By Joe Henricksen

November 2009 Archives

Clear the calendar for big weekend

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By Joe Henricksen

The Thanksgiving tournaments are in the books and conference play is ready to start up, but this weekend the season heats up with an abundance of top-level matchups featuring many of the elite teams and best players in Illinois. Cyrus McGinnis, the Chicago Public League basketball coordinator, continues to put together two days of must-see basketball. The Chicago Public Schools Shootout at Chicago State kickstarts the season and whets the appetite of the prep basketball fan.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report offers a quick rundown of what's on tap at Chicago State this Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday Schedule
11:00 a.m. Crane vs. U-High .... Crane wants to show it's more than a middle-of-the-pack Red-West team, while U-High returns seven players, including promising 6-7 Michael Turner.
1:00 p.m. Hyde Park vs. Peoria Richwoods .... Coach Donnie Kirksey's team features one of the underrated players in the state in point guard Fabyon Harris. Although Richwoods, which is off to a 3-1 start after winning the Rock Island Thanksgiving Tournament, is an experienced group, freshman guard Preston Wells is a promising young player.
3:00 p.m. North Lawndale vs. Seton Academy .... Interesting battle between two teams that had a ton of success a year ago and are trying to reload rather than rebuild. A great opportunity for uncommitted players like Seton's Chris Olivier and North Lawndale's Jermaine Winfield to shine.
5:00 p.m. Morgan Park vs. East Aurora .... The most entertaining matchup of the day with two electric talents in Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear and East Aurora's Ryan Boatright facing off with one another.
7:00 p.m. Brooks vs. Mt. Carmel .... A pair of South Side powers collide that boast all kinds of young talent. Brooks junior guard George Marshall and Mt. Carmel junior guard Tracy Abrams, who has been out with an ankle injury, are the headliners.

Sunday Schedule
11:30 a.m. Marshall vs. Von Steuben .... Life after Darius Smith begins for Marshall, while steady Von Steuben looks to show its ready to challenge Foreman in the Red-North.
1:00 p.m Curie vs. T.F. North .... A couple of programs that probably haven't received the respect they deserve and feature some under-the-radar players. Underappreciated 6-5 Sean Montgomery of T.F. North just gets things done and junior guard Montero Rice is a talent. Curie, which features junior guards Asante Smiter and Greg Travis, has a few senior prospects (6-3 Jeremy Price, 6-7 Jason Dorsey, 6-5 Dennis Hodges) hoping to open eyes.
2:30 p.m. Farragut vs. Crete-Monee .... Coach Rocky Hill's Crete-Monee team, led by 6-4 junior Jamie Crockett and 6-6 Mario Redmond, comes in with a lot of talent and high expectations. Farragut, led by junior D.J. Tolliver, looks to pull off an upset.
4:00 p.m. Foreman vs. Hillcrest .... The perimeter talent on display in this one is special. Foreman, with four Division I recruits, boasts the trio of Mike McCall (Saint Louis), Lavonte Dority (South Florida) and Tommy Woolridge (Eastern Illinois). Hillcrest counters with Eric Gaines (Kent State) and junior point guard Julius Brown.
5:30 p.m. Simeon vs. Thornton .... There aren't many teams as talented as Simeon. Dayton-bound Brandon Spearman is ready to emerge, while young stars Jelani Neely and Jabari Parker will be heard from. Thornton has the exciting tandem of Reggie Smith and Jay Parker in what should be an entertaining matchup.
7:00 p.m. Whitney Young vs. Homewood-Flossmoor .... H-F, stocked with young talent, looks to bounce back from loss to Hillcrest. The curtain is raised for Whitney Young, a team ranked No. 1 in the state and with players anxious to show it's their time. Senior Ahmad Starks becomes the leader for a loaded Dolphins team, featuring 6-6 junior Sam Thompson, Purdue recruit Anthony Johnson and freshman Tommy Hamilton.

Derrick Rose Winter Classic at Curie
Highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor will join seven Chicago Public League teams as Curie plays host to four games Saturday, Dec. 5. Hope Academy faces Manley in the opener at 11 a.m. Coach Vince Carter's Von Steuben club squares off with Farragut at 12:30 p.m. Marshall takes on H-F at 2 p.m., while Curie and Bogan meet in the final game at 3:30 p.m.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

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By Joe Henricksen

The first thing to remember as the calendar turns to December this week is not to take too much from Thanksgiving week as it relates to high school basketball. So if your team is off to a surprising 4-0 or 3-1 start, great, enjoy it. And if your team with high expectations didn't look so hot, don't sweat it or judge too quickly.

It's so difficult to get a good read on high school basketball in November. Remember, it's not like college where they get several weeks to practice and get a couple of exhibition games under their belt. The high school coach starts with his team Nov. 9 and is playing games exactly two weeks later. The play can be a little ragged, even ugly at Thanksgiving and leave an unwarranted bad taste in your mouth. It's a time to get the kinks out and find out a little something about your team.

With that being said, the highlight of the week for the Hoops Report was watching the East Aurora-Hales Franciscan game Friday afternoon at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament. It's not too often you are treated to this kind of basketball, especially at this point in the season.

Hales Franciscan beat East Aurora 98-97 in overtime. The game included several lead changes (13 ties and 13 lead changes), dramatic turns, big shot after big shot, high intensity and some star-studded play, especially from some young players. Just when you thought one team had gained control it was swiped away. In the end, the game showed that both teams will be big threats to the favorites in their respective leagues -- East Aurora to Neuqua Valley in the Upstate Eight and Hales to Mt. Carmel in the Catholic League.

East Aurora junior guard Ryan Boatright continues to get better and better. He's a dynamic offensive player at the high school level and a lot of fun to watch. He's a special talent who will be a high-major college recruit. Boatright and junior Snoop Viser, a transfer who had a solid but under-the-radar season last year at Oswego East, is the perfect complement to Boatright. Viser, a 6-0 junior guard, has showed off his shooting abilities in the past and has elevated his game this season.

On the other side, Hales guard Patrick Miller continues to show why he's so valued by the Hoops Report. A top 25 player in the Class of 2010, Miller poured in 35 points in the win over East Aurora. His shooting has improved and his strength remains getting by people and getting to the basket using his strength. He has a knack for drawing contact and getting to the line. His lack of height and on-again, off-again playmaking ability as a point guard put doubt in college coach's minds. But he's a player who Tennessee State was able to lock up in November before others would have surely come calling this winter.

Last June the Hoops Report vaulted Hales Franciscan's Aaron Armstead, a smooth and skilled wing, into the Class of 2011's top 25. He's a player that will surely get a lot more pub in the next two years. The 6-3 wing didn't disappoint, opening eyes with a 24-point performance that included a pair of last-second shots. He hit a runner to send the game into overtime and knocked down the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Armstead has an easiness about him, with a great shooting stroke and size on the perimeter. And his brother, 6-4 Aaric Armstead, is a talented sophomore who scored 20 points in the win and has gained more attention at times than his older brother.

OTHER THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS ....
Hillcrest came out and played like the team that is ranked in City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason top 10. The Hawks went 4-0 and won the Chicago Heights Classic, beating highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor in the title game. This is a veteran group with depth, quickness and athleticism.

