By Joe Henricksen

Appreciating Abrams

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By Joe Henricksen

In May of 2008 the City/Suburban Hoops Report vaulted Mount Carmel's Tracy Abrams to the top of the pack in the talented Class of 2011. At the time it wasn't a popular choice. However, after capping off his freshman year, one in which he led the Caravan to a sectional championship, he held the No. 1 spot over other bigger names because at that point he was unmatched when it came to the combination of raw talent, potential and productivity.

The recruiting and fanfare surrounding Abrams never hit full throttle. In December of 2008, seven months after emerging as the Hoops Report's No. 1 prospect, Abrams committed to Illinois. And although there was a heavy media frenzy surrounding the early commitment to coach Bruce Weber, the Abrams buzz just never did materialize. Today, that buzz is still missing.

For whatever reason, Abrams has not been mentioned much -- or at least enough -- with the other great talents in Illinois. He's even dropped in other people's player rankings. While he is no longer the Hoops Report's top prospect -- Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear put the entire package together this past summer -- he still checks in at No. 3 overall, behind only top-rated Blackshear and Whitney Young's Sam Thompson. And he is no less of a promising prospect today than he was two years ago,

So why, when fans lavish adoration on other top players in the class, as well as those both younger and older, is the Abrams popularity overlooked?

A part of it is he committed early. There often seems to be a little less interest in the committed than the coveted. A part of it was he was caught in no man's land last summer during the AAU circuit, never finding the right fit. A part of it was he was hobbled the first two months of this season with a nagging ankle injury. He missed some games early and then played through pain and basically on one leg in many others.

The biggest reason, however, may be that people don't fully appreciate all that he brings to the table, what he means to a team and what type of player he has evolved into. These are the areas of the game that are so easily ignored. Many seem to expect more from Abrams, yet don't realize the true impact he has on a team and a game. He's a breath of fresh air in a world of pampered, headline-grabbing, what's-in-it-for-me-now teen basketball stars.

Abrams may be the most unassuming high-major prospect out there. He doesn't seek attention. He doesn't rub people the wrong way. Most importantly, he does what is asked of him. If Abrams wanted to he could go out and get his 25 each night out. With the help and guidance of Mount Carmel coach Mike Flaherty, Abrams has transformed into the consummate team player. He's completely bought into the ideas Flaherty had for him as the player to run his team, and he's sacrificed some personal accolades in the process.

It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with how Mount Carmel plays or how Abrams is used. The fact is Abrams is doing what most coaches and basketball observers appreciate. The process continues for the 6-1 junior, who continues to sort out the nuances of the point guard position, yet the talent and attributes he brings remain a constant.

When you watch enough of Abrams, you see the presence he brings when he's on the floor. He leads and players look to him and listen. A part of that is the character of the kid as Abrams brings zero baggage to a team. And then you see the toughness and competitiveness, his willingness to defend. You see the ability to raise his level of play in big moments and against top competition. He's a winner. He hates to lose and wants to make plays at crunch time. As one coach said to me recently, "Abrams could be their [Illinois'] Mateen Cleaves."

As with any young talent, there are areas to work on and improve, from tightening up his handle even more to becoming a more efficient perimeter shooter. He will grow in those areas as he excels in the areas you just can't teach.

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

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22 Comments

ABRAMS IS READY TO PLAY AT ILLINOIS RIGHT NOW, THE ONLY PROBLEM, HE HAS ONE MORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, THE ILLINI NATION IS GOING TO LOVE TRACY ABRAMS, HIS JUMP SHOT IS ON THE MONEY AND HIS POINT GUARD SKILLS ARE STELLAR, COACH WEBER WILL LOVE COACHING MR. ABRAMS!

Stumbled on this blog recently and really love the writing. Great read each time. Do you do this all year on this site? Can't wait to see how Abrams carries his team this march.

You need to check Abrams age, remember he is alot older than many he is playing against. That is why is game has leveled off. Also, he should not be rated above Shaw from Delasalle.

BBallCoach ... Come on, Mike Shaw? You still on that train? He finally is playing better after so little production. Watch them a lot over the years and can't tell you how many times I walk out of that gym with six points, 8 points, 2 points, ... Short little arms. Will be a nice college player but is very limited. Actually he is exactly what the Hoops Report said he was in the last blog.

South Sider - Yeah I used to be on the same boat as you, but Shaw has turned it on, you have to give him that. Also, my comment was he is a better prospect than Abrams who is 3 years older than Shaw.

Yo BBallCoach ... So you are saying Abrams will not be eligible to play next year as a senior is what you are saying. I am sure high-major schools would be so sold on him knowing he wouldn't even be playing as a senior since he would be too old per IHSA rules if he is three years older than his classmates as you indicate. Come on! This is just dumb conversation.

