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January 4, 2007

Mailbag: Smith making senior year count

Nolan Smith is having a big senior season at Oak Hill, and one reader wants to know if he will move up in the rankings.

National Recruiting Analyst Jerry Meyer also addresses questions about five-star 2009 prospect Lance Stephenson, Ole Miss recruit Zach Graham, Syracuse's future backcourt and North Carolina's recruiting efforts in the 2008 class in this week's mailbag.

Jerry's Mailbag
I've noticed that Nolan Smith has been leading the way for Oak Hill this year, but you guys rank him at #51 and behind teammate Alex Legion. Do you see him moving up in the rankings later this season?
John from Knoxville

Without a doubt, Nolan Smith is having a fantastic season. He seems to have really found a comfort zone playing with Brandon Jennings in the backcourt. Smith has been free to play primarily as a scorer. As an off guard, he is a quality ballhandler.

In the summer with the DC Assault, Smith spent the majority of his time at the point guard position. As a primary ball handler, he did not look as good as he looks now.

I don't know if Smith will jump into the five-star category, but he may move up in our next rankings.

How many recruits from the 2008 class will North Carolina get? And name them please.
Josh from Rock Island

Unless the Tar Heels come up with a late signee for its 2007 class, I foresee North Carolina having seven scholarships to work with for the 2008 class. Seniors Wes Miller and Rayshawn Terry and junior Quentin Thomas will have used up their eligibility. It is quite likely that Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington, Tywon Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough will all have exited to the NBA by the end of next season.

So let's look at the 2008 prospects who North Carolina is tracking right now. Forward Delvon Roe is at the top of UNC's wish list, and chances are good the Tar Heels will get him. At point guard, Larry Drew is the top target. At shooting guard, UNC is taking a long, hard look at Tyreke Evans. Obviously very talented, the question with Evans is if he fits well enough into the UNC system to bring in for what will more than likely be only one year. Travis Releford and Jared Swopshire are also on the radar.

The power forward position is where the Tar Heels could potentially make their biggest haul. Besides Roe, Ed Davis, Drew Gordon, Ty Walker,Greg Monroe, Howard Thompkins and Samardo Samuels are on Carolina's list.

After a No. 1 recruiting class in 2006 and with little recruiting activity in 2007 for North Carolina, it will be fun to watch the recruiting of the 2008 class unfold.

How well do you see Jonny Flynn and Scoop Jardine coexisting in the Syracuse backcourt next year?
Steve from Hackensack

I think they will play well together. Jonny Flynn will compete with Josh Wright for time at point guard, and Antonio Jardine will compete with Eric Devendorf at the shooting guard position.

Both Flynn and Jardine have the instincts to cause opponents trouble at the top of the zone. Offensively, Jardine is a natural scorer. He also handles the ball well as a secondary ballhandler, in a similar fashion as Nolan Smith. Flynn has a balanced game as a scorer and distributor at the point guard position. It will be important for Flynn to wisely pick his times to assert himself as a scorer while he focuses primarily on creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.

With Flynn being an explosive athlete possessing a well-rounded game and with Jardine being a crafty and somewhat unorthodox scorer, Syracuse has two backcourt players coming in who could really complement each other well.

Who does Zach Graham compare to in college basketball right now? Physically, he seems to resemble Alonzo Gee or Paul Harris. What about game-wise? Thanks
MT from Jackson
MT, you use two good comparisons for Zach Graham in Gee and Harris. Graham is comparable to both athletically and in terms of size. He differs from Gee in that he does not shoot the long ball nearly as well. Graham is more of a slasher and rebounder in the mold of Harris. He differs from Harris, however, in that he does not handle the ball and pass as well as the Syracuse standout.

Graham is a tough-nosed, slashing, mid-range scorer who has a good feel for the game. I expect his shooting range to improve and foresee him doing some good things for Ole Miss in the SEC.

Is Lance Stephenson the real deal?
Marc from New Jersey
I'm not exactly sure what "real deal" means, but Lance Stephenson is very good. As a 2009 prospect, Stephenson is a very physical wing player with a solid all-around game. He doesn't necessarily excel at any one aspect of the game, but he is a well-rounded player. At the City of Palms Classic, I was impressed by how he competed even when he was having a subpar game.

Instead of complaining about not getting touches or sulking because his jumper wasn't falling, Stephenson crashed the boards and took the ball to the rack. Then he had a monster game in his last outing at the event and scored in every way imaginable.

As the fourth ranked prospect in his class, the physically mature Stephenson will have to work hard to maintain his top-five ranking. Players will begin to catch up with him physically, and he will need to refine his skills and perhaps find an aspect of the game at which he can excel.

Jerry Meyer is a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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