By Joe Henricksen
Typically, the junior season of high school is when you see many players blossom, step up and pull away from their peers as the development of others plateaus. Already in the last six months we've seen Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear emerge from the pack a bit in terms of being the premier college prospect in the Class of 2011. And in December the Hoops Report watched unsung Mycheal Henry of Orr develop into the player the Hoops Report thought he could become.
There have been plenty of players who have jumped the player rankings while others have dropped. That will continue between now and when they sign with colleges next November. We are still talking about high school kids, teenagers who are still in the process of developing, both physically, mentally and with their skills. Here is another look at the Class of 2011 in regard to where they project as college prospects at the midway point of their junior season.
1. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) ... Has raised his game to another level with more consistency and production. His body is college ready with strength and athleticism, while his perimeter jumper is very much improved. There is certainly some fine tuning necessary, including improving a face-up game that lacks creativity, but he's an enormous talent who is a national type of recruit for Louisville.
2. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Of all the top prospects in the class he may be the furthest from reaching his ceiling -- partly due to being a late developer and partly due to having such a high ceiling. Long, agile, effortless athlete with versatility; think a young Stacey Augmon. As he matures and becomes a consistent offensive threat, look out.
3. Mycheal Henry, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Orr) ... Has the body, athleticism and is a player in the class that has made positive and considerable strides. He's in the mold right now, though, of getting things done around the basket or falling in love with his much-improved three-point shot. Still needs to put it on the deck better, create for himself and get to the basket more but was an absolute standout over the holidays. For player comparison sake: Rudy Gay-like. His recruiting will soon pick up steam. He has as much potential and upside as anyone in the class.
4. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... Many don't appreciate all that he brings to the table, including toughness, maturity and presence. His explosiveness at the guard spot is coveted, though he's been hobbled all year with a bum ankle. A scorer who is evolving into a point guard and distributor.
5. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island ... Calm, cool, collected combo guard who has matured and grown as a player and with his versatility. Players love playing with him as he's unselfish and team-first type. Won't wow you in any one area, but he's awfully good in a lot of different areas and is probably best off the ball.
6. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) ... An extremely quick, explosive player with a cockiness and confidence necessary to play at a high level. He's blessed with a big-time scoring burst and just has a natural feel for the game that constantly puts pressure on opponents. Lacks ideal weight and strength but is so difficult to defend and stay in front of. If he can stay composed, play within himself and control his emotions, the sky is the limit.
7. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) ... A rough go of it in the high school season with teams focusing on him and not having the type of guard play needed to be able to fully utilize him. Still very much a work in progress, particularly offensively. But just gets better and better with his face-up jumper and jump-hook.
8. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... Maybe the most scrutinized player in the class. Great body, runs the floor well for his size and solid character kid. He will stick his nose in it on the boards but is still looking to make that next jump as a player. Could be former Missouri player DeMarre Carroll-type player at the next level.
9. James Siakam, 6-6, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... Out for the season with a six fractures in his face. He may lack the size, the polish and a go-to move, but this undersized 4-man plays bigger than his size with long arms and eye-popping hops. Love the thought of him adding 15-20 pounds to an already solid frame. Plays with passion and is comfortable banging, hustling and utilizing his strength and athleticism.
10. Bruce Baron, 6-2, PG/2G, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... Stock is rising for this power-packed combo guard who is still streaky with his shot but who takes contact and uses body well. He's tough and has an edge. Good strength that allows him to get where he needs to. Is he a natural distributor and playmaker?
11. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) ... Will knock down shots. Has good vision and feel. Solid basketball I.Q. who understands the game. He does lack ideal size and is not a top-level athlete, but he is simply a rock solid player. For comparison sake, Marshall has some Eric Maynor in him if anyone remembers the former VCU point guard.
12. Abdel Nader, 6-6, WF/PF, Skokie (Niles North) ... Ridiculously long athletic combo forward who is still in the process of figuring it all out. Runs the floor well, active and is becoming more productive (24 and 31 points in pair of holiday tournament games) but still too inconsistent and needs to establish an on-court presence.
13. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... An extremely skilled and versatile wing with a nice physical package. He can do a little of everything -- pass a little, handle it and knock down a shot -- but what does he hang his hat on? A bit heavy legged which limits his first step, his overall athleticism and lateral quickness defensively.
