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.