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October 20, 2007

Strength at the top of power forward rankings

There may be deeper positions than power forward in college basketball, but no position looks stronger at the top.

The first three spots in Rivals.com's list of the top 10 power forwards include a player on pace to be the all-time leading scorer at one of premier programs in the sport, the Americans' top player at the Pan-Am Games this past summer, and Rivals.com's No. 1 recruit from the class of 2007.

What trio are we talking about? We have the full list below. The Pac-10 and Big 12 lead the way with three selections apiece. The ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Missouri Valley are also represented.

Rivals.com Top 10 Power Forwards
1. Tyler Hansbrough, Jr., North Carolina, 6-9, 245
You can have a legitimate debate over who is the nation's top post player. But, there is no debating who is the top inside scoring threat. Hansbrough has a lock on that title. Nobody scores more buckets in the paint, or at the free-throw line. The veteran big man has posted back-to-back seasons with 18 ppg and scored in double figures in 63 of 69 games. He attempted 315 free throws (making 242 for a 76.8 percentage) last season. The next-highest total in the ACC was Wake Forest's Kyle Visser with 233. Hansbrough uses tremendous strength and relentless effort to overpower bigger defenders and fight past double-teams. Roy Williams has called his latest star the most focused player he has coached.
2. D.J. White, Sr., Indiana, 6-9, 250
This former five-star recruit arrived in Bloomington with massive potential, and his performance at the Pan-Am Games in July indicates this will be the season he fulfills it. White averaged a team-high 16.8 ppg; no other American averaged in double figures. He also led the team with 8.6 rpg and a 59.3 field-goal percentage. Long and athletic, White has developed a solid array of post moves. White is also a good shot blocker: He averaged a career-high 2.3 swats a game last season for the Hoosiers. He'll team with five-star recruit Eric Gordon (ranked No. 2 on our list of the top 10 shooting guards) to form one of the nation's top inside-outside tandems.
3. Michael Beasley, Fr., Kansas State, 6-10, 235
Bob Huggins is at West Virginia, but K-State fans are more excited about this season than last. That's because they have never had a recruit with the fanfare or hype of Beasley, the No. 1 prospect in the 2007 rankings. Ultra-athletic and multi-dimensional, Beasley is a dominating offensive weapon and a major force on the glass. The future lottery pick earned MVP honors at the 2007 McDonald's All-American game, scoring 23 points and pulling down 12 boards. At the U-19 World Championships in July, he averaged 12.3 ppg in just 17.0 mpg. Expect Beasley to put up gaudy numbers and make a run at the Big 12 Player of the Year award.
4. Taj Gibson, So., USC, 6-9, 220
The No. 1 guy on our list can probably offer the best argument for why Gibson belongs among the nation's elite big men. Hansbrough and Gibson met in the Sweet 16 last season. While North Carolina won 74-64, it was clear that Gibson dominated the head-to-head matchup. Gibson put together a double-double (16 points and 12 rebounds) and blocked four shots. Hansbrough had one of his worst games, making just one of six field-goal attempts and scoring a career-low five points. Gibson had a solid regular season (12.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg), but it was his play in the NCAA Tournament that leads us to believe he's poised for a stellar sophomore campaign. In games versus Arkansas, Texas and UNC, he averaged 16.0 ppg and 11.3 rpg.
5. Ryan Anderson, So., California, 6-10, 240
The versatile Anderson didn't receive much attention nationally last season place the blame on Cal's 16-17 record but it wasn't for a lack of production. Anderson was the only player in the Pac-10 to finish in the top five in scoring and rebounding last season, ranking fifth in both categories with 16.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg. A good 3-point shooter, Anderson had to play on the inside more than planned due to a midseason injury to 6-11 center DeVon Hardin. But with a healthy Hardin back, Anderson should be able to operate more on the perimeter. He'll create major matchup problems with his size and shooting range.
6. Richard Hendrix, Jr., Alabama, 6-8, 255
Alabama point guard Ronald Steele will miss the entire season with a knee injury, but the Tide still is expected to contend in the SEC West. That's because Hendrix is arguably the best big man in the conference. The wide-bodied veteran gives the Tide an inside presence that most opponents can't match. Hendrix led the SEC with a 60.2 field-goal percentage (186-of-309). He's also the league's top returning rebounder at 8.7 a game. Hendrix emerged as a major scoring threat as well, raising his scoring average from 9.4 ppg to 14.6 ppg.
7. Jon Brockman, Jr., Washington, 6-7, 255
Spencer Hawes, a 6-11 center who was taken with the 10th pick in the NBA draft, wasn't the best rebounder on his team last season. That's because he played alongside the brawny Brockman, who pulled down a Pac-10 high 9.6 rpg last season (Hawes grabbed 6.4 rpg). Built like a bulldozer, Brockman can overpower most defenders and he has a great knack for getting position around the basket. The former McDonald's All-American also averaged 14.2 ppg and put together 15 double-doubles.
8. Darrell Arthur, So., Kansas, 6-9, 225
Don't be surprised if Arthur makes a steady climb up this list. Beasley may be the only power forward with a better collection of physical gifts. Arthur is extremely athletic, runs the court well and has a polished set of offensive skills. As a freshman, the former five-star recruit started seven games. He still managed to finish fourth in the Big 12 with 1.4 blocks a game. Look for Arthur to lead the league in blocks in 2007-08. With first-round draft pick Julian Wright gone early to the NBA, the Jayhawks are counting on Arthur to play heavy minutes and emerge as a go-to weapon on the inside.
9. Blake Griffin, Fr., Oklahoma, 6-10, 240
Meet Oklahoma's next great big man. Griffin not only has an impressive combination of size and athleticism, but the five-star recruit plays with a ferocious style that makes it very difficult to keep him away from the basket. That was all on display during Oklahoma's Labor Day trip to Vancouver. Griffin dominated in the paint, averaging 18.8 ppg and 9.0 rpg in just 19.8 mpg against a series of Canadian universities. Look for the powerful newcomer to quickly emerge as the Sooners' best player.
10. Randal Falker, Sr., Southern Illinois, 6-7, 230
Falker's performance on the defensive end is what earned him one of the 30 invites for the U.S. Pan-Am team tryouts this past summer, and it's ultimately what landed him a spot on this list. Falker anchored a unit last season that gave up just 56.2 points a game, the third-lowest total in the country. Falker gave the Salukis an intimidating presence around the basket, blocking 2.1 shots a game. A versatile weapon, Falker also scored 12.3 ppg and grabbed 7.7 rpg.

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