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.
• 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.