By Joe Henricksen

June 2009 Archives

Put up or shut up time for Class of 2011?

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By Joe Henricksen

When the players in the Class of 2011 were just freshmen, the class as a whole was viewed as arguably the best class the state has seen since 1998. The potential was there to rank among the all-time great classes. Obviously, at that age, those perceptions were based on pure potential, with the idea that these prospects could blossom and live up to the hype, plateau or potentially slide. There is so much that can happen in the development of high school basketball players.

Now, two years later, these juniors-to-be are in position to solidify themselves. However, it's very clear that, while the class still can be extremely good, it won't rank anywhere near the 1998 class. At some point production and gaining some consistency -- while still maintaining an upside -- becomes a factor.

While it's always based on potential when it comes to evaluating and projecting high school players at the next level, it's especially true for freshmen and sophomores. However, as these prospects move into their junior and senior years, players need to start getting things done -- on a regular and consistent basis -- against their peers. July will be big for a lot of these players and opinions could surely change.

There has been some shuffling in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 rankings but here is how the Top 40 shapes up heading into the all-important July evaluation period.

1. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... Has maintained the top spot in the Hoops Report rankings for over a year now and it's more clear now than ever. He has the physical attributes (speed and athleticism) you covet, while not carrying the baggage other hyped players do. He typically plays with a purpose and is a much better creator and distributor than people give him credit for. He's still a bit raw in some of the skill areas, but he combines production and upside better than anyone in the class.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) ... A nagging back injury has bothered the athletic wing. High-major caliber athlete and body, which is keeping his lofty status, but must improve his skill-set and show progression this July to maintain top five ranking. He has yet to show the killer instinct to take over games.
3. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island ... He may not have the pure upside of some of the other players in this class, but people are beginning to appreciate what he is. He has the pedigree you cherish (high character, academics, selfless, team-first, court awareness, etc.). Though not a top-level athlete and having a slight frame, he's deceptive in getting to the basket and finishing through contact. He's patient on the offensive end with a solid mid-range game.
4. Sam Thompson, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Will get his chance to blossom in July and this winter as he's been brought along slowly, both with his high school and AAU team. He's a rare breed wing with great length and athleticism. Blessed with so much untapped talent and upside but must gain some confidence, toughness and strength.
5. Dre Henley, 6-5, WF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... Where will he be playing next? Will it be at an Illinois high school or a prep school? Although he doesn't always look smooth, he's still an extremely skilled and versatile perimeter player with a physical package, combining size, strength and decent athleticism. He has shown the ability to produce, both in finishing at the rim and dropping in a shot from the perimeter. An overlooked strength of his is his passing ability.
6. Nnana Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) ... The rapid rise of this big man have high-majors coveting him. His strength remains his ability to run up and down the floor, but he's knocking down the 15-foot jumper consistently and is disruptive defensively. Post game certainly needs refining, but he's only played a little over two years. His upside is tremendous.
7. James Siakam, 6-6, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... One of those bring-your-lunch-bucket to work every day kind of players who battles, rebounds and finishes around the basket. Paul Millsap-type comes to mind. Possesses a great body, good athleticism but skills still a work in progress.
8. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... Upside is still there with his size and skill level. His frame is very nicely developed. He's comfortable handling the ball and facing up, but at some point it does become about production and getting things done. Has stretches where he disappears completely, not only as a scorer but in other facets as well.
9. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) ... Nothing he can do about his lack of size, but he still must get control of his emotions and not let it impact his game and team. Blessed with big-time explosiveness off the dribble and scoring ability with superb end-to-end speed.
10. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) ... A pretty complete package with his skill set, poise and maturity for his age and position. He can shoot it consistently, is strong with the ball in getting to the basket and will distribute. He does so many things well.
11. Phillip Greene, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Fenger) ... Still a bit of a sleeper but will wake people up quickly with his scoring ability. He's a scorer in every sense of the word. He's in the mold of former Boston College scorer Tyrese Rice.
12. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) ... A natural scorer from the point guard position who just finds ways to put the ball in the hole and an ability to draw contact and get to the line. His change of speed, direction and craftiness helps overcome his lack of speed and athleticism. But he lacks the size and explosiveness needed to play at a high level.
13. Jacob Williams, 6-5, 2G/WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) ... One of the more long, athletic, explosive wing players in the class. He's beginning to come into his own after a long layoff and has expanded his offensive repertoire. He is not a pure shooter and, as a result, can go through periods of inconsistency as his shot can get a little flat. Is this the year he puts it together?
14. Mycheal Henry, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Orr) ... He certainly looks the part with his size, length, body and ability to run up and down the floor. But still must show an ability to understand the game and improve his skill level.
15. Bruce Baron, 6-2, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... Another well-rounded, complete guard who can score, distribute and seems to have a pretty natural feel. A crafty ballhandler who knows how to get defenders off balance with the dribble.
16. Keith Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... He's one of the most improved players in the class. Athletic, bouncy 4-man with big wingspan who is getting better and more assertive. He's become a better finisher around the basket, though he doesn't possess much of a post-up game, instead using his length, athleticism and quickness to score inside. He can get overpowered inside and at the defensive end.
17. Aaron Armstead, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... Big-time sleeper in the class who has the size and physical tools to become a terrific player. Lengthy wing can shoot it with range and has a nice handle. Just has a tendency to float and coast a little at times.
18. Macari Brooks, 6-2, WF, Richton Park (Rich South) ... An off-the-charts athlete but still a very raw player who depends so much on his athleticism. Defenses will dare him to shoot and instead take away driving lanes and keep him off the glass. Right now just doesn't have a true position.
19. Jamie Crockett, 6-3, WF, Crete-Monee ... A dynamite athlete with a solid frame and an excellent finisher around the basket. Streaky shooter. He gets a little tunnel vision and focused on getting his own shot and will get caught trying to do too much. Must start to play hard all the time and want to improve his game.
20. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-1, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic) ... An aggressive shooting guard with a pretty quick release, but he must get his release point higher. A very good shooter with high energy and a great motor. Off the dribble he lacks the quick first step and the advanced moves to create space and consistently get into the lane.
21. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton) ... An extremely quick point guard with a burst in the open court. Will get into the lane and find open teammates. His shooting ability has improved but still must get better. If he wanted to be he could be a terror on the defensive end with his lateral quickness and quick feet and hands.
22. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Woodruff) ... Has a nice combination of size, athleticism and speed in getting up and down the floor. Still has not progressed in the skills area to make him an elite prospect. Needs to become a stat filler type player.
23. Devon Hodges, 6-7, PF, Romeoville ... The big man committed to Wisconsin but is more suited for a MAC or Ohio Valley. Has some size, length and a decent touch facing up to the basket. Looks to have the frame to add weight and strength, but he's still far too mechanical.
24. Will Sullivan, 6-2, 2G, Elmhurst (York) ... A real competitor who works his tail off and it's showed with his improved ballhandling and shooting. He's crafty in getting to the basket and will surprise defenders with his better-than-you-think athleticism. Still must get more consistent with his shot from 18-22 feet.
25. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... A real competitor with quickness. A true point guard with a terrific handle. Exceptional at getting into the lane and creativity in getting his shot off. Must improve his perimeter jumper, though he has developed a nice pull-up game.
26. Abdel Nader, 6-5, WF/PF, Park Ridge (Maine East) ... A big-time sleeper with jaw-dropping length and wingspan. An above-average athlete who is very active and multi-dimensional. He must learn to play hard and show that he wants it. He is filled with untapped potential.
27. Kevin Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... Like his brother, Kevin Gray is an improving big man who is becoming more active. He's using his length and athleticism more and more to his advantage. Still lacks the polish or go-to moves.
28. Tywon Pinckney, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon) ... Good open court speed, likes to push the ball in transition and will knock down the mid-range jumper. Also can be a menace defensively. Lacks size and the consistent jumper with range.
29. Luke Hager, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... An extremely skilled and versatile forward with size and length. Has the capability to knock down shots but must improve mechanics and release. Has the ability to put it on the floor and attack the basket. Must learn to play hard.
30. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame) ... Has the heart and hustle every coach looks for in a player. He earns everything he gets and takes pride in rebounding. His big, thick, wide body is great for banging and for screens but needs to expand his offensive game. He is not very quick and lacks athleticism to play at a high level.
31. D.J. Tolliver, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Farragut) ... While still a bit inconsistent, he's a smooth and crafty wing player. He gets streaky with his shot and get to the basket off the bounce. He must become better in making decisions and understanding the game.
32. Adonis Filer, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... Has good size and strength for a guard, capable of being a big-time defensive stopper when he wants to be. Lacks the shooting stroke you would like from a guard. Has the abillity to get to the basket, take a hit, make contact and finish.
33. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, WF/PF, Mundelein ... Has jumped the Hoops Report rankings as much as anyone in the class. He's an athletic combo forward with a unique set of skills. He can catch-and-shoot with some range, put it on the floor and dunk on a defender. Back-to-the-basket game must improve.
34. David Sobolewski, 6-0, PG, Lisle (Benet) ... He lacks in explosiveness and athleticism, but he's skilled, smart, utilizes misdirection and change of pace dribbles to keep defenders honest. He sees the floor extremely well and is a capable shooter with the ability to score.
35. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central) ... Loves to get to the rim and has a developed mid-range jumper. He's strong but still may not be a true point guard or shooting guard.
36. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG, Lincoln ... There is no question Nelson is one of the premier shooters in the state of Illinois with a picture-perfect jumper and great range and efficiency. He has a quick release and is deadly when left alone. Now he must show that his size is not a disadvantage and that he can make the transition to point guard and run a team without losing his greatest attribute -- shooting.
37. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF/PF, O'Fallon ... Of all the prospects on the list, Hoops Report has seen less of Jones than anyone. Still, there is enough to like to keep him among the top 40 players in the class.
38. Ryan Jackson, 6-0, PG, Riverside-Brookfield ... He's enjoyed a terrific, non-descript summer thus far. He's shown an ability to score, distribute and run a team. He has a bit of an old-school game.
39. Johnny Hill, 6-2, 2G/WF, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... Just beginning to blossom into a player. Physically, he has a loooong way to go, but he's long, active and makes things happen.
40. Darreon Walker, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) ... A jack-of-all-trades who will get things done and play hard. He's a capable shooter who has the ability to become a reliable scorer. He's a good athlete and will defend on the perimeter. He's not the smoothest or most fluid player.