• The West Suburban Silver race was expected to be an exciting one to watch this winter. With Oak Park's impressive run at the Lane Tech Tournament, the Huskies may have emerged as the team to beat with York and Lyons Twp. certainly in the discussion. Oak Park rattled off four wins, including impressive victories over Niles Notre Dame and Zion-Benton.

• Speaking of Notre Dame, coach Tom Les has a couple of rapidly improving and unsung players in senior Shawn Wallace and 6-4 junior Quinton Chievous. Wallace, the MVP of the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament, is poised for a breakout year after playing a smaller role a year ago. Chievous has made great strides, is coming off a very solid summer and is emerging as a legitimate college prospect in the Class of 2011. He is the son of Derrick Chievous, who was the No. 16 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft after a stellar career at Missouri. In addition to his scoring abilities, basketball junkies will remember Derrick "Band-Aid" Chievous for his trademark talkative ways and the Band-Aid he wore on the floor during games.

Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear? Wow! The junior star is certainly going to be showcased this season.

Peoria Manual's Andrew Jordan has really turned the corner. After a rocky 12 months and a transfer to Peoria Manual, the 6-6 junior is beginning to push his way into the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2011. His feel for the game and passing ability have gotten better and his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers is getting more consistent.

Prospect can be labeled an up-and-coming program or simply underrated. Coach John Camardella, who led the Knights to a 21-win season that included conference and regional titles last year, is one of the better young coaches in the Chicago area. And now Prospect is riding high into December after beating highly-regarded St. Patrick and going 3-0 in the Max Kurland Tournament behind point guard Joe LaTulip.

• While DuPage Valley favorite Glenbard East did cruise to a Thanksgiving Tournament title, another DVC team impressed as well. Naperville North went 4-0 in the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Oswego. The Huskies are huge, with a starting frontline of 6-9 Matt Hasse (Austin Peay), 6-6 Joe McNicholas and 6-4 James O'Shaughnessy, the tournament MVP. Plus, coach Scott Powers brings size, strength and energy off the bench in 6-6 junior Matt LaCosse.

• And the shootout between Evanston's Garrett Jones and Mundelein's Ben Brust went down in the record books and certainly will stay there. Jones scored 51 and Brust 50 to become the first two players to ever score 50 points in the same game in IHSA history. Don't expect that to happen again.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Fifty-Five Seniors to Watch this Winter

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By Joe Henricksen

The high school basketball season has tipped off and the seniors in the Class of 2010 are prepped for their last hurrah in a high school uniform. When looking at a senior class, it's always a bit crazy to think back to first watching many of these seniors when they were young and how fast the time goes. Just three years ago it seemed like an eternity before Jereme Richmond would sign a letter-of-intent and be a senior. Now here we sit with Richmond still at the top of the class just as he was as a freshman at North Shore Country Day, which says a lot about Richmond as a player.

The Class of 2010 has two players far and away above the rest of the pack in terms of being premier college prospects with enormous upsides -- Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard. And then behind those two, in terms of potential at the next level, are Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith and Rich South's Crandall Head in a class of their own. There is a drop after Richmond and Leonard and another drop after Smith and Head to a group of five or six players that are practically interchangeable between No. 4 and No. 10.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a close individual look at the Class of 2010 and the top 50 prospects heading into their senior season.

