By Joe Henricksen
As we head toward the stretch run of the high school basketball season and all the individual talk has been centered around the Player of the Year candidates and the young, big-named prospects in the sophomore and junior classes, other individual storylines have developed.
With that in mind, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at some of the younger players who have seen their stock rise during this season and will surely have a lot of eyes on them this spring and summer.
Juniors (Class of 2010)
Karl Madison, Springfield Lanphier
This smooth, lefty guard has gone from a Division I prospect to the ideal mid-major prospect who, mid-major coaches hope, stays a mid-major. As a result, Madison has crept into the Hoops Report's top 15 juniors in Illinois. In Madison's case, it's not a downgrade to call him a combo guard, because he truly can play both spots and play them effectively. The 5-10 Madison will be a point guard at the next level, but despite his lack of size he can really score off the ball and is a natural scorer. He has the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc, though he still must get better shooting off screens. Madison can get to the basket and has a great knack for drawing contact and getting to the line. He has real nice feel for the game but still must show more point guard abilities.
Wayne Simon, St. Joseph
While DeAndre McCamey is the bigger-named junior at St. Joe's, Simon is the one who has been a steady and improving force for Gene Pingatore's Chargers. While Simon is only 5-10, for a small player in stature he does have some length. Simon has a deceiving style that allows him to get in the lane and to the basket, despite his small, thin frame. And once in the lane or in transition, Simon is very good at using his body to shield the ball from help defenders when finishing at the rim. He's developed a nice mid-range game with runners and pull-up jumpers. He's unselfish and an underrated passer. Simon has been one of the real nice surprises of the 2008-2009 season.
Antoine Cox, Bolingbrook
The jumping jack junior opened the Hoops Report's eyes with his play this past summer. The eyes were opened at that time due to his outlandish athleticism. Now he's more than just a freakish athlete. Cox, who came into the season as a relatively unknown due to not playing any AAU basketball, has made tremendous strides during his junior campaign. He has seen his numbers, across the board, skyrocket. The 6-3 wing has become an explosive scorer, particularly with his much-improved perimeter shot, and has climbed into the Hoops Report's top 20 prospects in the junior class. Cox has extended his range and made tremendous strides with his shot. He still is not a natural distributor of the basketball, must improve his overall handle and establish a better overall feel for the game. Cox, however, has solidified himself as a Division I prospect.
Sophomores (Class of 2011)
Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
Despite so many naysayers throughout his freshman season a year ago, the Southern Cal commit has truly grown as a player. At times, Boatright has been spectacular during his sophomore season. In three big games for the Tomcats -- against Neuqua Valley, Springfield Lanphier and West Aurora -- he was terrific. His shot looks much more fluid, he's shooting it with range and improved shooting consistency. He's also showcased his athleticism more as he matures and gets where he wants to get on the floor against just about anyone. Boatright's biggest obstacle is his size and strength as his slight frame allows strong guards the advantage of bodying him and taking away his drive. But the 5-11 point guard has an extremely high skill level, whether it be handling the ball, seeing the floor or his much-improved perimeter shot. He also plays with great confidence and a chip on his shoulder when he wants to. Boatright constantly puts pressure on opposing defenses but. There are times, however, when he lets his emotions and the speed of the game get the most of him. He will tend to get out of control and find himself in traffic with no one to throw the ball to. But the slender guard has clearly made big strides as a player and, with more experience, iron out some of those deficiencies. It will be interesting to see just how his recruitment shakes out over the next couple of years and whether he does indeed end up at USC.
Tywon Pinckney, Simeon
In a class loaded with talented point guards, Pinckney is generally left out of the conversation when it comes to Limestone's Donivine Stewart, Thornton's Jay Parker and Brooks' George Marshall. While he may be just a notch below, his stock has certainly been rising with the more experience he gets. He reminds the Hoops Report a little of former Simeon point guard Kenyon Smith, though at the same stage of their careers Pinckney may be a little ahead of where Smith was at as a sophomore. He is a point guard who looks to set up teammates first, a big reason why he's been able to start for a Simeon program that typically doesn't rely on young players. He has developed a little mid-range, stop and pop game. He's strong for his size and is already willing to play defense.
And a few others....
• Kareem Amedu, 6-5, Jr., Neuqua Valley .... A player that has virtually come out of nowhere and blossomed in his junior year. A year ago Amedu was so limited offensively. He's made huge strides and has become a force around the basket, though still a bit of an undersized 4-man.
• Macari Brooks, 6-2, So., Rich South .... Tremendous athlete who needs to improve skill level, but he's an exciting talent.
• Kortney Darby, 6-5, So., Chicago (St. Patrick) .... Putting up regular double-doubles and getting better by the week.
• Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, Jr., Wheaton Academy .... Best basketball is ahead of this slender but skilled player who just gets things done. He's a poor man's John Shurna.
• Dave Dudzinksi, 6-8, Jr., Kaneland .... Still has a ways to go but has made big strides since this time last year.