Look for a Hoops Report updated list of the Class of 2010 heading into July later this week.

Public League stacked and balanced

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By Joe Henricksen

Last year the Chicago Public League, as it typically is, was very deep. However, no matter how you looked at the city during the 2008-2008 season it was always a Whitney Young and North Lawndale debate. The two powers had talent, depth, veteran leadership and a memorable showdown during the regular season. And the two made the most of it with Whitney Young capturing the Class 4A state championship and North Lawndale finishing third in Class 3A.

This year there doesn't appear to be a dominating team in the city, but there is no shortage of talent and depth. There could be as many as 10 or 11 city teams in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason top 25 when it comes out in five months. After catching a glimpse of most of the city powers over the past couple of weeks, here is what to look for in the Chicago Public League this winter.

The talented tandem of Young and Simeon
There probably aren't two schools in the Chicago Public League with more talent throughout their program than Whitney Young and Simeon, some of which is veteran talent and much of which is young talent.

Whitney Young, the defending state champs, will be young. Yes, they do return the 1-2 punch of Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and Anthony Johnson (Purdue) in the backcourt, along with promising 6-5 junior Sam Thompson, but coach Tyrone Slaughter will have a lot of youth and inexperience infused into this team. That youth and inexperience has showed this summer, along with the fact the Dolphins have never really been at full strength this summer for various reasons. But make no mistake about it, the Dolphins will be a threat in March.

Simeon is a team loaded with talent. If coach Robert Smith gets the type of production and consistency from 6-3 senior Brandon Spearman that is expected, the Wolverines could be special. Smith will have a pair of solid ballhandling point guards in junior Tywon Pinckney and super sophomore Jelani Neely. There is no shortage of athleticism, length and depth throughout the program, including 6-4 freshman Jabari Parker. And keep an eye on rising 6-6 sophomore Steve Taylor.


Best conference in the state? Red-South
There will be no debate this year as to what league has the most talent. The Chicago Public League's Red-South is absolutely loaded. Simeon, which tied with Brooks and Vocational for the top spot a year ago, will be the favorite. Looking past Simeon, take a look at the depth in this conference...

Brooks. Coach Chris Head's up-and-coming program will once again challenge for the top spot and, most likely, is gearing up for a run at a city title. George Marshall, the talented junior guard, is the catalyst. But if 6-6 twins Keith and Kevin Gray continue to develop at the pace they have and 6-3 junior Justin Raab emerges, look out. This team is still young but has big-game experience after advancing to the supersectional this past March.

Vocational. The rise of CVS last season was a big story. They won't be sneaking up on anyone this year, however. The tandem of scoring guard Hollis Hill and versatile 6-5 Aaron Williams, a pair of UW-Milwaukee commitments, will keep them near or above the 20-win marker.

Fenger. There aren't many teams in the state with a better trio on the perimeter than 6-1 senior Walter Lemon, 6-2 junior Phillip Greene and 5-11 senior Tavares Herron. Coach Loren Jackson has certainly opened plenty of people's eyes with the collection of talent on board at Fenger.

Morgan Park. The Mustangs will have an influx of youth and the arrival of superstar junior Wayne Blackshear, who won't be immediately eligible. Coach Nick Irvin's club could surprise but is still a notch below the top four teams in the Red-South.


Plenty of other challengers
After Whitney Young and the top teams in the Red-South, there are plenty of others. Here is a quick rundown of several of those teams that will -- or could be -- ranked in November when the season starts.

Foreman. Coach Terry Head's team will certainly be a top 15 team in the Chicago area with the best trio of guards in the state in seniors Lavonte Dority, Mike McCall and Tommy Woolridge.

