By Joe Henricksen
The Reebok Headliner Camp at Attack Athletics Center offered a different view of some of the top talent in the state. While there were scrimmage games that were played, it was good to see and evaluate the skills and development of different players in the morning hours as they went through various drills in different stations, ranging from ballhandling, spot-up shooting, shooting off the dribble and working in the halfcourt.
Mike Mullins of the Illinois Wolves and his assembled staff did a terrific job of getting the most out of this two-day event. The drill work in the stations were run efficiently with little to no downtime. And from an evaluation perspective, it's always interesting to see players broken down into smaller groups and working on skills they may or may not necessarily have.
It was in those stations where the Hoops Report could once again see the development of St. Ignatius big man Nnanna Egwu. While a big man can be the forgotten man and have little impact in the type of scrimmage setting that took place at this camp, he showcased his mind-boggling skill improvement in the station work. The 6-9 sophomore, who will be unofficially visiting Illinois this Wednesday and has offers from Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue among others, will be making another move up the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings next month. There will be a future blog on Egwu in coming days.
• Williams coming along
As has been suspected various times in recent months, it does appear the path is being cleared for 6-5 sophomore Jacob Williams to return to St. Patrick next season after sitting out the basketball season while attending Bartlett this past school year. Williams is still rounding into the form the Hoops Report saw of him last summer, brushing off the rust and finding his confidence level after basically having six months off of competitive basketball.
When the Hoops Report watched Williams at the Hall of Fame Showdown in early April he really struggled. He showed glimpses at the Nike Spring Showdown later in the month. There is no question the year off stunted his development for the time being, but he remains one of the top 10 prospects in the class as his AAU program, the Illinois Wolves, have broken him down and are building him back up following the layoff.
Williams says he hears the most and receives the most interest from Ohio State. He also rattled off several schools he says are actively recruiting him, including Wisconsin, Oregon State, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Miami-Florida and, most recently, DePaul.
• Fenger firepower
Watch out for Loren Jackson's Chicago Fenger team this winter. Wow, what a collection of talent he is quietly assembling on Chicago's far South Side. The best of the bunch is sophomore Phillip Greene. He opened the Hoops Report's eyes this spring with his consistent play in AAU ball. He showed flashes of outstanding offensive ability for a 6-1 guard, just a dynamic offensive threat. At the Reebok Headliner Tryout Camp he was, at times, simply dominating, particularly watching him in a 3-on-3 drill during station work and then again in the scrimmages. This kid can score in bunches -- in transition, off the bounce in the halfcourt, getting to the rim, shooting from the perimeter. How in the world Greene was not in the last Hoops Report's top 25 player rankings for the Class of 2011 is foolish. He's still a little wild and erratic, but he's a top 25 talent in the class -- probably a top 15 player.
This was really the first extensive look the Hoops Report had of Fenger junior Walter Lemon. The 6-1 left-handed guard is devastating in getting to the rim and finishing against just about anyone, especially in the open court and typically in spectacular fashion. He's a big-time athlete who must improve his perimeter shot but is one to watch in the Class of 2010. And both Tavares Herron, another highly-athletic perimeter player, and 6-7 Jamari Traylor opened some eyes as well. Traylor looks the part with a great body and good athleticism but still needs to figure it all out on the floor.
• Wolves boast depth with Sullivan
The Illinois Wolves 16s are a loaded group with some big-named players, including Jacob Williams, Nnanna Egwu and Rock Island's Chasson Randle, who were all in action this past weekend. While York's Will Sullivan is not in that category, he certainly is flying under the radar both locally and with college coaches. He's another player getting better by the week as he's improving on his weaknesses.
Sullivan, a 6-2 sophomore, will catch-and-shoot, come off screens, knock down the mid-range jumper and is pretty fundamentally sound. While he still must get better and more comfortable with his overall handle and off the dribble, he's more than just the two or three dribble player he was six months ago. A year from now, the Hoops Report believes, Sullivan's stock will be sky high.
• CVS' Williams brings a lot to the table
After a breakout junior year in which Aaron Williams helped pump life back in the Chicago Vocational basketball program, he is now making strides as an individual player. Again, this setting with the different skill work that took place in the various stations, offered a different glimpse into Williams' game. The 6-5 junior's skills on the perimeter (ballhandling, passing, etc) are much better than people give him credit for, though he still has to become a better shooter and extend his range to be considered a true 3-man. That perimeter shot is what prevents Williams from shedding the dreaded 'tweener label. But the Hoops Report likes his demeanor, the way he plays, how he competes, rebounds and his physical make-up.
•High on Hoopy
While the recruiting for Mounds Meridian's Isiah "Hoopy" Jones, a 6-2 junior point guard, is all over the board, he projects to be a nice fit at the mid-major level. While he shot the ball extremely well at the Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown, he remains streaky from the perimeter. However, he is the big-bodied guard out on the perimeter college coaches covet, capable of defending big guards or getting where he wants to on the floor offensively. He's unselfish, thrives in the open floor and sees the floor pretty well, finding open teammates or simply finding his way to the rack with his strength and athleticism.
•Another name in 2012
Keep an eye on 6-7 Jay Simpson of Champaign Central. The little-talked-about freshman has the body and a decent face-up game for such a young player. Now he just has to utilize that body better, become a more efficient rebounder and presence. He displayed his talent in stretches during the Reebok Headliner Tryout Camp, and the upside is there, but he tends to drift a little. All of this should come in time for the promising Simpson, who is part of the Illinois Wolves program.
• Loaded, big-time event coming
Illinois will be home to one of the premier events in the country this summer as the Chicago Summer Classic, which will be at the Joy of the Game facility in Deerfield July 9-11, is absolutely loaded. Virtually every top AAU program and player in the state of Illinois will be on hand over the three-day event, plus many elite AAU programs from around the Midwest.
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