By Joe Henricksen
A couple of years ago the Class of 2011 was billed as the "next great class" in Illinois, rivaling the state's best classes and the best we've seen since the Class of 1979 and the Class of 1998. Now these players are halfway through their high school careers with an important summer ahead of them. It's time to re-evaluate.
Yes, it's still a quality class with a potential dozen high-major prospects. At this point, though, it's not in the same class with 1998. While the class is strong and balanced without much separation between the elite players, it lacks the absolute, no-doubt-about-it star power at the top and the overall depth the Class of 1998 featured. This class could have as many as eight or nine players that could crack the top 100 nationally when they are seniors. However, there is not a top 10 national talent in this class, maybe not even a top 25 if the class is strong nationally. There is no Corey Maggette or Quentin Richardson (top 10 talents in 1998) or a Darius Miles, Shaun Livingston, Derrick Rose or even a Jereme Richmond.
Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams has held the Hoops Report's top spot in the class for the last year due to his combination of upside, competitiveness, toughness, athleticism and production thus far as a player. But there is really very little separation between the top five prospects in this class at this point in their young careers. So much will change, however, over the next 12, 15, 18 months.
What this class does have are a number of rare, wow-type athletes, both in the big names (Tracy Abrams, Wayne Blackshear) and the second-tier guys (Macari Brooks, Mycheal Henry, Jamie Crockett). The Hoops Report does see a drop after James Siakam and the top 11 players in the class.
Here is a list of the top 25 prospects in the Class of 2011. The Hoops Report will list the next 25 later in the week.
1. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) ... The physical package is impressive, with the big, physical body on the perimeter and the great athleticism. He is strong along the baseline and around the basket, but there is still much work to be done on his skills.
2. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... Hoops Report has compared him to UCLA's Darren Collison, a quick, athletic guard with terrific upside. He competes at a high level, will defend from end to end and brings more toughness than any of the other elite prospects in this class. Has the capability with the hand and foot speed to become a lockdown, on-the-ball defender.
3. Sam Thompson, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... The sky is the limit for this extremely long, versatile, athletic wing who will get his chance to shine this winter with Whitney Young. While this notion can sometimes be scary, no player in the class has more untapped potential. He's just a fawn who is still figuring it all out.
4. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island ... A solid, composed combo-guard who doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well but does a lot of things well. He's average athletically (by high-major standards) but shows the ability to get by his man. Has a mid-range game and is getting to the basket much more consistently. But he must get physically tougher and extend his range and get better and more consistent from beyond the arc.
5. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) ... Hoops Report loves Boatright. No player in the top 10 in this class has been as productive on a regular basis as Boatright. He's a jet with the ball and has worked on and greatly improved his perimeter shot. He still has to be able to handle bigger, stronger, more physical guards.
6. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF/WF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... Played well in Merrillville a couple of weeks ago as he tries to embrace what he is as a player and gain more consistency. He will show the flashes of a unique talent -- facing up to the basket and knocking down shots, a good handle for his size, etc. -- but is still searching to become that productive player on a consistent basis.
7. Dre Henley, 6-5, WF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... If he continues to progress at the rate that he has -- and pops a couple of more inches -- look out. A big-bodied, versatile wing capable of playing multiple positions and being an all-around offensive force.
8. Nnanna Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) ... Fast-rising big man has made tremendous strides in the last 18 months and is improving at a rapid rate. If the next 18 months are anything like the last, Egwu will be moving up quickly. Already a defensive presence, Egwu is still unpolished and very raw offensively. Still, he's bursting with potential, runs the floor exceptionally well and seems to have competitive spirit.
9. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) ... The kid can flat-out play the point guard position. He just gets it, with a great feel and understands the game and his role. Plus, he's a scorer and very smooth offensive player, capable of scoring from anywhere on the court. He's efficient, unselfish and an underrated passer.
10. James Siakam, 6-6, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... He will bang, grab rebounds, a very good athlete, has decent hands and seems to be pretty competitive. Great body. He's an undersized four-man who needs to continue to polish his one-on-one post moves and develop that consistent mid-range jumper.
11. Donivine Stewart, 5-11, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) ... He certainly doesn't wow you, but he does have a presence about him with all that he gets done despite his physical limitations.
12. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) ... There is no question sitting out his sophomore year stunted his progress, but he's getting back into form and remains a prospect of intrigue due to his versatility. A long, lanky, smooth athlete with a great deal of upside. Right now it's about production and getting things done at a consistent level.
13. Mycheal Henry, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Orr) ... Another superstar athlete with length, wingspan and upside. He's still very raw and is probably more of an undersized four-man right now than a true wing. He needs to mature as a player. The package is all there; it just needs to be unwrapped.
14. Phillip Greene, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Fenger) ... Opening eyes with his ability to score in a variety of ways. Made a huge jump in the rankings as he heads into the summer.
15. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton) ... A point guard with the handle and burst to put pressure on the opposition. He has great lateral quickness and foot speed. Still a bit streaky with his jumper.
16. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-1, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic) ... Hard-nosed, high motor guard who can really stroke it from the perimeter. Competes at a high level. Some will be concerned about how much development he has left and a lack of big upside.
17. Macari Brooks, 6-2, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South) ... An absolute jaw-dropping athlete and electrifying dunker with explosiveness and quick hops. Really excels in transition, finishing the break with impressive dunks and around the basket. He's made strides with his perimeter shot as his jumper has looked better this spring. He must work hard on his skill set.
18. Jamie Crockett, 6-3, WF, Crete-Monee ... He may not look the part but he's an athletic specimen, a jump-out-of-the-gym player with a strong frame. He's a sensational finisher around the basket, both in the halfcourt and in transition. His skills need a lot of work, including extending his range and improving his handle on the perimeter.
19. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Notre Dame) ... An elite level athlete whose skills lack considerable polish. He does bring a number of attributes to the table due to his athleticism, body and length.
20. Tywon Pinckney, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon) ... Steady point guard who can get into the lane and make plays. Has developed a mid-range game. A gritty defender who is willing to do just that -- defend. Lacks pure explosiveness and size.
21. DeShawn Greer, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Simeon) ... Solid, all-around wing prospect who does a little of everything but nothing truly special. He will rebound, defend a little, and he's effective around the basket. Lacks great range but his mid-range jump shot is gaining consistency.
22. Devon Hodges, 6-7, PF, Romeoville ... He is a long and agile post player who has a soft touch. He looks like he will grow and add weight, but he's still mechanical and not real smooth. This Wisconsin commit has a ways to go to be a true Big Ten player.
23. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... He's a true point guard with the handle and mentality to excel. He's very limited offensively, though, due to his diminutive size and lack of shooting ability. Must work on his mechanics.
24. Kevin Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... Shows excellent flashes and has length and fluidity. Disruptive and active defensively. Runs the floor very well. Consistency should improve with experience.
25. D.J. Tolliver, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Farragut) ... Bigger, athletic guard that defends on and off the ball with his size, athleticism and length. Excellent rebounder for his size. Still needs to fine tune his skills, including ballhandling, but is certainly a rising prospect with upside.