Von Steuben. Coach Vince Carter's teams play together and win. There is some unheralded talent in this group, led by 6-4 Jamal Dantzler. They should give Foreman everything they can handle in the Red-North.

Orr. This program is ready to open plenty of eyes. Remember, coach Lou Adams led Englewood to 25 wins, a Red-Division title and long Public League playoff run two years ago. The young talent is highlighted by sophomore Curtis Jones and 6-6 junior Mycheal Henry.

North Lawndale. Don't forget about the Phoenix. They won't be nearly as talented as a year ago but will be formidable. Look for 6-5 Jermaine Winfield and 6-5 Javony Austin to blossom this season.

Hyde Park. Another team you can't forget about after last year's sterling run in the Chicago Public League playoffs. Little man Fabyon Harris sets the tone for coach Donnie Kirksey.

Marshall. There will be no Darius Smith, but plenty of experience returns from last year's junior-dominated team, led by 6-5 jumping-jack Vincent Garrett.

Crane. There is some talent in the program besides Illinois recruit Crandall Head. If Head comes to play with desire and a purpose this team could surprise. But right now that's a pretty big if.

Curie. Yes, Wayne Blackshear has moved on. But Coach Mike Oliver's teams are gritty, tough and will get after you. This team ran Morgan Park out of the gym earlier this week at the Illinois Team Camp at Moody Bible.

Lincoln Park. Although maybe not as strong as some recent teams, 6-7 big man Mike Gabriel returns and point guard Dimarco Nash is solid.

Whole lot of 'lovin for Lemon and others

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By Joe Henricksen

Yet another busy weekend on the high school basketball schedule, with the highlight being the loaded Northern Illinois team camp at Moody Bible Institute. Add in high school shootouts at Oswego East, York and Buffalo Grove over the weekend and there was plenty of action.

There are several individual teams, players and league races that should definitely take a step up next year, a few of those which came to the forefront after watching the action at various events this past weekend.

But first a few notes...

• According to George Marshall, Sr., the father of star junior guard George Marshall of Brooks, his son's trip to the Xavier Elite Camp went extremely well and he was offered by the coaching staff. Marshall is currently the No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings and the second best point guard prospect in the class.

• The rumors continue to fly regarding the De La Salle program as many believe 2011 star Dre Henley is on his way out and classmate Mike Shaw may be following. However, these rumors have persisted since the two entered the South Side Catholic League school but these just may have more validity to them. De La Salle is expected to play at the Illinois Team Camp at Moody Bible on Monday and Tuesday.

Oak Park standout Jeff Dirkin, who plays with the Illinois Kings AAU team, spent this past weekend at the Penn Elite Camp, where he was named a camp all-star. He will be on unofficial visits to Yale, Princeton and Fairfield this coming week. William & Mary has also shown heavy interest. AAU teammate Nick Kladis of Hinsdale Central also attended both the Yale and Penn Elite Camps.

Fenger, Lemon soaring
If Fenger can find some rebounding and an inside presence, watch out as coach Loren Jackson has some dynamic talent on the perimeter. The Hoops Report has talked extensively about Phillip Greene, a 6-2 junior guard who is among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2011 Hoops Report rankings. But in the senior class it's Walter Lemon who continues to be the emerging talent.

Lemon, a 6-1 lefty, is as explosive off the dribble in the halfcourt as you will find. You won't find many players better at getting to the basket and finishing. He can be scary in the open court in transition, is always on the attack and unafraid to go up in traffic. He's a big-time athlete with a killer crossover and burst who still must show he's capable of knocking down perimeter shots on a consistent basis. Lemon must become better at handling ball pressure and improve his body strength.

He was terrific at the Reebok Headliner Camp in May and earned an invitation to the Reebok All-American Camp in July. He has shot up the Hoops Report Class of 2010 rankings more than any player in his class as he's now among the top 25 prospects in the state. With opportunities at the Reebok All-American Camp, along with his Boys To Men AAU team playing in both the Chicago Summer Classic, a loaded event in July, and the ChicagoHoops End-of-the-Season Showdown in Merrillville, Lemon will be one of the freshest faces for college programs during the July evaluation period.

Hales brimming with talent
Hales Franciscan should be one of the most improved teams in Illinois after finishing last season well below the .500 mark last season. Coach Gary London's club was awfully young a year ago. The Spartans are a year older and London should have enough individual talent to challenge in the Chicago Catholic League this winter.

Patrick Miller is a strong point guard in the mold of 2009 Chicago Catholic League Player of the Year Derek Needham of De La Salle. Miller may not be at the level of Needham as an all-around player, but he's a force in the open court and in using his strength to get to the basket and finish. Miller combines with tiny, jet-quick Jamie Adams to form a solid backcourt. Big man Ricardo Martin, a 6-6 senior, gets better and better.

The players, though, with the biggest upside are the Armstead brothers -- Aaron Armstead, a 6-4 junior, and Aaric Armstead, a 6-4 sophomore. Aaron Armstead has been on the Hoops Report radar for quite some time as he's among the top 30 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011. In his opening game at the NIU Team Camp he showed such a wide variety of talent and versatility. He has a terrific stroke from beyond the arc with the size, release and touch to become a big weapon on the perimeter. Plus, he has a very good handle. Aaric is still developing but has great length and upside as well.

Watch out for Orr
Orr hovered around or just below the .500 mark all of last season. This year Orr will be shooting for 15-plus wins as coach Lou Adams has some quality young talent, headed by Curtis Jones, a 6-1 sophomore guard who projects as one of the better prospects in the Class of 2012, and 6-5 Mycheal Henry on the wing. Henry, who played at the Illinois State Elite Camp a week ago, sat out play Friday at Moody Bible with an injury. Jones, though, glides up and down the court with the ball in his hands. Another young guard, 5-10 Travell Cockbay, also caught the Hoops Report's eye with his handle and ability to distribute. Throw in 6-4 sophomore big man Malik Logan and Orr will be an interesting team to watch over the next two years.

Yet another Chicago Public League team that will be very competitive is Von Steuben. Coach Vince Carter's team, which won seven of its last 10 games a year ago down the stretch, always plays a rugged schedule. Jamal Dantzler, a 6-4 senior, is one of the unsung players in the Public League, while point guard Jermaine Hiller is a glue guy at the right position. The Foreman-Von Steuben battles in the Red-North should be entertaining as always this winter.

So much Young talent
Whitney Young, the defending the Class 4A state champions, is ridiculously loaded with talent up and down its program. There are already a pair of seniors -- point guard Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and Anthony Johnson (Purdue) -- committed to high-major programs. Sam Thompson, a 6-6 junior wing, is a high-major college player. The player who has perhaps made the biggest strides this spring and early summer is 6-6 sophomore Jermaine Morgan. He just gets a little better and better, particularly on the offensive end, and is one of the top five or six prospects in the Class of 2012. There is also 6-7 junior Luke Hager and 5-6 sophomore point guard Derrick Randolph. Throw in 6-8 freshman phenom Tommy Hamilton and you're talking seven Division I prospects. That doesn't even include promising incoming freshman guard Keith Langston.

