By Joe Henricksen
There has been so much talk about the Class of 2011 over the past eight or nine months as so many talented players in that class shined brightly as freshmen. Watching them a year ago it was hard to believe that they were just freshmen. The City/Suburban Hoops Report -- and many others -- have thrown superlatives around regarding this class. Now we really get to enjoy them and watch them progress. The sophomore class is a year older, better and, as a group, blossoming into stars. At least six of the top eight players already have high-major offers on the table.
The Hoops Report elevated Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, who sparkled when the lights shined brightest last March, to the top of the list last June. The ultra-talented point guard remains at the top but has a few players right there with him. In fact, there is very little separation between the top four players in the class in terms of just who is the best of the bunch.
Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's top college prospects in the Class of 2011.
1. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)... A terrific athlete who has already proven to a big-time player and winner at a high level. He competes and has a toughness about him. When he decides to attack, not many players can match up with him. And for his age, his ability to finish around the basket puts him at another level. The jumper will have to get more consistent. Has a little Russell Westbrook in him.
2. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)... Long, lanky wing with just an enormous upside. His length, agility and versatility make him a very unique prospect. Still too skinny and needs to add some toughness to his game.
3. Wayne Blackshear, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Curie)... Has length, strength and explosiveness. And he's only going to get stronger as his solid frame continues to fill out. Really excels on the break and along the baseline, where he utilizes his strong body and athleticism. Needs to become more consistent overall, particularly with his shooting.
4. Mike Shaw, 6-8, WF, Chicago (DeLaSalle)... Overall, just a terrific talent. While many paint him as a four-man, Shaw is best facing the basket with his excellent versatility. Solid handle for a 6-8 player. He can at times be too enamored with his outside shot and needs to develop more of a killer instinct as his intensity tends to drift at times.
5. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island... He continues to get better and better with his shooting, which makes him so dangerous offensively. Good quickness, instincts and solid feel for the game. Must continue to develop his point guard skills. Has all the tools to become a special four-year college player.
6. Dre Henley, 6-5, WF, Chicago (DeLaSalle)... Strong and athletic wing with ideal size to play the wing. Very good in the open court and finishing around the basket. His shooting continues to get better and better.
7. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) ... He can be wild. He can let his emotions get to him. But he can flat-out play basketball and put the ball in the hole. No one realizes just how athletic he is.
8. Donivine Stewart, 5-11, PG, Bartonville (Limestone)... Quick with the ball, crafty and has a high basketball I.Q. Rare combination of having a scorer's mentality while possessing point guard intangibles. Extremely adept at getting to the foul line. Has a confidence and swagger about him. But the limitations are there. He's not big and is average athletically.
9. Nnana Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)... The prototypical project. But, boy, has he come a long way. Big man with tremendous length who runs the floor exceptionally well. Improving at a rapid pace. Has the potential to be a real force defensively. Still growing into his body. Added strength will give him better balance and be more effective inside.
10. James Siakam, 6-7, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)... A physical specimen with body mass and above-average athleticism. Will dunk just about everything. But he's still very raw. Struggles right now to create offense for himself and has a ways to go in developing reliable post moves and court awareness. Could he turn into a Joey Dorsey-type?
11. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick)... Rising quickly despite not being a household name like the others in front of him. Another player with tremendous versatility as he will knock down the three, take you off the dribble and wow you with his offensive capabilities. Really has a chance to be a true national recruit.
12. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Woodruff)... Needs to turn himself into more of niche player -- defensive lockdown defender, finisher around the basket, etc. Doesn't have a great grasp of the game. When everything is clicking he opens peoples eyes with his body, length, athleticism and vast potential.
13. George Marshall, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Brooks)... Pretty polished point guard who can get by defenders, into the paint and create.
14. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee... Freaky athlete who needs work on his overall skill level (ballhandling, shooting) but is an emphatic finisher.
15. Mycheal Henry, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Orr) ... The little-talked about Henry is a bundle of untapped talent bursting at the scenes and a big-time sleeper. Can the athletic Henry polish his skills and take it to the next level?
16. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-2, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic)... Yes, he can absolutely fill it up. But he's more than a shooter. Old fashioned player who actually is pretty deadly out of the triple threat, where he utilizes jabs and pump fakes to attack opposition. An endless motor who loves to compete. May will himself to a higher level collegiately (a la Jay Burson or a Sean Harrington?).
17. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton)... Possesses incredible open floor speed with a great first step and a nightmare to defend. Has a nice little pull-up jumper but his shooting is a bit streaky. His lack of size will always be an issue.
18. Tywon Pinckney, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon)... Under the radar right now but won't be for long. He's still learning how to be an efficient point guard.
19. DeShawn Greer, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Simeon)... While he packs a wide variety of skills (decent handle, soft touch, good athlete) he doesn't always seem comfortable. That may come with age and experience.
20. Keith Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... Developing bouncy 4-man needs to make strides to reach the potential many feel he is capable of reaching.
(Note: Charles Joy of O'Fallon is considered one of the top players in the Class of 2011. The Hoops Report has not seen Joy play and is not ranked.)
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