By Justin Young, Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Senior Writer
The Big 12 is strong at the top, thanks to a newcomer on the national recruiting scene.
The rest of the conference? Well, it is trying to keep pace.
The Big 12 checks in as the sixth strongest conference in the 2007 team recruiting rankings.
Big 12 rank (National rank)
1. Kansas State (2)
2. Texas (22)
3. Oklahoma (27)
4. Okla. State (28)
5. Texas A&M
6. Iowa State
8. Texas Tech
K-State makes national splash
Kansas State, yes Kansas State, tops the Big 12 conference rankings and checked in at No. 2 in the nation. For the first time in school history, the Wildcats went hard after top-flight prospects and signed them.
Michael Beasley, the nation's No. 1 player, leads the charge for Kansas State. His relationship with assistant coach Dalonte Hill was the foundation for his decision to attend K-State. The 6-foot-9 Beasley is a skilled forward, and is the most difficult player to defend in the class of 2007. Big 12 coaches will likely only have to deal with him for one season. Beasley could be a "one and done" player before heading to the NBA.
Bill Walker, an original member of the class of 2007, graduated from high school early and joined the team at the winter semester last season. Walker played in six games before tearing his ACL. With Beasley and Walker, few teams have the kind of athleticism that Kansas State will boast next year.
Kansas State inked wing Dominique Sutton and Jamar Samuels, teammates with Beasley on the AAU circuit. Florida guard Fred Brown and Chicago guard Jacob Pullen join junior college guard Andre Gilbert in the class.
Best of the Big 12
Best perimeter scorer: LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
Best low post scorer: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best passer: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best shooter: John Roberson, Texas Tech
Best rebounder: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Best shot-blocker: DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
Best defender: Bill Walker, Kansas State
Most versatile: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best in the clutch: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best basketball IQ: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best pro prospect: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best interview: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best speed: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State
Best hands: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Best motor: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Best strength: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Best leaper: Bill Walker, Kansas State
Impact player: Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Biggest sleeper: Ibrahima Thomas, Oklahoma State
Sleeper class: Texas A&M
The gap between K-State and Texas, the second-ranked class in the Big 12 and 22nd overall, is huge.
The Longhorns addressed size and got in the three-headed monster of Alexis Wangmene, Gary Johnson and Clint Chapman. Each brings a different skill set to the team. Turkish guard Dogus Balbay was signed late in the process as well.
After a full year to recruit, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel reeled in a nationally ranked (No. 27) class in 2007. The Sooners' group is ranked No. 3 in the Big 12. In-state forward Blake Griffin is the headliner. The McDonald's All-American is perfectly suited for the conference, and he appears ready to make an impact down low. Guard Tony Neysmith is a four-star prospect. Wing players Cade Davis and Chris Early round out the high-schoolers coming to Norman.
Down the road at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys went for bulk and got it. Seven players make up the No. 28 class in the nation.
McDonald's All-American James Anderson is a likely star for Sean Sutton, a former Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year. Georgia big man Martavius Adams won a state title as a senior and could surprise in conference play. Five three-star prospects (Anthony Brown, Brad Garrett, Marshall Moses, Nick Sidorakis and Ibrahima Thomas) round out the class.
Jerry Meyer's take: Kansas State brings in a strong class, but it needs Michael Beasley to be a major difference-maker early. … Texas took care of needs at the power forward position. … Blake Griffin, Craig Brackins, Cole Aldrich and DeAndre Jordan are all post players who should upgrade their teams' lineups. … Oklahoma State has a solid core of players coming to campus. … John Roberson and LaceDarius Dunn should score points for Texas Tech and Baylor, respectively.
Top five freshmen
Kevin Durant gave the Big 12 an instant-impact, high-production player right out of high school. Will Beasley be that guy for Kansas State next year? He probably won't lead the conference in scoring, but his presence - along with a healthy Walker - will be felt. Teams simply don't have the athleticism to match either player at the four or three position. Beasley can burn teams inside and out, like Durant did. Like the former Longhorn, teams will have to readjust several times to try and slow down Beasley.
After being snubbed by the McDonald's All-American committee, incoming Texas A&M center DeAndre Jordan is a big-time addition to the conference. He should help coach Mark Turgeon make the transition to Big 12 play. The athletic 7-footer just keeps getting better.
Iowa State has an interesting big man coming to town next year in Californian Craig Brackins. The 6-foot-10 forward can shoot, rebound and run the floor. He's a major upgrade for the Cyclones inside.
Griffin wasn't wowed by recruiting pitches from the national powers. He opted to play at Oklahoma, where his brother Taylor will be a junior next year. The younger Griffin is a monster down low and surprised people with his athleticism at the McDonald's All-American game.
Kansas went to Minnesota to lock up big man Cole Aldrich. The McDonald's All-American isn't flashy, but he's effective. In the long term, the Jayhawks have a rugged center that shines as a shot-blocker and a rebounder. He'll be a contributor now and even more as an upperclassman.
The Big 12 is known for physical play down low, and the incoming big men are certainly prototypical tough guys. The conference trainers will need to restock the ice packs and gauze pads. Things are about to get more physical.
Oklahoma has Griffin. Texas has Johnson. Kansas has Aldrich. Oklahoma State has Adams. Texas A&M has Denzall Bowles and Jordan. The grinders are coming.
Inside the numbers
Of the 19 incoming Rivals150 players, the Big 12 boasts five five-star players. Nine are four-star players (ranging from 30 to 100 in the rankings) and five three-star players within the top 150.
Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas inked three players inside the rankings. Texas A&M, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Kansas signed two. Nine teams in the conference have a Rivals150 player coming to school next season.