Stars missing at Oswego East Shootout
The bigger names were missing at the Oswego East Shootout. Peoria was without Bobo Drummond, Romeoville played Saturday without Wisconsin commit Devon Hodges and Bolingbrook, the shootout champs, were without Antoine Cox.

The DuPage Valley, which was dominated by Drew Crawford and Naperville Central last season when the Redhawks went 14-0, should be a much-improved league this season as a whole. While the defending champs will take a dip with the loss of Crawford, the other seven teams should all be better than a year ago. Glenbard East, which recently went 9-0 and won the Illinois State Team Camp, and West Aurora will be the favorites. But Naperville North, under first-year coach Jeff Powers, will be absolutely huge along the frontline. If North, which will rely on 6-9 Matt Hasse, 6-6 Joe McNicholas, 6-4 James O'Shaughnessy and 6-6 junior Matt LaCosse can get solid guard play and find a perimeter shooter or two, the Huskies could challenge in the DVC. Naperville North played well at Oswego East, even without a few of its key players. Wheaton-Warrenville South has also showed promise this summer with its play.

The Hoops Report took in a couple of nice Naperville North wins as they beat Plainfield Central, a team featuring 6-6 senior Winston Williams and 6-2 talented junior Derrick Marks, and knocked off East Aurora and Ryan Boatright. Speaking of Boatright, the family was still awaiting word from USC and newly hired Kevin O'Neill. In the meantime, the interest has picked up considerably for Boatright as the family and East Aurora coaches have heard from several schools.

H-F reloading in big way
Coach Jim McLaughlin did a terrific job last season with his Homewood-Flossmoor team in winning the Southwest Suburban Red and winning 20-plus games with a rather inexperienced team. There will be plenty of youth on the 2009-2010 H-F team as well, but it will be talented and boast a little experience as well. H-F, arguably the best team at the York Shootout, could very well be the best team in the south suburbs.

The Vikings welcome back senior guard Tyrone Allen and a whole group of big and long athletes. Senior Ladon Singleton, a talented 6-4 wing, will bring experience after a solid junior year, while 6-4 wing Julian Lewis and 6-5 Courtney Jones also return. But it's the Class of 2012 that is so promising. Last year 6-5 Delvon Rencher and 5-10 guard Tyrone Sherman grabbed the most attention as freshmen, but the Hoops Report believes 6-6 Tim Williams will be the best of the bunch when it's all said and done.

For more information or to subscribe to the Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709.

And the survey says ....

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By Joe Henricksen

Forget about talent evaluators, both locally and nationally. Forget about the message boards. Forget about the media hype. Forget about the AAU affiliations. When it comes to figuring out just who the best college basketball prospects are in the state of Illinois -- regardless of class -- lets ask the college coaches themselves.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report's unscientific, all-off-the-record conversations with nearly 20 college coaches, including head coaches but mostly assistant coaches, included the following question: Who are the three best college basketball prospects in the state, regardless of class, not named Jereme Richmond?

The final tally, which includes 18 coaches who have likely seen the most of Illinois high school players, showed what everyone has been talking about: the Class of 2013 is awfully special.

First-place votes received five points, second-place votes received three points and third-place votes received one point.

The player that received the most first-place votes overall with a total of six coaches putting him at the top was Class of 2013 star Tommy Hamilton, who will be attending Whitney Young this fall. The 6-8 freshman-to-be also had the most total points with 42. Simeon-bound Jabari Parker, another Class of 2013 star, was second with a total of 30 points. Meyers Leonard of Robinson had the second most first-place votes with four and finished third overall with 26 total points.

The following are the results from the Hoops Report survey. The players are listed in order of the points they received, with first-place votes in parenthesis.

1. Tommy Hamilton, 6-8, PF, Fr., Chicago (Whitney Young) ..........42 points (6)
2. Jabari Parker, 6-4, 2G/WF, Fr., Chicago (Simeon) .....................30 points (3)
3. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Sr., Robinson .......................................26 points (4)
4. Alex Foster, 6-7, WF/PF, Fr., Chicago (De La Salle) ..................19 points (3)
5. Wayne Blackshear, 6-4, WF, Jr., Chicago (Morgan Park) ..........13 points (1)
Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Jr., Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .........................13 points
7. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island ................................ 8 points (1)
8. Sam Thompson, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .................3 points
Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF/WF, Chicago (De La Salle) .............................3 points
10. Crandall Head, 6-3, Chicago (Crane) .......................................2 points
11. Dre Henley, 6-5, WF, Chicago (De La Salle) ............................1 point
Reggie Smith, 6-0, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) .....................................1 point
Nnana Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) ...................................1 point

Notes of interest from the survey
Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton was tabbed by the most coaches as 12 of the 18 coaches had them among their top three. Simeon's Jabari Parker was next with 9 of the 18 coaches including him on their list.

• How overwhelming were the numbers for the Class of 2013? Tommy Hamilton and Jabari Parker finished first and second, with Alex Foster finishing fourth, and those totals came even though there were three or four college coaches that admitted they had not seen all of the 2013 stars play as of yet. Thus, the coaches didn't even include those three on their list.

• Of the 18 coaches just one college coach had De La Salle's Mike Shaw among his top three as the junior-to-be gained one second-place vote.

• By contrast, Sam Thompson of Whitney Young received three third-place votes to get his three points.

Chasson Randle was named by just two of the 18 coaches but received a first-place and a second-place vote for his 8 total points.

• There wasn't a single player from the Class of 2012 on any of the 18 coaches' list of the top three college prospects.

Comments from coaches ...
• "Outside of the top three or four players in the Class of 2010, I just don't see any no-doubt-about-it high-major players."

• "There is very little true high-major talent in the Class of 2010."

• "I am sure because of how young coaches are now looking, viewing and evaluating players, that those young kids [Parker, Hamilton, Foster] will get a lot of the votes. We are always looking for the young ones now because of their upside."

• "You will see some of those Class of 2011 kids who were highly ranked early in their career get jumped by others between now and their senior year."

• "The talent and potential of those three 8th graders is ridiculous, but we also haven't seen their weaknesses exposed or how hard they are going to work over the next four years."

Shootout and Elite Camp action never stops

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By Joe Henricksen

The action for high school basketball prospects just doesn't stop. After competing on the AAU circuit in April and May, the calendar turns to June and they begin playing for their high school teams in shootouts and camps while also heading to college Elite Camps. Southern Illinois and Illinois State conducted their Elite Camps over the weekend and Eastern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Illinois coming in the next week.

Here are a whole bunch of thoughts after taking in action over the weekend at both the Hoop Mountain Shootout at West Aurora and spending the day at the Illinois State Elite Camp on Sunday.

