By Joe Henricksen
After generating so much hype early in their career, we have learned a lot from the Class of 2011 over the last two years. First, this class does not project to be anywhere near as strong at the top of the class as the Class of 1998 (Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette, Frank Williams, Michael Wright, Bobby Simmons). Nonetheless, there is some quality depth. There are 11 players in the class that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack -- at least for the time being. There are 11 players, all of which should be high-major recruits, that can be found on one national top 100 list or another.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report truly believes that, in the end, it will be a three-player race between now and March of 2011 as to who will end up at No. 1 in the Class of 2011. Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear inched ahead of the pack with an impressive July run, though even the current top-ranked player has a ways to go in his development as a player. Right now the Hoops Report envisions Blackshear, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams and Whitney Young's Sam Thompson, all three blessed with so much upside, physical tools and athleticism, jockeying for the top spot before all is said and done. Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Top 40 players in the Class of 2011 heading into their junior year.
1. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) .... Had the best July of any Class of 2011 player in Illinois. The production, combined with his size and athleticism, pushes Blackshear to the top. Has the athleticism and quickness to guard on the perimeter, while also possessing the length and strength to get things done around the basket. Now he needs to play at a consistent level and continue to improve in the skills area to become a dominant player.
2. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Blossoming before our eyes and poised for a breakout over the next 12 months. Oozing with talent and potential with a plus wing span and versatility. Still has to develop physically and get stronger.
3. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island .... Confidence soared with where and who he played with this summer. Plays so calm, cool and with little emotion. Smart player with big-time character. While not overly explosive, he finds a way to get to the basket in a gliding fashion.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) .... There are times where he will just dazzle you with his speed in the open floor and ability to put the ball in the hole. Has natural playmaking ability. He will surprise you with his athleticism and his outside shooting stroke. Like a lot of young guards, he often gets caught trying to do too much. Boatright could go anywhere between 7-11 in these rankings.
5. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .... Never found the right fit AAU wise this summer, but he still has all the ingredients to be a special guard at the next level. He has blow-by ability, athleticism, intangibles, speed, quickness, character, toughness and he doesn't bring any baggage.
6. Nnanna Egwu, 6-9, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) .... Continues to evolve into the prototype shot-blocking big man who can run the floor. While still a project offensively, Egwu's 12-16 foot jumper getting more consistent by the day. His slight frame and speed of the game can sometimes give him some problems, but he's still maturing and learning the game.
7. James Siakam, 6-6, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) .... An undersized 4-man? Sure ... But who cares! Talented and mature, , very long wingspan, physically strong and an explosive athlete with tenacity. He just gets so much done each and every time he steps on the floor. It's hard not to love what he brings to the table. Clemson's Trevor Booker a great college comparison.
8. Mike Shaw, 6-8, WF/PF, Chicago (De La Salle) .... While he still will float around the perimeter and be too enamored with the outside shot which leads to unproductive stretches, he has the body and physical abilities you seek. Showed a willingness to put his nose in there and battle this summer.
9. Dre Henley, 6-5, WF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) .... A multi-faceted player who doesn't project to one single position right now. Handles the ball well for his size, has decent vision and, at times, shoots it well. Big body allows him to post up and get things done near the basket. Lacks the big-time athleticism and quickness others in the class have.
10. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) .... Injury cut his summer short, but he may have the best feel for the game of any of the top players in the Class of 2011. Has the makings of an excellent and complete college point guard who can distribute, shoot and score.
11. Bruce Baron, 6-2, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) .... Opened a lot of eyes and raised his stock considerably. Still must become comfortable as a lead guard and go from a streaky to good shooter. But he's explosive with a wide and strong body.
12. Phillip Greene, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Fenger) .... A wiry guard who knows how to get defenders off balance with the dribble and put the ball in the hole. He has a deceptive first step and shifty quickness making him difficult to contain on the perimeter. He does tend to waste dribbles on the perimeter, sometimes disrupting the flow of the offense.
13. Mycheal Henry, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Orr) .... He certainly looks the part with his size, length, body and ability to run up and down the floor. But still must show an ability to understand the game and improve his skill level. After an inconsistent summer, Henry is poised for a breakout junior year at Orr.
14. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) .... Long, athletic wing with a developing offensive game. Still needs to shoot the basketball better from the perimeter and must add consistency to his all-around game. The whole package is still in the process of coming together.
15. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Manual) .... Stock was sky high as a freshman, dropped as a sophomore and then regained his mojo with an impressive summer. Looks much more comfortable with the ball in his hands, has improved his handle and court sense. Still a raw athlete with big upside.
16. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North) .... One of the biggest stock risers and continues to climb. Still very much a work in progress, filled with untapped potential. Despite all of his physical attributes (tremendous length, size and athleticism), seems to often be satisfied to 'go with the flow'. Once he establishes an on-court presence, look out.
17. Macari Brooks, 6-2, WF, Richton Park (Rich South) .... Quite simply the most athletic and explosive athlete in the class, though his game is not overly smooth. His shooting has improved but still has a long way to go. At this point an extremely undersized 3-man who opens eyes with jaw-dropping athleticism.