14. Phillip Greene, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Julian) ... Yes, he can be a little wild and erratic offensively, but he's extremely quick off the dribble, plays at full throttle and can put points on the board in bunches with a three, getting to the basket or mid-range game. Slight frame gives defenders the advantage of bodying him and taking away his driving lanes.
15. Macari Brooks, 6-1, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South) ... Will play with some heart, enthusiasm and will win you a dunk contest. An off-the-charts athlete who is evolving into a basketball player, but he still has to make considerable strides in the skills areas.
16. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) ... Impressive physical tools, with a combination of size, length and athleticism. Talent is there but skill package needs to be polished up. Smooth player but sometimes too smooth.
17. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) ... Classic gym rat who, despite a lack of elite athleticism and quickness, finds ways to draw contact and get to the line where he knocks down free throws. He may not be a natural point guard as he's certainly more of a scorer than a distributor.
18. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... A competitor at a key position who is exceptional at getting into the lane or pulling up with a very effective pull-up, mid-range jumper. Creative and a distributor. Due to his size he will have a tougher time attacking the rim at the next level.
19. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Role has been limited on loaded Whitney Young team, but his ceiling and upside is very high. A long, bouncy, versatile and promising talent who still has to prove he has the killer instinct and edge to play at a high level.
20. Andrew Jordan, 6-5, WF, Peoria (Manual) ... Still trying to expand his game and become more of a true perimeter player, which he will have to be at his size. Has the length, athleticism to be a big-time perimeter defender if he wants to be, but the skill level needs improvement.
21. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O'Fallon ... High energy, constant motor allows him to put up numbers. He can be a force on the glass, especially for a player his size. He's not real comfortable yet on the perimeter, but he's improving and starting to knock down shots.
22. Quentin Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame) ... Stock is soaring for this long, active wing with great bloodlines (father starred at Missouri and played in the NBA). His game is tailor-made to be a scorer as he matures both physically and mentally as a player.
23. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G/WF, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... Blossoming player who has more upside than anyone on a talented Glenbard East team. Thrives in the open floor and gliding to the basket. Release point is low and a little slow on his jumper but shoots it very effectively. Needs to add weight and strength.
24. Jay Parker, 5-8, PG, Harvey (Thornton) ... Very quick and shifty with the ball, good ballhandler who has point guard abilities. Still can go through some hot/cold streaks offensively and must overcome his lack of size.
25. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee ... A physical marvel who is very developed for his age and blessed with big-time athleticism but still a bit of a 'tweener. A solid finisher around the basket who must improve his outside game.
26. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central) ... Has a bit of an old school game with different dimensions, including a very developed mid-range game and a body that can take some contact. Although he may not have elite explosiveness, finds ways to separate from defender. Committed to Albany.
27. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein ... Mobile, active, pretty bouncy player who runs the floor and plays with some passion and desire, especially on the boards where he rebounds well out of his space. Capable of knocking down a three-pointer or finishing on an alley-oop. True back-to-the-basket moves a work in progress.
28. DeShawn Delaney, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Carver) ... Maybe not knowing exactly what he is is his forté. He's not this, he's not that ... but he's just a player who puts up 20 and 10 every game (he averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in the Kankakee Tournament). In a game the Hoops Report took in earlier this year against Julian, Delaney, a monster on the glass and around the rim, was the impact player on the floor.
29. Adonis Filer, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... MVP of the Pekin Holiday Tournament has a combination of power and quickness. Shows flashes of lock down, on-the-ball defense with his strength. He's made strides with his jumper but must become more consistent with it and tighten up his ballhandling as ball protection can be an issue.
30. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, 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 and battles some inconsistency.
31. Will Sullivan, 6-2, 2G, Elmhurst (York) ... Has worked hard to become a better, more consistent and fundamental player. He does a lot of things well, including a solid mid-range game. Remains an inconsistent finisher and shooter from three and may not possess the smoothness you would like from a perimeter player, but nonetheless has made strides in all these areas.
32. Jamari Traylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Julian) ... Jumped out with his performance in December, including a solid effort in CPS Holiday Tournament. Sculpted body for a junior with supreme athleticism. A big-time body who is raw but active. Will continue to climb the charts with development.
