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April 9, 2012

Top prospects set to make decisions

MORE: 2012 Rivals150 | Team rankings

On Wednesday, the spring signing period kicks off in college basketball. Today we take a look at 10 decisions that we'll be following closely. Including that of our top ranked player in the 2012 Rivals150, Shabazz Muhammad.

Spring signing period decisions to watch
Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6 SG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
Rivals.com rank: No. 1
Buzz: There's not much left to write about the physical southpaw shooting guard that hasn't been written. He's proven time and again that he's the most dominant scorer in his class and that his game should translate to the highest level. He will make things official on Wednesday night when he announces for either UCLA, Duke or Kentucky. For the longest time it looked like the Bruins would be the team to beat, then Kentucky made its run while the Blue Devils have always been a stronger option than some have given them credit for. This one has been back and forth but we will give the slight edge to UCLA as we approach signing day.
Nerlens Noel, 6-10 C, Tilton (N.H.) School
Rivals.com rank: No. 3 (Moving to 2012)
Buzz: Six months ago, we didn't even figure that we would be discussing Noel as a member of the class of 2012. Now that he's moved from 2013 back to his natural class, the five-star prospect is a wanted man because of his shot-blocking and rebounding. He's very thin and his offense is rounding into place, but he's a game-changer on one end of the floor and that makes him an elite prospect. He's down to Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown with a decision coming on Wednesday. For now, Kentucky looks to be the team to beat.
Anthony Bennett, 6-7 PF, Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep
Rivals.com rank: No. 7
Buzz: The athletic, 240-pound five-star prospect is the furthest from making a decision of any of the top players left. Bennett has yet to take any official visits so we are probably looking until at least late April or early May before he makes a decision. A bruising combo forward with outstanding length, he's down to Florida, UNLV, Washington, Oregon and Kentucky. The Gators are the favorite at this point but you don't ever want to rule out John Calipari in a recruitment. Keep an eye out for UNLV as well, the Running Rebels have made inroads in this one.
Devonta Pollard, 6-7 SF, Porterville (Miss.) Kemper County
Rivals.com rank: No. 9
Buzz: Easily the most soft spoken of the players left on the board, Pollard lets his game do his talking. He's an athletic forward that is a baseline driver, rebounder and somebody who can flourish as a transition finisher. This weekend, Pollard will visit Georgetown officially and his other finalists are Alabama, Texas and Missouri. Right now, there are no leaks on his recruitment and it's a race that is simply too close to call. Look for him to make a decision sometime around the middle of next week.
Tony Parker, 6-9 C, Miller Grove (Ga.) High
Rivals.com rank: No. 33
Buzz: A four-time state champion in his home state and a McDonald's All-American, Parker has lived up to the considerable hype that he received before even starting high school. The big-bodied interior player has soft hands, good touch and is a rebounding machine capable of making an instant impact. He was expected to have a decision within the next few days, but the latest word is that his decision could drag out a bit longer. Each time it looks like he may be locking in on one program, rumors arise that it's another. As it is, his is another that is simply too tough to pick a leader from among UCLA, Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Memphis and Georgia.
Amile Jefferson, 6-8 PF, Philadelphia (Pa.) Friends Central
Rivals.com rank: No. 36
Buzz: Call Jefferson the thinking man's prospect. A gangly 200-or-so-pounder, he doesn't jump out at you as an athlete or some super-skilled forward. Instead, he competes, has a non-stop motor, is a great communicator and has become a master at scoring along either baseline and always seems to be more productive than you would expect. Basically, he's a winner and a great teammate. Jefferson is another who has played his recruitment close to the vest and it seems like it's been dragging on and on. Kentucky, North Carolina State, Duke, Villanova, Temple and Ohio State still get plenty of mention and he hasn't publicly ruled anybody out. Behind the scenes, Duke seems to have had the most momentum and we'll call them the favorites heading into signing day. For now, Jefferson hasn't given any indication of exactly when he'll make his choice.
Darrick Wood, 6-4 SG, Bridgton (Maine) Prep
Rivals.com rank: No. 104
Buzz: A native of the Washington, D.C., area who has bounced around some during his high school days, Wood is a kid who has significant upside in comparison to his current ranking. He's long, can shoot with range, is an athlete and has a knack for creating scoring opportunities. After committing to St. John's, he backed off and is now planning to try and take at least three official visits before making a decision. This one is wide open at the moment and there's a long list of schools being associated with him including Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, Memphis, USF and Baylor to go along with Steve Lavin's group. Don't expect a decision out of him until early May.
Christopher Obekpa, 6-9 C, Centereach (N.Y.) Our Saviour
Rivals.com rank: No. 105
Buzz: Currently a three-star prospect ranked in the Rivals150, Obekpa will be making the move to four-star status when a final ranking is done for the class of 2012. He's one of the nation's premier shot-blockers and much better offensively than some have given him credit for being even if he does still need to improve his footwork. So far, Obekpa has been on the campuses of DePaul, Georgia Tech, Providence, St John's, UConn, and Cincinnati and a visit to Oregon is still in the works. His camp has made sure to give all the programs equal treatment so defining a leader has been tough. Behind the scenes, though, Providence, Cincy and St. John's have been generating the most heat when discussing Obekpa.
Anthony January, 6-8 PF/SF, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft
Rivals.com rank: No. 143
Buzz: When the final Rivals150 is released, few will make a bigger jump in the rankings than January. After just sneaking into the rankings after the summer, he will rise well into the four-star territory and is a unique talent. A true combo forward who plays inside and out, January is an electric scorer who has really taken strides with his game. Originally committed to UTEP he's still considering the Miners along with UNLV, New Mexico, New Mexico State and San Diego State. January still needs to qualify academically and could end up moving to the class of 2013 if prep school can help him out in that regard.
Orlando Sanchez, 6-8 PF, Monroe (N.Y.) College
Rivals.com rank: Four-star JUCO
Buzz: Finally, we mix in one of the nation's top junior college players. A native of the Dominican Republic, Sanchez is a smooth and athletic combo forward who has outstanding ball skills, rebounds and is a big time finisher in transition. He's not an enforcer around the rim, but does block some shots as well. He's currently getting hard by several Big East schools and high majors, but we look for him to make a decision between St. John's and Providence by month's end with the Johnnies holding the slight edge as he his recruitment heads down the backstretch.



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