By Joe Henricksen
These prospects have little (but growing) name recognition, due to blooming late, not entering high school with fanfare or playing for a non-descript program or maybe in an overlooked area. However, these prospects have been front and center in helping lead their respective teams to a sectional title game appearance. Can you name them?
City/Suburban Hoops Report subscribers will have an advantage in this prospect quiz, with a couple of these players having been highlighted throughout the year in the publication. Nonetheless, take a shot at "Name That Prospect," with the answers in tomorrow's Hoops Report blog.
This prospect was tabbed by the Hoops Report at the start of the season as the junior "absolutely no one knows but soon will." In a later Hoops Report issue he was the answer to the question, "What junior has blossomed the most this season?" Yes, Orr's Mycheal Henry and Niles North's Abdel Nader have risen quickly in the Class of 2011, but their names have been out there and talked about having played for higher profile AAU teams. This long, active wing--a.k.a. Prospect A--is just beginning to blossom, take his game to a new level and tap into his potential as a player. He is a disruptive force on both ends of the floor who is a prospect and basketball player. He's blessed with a long, quick first step and crossover to get past any defender, with the explosiveness to get to the rim. He has made a push towards the top 15 prospects in the junior class as he leads his team in scoring heading into Friday's sectional title game, with colleges finally scurrying to check out this Hoops Report rising star. Prospect A, already a perfect and ideal mid-major prospect, could be one of the most compelling players down the postseason stretch.
Here is another junior who has made nice, steady strides since the beginning of the season for a team that has surprised just about everyone with the success they've had. This guard is perhaps the single most important player for any team remaining in the Class 4A tournament field, with a ton of responsibility and weight on his shoulders as the sole ballhandler and decision-maker. He's solidified himself as a Division I prospect. He has toughened up, gained strength, stays composed and plays the game right. He will run a team and distribute or put up huge numbers offensively if needed.
He's one of two seniors on the "Name That Prospect" list and was completely off the Hoops Report Top 100 list when the season began. Yikes! He's probably the prospect the Hoops Report missed on the most, a player who wasn't even the most talked about prospect on his own high school team. Early on this season he either fizzled or sizzled, but over the second half of the season he has played big and gone from crude to productive on the floor. He remains a bit of an undersized 4-man, but he's long and lean at 6-6 and springs to the basket on a pogo stick. He missed some time last season after transferring in to his current school and he's still raw, but he's been so influential in his team's surprise season. Over the last few weeks he's been watched by low-major and mid-major college programs looking for a late blooming steal during the April signing period.
This is a bit of a trick question as no one from the Chicago area will know much--if anything--about this 6-3 junior. He's bull-like, athletic, strong and difficult to keep from finishing at the rim and off the glass, especially at the high school level. For his size, he's probably the best rebounder in Illinois, an absolute monster on the glass. After watching him last summer and a glimpse of him in a January game, the Hoops Report still doesn't know what he is as a prospect at the next level other than being a hard-nosed, physical gamer and player. Want proof? How about these numbers? In 30 games this season, Prospect D has averaged 19.3 points, 12 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 1.5 blocks and 4.3 assists a game as a junior. No, he can't shoot (3-of-23 from beyond the arc and just over 50 percent from the line), but he finishes at a clip of nearly 65 percent from the field inside the three-point line. And he's the clear-cut leader of a team with just two losses on the season and projected to reach Peoria.
The underclassmen are much more heralded on his high school team than this emerging big man prospect. Big men develop at a slower rate and you sometimes just have to wait ... and wait ... and wait on them. In a rapid race to find any big man this late in the recruiting season, this kid has come on and improved since the beginning of the season. He brings legit size at 6-8. He has some bounce. He has the coveted length. He just has to get stronger and more consistent, a combination that is common for late-developing big men. He's a perfect redshirt candidate at the low-major plus level. But right now he's become a key figure in his team's quest to reach Peoria, providing a presence on both ends of the floor.
Reminder ... Answers to Name That Prospect will be in tomorrow's blog.