1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan .... Has been the No. 1 rated player in the class since the day he stepped foot into high school. He's a special, multi-versatile talent who has the ability to make those around him better and is probably ranked a bit too low nationally considering his feel, talent and upside.
2. Meyers Leonard, 6-11, C, Robinson .... It's wild to think in this day of massive attention to recruiting and prospects that no one even knew who Leonard was two years ago. Now he's clearly the No. 2 prospect in the state and among the top 50 in the country with an enormous upside. He has enough edge to his game to survive inside, plus he is active and bouncy enough to frustrate opposing big men who aren't as athletic.
3. Crandall Head, 6-4, 2G, Richton Park (Rich South) .... Things have not gone smoothly for the athletically talented Head since he left Rich South two years ago. He transferred to Crane, had little impact on the AAU scene and transferred back to Rich South. Now, unfortunately, he's out for the year with a torn ACL. Still, you can't ignore the remarkable physical abilities and great upside he has. Whether it blossoms remains to be seen.
4. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton .... The perfect college player who will do what is asked of him and help his team win during the four years he's on campus. He makes those around him better and gets a lot done with his versatility, which will be huge with the talent that will surround him in Columbus. Has the ability to fill a stat sheet. He's a competitor and has a diverse overall game.
5. Ben Brust, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein .... Over the last three years he's gone from scrawny to actually a bit brawny. The Iowa commit does one thing as well as anyone in the class: put the ball in the hole. Yes, he's a terrific shooter, but he's blessed with great scoring ability. Moves well without the ball and does just enough off the dribble to keep defenses honest.
6. Ahmad Starks, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... The leader this year for the defending state champs has a knack for making big plays and hitting big shots. Yes, he's a point guard, but he's a shooter and scoring point guard -- even at his size. He plays with tremendous confidence; he's the kind of guy who wants to take the big shot.
7. Duje Dukan, 6-8, WF, Deerfield .... It took some time for people, including college coaches, to come around and warm up to Dukan. The Wisconsin recruit shoots it as well as anyone in the state and is extremely skilled for his size, capable of putting the ball on the floor with terrific passing ability.
8. Alex Dragicevich, 6-7, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) .... He is more than a shooter. Right now has the ability to overpower high school players on the offensive end. Although not real athletic, he knows how to play the game and uses his strength to get into position for midrange shots -- or getting to the basket and drawing contact.
9. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman) .... Saint Louis recruit can shoot over zones and in the open court can be a force offensively, both in getting to the basket and passing the basketball. He would flourish in an up-tempo system, so time will tell if the fit is right in Majerusland.
10. Reggie Smith, 5-11, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) .... A freakish athlete and highlight film when finishing at the rim. He gets after it and competes. The skills are still coming which will allow him to develop as a scorer in time.
11. Phillip Jackson, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Hyde Park) .... In time and with the right coaching he can blossom into a top defender and rebounder. Offensively he's still raw and the year off from competitive basketball coming up will not help. However, he's active, runs the floor and will be a hot commodity among college coaches even if he's not on the floor this winter.
12. Jordan Threloff, 6-9, C, DeKalb .... A true big man who eats up space, uses his body and is becoming more effective on the offensive end. The promising big man, who signed with Illinois State, still needs to become a more ferocious rebounder. But he is what he is: a quality big man.
13. Brandon Spearman, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) .... A potential breakout year for the strong-bodied wing who will lead one of state's top teams. His strength, size and athleticism will make him an effective on-the-ball defender, something that will endear him to coach Brian Gregory at Dayton.
14. Dwayne Evans, 6-5, WF, Naperville (Neuqua Valley) .... Another Saint Louis recruit is slowly moving his game to the perimeter, allowing him to play on the perimeter and make a living inside. He has a great understanding and feel around the basket, and he is unselfish. Highly productive player who gets a lot done.
15. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Has shown the ability to make a lot of different plays from the guard position, both in stretching a defense with his shooting or getting something done off the dribble. Will be interesting to see what a healthy A.J. brings to the table this winter.
16. Karl Madison, 5-9, PG, Springfield (Lanphier) .... Blessed with a scorer's mentality, Madison was a nice catch for Drake this fall. He has good quickness and can be a dangerous scorer, both with a mid-range game and from beyond the arc.
17. Rayvonte Rice, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial) .... His most ardent fans will tell you he ranked among the top players two years ago. Maybe they were right. He does everything asked of him: rebound, toughness, get to the basket, knock down a perimeter shot, distribute the ball when necessary.
18. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier) .... In the right system he will get to focus on what he does best: shooting the basketball. That will be the case at Cal. Looking for a bounce back season for New Trier.
19. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman) .... He may lack the pure explosiveness and quickness you would like, but he is physical, especially for a perimeter player. That enables him to back down foes and overpower them at the high school level, but will that translate to the Big East when he's at South Florida? Dority has improved his perimeter shot.
20. Adonis Bailey, 6-3, 2G/WF, Oak Lawn (Richards) .... You've heard of workout wonders who tear up practices and offseason leagues but have not done so on the big stage? Here is that guy. High energy, bouncy wing who is skilled and not nearly as raw as you would imagine having not played a single varsity game. His upside is off the charts.
21. Eric Gaines, 6-3, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) .... He's a Swiss Army knife-type player who is a do-everything on the perimeter and capable of filling whatever role the Hawks need this winter. Kent State recruit can handle and pass while having the length and athleticism to be a factor on the boards and defensively. He's still developing as a scorer and must improve his perimeter shot.
22. Anthony Shoemaker, 6-5, WF, Joliet .... A bouncy, wiry, athletic wing who can score in a variety of ways: tips, putbacks, slithering to the basket and, though inconsistent and a bit quirky, with his perimeter shot. His length, quickness and shot blocking allow to defend multiple positions.
23. Fabyon Harris, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hyde Park) .... Tiny but competitive and tough who is always putting pressure on both ends of the floor. He's tough to take the ball from or keeping him in check off the dribble. Throw in an improved jumper and he's the top unsigned guard in the class.
24. Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, PF, Wheaton (Academy) .... A hard-working, productive forward who is crafty, consistent and reliable. A solid pickup for William & Mary.
25. Chris Olivier, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy) .... A much-improved big man who has raised his stock considerably. Big bodied post who shows a nice touch and becoming a better finisher.
26. Walter Lemon, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Julian) .... He's about as explosive with the ball in the open court as you will find. An exciting talent who can get a bit out of control but can break down a defense with his drives to the basket and is a big-time finisher.
27. Patrick Miller, 5-10, PG, Chicago (De La Salle) .... You may not call him the "best" or the "biggest," but he is awfully valuable and is always in attack mode. He can get into the lane and get you in foul trouble with his great strength. Could his shooting accuracy improve? Absolutely. But that doesn't diminish his significant contributions.
28. Jay Harris, 6-0, PG/2G, Oswego (East) .... Shifty with the basketball and a nice scoring touch. He's slender and isn't an overwhelming athlete, but he's a smooth scorer who specializes in knocking down shots.
29. Sean McGonagill, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield .... A pure point guard who is more interested in setting up his teammates than chucking shots. While he's a coach on the floor, he's also blessed with great shooting ability. He doesn't just find ways to win -- he creates them. A steal for Ivy League Brown.
30. Tommy Woolridge, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Foreman) .... Often overshadowed by highly-regarded teammates Mike McCall and Lavonte Dority, anyone who has seen Woolridge at his best knows his capabilities. Eastern Illinois signee will put points on the board in bunches and defend to death when asked to.
31. Jarod Oldham, 6-3, 2G, Decatur (Eisenhower) .... Wiry 2-guard who provides some size and length on the perimeter. Still battling a streaky shot and inconsistency but shows flashes.
32. Isaac Smith, III, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Leo) .... With James Pointer gone, the backcourt -- and the Lions, for that matter -- belongs to Smith. While capable of knocking down perimeter shots, he's quick and athletic enough to score off penetration. Eastern Illinois slid in and nabbed Smith before big senior year.
33. Alex Brown, 6-8, PF, Herrin .... Raw is the word but is already a defensive presence with his shot blocking ability, length and quickness off the floor. Still needs to physically mature and make strides offensively.
34. Jeff Johnson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial) .... Visions of Bill Laimbeer roaming the perimeter and knocking down shots come to mind. Johnson brings a similar role with his size and touch. He's not afraid to go down on the block, but he's still a work in progress in the post.
35. Hollis Hill, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Vocational) .... Excellent one-on-one player with the ability to shoot the basketball with range and score. Isn't a natural at setting the table and running the show but shows the capability to improve in that area.
36. Dave Dudzinski, 6-8, PF, Maple Park (Kaneland) .... He's a multi-skilled, coordinated face-up 4-man with some size and length and who runs the floor well. The Holy Cross recruit will knock down jumpers and has a nice nose for the ball.
37. Jermaine Winfield, 6-4, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) .... Highly undervalued, this Hoops Report favorite is absolutely relentless and does what is needed to win. His interior scoring and rebounding, along with an improved face-up game, will be key for a North Lawndale team that lost a lot of punch.
38. Vincent Garrett, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Marshall) .... Is there anyone more fun to watch finishing the break? Blessed with the body that opens eyes and the athleticism that dazzles. Now it's a matter of making strides in how to play the game and improving the skill level.
39. Paul Bunch, 6-10, C, Chicago (North Lawndale) .... Still big, still huge and still the ultimate project. Long arms and size will allow him to block shots and be a defensive presence. He's improved his offensive game. Still too mechanical, slow instincts and must be able to move better.
40. Will Triggs, 6-4, WF/PF, Edwardsville .... A player that worked hard to eliminate the 'tweener label. While he can still get plenty done around the basket as an undersized 4-man, he's evolved into a solid wing player. Signed with Austin Peay.
41. Jonathan Gac, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .... Ready to serve as the perfect complement to the tremendous Caravan perimeter attack. He's improving as a rebounder and finisher, while also expanding his offensive game. Will be a closely watched unsigned big man this winter.
42. Ben Brackney, 6-4, WF, Lincoln .... Bucknell-bound shooter will lead one of the top Class 3A teams in Illinois. Has nice size on the perimeter and the ability to spread the floor with his knockdown perimeter shooting.
43. Marvin Jordan, 5-10, PG, Peoria (Manual) .... His playmaking skills and defensive abilities are progressing quickly. And the future Ball State Cardinal can get where he needs to on the floor with his tight ballhandling and surprising strength.
44. Aaron Williams, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Vocational) .... Productive, winner, quality kid with a nice frame and body. A bit of a 'tweener but has the ability to play a little out on the perimeter while being a factor around the basket and on the boards.
45. Wayne Simon, 5-10, PG/2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... Has a crafty, old school feel to his game with a mid-range jumper he can knock down consistently. Though slightly built he finds ways to get to the basket.
46. Fred Heldring, 6-10, PF, Winnetka (New Trier) .... Big body with the ability to run the floor and step out and knock down the 12-15 foot jumper. Still needs to battle and bring it more consistently. Signed with William & Mary.
47. Lee Skinner, 6-6, PF, Lombard (Glenbard East) .... Rapidly rising unknown who gets better and better. He's added strength and is finishing better and through contact. Long, active, consistently knocking down 15-foot jumper and can really run the floor.
48. Mario Redmond, 6-6, PF/WF, Crete-Monee .... Certainly passes the look test with the body, athleticism, length and -- did we way athleticism? Western Illinois signed a big finisher on the break who could develop into a versatile defender. Still looking for more consistent production heading into his senior year.
49. Mike Gabriel, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) .... He brings a toughness to the interior and makes an impact in the paint with his body, strength and hard-nosed ways.
50. Marin Kukoc, 6-6, WF, Highland Park .... There aren't many players that have improved more in the last 18 months than the son of Toni Kukoc? He matured both physically and mentally, and he's now capable of playing both inside and outside. A breakout year ahead?
51. D.J. Bennett, 6-8, PF, Orland Park (Sandburg) .... Arguably the most intriguing prospect in the class. A physical specimen with little experience, size, length and just-don't-do-those-type-of-things-at-that-size athleticism. Yes, he's still raw. But the potential is alarming.
52. Lawrence Alexander, 6-2, PG/2G, Peoria (Manual) .... Combo guard who is flying under the radar. Has the ability to score, both in getting to the basket and with the jumper.
53. Kashaune McKinney, 6-3, 2G, Park Forest (Rich East) .... Still developing all-around game, but he brings some offensive abilities. With heavy graduation, McKinney becomes the guy for the Rockets.
54. Antoine Cox, 6-3, WF, Bolingbrook .... Athletic freak on the wing who has missed a lot of time with injuries. Still piecing things together as a player.
55. Austin Weber, 6-5, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) .... Another rapidly improving player in the senior class who can shoot the heck out of the basketball.

