By Joe Henricksen
The Class of 2011 has been touted for a couple of years, with many of its top players nationally ranked among the top 100 players in the country and projected to be high-major prospects. Now everyone is talking about the talent-laden Class of 2013 with the trio of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton and De La Salle's Alex Foster as the headliners. But what about the forgotten Class of 2012?
What the sophomore class offers is an abundance of perimeter players, particularly point guards on the small side. The class lacks size and, right now, doesn't have the true, no-doubt-about-it high-major prospects. But it's still early and, in time, several will prove to be high-major players.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report sees three players--Orr's Curtis "C.J." Jones, Proviso East's Keith Carter and Simeon's Jelani Neely--vying for the top spot and a host of others mixed in the conversation, including Peoria Central's Bobo Drummond, Lake Forest Academy's Charles Harris, Whitney Young's Jermaine Morgan and Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Fleet.
Here is a look (in alphabetical order) at the top 15 basketball prospects in the Class of 2012 as they head into their sophomore year.
• Austin Angel, 6-4, 2G, Rockford (Boylan) ... Right now one of the best shooters in the class. He brings size on the perimeter and has a mature, fundamentally sound game, showing it by being able to come off screens, spotting up and shooting off the dribble.
• Keith Carter, 6-0, PG, Maywood (Proviso East) ... Arguably the best scorer in the class. He has good speed and deceptive athleticism but lacks the great explosiveness. High character kid who does what's needed for his team.
• Bobo Drummond, 5-10, PG, Peoria (Central) ... His game is mature beyond his years with a great and natural feel for the game. He has the makings of the ultimate distributor. His jumper is still not a finished product and he lacks the athleticism you desire and covet at the highest level.
• Cameron Harvey, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... One of the few players with the size and dimensions you are looking for at the college level. Right now a versatile perimeter player with a good body and skill level.
• Malcolm Hill-Bey, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... He is small but is a dazzling ballhandler, has good vision, is pretty physical for his size and has the potential to be a terrific on-the-ball defender with his combination of quickness and strength. Will sometimes fall to trying to do too much.
• Curtis "C.J." Jones, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Orr) ... Still figuring out just what he is but he's an absolute "baller" who competes, brings toughness and gets things done. Has the ability to score in bunches.
• Jermaine Morgan, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... May have as much upside as anyone in the class. Long, athletic post player who can really run the floor and shows a great deal of potential. Does not have a big frame or wide shoulders so he probably won't be an overpowering 4-man but more of a finesse-type 4-man or with continued development become a combo forward.
• Emmanuel Ochenje, 6-8, WF/PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... Long, wiry athlete who can run the floor but is still very raw. Although still very limited and his understanding of the game has a long ways to go, he does possess the physical tools to become a prospect of intrigue.
• Tyrone Sherman, 5-10, PG, Homewood-Flossmoor ... A blur of a guard who can score and is learning how to run a team. He has shown an improved jumper but excels in the open court with his foot speed, quickness and strength.
• Aaron Simpson, 5-11, PG/2G, North Chicago ... Has improved his shooting and really knows how to put the ball in the hole but right now is a 2-guard in a point guard's body. Does he have the mentality to be a creator and playmaker for others?
• Steve Taylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Simeon) ... Has the capability to become a big, strong inside presence due to his body and strength. Taylor, a very good football prospect, started to get more and more done last summer.
• Fred Van Fleet, 5-11, PG, Rockford (Auburn) ... Slight framed but pure point guard with vision, uses change of speed and direction very well and possesses the ability to be a distributor.
• Derrick Randolph, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Lightning quick and explosive with his dribble. With his size it will always be an uphill battle, but he brings intensity and puts pressure on opposing teams on both ends of the floor.
• Jay Simpson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Central) ... His body and size jump out at you and then shows flashes of his improving skill level. Now he needs to become more comfortable, consistent and assertive, which should come with age and experience.
• Tim Williams, 6-6, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor ... Teammates Delvon Rencher and Tyrone Sherman have the bigger names and may be more advanced at the same age, but the Hoops Report in intrigued even more by the upside of Williams.
And 10 more (in alphabetical order) ....
Anthony Beane, Jr., 6-1, PG, Normal
Connor Boehm, 6-7, PF, Winnetka (New Trier)
Treshawn Carroll, 6-4, PF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Jordan Foster, 5-10, PG, Oak Park-River Forest
Devon Johnson, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Bogan)
Jamal Millison, 5-11, 2G, Downers Grove (South)
Delvon Rencher, 6-6, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor
Akeem Springs, 6-3, WF, Waukegan
Juwan Starks, 6-4, WF, Aurora (West)
Willie Wiley, 6-6, PF, Springfield