It seems like a longer journey than necessary to reach the same conclusion: Harrison Barnes is the nation's top rising senior prospect. The Ames (Iowa) High state champion, over time, has consistently distinguished himself with his game, work ethic and hunger to be the best.
Barnes is one of a handful of special players surrounded by elite talents in our newest Scout.com Top 100.
Crowding Barnes at the top is Brandon Knight. Hampered by a foot injury late in the summer, Knight was absent (but not forgotten) during the second half of the evaluation period. Superior size, scoring ability and defensive intangibles mean Knight is always near the top of his class.
Checking in at No. 3 is the resident winning machine from the Class of 2010. Jared Sullinger is to his class what Tyler Hansbrough was to the Class for 2005: consistent and wired to win. Thad Matta had Greg Oden who was dominant. He scored B.J. Mullens, a potential guy, and now Sullinger who is a results guy. Sully should flirt with matching the number of combined wins by Mullens and Oden.
No. 4 Perry Jones was the toast of the summer circuit. The national ascension began at the NBA Camp and continued right on through to Las Vegas. There is room for Jones to rise on this list should he turn a dominant senior year, a year that he's now capable of delivering. He's the gold standard for Baylor recruits under Scott Drew.
When Kevin Boyle referenced Kyrie Irving as the best guard to ever come out of the state of New Jersey, well, it was a conversation stopper. A year and a half later, we should be asking Boyle if he knows the winning Powerball numbers because he could be prophetic. The No. 5 recruit in the Scout.com Top 100 was steady and high level in July.
No. 6 Tristan Thompson: Our former No. 1 prospect, Thompson was looking like he could contend again for the spot this spring but couldn't finish it off in the summer. Don't think for a minute he's slipped. Once his conditioning improves (he's going to Texas where they specialize in sculpting frames) we believe Thompson will solidify and justify his ranking.
No. 7 Fab Melo: Opinions seem to be mixed on the Fabulous One. Here's what we know. When mixed in with the best talent at the NBA Camp, Melo was a standout. When given touches he produced. He's got unique size, soft hands and good feet. The pieces haven't come together, at least not consistently but a neophyte to the game, Melo's exciting down the road.
No. 8 Will Barton: He's the guy who likes to talk but his chattiness doesn't get in the way of his ability to score. Nearly a coin flip between himself and Bullock for the top spot, Barton, as he likes to say "is wiry strong." He's also very capable of going for the big number. He will terrorize defenders in C-USA.
No. 9 Tobias Harris: If there's a better example of what hard work and determination can do for player, we haven't seen it. Harris willed himself to get in shape and once he did the game because easier for him. A sleeker Harris found himself able to play with more athleticism and at a quicker pace. His skill level was never in doubt but with less weight to carry the task of becoming a great player was made easier.
No. 10 Josh Selby: You could drop Selby into a parks and rec game or the NBA all-star game and he'd still think he was the best player on the court and would set out to prove it. A popular guy amongst his peers, Selby is a scoring lead guard. He's an underrated passer and justly regarded finisher/scorer.
One of the most challenging tasks of creating this list was trying to squeeze 13 guys into the Top 10. Obviously, we couldn't and Reggie Bullock (No. 11), C.J. Leslie (12) and Josh Smith were difficult omissions.
Bullock is the quietest, most unassuming member of our Top 25. However, when its time to win and the stakes get raised, he's ready to play his cards. We aren't sure there are five more naturally gifted players than Leslie in the entire class. He's elite with his athleticism and offense, plus few have his natural bounce and ability to play above the rim.
Smith, who is playing football this season, is a load. They simply don't make guys this big on the hardwood. How good he can be is completely up to him.
Rounding out our Top 15 is Ohio State's DeShaun Thomas and wing Jelan Kendrick. Thomas has been so good for so long it seems like he's been around forever. Kendrick, heck, we still haven't figured out his position and maintain that's a great thing!
The remainder of the five-star players goes Jereme Richmond (No. 16), Joe Jackson (17), Patric Young (18), Adreian Payne (19), Terrence Jones (20), Kendall Marshall (21), Cory Joseph (22), Ray McCallum (23), Justin Coleman (24) and Ryan Harrow (25).