UNDERRATED FIVE OUTSIDE THE 55 ....
Sean Montgomery, 6-5, PF, Calumet City (T.F. North)
Brandon Snowden, 6-0, 2G, Oak Lawn (Richards)
Gerald Dorsey, 5-10, PG, Tinley Park
Jeff Dirkin, 6-7, PF, Oak Park
Victor Davis, 6-4, PF, Galesburg

To subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Season of change in prep coaching ranks

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By Joe Henricksen

Although there were few big-named coaching jobs open this offseason, there was perhaps as much turnover and movement in the high school coaching ranks as we've seen in quite some time. There were more than two dozen coaching changes in the Chicago area alone.

The biggest name that moved was Bob Williams, who built a power at Schaumburg and is now the head coach at a struggling Niles West program. Williams spent 18 years at Schaumburg. In the last 16 years his teams averaged 20 wins a season, won nine regional titles and went to the Elite Eight in Peoria three times, winning a state title in 2001.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at many of the coaching changes throughout the Chicago area.

LOYOLA ACADEMY
Previous Coach: Bryan Tucker
New Coach: Tom Livatino
Comment: Livatino steps in after having success at Lincoln Park, where he never won fewer than 18 games and went 100-41 in five years. There is young talent within the program, including talented freshman David McCoy. The potential is there to have a private school power on the North Shore.

LINCOLN PARK
Previous Coach: Tom Livatino
New Coach: Brian Murphy
Comment: The transition should be minimal as they kept it within the program in hiring Murphy, an assistant in the program under Livatino. The cupboard is not bare, with the return of big man Mike Gabriel and perimeter players Greg Tucker, Demarko Nash, Aric Dickerson and junior Rashad Wahab.

BARRINGTON
Previous Coach: Marty Dello
New Coach: Bryan Tucker
Comments: After 10-plus years as a head coach at private schools (Loyola Academy and Marian Catholic), Tucker moves to the Mid-Suburban League and public schools at Barrington. The Bronco program, which has struggled the last three years, would love the success Tucker had at Loyola.

ST. RITA
Previous Coach: Rob Sarmiento
New Coach: Gary DeCesare
Comment: Although it's a football and baseball school, DeCesare brings some impressive credentials in helping build the basketball program at the Southwest Side school. Some feel it could be a sleeping giant. DeCesare, who was most recently an assistant coach at DePaul, was one of the most successful high school coaches in the country in his 16 years at St. Raymond's Catholic in the Bronx. He compiled a 282-141 record and produced 35 Division I players.

ST. LAURENCE
Previous Coach: Tom Pallardy
New Coach: Mark Sevedge
Comment: Sevedge takes over a program that Pallardy has run for the last 16 years, which included a 26-win, sectional title season in 2003. Sevedge has been the sophomore coach at St. Laurence for the last five years.

MAINE EAST
Previous Coach: Glenn Olson
New Coach: Huey Crawford
Comment: This program has been hit hard. In addition to losing its head coach, Glenn Olson, the program lost two very valuable players this offseason as well. Senior Charles McKinney headed to a prep school and 6-6 junior Abdul Nader transferred to Niles North.

NILES WEST
Previous Coach: Fritz Wulfram
New Coach: Bob Williams
Comment: Williams brings instant credibility for a program that has won just 25 games in the last four seasons. In the short term Williams will surely make Niles West more competitive; in the long term don't underestimate what one of the top coaches in the state can get done.

SCHAUMBURG
Previous Coach: Bob Williams
New Coach: Matthew Walsh
Comment: A longtime assistant coach at Conant, where he compiled an 82-14 record on the sophomore level over the last four years, Walsh takes over a program that Williams built into a Chicago area power with three trips to Peoria and state title in 2001.

NILES NORTH
Previous Coach: Bill Pistorius
New Coach: Glenn Olson
Comment: Olson helped revive a downtrodden Maine East program that had not won anything in years, capturing a regional title in 2008 and winning 19 games a year ago.. While the history has been rough at Niles North with only one regional championship and several single-digit win totals, those in the area truly believe this program can be a winner and is an underrated job.

NAPERVILLE NORTH
Previous Coach: Mark Lindo
New Coach: Jeff Powers
Comment: Longtime coach Mark Lindo steps down after 18 years and eight regional and two sectional championships. Enter Jeff Powers, who assisted Al Biancalana at York last year after 11 years as head coach at Timothy Christian, where he went 201-110. The Huskies return a ton of size and experience.

JULIAN
Previous Coach: D'Arcy Stanfield
New Coach: Loren Jackson
Comment: Is there any doubt this program will have an influx of talent coming sooner than later? Look for Julian to be a player before long with Jackson back at the school where he once coached. Jackson, who was at Fenger last season, produced some elite talent, including former Julian stars Sean Dockery, Brandon Ewing and Mac Koshwal.

LARKIN
Previous Coach: Larry Hight
New Coach: Deryn Carter
Comment: Hiring the young Carter (29 years old) may be just what the doctor ordered in getting someone with roots to the school and program after having heavy turnover in recent years. Carter, who was a Division II assistant coach for eight years, graduated from Larkin in 1998 and is the school's fourth all-time leading scorer. The program has had its dips, including a 9-45 mark the last two seasons, but has had success. Coach Dom Cannata won back-to-back sectional titles in the early 1990s and the Larkin won another sectional title in 2005.

JOLIET CATHOLIC
Previous Coach: Mike O'Toole
New Coach: Jeremy Izzo
Comment: Since coach Mike Gillespie enjoyed success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the football powerhouse has never been able to get it going on the hardwood. JCA hopes Izzo can bring some stability. He's young (28) but learned a thing or two while at the University of Illinois, where he was a student manager for both Lon Kruger and Bill Self and student manager/graduate assistant for Bruce Weber. He does have a player to build around in junior shooter Wes Koral.

