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March 6, 2009

Meyer's Mailbag: Tyler in contention for No. 1?

Jerry Meyer is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags
Feb 27: KU, USC to feel five-star impact
Feb 20: Breaking down Barnes
Feb 13: Duke closing in on big commit?
Will Louisville commitment Jeremy Tyler move back up the rankings after a terrific junior season?

Is Kentucky on the hunt for a point guard to add to its 2009 recruiting class?

Which signees will make the biggest difference for their teams next year as freshmen?

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

Jerry's Mailbag
Back on top?

Do you see Jeremy Tyler moving up in the rankings after a great season? It would seem that he has the physical attributes and production to be the No. 1 player in the class, ala Michael Beasley and Greg Monroe.

-- Adam from Knoxville, Tenn.
Tyler has always had the physical attributes to be the No. 1 prospect in the 2010 class. His lack of mental focus and emotional control on the court has often caused his game to suffer.

His ranking took a hit after a disappointing summer. He was significantly outplayed by other prospects in several different settings and at times was more of a detriment to his team than an asset.

This high school season, however, it appears as if Tyler might be in the process of turning a corner. There is certainly no denying his production 31.5 points per game but often those points came against grossly undersized opponents.

Nonetheless, I was quite impressed by what I saw out of Tyler when I scouted him over the Christmas break. He was bubbling with athleticism, scoring the ball in a variety of ways and was a dominant force around the rim on both ends of the floor. Simply put, he looked like an elite and very possibly No. 1 prospect.

The mental focus and emotional control still comes and goes for Tyler, but it seems to be there in longer stretches than before. I saw enough out of Tyler this season to know that he needs to be higher than his present ranking of No. 9 in the country. And if he continues to improve mentally and physically and in his skill game, he is a definite candidate for the No. 1 spot. The test will be how he performs this spring and summer.

Point guard help

What are the chances of Kentucky adding a point guard for the 2009 class? And if so who might it be and can they help next year?

-- Michael from Erlanger, Ky.
Kentucky has signed 2009 point guard GJ Vilarino of McKinney (Texas) High School, but there are questions as to whether he will be ready to man the position as a freshman. In other words, it is unlikely that he will be an upgrade from Michael Porter at the position.

The Wildcats do have their eyes on at least three other point guard prospects in the 2009 class. Assistant coach Tracy Webster recently evaluated Vincent Williams, who is an undersized scoring point guard out of Homestead (Fla.) South Dade High School. At this point Williams is a backup plan behind the other two prospects.

Darius Smith of Chicago Marshall High School is another point guard Kentucky has been involved with throughout the year. Smith is having a tremendous senior season, and a number of schools are pursuing him. Presently it is tough to decipher the level of mutual interest between Smith and Kentucky.

The prime point guard target for Kentucky appears to be Eric Bledsoe. The athletic and rugged Bledsoe just led his Birmingham Parker team to the finals of the Alabama 5A state tournament, dazzling those in attendance with his play. With many schools looking to add a 2009 point guard in the spring, Bledsoe will have plenty of options if he can qualify academically. Whether or not Kentucky can land him remains to be seen, but don't be surprised if Bledsoe takes a visit to Lexington in the near future.

Impact players

Which signees from the class of 2009 can you see as the most valuable to their teams next year?

-- Marc from Hartford, Conn.
Out of the 2009 prospects who have already signed, I'll throw out four who quickly come to mind as players who can be major difference-makers for their teams next year.

1. Derrick Favors is going to a Georgia Tech team that desperately needs help. As a player who can control a game in the paint on both ends of the court, Favors has the ability to push Tech around the corner.
2. Abdul Gaddy will give Washington a talented and poised presence at the point, which will bring out the best of his teammates. Isaiah Thomas, who has had a highly successful freshman year, could have an even better sophomore year with Gaddy at his side.
3. Mouphtaou Yarou should give Villanova a dominant inside presence that the Villanova faithful have been craving for years. Not only will he defend and rebound, but Yarou will put up points on the inside as well.
4. John Jenkins is coming to a Vanderbilt team that has uncharacteristically struggled shooting the ball from behind the arc this year. A prolific scorer (nation-leading 42 points per game this year), Jenkins will provide instant firepower from deep.

Triple trouble

Obviously, Tennessee has had extensive trouble shooting the 3-ball this season. With this in mind, do you see UT going after any JUCO players or getting in the mix with any top shooting guards for next year's class?

-- Alex from Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee has been on the hunt for a high-level shooting guard all season, and it appears that the Volunteers might be closing in on a quality prospect. Former Alabama point guard Rico Pickett has had a superb season as a shooting guard for Miami Dade Community College, averaging 25 points per game. Presently the four-star prospect has Tennessee in his top three along with Florida and Florida State. There are even rumblings that Tennessee is the team to beat.

Landing Pickett would be huge for Tennessee because not only would he give them needed perimeter scorer, but he would also provide some length and depth at the point guard position.

Big options

Clemson seems to be a solid big man away from going to the next level. Who are the Tigers' best recruiting options to this point?

-- Joe from Roswell, Ga.
He might only be 6 feet 7, but junior big man Trevor Booker plays about as big as a 6-7 player can play. In fact, Booker leads Clemson in scoring at 15.1 points per game and leads the ACC in rebounding at 9.7 per game.

Certainly, it would be nice to have more size, but there just aren't many players taller than 6-8 who can play in the up-tempo style that coach Oliver Purnell utilizes.

In addition to Booker returning as a senior, he will be joined next year by his younger brother Devin Booker. Cut out of the same mold as Trevor, Devin is having a strong senior season and should be able to replicate what his older brother has done for the program, or perhaps even surpass it.

But the ringer in the 2009 Clemson recruiting class is five-star power forward and McDonald's All American Milton Jennings. And yes, Jennings has terrific length at 6-9. He is not a bruising dominant low post player, however. Instead, Jennings is a highly skilled inside/outside scorer with a feathery touch from deep range.

There are very few ideal front lines in college basketball, but Clemson will have a front line next year that it can win with. Trevor Booker is a proven commodity who thrives in Purnell's system. His brother Devin should follow right in Trevor's footsteps. Jennings causes matchup problems with his versatility and deep range. And Jerai Grant is a developing big man who might just be ready to have a breakout junior season next year.

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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