ISU lures the talent
Coach Tim Jankovich continues to show the type of athletes and top-of-the-line players Illinois State is targeting with a surplus of talent on display at its Elite Camp this past weekend. While there were several individual players from Missouri and Indiana that stood out, the Illinois contingent included talent from both the 2010 and 2011 classes. Local product Hayden Hoerdemann of Bloomington Central Catholic, Orr's Mycheal Henry, the Brooks trio of George Marshall, Kevin Gray and Keith Gray, Curie's Asante Smiter, Riverside-Brookfield's Ryan Jackson and Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear were some of the 2011 stars on campus. The 2010 class included Seton's Chris Olivier, Khameron Harper and Kenny Stevenson, Thornton's Reggie Smith, DeKalb's Jordan Threloff, Foreman's Tommy Woolridge, St. Mel's Phillip Jackson, Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice, and Decatur Eisenhower's Jarod Oldham among others.

Blackshear down
After playing Saturday at the Southern Illinois Elite Camp, 2011 star Wayne Blackshear made the trip to the Illinois State Elite Camp. The athletic 6-5 wing was forced to sit with an injured back and was in some obvious pain. Blackshear told the Hoops Report his back has been bothering him for some time. With a busy schedule ahead, here's hoping Blackshear recovers quickly from this setback.

Foreman's dynamic trio
Early on in his career Lavonte Dority received most of the hype among the Foreman trio of Dority, Mike McCall and Tommy Woolridge. Now his teammates are beginning to receive theirs. McCall, who attended the SIU Elite Camp over the weekend, had what was described as a "terrific trip" to Texas A&M when he attended the Aggies' Elite Camp. Soon he will be off to the Xavier Elite Camp. Woolridge, meanwhile, continues to be a pretty well kept secret, though he continues to climb the Hoops Report player rankings with his offensive abilities.

Threloff waiting it out
DeKalb big man Jordan Threloff currently sports nine different scholarship offers. He spent Sunday at the Illinois State Elite Camp and told the Hoops Report he's in no hurry to make a decision.

"I want to keep my options open and play out the summer," said Threloff, who had an impressive day despite having played a ton of games on Saturday at the Loyola Team Camp. "I will see what I have at the end of July and then make a decision."

The 6-10 big man, whose skills get better and better while becoming more of an offensive threat with a jump hook and 12-15 foot face-up jumper, knows what he's looking for.

"I would like to go somewhere with a little tradition while also looking for a place where I am very comfortable with the coaching staff and players," Threloff said during a break in the action at ISU. "These are the guys [coaches and players] I will be spending my time with, so that's going to be very important for me as I make this decision."

Top Performers at ISU
While arguably the best performance at the Illinois State Elite Camp were turned in by players from the St. Louis area, Thornton star Reggie Smith was terrific. The knock on Smith has been his shooting, but he continues to show his much-improved jumper and range. Though his release is a bit slow and his mechanics need a little work, Smith was knocking down the three-pointer virtually all day long.

The Hoops Report continues to be so impressed with Brooks guard George Marshall. He is such a consistent performer and, as usual, showed how complete of a point guard he is with the ability to penetrate and create, get to the basket and finish while also knocking down shots from all over the perimeter. He's a player that doesn't always get mentioned -- or at least not enough -- with all of the other heavy hitters in the Class of 2011. Marshall will be headed to the Xavier Elite Camp this weekend.

Brooks big boys coming along
Speaking of Brooks, twins Keith and Kevin Gray have both made considerable strides in the last six months and once again showed flashes of their potential at the ISU Elite Camp. The 6-7 twins come with the "upside" and "their best basketball is in front of them," but they are getting more assertive and productive.

Star on the horizon
Remember this name: Anthony Beane, Jr. The son of Illinois State assistant coach Anthony Beane is a talent. The 6-0 point guard, a sophomore at Normal, is going to be an awfully good one. As one of the youngest players at the camp he was extremely poised and showed that he belonged with some of the top talent in Redbird Arena.

What a weekend for Jackson, R-B
Riverside-Brookfield has grabbed plenty of summer headlines, beginning in late May when the Bulldogs won their own shootout while senior guard Sean McGonagill grabbed MVP honors. This past weekend Ryan Jackson, a 6-0 junior guard, stole the show for R-B. Jackson was MVP of the Hoop Mountain Shootout, averaging 20 points a game in seven games. Jackson then had a very solid showing at the Illinois State Elite Camp, distributing as a pass-first point guard.

Keep an eye on Mundelein
While everyone is aware of standout senior-to-be Ben Brust, who is sporting a bevy of Division I offers, Mundelein should be a much-improved team this winter. Sunday at the ISU Elite Camp it was 6-6 junior Ryan Sawvell who really caught the Hoops Report's eye. Sawvell is a bouncy athlete who is aggressive in getting to the basket and finishing. In addition, junior Leavon Head played a steady point guard and knocked down shots throughout the afternoon at ISU.

Austin Angel another name in 2012
The Class of 2012 just continues to add guards to its list of top players. We can include Rockford Boylan's 6-4 Austin Angel in that list. Angel, who the Hoops Report watched at the Hoop Mountain Shootout, will be the best Boylan product since UIC recruit Tory Boyd as he can really shoot the basketball from the perimeter, has good size and is solid fundamentally for his age.

Don't forget about Seton
Yes, the Class 2A state champions have lost a whole bunch of talent from a year ago, including headliners D.J. Cooper, Jordan Walker, Corbin Thomas and Tony Nixon, but coach Kenny Stevenson still has some talent to work with. Stevenson's son, Kenny, Jr. (5 ppg), will carry the load in the backcourt. Khameron Harper (6 ppg) is also back. But what could make Seton a factor is the improved play of big man Chris Olivier, who had a very solid day at the ISU Elite Camp. The 6-8 Olivier has put in a ton of time in improving both his skill level and conditioning.

Doors opening for Chasson Randle

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By Joe Henricksen

If there is one player in the state of Illinois in the Class of 2011 who the City/Suburban Hoops Report expects his recruiting to truly pick up on the national level over the next 45 days it's Rock Island's Chasson Randle. The 6-2 guard recently made the United States U16 National Team in Colorado Springs, a team that will travel to the FIBAAmericas U16 Championships in Argentina.

The national team experience will only help Randle, both in gaining confidence and gaining a little more notoriety. This opportunity will be entirely different for Randle compared to when he goes to the high-profile Reebok Camp in Philadelphia in July, where it will be much more about individuals "getting theirs". After that it will be back to playing with the loaded Illinois Wolves in AAU play the remainder of July.

When Randle headed to Colorado Springs for the USA Basketball tryouts a little over a week ago, he was not considered one of the "bigger names" selected to try out for the team. But when it comes to USA Basketball, Randle is an ideal teammate, a perfect piece for a national team that tries to find the right guys that are coachable, are able to fit in, produce and actually win something. That's the type of kid and player that he is, with off-the-charts character and who brings zero baggage.

