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2007-2008 TOP PLAYER PREVIEW: THE BIG MEN
June 20, 2007

SCS.comSouthernCollegeSports.com wraps up its look at next season’s top college basketball players with a glance at the best returning front court players in the country. Greg Oden and Spencer Hawes were part of the stellar freshman class of 2006-07 and will hear their names called on draft day in a couple of weeks. Despite the loss in young talent, there are still several talented upperclassmen who will be back for another go in 2007-08. Here is a look at the top five players for next season as well as some of the top incoming freshmen.

1. Tyler Hansbrough – North Carolina

The low post force from Chapel Hill is back for his junior season and will be wreaking havoc against ACC foes. Hansbrough is the quintessential hustle player. He isn’t the most athletic of big men by any means, but he makes up for it with his tenacity and solid footwork. Few players in the country are better at making the most out of nothing than Hansbrough. His ability to hold his pivot foot makes him a constant threat to score on the block.

Defensively, Hansbrough brings strength, toughness, and excellent ability on the glass; all that you could ask for from a low post defender. With the Tar Heels returning most of their offensive weapons from last year, Hansbrough’s numbers may not be as high as they were a season ago, but that doesn’t make this All-American any less effective.

2. Roy Hibbert – Georgetown

How happy are the Hoyas that their 7’2” big man is back for another season? We’ll have a better idea come March, but as for now, Georgetown is a top 10 threat with the return of Hibbert. His placement on this list is purely based on potential, but there were flashes of a star in last year’s Final Four run by the Hoyas. His frame alone makes him a legitimate threat, but Hibbert brings a polished offensive game and a devastating presence on the defensive end of the floor. Much like Greg Oden last season, Hibbert’s mere presence often changes the offensive schemes for many teams.

With Jeff Green having departed for NBA riches, Hibbert is now the focal point of Georgetown’s attack, so expect a definite increase in his offensive numbers. Hibbert would have likely been a lottery pick this year, but a big season could launch him into the top 5 in next season’s draft.

3. Brandan Costner – North Carolina State

The redshirt freshman put together a fantastic season and was the most impressive player in an ACC Tournament stacked with talent. What makes Costner so dangerous offensively is that in addition to his scoring prowess on the block, he has the ability to step outside and do damage from extended range. He shot a very strong 47.4% from the field and an equally impressive 37.9% from beyond the arc. A force on the boards as well, particularly on the offensive glass, he often scores his points in bunches.

With most of the Wolfpack returning next season, Costner and company have the chance to go fairly deep into March. Costner will almost surely be the focal point of the offensive attack so expect his numbers to go up.

4. Taj Gibson – USC

Gibson may have been the most overlooked member of last season’s talented freshman class. Along with NBA-bound Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt, Gibson was a major factor in USC’s run to the Sweet 16. Gibson has tremendous raw ability down low, scoring a lot of his points simply on sheer hustle on the boards. His reckless style of play around the basket makes him a coach's dream. He has a nice touch on his mid-range jumper shot, which he mixes in well with solid play on the block. Gibson has a great understanding of when to shoot and when to pass the basketball, knowing he can help his team out in other ways.

Still a bit undersized in terms of sheer bulk for a post player, if Gibson were to add range to his shot, he would be a tremendous force in the Pac-10. Don’t be surprised to see him getting plenty of more touches come the 2007-08 season.

5. D.J. White – Indiana

White's numbers haven’t ever been mind blowing, and he has certainly dealt with injuries during his career, but this power forward will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten next season. Where explosiveness used to be a major part of his game, White now relies on his big frame to help him out offensively. At 6’9” 251 pounds, he has more than enough mass to have his way in most one-on-one post situations. He’ll hit the occasional mid-range shot but isn’t a tremendous threat from there. Defense is where White has made his name. In the two seasons that he was healthy, he has averaged better than 2 blocks per game. Many of these blocked shots come from his stellar presence on help defense. White has shown a real knack for knowing when to rotate over and make a play on the ball.

With heralded prospect Eric Gordon coming to Hoosierville in the fall, White may see his offensive presence reduced, but don’t underestimate his value to Indiana by any means.

Incoming Players to Watch

Kevin Love – Lake Oswego HS – Committed to UCLA
DeAndre Jordan – Christian Life Center Academy – Committed to Texas A&M
Kosta Koufos – Glen Oak HS – Committed to Ohio State

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