By Joe Henricksen

August 2009 Archives

How did Class of 2005 pan out?

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By Joe Henricksen

When anyone looks at the list of the top players that came out of Illinois in the Class of 2005 -- the majority being college players that finished up their eligibility this past winter -- two names will jump out: Julian Wright of Homewood-Flossmoor and Jerel McNeal of Hillcrest. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look back at how this class fared over the course of their college careers and how it would stack up four years later after graduating high school.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report took a Baker's Dozen and ranked those 13 players as to where they would be today in comparison to where they were ranked following their senior year of high school.

1. Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (Kansas/New Orleans Hornets)
Where he ranked in 2005: #1
• Still the top player but the classic case of a player that went to the NBA early and got his pay day but could have certainly used more fine-tuning to improve his game and skill level with another year or two of college. After two years in Lawrence and averaging 10.4 ppg and 6.3 rebounds in two seasons, "Ju-Ju" averaged 11 minutes a game as a rookie, 14 minutes a game last season and just 4.1 ppg and 2.4 rpg in his first two seasons for the New Orleans Hornets.

2. Jerel McNeal, Hillcrest (Marquette)
Where he ranked in 2005: #2
• He was ranked second in the class coming out of high school and has stayed put. The high-energy, athletic and versatile McNeal capped off a brilliant career and was one of the elite performers last season in the rugged Big East (19.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2 spg as a senior). He finished with a career scoring average of over 15 points a game. McNeal will try to find his way onto an NBA roster this fall.

3. Brandon Ewing, Chicago Julian (Wyoming)
Where he ranked in 2005: #10
He tore up the Mountain West Conference for four years and was a record-breaking point guard for Wyoming. In four seasons Ewing averaged 13.2, 19.9, 17.2 and 18.5 points a game, scoring in double figures 107 times in his career. He became just the third player in school history to score more than 2,000 career points and was the first player in conference history to lead the league in both scoring and assists.

4. Jeremy Pargo, Chicago Robeson (Gonzaga)
Where he ranked in 2005: #13
• Here is a Hoops Report miss. The Hoops Report remembers just not being sold on Pargo, yet he went to Gonzaga and won a whole lot of games in his career and was very productive for a Top 25 nationally-ranked team. In his final three years he averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists for a team that won 105 games during his four years.

5. Kevin Lisch, Belleville Althoff (Saint Louis)
Where he ranked in 2005: #5
• He wasn't flashy but he was steady and consistent throughout his career. He played 30-plus minutes each and every year while averaging 11.1 points a game his freshman year, 14.9 as a sophomore, 14.6 as a junior and 14.1 as a senior. Lisch, who just signed a contract in early August with the Perth Wildcats of the Australian National Basketball League, finished as the sixth all-time leading scorer in SLU history, while finishing ninth all-time in assists and second for most three-pointers made.

6. Jamar Smith, Peoria Richwoods (Illinois/Southern Indiana)
Where he ranked in 2005: #4
• A difficult player to place, though there is no doubt he was on his way to a solid career in the Big Ten. After a strong start to his career at Illinois, off-court issues derailed his career as he ended up sitting out time and ultimately transferring to Division II powerhouse Southern Indiana. Last season he averaged 18.5 points a game and shot a remarkable 48 percent from three-point range (81-of-170). This year he will be a Division II Player of the Year candidate.

7. Bryan Mullins, Downers Grove South (Southern Illinois)
Where he ranked in 2005: #11
Early in his career in Carbondale he was a point guard for some big winners. His senior year was cut short due to injury, though he was the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Mullins set the tone as a pure point guard and floor leader. During his junior season he averaged 10.7 points, 5 assists and over 2 steals a game. Mullins, who graduated with a perfect cumulative GPA of 4.0 while earning a degree in finance, has signed a pro contract and will be playing with J.L. Bourg Basket in France.

8. Bobby Frasor, Chicago Brother Rice (North Carolina)
Where he ranked in 2005: #3
• There is something to be said for all the success Frasor experienced and for battling back from injuries. His role was limited, but Frasor averaged 17 minutes a game for a national championship team. Statistically his best season was his freshman year when he played 27 minutes a game and averaged 6.4 points and 4.4 assists a game.

9. Josh Tabb, Century (Tennessee)
Where he ranked in 2005: #13
• Has been a role player while at Tennessee but could see that role expand as a senior this season for coach Bruce Pearl. The athletic 6-4 guard averaged 17 minutes a game for the Vols, while averaging 3.4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists a game.

10. Tony Freeman, St. Joseph (Iowa/Southern Illinois)
Where he ranked in 2005: #15
• He has proven to be a more productive player than the Hoops Report envisioned coming out of high school. After averaging 7.5 points a game as a sophomore and leading the Hawkeyes in scoring as a junior, where he averaged 13.8 points a game, he was driven out of Iowa City. After sitting out last season, Freeman will be eligible to play for Southern Illinois this season. Look for a big season from Freeman in the MVC.

11. Maurice Acker, 5-8, PG, Hillcrest (Ball State/Marquette)
Where he ranked in 2005: #12
• A Hoops Report favorite in 2005. He was the Freshman of the Year in the Mid-American Conference at Ball State before transferring to Marquette. He played 15 minutes a game the last two seasons for the Golden Eagles, starting seven games last season but mostly playing a role off the bench. Acker, who came up big in two games last March against Syracuse and Villanova, will be a senior this year.

12. Marcus Green, 6-6, PF/WF, Leyden
Where he ranked in 2005: #16
• While Green didn't have an eye-opening career at Purdue he was a solid contributor for some very good teams the last couple of years. Statistically, he had his best season as a freshman (19.3 minutes, 5.5 points, 2.5 rebounds). But he played 16 minutes a game over the course of his career and as a senior averaged 4.0 ppg and 3.5 rpg.

13. Dodie Dunson, 6-3, 2G, Bloomington (Iowa State/Vincennes/Bradley)
Where he ranked in 2005: #18
• Dunson has had a long and winding road in his career, starting at Brewster Academy after, moving on to Iowa State for a year, one year of junior college ball at Vincennes and then, finally, landing at Bradley. Last season he averaged 10 points a game in 27 minutes of action. He will be a senior this season at Bradley.

