By Joe Henricksen
As mentioned in a previous City/Suburban Hoops Report blog, the Chicago Hoops Tip-Off Classic offered an array of talent last weekend, which included talented incoming freshmen to even outgoing seniors. Here is another overview of that event with some additional thoughts and perspective.
On top of 2011?
He's not there just yet, but De La Salle 6-5 sophomore Dre Henley is fast approaching the top spot in the talented sophomore class. The Hoops Report absolutely loves his versatility, which includes a high skill level to go with that big body. Henley will showcase his skill level next winter as he will be playing plenty of point guard for De La Salle next season. Henley, who projects as a big, physical, skilled wing in college, will shed a little of that excess weight as his body matures and, possibly, grows another inch or two. At that point he could evolve into a physical force, capable of outmuscling defenders but with legitimate three-point range. Think former Nevada-Reno and NBA player Kirk Snyder.
Here is how the Hoops Report sees the top 10 college prospects in that class, while knowing that many of these spots are very interchangeable.
1. Tracy Abrams, Mt. Carmel
2. Sam Thompson, Whitney Young
3. Mike Shaw, De La Salle
4. Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park
5. Dre Henley, De La Salle
6. Chasson Randle, Rock Island
7. Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
8. Jacob Williams, Bartlett
9. Nnanna Egwu, St. Ignatius
10. James Siakam, 6-7, Brehm Prep
Will talented Fire put it all together?
Yes, the Mac Irvin Fire 17U AAU team just may have the biggest collection of individual talent of any team in Illinois. However, will all that talent produce and equal wins when the big AAU events roll around? The first weekend of AAU play is hardly the time to base any future success on, but the team does lack a true point guard (could it eventually be Jereme Richmond?) or a distributor of any kind. And how will the minutes be split up between so many star-studded players? It will be interesting to see how this team shakes out over the course of the spring and summer. Richmond was by far the most impressive Fire player on the opening day of action.
A year ago the Hoops Report watched and was impressed with Isiah "Hoopy" Jones when he played with the Illinois Titans. Jones, who plays high school basketball at Mounds Meridian, moved on late last summer and hooked up with the Illinois Bobcats. He was impressive this past weekend for the Bobcats, showing his ability to run a team, beat people off the dribble and attack the basket aggressively. He plays mature and has a terrific body for a guard. Jones is a bonafide mid-major prospect and is among the top 20 players in the Class of 2010. The 6-2 junior still needs to tighten up his jumper and gain consistency with his perimeter shot.
South 'burbs' best in 2011?
It's generally accepted that Thornton sophomore guard Jay Parker is the premier player in the south suburbs in the Class of 2011. However, if Rich South's crazy athlete Macari Brooks continues to knock down shots with his improved jumper, the 6-2 wing will be able to make an argument. Brooks possesses off-the-charts, eye-popping athleticism. He's still learning how to play, but he's made progress with his perimeter shot since seeing him early in the high school season. Brooks need to continue to improve and refine his overall skills and establish a true position.
Team to keep an eye on
While the Illinois Kings AAU team may not boast the individual talent of the elite teams in the state, they are certainly one to watch with a number of under-the-radar players who, with an impressive spring and summer, could certainly open the eyes of college coaches at various levels.
Right now Neuqua Valley's Kareem Amedu, an undersized 6-5 four-man, has low-Division I interest and a. He is what he is, which is a productive inside player who has improved rapidly and come a long way over the past 12 months, especially on the offensive end. Amedu, along with Oak Park's 6-8 Jeff Dirkin and Lyons Township's 6-5 Justin Phipps give the Kings several options and versatility inside. The long and very slender Dirkin can step out and knock down perimeter shots, while Phipps was impressive with his strength, athleticism and overall skill level. Phipps was a regular double-double down the stretch for LT, including a 16-point, 14-rebound game in a regional win over Hinsdale Central.
The player to watch, though, just may be Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill, a heady point guard who is physically strong, knocks down shots and has a little more giddy-up than people think. McGonagill, Marist's Nick Valla and Bartlett's Luke Labedzki form a pretty solid perimeter together.