun Thomas, Mike Conley. All four were ranked between 13th and 21st in their respective classes. But Jared Sullinger had a good career, and he helps make up for the lack of some OSU prospects who were good but not great. (More on that below.)
Sam Dekker committing to Wisconsin was huge at the time. And he turned out to be pivotal. Bo Ryan famously didn't win thanks to recruiting, but it's undeniable he had a few big-time players who made a difference in keeping UW at or near the top of the standings.
Michigan had some down years, but Glenn Robinson III stayed two years at UM before declaring for the 2014 draft. The Wolverines went to the 2013 Final Four with him in the lineup, in addition to four-star recruit Mitch McGary (who did not play due to suspension.)
Minnesota's shining player from the past 15 years is Kris Humphries, who was one-and-done after averaging 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds for a Minnesota team that went 12-18. Royce White committed to Minnesota but never played due to internal drama there. He transferred to Iowa State, where he became a lottery pick. Colton Iverson had a similar path. A Minnesota recruit who left the Gophers only to become an NBA player at a different school (Colorado State).
Not every Big Ten program is represented, but take Rutgers, who had Mike Rosario -- a top-30, four-star prospect -- and even that's a program that had some recruiting wins, albeit when RU was in the Big East.
1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana. A three-star recruit who exploded in his sophomore year and turned himself into the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013. Oladipo became a dynamo at Indiana and was a First Team All-American in addition to being named national defensive player of the year. He averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.2 steals his junior season. On 247, he ranks as just the 29th-best prospect at IU over the past 14 years. Nuts.
2. Devyn Marble, Iowa. Known as Roy Marble, Jr. during his prep and early college days, he was rated as a two-star recruit. He eventually averaged 17 points, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals for Iowa, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors in 2014. He also parlayed his play into being drafted by the Orlando Magic. His play catalyzed Iowa to a solid five-year run under Fran McCaffery.
3. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Completely retooled his game, became a modern stretch 4/5 and turned himself into a national player of the year-level guy in college, then was taken ninth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. Kaminsky was the most vital player on Wisconsin's back-to-back Final Four teams. Prior to college he was an afterthought (219th in his class) as a serious big-conference recruit.
4. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State. Yes, he was a four-star recruit, but he wasn't in the top 100 in his high school class (2012); 247 Sports had him ranked 129th in the composite that year. Yet Valentine turned himself into a lottery pick, was a multiple national player-of-the-year winner for 2015-16, and in the process, became one of the five best players in MSU history. That's blazing past expectations people had for him entering his freshman season.
5. Luther Head, Illinois. Unlike his teammates Deron Williams and Dee Brown, Head was a low-rated recruit who became a key cog in Illinois' run to the 2005 national championship game. The Illini went 37-2 that season. Head turned himself into the 24th overall pick in the '05 draft. As a senior he was a consensus pick for Second Team All-American, averaging 15.9 points.
1. Mike Jones, Maryland. A five-star shooting guard in the class of 2003, Jones was one of the 15-or-so best players in his high school class. As a Terp, he never became what he was as a prep player. Jones was a four-year player who shot 43 percent from the field, didn't get to the foul line enough and averaged 9.2 points for his career
2. Delvon Roe, Michigan State. Roe's situation is tinged with injury, as he played three seasons with Sparty, never averaged above 6.4 points and was unable to play up to his high reputation when he signed with MSU in 2007. He had to leave the game for good in 2011 after knee injuries proved chronic. Roe had his choice of almost any big-time program in the country, but he was done in by one setback after another.
3. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State. Mullens came after Oden, and so the expectations were held in check with Oden's shadow still hanging. He was a one-and-done player, having averaged 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game. Bad player? Not at all, but he was dubbed the No. 2 prospect in his class and nothing about what he did at OSU suggested he was even a top-10 player.
4. Dion Harris, Michigan. A five-star shooting guard in the class of 2003, Harris was around the 20th best player in his class. At Michigan, he wound up staying four years and did average double digits every season, but he was a mediocre 38.2-percent shooter who wasn't anything special with the ball -- and wound up never getting drafted. If you go back and look, you'll find it's unusual for five-star players in the Big Ten since 2000 to not get picked into the NBA.
