By Joe Henricksen

Peoria performances leaves 'em talking

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By Joe Henricksen

Before discussing and debating the trials and tribulations of four-class basketball and the overall atmosphere in Peoria (plenty of that will come), there was plenty of positives that came from Peoria and the Class 3A and 4A State Finals. As usual, the weekend was full of gossip and rumors of coaches on the move and players transferring, but after spending four days in Peoria here are some thoughts from what transpired on the floor on an individual basis. There will be more thoughts and news from my days in Peoria in coming days.

Talent level better than expected
Yes, there was a lack of true star power at this year's State Finals. After watching Derrick Rose the last two years and the likes of Jon Scheyer, Julian Wright and Shaun Livingston in recent years, fans have been spoiled in the presence of some of the special high school players that have been showcased in Peoria recently. Nonetheless, this year's eight teams allowed fans to see several players truly arrive in the eyes of basketball followers as future stars and college prospects. Here is quick rundown of underclassmen that truly impressed the Hoops Report in Peoria.

Shaun Pratl
There is no player that will skyrocket in the junior class player rankings more than Richards big man Shaun Pratl. The 6-8 junior, who spends a whole lot of time playing football in the offseason as one of the top college football prospects in the state, has scary potential because of his body frame, touch from 15 feet in, especially around the basket, and tremendous ability to run and get up and down the floor. I realize there are some monster programs and schools already involved on the football side, but after Glenbrook South's Jack Cooley, Eureka's Jordan Prosser and Lake Forest Academy's Kyle Rowley, Pratl is the next best big man in the state in the Class of 2009. He was an absolute warrior in Peoria and left several college coaches in attendance -- and the Hoops Report -- thoroughly impressed with how complete of a player he is and how polished of an inside game he has for splitting time between football and basketball. As more and more bigger basketball schools get involved, this young man is going to have an awfully tough decision to make before it's all said and done.

Eriq Harris
The 6-5 Marshall junior has flown under the radar this season playing in the shadow of seniors Ryan Hare and Ardarrius Simmons and junior Darius Smith. But look for this long, active, athletic wing to flourish this offseason and make a major impact for the Commandos next season. He's a legit mid-major prospect who, when all is said and done, could potentially end up in the top 15 in the junior class.

Dyricus Simms-Edwards
The word was out with several downstate people of just how talented the Washington guard was earlier this season. He just confirmed it with stellar performances in the postseason. Simms-Edwards is a load physically with a more than respectable perimeter shot. He does need to tighten up his handle a bit, but he's going to leave a lot of mid-major coaches as "wishful thinkers" come signing day. While Brandon Paul remains the clear No. 1 prospect in the eyes of the Hoops Report in the Class of 2009, Simms-Edwards is right there with the next batch of top perimeter players and might just be every bit the prospect D.J. Richardson, Diamond Taylor, Chris Colvin and Darius Smith -- all much more heralded -- are.

Lenzelle Smith
The Zion-Benton sophomore, who is right behind Crandall Head and Jereme Richmond in the Class of 2010, is a special and different type of talent. While extremely athletic, he doesn't have your typical body type or style of game that we so commonly become accustomed to with young stars that resemble gazelles. With his wider hips and thick caboose, Smith's body and even style of game brings similarities to a much smaller Paul Pierce, the current Boston Celtic. His offensive game, which in the past was more about getting out on the wing and finishing on the break or around the basket, has really evolved. He's still the dynamic finisher he always was, but his three-point shot and pull-up, mid-range game has improved. And he's a vastly underrated passer from the wing and in penetration. If the versatile Smith stretches to 6-5 or 6-6 we're talking about a monster on the wing.

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Dyricus Simms-Edwards had to be the best kept secret in Illinois high school basketball this past season. He certainly used Peoria as a stage for his "coming out" party.
I thought the parity of this tournament, and the depth of the talent was better than most years even the the top end talent may not have had the marquee value of the past.

Lenzelle Smith certainly has a keen understanding of the purpose of the game; that is to put the ball in the basket. The kid is a man child when it comes to finishing.

I thought Brandon Orange of Simeon may have been the best athlete of the class represented in Peoria. He is an incredible leaper that has a huge upside if he can harness his talent. While attacking the basket from the baseline during the third place game, he hit his head on the bottom of the backboard!!

While he is not a highly coveted prospect, Evanston's 6-4 Stephen Rudnicki was a joy to watch this weekend. This kid loves the game. He was certainly appears to be the sterotypical "gym rat". I loved the way he kept blowing on his fingers...the kid is a gamer.

I will only say that the officiating was terrible this weekend. I am an Evanston fan granted but we was robbed against ZB. 25 FREE THROW ATTEMPTS FOR ZB TO 8 FOR EVANSTON!!!! It wasn't like we were shooting a lot of three point attempts our guards drive to the hole. They did it repeatedly and were knocked around like pinball machines especially Steven Rudnicki. He didn't shoot a free throw until the last minute of the third place game against Lockport. By the way the fouls in that game were Lockport 7 Evanston 20 until the last minute of the game when Lockport had to foul to catch up. Also the same thing happened most of the year and we went 30-4. So I am not only talking about the losses but the wins also. Try looking at the officiating in our two games against New Trier every year. Seems like the officials don't like Evanston or the IHSA. It hurts the kids when the officiating is of low quality or there is a vendetta against a certain team. (Read Evanston) Just wanted to bring that out. Also the 4 class system is horrible not a true state champ. I grew up in Kentucky where there is only ONE STATE CHAMP!!!! The smaller schools back home don't mind it being that way. So it's no excuse it can't be one class in Illinois like it was before 1972.

As a fan you do not miss individual talent, when you see quality teams. We saw 7 very high quality teams down there this weekend. We saw big bodies down low locking horns in both classes, and high quality floor generals lifting their teams in clutch time. From a fans point of view give me quality teams hooking up over individual talent all weekend long. Richards, ZB, Evanston, Champaign Centenial, Washington all impressed and were all slightly overlooked all year. These were complete teams playing at a high level. Very enjoyable to watch. My ommision of the Public School teams is purely, because I was not surprised by their talent, and their skills have been highly publicized all year. Great tournament! Granted I viewed it on television. Where is Sarah Kustok? Sideline reporter had no clue who was playing half the time.

Oh by the way Shaun Pratl is a horse. He took over the second half against ZB. He kicked Marcus Yarbrough's tail in the post. He showed he can play basketball at some level in college. Also Steve Rudnicki played as well as you can play with somebody pulling his jersey all the time. (Read ZB) Also to say Lenzelle Smith is one of the top sophmores in the state of Illinois. He is a legitimate talent. I respect his game greatly. Eriq Harris needs to work on his dribbling and outside shooting. He has time to become a really good prospect. But why aren't you talking about Darius Smith of Marshall. He is a great prospect, has all the tools except needs to work on his left handed dribbling. I hope he gets a chance to run the offense for Marshall next year because his college position is point guard. One name to remember Ryan Frazier-Chambers of Evanston. He is only a sophmore and will get a lot better. He also needs to work on his left handed dribbling. He should become the star at Evanston next year (If his cousin Jereme Richmond doesn't come to Evanston like we think he will). Also Garrett Jones who is a freshman.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 16, 2008 12:34 PM.

Six factors that could decide State Finals was the previous entry in this blog.

The good, the bad from Peoria is the next entry in this blog.

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