By Joe Henricksen
When going through all the recent classes the state of Illinois has recently produced -- in this case we'll include this year's Class of 2010 and the nine previous classes before -- it's easy to see why Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard are so highly thought of and special.
The state of Illinois has produced its fair share of terrific high school talent and players that have gone on to stardom in the college ranks. And if the City/Suburban Hoops Report had to put together a list of the top 5 college prospects in the state of Illinois in that 10-year period, Richmond would certainly be on it and it could be argued that Leonard would be right there at No. 6 or No. 7 behind the likes of Simeon's Derrick Rose (Class of 2007), Homewood-Flossmoor's Julian Wright (Class of 2005), Peoria Central's Shaun Livingston (Class of 2004) and Thornwood's Eddy Curry (Class of 2001). While Springfield Lanphier's Andre Igoudala (Class of 2002) has turned into a NBA star and St. Joseph's Evan Turner (Class of 2007) will be a first-round NBA draft pick when he leaves Ohio State, both were slightly undervalued nationally their senior year of high school.
While there could be as many as a dozen players signing with high-major schools in the Class of 2010, the Hoops Report believes there are just four bonafide, no-doubt-about-it high-major talents in the class: Richmond, Leonard, Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith and, despite all the skepticism, Crane's Crandall Head. Overall, there could be a large number of Division I players in the class.
Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2010 top 50 player rankings as they head into the July evaluation period.
1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan ... A terrific talent and one of the best prospects to come out of Illinois in the last decade. All that stands in his way of becoming a true superstar at the next level is physical maturity and an improved motor.
2. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Robinson ... Who would have thought 18 months ago a 7-footer from Robinson would be No. 2 in the state and among the top big men in the country? Great frame to add weight and strength and extremely skilled and coordinated for his size. Has good hands and is an excellent passing big man.
3. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton ... The perfect college player who will do what is asked of him and help his team win during the four years he's on campus. He makes those around him better and gets a lot done with his versatility. Has the ability to fill a stat sheet. He's a competitor and has a diverse overall game.
4. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Crane) ... Well, it's time to step up. The talent, fabulous athleticism and upside have been there -- and remain there -- for a player that has been tough to get a read on over the last 12 months. He will turn the ball over, throw up ill-advised shots and just go through the motions, but has the capability of showing those flashes of why he can become an impact talent at the next level if he sets his mind to it.
5. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... A little on the overlooked side. He's a perfect combo guard who has really become pretty consistent with a quick-release jumper and ability to break you down off the dribble. Sees the floor extremely well and could flourish in the right system in college.
6. Ben Brust, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein ... The Iowa commit does one thing as well as anyone in the class: put the ball in the hole. Yes, he's a terrific shooter, but he's blessed with great scoring ability. Moves well without the ball and does just enough off the dribble to keep defenses honest. Has a little Tony Delk to his game if you remember the former Kentucky player.
7. Ahmad Starks, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... One of the classiest kids in the class and a winner. He's been shooting the heck out of the ball and is always putting pressure on opposing defenses. He lacks the size you would like, but he gets after it and makes up for that size in other ways.
8. Karl Madison, 5-9, PG, Springfield (Lanphier) ... Another guard who finds ways to score. This smooth scoring point guard will spot up, score with his mid-range game or beat opponents off the dribble. Still must develop true point guard skills and mentality.
9. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier) ... The perfect system player with the ablity to knock down shots from the perimeter. He also brings a high basketball I.Q. who understands his strengths and weaknesses. He knows how to use screens and reads defenders well to get his shot.
10. Reggie Smith, 6-0, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) ... Has vastly improved his shooting percentage and range but his mechanics continue to prevent him from being a solid perimeter shooter. And he still needs work on his handle. But, oh, the athleticism and ability to get to the rim and finish. And he will compete.
11. Jordan Threloff, 6-9, C, DeKalb ... Just gets better and better by the month. His offensive game has really developed over the last six months, knocking down the 12-15 foot jumper and using a little jump-hook. Still has his limitations athletically which prevents him from being the rebounder you would like and a difference-maker on defense, but he's all of 6-9, huge and will be tough to move in college.
12. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Has struggled with injuries during the spring and summer. Has a scoring burst to put points on the board. Has the ability to knock down shots and with range but must get that consistency back. Overall feel for the game has improved but not outstanding and his lack of strength is certainly an issue as he projects to the next level.
13. Phillip Jackson, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Providence St. Mel) ... Progress has stagnated somewhat, but he's looking for a bounce-back July. He is fluid with speed running up and down the floor. Long, a body to build on. Has developed a decent turnaround jump shot but still very inconsistent offensively but has a nice touch. Has to become more aggressive, find a way to draw fouls, get to the line.
14. Alex Dragicevich, 6-6, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) ... Really has a knack to score with a pretty effortless release on his shot. When he gets it going he can put points on the board in a hurry. Versatile player and scorer who isn't always the smoothest in getting to the basket but will draw contact and get to the line. He doesn't get much lift and lacks the foot speed to defend certain players. Injury will keep him out most of July.
15. Dwayne Evans, 6-5, WF, Naperville (Neuqua Valley) ... Still trying to shed the dreaded 'tweener label. Perimeter shot extends to the three-point line and has gained consistency, though he's more of a pull-up/spot-up shooter. He's not one to rise up and get his own and must improve his comfort with his handle. Just an old school player who plays with a warrior's demeanor, winner's mentality and high motor. Manages to get a lot done against bigger, more athletic players around the basket.
16. Rayvonte Rice, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial) ... Unique talent and prospect on the perimeter due to his size, strength and girth. Former football star who is dedicating himself to the game of basketball. Capable of overpowering opponents in the open court and halfcourt, with strong one-on-one skills in driving to the basket. Still establishing his consistency and range on his shot and tightening up his handle.
17. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman) ... Has been the shooting the ball better than any other time in his career, though it's not exactly a smooth or pretty stroke. Tough, physical point guard who can bull his way in the lane and to the basket. Will his game translate to the next level?
18. Brandon Spearman, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) ... A player that the production has not always equaled the hype surrounding him. But he's poised to break out this summer and move up as much as anyone on this list if he continues to show the improvement he's made with his jumper and assertiveness. Has a great build for a perimeter player with strength, athleticism and the potential to be a big-time perimeter defender.
19. Isiah Jones, 6-2, PG, Mounds Meridian ... Although not eye-popping explosive off the dribble, he's a crafty ballhandler who gets defenders off balance. Uses good speed in the open court and sees the floor well. Big-bodied guard who can take some contact around the basket and finish through contact. Outside shot is still streaky and must speed up his release.
20. Anthony Shoemaker, 6-5, WF, Joliet ... Explosive, quick leaper off the floor who has size and length on the wing that is ideal. Really runs the floor. He's active and bouncy but has a bit of an unconventional offensive game. He's come a long way but still lacks a specific go-to aspect to his game.
21. Walter Lemon, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Fenger) ... Has moved up in the rankings more than any other player in the class. Despite slight frame he's pretty strong and is nearly unstoppable off the dribble in the halfcourt with a killer crossover and the athleticism to finish with authority at the rim. While his shooting has improved, his inconsistency can be directly pointed at his unorthodox release.
22. Jarod Oldham, 6-3, 2G, Decatur (Eisenhower) ... Long, wiry slashing wing who is a streaky scorer and shooter. An intriguing prospect with developing skills. He thrives best in the open floor, up-tempo game. He can get carried away at times trying to make the difficult play rather than what's there.
23. Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, PF, Wheaton (Academy) ... Agile but below-the-rim post player who can face up and knock down shots or show his skill work in the post. Has a soft touch and has a variety of moves to get his shot off, using counter moves in the post, making him difficult to defend when his game is on. Must develop physically and establish a toughness to him.