So actually BBallCoach is not a coach. He is either a parent of Abrams, the doctor that delivered him or has a copy of his birth certificate. Give me a break.

THAT AGE CRAP IS THE SAME THING THEY USE TO SAY ABOUT RONNIE FIELDS BACK IN THE DAY, ABRAMS KEEP DOING YOUR THING, IF YOU GET THE ILLINI TO THE PROMISED LAND AND YOU KEEP YOUR HEAD ABOUT YOU, YOU WILL PLAY IN THE LEAGUE ONE DAY, JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION!

South sider you need to know the rules, Abrahams just makes it under the Jamie Brandon rule of 19 years old. I am surprised no one new this about Abrahams.

This is the best basketball writing out there because you put your thoughts out there to be read and support it, and then back it up with well written pieces as opposed to others that just blah, blah, blah, blah.

Love all the age gossip with about one or two kids every year. It gets old. This story is old and is blown out of proportion with Abrams. I know. The real story, BBallCoach, is that Shaw will be a 16-year-old senior when Abrams is 19! Wow! That will be one young senior if he's three years younger.

Sorry my math was wrong dog, Shaw will be 17.

I will say I have observed Abrams a few times over the past three seasons and I am not impressed with him. I don't think he's anywhere near as good as Mike Shaw. Yes he's athletic and can get to the rim but his shooting leaves a lot to be desired. As a team leader not sure of him yet. Yes I do think he did not do a good job of running point for Mac Irvin Fire last summer. Personally I don't see the fuss about this kid. To me Ryan Boatright of East Aurora is miles above Abrams as a player.

Pure, raw basketball talent Boatright is probably better than Abrams. But he may be the worst teammate I have ever seen and maybe the worst attitude I have ever seen. Abrams played a handful of games with the Fire so can't count that. Its kind of like the story says that he is a different cat. You win with players like Abrams.

YOU ARE THE SAME TIM THAT RAVES ABOUT JEREME I TAKE PLAYS OFF RICHMOND, SO I KNEW YOU WOULDN'T BE A FAN OF ABRAMS, ABRAMS HAS A POLISHED GAME, AND ILLINOIS KNOWS WHAT THEY WILL BE GETTING, HE WILL LIGHT UP THE BIG TEN, AND HE WILL MAKE RICHMOND A BETTER BALLPLAYER, WHEN HE IS IN THE GAME, BECAUSE IF HE TAKES PLAYS OFF AT THE NEXT LEVEL, HE WILL BE SITTING NEXT TO STAN SIMPSON!

Do you people know how many kids, especially athletes, are one year older than their age group when it comes to sports? It happens ALL THE TIME! For different reasons, it's pretty common.

Harold-

You are missing the point. First its not one year but 2. Abrams has done nothing spectacular since his freshman year. the smartest thing he did was committ as a freshman.
Anyone who knows sports, you always try to play a year up to push your game. Not 2 years down. Abrams is almost as old as John Wall. On the flip side, Shaw has never played against his own age, until next year. Harold, you dont write for the tribune do you?

Seriously, BballCoach, it's time to pipe down when it comes to this because you clearly are putting things out there you are not completely knowledgeable on as others, who are in the family, are.

Awww Phil you mad vecause the best player in the state is not from your area or the city? Is it too far to travel for you to watch him play? I just don't see the big fuss about Abrams at all. From what I HAVE SEEN he is not as good as advertised. And Richmond has to be careful on the court cause he's the only big man on Waukegan's roster. they need him to stay out of foul trouble and be slective on when to go after a shot. Too bad Phil you'll get over it.

Abrams is a nice little player, but put me in the camp who says comparing him to Cleaves is a wee bit over the top. To me he is a lesser version of Jake Pullen. Cleaves, though? C'mon. I'd like to know what coach said that. Funny how quotes like that tend to not have a name attached to them. I wouldn't want my name connected with that comment either.

How is Tracy playing on the 17 and Under AAU scene this summer if he's pushing 19?

THE WAY SOME OF YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT NUMBERS (AGE), YOU SHOULD GET A JOB WITH THE CENSUS DEPARTMENT!
STOP HATING SO MUCH, ON THE NEXT LEVEL YOU ARE GOING TO EITHER WATCH HIM PLAY ON TELEVISION OR BUY A COLLEGE TICKET!
DON'T HATE THE PLAYER, HATE THE GAME!
STOP CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 23, 2010 10:39 PM.

A big blog on a big weekend was the previous entry in this blog.

Meteoric rise for Harris continues is the next entry in this blog.

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