33. David Sobolewski, 6-0, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy) ... Quickness and athleticism does not stand out, but has very good court vision and passing ability. He will knock down shots while also making the right play and pass, including big shots and plays.
34. Keith Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... For his height he has an intriguing package of mobility and leaping ability. He can really run the floor and is up and around the rim more as he's becoming more active. Still a little light, raw and unpolished.
35. Mike Turner, 6-7, PF, Chicago (University) ... A combo forward who possesses a soft touch with a wingspan and ability to run the floor. Needs to get physically stronger. His face-up game and outside shot are good but needs more consistency.
36. Kyle Anderson, 6-2, 2G, Newark ... Hoops Report sleeper has opened eyes with his body, athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. His range extends to the three-point line, but he's best at getting to the basket. He must tighten up his handle and become stronger with the ball, raise his level against top-level competition and avoid lackadaisical tendencies.
37. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame) ... Brute strength and a base as solid as a rock are his calling cards. Though he is limited athletically he eats up space, uses his body and sets a big screen. Fundamentally sound player who understands rebounding, sealing his man and getting rebounds in his area despite being a below-the-rim.
38. Devon Hodges, 6-7, PF, Bolingbrook ... Wisconsin commit is an on-the-block player who can establish a base and position. He's finishing better, though he has limitations and is still a work in progress development wise. How high is his ceiling?
39. Hayden Hoerdemann, 6-1, 2G, Bloomington (Central Catholic) ... Plays hard with a motor that doesn't stop and will knock down shots (scored 38 in holiday tournament final with six three-pointers). Knows how to play. A little undersized and lacks the athleticism you desire for a true 2-guard at the next level.
40. Josh Piper, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial) ... May not pass the immediate eye test and lacks athleticism, but he is a skilled big man with a nice frame. The face-up 4-man can shoot it and is pretty fundamentally sound.
41. Garrett Jones, 5-10, 2G, Evanston ... A small, bullish 2-guard who can put points on the board in a variety of ways, though he's not a true point guard or distributor.
42. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG, Lincoln ... One of the purest shooters in Illinois with range and quick release; scored 31 and 29 in the final two games at Collinsville Tournament. Plays point guard for his high school team and is showing he can distribute while remaining a scoring lead guard. He has some quickness but athleticism and strength could be an issue for him.
43. Dominique Walls, 6-4, PF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... Dunks everything. A walking pogo-stick who brings momentum-changing plays to the floor with the ability to block shots, follow-up dunks, steals. Biggest question right now is what position will he be able to play at the next level?
44. Darien Walker, 6-2, 2G, Chicago Simeon) ... Brings some toughness and strength on both ends of the floor and an improved jumper. On a team loaded with top prospects, he's the unsung player.
45. Zach Miller, 5-9, PG, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... A heady, smart true point guard who, if you watch him enough, will appreciate his passing, shooting and decision-making. He lacks the size and ideal athleticism you want in the position, but he makes plays and wins games.
46. Aqui Shareef, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Hyde Park) ... Just a baby in terms of learning the game and how to play. Another prospect sorting out just who he is in terms of a position, but he's effective around the basket and trying to get more comfortable facing up.
47. Kevin Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... Still coming into his own as a player as big men are slower to develop. But like his brother, Keith, an agile, run up and down the floor big man who is active. Still needs refinement offensively and weight and strength.
48. Kourtney Darby, 6-4, PF, Chicago (St. Patrick) ... Brings his lunch bucket to work and gets stuff done; hard-nosed competitor who rebounds, defends and does some dirty work while improving his skill level. Still has to shed the 'tweener label but has time to do so.
49. Ryan Jackson, 6-2, PG, Riverside-Brookfield ... Point guard with some size, strength and nice feel for the game but plays off the ball for his high school team quite a bit with Sean McGonagill in control. Unselfish player capable of scoring in a variety of ways.
50. D.J. Tolliver, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Farragut) ... Talented and mature player with a nice frame for a perimeter player. When he plays aggressively he's a factor both defensively and around the rim, getting to the basket and finishing. Still needs to improve his perimeter shot and overall consistency.