24. Alex Brown, 6-8, WF, Herrin ... Think Tyrus Thomas type of game at the high school level -- long, skinny, active, wiry, athletic, runs the floor and still so raw but with upside. A lot of defensive potential as he loves to block and alter shots. A high risk, high reward type who lacks a true face-up game. A nice low-Division I sleeper.
25. Tommy Woolridge, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... One of the best-kept secrets in the city. The kid can flat-out score. Aggressive and relentless on the offensive end (when he gets the chance with two other Division I players on his team). Has a quick and pretty smooth release. His overall skill level, court sense and feel for the game still needs some work.
26. Eric Gaines, 6-4, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... A big guard with the versatility to play and guard multiple positions. Already a valuable defender with his length, athleticism and willingness. Has the ability to get to the basket but can really struggle shooting from the perimeter.
27. Duje Dukan, 6-7, WF, Deerfield ... Arguably the best shooter in the class. He's got the range, height and mechanics to get his shot off when he wants to. His lack of foot speed, however, means he has to be selective when choosing the right program and system. Another Steve Novak?
28. Patrick Miller, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... Lacks the height but has the burst and the physical strength to get where he wants to with the ball. A constant threat to blow by his man off the dribble. He will get into the lane and distribute. He must show the ability to knock down shots and become a little less turnover prone. A power-packed, poor-man's Derek Needham.
29. Jermaine Winfield, 6-5, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... One of those players you have to see a lot of to truly appreciate his work. This warrior around the basket has improved his skill level since last season. An underrated and underappreciated production guy who will do the dirty work, rebound, defend and score just enough.
30. Hollis Hill, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Vocational) ... Talented combo guard committed to UW-Milwaukee. Excellent one-on-one player with the ability to shoot the basketball with range and score. Isn't a natural at setting the table and running the show but shows the capability to improve in that area.
31. Jay Harris, 6-0, PG/2G, Oswego East ... A pretty skilled combo guard. When he gets going capable of big-time scoring outbursts. He can shoot it off the dribble, with range and has enough quickness to get by people. Solid handle. He can be too aggressive at times offensively forcing poor shots. Must pick it up defensively. Lack of strength and skinny frame a certain concern at the next level.
32. Mike Gabriel, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) ... Big, hard-nosed, physical player who will rebound and get after it. Has a Jon Brockman-type game. He's improved his post moves but still is working to become more comfortable on the block. Lack of explosiveness, mobility limits him on both ends.
33. Paul Bunch, 6-10, C, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... Still big, still huge and still the ultimate project. Long arms and size will allow him to block shots and be a defensive presence. He's improved his offensive game. Still too mechanical, slow instincts and must be able to move better.
34. Dave Dudzinski, 6-8, PF, Maple Park (Kaneland) ... Very effective facing the basket 15-19 feet. Ideal high-low player with the potential to develop into a nice pick-and-pop 4-man. Though he has good agility and can really run the floor, he lacks standout athleticism. Has nice length but biggest flaw right now is a lack of strength and establishing a low-post presence.
35. Vincent Garrett, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Marshall) ... He's a prospect due to being a physical specimen with explosive athleticism at the high school level. He can run the floor and can finish with electrifying dunks in the open court. The classic 'tweener. Where does he play? Lacks much of an offensive game as his post moves and shooting touch remain very limited.
36. Sean McGonagill, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield ... The model of consistency this spring and summer in all facets. His quickness and foot speed are issues, but he always seems to just find a way to get it done. He's a point guard with strength and a good handle; doesn't force things. Shows range and consistency with his shot, both with his mid-range game and extended to the three-point line and beyond.
37. Ben Brackney, 6-4, WF, Lincoln ... Visions of former Pinckneyville star Kyle Cassity (Saint Louis) come to mind, though he doesn't get as much done off the dribble as Cassity. We shall see as he still has plenty left to prove. While a good athlete on the wing, his overall foot speed is a concern. He will extend defenses with his shot from the perimeter.
38. Wayne Simon, 5-10, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... A crafty scorer who is pretty consistent with his mid-range jumper. Doesn't seem to be a natural at the point guard position but is capable. Despite slight frame and lack of size he has some length to him and finishes better that you would think.
