By Joe HenricksenThe 12 Most Wanted
Here is a look at the dozen players in Illinois, regardless of class, that are simply the 12 best college prospects. These are the players that project to be the best college players and will, in the Hoops Report's eyes, have the best chance of making the most significant impact at the college level.
You will notice the list is backloaded, with seven of the 12 reigning from the Class of 2011 - this year's sophomores. The following is a ranking of the 12 best college basketball prospects in the state of Illinois.
1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Jr., Waukegan
Perhaps no one in the state has as much pure basketball skill as Richmond. The knock remains his desire and attitude. Will he bring it every day like other greats do? He has slowly been getting better in those areas. But Richmond can beat you in so many different ways on the floor and is such a versatile threat. Though a much shorter version of Kevin Durant, his game is eerily similar.
2. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G, Jr., Chicago (Crane)
Watch him run up and down the floor a few times and it doesn't take long to realize he's a phenomenal athlete with arguably the highest ceiling of any player in the state. The question is will Head reach the greatest heights that he can? He's come a long way in a short time but still lacks the necessary skill level to be the best of the best. Nonetheless, he oozes with talent and untapped potential. And there is that physical presence with the crazy hops and long arms.
3. Sam Thompson, 6-5, WF, So., Chicago (Whitney Young)
The potential is there to be the best of the bunch in the Class of 2011. But he's still just a pup, a fawn. He's not as advanced physically as his 2011 counterparts, but he's extremely bouncy and ridiculously long. He will block shots, handle the ball, get out on the wing and defend, hit a three, get out on the break and beat everyone down the floor.
4. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, So., Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
The Hoops Report admits gushing a little more about Abrams than others have. It's all about getting better each day with the physically gifted Abrams, who has a great feel for the game and can impact it on both ends. He does so many things so well, yet can improve in each area. That alone makes him a scary prospect. He was nothing short of amazing during Mt. Carmel's run to a sectional championship last March. He was fearless for a player his age in such a big setting and flourishes in big moments.
5. Wayne Blackshear, 6-4, 2G/WF, So., Chicago (Curie)
He just has the look. He's got the size and athleticism. He's physically mature. While his perimeter skills (perimeter shooting and overall ballhandling) must get better, he's already a beast getting to the basket and finishing with the best of them. An absolute terror along the baseline, a little reminiscent of former Simeon and Illinois star Nick Anderson. With improvement in the skill areas, the sky is the limit for Blackshear.
6. Mike Shaw, 6-8, WF/PF, So., Chicago (DeLaSalle)
The skill package Shaw brings to the floor for a player his size and age is pretty remarkable. He handles it well for a 6-8 player and will float around the perimeter and knock down a three. Yet, like so many other top players, he's going to have to show that he wants it. There remains too many times where he's a non-factor on the floor, though the needed assertiveness may come with age and experience.
7. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Jr., Zion-Benton
Smith is on the list for different reasons. He's not a freak athlete, he won't be confused with a pure shooter, his body type is different and questions can be raised as to what position he is best suited for. But it's about productivity, winning and making those around him better. He's a phenomenal passer who gets so much done, both around the basket and on the perimeter. Plus, he will be an impact, four-year guy for a college program.
8. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Sr., Warren
The top-rated Hoops Report player in the Class of 2009. In reality, despite his presence in national rankings and an undeniable pure athletic body, he's a late bloomer. He didn't have the fanfare early in his career as a lot of other players did coming into high school, which shows he's just now scratching the surface. Of all the players in the senior class, Paul has perhaps the most upside. He's long, athletic and has greatly improved his shooting. He still has work to do with his ballhandling and needs to turn his physical attributes into being a disruptive, lockdown defender, which he has yet to do.
9. Chasson Randle, 6-1, PG, So., Rock Island
Another player who, like Thompson, is just beginning to grow into his body and develop physically. He's extremely skilled and has the all-around skill level that leaves any observer impressed. He still has to adjust to the physical nature of the game. That should come in time. Another plus is he's an elite student with a great head on his shoulders and support around him. In this day and age, those attributes are highly underrated and coveted by college coaches.
10. Donivine Stewart, 5-11, PG, So., Limestone
There are definite Stewart doubters out there. But he's a player you have to watch several times to appreciate all that he brings to the table. For starters, his feel and understanding of the game for a player his age is off the charts. And remember, he put up 25-plus a game as a freshman. But his lacking the height and superior athleticism of others, you wonder how high he can go. On the plus side, he will be around for four years as opposed to a lot of the top national prospects.
11. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Sr., Chicago (Whitney Young)
He has such a burst and great first step. He's a powerpacked point guard who can break anyone down off the dribble and finish at the basket. He has battled inconsistency in his career but is poised for a breakout season as a senior. An improved jump shot and overall decision-making are the final pieces of the puzzle for Colvin.
12. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, So., Chicago (St. Patrick)
Of all the players in the 12 Most Wanted, this is the least recognized name. But the Hoops Report loves this kid's talent. He hasn't received the hype of the other players in the Class of 2011 have. But like several of the others in the sophomore class (Blackshear, Thompson, Shaw) he has great versatility. He can face up and shoot the three, put it on the floor on the wing and get to the basket.