SCCLIPPERS: C (Rim Protector)

Classic center prospects a rare commodity

Any basketball coach would love to have a 7-foot center who can lead his team to the Final Four. However, those kind of players are hard to find, and very few have the skills to lead a team that far.

The center position is normally the tallest player on the court, but a quality center is not only tall but also strong and athletic. A center who can run, move his feet laterally and has good hands is hard to find. A center must love physical contact in order to play in the paint.

A center's primary role is to protect the basket defensively by not letting his man catch the ball in the low post and score easy baskets. In addition, he must patrol the paint and not let opponents drive the ball to the basket. He must move his feet and stop penetration with his length and body position. If that does not deter the opponent, he must be an aggressive shot-blocker.

On offense, a good center must have a low-post game. He must be able to play with his back to the basket and have several moves, including a drop step, a jump hook and an up-and-under to score around the basket.

A center must be able to rebound. Controlling the glass is one of the key requirements of a center. He must have a nose for the ball and be able to block out and clear the glass on missed shots by the opponent.

There are not very many true centers in today's NBA.

Although everyone covets a big center, relatively few -- Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Willis Reed, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing -- have been able to lead their teams to either NCAA or NBA championships.

Center Grading System ESPN Recruiting will evaluate centers on the following criteria:

1. Size and strength:

Does the player have the size and strength to play in the low post? Does he have the length to be a shot blocker?

2. Scoring:

Does he have a low-post game? Does he know how to post up on the low block, call for the ball and seal his man? Does he have good hands, and can he catch? Does he have a low-post repertoire -- drop step, up-and-under and jump hook? Can he go to his right and left with those moves?

3. Rebounding:

Does he have a nose for the ball? Is he a quick jumper? Will he make contact and keep his man off the glass? Can he be a high-volume rebounder in college (10 or more per game)? What type of offensive rebounder is he?

4. Physical toughness:

Does he love physical contact, or does he shy away from it? Will he knock opponents down if they try to get to the rim?

5. Athleticism:

Can he run the floor? What type of lateral quickness does he have? Can he move his feet and get where he needs to be both offensively and defensively?

6. Passing:

Can he pass on the perimeter or in the post? Can he pass out of the post and re-post? Can he handle the double-team in the post, read and make the appropriate pass?

7. Shot-blocking:

Is he aggressive defensively, and does he have a knack for blocking shots? Does he have enough of a defensive shot-blocking presence to alter shots in the lane?