Plus, he's very versatile in that he can run the point, play off the ball, make those around him better and get out and defend with his long arms and instincts. Those are the attributes he brings to the table, which makes him a safer recruit than some of the more ballyhooed players in Illinois' Class of 2011. While he doesn't bring ridiculous athleticism, he's an above-average athlete with the ability to glide past defenders in finding his way to the basket. As he matures, gains some weight and fills out physically so he can take a little more pounding, he will become that more dangerous. When the updated Hoops Report's Class of 2011 rankings come out later this month, Randle will have made a small move from No. 6 to No. 4.

He is certainly a hot commodity among high-major programs in the midwest. And right now the four that appear to be out in front are (in no particular order) Illinois, Iowa State, Purdue and Wisconsin. What makes his recruitment so intriguing and important, particularly with several of the current leaders involved being Big Ten schools, is that the loser in the Randle sweepstakes will very likely have to face him a minimum of eight times.

Illinois was thought to have had a slight lead with Randle at one point, though now it appears to really be a dead heat with no quick end in sight. He has been on campus a number of times, the system Illinois runs fits Randle, it's the home state university, his family is fond of Illini basketball and, with the talent coming in, has positioned itself as a future power.

Iowa State is not too far from the Quad Cities and would offer immediate major minutes for Randle as a freshman. Plus, classy Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson is a Rock Island graduate. But will Iowa State's lack of an NCAA Tournament pedigree hurt in the long run?

Wisconsin is also close as Madison is less than 160 miles from Rock Island. The coaching staff has made a favorable impression. Wisconsin won the Big Ten title in 2007-2008 and has reached the Final Four in the last decade. But does the swing offense the Badgers run suit Randle best?

Purdue, after a 9-19 season in 2005-2006, has been recharged by coach Matt Painter and his staff, winning 52 games the last two years and finishing second in the Big Ten each year. The Boilermakers will be a preseason top 10 team this coming season and, like Illinois, fits Randle perfectly in terms of how they play.

The list, however, could change over the next month when some of the bigger players nationally get involved, particularly a couple of schools that would be difficult to say no to. His options will clearly become greater between now and the end of July. Florida State, which doesn't fall into one of the "bigger players" I am speaking of, is an example of his name getting out as the Seminoles recently extended an offer to Randle.

Randle is a unique recruit in many ways as he's slowly taking it all in and is in no hurry to end the process as more and more schools get involved. He's a sharp kid with a solid upbringing and family. He is not a player who will get caught up in things that, unfortunately, matter to a lot of other kids and top prospects -- how much TV time does a school get, what type of shoes does the program wear, etc.

A stellar student, Randle wants a strong academic school and the opportunity to win -- and win big. He wants to win a national championship at the next level. First, though, he will take his shot at winning a gold medal in Argentina.

Boatright back up in the air?

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By Joe Henricksen

When he entered high school as a freshman he had already decided what college he would attend. A few weeks after his 8th grade graduation, Ryan Boatright committed to coach Tim Floyd and USC. The East Aurora star was the talk of Illinois high school basketball with the early commitment in June of 2007, the first verbal commitment from a player in what has turned out to be a star-studded Class of 2011.

Now Boatright may have to re-evaluate some things in the wake of Floyd's resignation this week. The 5-11 blur of a point guard says that while he is still committed to USC and hasn't spoken with anyone from the school since Floyd's resignation, opening up his recruitment is a real possibility.

"I committed to coach Floyd and USC," says Boatright. "Now he's not there, so we will have to see."

His mother, Tanesha Boatright, was relieved when her son committed early, though more for the education value of the scholarship rather than the basketball.

"There was a sense of relief, for sure, but not for the reasons many thought," says Tanesha. "As a single mom it was just a relief to know my son's education was going to be paid for, that he would have the opportunity to go to college, to go to a good academic school like USC."

Even mom knows things have now changed after she and her son watched ESPN announce the resignation of Floyd.

"We looked at each other and were like, 'Huh?'" says Tanesha after seeing the Floyd story on TV. "We thought after the Arizona thing [Floyd turning down the job offer] he would be staying there a long time. Sure, this will open things up for him recruiting wise. He was committed to coach Floyd and USC. We will take it one day at a time."

With the bevy of talented players in the Class of 2011, including the likes of Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear, De La Salle's Mike Shaw, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams and others, Boatright has sometimes been the forgotten man. He had a rocky freshman year at East Aurora and his stock dropped in the eyes of some, though one would expect inconsistency from any freshman playing at the varsity level.

"As a freshman it was difficult," says Boatright's mom. "He came in as a high-profile freshman. It was tough to fit in, to get used to. Ryan relaxed as a sophomore. He was able to just go out and play. He has matured even more since the end of his sophomore season. You can see it."

The maturation showed during Boatright's sophomore season -- on and off the court. As a freshman he let his competitiveness, passion and emotions get the best of him. As a sophomore he channeled and controlled them much better. He made strides as a player and made the honor roll two quarters during his sophomore year.

On the floor he was dominating at times and, of all the big names in the Class of 2011, Boatright was the most productive player of them all as a sophomore. He put up 44 points in one game, scored 20-plus on 10 different occasions and averaged 18 points a game.

"The experience was the big difference," says Boatright of the difference between his freshman and sophomore seasons. "Understanding what I can do, when I can do it, understanding the flow of the game. My main focus now is to get better defensively."

He's a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, both as a scorer and a distributor as he sees the floor extremely well and simply has the gift and feel for basketball. Boatright plays with cockiness and confidence that is necessary to play at a high level, especially with his size and strength limitations. His great open court speed and ability to explode past defenders with his first step and killer crossover set him apart. Plus, he has greatly improved his perimeter jumper, becoming a more than capable three-point shooter (he knocked down 44 three-pointers on the season).

He can be a little careless with the ball, especially when the game gets fast. He will sometimes try to make the flashy play rather than the simple one, which should get better with age and experience. And bigger, stronger guards can body him up and out of driving lanes as his frame is very thin and light.

Boatright, though, is a special talent and ranked among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 rankings. After making the commitment to USC so early, many college programs have not paid a whole lot of attention or put much focus on Boatright. If Boatright's recruitment does open back up, which it look like it will, that will surely change.

Where would they rank now?

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By Joe Henricksen

Wow, are both Jon Scheyer and Sherron Collins really entering their senior year of college basketball already? Time does fly and after three years of college it might be fun to take a look back at the Class of 2006, which was highlighted by Scheyer and Collins at the top, and see just where today's college players stood following their senior year of high school here in Illinois -- and where they stand now.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at where the players in the Class of 2006 would be ranked today in comparison to where they were ranked following their senior year of high school, according to the final Hoops Report rankings. Let us begin the debate....

1. Javale McGee, Hales Franciscan (Nevada/Washington Wizards)
Where he ranked in 2006: #10
Oops. The first big mistake as the Hoops Report left this future NBA player -- after just two years of college -- out of the top five and barely cracking the top 10. He averaged 15 minutes and 6.5 ppg as a rookie in the NBA after being selected No. 18 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft and has a long professional future ahead of him.

