By Joe Henricksen
There is no debate. And there is no need for hype. The proof is in the talent. In only its third year of existence, the 2009 Chicago Summer Classic that tips off Thursday morning at Joy of the Game in Deerfield is without question the most talent-filled event in the history of Illinois involving prep talent in this state. Yes, that's saying a lot, but it's true -- from both an individual and AAU affiliation standpoint there has never been a collection of prep talent together in one event quite like this.
The trio of Joy of the Game CEO Michael Weinstein, David Adelman and Brian Stinnette of Chicago Hoops have assembled a ridiculous load of college prospects. As a result hundreds of college coaches are heading to the Chicago area for the three-day event, which will be followed by a unique Academic All-American Showcase event for players seeking to play at a high-level academic college basketball program.
The local flavor in the Chicago Summer Classic will include plenty of opportunities for bragging rights among AAU programs in Illinois. Most all of the heavyweights will be on hand, including the Rising Stars program, Illinois Wolves, Mac Irvin Fire and Full Package Elite. Plus, 17 of the top 20 players in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings will be in action, including the top six players in the class. The list includes Illinois recruits Jereme Richmond of Waukegan, Crandall Head of Crane and Meyers Leonard of Robinson playing with the Mac Irvin Fire. Ohio State-bound Lenzelle Smith of Zion-Benton will join his Rising Stars teammates, New Trier's Alex Rossi (Cal) and Mundelein's Ben Brust (Iowa). Add in some of the top uncommitted prospects in the senior class -- Thornton's Reggie Smith, Foreman's Mike McCall and Lavonte Dority, DeKalb's Jordan Threloff, Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice and Providence St. Mel's Phillip Jackson to name a few -- and it's an absolute smorgasbord for college coaches.
Then there is the loaded Illinois Wolves 16-and-under team that have college coaches drooling this summer. Rock Island's Chasson Randle and Nnana Egwu of St. Ignatius are both among the top 100 players nationally in the junior class. Teammate Jacob Williams, the talented 6-5 wing, is anxious to show why he belongs in that group. The Hoops Report's top Class of 2011 player, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, will be on display, as will Mac Irvin Fire 2011 stars Mike Shaw of De La Salle, Dre Henley of Brehm Prep, Sam Thompson of Whitney Young and Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park. Add James Siakam of Brehm Prep, who plays with the Illinois Titans, and each of the top nine players in the state in the latest Class of 2011 Hoops Report player rankings will be playing in the event.
While Jereme Richmond is the biggest local name on the national scene, a pair of the biggest names in high school basketball outside of Illinois will also be showcased-- Brandon Knight of Ft. Lauderdale and Austin Rivers of Winter Park, Florida.
Knight, a 6-3 guard and the No. 1 rated player in the country by some with the likes of Duke, UConn, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky and a few others coveting him, will be the most sought-after player. And Rivers, a 6-3 point guard and son of legendary Doc Rivers, will also be making the trip to the Chicago area. Rivers is a consensus top five player nationally in the Class of 2011 and has committed to Florida. You better believe the top players in Illinois would love a shot at matching up with the likes of Knight and Rivers this week.
The Hoops Report's No. 1 players in each class for the next four years in Illinois. The nation's No. 1 senior. Loaded AAU programs from Illinois, the Midwest and around the country. All of this talent from within and outside the state -- and this doesn't even include the abundance of young talent that will be in the event playing in the 15-and-under age group -- have people in the recruiting world buzzing. And it's right here in the Chicago area.
Academic Showcase set for July 12-13
The Joy of the Game in Deerfield will play host to the fourth annual Academic Showcase Sunday, July 12 and Monday, July 13. This event is a unique opportunity for high-achieving student-athletes to be seen by college basketball coaches from high academic institutions all in one setting.
The event this year, which still has a few openings remaining, will feature over 125 players from 17 different states. Virtually every Ivy League, Patriot League and a few other high academic Division I schools will be in attendance, as well as high academic Division II, Division III and NAIA schools from around the country.