LAKE PARK
Previous Coach: Cray Allen
New Coach: Josh Virostko
Comment: The program has hit some hard times since coach Dan Batka enjoyed success earlier this decade, particularly last season. Allen resigned during the season, interim coach Tom Bergen took over and the team finished 5-23. Although just 31 years old, Virostko has plenty of head coaching experience at Plainfield Central (2 years) and Paris (4 years).

DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH
Previous Coach: Paul Runyon
New Coach: Jay Baum
Comment: Runyon enjoyed success at DGS, which included a three-year run from 2003-2005 with 81 wins, three sectional titles and two trips to the Elite Eight in Peoria. The program stayed within and hired Baum, a fixture within the Mustang basketball program. Baum has coached DGS basketball in some capacity for 23 years.

PLAINFIELD CENTRAL
Previous Coach: Josh Virostko
New Coach: Steve Lamberti
Comment: After just two years Virostko left for Lake Park. The first-year coach inherits arguably the most talented team in the league, with 6-6 Winston Williams and 6-2 junior Derrick Marks.

WEST CHICAGO
Previous Coach: Kevin Gimre
New Coach: Kevin Baldus
Comment: After a 22-win regional championship season in 2005, West Chicago has struggled mightily. The program has suffered through a 17-90 record over the last three seasons. Baldus, a 1993 West Chicago graduate, has his first head coaching job after coaching at every other level in stints at both Glenbard West and Willowbrook.

HINSDALE CENTRAL
Previous Coach: Ed Lynch
New Coach: Lee Maciejewski
Comment: Lynch handled things well during some turbulent times at the school, going 62-47 and winning two regional titles in four years. While Lynch will remain in the program as a lower level coach, the Red Devils will turn to the veteran Maciejewski, who has had lengthy head coaching stints at both Glenbard West and West Chicago.

LEMONT
Previous Coach: Rob Wostratzky
New Coach: Rick Runaas
Comment: Lemont turns to a veteran coach who has had some success. Runaas compiled a 64-43 record at T.F. North from 1998-2002, including the school's first regional championship since 1946.

ST. FRANCIS DE DALES
Previous Coach: Jeff Haynes
New Coach: Deon Tolliver
Comment: Has it really been that long since this program won big under coach Mike Kaczmarz in the 1980s and coach Larry Moore in the 1990s? A tough job in a tough league for Tolliver, who takes over a program that hasn't had much success since 2000.

PAYTON
Previous Coach: Charles Demas
New Coach: Larry Faines
Comment: A third coach in three years is not exactly the way to build a program in the Public League, especially one that many coaches feel is a program with real potential in the city.

WAUCONDA
Previous Coach: Rich Wolf
New Coach: Scott Luetschwager
Comment: The 29-year-old Luetschwager takes over after Wolf led the program for the last nine years. If anything Wauconda, which finished 3-25 last season, has the tallest coach in the state in the 6-10 Luetschwager, who coached the sophomore team last year.

DUNBAR
Previous Coach: Brandon Moody
New Coach: George Montgomery
Comment: The program at 31st and King Drive on Chicago's South Side may get a wake-up call with new coach George Montgomery. The father of current NBA player JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards and a former player at the University of Illinois in the 1980s, brings a name, face and presence to the Mightymen program not seen since coach Fate Mickel was on the Dunbar bench.

KANELAND
Previous Coach: Dennis Hansen
New Coach: Brian Johnson
Comment: Johnson, who was an assistant under West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman and previously worked at Dundee-Crown, takes over a program that features a Division I recruit in 6-9 Dave Dudzinski.

AURORA CHRISTIAN
Previous Coach: Marc Davidson
New Coach: Steve Hanson
Comment: Unbelievably, lost an Aurora Christian icon in Davidson due to some funding/seniority issues at the school.

BURLINGTON CENTRAL
Previous Coach: Chris Payne
New Coach: Brett Porto
Comment: BC lost a good one in Payne. Porto, meanwhile, is the youngest coach in the state. He graduated from college in 2008 and is just 23 years old.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out this week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

New Faces, Sleepers Ready to Rise

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By Joe Henricksen

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report is in the mail this week, with profiles on teams, conferences, current issues and rankings in the preseason issue. Here is a sneak peak at a few programs that are rather new to the ranked scene and a few programs that are just fine with the sleeper label.

NEW FACES
These programs are all ready to rise this winter and offer a new, fresh look to the Chicagoland area's top 25.

• Mundelein
The Mustangs haven't finished among the top three in the North Suburban Lake since the 2000-2001 season. That includes four-win and six-wins seasons in the middle half of this decade. Now every coach in the North Suburban Lake that was surveyed had Mundelein at the top. And why not? Iowa-bound guard Ben Brust is an elite player who has the ability to carry a team, while 6-7 junior Ryan Sawvell is a monster. Throw in junior guard Leavon Head and hotshot freshman Robert Knar and it's easy to see why coach Dick Knar's club is making its first appearance in the Hoops Report's Top 25.

• Riverside-Brookfield
Remember, a year ago this team won 24 games and beat Oswego, the eventual Class 3A state runner-up. Now fresh off a summer in which they beat nearly everyone they faced and returning its nucleus, the Bulldogs look ready to make a deep run in 3A. The trio of Brown recruit Sean McGonagill, talented junior Ryan Jackson and guard Billy VanderMerkt should lead R-B to its first regional crown since 2002.

• Glenbard East
Another team that really opened eyes with its play this summer after winning 20 games last season. The Rams were picked by each DuPage Valley coach as the preseason favorite and should be as good -- or better -- than the 25-3 team from 2006-2007. Senior Lee Skinner is back and has the potential to be the DVC Player of the Year. And the junior tandem of point guard Zach Miller and 6-2 Jonny Hill are a year older and better.

• Orr
Orr? Really? Time will tell if this team is still a little too young to be a serious threat to other Red-West powers like Whitney Young, Marshall and North Lawndale. However, Curtis "C.J." Jones is special. The 6-0 sophomore can score in bunches and won't be afraid of the bright lights. And this could be junior Mycheal Henry's coming-out party. "He will be the difference," says Orr coach Lou Adams of Henry's development. Throw in talented junior guard Santino Siggers and transfer Malik Logan and the school on the corner of Pulaski and Chicago is set to make a name for itself.

• Maine South
The football power is ready to make a name for itself in the gym. Experience goes a long way and coach Tony Lavorato, Jr. has plenty of it. The Hawks return four players who are entering their third varsity season, including a pair of All-CSL South players in 6-7 Kevin Schlitter and P.J. Killean. Everyone returns from a team that won 17 games, finished second in the rugged Central Suburban League South last year and was picked by coaches to finish second again behind powerful Waukegan. The experience and confidence gained from last season will do wonders this coming winter. This team expects to be good.

Note: Unfortunate news this week in that Maine South's top player, 6-7 Kevin Schlitter, suffered a torn ACL and will be lost for the season.

