It seems strange and almost perverse for basketball gurus to be scouting kids who haven't even taken geometry yet, but the growing trend is to evaluate prospects as early as possible.
Part of that is due to more and more money pouring into sponsoring AAU teams and events all across the country. Kids from lower income families are able to travel all over the country touring with their AAU teams, earning exposure and perhaps a scholarship offer or two on the way.
Every year, the cream of the crop for the upcoming class is impressive. That's no different for 2010, the rising high school seniors, and 2011, the rising juniors. However, the top of the talent list for 2011 has some recognizable last names, mostly younger brothers of current or former NCAA stars.
Two of the top 10 players in the extremely early and subject to change rankings for 2011 include Marquis Teague (pictured above), the younger brother of former Wake Forest point guard Jeff Teague, and Florida-bound Austin Rivers (pictured below), the son of NBA coach Doc Rivers and younger brother of Indiana guard Jeremiah Rivers.
At the early stages of evaluation, Teague has been called better than his older brother Jeff, the 19th selection in the 2009 NBA Draft. Here's what ESPN has to say about younger Teague: "Teague was a terror in the open court ... He attacked the rim with crossover and hesitation dribbles ... and he has a sweet floater that he lofts over outstretched hands with excellent touch. Teague is a very explosive scoring point guard ... Extremely athletic for his size."
Rivers, who just finished up his sophomore year in high school, has already committed to play for Billy Donovan at the University of Florida. Not surprisingly, he is being billed as having a high basketball IQ, thanks to his father, who point guarded the Atlanta Hawks throughout the 1980s. Here's what ESPN says about Rivers: "Rivers can get to the rim, draw contact and finish ... He is a very good slasher that can go left or right ... The bloodlines (Doc Rivers' son) show with his solid athleticism and basketball IQ."
Other younger sibs include Marshall Plumlee, who Duke is hoping will become the third -- and final -- Plumlee to play for the Blue Devils. Plumlee's older brothers, Miles ('08) and Mason ('09), are big bodies and are expected to get meaningful playing time this year for Coach K. Marshall lives four hours west of Durham but admitted that Duke has not been actively recruiting him yet.
Cody Zeller, the youngest brother of UNC's Tyler Zeller and Notre Dame's Luke Zeller, is another prospect with a familiar last name. Zeller has an offer from Indiana and is hearing from Notre Dame, among other high-major schools.
Rounding out the family tree is Raheem Christmas, a Philadelphia prospect whose older brother starred down the street at Temple. Though Raheem may end up a more heralded recruit than Dionte, Temple coach Fran Dunphy will likely try to play the pipeline game in corralling the younger brother.