By Joe Henricksen
The natural progression is taking place, so we shouldn't be all that surprised when it happens. It never fails as we
see some of the top names as freshmen slowly fall in the player rankings the older they get, while relative no-
namers rise a couple of years down the road as they mature and blossom as players. This common trend can be
blamed on the early hype that is bestowed on these players coming out of junior high.
That is excactly what the Hoops Report is seeing as this scenario plays out in the Class of 2009. The big names
just a couple of years ago are slowly falling, while several under-the-radar prospects climb the ladder as
prospects. After watching plenty of holiday tournament basketball and games into early January, a couple of those
new names to get familiar with are Downers Grove South's Malcolm Herron and Waubonsie Valley's Jelani
Johnson. These two are both Division I prospects but still receiving little or no hype in comparison to other players
in their class.
Ironically, both Herron and Johnson are similar in size at 6-4 and style of play. Herron and Johnson are a pair of
long, athletic wings that have played huge at times this season. They both have a knack to score in a variety of
ways, whether it be using their length and athleticism in getting to the basket or stepping out and knocking down a
three. What is especially impressive is their ability to get things done at crunch time and in some big moments.
Herron is now among the top 20 juniors, while Johnson, after a terrific holiday tournament in helping lead the
Warriors to a tournament title and a huge game against rival Neuqua Valley last weekend, is not far behind.
Johnson has probably emerged as the biggest sleeper in the junior class as virtually no one is aware of him.
Neither Herron or Johnson have come close to reaching or maximizing their abilities as both are still learning just
how to do that on a consistent basis.
While hardly a no-namer, Glenbrook South's Jack Cooley has impressed the Hoops Report with his rise in the
rankings more than any other junior. He's much more athletic than he appears. He does all the little things, will bang,
get physical and has very good hands. If he can develop a little better face-up jumper and extend his range out
past 12 feet I can see Cooley evolving into a more athletic Brian Cardinal-type at the next level. While many mid-
major programs have extended offers to the 6-8 junior, there is no way he won't end up at a high-major. Big men
are at a premium and nearly every high-major program in the midwest has picked up its interest. And the Hoops
Report believes Cooley is the big man with the most promise and potential in the Class of 2009, although it's been
some time since watching Eureka big man Jordan Prosser.
Cooley is looking for a solid academic institution, which makes me wonder why Northwestern has waited so long.
Notre Dame and Iowa are both getting heavily involved and don't be surprised if Illinois soon extends an offer as
they look to complement their 2009 perimeter commitments with a big man.
Here is a look at how the City/Suburban Hoops Report sees the top college prospects in the Class of 2009 following the holiday tournaments. (Note: this list does not include highly-regarded Zeke Schneider of Metamora as he is the lone top prospect in the class the Hoops Report has not yet seen. Thus, he is not included in this list)
1. Brandon Paul, 6-4, 2G, Gurnee (Warren)
2. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, 2G/WF, Sterling
3. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph)
4. D.J. Richardson, 6-3, PG/2G, Peoria (Central)
5. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF, Glenview (Glenbrook South)
6. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young)
7. Jordan Prosser, 6-8, PF, Eureka
8. Dyricus Simms-Edwards, 6-1, PG, Washington
9. Michael Haynes, 6-6, WF/PF, Chicago (Washington)
10. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young)
11. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Marshall)
12. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G, Skokie (Niles West)
13. Kyle Rowley, 6-11, C, Lake Forest (Academy)
14. Cully Payne, 6-1, PG, Schaumburg
15. Jordan Walker, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
16. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Lincoln Park)
17. James Kinney, 6-0, PG, Champaign (Centennial)
18. Terry Johnson, 6-1, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Rita)
19. Matt Vogrich, 6-3, 2G, Lake Forest
20. John Taylor, 5-11, PG/2G, Chicago (North Lawndale)
21. Malcolm Herron, 6-4, 2G/WF, Downers Grove (South)
22. D.J. Cooper, 5-7, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
23. Marcus Rodgers, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
24. D'Mitri Riggs, 6-3, 2G, Bloomington
25. Stanford Brown, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
26. Tony Nixon, 6-4, WF, South Holland (Seton Academy)
27. Brian Conway, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom)
28. Eriq Harris, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Marshall)
29. Jelani Johnson, 6-4, WF, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
30. Drew Crawford, 6-4, WF, Naperville (Central)
31. Malcolm Griffin, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
32. Xavier Humphrey, 6-3, WF, Oak Park (Fenwick)
33. Seth Evans, 6-2, PG, Seneca
34. Shea Sumpter, 6-5, PF, Richton Park (Rich East)
35. Conrad Krutwig, 6-5, WF/PF, Algonquin (Jacobs)