Hoops Report's Top 20
(As they were ranked in the spring of their senior year by the Hoops Report)
1. Julian Wright, 6-8, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor
2. Jerel McNeal, 6-3, 2G, Hillcrest
3. Bobby Frasor, 6-3, PG/2G, Chicago Brother Rice
4. Jamar Smith, 6-3, 2G, Peoria Richwoods
5. Kevin Lisch, 6-2, 2G, Belleville (Althoff)
6. Nate Minnoy, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
7. DeAndre Thomas, 6-7, PF, Chicago Westinghouse
8. Phillip Perry, 6-2, 2G, Proviso East
9. Sead Odzic, 6-3, 2G, Niles West
10. Brandon Ewing, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Julian)
11. Bryan Mullins, 6-0, PG, Downers Grove South
12. Maurice Acker, 5-7, PG, Hillcrest
13. Josh Tabb, 6-3, 2G, Century
14. Jeremy Pargo, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Robeson)
15. Tony Freeman, 6-0, 2G, St. Joseph
16. Marcus Green, 6-5, WF, Leyden
17. Tyrone Kent, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Crane)
18. Dodie Dunson, 6-3, PG, Bloomington
19. Mike Rose, 6-3, 2G, Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
20. Angel Santiago, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Von Steuben)

Hits & Misses
There were certainly some misses in this class when it comes to the top 10 for various reasons. .... Jeremy Pargo certainly was a miss as the Gonzaga star moved up from No. 14 to No. 5 .... Jerel McNeal projected out to be just about what the Hoops Report felt he would as a college player, though he may have possibly exceeded a little more than expected. .... Hoops Report felt Sead Odzic went a little over his head when signing with USC but fully expected the Niles West product to be a factor at the mid-major level. Odzic's career just never materialized after transferring to Illinois State. .... While 7-foot Clarence Holloway was a big rage in 2005, he never climbed the Hoops Report rankings (as shown). .... Nate Minnoy was ranked by one national scouting service as the No. 54 ranked player in the country when he signed with Purdue. With Minnoy it became more about off-the-court issues and maturity as opposed to talent. .... Phillip Perry began his career at Wisconsin before transferring to Dayton .... Then there was DeAndre Thomas, the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year after putting together a monster senior year. He played two years at Chipola Junior College before signing with Indiana. As a junior he averaged 10 ppg for the Hoosiers before he became another player with some off-the-court issues.

Super Sleeper
Mike Rose, 6-4, 2G, Naperville (Neuqua Valley) .... The Hoops Report felt Rose was the one true overlooked player in the class as a senior in high school, putting Rose in the final top 20 in the class. Rose proved to be just that. What a career Rose had playing for Eastern Kentucky in the Ohio Valley. Last season as a senior he averaged 20 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Rose averaged 15.1 ppg and 15.3 ppg his sophomore and junior years.

Player, coach and program movement

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By Joe Henricksen

A couple of lower-profile teams that had some expectations coming into this season have taken a big hit with recent transfers. Oswego East's loss is Aurora East's gain. Letrell "Snoop' Viser, who put together a solid sophomore season and would have formed a terrific 1-2 punch with senior Jay Harris at Oswego East, will be playing at East Aurora this winter. The junior guard is a solid and versatile offensive weapon who averaged 10 points and 2.5 steals a game as a sophomore playing on the Oswego East varsity.

The addition of Viser to an East Aurora team that already boasts junior star Ryan Boatright and 6-4 Tramell Weathersby is a boon for coach Wendell Jeffries. The Tomcats figure to be the top challenger to Upstate Eight Conference favorite Neuqua Valley this upcoming season.

Maine East's Charles McKinney, poised for a breakout season after helping lead the Demons to a 19-win season a year ago and putting together a solid summer on the AAU trail with Full Package Athletics, is leaving. McKinney, a long and active 6-4 wing, will be transferring to Quality Education Academy in North Carolina. Maine East already lost their coach last spring when Glenn Olson left Maine East for Niles North.

Crete-Monee just got stronger
Coach Rocky Hill returns the nucleus from last season's regional championship team, including talented and athletic junior Jamie Crockett. Also joining Crockett and guard Kentrell King and seniors Mario Redmond and Josh Humphrey will be incoming freshman Marvie Keith. The 5-9 point guard is one of the better Class of 2013 prospects in Illinois and is a huge addition to the program.

Crete-Monee also has a pair of young and raw big men. Greg Mays, a promising 6-8 junior, will be a key member of the varsity after making big strides a year ago, while 6-9 sophomore Kalyn Shane is one to keep an eye on. Shane has played just one year of organized basketball but is 6-9 and wears a size 21 shoe.

Local names land college coaching jobs
Lewis University head coach Scott Trost has added veteran coach Condrick "'Ol Skool" Sanders to his coaching staff. Sanders will replace assistant coach Harley Piercy who resigned last week. Last season Sanders was part of the Robert Morris University staff after a seven-year stint at Highland Community College. With Sanders in the fold, Lewis will continue to target the Chicago area in recruiting.

In other coaching news, Brendan Mullins, the son of Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins and the brother of former Southern Illinois star Bryan Mullins who is now playing professionally overseas, has taken the job of Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Mullins spent the last two seasons coaching at Mercyhurst after playing and graduating from Saint Michael's.

Could St. Joseph be on the move?
St. Joseph may be looking to get out of the East Suburban Catholic Conference. The private school in Westchester, a longtime basketball power under legendary coach Gene Pingatore, could very well be joining a new league in the future, perhaps the Metro Suburban -- or possible a move to the Chicago Catholic League? St. Joe's would join Riverside-Brookfield, Ridgewood, Fenton, Elmwood Park and a likely soon-to-be-member, Glenbard South, if the move to the Metro Suburban materialized. St. Joseph administrators met Wednesday evening to discuss their potential options and have reportedly decided to at least explore other possibilities, though no final decisions have been made.