SLEEPERS
• Bolingbrook
The Raiders lost a lot from last year's regional championship team, including a pair of Division I talents in Diamond Taylor and Troy Snyder. However, Wisconsin commit Devon Hodges, a 6-7 transfer from Romeoville, is cleared to play and will provide an immediate presence inside. Ryan Walker returns at the point and Antoine Cox and Delorean Weatherall on the wing could evolve into an athletic, exciting and dangerous tandem. Plus, keep an eye on up-and-coming 6-5 sophomore Nick Molonga, who will provide depth.

• RICHARDS
A regular in the Hoops Report Top 25 over the last few seasons with 100 victories in the last four years, the Bulldogs this year become a sleeper. Coach John Chappetto's program has become accustomed to success and it should continue with the trio of Brandon Snowden, Adonis Bailey and sophomore Dean Danos.

• YORK
Al Biancalana can coach. If he can take middling talent and form it into a team that wins 15 games and a regional title like he did a year ago, it should be fun to see what he can do with a group that has solid, veteran guard play, can shoot and includes a rising talent in junior Will Sullivan. In addition to Sullivan, the Dukes have a three-year varsity point guard in Kevin Kahovec and senior shooter Evan Fendley. If this team can overcome its lack of size and rebound it will be in the thick of the West Suburban Silver race with Lyons Twp. and Oak Park.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out this week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Signing Day Replay

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By Joe Henricksen

You just wanna believe. You want to think your school, your basketball program got the job done. You want to look back in four years and see that this day did make a difference. This is the time, after all, when there is reason for optimism with new recruits coming on board in 12 months.

There wasn't a whole lot of drama leading up to the signing period. The state's best player has been committed for three years. And there weren't an abundance of mouth-watering high-major guys in the class. We may have a little more dialogue four months from now after the season plays out. Remember last March when everyone was wondering how Ohio snuck in and nabbed talented guard James Kinney of state champion Champaign Centennial and how fortunate Fairfield was for locking up Waukegan star guard Colin Nickerson when they did? Who will those guys be this year?

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the early signing period as it relates to Illinois prep prospects.

BEST RECRUITING HAUL
A no-brainer here with Illinois locking up arguably the top three prospects in the state in Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, Robinson's Meyers Leonard and Rich South's Crandall Head. That makes it two years in a row coach Bruce Weber -- you know, the guy that can't recruit -- has nabbed the top two prospects in the state (we're counting D.J. Richardson as an Illinois product), which the Illini have not been able to do in recent years. And this year's top two are top 50 national talents. Richmond and Leonard certainly possess the ability to be difference-makers at the college level. Yes, those are Illini fans pinching themselves after watching the Eric Gordon saga and Derrick Rose fiasco just three years ago.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Wow, did it take some high-majors awhile to get on board. But finally Duje Dukan, the 6-8 skilled shooting wing from Deerfield, received some love. Arizona State and Wisconsin came in hard and offered, while both Virginia and Florida inquired late in the process. But to Dukan's credit, he picked the perfect fit for him at the high-major level. No, there is no truth to me taking Dukan with the first pick in the IHSA fantasy basketball draft!

NEW PLAYERS IN ILLINOIS
The in-state Missouri Valley schools have had to battle one another for prospects at the mid-major level throughout the state of Illinois. Now Saint Louis and coach Rick Majerus are in the mix. Saint Louis landed both Mike McCall of Foreman and Dwayne Evans of Neuqua Valley, a pair of top 15 players in the Class of 2010.

And Drake, with Illinois native and assistant coach Kareem Richardson leading the charge, was heavily involved with Illinois prospects throughout the process. Drake signed both Rayvonte Rice of Champaign Centennial and Karl Madison of Springfield Lanphier, while also being deeply involved with DeKalb big man Jordan Threloff and Neuqua Valley's Dwayne Evans to the very end.

BIGGEST HIGH-MAJOR STEAL
While Robinson big man Meyers Leonard is now a hot name nationally and even ranked among the top 50 in the country by some, it's an absolutely huge recruiting coup for Illinois. Big men are at such a premium and so difficult to find, especially legitimate big men with talent, skill and the physical package he possesses. Having been a relative late bloomer and hiding in downstate Robinson, people around the state don't realize what a huge upside this 7-footer has. He's long, athletic, skilled and has an edge to him. He has the potential to be scary good.

BIGGEST SMALL SCHOOL STEAL
When it comes to the level of the school and the caliber of player, Brown (yes, I said Brown out of the Ivy League) may have the best recruiting steal out of Illinois with Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill. A top 30 senior in Illinois in the most recent Hoops Report rankings, he was vastly overlooked by local programs in Illinois and the Midwest. What more did this kid have to do? He's just good. The keys will be handed over to the 6-1 point guard from day one and he has all the makings of an All-Ivy League player in the future. And someday with the Brown degree he will be the smart one. (For more information on joining the Sean McGonagill Fan Club, send inquiries to P.O. Box 1028, Oswego, IL 60543)

BIGGEST SMALL SCHOOL STEAL: Part II
Again, quality big men are so hard to find. And for Holy Cross to come from Worcester, Massachusetts and nab a player with the potential of Dave Dudzinski of Kaneland is pretty impressive. The Hoops Report has loved his development -- he continues to get better and better -- while still maintaining the upside you covet in a 6-9 player with skills and coordination.

BIGGEST SMALL SCHOOL STEAL: Part III
Gotta throw Pat Miller of Hales Franciscan in here. Yes, he's on the small side but Tennessee State closed it out before he shined this winter.

UNDER-THE-RADAR RECRUITING JOB
There may not be a "wow" factor with the Eastern Illinois recruiting class among fans, but coach Mike Miller and his staff were able to get into the city and add defense, toughness and athleticism on the wing as they continue to upgrade the talent in Charleston. Foreman's Tommy Woolridge and Leo's Isaac Smith, III are both undervalued a bit. I'm not sure people realize all these two bring to the table. Lost in the shuffle this fall as everyone watched and waited for the talented Foreman tandem of Lavonte Dority and Mike McCall to make their decision was coach Terry Head's third talented guard -- Tommy Woolridge.

BEST UNSIGNED PLAYER
The highly athletic and entertaining Reggie Smith of Thornton is still in the recruiting process. The No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report Class of 2010 player rankings continues to be heavily linked to both USC and Marquette. USC coach Kevin O'Neill, though, has already signed a terrific five-man class that includes several perimeter players. But then again, defections following Tim Floyd's resignation left the program dry of talent. Those around the Smith camp insist Southern Illinois will be a player until the end.

BEST UNSIGNED PLAYER: Part II
Phillip Jackson of Hyde Park will still be a coveted man no matter what lies ahead of him. The 6-8 long but still raw big man will play it out until the end and will remain in high demand. Jackson and Smith are the lone uncommitted prospects in the Hoops Report's top 15 players.

BIGGEST PROJECTED BUST
You didn't really think I was going to divulge that, did you?

FLASHBACK
How about this? The Hoops Report looks back at the Class of 2010's top 10 in the winter of their sophomore year -- 2 1/2 years ago. The top didn't change a lot, but the rest? Yikes can things change .... 1. Jereme Richmond, 2. Crandall Head, 3. Lenzelle Smith, 4. Anthony Johnson, 5. Alex Rossi, 6. Mike McCall, 7. Lavonte Dority, 8. Paul Punch, 9. DeAndre McCamey, 10. Ben Brust

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out next week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Better late than never for Deerfield's Dukan

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By Joe Henricksen

Yes, it took some time to get the high-major coaches on board. In the end, though, that's where Deerfield's Duje Dukan, one of the top five ranked players in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings, is headed. The skilled 6-8 dead-eye shooter committed to Wisconsin and found the ideal fit at the Big Ten school.

