By Joe Henricksen
As the Class of 2008 graduates this spring, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look back at the 10-year anniversary of arguably the best and deepest high school basketball class the state of Illinois has ever produced. The class had it all with true difference-makers at the top, size, superior depth and future NBA first-round picks.
The national class of 1998 included the names of Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis, Korleone Young, Dan Gadzuric, Stromile Swift and Ronald Curry at the top. But it was the state of Illinois that made up over 10 percent of the top 100.
The Class of 1998 featured three McDonald's All-Americans in Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson, Fenwick's Corey Maggette and Peoria Manual's Frank Williams. Richardson was a consensus top 10 player nationally, while Maggette was among the top 15 and Williams among the top 25. In one national ranking at the end of the season, the state of Illinois had six players in the top 30: Richardson (#8), Maggette (#15), Williams (#21), Julian's Lance Williams (#24), Simeon's Bobby Simmons (#26) and Farragut's Michael Wright (#29). In addition, Galesburg's Joey Range (#49), Moline's Traves Wilson (#82), Whitney Young's Dennis Gates (#92), Whitney Young's Cordell Henry (#98) and Maine West's Kevin Frey (#100) were also in the top 100.
But aside from the star quality at the top, the Class of 1998 featured tremendous depth with well over 40 Division I players. As you look back at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's end-of-the-year player rankings, the depth shows. In hindsight, there were several misses by the Hoops Report, which are noted at the end of these rankings.
1. Quentin Richardson, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Top 10 players nationally, signed with DePaul, monster two years for the Blue Demsons, NBA first-round pick and NBA veteran.
2. Corey Maggette, 6-6, WF, Oak Park (Fenwick) .... A McDonald's All-American, signed with Duke, NBA first-round pick and 20 ppg in the league.
3. Frankie Williams, 6-3, PG, Peoria (Manual) .... McDonald's All-American and state's Mr. Basketball. He was a Big Ten MVP with Illinois and a first-round NBA draft pick whose pro career fizzled.
4. Bobby Simmons, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Simeon) .... DePaul recruit, top 25 player nationally, another NBA veteran.
5. Michael Wright, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Farragut) .... Tremendous college career at Arizona.
6. Lance Williams, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Julian) .... Another talented big man in this class. Signed with DePaul and had a solid college career.
7. Joey Range, 6-5, WF, Galesburg .... An enigma. Signed with Iowa. Battled off-the-court issues and was one high-profile player that didn't live up to the hype.
8. Kevin Frey, 6-8, PF, Des Plaines (Maine West) .... Vastly underrated. Led Maine West to Elite Eight after transferring in. Had a very good career at Xavier.
9. Dennis Gates, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Signed with Cal after helping Q lead Whitney Young to state title. Now an assistant at NIU.
10. Damir Krupalija, 6-8, PF, Rockford (Boylan) .... Underappreciated skilled big man who could face the basket. Signed with Illinois and was solid contributor.
11. Traves Wilson, 6-2, 2G, Moline .... Was big nationally, a top 100 recruit who signed with Arizona before transferring to Illinois State. Never made a huge dent at the college level.
12. Anthony Johnson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (King) .... Was known as a sleeper in the class and a late bloomer. Signed with Southwest Louisiana.
13. Cordell Henry, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Had a very good career for Marquette.
14. Rod Thompson, 6-5, WF, Galesburg .... Signed with Iowa but never made much of an impact.
15. Lucas Johnson, 6-7, WF, Des Plaines (Maine West) .... Shows the depth of class with Johnson at No. 15. Was highly instrumental in helping Illinois to some terrific seasons.
16. Waitari Marsh, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Julian) .... Considered the most underrated player by the Hoops Report in this class. Had stellar career at Tulane, finishing as one of the school's all-time leaders in assists and steals.
17. Chris Williams, 6-2, PG/2G, Oak Park (Fenwick) .... Good college career. Was a significant recruit for Loyola at the time but eventually transferred to Ball State.
18. Marlon London, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... Signed with Kansas before coming back home and transferring to DePaul.
19. Michael Wilder, 6-2, 2G, Decatur (Stephen Decatur) ... Athletic, scoring wing went the JUCO route before becoming a big contributor for Louisiana Tech.
20. Travon Davis, 5-10, PG, LaGrange Park (Nazareth Academy) .... Signed with Wisconsin but was never more than a role player.
21. Shawn Jeppson, 6-2, 2G, Spring Valley (Hall) .... Under-the-radar guard had a memorable state tournament in leading Hall to second place in Class A, scoring 51 points in title game. Was a big contributor at Illinois State during his four years.
22. Tavaras Hardy, 6-7, PF, New Lenox (Providence) .... Averaged 12 ppg, 6 rpg in helping Northwestern to 16-win season in 2001-2002.
23. Pierre Greene, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon) .... Enjoyed a very good career at Old Dominion.
24. Corey Harris, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Big bodied power forward had a very limited role while playing at Ball State.
25. Quiandre Moore, 6-2, PG, Zion-Benton .... After going the JUCO route, Moore was a double-figure scorer for Southwest Missouri State.
26. Henry Domercant, 6-2, 2G, Naperville (North) .... Overlooked by the Hoops Report and many others. Led Eastern Illinois to NCAA Tournament and was one of the leading scorers in the country while at EIU. Obviously, 10 years later Domercant would be higher than No. 25 on this list.
26. Jon Harris, 6-7, PF, Edwardsville .... Signed with Marquette and was a role player.
27. Rob Walls, 6-4, WF, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... Signed with Penn State.
28. Michael Stewart, 6-7, PF, Chicago (King) .... Signed with Loyola Marymount.
29. Ian Hanavan, 6-5, WF, Moline .... Signed with UIC.
30. Linton Johnson, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Providence St. Mel) .... Signed with Tulane.
The biggest misses may have been Domercant at No. 26, Johnson at No. 30 and Eric Channing of Wheaton South. Domercant ended up one of the leading scorers in NCAA during his career. Johnson, who checked in at No. 30, even made the jump to the NBA after playing at Tulane. Channing had a stellar college career and was an Academic All-American at New Mexico State. He averaged 19 ppg his senior year, yet was not even among the Hoops Report's Top 30 players, checking in at No. 42.
The list goes on and on, with Brother Rice's Tim O'Neil signing with Western Michigan, St. Joseph's Mark Treadwell with Indiana, Lake Forest's Tyler Smith with Penn State, Belleville East's Josh Helbig with Cal State Fullerton, Julian's Watra Banks with Pan American, Waterloo Gibault's Chris Braun with Saint Louis, Riverton's Garrett Thomas with Northern Illinois and Proviso West's Brucall Green with Pan American.