2. Sherron Collins, Crane (Kansas)
Where he ranked in 2006: #2
The power-packed, explosive point guard was No. 2 as a senior and stays at No. 2, though he gets the edge over Scheyer. As a sophomore he helped lead the Jayhawks to a national title. This past season he averaged 35 minutes, 19 points and 5 assists a game for the Big 12 champs.

3. Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North (Duke)
Where he ranked in 2006: #1
The 2006 Mr. Basketball winner has averaged 12.2, 11.7 and 14.9 points a game in his three years at Duke. He made the move to point guard late in the year and also knocked down 79 three-pointers.

4. Jerome Randle, Hales Franciscan (Cal)
Where he ranked in 2006: #6
He moves up a couple of spots from 2006 but an argument could be made that he may just be ahead of Scheyer. Randle was sensational during his breakout junior year, averaging 18.3 ppg and 5 apg while making 82-of-177 three-pointers on the season. He has become one of the elite point guards in the Pac-10.

5. Osiris Eldridge, Phillips (Illinois State)
Where he ranked in 2006: #8
The Hoops Report thought it had Phillips high back then, even calling "O" "the steal of the 2006 recruiting class" when he signed with the Redbirds in the fall of 2005. But he wasn't high enough as he makes the move to No. 5. He's an athletic freak, defensive stopper and an improved scorer who has averaged 16 ppg in his three years at ISU.

6. Patrick Beverley, Marshall (Arkansas)
Where he ranked in 2006: #3
He was on his way to maintaining a top five spot after a strong start to his career at Arkansas. He left after two solid, productive seasons and now hopes to catch on with a NBA team next fall or play overseas.

7. Will Walker, Bolingbrook (DePaul)
Where he ranked in 2006: #5
He was slightly overrated as a prep but has been a steady influence for a downtrodden DePaul program. As a junior this past season he played just under 35 minutes a game while averaging 14.6 points a game and knocking down 71 three-pointers on the year.

8. Mario Little, Washington (Kansas)
Where he ranked in 2006: #18
A slight miss here at No. 18 as a couple of years of JUCO elevated his stock and landed him at powerhouse Kansas. He was a role player for coach Bill Self this past season as a junior, playing 12 minutes a game off the bench.

9. Joevan Catron, Thornton (Oregon)
Where he ranked in 2006: #7
The Ducks have struggled but Catron has played more in Eugene than the Hoops Report thought he ever would. He played 13 minutes a game as a freshman and 26 minutes as a sophomore (8.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and junior (7.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Hoops Report still believes Catron would have been the perfect mid-major 4-man.

10. Jeremie Simmons, Von Steuben (Ohio State)
Where he ranked in 2006: #12
After two years of junior college basketball Simmons signed with Ohio State, where he averaged 20 minutes and 7 points a game as a junior last season.

11. Andre Walker, Homewood-Flossmoor (Vanderbilt)
Where he ranked in 2006: 14
After a year or prep school at Brewster Academy, Walker made an impact as a freshman in Nashville, playing in all 34 games and averaging 11 minutes a game. He played just three games this past season before sustaining a torn ACL and missed the rest of the season.

12. Willie Veasley, Freeport (Butler)
Where he ranked in 2006: #17
As a junior at Butler he was a 30 minutes-a-game player who averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds a game for a team that was ranked in the top 25 all season.

13. Jonathan Peoples, St. Joseph (Notre Dame)
Where he ranked: #11
Has been a role player at Notre Dame, averaging 14 minutes a game as a junior and just 3.2 ppg. He scored a season-high 14 points in a win over Providence.

14. Devan Bawinkle, Winnebago (West Virginia/Iowa)
Where he ranked in 2006: #9
Was thought to be a system player who could thrive in the right one but was a bit overrated. After starting his career at West Virginia he transferred to Iowa. He played 22 minutes a game for a struggling Iowa program, averaging just under five points a game and knocking down 51-of-139 three-pointers.

15. Jeremy Nash, Marist (Northwestern)
Where he ranked in 2006: #13
The long, active wing provided a defensive lift and athletic presence for Northwestern this past season. He still has his limitations offensively (3.5 ppg), which limited him to 19 minutes a game.


Stock has risen the most: Without question Javalle McGee was the fastest riser in this class as he's now playing in the NBA.

Stock has fallen the most: Proviso East's Brian Carlwell, who signed with Illinois, was the No. 4 ranked player in the Hoops Report's final Class of 2006 rankings. Ouch.

Others of note: A few other players that were among the top 15-25 players were Hales Franciscan guard Darrien McKinstry (#15), Leo's Donald Lawson (#16), Glenbrook South's Jeff Ryan (#19), Thornridge's Billy Rush (#20) and Richards guard Cody Yelder (#21).

Observations: Yes, McGee has made it to the NBA. And while Collins and Scheyer have both been very good college basketball players, and both Randle and Eldridge have been stars in their respective conferences, this class was one of the weaker classes in the last decade. There was zero depth. After the top 12-15 players the talent in this class dropped fast.

A look back at 2006...
1. Jon Scheyer, 6-5, PG/2G, Glenbrook North
2. Sherron Collins, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Crane)
3. Patrick Beverley, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Marshall)
4. Brian Carlwell, 6-11, C, Proviso East
5. Will Walker, 6-0, PG, Bolingbrook
6. Jerome Randle, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hales)
7. Joevan Catron, 6-5, PF, Thornton
8. Osiris Eldridge, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Phillips)
9. Devan Bawinkle, 6-4, 2G, Winnebago
10. JaVale McGee, 6-11, PF, Chicago (Hales)
11. Jonathan Peoples, 6-3, 2G, St. Joseph
12. Jeremie Simmons, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Von Steuben)
13. Jeremy Nash, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Marist)
14. Andre Walker, 6-6, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor
15. Darrien McKinstry, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Hales)
16. Donald Lawson, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Leo)
17. Willlie Veasley, 6-3, WF, Freeport
18. Mario Little, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Washington)
19. Jeff Ryan, 6-5, WF/2G, Glenbrook South
20. Billy Rush, 6-5, WF, Thornridge

Final thoughts from R-B Shootout

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By Joe Henricksen

Whether people like it or not, the high school shootouts have taken a back seat to the constant AAU events that run throughout the spring and July. Every year, however, the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout is one of the best events of the summer as it's a chance for high school teams to finally get back together after a few months off.

Plus, Riverside-Brookfield Shootout coordinator Mike Reingruber does a wonderful job of bringing in top teams, putting together a competitive field and running the event flawlessly.

In the two previous blogs the focus was on Proviso East freshman Keith Carter, the continued great play of Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill and the rise of the Riverside-Brookfield and Glenbard East basketball programs. Here are some other thoughts from the Hoops Report after watching shootout action on Saturday and the championship rounds on Sunday.

Best Game
The games on Sunday took a step up from the action on Saturday. There was probably no better game on Sunday than the New Trier-Mt. Carmel matchup. And in arguably the best single performance this side of R-B's Sean McGonagill, the Caravan's Adonis Filer turned in a dominating and impressive effort.

