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November 19, 2007

UF class of the SEC again

Surprise, surprise. Florida has done it again.

As the early signing period comes to a close Wednesday, the Gators have the top basketball recruiting class in the Southeastern Conference this year. Billy Donovan and Co. are winning everything these days.

After landing the top class in the country in 2007, Florida checks in at the top of the SEC this season and fifth in the nation if the class of 2008 team recruiting rankings.

The SEC as a whole is bringing in the most talent of all of the conferences. Eight teams are ranked in the top 30 recruiting classes in the country.

There are six likely McDonald's All-Americans coming into the conference in this recruiting period. Florida has a pair of top-20 prospects coming to Gainesville. Five-star big men Eloy Vargas and Kenny Kadji are both from the Sunshine State and should see immediate playing time.

Mississippi State appears to have a future pro to replace a future pro. When the Bulldogs lose Jamont Gordon to the NBA, whether after this year or next, MSU fans have no reason to fear. Scotty Hopson is ready for the spotlight. He's a top-10 talent nationally in the 2008 class. It is important to note, however, that Hopson has yet to sign his letter of intent – though he insists he is still committed to the Bulldogs.

Despite not playing in July because of injury, future Kentucky guard Deandre Liggins should be a McDonald's All-American. The Chicago native is now in Las Vegas at Findlay Prep, and he would be the most versatile player on Kentucky's roster right now.

LSU went down to the wire for Dallas big man J'Mison Morgan. He was worth the wait. The five-star center has all of the tools to be the next great LSU big man.

The top in-state talent rarely leaves Alabama, and Mark Gottfried and his staff made sure it stayed that way this recruiting cycle. Big man JaMychal Green, a 6-foot-8 grinder from Montgomery, will fit in perfectly for the Tide.

Biggest recruiting coup

Best of the SEC
Best perimeter scorer: Scotty Hopson*, Miss. State
Best low post scorer: Kenny Kadji, Florida
Best passer: DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky
Best shooter: Tay Waller, Auburn
Best rebounder: Jamychal Green, Alabama
Best shot-blocker: Kenny Kadji, Florida
Best defender: Courtney Fortson, Arkansas
Most versatile: Eloy Vargas, Florida
Best in the clutch: Courtney Fortson, Arkansas
Best basketball IQ: DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky
Best pro prospect: Scotty Hopson*, Miss. State
Best speed: Dee Bost, Miss. State
Best motor:Delwan Graham, LSU
Best strength: J'Mison Morgan, LSU
Best leaper: Scotty Hopson*, Miss. State
Impact player: Scotty Hopson*, Miss. State
Biggest sleeper: Drazen Zlovaric, Georgia
Sleeper class: Ole Miss
*Hopson is committed to Mississippi State, but hasn't signed as of Monday.
When Scotty Hopson committed to Mississippi State on Oct. 26, 2006, it was a surprise. The fact that he chose the Bulldogs wasn't surprising, considering four players from his AAU program - the Midstate Ballerz - were already in Starkville. The timing was the big surprise.

Hopson also considered Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana and Ohio State, he said on the day of his commitment. Lucky for Mississippi State they landed him far ahead of the curve. Last summer he clearly established himself as a top-10 player, just as our experts thought he was after first seeing him over a year and a half ago.

Hopson has pro written all over him, and he'll be an instant impact player for the Bulldogs from Day One – provided he sticks with his commitment.

Budding rivalry

Ole Miss and Arkansas crossed paths time and time again on the recruiting trail. When one won out, the other struck back.

The most notable back-and-forth competition involved big men Brandon Moore and Terrance Henry. The two Louisianan forwards looked closely at both SEC schools.

Moore, the No. 126 ranked player in the class of 2008, committed to Arkansas. Henry, the No. 83 ranked player in the class, is headed to Ole Miss.

Memphis area guard Terrico White was also involved with both schools. The three-star guard opted for Ole Miss.

Biggest miss

Rarely does the top talent in Louisiana leave the state for college. LSU has a lot to do with it. Tasmin Mitchell, Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, etc., all stayed and laced them up in Baton Rouge. But in-state big man Greg Monroe, a quiet and humble star that doubles as the nation's top player, opted for Georgetown instead.

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