"It certainly got a little frustrating," says Dukan of the mild high-major interest early on. "There really is nothing you can do about it, though, except work hard and go out and play your best. Thankfully there were some people who helped get my name out there and now I think I found the best fit possible."

As is the case sometimes, the City/Suburban Hoops Report does become a billboard for certain players. Typically it's those players that are vastly overlooked or being under-recruited that receive the gratuitous plug. That was the case with Dukan throughout the summer. Shouting from a mountain top, the Hoops Report called Dukan "the single most overlooked player in the class" and a "high-major player" to anyone who would listen and "in the right system could absolutely flourish." That all materialized for a kid who is just now beginning to evolve into the player he eventually will be. The key for Dukan was finding the right fit and system.

"I love the swing and I think it plays to my advantages as a player and showcases my strengths," says Dukan of the style Wisconsin plays. "Plus, I felt so comfortable with coach Ryan and the staff, and it's big to be able to play close to home where my family can see me play."

Now it's about being happy for the kid, who put in the time and made bigger strides in the last 12 months than any player in the Class of 2010. Dukan progressed nicely this offseason with Steve Pratt's Chicago Elite and was given responsibilities and was showcased in a variety of ways. Now he's committed to Wisconsin and is poised for a huge year for Deerfield.

While mid-majors coveted the skilled 6-8 wing, the high-majors remained hesitant. Coaches can question his foot speed and quickness all they want, but he clearly had a high-major skill: shooting the basketball. He is one of the best -- if not the best -- shooter in the state of Illinois. He can catch-and-shoot, shoot coming off screens or shoot off the dribble. And with his combination of size, length and release point, he's able to get shots off when he wants and with range. What people have missed, however, is just how skilled he is as he's an above-average ballhandler and passer with the ability to play multiple positions.

Dukan, who has great bloodlines as he's the son of former 14-year European professional star and current Chicago Bulls Supervisor of European Scouting Ivica Dukan, is starting to get stronger and, ultimately, will be able to use his size and post up a little.

While it's sometimes a cliché, Dukan has found the perfect fit in Wisconsin's swing offense, where it encourages guards to post up and forwards to shoot from the outside as players go to assigned spots but react to the defense. The offense needs players with patience, discipline, some size and efficient shooters, which Dukan offers. A lot of credit goes to Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore who was the front man in the Dukan recruiting.

Eastern Illinois locks up another one

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By Joe Henricksen

Since Eastern Illinois head coach Mike Miller took over the program, he and his staff have hit the Chicago area hard. The Panther staff snatched one up from the south suburbs last year in Richards star Shaun Pratl, tapped into the Chicago Public League with a commitment from Tommy Woolridge of Foreman earlier this fall and now have a commitment from Chicago Catholic League star Issac Smith, III of Leo.

The Hoops Report has felt all along that Smith, who did have a bit of an up and down summer, was a player that was flying under the radar. The 6-1 guard is poised for a breakout year as he becomes the center piece for coach Noah Cannon at Leo this winter. Smith played a smaller role last year for Leo, while James Pointer dominated the basketball. But Smith, who is among the top 30 prospects in the Class of 2010 in the Hoops Report player rankings, evolved into an athletic, lockdown defender who brought toughness to the floor each time out. While he still needs to get more consistent with his shot, he's a pretty versatile offensive player who is best at getting to the rim off the dribble but also capable of knocking down perimeter shots.

The combination of Smith, who played for Steve Pratt and Full Package during the summer circuit, and Woolridge will certainly upgrade the perimeter athleticism and toughness to the Eastern Illinois roster.

Much deserved Tip of the Hat to Bruce Weber

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By Joe Henricksen

This is typically the time of year to celebrate the high school senior who signs the letter-of-intent or glamorize the recruiting class hauled in by a particular college basketball program. Today, it's time to salute Illinois coach Bruce Weber.

I remember a conversation I had with a respected Division I basketball coach over two years ago who was willing to bet me that Jereme Richmond would never sign with Illinois. And there were other doubters out there, including many in the media. Even the fans were skeptical (and some worse than skeptical) following the Eric Gordon saga, Derrick Rose fiasco and a couple of other recruiting misses, including the gut-wrenching loss of Evan Turner to Ohio State. A good friend of mine, a diehard Illini fan and Illinois graduate, told me he wouldn't bother getting excited until signing day. Even I had a timetable in place where Illinois had to have certain recruits in place by a certain time before things could have gotten ugly. Ironically, that timetable was the fall of 2007 and the dominoes started to fall (and they haven't stopped) with the commitments of D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul joining the already committed Jereme Richmond.

Now, after back-to-back terrific recruiting classes, it's time to get excited. And time to credit the man in charge.

The highly-regarded Richmond will sign this week with Illinois. While Tracy Webster, the former Illinois assistant coach, should get plenty of credit for helping secure the commitment three years ago, and current assistant Jerrance Howard should be applauded for helping keep Richmond committed, the bottom line is Weber has maintained his and the program's integrity, done things the right way, changed a few philosophies up and has hit it big.

In addition to Richmond, Weber found Robinson big man Meyers Leonard early on and locked up a player virtually few people in the business knew about before he became what he is today -- a top 50 player nationally with tremendous upside. Rich South's Crandall Head will also sign with Illinois. Though his star has faded somewhat, he's still an intriguing prospect with limitless physical abilities. And this class comes on the heels of last year's class of Richardson, Paul, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand.

There was certainly a point where there was some deserved pessimism by those who follow Illinois closely. No, they didn't truly capitalize as much they should have following the magical Final Four run during the 2004-2005 season. But that is now so Jon and Kate Gosselin -- old and done with. The program is on solid ground with a very bright future.

And much-deserved credit needs to go to Weber, who doesn't always get it -- mostly because he doesn't appear to be as hip or savvy as some others in the business. He's a blue-collar workhorse. While he lets his assistants do their jobs, he also has enough CEO in him to keep a pulse on things throughout the program.

The guy has won over 72 percent of his games at Illinois, with a Final Four appearance, two Big Ten titles and two runner-up finishes in his six years. He owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in Big Ten history who has coached at least six years in the conference. Plus, one of his great underrated abilities that often goes unnoticed is his knack for developing players, making them better and preparing them. By and large, the players that come into Illinois are taught and clearly get better during their careers. That can often get lost in the recruiting battles and conversations.

But the doubt surrounding him was always centered on his recruiting efforts and potential, with the perception being he just doesn't have the natural ability to recruit. But those on the outside are missing something.

"He is so honest and genuine," says Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard of his boss. "He doesn't play games. The players and their families appreciate that. When he sits down in front of those kids and their parents, they see his sincerity. He's a man of his word."

And he works at it. Hard.

First, there may not be a high-major Division I head coach who puts in more time and effort into recruiting than Weber. No high-major head coach, at least here in the Midwest, is out and about more than Weber. He sees players, even cross-checking prospects much like a Major League Baseball scout would. While a few other high-major coaches are flying private jets and have personal drivers during the July evaluation period, Weber is taking red-eye commercial flights and punching in to the GPS in the rental car.

