By Joe Henricksen
Every offseason there are players that elevate their games or, simply, play well at the right time with the right eyes on them. Their stock soars through the roof and college scholarships come flying after mild interest throughout their high school career.
Last year no player made a bigger splash in the summer than Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich. While playing for Full Package in AAU competition, Vogrich went from a player a few mid-majors were after following his junior season to a coveted high-major recruit with offers from big-named programs. In the end, Vogrich signed with Michigan last November.
Naperville Central's Drew Crawford also put together a terrific summer while playing for the Illinois Warriors. Crawford, who will be headed to Northwestern this fall, grabbed the attention of several high-major programs after playing in relative obscurity.
So what player will step up, rise to the occasion, climb the player rankings or at least open the eyes of college colleges and national talent evaluators? Mundelein's Ben Brust could certainly be that guy. Here is the lowdown on Brust and a few others the Hoops Report feels could evolve into the Matt Vogrich of 2010. They may be highly-regarded locally but are still seeking national attention.
BEN BRUST, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein
Anyone who has followed and read the Hoops Report over the last 14 years knows it loves and appreciates players who can simply put the ball in the basket. Give the Hoops Report a scorer any day. Brust, the No. 5 rated player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings, is that guy. He's hardly an unknown and there is certainly high-major interest, with Iowa recently offering and five other high-majors -- Northwestern, Virginia, California, Stanford and Notre Dame -- showing heavy interest. However, despite the fact Brust's interest is a bit higher at the same stage than Vogrich's interest was a year ago at this time, he is poised to break out on the national level. He's still rounding into form and is probably still a couple of weeks away from being entirely back from a broken tibia that ended his junior season. He can flat-out score and is arguably the best perimeter shooter in the senior class in Illinois. He has great range and moves well without the ball. He doesn't appear to be a natural ballhandler, but he's efficient. Like Vogrich, Brust is a better athlete than people realize. He could be a Steve Kerr-type at the college level wherever he plays.
And three others that could rise right along with Brust....
MIKE McCALL, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman)
He has clearly escaped the shadow of his own teammate, point guard Lavonte Dority, and risen to No. 6 in the Hoops Report Class of 2010 player rankings. The jet-quick guard still has plenty to prove. He's devastating in the open court and can be dazzling finishing in transition. He's nearly impossible to stay in front of and is aggressive offensively. If his perimeter shot becomes consistent and he tightens up his handle and decision-making when the game gets fast, look out. He sees the floor extremely well, but he isn't a natural point guard.
RAYVONTE RICE, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial)
The rugged wing gets better and better. And now that he's reportedly given up playing football and will dedicate 12 months to playing basketball for the first time, the sky could be the limit if he dedicates himself to polishing his skills and rounding himself into a better basketball body. He doesn't come with the perfect basketball dimensions, but he gets so much done. A host of mid-majors have offered, with Drake, Illinois State, Western Michigan and Loyola among the several offers. Both Iowa and Penn State have been in to watch Rice.
KARL MADISON, 5-10, PG, Springfield (Lanphier)
Here is the guy no one talks about due to playing outside the Chicago area, but like Brust this kid can put it in the hole. Though smaller than Brust, Madison is more of a combo guard, capable of playing the point or moving over to the 2-guard spot because of his shooting and scoring ability. He's a Daniel Gibson-like scoring point guard with a nice bag of tricks offensively. This lefty can get to the basket, knock down shots from beyond the arc and has a mid-range game.