Best Division I basketball coaching jobs in Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

We will go ahead and anoint Bruce Weber as the coach with the best Division I college basketball coaching job in the state of Illinois. That much is obvious with the resources, tradition, facilities, Big Ten Conference affiliation, and recruiting ties to the state and Chicago that Weber and his staff enjoy.

However, after coach Bruce Weber and the Fighting Illini job, what programs are the most desired? Who has the best coaching job in the state outside of Champaign?

Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich can take some pride in knowing that a large pool of coaches who were surveyed over the last two weeks by the City/Suburban Hoops Report selected the Illinois State job as the best Division I head coaching position in the state of Illinois -- and in pretty convincing fashion.

The list of 22 coaches that were surveyed were told it was a complete off-the-record survey and their answers would be kept anonymous. The 22 coaches included current Division I head coaches and assistant coaches from around the state and a few out-of-state assistant coaches who are both familiar with the state of Illinois and have had previous college coaching experience in the state of Illinois. Coaches were asked to rank, in order, the top four coaching positions in the state of Illinois. First-place votes received 10 points, second-place received 8 points, third-place received 6 points and fourth-place received 5 points.

There are currently 13 Division I basketball programs in the state: Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, DePaul, Northwestern, Chicago State, Northern Illinois, Illinois State, Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Bradley, Southern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Coaches, who were allowed to vote for their own school, were told to consider everything when looking at the head coaching job at each school, including history and tradition of the program, facilities, fan and media interest, recruiting potential, quality of life in the town and area the school is located in, support system and anything else that goes into building a strong basketball program at each respective level of the Division I school.

Overall, Illinois State was most frequently listed among the top four, with 21 of the 22 coaches surveyed placing ISU in its top four. Illinois State secured by far the most first-place votes with 12, followed by Bradley and DePaul with three first-place votes each. Although Bradley received just one first-place vote, the Peoria school still edged SIU to finish second overall in the survey.

Illinois State has won 49 games and reached the NIT in the two years since Jankovich took over the program. The Redbirds, who play in the highly-regarded Missouri Valley Conference, are looking for their first NCAA Tournament berth since coach Kevin Stallings led ISU to back-to-back tournament berths in 1997 and 1998. The 21-year-old Redbird Arena is the second largest on-campus facility in the state of Illinois with a seating capacity of 10,200, while the practice facilities recently underwent a $500,000 renovation.

Here are a list of quotes that were given for various schools that received first-place votes....

"ISU is a short, easy drive to Chicago for recruiting and they are in a great conference [Missouri Valley]." .... "Combine the on-campus facilities they have, the conference they are in, local interest, some tradition, the community and Illinois State is the best job." .... "DePaul is still in the Big East, it's still in Chicago and they have the best tradition of any school other than Illinois. The facility kills them." .... "The fan and community interest in Bradley basketball puts them at the top. The people really care about that team and program." .... "Tough call between Illinois State and Bradley. The conference they play in is terrific, but I would have to go with the state school and the facilities at Illinois State." .... "Aside from last year, Southern Illinois just has it going success wise. They are in the [Missouri] Valley, can tap into St. Louis and Chicago as well. They pay well." .... "Outside some of the power conferences, I think Illinois State is one of the more underrated jobs in the country." .... "For the mid-major level, Illinois State has some great recruiting advantages with its location and facilities, while Bradley is still a name in college basketball." .... "DePaul is a tough job, but the right person can win there. The Big East is a draw to recruits." .... "I just think Northwestern really can be a great sell, where if it's having some success there is a national interest in the program because of the academics. Plus, it's in the Big Ten."

The Top Six
(final results of survey with first-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Illinois State (12) ................................................159 points
2. Bradley (1) ........................................................ 123 points
3. Southern Illinois (3) ........................................... 116 points
4. DePaul (3) ......................................................... 97 points
5. Northwestern (1) ............................................... 51 points
6. UIC (1) .............................................................. 18 points

Others receiving points in the order they received them: Loyola, Eastern Illinois and Northern Illinois

Game of the Year in City-Suburban Showdown?

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By Joe Henricksen

In the winter of 1998 the City-Suburban Showdown produced what was commonly billed as the "Game of the Decade" when Fenwick and star Corey Maggette squared off with Whitney Young and Quentin Richardson. The game, played before a sellout crowd at Northwestern, didn't disappoint and lived up to the hype.

The Integrity Group's annual City-Suburban Showdown next February may lay claim to at least the "Game of the Year" during the 2009-2010 season as Waukegan, led by Mr. Basketball favorite and Illinois recruit Jereme Richmond, will meet defending state champion Whitney Young. The game, which will be a rematch of last year's Class 4A state championship game in which Whitney Young won 69-66, will be Saturday, Feb. 20 at the UIC Pavilion.

While we are still three months away from the preseason rankings coming out and six months away from the highly-anticipated rematch between these two powers, it's expected that Waukegan and Whitney Young will certainly be ranked among the top two or three teams in Illinois when the season tips off in late November -- likely No. 1 and No. 2 in most polls.

Whitney Young did lose some experience, talent and toughness with the graduated departures of Marcus Jordan and Chris Colvin, along with some size in Stan Brown. However, coach Tyrone Slaughter's program, from top to bottom, is absolutely loaded. Senior point guard Ahmad Starks, fresh off a terrific summer and set to sign with Oregon State in November, will be the catalyst. Senior Anthony Johnson, who is committed to Purdue, and highly-regarded junior Sam Thompson are both back. Thompson is among the premier talents in the Class of 2011. Add talented sophomores in 6-7 Jermaine Morgan and 5-6 Derrick Randolph, along with freshman phenom Tommy Hamilton, and the Dolphins will be making another run at a state championship -- this season and for a few years to come.

Waukegan, meanwhile, has the state's most decorated player returning in the versatile 6-7 Jereme Richmond. Coach Ron Ashlaw's club will have to try and find a way to replace senior leader and scorer Colin Nickerson, but the Bulldogs do have four starters back in Richmond, point guard Mike Springs, scorer Aaron Johnson and hard-nosed athlete Quan Conner. When you add promising sophomore Akeem Springs, who played off the bench a year ago as a freshman, Waukegan is poised for another run at Peoria and potentially topping last year's state runner-up finish.

