By Joe Henricksen
They've been hyped. They've been talked about. They've fulfilled early expectations. And they've gotten their feet wet. Now it's time to start fully enjoying and appreciating what the Class of 2011 has to offer in the state of Illinois. As noted many times by different people, it's a special group.
With many of the top sophomores-to-be in Illinois getting a taste of varsity basketball last year as freshmen and after competing at high levels during the spring and summer with their AAU teams, these young talents are set to take the next step. Some will take off and get better by the year, some will plateau, and some will likely drop in status and ranking between now and their senior year. But when it's all said and done, this group has the potential to rank among the top classes in recent memory. That is definitely something to look forward to after a couple of average (or even sub-par) years in both the Class of 2007 and the Class of 2008.
There were an abundance of players that made major impacts last season as freshmen, whether it was Limestone's Donivine Stewart averaging 24-plus a game, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams starring in March or watching the much-anticipated debuts of the biggest of names, DeLaSalle's Mike Shaw and Curie's Wayne Blackshear. But this offseason there were more players that stepped up, shined and impressed the Hoops Report. A couple of those players vaulted up the rankings, including St. Patrick's Jacob Williams. This kid is a high-major, versatile talent that is just beginning to tap into his potential. And the Hoops Report has gushed over Hayden Hoerdemann of Bloomington Central Catholic.
Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top college prospects in the Class of 2011.
1. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .... When you combine raw ability, upside and potential--as well as big-time production in big moments--it's tough to top Abrams. He's a special talent with the likes of Kentucky and Memphis hot after him.
2. Mike Shaw, 6-8, WF, Chicago (DeLaSalle) .... Still some questions about his motor, drive and consistency, which could come with age. But his size and skill level are awfully impressive.
3. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Highly versatile wing has the potential to be the top player in this class but is just in the beginning stages of putting it all together.
4. Wayne Blackshear, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Curie) .... An athletic presence, great body and another 2011 player loaded with upside and potential. The sky is the limit for a young player that will be a national recruit.
5. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) .... A blur of a player on the floor who is capable of putting up points in a hurry. Pure explosiveness with the ball in his hands and a high-major prospect.
6. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limeston) .... Definitely a different prospect than the four players ahead of him. He does it with smarts, grit, moxy and drive. Although limited in size and athleticism, Stewart just gets it--and gets it done.
7. Chasson Randle, 6-1, PG, Rock Island .... Still blossoming as a scoring point guard. When he adds a little strength and size, watch out.
8. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) .... There aren't many players that have as wide array of skills as the long and lanky Williams. However, those skills need to develop and get more consistent to solidify himself as a prospect.
9. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton) .... Size will always be an issue, but he's an absolute jet with the ball and is always looking to create.
10. George Marshall, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Brooks) .... The little guy can go. He's a true point guard who penetrates, makes those around him better.
11. Dre Henley, 6-4, WF, Chicago (DeLaSalle) .... Good body and strength. A versatile wing who continues to show improvement with his perimeter skills.
12. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Manual) .... He definitely passes the look test. However, will his skill and drive ever catch up to his raw physical abilities?
Rounding out the Top 20 in 2011....
13. DeShawn Greer, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
14. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee
15. Mycheal Henry, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Orr)
16. Nnanna Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)
17. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
18. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-1, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic)
19. Sondale Connor, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Brooks)
20. Kevin Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks)
Note: The City/Suburban Hoops Report has not yet seen highly-regarded Charles Joy of O'Fallon. Thus, he is not included in these rankings.