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June 7, 2011MORE: Team Recruiting Rankings | Conference breakdown | SEC is top conference for new talent
The 2011 recruiting story in the Big East, as well as nationally, is the powerful nine-man class reeled into St. John's by new coach Steve Lavin. California center Norvel Pelle is the highest-ranked prospect of the bunch. Shooting guard Nurideen Lindsey is arguably the top junior college prospect in the country. And D'Angelo Harrison, Jakarr Sampson, Maurice Harkless, Amir Garrett and Sir'Dominic Pointer are all four-star prospects.
The other two five-stars entering the conference are the ultra-athletic post player Khem Birch, who moved up from Pittsburgh's 2012 recruiting class to its 2011 class, and DeAndre Daniels, who chose UConn late in the spring.
Despite being overshadowed by St. John's, Rutgers has a nationally ranked class with four ranked prospects out of its six-man haul. Syracuse, Connecticut, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Villanova are the final Big East schools in the national rankings. Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and Connecticut landed outside the national top 30, but each will bring four-star prospects into the conference.
Best recruiting battle
Post player Norvel Pelle impressed coaches in July with his immense athleticism and enticing potential. Schools from coast to coast began to pursue the Southern California product. Kansas, which has a history of success with athletic bigs like Pelle, quickly became a contender as did Washington with its fast style of play suited for Pelle's talents. But Lavin, with his strong West Coast ties, convinced Pelle to be his first California recruit to come to New York City.
Chane Behanan is another prospect whose stock rose, although his rise as a coveted prospect occurred earlier in the summer. North Carolina and Kentucky pursued this powerful athlete with an inside/outside game, but it was Rick Pitino who locked him down as a Louisville recruit.
The biggest post-early signing period recruiting news in the country has been the reclassification of Birch. The Pittsburgh commitment was a top five prospect in the 2012 class but is now a member of the 2011 class, catapulting the Panthers into the national top 20.
For much of the recruiting season, Connecticut was without a commitment but looked to be on the verge of landing Rivals150 point guard Jabarie Hinds. When Hinds instead opted for West Virginia on the heels of point guard Ryan Boatright's commitment to the Mountaineers, Boatright quickly decommitted and eventually signed with Connecticut instead. Connecticut didn't get its top point guard target, but in an ironic twist wound up with a top 50 prospect instead.
As if Boatright's recruitment wasn't strange enough, Connecticut then came out of no where to land five-star DeAndre Daniels. Formerly committed to Texas, Daniels appeared to be down to Kansas or Texas when he surprisingly chose Connecticut.
Athletic big men
Out of the three five-star prospects entering the Big East next year, all three are post players, and all of them are known for their impressive athleticism. Birch and Pelle are pogo-stick athletes who run the court and block shots at an elite level. Behanan is a wide-bodied bruiser, but has great feet and hands, with a surprising burst of athleticism.