5. Diamond Stone, Maryland. Context is key here. Stone was far from a bust, but remember, his commitment to Maryland was seen as a paradigm shift. In reality, Maryland was an average team last year that didn't live up to its expectations, and Stone's role fluctuated. Heading in, some thought he'd be a top-20 player in the country, when in reality he didn't even finish as a top-20 player in the Big Ten. His natural skill set and size did lend him to be one and done; Stone was taken 40th.
The truth is, the Big Ten is not loaded with disappointing players over the years, another sign of good coaching in the conference. In terms of overachievers, I didn't even get to list guys like Greivis Vasquez, Meyers Leonard, Christian Watford, Evan Turner, Jon Leuer, Quincy Douby and Caris LeVert, who was ranked 242nd in his class, yet turned himself into a top-20 pick -- even with injuries plaguing him.
Wait, there's more. Evan Turner at Ohio State and Trey Burke at Michigan, both national players of the year. Both players don't rank as top-20 recruits at their respective programs this century. You might be surprised, but Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- still in the NBA -- isn't either. Michigan has had eight players drafted since 2000, Ohio State 13.
No, I didn't forget about Draymond Green. He was was a 4-star recruit and 62nd overall in his class, very good at MSU, but he's become so much more in the NBA than what he grew to be at MSU. (And he was a top-10 player nationally with the Spartans by his senior season.)
You look around the league now, and it's actually doing very well. As of now, no conference has more commitments from top 100 players in the class of 2017 than the Big Ten. Even a program like Illinois -- which has one five-star commit in the past 12 years -- is on the comeback. (Meyers Leonard is the only Illinois player -- let alone top recruit -- of the past decade to be drafted ).
If you look at the past 17 years, I think Michigan State wins (barely) overall. Izzo's been able to recruit well but also win with three- and four-star guys who developed two, three, four years into their careers. This class of 2016 (Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Cassius Winston) is the best Izzo's ever had. Gary Harris was a two-year player before being taken 19th in the 2014 draft. Branden Dawson was transformed while at MSU from an super-athletic wing man without a jump shot to a well-developed player that became an NBA pick; he ranks 22nd on MSU's list ... Denzel Valentine ranked 129th in the class of 2012 -- he's No. 33 for Michigan State. Izzo also has five-star Jaren Jackson coming to campus next season.
With Indiana, it's been a mix. You've had stars, you've had highly touted guys who stayed four seasons. IU's been so good you have guys like James Blackmon, Jr., Yogi Ferrell and Thomas Bryant who didn't even crack our top 25 -- and they're all fantastic players. Blackmon could threaten to average 18 this season, and Bryant will be in the running to win Big Ten player of the year.
Iowa's had three players drafted in the past 16 years, but none of them were elite recruits (Aaron White, Devyn Marble, Adam Haluska). Penn State's best player I can think of over the past 15 years is Talor Battle, and he was ranked 131st in his class.
Nebraska and Northwestern are without an NBA pick this century, both having last had a guy taken in 1999. As for Northwestern and recuits, Vic Law (missed last season to injury) should have a breakout season in 2016-17. John Shurna is the best player on Northwestern's list. He was First Team All-Big Ten in his senior season of 2011-12.
Purdue's the one program that's been good without being great. E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin represent the best recruiting class in program history. All four-star players, top-50 guys. But Purdue also landed A.J. Hammons in 2012, when he was a four-star center ranked 77th in his class according to the 247 composite.
The league has been better, on the whole, in basketball than in football for close to a decade now. I think that's because there's a consistency in coaching, similar yet nuanced styles of play and an ideal blend of one-and-done superstars balanced with four- and five-star guys who become juniors and seniors. Having talented veterans, NBA-type guys who hit 20 years old and are still on your roster? That's the dream. The Big Ten gets that annually and, seemingly, more than any other conference.