The 6-1 Filer, who will be a junior next season, is at another level defensively when he wants to be. He's as physical, quick and athletic of a perimeter defender as you will find anywhere at the high school level. He dominated on the defensive end in a stunning come-from-behind win over New Trier, while also scoring a game-high 28 points. Filer is a legit Division I prospect with a phenomenal body and is in another league with his combination of strength and athleticism. As he refines his skill level, Filer is certainly one to watch grow as a player in the Class of 2011.

New Trier's Alex Rossi, after an inconsistent high school season, continues to impress this spring. The kid can flat-out shoot the basketball, both from beyond the arc and with a highly-developed mid-range game. Plus, he has the basketball smarts and just enough athleticism to go with his shooting ability. Rossi, the No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings, played well against Mt. Carmel, scoring 21 points, but did struggle taking care of the ball and doing anything off the dribble when the athletic Caravan turned it up a notch defensively.

However, getting things done off the bounce is not Rossi's game. He will excel in the right system at the high-major level, where he can play off the ball, come off screens and spot-up on the perimeter. He thrives in this role when playing with his Rising Stars club team and, with a perfect fit at the college level, can showcase his talents in a similar role.

While New Trier does have Rossi, big man Fred Heldring and promising 6-6 sophomore-to-be Connor Boehm, the Trevians will have to find a way to get better guard play and take better care of the ball if it wants to have a special season in 2009-2010. Boehm, already at 6-6, looks like he could grow to be much bigger than his brothers, who played at New Trier two years ago, and is awfully impressive with his strength and tenacity.

Abrams taking everything in stride
The Hoops Report's top-rated player in the Class of 2011, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, appeared much more interested on Sunday than he did in Saturday's action when he seemed to be going through the motions a bit in pool play.

He knows a lot of eyes are on him, but he says all he's concerned with is getting better as a player.

"Sure, the rankings and all that stuff is a little bit of a motivation," Abrams admits, "but I'm motivated in trying to get better. I want to become a better ballhandler and play with more consistency. Those are two areas I'm really focusing on."

The Illinois commit says he hears quite a bit how he is out "recruiting" fellow players for the Illini. He knows being one of the "lead recruiters" is just part of the job description as an early commit.

"I talk with them [high school prospects], tell them what a great situation it is there," says Abrams of his future home, "but I don't try to persuade them or talk them into it."

Back for more
Neuqua Valley, with the solid trio of Dwayne Evans, Rahjan Muhammad and Kareem Amedu all returning, will once again be one of the top teams in the Chicago area next season after a stellar 31-win season ended in a supersectional loss to Dundee-Crown last March. A key could be 6-3 junior Sam Johnson, who showed some flashes with his play at the R-B Shootout. Michigan is the latest school to show some interest in the highly-recruited Evans, while both Amedu and Muhammad are solid Division II prospects.

Duje and Deerfield
While Glenbrook North and Maine East will remain the favorites in the Central Suburban League North, keep an eye on a much-improved Deerfield team. Although Deerfield has won just a total of 20 games the last two seasons, coach Brett Just has a group that could surprise. At 6-7 and one of the better shooters in the state of Illinois, Duje Dukan is the catalyst, but Ryan Davis has made some really nice strides and provides leadership and a steady influence in the backcourt.

Dukan is a specialist, one that already has a role at the Division I level -- a designated shooter who can stretch defenses. He has a beautiful stroke, shoots it with range and has the size to get his shot off. The questions are who will he guard and will he be able to get better off the dribble?

Oak Park is another team that should be much-improved over last season's .500 record. The Huskies feature the much-improved Jeff Dirken, a 6-7 face-up 4-man, but also have senior Antonio Foster, promising sophomore Jordan Foster in the backcourt and a scorer in senior Jeff Stanciel-Wynn, who can really fill it up.

Host with the most; McGonagill, R-B stand out again

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By Joe Henricksen

With key starters Ryan Jackson and Billy VanderMerkt not playing in this past weekend's Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, there weren't many people who would have expected the Bulldogs to run the table and claim the shootout title with a 6-0 record. But behind rising point guard Sean McGonagill, who was brilliant throughout the weekend, the Bulldogs did just that.

R-B knocked off Glenbard East 74-70 in the final as McGonagill poured in a game-high 31 points. This coming after he popped in 30 against Proviso East. McGonagill was the shootout MVP after averaging 27.7 points a game in six victories. With Jackson and VanderMerkt not available, 6-5 Terrence Reed provided a nice lift inside for the Bulldogs and a host of players knocking down perimeter shots from beyond the three-point line (14 threes in the win over Evanston).

McGonagill has been about as steady and consistent as any guard in the state of Illinois this spring, whether it has been playing for his Illinois Kings AAU team or this past weekend with his high school team. McGonagill picked up Sunday right where he left off on Saturday. Again, he was sensational on Sunday and, on a game-to-game basis, was the most impressive player of the day for the second straight day.

The 6-1 point guard has shown and proven he's a scholarship player. With his academic credentials, McGonagill would be a prize recruit for a school in either the Ivy League or Patriot League. If the situation was right -- in the right system or filling a certain need for a team -- he may be able to play at a higher level.

Add Jackson, an impressive sophomore guard, and VanderMerkt to this group and the Bulldogs will likely be a preseason Top 25 team next November in the Chicago area. The Bulldogs put together an impressive 24-3 record a year ago, but this team should be even better despite losing standout guard Dan Oswald to graduation.

Coach Tom McCloskey's program could very well win 22-plus games for the fourth time in eight years and be a serious Class 3A threat.

DVC favorites
Glenbard East was awfully impressive in its run to the championship game at Riverside-Brookfield and will be the favorites in the DuPage Valley Conference this winter. The Rams, who won 20 games last season before falling to Bolingbrook in the regional championship, beat York, Waukegan (without Jereme Richmond), Hillcrest, St. Joseph and Neuqua Valley before falling to R-B in the title game.

This program took off during the 2004-2005 season with the arrival of current Northwestern player Mike Capocci and hasn't looked back, averaging 21 wins a season and winning three regional titles in the last five years. It wasn't all that long ago when Glenbard East was the perennial doormat in the DVC. This is a program that averaged just seven wins a season -- yes, seven! -- over a 12-year period ending in the 2002-2003 season.

Lee Skinner, a long and active 6-6 senior-to-be, is one of the real sleepers in the Chicago area. Skinner, who was a dominating presence in the win over St. Joseph on Sunday, will be the top post player in the DuPage Valley this upcoming season and has legitimized himself as a Division II/NAIA prospect. He has great hands, good footwork, runs the floor and passes the look test with his length and body.

The Rams have an energizer in combo guard Jack Merrithey, a steady, experienced point guard who can shoot in Zach Miller and an explosive offensive threat on the wing in Jonny Hill, who turned the game around for Glenbard East in a come-from-behind thriller over St. Joseph on Sunday.

Check back for more coverage and thoughts from Sunday's action at the Riverside-Brookfield, which featured a terrific matchup between Mt. Carmel and New Trier and their stars -- Tracy Abrams and Alex Rossi.

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