The highly-anticipated Whitney Young-Waukegan matchup is not the only game on the docket. Mt. Carmel and talented junior Tracy Abrams will go up against St. Patrick, a terrific Chicago Catholic League vs. East Suburban Catholic League battle. It is expected 6-5 junior Jacob Williams, one of the highly-rated players in the Class of 2011, will be back playing with St. Pat's, while Illinois commit Abrams leads a loaded Caravan team that features junior Adonis Filer, sophomore Malcolm Hill-Bey and 6-7 senior Jon Gac.

In addition, De La Salle, led by the return of 6-8 junior Mike Shaw and the arrival of promising 6-7 freshman Alex Foster, will take on a Simeon team brimming with talent in the first game of this tripleheader. Coach Robert Smith has an abundance of veteran and young talent returning for Simeon. Athletic senior Brandon Spearman, who has committed to Dayton, is the headliner. The guard tandem of junior Tywon Pinckney and sophomore Jelani Neely should be one of the best in the Chicago Public League, while the arrival of freshman Jabari Parker is highly anticipated.

The City-Suburban Showdown will not only feature six teams that all figure to be ranked in the preseason, including arguably the top two teams, the City-Suburban Showdown will offer fans a glimpse of the three precocious freshman phenoms that have been all the rage even prior to playing a game of high school basketball. Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Jabari Parker and De La Salle's Alex Foster are all sporting high-major offers and are among the top players nationally in the Class of 2013.

The Lineup
4:30 p.m. St. Patrick vs. Mt. Carmel
6:30 p.m. De La Salle vs. Simeon
8:30 p.m. Whitney Young vs. Waukegan

Eye of the beholder

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By Joe Henricksen

So, who do you like?

Throughout the July evaluation period and in the weeks soon after, it's a common question the Hoops Report and others who take in a whole lot of basketball get. Everyone, particularly college coaching staffs trying to secure commitments prior to the November signing period, is seeking different opinions and thoughts on individual players. And other than the absolute no-brainers -- and we're talking the star-studded players destined for the high-major level -- there is such a wide variety of opinion. It comes down to the eye of the beholder.

Through the years it -- the evaluation process -- hasn't changed all that much. College programs are still looking for players that can play at their level and, hopefully, raise the level of their program. But as one NBA scout has stated, "talent is a narcotic." Coaches get fixated on specific attributes, get addicted to certain strengths and sometimes even hypnotized by the possibilities.

In this day some of the trendsetting vocabulary is athleticism, length and high ceiling. Coaches can say all they want about looking for "players," but they still get so enamored with the player that makes a pass you don't always see, hits a shot only an athlete can make, make an athletic play that turns heads. Coaches still follow around the prospect that comes with the tall tales of the skills, athleticism and potential they possessed as young teenagers, only to plateau and never quite become the player they were expected to be. Those players sometimes never do become the slick and refined talent so many had forecasted, yet due to early hype and becoming a name remain coveted despite obvious limitations.

On the other end of the spectrum in college recruiting and talent evaluating, judgments are quickly made and rubber stamped on certain players. It's as if they are branded with a label and there is nothing that player can do to eradicate it. These are the players that come with the following labels: a little too small, lacks the upside, not a lot of length, not athletic enough or a step too slow.

Obviously if a player is all of the above he's not destined for Division I basketball. But to have one of the so-called deficiencies, well, it's not necessarily a knock on a player but more of what Division I basketball has become. The game is an extremely athletic game and now, more than ever, upside and potential, size and raw athleticism are often more sought out than a player with skills and intangibles.

There aren't many, but there are players that continue to be overlooked in this never-ending search for college basketball players at all levels. There are players that maybe lack the special gifts of pure athleticism and finishing at the rim with a little thunder. Look deep and evaluate long enough and maybe one of those players can play for you -- even if he lacks a couple of inches or is a step too slow.

There are those players with basketball savvy and ones who are confident, but not cocky. In one game that player may control the game with his passing, maybe even without the glitter and flash. Maybe that player has a great instinctive feel for the game, sophistication and the ideal pedigree. He's the player that lets the game dictate what he should and needs to do.

That player just might be extremely hungry, willing to sacrifice and come to each practice and enter each new season with something to prove. Maybe toughness and reliability have already been instilled. They understand help defense, controlling the game and can knock down shots. They have some talent and bring the winning intangibles.

These players are out there, though not in abundance, but today still get overlooked.

Remember, the hot shot or recruiting steal one program gets on signing day in November can also bring with him the baggage coaches can only hope and cross their fingers will turn for the better once on campus. The players who don't like to or know how to play defense, refuse to take weightlifting and strength seriously, don't like to work to get into shape or improve their flaws. Maybe they are too lackadaisical, bring a negative attitude or are even bored with the game. It happens. As talented as they are at 17 and blessed with enormous potential, they sometimes never do get better.

Do you take the kid that's a little bigger, maybe the kid that's a little quicker, or the kid that's a little more athletic but just doesn't get it? There are certainly times to take risks on those players with the untapped potential -- the high risk, high reward type. But it's also not the time to forget taking risks on the kids that can play and get things done.

Where do the uncommitted stand?

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By Joe Henricksen

Many of the top players in the Class of 2010 have already committed to their college choice and will sign a national letter-of-intent in three months. But where are the remaining top prospects when it comes to making a decision? The City/Suburban Hoops Report talked with many of the individual players and those in their support system to try and gauge just where they are at in the recruiting process.

The following is a rundown of those players, all of which are ranked among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 class rankings.

PHILLIP JACKSON, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Providence St. Mel)
There were a few players that made the most of their opportunities in July and Jackson was one of them. He showed a willingness to defend, rebound, block shots and mix it up around the basket against some high-quality players, particularly in Las Vegas. He runs the floor extremely well for his size, is bouncy and active. Although still raw offensively and lacking ideal strength for his size, Jackson has the upside you seek in big men.

