The Drake men's basketball program's eight-member recruiting class for 2012 is receiving considerable praise from across the country.
The incoming class, consisting of three transfers and five freshmen, was recently ranked 45th in the nation by HoopScoopOnline.com, and second-best among all Missouri Valley Conference schools.
"It's a really good mix of eight new, talented guys," said head coach Mark Phelps. "There are five freshmen and two junior college transfers who will be juniors, to go along with one senior, Chris Hines, who can play immediately with one year of eligibility remaining after graduating from the University of Utah."
Drake's eight newcomers join a core of five returning players who share significant experience as starters. Second-team All-MVC forward and co-captain Ben Simons is the third-leading returning scorer in the Valley after averaging 16.4 points per game last season. Fellow co-captain Jordan Clarke is back after ranking in the top seven in the conference in both rebounds and assists, while earning second-team academic all-conference.
The Bulldogs went 18-16 last year and qualified for the postseason, playing in the CollegeInsider.com tournament and advancing to the second round with a win over North Dakota.
The Bulldogs' 2012-13 schedule has not yet been finalized, but it already has been announced that the team will take part in the Anaheim Classic Nov. 22-25, joining a field that also includes California, Drexel, Georgia Tech, Pacific, Rice, St. Mary's and Xavier.
Here's a capsule look at Drake's eight 2012 newcomers:
6'-4", 208-pound guard from Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy and Foothills High School in Sacramento, Calif.
A native of Sacramento, Calif., Babineaux played the 2011-12 season at Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy after spending four years at Folsom High School in Sacramento. In his one season at LFA the 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard averaged 27.6 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals per game.
Babineaux scored a season-high 48 points and followed up with 43 points in back-to-back games in late November.
Babineaux was a two-sport star at Sacramento's Folsom High School from 2007-11, earning three first-team all-league selections in basketball and two in football as a wide receiver and cornerback. His football statistics at Folsom included 64 receptions for 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns in leading the school to a 2010 State Bowl championship.
6'-0", 175-pound guard from Cloud County Community College Detroit and Cody High School in Detroit, Mich.)
Carter just completed his sophomore season at Cloud County, averaging 18.9 points and 5.3 assists per game to earn first-team Jayhawk West All-Conference and All-Region VI honors.
Carter was named Freshman of the Year in the Jayhawk West Conference for 2010-11, averaging 17 points per game at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kan. He also earned first-team all-conference and second-team All-Region VI. An outstanding prep player in Detroit, Mich., Carter was first-team All-Metro and honorable mention Class A all-state at Detroit's Cody High School, where he averaged 19.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.
6'-0", 185-pound guard from Utah, and Klein Forest High School in Houston, Texas
Hines played three seasons at Utah after redshirting his first year in 2008-09. Last year, as a redshirt-junior, he started 26 of the Utes' 29 games and ranked second on the team in scoring (9.6), while leading the team in three-point field goals (66). Playing 30.4 minutes per game (2nd on team), Hines also added 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
A native of Houston, Hines starred at Klein Forest High School, where he led his team to a record of 33-4 his senior season. He was named first-team all-state, all-district and All-Houston, as well as district and team MVP after a senior season in which he averaged 17 points and seven assists per game.
Hines, who will receive his undergraduate degree in speech communication, plans to pursue a master's degree in public administration.
6'-9", 215-pound center from Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minn.
King averaged 23.9 points and six rebounds in his just-completed senior season. He scored in double figures in 26 of 29 games this year to lead his team to a 28-2 record and a berth in the Minnesota state AAAA basketball tournament.
King averaged 17.6 points per game as a junior in leading his Eastview High team a 22-5 record and a South Suburban Conference title. He scored in double figures in 24 of 27 games last year, including a season-best 36 points against Eagan. King has competed for the Minnesota Southside AAU team.
6'-2", 173-pound guard from Highlands High School in Allegheny, Pa.
Mason capped his record-setting prep career at Highlands High School in 2011-12 by averaging 29.1 points per game and becoming the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League's (WPIAL) all-time leader in three-pointers (335). He averaged 33.3 points per game as a junior, and led the WPIAL in scoring in both his junior and senior seasons, surpassing the 2,000 point mark for his career.
Mason, as a junior in 2010-11, also added 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game for Highlands, and shot 47% from three-point range. He earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's "Fab Five" Boys Basketball team and was area player of the year by the Valley News Dispatch. Mason scored 64 points in a game that season, the second-highest single-game total by a player in a WPIAL history.
Robert Puleikis (poo-LAY-kiss)
6'-10", 215-pound center from Detroit (Mich.) Country Day
Puleikis was the leading scorer and rebounder, at 12.7 and 10.5, respectively, for a Country Day squad that compiled a 21-6 record last season and advanced to the semifinals of the Michigan Class B state tournament and was ranked No. 3 in the state. He played one season at Country Day after moving to the United States from his native Lithuania before his senior year, and earned all-county and honorable mention all-state.
In the state regional final against Chandler Park Academy, Puleikis scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while adding five blocked shots. He played in 19 games after gaining eligibility via transfer policies, and added 34 blocked shots and 35 assists.
Gary Ricks, Jr.
6'-1", 190-pound guard from Indian Hills Community College and Sylmar High School in Los Angeles
The 6'-1", 180-pound Ricks earned honorable mention All-America in 2011-12 at Indian Hills (Ottumwa, Iowa), which finished 33-4 and ranked No. 7 in the nation. In two years at Indian Hills he averaged 13.0 points per game and shot 41 percent from three-point range, finishing his career just three short of the school record for career three-pointers.
Ricks did not miss a game in his two seasons at Indian Hills. He averaged 11.2 points per game in 2011-12.
Daddy Ugbede (oo-BED-ay)
6'-7", 220-pound power forward from Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif.
Ugbede helped lead Junipero Serra to a 31-3 record in 2011-12, and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section 4AA crown. He scored 32 points in the championship game against a LaVerne Lutheran team led by McDonald's All-American Grant Jarrett.
A native of Nigeria who moved to the United States before his junior year, Ugbede averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior and was named All-CIF. He was named by the Daily Breeze as boys basketball Player of the Year for 2012, and served as co-captain for the Cavaliers.