Bob Gibbons and Van Coleman are the most experienced and, in my view, the most authoritative and objective of the nation's basketball recruiting analysts. And God knows there are dozens of them from coast to coast. But only Gibbons and Coleman have been evaluating players since the 1970s, since before gyms became air-conditioned.
So it is interesting to note that, as we are deluged with post-summer evaluations, Gibbons and Coleman have agreed to disagree on who is the No. 1 player in the class of 2011. Gibbons' choice is guard Austin Rivers of Winter Park, Fla., the son of former Proviso East, Marquette and NBA player and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, while Coleman has elevated 6-10 Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives to the top spot.
Davis is the first Illinois product to earn the No. 1 ranking since Farragut's Kevin Garnett in 1994. But nobody has ever risen to the top spot as fast as Davis, who was a virtual unknown last April.
Coleman's top five are Davis, 6-7 Michael Gilchrist of Elizabeth, N.J., Rivers, 6-9 Quincy Miller of High Point, N.C., and 6-5 guard Brad Beal of St. Louis.
Davis and Gilchrist are committed to Kentucky, Beal to Florida. Miller was born in North Chicago before moving to North Carolina. Rivers originally committed to Florida but has decided to continue looking at other schools, including Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina.
Other Illinois products on Coleman's top 100 list are Louisville-bound Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park (18), 6-6 Sam Thompson of Whitney Young (45), 6-8 Mike Shaw of De La Salle (53), Illinois-bound point guard Tracy Abrams of Mount Carmel (55), Illinois-bound 6-6 forward Mychael Henry of Orr (62), point guard Chasson Randle of Rock Island (76), point guard Ryan Boatright of East Aurora (82), Illinois-bound 6-10 Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius (98) and point guard Bruce Barron of Carbondale's Brehm Prep (100).
Coleman ranked Davis as the nation's No. 7 player prior to the summer competition but moved him to No. 1 "based more with his potential to continue to improve and a motor only equaled on the court by Gilchrist. Its that desire to continue to raise his game that gives him the edge here. He will have to continue to build on what we've seen since April to hold onto the top spot. So stay tuned. The top spot isn't locked up yet."
Coleman said Davis has a similar skill set to Derrick Favors, last year's No. 1 player, except Davis is a better shooter and has quicker feet though he isn't as strong. "Davis has a lot of Sam Perkins and Marcus Camby in his game. Plus he can dominate a game on the defensive end of the court," Coleman said.
Like Coleman, Gibbons marvels at Davis' overall skills but isn't convinced that Davis is No. 1, not yet. "I want to see more consistency in his game. I've seen him several times and I want to see more consistency out of his game. When you are talking No. 1, you expect more. Davis certainly doesn't rank in a class with Kevin Garnett (as a high school senior) at this point," Gibbons said.
Gibbons' top five are Rivers, Gilchrist, Miller, Beal and North Carolina-bound 6-8 James McAdoo of Norfolk, Va. Davis rates No. 6 on his current chart but he concedes that the youngster has all of the skills and potential to claim the No. 1 spot at the end of the season.
Tai Streets, Davis' AAU coach at MeanStreets, has played with NBA players such as Melvin Ely. He is amazed by all of the things that Davis can do on the court but reminds that the youngster still is raw, an unfinished product, still developing. "He reminds me of Dirk Nowitzki on the high school level," Streets said.
Scout.com also rates Davis No. 1 in the nation, ahead of Miller, Rivers, McAdoo and Gilchrist.
"Davis is a hungry, impact shot blocker and a guy who runs the floor with size, speed and grace. Davis can play inside and facing the basket," said Dave Telep of Scout.com. "what he's got on the others is hunger and his status as a late bloomer. It's a rollof the dice to go No. 1 with him but a move we became increasingly comfortable with while watching his quick evolution."
Meanwhile, Rivals.com rated Davis No. 6 behind Rivers, Kentucky-bound point guard Marquis Teague of Indianapolis, Gilchrist, 6-6 LeBryan Nash of Dallas, Texas, and Miller.
ESPNU rates Davis No. 3 behind Rivers and Gilchrist.
"He has a huge target on his back," admits Chicago Perspectives coach Cortez Hale. "I think his attitude separates him from others. You couldn't tell he is No. 1 by his manner. He always wants to learn. Teach me more, teach more, he says.
"My challenge to him for the 2010-11 season is that he must play hard all the time. A lot of people will be evaluating him and he will be playing against competition (Juarez, Austin, Clark, Best Practice, Kelvyn Park) that won't be as must of a test as he had during the spring and summer on the AAU circuit."
Davis has some work to do. Hale said Davis is 6-10 and weighs 195 pounds, not 215 as he is listed. He must add 20-25 pounds to compete against the best players in the country on a consistent basis. Based on his progress since April, however, there is no reason to believe that Davis can't achieve that goal, too.