Hoops Report Analysis: Jackson can be an impact guy at the right level. Although bigger schools may come calling he may be better suited for the mid-major/mid-major plus level. If it stays at the mid-major level, it should come down to a Illinois State-Southern Illinois battle, two schools that have been in on Jackson very hard through the process. DePaul, Providence, Marquette and Iowa State.

MIKE McCALL, 6-1, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman)
The Hoops Report has long been a big fan of McCall as he's been among the Hoops Report's top 10 prospects in the class for two years. He can shoot the basketball, can break people down and has terrific court vision. He also plays with a motor and will defend. What is keeping McCall from being a coveted high-major prospect is he's not a true point guard (more of a combo guard) at this time and he lacks the ideal size and great athleticism high-major schools look for in a 2-guard.

Hoops Report Analysis: Cal and Texas A & M continue to keep McCall on their radar but have yet to offer. The serious players include Indiana State, Illinois State, Saint Louis and Detroit right now. McCall, who just recently visited Illinois State, is an ideal player in the Missouri Valley, Conference USA, WAC or Atlantic 10. "I'm looking at the education of the school and the opportunity to play right away," says McCall of his future college destination. "Everything went real cool on my visit to Illinois State."

RAYVONTE RICE, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial)
Now that Rice has given up football and is concentrating solely on basketball for 12 months, improvement and refining his skill level should come a little more quickly. Rice, who helped lead Centennial to a Class 3A state championship last March, is strong getting to the basket. He's among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 and fits the mid-major mold.

Hoops Report Analysis: Rice is nowhere near close to deciding as he is keeping his options open. There is a long list of schools in the mix, with Texas Christian the most recent school to offer. Nevada and assistant coach Dennis Gates have been all over Rice, with Kent State, Ohio, Detroit, Niagara, Drake, Saint Louis, Bradley, Illinois State and Loyola all involved.

In the never-ending search for quality big men, Threloff is a commodity. The 6-9 Threloff is a true back-to-the-basket, on-the-block player who has shown an improved offensive game with a developing jump hook and face-up jumper. SMU and New Orleans were the latest to join a long list of suitors who have offered, which includes DePaul, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Drake, Bradley and Southern Illinois. Central Florida is also showing interest.

Hoops Report Analysis: Threloff lacks the lift and lateral quickness and speed to be a true high-major big man, but he would be an ideal recruit for any mid-major program. He wants to check out a few more schools in the coming month or two before making a commitment. He's a perfect fit at the mid-major level and is absolutely coveted by schools at that level as it's so difficult to land quality players with size.

DUJE DUKAN, 6-8, WF/PF, Deerfield
The single most overlooked player in the class of 2010 after a stellar summer showed how skilled he is and how much upside he possesses. He has size, can handle it, pass it and has a high-major skill quality: shooting the basketball. He plays with a Hedo Turkoglu style. Dukan is the one player the Hoops Report believes is being highly undervalued by college coaches. If he lands in a low-major plus/mid-major league it would be an absolute steal. Aside from the size and skill, the kid is a hard working gym rat. After a busy July Dukan didn't take much time off as he's currently in Croatia training with a Croatian National Team.

Hoops Report Analysis: Miami-Ohio, Wisconsin-Green Bay, William & Mary, George Washington, Loyola, Valparaiso and Evansville are all hoping Dukan continues to slip through the cracks. Those are the seven schools with either an offer on the table or with a heavy interest. There are a few high-majors keeping tabs on Dukan but have been far too slow to pull the trigger.

REGGIE SMITH, 5-11, 2G, Harvey (Thornton)
The pure athleticism of Smith is off the charts and is eye-popping. He plays hard, is tough, strong and will defend. He has his flaws in the skills department, but it's so difficult to ignore his strengths of being a high-major athlete and ability to get to the basket and finish. "I want to find the place that fits my style of play best," says Smith.

Hoops Report Analysis: Maybe more than any other prospect in the Class of 2010, the right fit, style and system may be most important for the Thornton star who is an undersized but athletic wing. Smith says there are five schools he hears the most from and is most interested in -- UCLA, USC, Marquette, DePaul and Indiana. Smith says he has no leader and that he "will take his visits and take it from there."

LAVONTE DORITY, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman)
The strong, power-packed point guard was solid but not spectacular throughout the summer. Dority is strong with the ball and getting himself into the lane, while also showing an improved jumper. The question, however, remains just how his game will translate to the next level.

Hoops Report Analysis: The recruitment of Dority over the last couple of years has been all over the place and difficult to get a true read on. "I want to be comfortable with the coaching staff and the overall environment," says Dority of what he's looking for in a college program. "I want it to be a good all-around fit for me."

Dority says he is currently trying to set up an official visit to Baylor. In addition to Baylor, Dority and his AAU coach Steve Pratt say Indiana, Marquette, New Mexico and South Florida are right there at the moment, though this recruitment will be anything but predictable. "I am hearing the most from those five schools," Dority said. "And both Minnesota and Northwestern have shown some interest."

DWAYNE EVANS, 6-5, Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
After a strong finish in the high school season and a solid start in the spring AAU season, Evans did not play his best basketball during the July evaluation period. Although he has been a highly productive player who finds ways to get things done, he still has the dreaded 'tweener label attached to him.

Hoops Report Analysis: While Northwestern is still heavily involved and the biggest player in the Evans recruiting, the mid-major level would be ideal for Evans. If Evans to Northwestern doesn't get done, keep an eye on these schools as we inch closer to November and the signing period: Loyola, Drake, Toledo, Western Michigan and Fairfield.

Top 2012 prospect gets first offer

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By Joe Henricksen

There may not be a clear No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2012, a class loaded with an abundance of talented guards, but Orr standout Curtis "C.J." Jones is certainly right at the top among the top two or three players. The standout sophomore-to-be picked up his first scholarship offer this week as DePaul was the first to step up. The offer to Jones is just another example of the aggressiveness and higher profile DePaul is trying to establish with a new, invigorated staff in place.

