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December 1, 2008

Florida in familiar spot atop SEC

Conf. breakdown | VOTE: Top SEC class? | No. 1 Big 12 | No. 2 ACC | No. 3 Big East | No. 4 Big Ten

One of the reasons why college basketball fans love recruiting is the uncertainty of where players go and the overall ebb and flow of how well teams and conferences recruit.

Last year, the SEC as a whole was the best recruiting conference in the nation. Seven of the 12 teams were ranked within the top 30. This year, however, is much different. Only three teams check into the top 25 team rankings after the early signing period.

Florida remains the only constant from last year to this year. The Gators, who had a top-10 recruiting haul last year, check in at No. 6 after the early signing period. Thanks to the huge signing of five-star standout and potential SEC Player of the Year Kenny Boynton, Florida remains one of the steadiest recruiting powers in the nation.

Biggest recruiting coup

When the NCAA decided to move the 3-point line back this season, many wondered how much the rule change would affect the game. So far it hasn't. Guys like Stephen Curry, Kyle McAlarney and Jimmy Baron are lighting it up from deep.

Best of the SEC
Best perimeter scorer: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best low post scorer: Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Best passer: Jon Hood, Kentucky
Best shooter: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Best rebounder: Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
Best shot-blocker: Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Best defender: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Most versatile: Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss
Best in the clutch: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best basketball IQ: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best pro prospect: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best speed: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Best motor: Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss
Best strength: Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Best leaper: Lakeem Jackson, South Carolina
Best leader: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Impact player: Kenny Boynton, Florida
Biggest sleeper: Shaunessy Smith, Mississippi State
Sleeper class: Auburn
When John Jenkins arrives at Vanderbilt, his name will likely be on the list of best long-range threats in college basketball.

Jenkins, the No. 37-ranked player in the country, committed to the Commodores a year ago, long before he exploded onto the national scene. The 6-foot-4 star from the Nashville, Tenn., area used the summer to shoot himself into notoriety. Jenkins has a chance to be a star in Vanderbilt's style of play. That's why coach Kevin Stallings and his staff locked him up very early.

Budding rivalry

There are a number of versatile wings coming to the SEC, and there are a number of intriguing budding rivalries that could form over time.

Because of the speed and energy both Marshawn Powell and Reginald Buckner play with, the two could lock horns in what could be the most fiery matchup of any two players entering the SEC next year. Powell, a tough 6-7 do-everything forward, is the gem of the Arkansas class, while Ole Miss has an instant impact type of player coming to Oxford in Buckner.

Both players are ranked within the top 60 nationally, and both should be a needed spark for the SEC West teams.

Biggest miss

Rarely, if ever, do highly ranked players from the Deep South escape the recruiting grasp of SEC schools. But Alabama native DeMarcus Cousins did. The nation's second-ranked player in the nation played his first two years of high school ball in Birmingham. He later moved to Mobile to suit up for LeFlore High School, one of the top programs in the nation.

SEC: Inside the Numbers
3 Teams ranked in the top 25
15 Rivals150 prospects coming to the SEC
2 5-star prospect coming to the SEC
10 4-star prospects coming to the SEC
3 3-star prospects coming to the SEC
13 Non-ranked player coming to the SEC
5 Players from Georgia, the most of any state in the SEC
Cousins did not sign his national letter of intent in the fall with UAB, but he says he remains committed to Blazers coach Mike Davis.

Surprisingly, Cousins never really mentioned any SEC schools early in his recruitment. He committed to Davis early and never really gave teams in the league a chance to recruit him. Nevertheless, the big fish rarely get out of SEC country. This one did. And he might be the biggest fish to come out of the Deep South in a long, long time.

Best story line

Kenny Boynton's recruitment was one of the most watched of any player in the last couple of years. A year ago, Florida was one of those teams that was watching. The Gators were in the mix but were on the outside looking in.

Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Memphis, Texas and others looked like they had the upper hand a year ago, and while Boynton still mentioned the hometown school, no one in South Florida thought the Gators would win him over at the end of the day.

Coach Billy Donovan and his assistants turned up the heat after Boynton's memorable performance at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Meyers last December. Since then, Florida worked hard to climb back in the race and eventually held off a number of other national powers to win the five-star guard and game-changing player.

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