39. Mario Redmond, 6-6, PF, Crete-Monee ... He brings the size, length and athleticism college coaches covet. He will provide the eye-popping play as a finisher. His biggest weakness, first and foremost, is his skill level, particularly his jump shot and understanding of the game.
40. Jeff Johnson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial) ... Remember big Bill Laimbeer roaming the perimeter and knocking down shots? Johnson brings a similar role with his size and touch. He's not afraid to go down on the block, but he's still a work in progress in the post.
41. Aaron Williams, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Vocational) ... Versatile, athletic and a great body. Has strength and is an above-average rebounder who also can handle the ball in the halfcourt out on the perimeter. Will settle too much offensively, especially since he lacks a true perimeter shot.
42. Antoine Cox, 6-3, WF, Bolingbrook ... Super athlete was getting his first crack at the AAU circuit to open some eyes and is now out of action with an injury. An improved jumper still has a ways to go -- along with his ballhandling skills. Great body and superior athlete who will get out and defend on the perimeter. A bg-time finisher.
43. Kashaune McKinney, 6-2, 2G, Park Forest (Rich East) ... Has become a fairly consistent three-point shooter. He's not great at creating offense for himself despite the size and athleticism to do so. Just needs for it all to come together to solidify himself as a player and prospect.
44. Tevin Rumley, 6-3, 2G, Rock Falls ... Has nice size, strength and scoring ability on the wing. One of the most advanced mid-range scoring games in the class. Thrives putting the ball in the hole off the bounce from 12-17 feet. He lacks pure explosivness off the dribble but moves well without the ball and is above-average athlete.
45. Chris Olivier, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy) ... Back-to-the-basket big man making considerable progress. Still has a raw, unpolished offensive game but has made big strides and has a soft touch around the basket. Has become more aggressive around the basket and in finishing. Limited athletically and must become more fluid, improve skills.
46. Fred Heldring, 6-9, C, Winnetka (New Trier) ... The William & Mary commit owns the ability to face-up and shoot from mid-range. Lacks the athleticism, though he can get up and down the floor. Must learn to play hard and stay focused.
47. Isaac Smith, III, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Leo) ... As a junior was a terrific on-the-ball defender and role player. Now he's emerging as an offensive threat, with the ability to knock down shots and an aggressive scorer off the dribble. Brings a lot of energy to the floor.
48. Jonathan Gac, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... In the never-ending search for size and big men, Gac is one who shows promise. Slowly but surely getting better and better, but he still just is not very polished as a player. Has a decent frame but needs to develop his body, strength.
49. Jeff Dirkin, 6-7, PF, Oak Park-River Forest ... Skilled 4-man who has had a solid spring and summer. Has become a very consistent shooter along the baseline and from around the three-point line. While he has height he is more of a face-up 4-man as he has minimal back-to-the-basket moves but they are developing. Needs to add weight and gain strength. High school version of Detlef Schrempf.
50. DeAndre McCamey, 6-1, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... You can't help but pull for a kid who has battled through and continues to fight back from a serious knee injury. He brings some intangibles to the floor, steady and capable of both distributing and knocking down a shot.
Best Small College Prospects Outside the Top 50
Brandon Snowden, 6-0, 2G, Oak Lawn (Richards) ... Strong, tough as nails, terrific rebounder for his size, blue-collar kid who gets a lot done. Pretty versatile defender who must show he can knock down the outside jumper consistently. A solid Division II prospect.
Lee Skinner, 6-6, PF, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... One of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area and the ideal Division II prospect with a nice upside. Long, good athlete who runs the floor like a deer, terrific hands, active and young for his age. Has had an outstanding spring and summer.
Victor Davis, 6-4, PF, Galesburg ... While the undersized 4-man may find a spot somewhere at the Division II level, he would be a steal for a top-level Division III program. Big-time finisher around the basket, using his strength and body. Just lacks perimeter skills and jumper to play higher.