Of all the top guard prospects in the Class of 2012, Jones is without question the most prolific scorer in the bunch. Jones is crafty with a nice repertoire of moves offensively that he mixes up, making him difficult to contain on the perimeter and in transition. He can score in bunches, with a developed mid-range game and a knack for getting to the rim and finishing. Plus, he has a toughness and swagger about him that you love from a 6-0 sophomore. Illinois and Xavier are two other schools that have showed quite a bit of interest in the talented guard.

Jones, together with promising 6-5 junior Mycheal Henry, is poised to help put Orr on the Public League map this winter after a solid summer. Jones and Proviso East's Keith Carter are at the top of the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, with a bevy of other talented guards, including Simeon's Jelani Neely, Mt. Carmel's Malcolm Hill-Bey, Peoria Manual's Bobo Drummond, North Chicago's Aaron Simpson and several others, among the top 10.

Hoops Report's Best of Summer Awards

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report looks back at a busy summer of high school basketball and picks out the best of all the action.

Hoops Report's Favorite Player
James Siakam, Carbondale Brehm Prep
Mercy, the Hoops Report loves this kid. He's the player when fans turn off ESPN after watching two high-major teams go at it in a few years that they will say, "He wasn't the best player on the floor, but I love that Siakam kid and the way he plays." Siakam may not turn into a mega-star at the high-major level, but he's going to impact games and be the type of player big-time teams win with, whether it's the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or any other high-major conference. No, he's not 6-7 as he's sometimes listed; we'll give him 6-6. But who cares?

Unlike many of the other 2011 big-named players, Siakam impacts games virtually every time he steps on the floor with pure effort. You don't have to worry about him taking days off. He's always there competing and getting after it. Maybe it's taking a charge, blocking a shot, getting a loose ball, getting second and third-chance scoring opportunities or a momentum-changing dunk on someone. Siakam is a extremely powerful player with tremendous rebounding ability. He anticipates well and his arms are freakishly long, which he utilizes and uses to his advantage inhaling every rebound in his area. He enjoys physical contact and is very comfortable around the basket, in the paint, running the floor and finishing with a dunk. Think Paul Millsap. These are the reasons the Hoops Report has had Siakam above some of the more heralded but overrated Class of 2011 players.

Hoops Report's Favorite Team
Illinois Kings
There was no shortage of exposure for the Illinois Kings players as they played anywhere and everywhere this spring and summer. The Kings went an impressive 28-7 in July. And this came after a stellar April and May on the AAU circuit. This was not a team blessed with high-major talent or a handful of no-brainer Division I recruits, but they played well together while knowing and accepting their roles. This is not easy to do in club basketball, so a lot of credit goes to coach Greg Ktistou. This team competed against -- and beat -- teams with more individual talent.

Hoops Report's Best 17-and-under team
Rising Stars
While the Mac Irvin Fire had the biggest collection of talent and had college coaches following their every move and lining the courts they played on, it was the Rising Stars program out of Deerfield that had the most success in the 17-and-under ranks. This is a team that boasts high-major recruits in New Trier's Alex Rossi (Cal), Mundelein's Ben Brust (Iowa) and Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith (Ohio State), along with a couple of heavily-recruited mid-major prospects in DeKalb's Jordan Threloff and Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice. Coach Mike Weinstein's club was out of sync early in the evaluation period due to missing a couple of players, but it came on strong in late July. The Rising Stars put together two terrific runs in Orlando, which included a win over highly-regarded All-Ohio Red.

Hoops Report's Best 16-and-under team
Illinois Wolves
This was a no-brainer: the Illinois Wolves 16-and-under team, which played up and played well in a few tournaments against older players, was without question the best 16-and-under team out of Illinois. The Wolves, with this experience behind them and another year to develop, will enter next season as one of the better 17-and-under teams in the country. This team is more than just the terrific trio of Rock Island's Chasson Randle, St. Ignatius' Nnanna Egwu and St. Patrick's Jacob Williams, all of which are among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2011 in Illinois. Coach Mike Mullins' club has terrific depth and emerging players in York's Will Sullivan, Benet Academy's David Sobolewski, St. Ignatius' Tyrone Staggers and a rising star in sophomore point guard Bobo Drummond out of Peoria.

Hoops Report's Biggest Stock Raisers
James Siakam, 6-6, Jr. Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
The college coaches and, hopefully, national people finally took notice. (see above for more on Siakam)

Alex Dragicevich, 6-6, Sr., Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
The versatile senior took advantage of a short window of opportunity in July following an injury. He ended the month with offers from Notre Dame, Xavier and Oklahoma State. Dragicevich, who the Hoops Report would be very surprised if he didn't end up at Notre Dame, is a versatile scorer. He doesn't have the blow-by ability or the athleticism most high-major programs desire, but he has his own way. He has size and is blessed with the ability to put the ball in the hole in a variety of ways.

Duje Dukan, 6-8, Sr., Deerfield
There really wasn't a ton of movement in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings following the July evaluation period. But the player that made the biggest jump, without question, was Dukan. The skilled 6-8 do-it-all has the talent and bloodlines to become quite a player a few years down the road. People don't realize how far this kid has come in the last year. He can pass it and handle it so well for a player his size, and he already is blessed with a true high-major skill: shooting ability. There are a lot of college programs missing the boat on this kid.

Phillip Jackson, 6-8, Sr., Chicago (Providence St. Mel)
After going back and forth between AAU teams early on, Jackson settled in with the Mac Irvin Fire and played his best basketball in Las Vegas in front of the right people -- college coaches. Jackson, although limited right now offensively, is an active big man who will beat people down the floor, block shots, rebound and won't be intimidated.

Sean McGonagill, 6-1, Sr., Riverside-Brookfield
What more does this kid have to do? Kudos to North Dakota for being the first school to offer. Several Ivy League schools covet the 6-1 point guard and Evansville has picked up on his trail. He competes, he's heady, controls a team like a point guard should and will knock down shots. When the Hoops Report's new player rankings come out later this month, McGonagill will have vaulted himself into the top 40.

Macari Brooks, 6-1, Jr., Rich South
You sometimes get a little mesmerized by his crazy athleticism and hops, which are arguably the best in state. Slowly but surely the 6-1 junior is becoming more than just a big-time athlete, though he still has a ways to go in the skills department. While he is making more basketball "plays" and his perimeter shot has improved, improving his ballhandling and shooting are a must.