18. Donivine Stewart, 5-11, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) .... While he may not have been spectacular this summer, he was certainly solid. He doesn't wow you, but he does have a presence about him with all that he gets done despite his physical limitations.
19. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) .... A crafty, jitterbug point guard who can get in the lane and create. While he's inconsistent with his three-point shot, he has all but mastered the art of the mid-range, pull-up game.
20. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... A highly skilled, versatile and athletic wing with size and length. Has the ability to score in different ways -- put it on the floor, get to the basket, shoot. Has the capability to knock down shots but must improve mechanics and release. Must learn to play hard, produce on a consistent level and add strength and toughness.
21. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-1, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic) .... A shooter who can catch-and-shoot but is also comfortable pushing the ball in transition, utilizing his pull-up jumper. However, his physical shortcomings are still fairly exposed. Plays with a great motor.
22. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton) .... A quick point guard who when playing at full throttle plays at a different speed. Solid at getting into the lane and finding open teammates. He has great lateral quickness and foot speed. Still a bit streaky with his jumper.
23. Will Sullivan, 6-2, 2G, Elmhurst (York) .... One of the more improved players in the class over the last 12 months, especially in the ballhandling department. A crafty, cerebral player who is pretty fundamentally sound. He can now put it on the floor, drive to the basket and features a developed mid-range gam. Still needs to extend range and become more consistent 19-22 feet out.
24. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G/WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) .... Still developing as a player but love his skill package. He can handle it on the perimeter and has a very nice looking stroke with range. Will still vanish and coast from time to time during a game.
25. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee .... Right now a real tweener with his lack of size and style of play suited for around the basket. Very developed physically for his age who can be a beast as an interior player and in the open court in transition. Phenomenal athleticism.
26. Tywon Pinckney, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon) .... Finished the summer very strong with an impressive performance in Merrillville. Good open court speed, likes to push the ball in transition and will knock down the mid-range jumper. Also can be a menace defensively. Lacks size and the consistent jumper with range.
27. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O'Fallon .... A player who puts a lot of pressure on opposing teams, whether it be attacking in the halfcourt or in transition, applying pressure defensively, battling on the offensive boards, drawing fouls, etc. Still figuring out true position.
28. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein .... Shows an on-court intensity and passion for the game. Competes and gets after it on the glass. Will surprise you with his hops, ability to beat people down the floor and then drop in a three-pointer. A huge surprise this past spring and summer with his rapid improvement and climb up the rankings.
29. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G/WF, Lombard (Glenbard East) .... Little-known wing is a talent. He will open eyes this winter for a solid Glenbard East team with his ability to get to the basket and being long and active on the wing.
30. Keith Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks) .... Athletic, bouncy 4-man with big wingspan who is getting better and more assertive. He's become a better finisher around the basket, though he doesn't possess much of a post-up game, instead using his length, athleticism and quickness to score inside. He can get overpowered inside and at the defensive end.
31. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central) .... A strong-bodied guard who has a nice mid-range game and takes contact well, using his body and balance to finish. Nothing flashy but pretty steady off the dribble.
32. David Sobolewski, 6-0, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy) .... Shooting stroke is efficient with good balance and an array of shot-making ability -- mid-range, pull-up, beyond the arc. Very good court awareness. Mediocre first step and limited open court speed hinder his ability to get by people.
33. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame) .... He gets better and better. An extremely strong player with a base that is so difficult to move. He establishes position and creates space, while also showing a decent touch around the basket. Still a below-the-rim guy whose lack of lift and athleticism limit him.
34. Devon Hodges, 6-7, PF, Romeoville .... The big man committed to Wisconsin but is more suited for a MAC or Horizon League. Has some size, length and a decent touch facing up to the basket. Looks to have the frame to add weight and strength, but he's still far too mechanical.
35. Kevin Gray, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Brooks) .... Like his brother, Kevin Gray is an improving big man who is becoming more active. He's using his length and athleticism more and more to his advantage. Still lacks the polish or go-to moves.
36. Kyle Anderson, 6-2, 2G, Newark .... The little-known Anderson has a terrific body, is athletic and can get to the basket and finish at the rim. As his skill level improves, particularly his ballhandling, Anderson's stock will rise.
37. Ryan Jackson, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield .... Unselfish when playing the lead guard spot but more than capable of becoming a scorer from the point guard position. He's not a high-level athlete, but he's very good at using his body to create space.
38. Adonis Filer, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .... Has good size and strength for a guard, capable of being a big-time defensive stopper when he wants to be. Lacks the shooting stroke you would like from a guard. Has the ability to get to the basket, take a hit, make contact and finish.
39. D.J. Tolliver, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Farragut) .... While still a bit inconsistent, he's a smooth and crafty wing player. He gets streaky with his shot and get to the basket off the bounce. He must become better in making decisions and understanding the game.
40. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG/2G, Lincoln .... His textbook shot and release clearly his strength as it's very efficient with no wasted motion. He has great range but lacks the ideal size and is limited athletically.