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October 26, 2006

Rivals.com Elite Team superlatives

Rivals.com has named 15 high school basketball standouts to its preseason Elite Teams essentially a preseason All-America team for the 2007 graduating class.

In addition to breaking down the Elite Team players' individual games, we are also analyzing the group by position and as a whole.

Below is our list of superlatives who we think the best of the best are on our top three teams.

Rivals.com Elite Team Superlatives
Best perimeter scorer: Eric Gordon
He's wired to score better than any other player in this top-heavy class. Gordon is just as dangerous from deep as he is at getting to the rim. Some may say his mid-range game needs work. Not so much. When no one can stop him from deep or up close, why change what works?
Best low post scorer: J.J. Hickson
Any time the N.C. State commitment gets the ball on the block, it is two points. Hickson has the most refined offensive post game of any of the big men in this class. He mixes power with a soft touch down low.
Best passer: Kevin Love
When people throw compliments around like "he's the best outlet passer since Wes Unseld," when talking about the Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School big man, it is hard to argue with this pick. Love can throw an 80 foot pass just as well as he can find his guards and wings.
Best shooter: Eric Gordon
Does it come as a big surprise that the best shooter in the class hails from Hoosier country? Gordon has a textbook shot, and he elevates higher than most guards. His release is at the top of his vertical and the results are usually good more times than not.
Best rebounder: Patrick Patterson
It is all about positioning, strength and having a nose for the ball when it comes to cleaning the glass like Patterson does. The 6-foot-9 forward hasn't had many challenges when it comes to grabbing missed shots. That probably will be the case at the next level, too.
Best shot-blocker: DeAndre Jordan
The Texas A&M-bound center mixes his unmatchable length and athleticism to swat away shots. He also gets the ball up the floor for transition offense. The near 7-footer will be a force in the Big 12 right away as a shot-blocker.
Best defender: Bill Walker
No one ever doubted Walker's mind-boggling athleticism. When he isn't rocking the rims, he's causing havoc on some of the top athletes in the country. Walker mixes his physical traits (long arms, strong legs) with pesky on-the-ball defense that can rattle the best of them.
Most versatile: Kyle Singler
When a player can play all five positions and be successful at every spot, it is hard to call anyone else more versatile. The 6-foot-9 Oregon native can go inside and grab double digit rebounds, step out and knock down a handful of 3-pointers or run the point with his outstanding passing.
Best in the clutch: O.J. Mayo
In Las Vegas, Mayo faced Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose in one of the best matchups on the summer circuit. Mayo put on a show. He converted a four-point play with less than five seconds remaining and helped seal the big win for his D1 Greyhounds team. After the game, he went to the scorers table and slapped the sign that read, "Where it all gets settled."
Best basketball IQ: Nick Calathes
Few players make up for their lack of athleticism and lack of speed better than the Lake Howell (Fla.) High School point guard. Calathes sees the floor incredibly well and raises the level of play of his team along the way. He can score 50 points in a game, like he did last year at the City of Palms, and also leave the crowd amazed with his nine assists.
Best pro prospect: Michael Beasley
The NBA is full of 6-foot-9 forwards that can go inside and out, jump out of the gym and ooze potential. The Notre Dame Prep forward will certainly be another one of those players. He has the same tools as his professional counterparts. Beasley is the toughest player to defend in this class.
Best interview: Michael Beasley
Always sporting a spry smile, the witty future Kansas State star is quick with a sound byte. He'll be a favorite on Media Day and a welcome addition to the sports pages for the Manhattan, Kan., scribes.
Best speed: Derrick Rose
No one has an extra gear quite like the Chicago star. Just when you think he's pushing the red line, Rose finds the turbo button and sprints to the spot where he wants to go. In the process, his body control never changes and defenders never know when he is going to shift into that next gear.
Best hands: Kevin Love
The set of paws on the Pacific Northwest native are as strong as a vice grip when it comes to grabbing rebounds. However, he has very soft hands when he sets up shop in the post.
Best motor: Patrick Patterson
The Huntington (W.V.) High School forward embodies the spirit of his city with his workmanlike attitude on the hardwood. He works very hard on the boards and punishes opponents with his strong frame.
Best strength: Kevin Love
For a guy that isn't necessarily chiseled, Love is a force. His legs and hands are very strong, and he does a good job using them to his advantage.
Best leaper: Jerryd Bayless
There were times on the AAU circuit that the gym would just go quiet after Bayless exploded to the rim and threw down a vicious dunk. The 6-foot-3 guard does things that are hard to comprehend in the air. With his hang time and body control, he could find a home at Cirque de Soleil.



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