Bruce Baron, 6-2, Jr., Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
The 6-2 junior is your classic power point guard who, although still streaky with it, showed an ability to knock down a perimeter shot here and there throughout the summer. He's strong, gets in the lane and can finish at the rim. Baron is clearly one of the top dozen college prospects in the Class of 2011 at this point.

Will Sullivan, 6-2, Jr., (Elmhurst) York
This fundamentally sound gym rat is still a little under the radar, but the Hoops Report loves the improvement and development the 6-2 guard has made since last summer. Look for Sullivan's role to become bigger with the Illinois Wolves next summer and for him to blossom in front of college coaches a year from now.

Pat Miller, 5-10, Sr., Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
The Hoops Report loves this power-packed point guard who is similar to De La Salle 2009 star Derek Needham (Fairfield). Miller is tough, can get where he wants to on the floor and is arguably the strongest point guard in the state. After flying under the radar, Miller has now solidified himself among college coaches.

Best Win
There is no question the most impressive win from an Illinois AAU team standpoint came when the Rising Stars knocked off the much-hyped power All-Ohio Red in Orlando. All-Ohio Red, led by Ohio State-bound 6-8, 260-pound Jared Sullinger, 6-4 Jordan Sibert and 6-10 Adreian Payne -- who are all among the top 30 players in the country -- went on to win the AAU 17-and-under boys basketball championship at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

Best Game
If the Hoops Report were in attendance for the All-Ohio Red-Rising Stars matchup, that game would likely have been the winner. However, the two best games the Hoops Report took in this summer happened to involve the two games with the absolute most talent on the floor. The Mac Irvin Fire matchups between Seattle Rotary in Las Vegas and Team STAT out of Florida at the Chicago Summer Classic were loaded with high-major talent, along with an intensity that was tough to match.

Best Event
Chicago Summer Classic
From a Chicagoland area perspective, you just couldn't top the action that took place over the three days of action in Deerfield. Virtually every team and every age group competed against one another with the level of play awfully high and competitive.

Tough Luck Award
Illinois Warriors
After a solid spring, Larry Butler's club was poised for a nice run in July. However, starting point guard Ahmad Starks of Whitney Young decided to quit the Warriors and move to the Mac Irvin Fire team, while talented 16-and-under point guard George Marshall of Brooks was out of action with an injury.

Best Players
Class of 2010
As far as college prospects go in the senior class, it's Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson big man Meyers Leonard -- and then everyone else. The sky is the limit for these two talented players.

Class of 2011
The Hoops Report has had Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams in the top spot for more than 15 months. While Abrams is still there he will have to tentatively share it with Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear who played his best basketball of his career in July. Now we need to see that type of intensity and assertiveness from Blackshear on a consistent basis, but because of the transfer from Curie to Morgan Park he will again have to sit out some time this winter before playing again.

Class of 2012
You want wishy-washy? Try naming the top player in the sophomore class. It may depend on when and where you see these young players. The class is loaded with point guards and doesn't have much size. If one player must be named No. 1, Proviso East's Keith Carter gets the slight edge, but Peoria Central's 5-10 Bobo Drummond, Chicago Orr's 6-0 Curtis Jones and Simeon's 5-10 Jelani Neely are all right there with him. Little unknown Fred Van Fleet, a 5-10 point guard out of Rockford Auburn, is another player making a push. Look for the top four or five spots to change quite often between now and the spring of 2012 as several other players who aren't quite as polished as the aforementioned point guards make strides later in their careers.

Class of 2013
Too early to start ranking and labeling incoming freshmen. However, when you're talking about the threesome of Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Jabari Parker and De La Salle's Alex Foster it's a no-brainer putting these three at the top. Who is the best? Who cares right now as they are all special talents who offer different skills and upside. However, the best 2013 player the Hoops Report saw this summer -- yes, even better than our beloved Chicago kids -- was Peter Jok of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. Wow, what a talent.

Young Wolves impress; End of Season Showdown recap

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By Joe Henricksen

Well, the Illinois Wolves program has plenty to look forward to next year. That's because the Wolves 16-and-under team finished July with a bang, winning the Hoop City Classic in Kansas City and then capturing the 17-and-under title at the inaugural End of Season Showdown in Merrillville.

The Wolves dominated in KC, easily beating Dallas Showtyme, Common Bond and All-Iowa Attack Red in the quarterfinals, semis and finals, respectively. In Merrillville, the Wolves knocked off Peoria Carver, the Eric Gordon All-Stars and Naptown Ballers in tournament play. While the Wolves have plenty of potential on its roster with high-major talent and Division I prospects, it was also about production with winning two tournaments in July.

"I think the best compliment to these kids that I heard was that no one looked at them as a 16-and-under team," says Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins. "And playing the schedule they did, against a lot of 17s, I think really helped them. They weren't afraid to play anyone."

Yes, there were some tired legs at the end of the evaluation period, but the Wolves played up an age group and came home with their second title in as many weeks. Chasson Randle of Rock Island and Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius were named co-MVPs of the End of Season Showdown.

Egwu, who struggled and showed a little of his inexperience a bit in the Chicago Summer Classic in early July, was much better in Merrillville. It's hard not to love Egwu when you watch him and realize his very limited basketball background and that he's just a shade under 6-10. But how often can you find a shot blocker with his kind of potential impact?

The Hoops Report has raved about the strides he's made as a player under St. Ignatius coach Rich Kehoe and Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins. There is no doubt he can sometimes struggle with the speed of the game and, at times, he will try to rush things on the offensive end. That is obviously due to having played basketball for just over two years. However, his offensive game continues to grow with his developing jump hook and effective 12-15 foot face-up jumper. He won't be a ready-made player right away at the high-major level, but there is little doubt he will be an impact player at the highest level at some point in his career.

Egwu's recruiting, which seems to have Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue and Northwestern front and center, will be put on hold for a bit as he heads to Nigeria for a few weeks with his family. Randle, who has had an extremely busy summer between playing with his high school, AAU and national team, will welcome August as a chance to rest and refresh.

