By Joe Henricksen
While recruiting for the Class of 2008, for the most part, wrapped up last November during the early signing period, a lot was learned about those players over the past four months. The ink dries on the letters-of-intent, college coaches move on to younger players and fans watch and analyze those recruits during their senior year.
While there are still a few talented uncommitted seniors left in Illinois, highlighted by Champaign Central's Verdell Jones and Marshall's Ryan Hare, there were plenty of shifts in the player rankings in the senior class. Farragut's Mike Dunigan remains the top college prospect in the senior class, but the Hoops Report has moved both Decatur Eisenhower's Lewis Jackson and Simeon's Stan Simpson ahead of the more heralded Iman Shumpert of Oak Park, who now checks in at No. 4. H-F's Kevin Dillard and Glenbard West's John Shurna both skyrocketed up to No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look back at the November signing period and how a few of those signings look now.
The Oregon trifecta
Farragut's Mike Dunigan still remains the best signing, which is great news for Oregon. His body, strength and size is simply too hard to find, which makes him such a valuable commodity in the recruiting world. The McDonald's All-American still has not found that constant and consistent motor yet, but when he does he can be an absolute monster on the block. However, there are still too many times for a player with his size and body that he doesn't command the ball, establish position and keep it or utilize his individual strengths to the fullest. As is often the case with big men, it all may come together in time.
Both Matt Humphrey and Josh Crittle of Hales Franciscan, both of which also signed with Oregon, have continued to slide in the Hoops Report rankings. They both have their limitations athletically, which is never a good thing heading to the ultra-athletic Pac-10. I just don't see either player making huge impacts at the high-major level.
Rapid rise of Stan Simpson
While there was absolutely no reason to wait, it would have been very interesting to see how the recruiting of Simeon's Stan Simpson would have gone if he had not signed in November. With quality big men so difficult to find and in such demand, Simpson's stock would have absolutely soared after college coaches got a peak of how much he progressed from November to March. He would have been a national recruit. His rapid improvement, both from two years ago to now and even in the last four months, is remarkable. He still has a ways to go, but I absolutely love players that get better and better by the week. He is not going to come in and set the world on fire as a freshman -- he can still be a bit mechanical and needs to gain strength and weight -- but he has a chance to be pretty special in two or three years. Illinois has to be feeling pretty good nabbing Simpson when it did.
Other signing thoughts....
Kevin Dillard of Homewood-Flossmoor simply had a magnificent season. He grew up as a player, point guard and leader while raising the level of his overall play. He can flat-out score, both off the dribble and with his much-improved outside shot. Southern Illinois has itself one heck of a basketball player and a potential all-Missouri Valley player down the road.
There is no question Illinois State has it going, both within the program and on the recruiting trail. Tim Jankovich and his stellar staff have both Simeon's Kenyon Smith and Decatur Eisenhower's Jeremy Robinson coming in next fall. Robinson, though, is the type of prospect that is difficult to land at the mid-major level. He will not be an instant impact player, but his length, size and raw ability will surface soon enough.
Northwestern landed a couple of big names in Glenbard West's John Shurna and Batavia's Nick Fruendt, both Hoops Report first-team all-state selections. I think Shurna will come in and play right away and play a bigger role facing the basket -- initially -- than people think. Whether he's playing inside, outside, against more athletic players or facing bigger and stronger players, Shurna has simply found a way to get it done throughout his career. There will definitely be an adjustment period for Fruendt as he tries to improve his ballhandling, perimeter game and compete against the high-level athlete. But his basketball I.Q. and competitiveness will certainly shorten his learning curve. While Shurna and Fruendt, as well as last year's recruits Mike Capocci of Glenbard East and Juice Thompson of Lincoln Park, are quality signings, these players alone will not be enough to move Northwestern into the top half of the Big Ten at any time.
Last November, during the early signing period, I felt Lewis Jackson of Decatur Eisenhower would be a solid role player in the Big Ten. He's better than that. He's going to have to shoot it better and more consistently, but Lew Jack can be an impact player for Purdue before he's done in West Lafayette. He's tough, strong, a dynamic athlete and competes. If you look at what coach Matt Painter currently has in his program, you can see how Jackson is going to fit in awfully nice as you surround him with scorers and shooters on the perimeter.
Yes, Crane's Dion Dixon is a big-time scorer. In the end, I'm calling for either a big hit or a big miss for the Crane star. Will the focus and right frame of mind evolve at Cincinnati?.... Washington's Matt Roth is one of my favorite players, but he will definitely need to be in the right system. That is why the hiring of a new coach at Indiana may impact Roth more than any other high school player in the country.... If Carl Richard of Richards can shoot the basketball the way he did in the state championship game (5-of-7 from the three-point line) he could end up being a bigger recruiting steal for Indiana State than anyone imagined.