By Joe Henricksen
The recruiting world in college basketball has changed remarkably in recent years, with more and more young high school players being offered scholarships earlier than ever. Illinois coach Bruce Weber has adjusted and adapted to that philosophy. Illinois offered talented freshman guard Donivine Stewart of Limestone following Illinois' game with Minnesota on Saturday.
While it's still awfully early, the Class of 2011 -- this year's freshmen -- is looking as if it's going to be another good class in Illinois, which would follow up an already solid Class of 2010, highlighted by the duo of Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head. That's good news for Weber and the Illini, considering the program could have as many as five or even six scholarships available in that class.
As is usually the case, the guard prospects shine early while big men are slow to develop. There will be no shortage of perimeter talent in the Class of 2011. In my mind, DeLaSalle's Mike Shaw still remains the top pure college prospect in that class, followed by Curie's Wayne Blackshear and Stewart. I have noted in the Hoops Report blog before how Stewart, who had a sensational freshman season, is a little bit different. Those who did not read that previous post, here is a snapshot of how I view Stewart....
He's 5-10 (maybe 5-11) and has an unbelievable feel and understanding for scoring for a player his age. He's not the freakish athletic type, but he's deceptive, can create space for himself and is constantly drawing contact from defenders. He's a determined scoring point guard, head strong and confident. He plays with a swagger in his game which is impressive in a young player at such a demanding position. He's more in the mold of Jameer Nelson, the former star point guard in college at St. Joseph and now playing in the NBA. Or for an Illinois reference, former Westinghouse and Illinois star Kiwane Garris. He also knocks down free throws every time he steps to that line, much like Kiwane Garris did. He will be asked to be more of a point guard at the next level rather than the big-time scoring point he is in high school.
With Illinois having secured so many commitments in the junior and sophomore classes, the target area can definitely now shift to the promising Class of 2011. Illinois is right in the mix for Shaw, has already been on hand to watch Thornton freshman guard Jay Parker, is in the process of picking up its interest in rapidly rising Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams and has another Peorian to watch in 6-5 Andrew Jordan of Peoria Woodruff.
It will be interesting to see how this class plays out and how early the recruiting is pushed up for the stars of 2011.