I remember the last day in Las Vegas in July. Most everyone had fled, especially the head coaches, by that point. But in a 14-and-under tournament game, involving prized Class of 2013 prospects Jabari Parker and Tommy Hamilton, there were only three coaches in the entire gym -- a couple of assistants and Bruce Weber, the only head coach in the building.

It's not as if Weber is this young pup, fresh and eager and just getting into the recruiting rat race. He's going on three decades of what really is the grunt work of a college coach -- evaluating and recruiting. Believe it or not, there truly are some coaches who don't put the time into it and generally have a distaste for it. But Weber is just a blue collar coach when it comes to recruiting.

Now he has built recruiting momentum. He has a pair of impressive back-to-back classes in the fold, plus Class of 2011 star Tracy Abrams of Mt. Carmel, the Hoops Report's No. 2 prospect in the class, and 6-9 Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius already committed. He's now knocking on the door with one of the nation's best players in the Class of 2011, Bradley Beal out of St. Louis. Where just two or three years ago when a top player was mentioned with Illinois it was an afterthought. Now there is a belief that, yes, they just might land him.

Kudos, Bruce Weber. Enjoy the week.

No myth about it, Adonis can play

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By Joe Henricksen

Adonis is a complex figure of Greek mythology. This fall Adonis Bailey of Richards began as a myth, almost a tale with no proven factual basis. But there is no fiction or half-truth about Bailey's talents.

It's not very often a player makes a name for himself in a high school fall league, but that's exactly what the unheralded Bailey has done throughout the South Suburban Fall League the last couple of months. Although there are a few more well known and bigger names, Bailey has been the eye-opener and arguably the best player in the league. He's averaged over 21 points a game and nearly five assists in seven weeks of fall league play.

The 6-3 Bailey isn't a relative unknown. He's completely unknown. He began high school attending Shepard as a freshman and sophomore. While he did play lower-level basketball there, an injury cut short his sophomore season. He transferred to Richards and sat out his junior year due to eligibility issues. And he didn't play AAU ball in the spring or summer. He's now poised for a breakout year for coach John Chappetto and the Bulldogs this winter after word began to spread this fall of his vast potential and talent.

Maybe it's because he hasn't played varsity basketball, missed out on the AAU scene or simply hasn't played the game much, but what jumps out at you when watching Bailey, aside from his physical abilities, is the high energy and relentlessness he plays with. He's full throttle and would absolutely thrive in an up-tempo, ball-trapping, get-up-and-down full-court style.

Chappetto, who led his program to a state championship in 2008, sees the same from Bailey.

"It appears to me when I watch Adonis play that he is trying to make up for all the lost time in each and every single game he is playing," says Chappetto. "He plays with a desire to be the best player on the floor. As a player he wills himself to run faster, jump higher, and play without fear. He is an incredible athlete who plays the game with an energy I haven't seen before."

While he's still learning exactly how to play defense, he still manages to get his hands on so many balls with his quickness and length. His quick leaping ability and energy translates to being a terrific offensive rebounder, particularly on his own misses, as he's always around the rim.

Offensively his shot is far from pure and his mechanics and release point need a little work, but he is capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter. But he's an absolute force in the open court, on the wing off the dribble and getting to the basket. He's a decent ballhandler who is an excellent finisher as his athleticism allows him to finish at the rim with ease. While still very much a work in progress, he's far from raw and is filled with untapped potential. With a little individual desire, work ethic and two years at a junior college program, Bailey, who has shot up the rankings this fall and is now among the Hoops Report's top 25 prospects in the Class of 2010, can be as good as he wants to be. He's no myth.

Harris comes up big
Oswego East's Jay Harris has been solid in the South Suburban Fall League and was a difference-maker in his team's semifinal win in the league playoffs. At certain times Harris can look effortless on the offensive end and be a real force with his perimeter shooting ability. The 6-0 combo guard was lights out in his team's semifinal win with a game-high 27 points. He also came up big at the end. With his team down by one point, Harris knocked down two game-winning free throws in the closing seconds. Harris, who had an up-and-down summer with Old School on the club traveling circuit, is a solid low-Division I prospect at this point.

South Suburban Fall League Observations
A junior who has opened eyes this fall is Tevin Harris of Providence St. Mel. The 6-4 undersized 4-man possesses great athleticism and a terrific body and frame for a player his age. He has a ways to go in terms of skills and knowing how to play, but he is a physical and athletic specimen... A couple of other juniors who have played well in the South Suburban Fall League are 6-2 Wes Koral of Joliet Catholic and 6-3 Demetrius Mobley of Immaculate Conception. Koral, who put together a nice season a year ago as a sophomore, can really shoot the basketball. While he's not real fluid he does have a nice feel for the game. Mobley is a versatile threat on the wing with some scoring ability.... Evergreen Park's Darius Welch, a 6-1 senior guard with some length, can look impressive and should be one of the better players this winter in the South Suburban Red.... While Argo figures to challenge for the top spot in the South Suburban Red, the trio of Bailey, underappreciated 6-0 senior Brandon Snowden and sophomore shooter Dean Danos keeps Richards as the team to beat until further notice. Snowden, who did just about anything and everything for Richards last season, is a competitor and intangibles guy who has really made strides with his perimeter shot.... Marian Catholic's Dominic Jackson is a talented guard who would be an ideal fit at the Division III level or the junior college route. He has some room to grow as a shooter, but he can slash, get to the basket, has a mid-range game and plays hard.... Marist shooter Kyle Maggio, who hit a huge shot for his team down the stretch in semifinal action, is another nice Division III prospect.... The Hoops Report has been a fan of St. Rita guard Lane Barlow. He brings some strength and size to the point guard position and has improved his ability to knock down shots. He is a player first-year coach Gary DeCesare can lean on this season in Catholic League play.

Finally, a huge tip-of-the-cap goes out to Kevin Devitt, the organizer of the South Suburban Fall League. All fall long Devitt's South Suburban League has made it easy for those in attendance, whether it be college coaches, scouts or fans, to watch and evaluate the players and games in this extremely organized league. It would be wise for other spring and summer leagues and tournaments to take a page out of Devitt's book in terms of running and doing things the right way and the passion he brings to prep hoops.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, which is now beginning its 15th year of publication, is due out in two weeks. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709.

Underrated big man commits to Holy Cross

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By Joe Henricksen

Slowly but surely Kaneland big man Dave Dudzinski has opened the eyes of college coaches and moved up the City/Suburban Hoops Report's player rankings over the past two years. The fast-improving and often overlooked 6-9 face-up 4-man committed to Holy Cross late Monday night after several Division I schools picked up their interest in recent months.

Dudzinski, who is ranked among the top 35 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 player rankings, is an agile and mobile player for his size with the ability to get up and down the floor. While he's a bit thin and is still very much in the process of developing physically, he's coordinated and has become much more productive. He can spot up on the perimeter, trail on the break and knock down shots from beyond the arc. With additional weight gain and added strength he could become a terrific pick-and-pop threat as he continues to develop his back-to-the-basket skills.

In addition to Rusthoven and Dudzinski, a third Velocity big man, 6-9 Matt Hasse of Naperville North, will be signing in November. Hasse committed to Austin Peay early Monday.

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