Egwu's high school teammate at St. Ignatius, 6-4 Tyrone Staggers, has also shown improvement throughout the summer while playing with the Wolves. Staggers, who is just a junior, is an active athlete who is still finding his way in terms of solidifying a true position. However, he's bouncy, productive, getting better with his skill level and has been a little overlooked on a loaded Wolves team this summer.

In early action in Merrillville, Bobo Drummond of Peoria Central was impressive. The sophomore point guard provided a nice lift off the bench as he played two age groups up. Drummond has been recognized as a true point guard with a great feel and composure for his age. He was just that and more as he provided a little scoring as well, knocking down mid-range jumpers and getting to the basket. Drummond is capable of overcoming his physical limitations -- he's small at 5-10 and has very little lift athletically -- and playing at the high-major level. He just knows how to play and for his age and experience has an uncanny feel to make the correct decision with the basketball in his hands.

Simeon's Loaded Backcourt
Simeon coach Robert Smith will have the luxury of having more than a few capable ballhandling, playmaking guards next winter. Yes, freshman phenom Jabari Parker, the skilled 6-4 wing, will make his arrival felt at some point. But both sophomore Jelani Neely and junior Tywon Pinckney had their moments in the ChicagoHoops End of Season Showdown in Merrillville. They are two small but talented point guards who will be so valuable for Smith's Wolverines as they can be interchangeable in the backcourt. Pinckney, who the Hoops Report has had among the top 25 prospects in the Class of 2011, played his best basketball of the summer. Neely, meanwhile, has clearly established himself as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2012. While tiny, Neely is as pure of a point guard as you will find.

Another Talented 2012 Point Guard
The list of talented guards in the Class of 2012 continues to grow. We can add Rockford Auburn point guard Fred Van Fleet to the list, though he's another in this class that is a bit on the small side. The 5-10 point guard, who played a role on the Auburn varsity team this past year while his brother, Darnell, was among the team's leading scorers as a senior, is so smooth. He was impressive in Merrillville and one of the better prospects in the Class of 2012.

Jordan Making Big Strides
A couple of years ago Andrew Jordan out of Peoria was a hotshot prospect being mentioned in the same breath with some of the other big-named stars in the Class of 2011. However, an up-and-down year of basketball that was plagued with inconsistency took a little buzz off of Jordan last summer and during his sophomore season. After impressing in the Chicago Summer Classic and then playing well in the End of Season Showdown, the athletic 6-5 Jordan has shown he's made some big strides.

Jordan, who played with Peoria Carver in AAU ball this summer and has made the move to Peoria Manual, seems to be having fun again on the court and becoming more comfortable. His skill level, particularly his ballhandling and overall feel and playmaking ability, have improved since a year ago. He still has some work to do with his perimeter shot, but he is long, athletic and has a great body. After slipping a bit in the Hoops Report Class of 2011 rankings, a strong July has raised his stock once again as he will be among the top 15 prospects in the class.

The Peoria Carver team has some talent, with Jordan, Peoria Manual senior guard Lawrence Alexander, Peoria Manual junior big man Brandon Watson, Peoria Central's versatile junior Travis Kellum and hard-nosed junior David Molinari of Peoria Christian.

McCall and the Illinois Heat
Mike McCall of Foreman grabbed a lot of the attention and interest while playing for the Illinois Heat 17-and-under team this summer. McCall, a talented combo guard and among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2010, has intrigued Cal and coach Mike Montgomery. California, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Detroit-Mercy and Indiana State have followed McCall the closest during the late July evaluation period and all remain in the mix.

Tommy Woolridge, a 6-1 guard, had a solid summer and remains a little under the radar. Woolridge, who teams up with McCall and Lavonte Dority at Foreman, would be a steal for any low-Division I school.

The young Illinois Heat play hard and get after it, led by Curie point guard Asante Smiter, wiry 6-3 Ryan Woods of Proviso West and improving Leavon Head of Mundelein.

Around the AAU world
• The most impressive win of the summer came down in Orlando when the Rising Stars, led by Mundelein's Ben Brust, New Trier's Alex Rossi, Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith, DeKalb's Jordan Threloff and Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice, knocked off the loaded All-Ohio Red in Super Showcase tournament play. The Rising Stars advanced to the Super Showcase semifinals and the Sweet Sixteen of nationals, where it fell to Boo Williams in a controversial loss. Boo Williams and All-Ohio Red faced off with one another in the title game.

"That was the best game I think I have ever been a part of," said Rising Stars coach Mike Weinstein of his team's win over All-Ohio Red. "This was a really special group of players we had in our program."

Brust, who the Hoops Report tabbed in late spring as the projected national breakout player this summer, was terrific, according to those in attendance. Several college coaches stated how impressed they were with Brust and his play in Orlando.

Big man Jordan Threloff, a 6-9 center from DeKalb, will be narrowing things down as Illinois State, Drake, Western Michigan, Bradley, Northern Illinois and DePaul are all in the mix.

• The Illinois Kings wrapped up a stellar July with strong showings in both the Super Showcase and the AAU Nationals in Orlando. Coach Greg Ktistou's club went 28-7 in July, including capturing the Bronze Bracket championship in the Super Showcase.The Kings don't have a single high-major or an abundance of big-time Division I talent, but they have plenty of unsung players who, in the Hoops Report's mind, competed and evolved into the most overachieving team the state of Illinois has had in quite some time. The foursome of Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill, who has legitimized himself as a Division I prospect, Oak Park's Jeff Dirkin, Lyons Twp.'s Justin Phipps and Neuqua Valley's Kareem Amedu all opened eyes of schools ranging from Division II to Division I schools.

A quick shout out and thank you goes to Brian Stinnette of for keeping many of the top local teams right here in the area, with four terrific events this spring and summer in Deerfield and Merrillville. The state of Illinois, long known to have so much high school basketball talent and high-profile club programs, can now add top events as well in the area with such events as the Chicago Hoops End of Season Showdown, Chicago Summer Classic, Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown and the Chicago Hoops Tip-Off Classic.

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