By Joe Henricksen
There certainly could be a debate as to whether Waukegan's Jereme Richmond or Robinson's Meyers Leonard rates as the top prospect in the Class of 2010. What's interesting is the two stars come from different planets when it comes to their progression as prospects.
Richmond has been the top-rated prospect in the Class of 2010 since the day he entered high school. Every single ranking the Hoops Report put out between the fall of 2006 and the winter of 2010 had Richmond No. 1. He hasn't slipped and hasn't taken himself out of the conversation of elite prospect.
While Richmond was an Illinois commitment as a freshman and a nationally-rated player coming out of junior high, no one even knew who Leonard was during his first two years of high school. Roughly two years ago this month there were rumors rumbling of a 6-10 kid who wasn't too shabby. Soon it turned into one of the great stories in Illinois high school basketball recruiting.
Leonard's legacy and hype grew quickly. If for some reason Leonard had remained uncommitted longer, the recruiting of this 7-foot, big-time talent would have escalated and been a feeding frenzy that would have included all the national heavyweights. Again, much credit needs to be given to Bruce Weber and his staff on this one.
The two future Illinois teammates have had plenty in common over the past year, beginning by teaming up last summer for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team. Since then it's been like a couple of lions in the zoo, a pair of players who had a knack for pulling every eyeball in the gym their way. As sad as it is when talking about teen-aged basketball players, people cared what they did -- both on the floor and off. These were the guys! Everyone wanted to see the player (Richmond) everyone has been talking about since he committed to Illinois as a freshman. And everyone wanted to see the mystery big man from downstate Illinois. You know, the 7-footer who could jump over pimple-faced 6-2 power forwards.
These two led their teams to Peoria and the state basketball finals, Leonard winning it all in Class 2A and Richmond settling for third in Class 4A. These two have Illini basketball fans, especially after some recent frustration, feeling as if they hit the recruiting lottery after so many teases in recent years. Julian Wright is an Illini lean. It's done. ... No way Jon Scheyer can say no after this magical Final Four run in 2005? And, hey, isn't that Glenbrook North coach Bruce Weber's brother? ... ERIC GORDON IS COMING! ERIC GORDON IS COMING! ... What's that you say? Derrick Rose is making a late trip to Assembly Hall before making his decision? ... Evan Turner is done! He's Illinois-bound!
There has been enough Illini recruiting heartbreak over the past several years. So is it still too late for Richmond and Leonard to get out of their Illinois letter-of-intent? I kid you, Illini faithful! Everyone relax, nothing bad can happen now, they're coming.
So who is No. 1? The Hoops Report believes there is very little separation between the two as prospects going forward. However, Richmond is more prepared coming out of high school and possesses college-ready skills. If I had to pick one of the two and put actual money down on one of the two to play in the NBA it would be Leonard, though I believe both will find their way to the League. But we're talking college prospect here and Richmond is that player, while Leonard is the NBA prospect. There is no way Meyers Leonard plays four years of college basketball. None.
Either way, this is a special time for the Illinois coaching staff and Illini basketball fans. Together they await the arrival of the type of exciting recruits they haven't had since Dee and Deron were moving to Champaign.
Here is the Hoops Report's final look at the Class of 2010 Top 40. As Casey Kasem of American Top 40 would say, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."
1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan .... A star and highly regarded yet still a bit underappreciated for all he brings to the basketball floor. This smooth and versatile do-it-all wing brings so much to the table, including the ability to make those around him better. Richmond's passing skills are very much overlooked, just as his work and feel around the basket is. Despite being as polished as he is, Richmond is still maturing physically and has a tremendous upside.
2. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Robinson .... You just don't find prospects with his size, coordination, touch, bounce, skill, frame and upside. He has all the physical tools to become an impact player at the Big Ten level, though it may take a little time. The sky is the limit for a player who is still growing into his body while having the ability to consistently play above the rim. Could legitimately put Leonard in the No. 1 spot.
3. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton .... A somewhat forgotten man in the Chicago area as Smith and Zee-Bees had a quiet season for a player so good, but he will be a do-what-it-takes player at the college level to help his team win. He is a terrific passer on the wing, will rebound and finish and even do some dirty work for a player with such a big reputation. Will be a solid four-year Big Ten player.
4. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G, Richton Park (Rich South) .... Hoops Report has kept Head high despite the setbacks and injuries. However, you do get the feeling it's going to be boon or bust for the crazy athletic Head. The upside remains as he has the size, length and athleticism you covet on the perimeter. It's up to Head as to how much work he puts in to improve and polish his skill level.
5. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman) .... Saint Louis recruit put together a terrific senior year. He knocks down shots and can also attack and get to the rim. Brings some tenacity to the floor as well and is unselfish. As he plays more under control and improves his offhand, the future is bright for this always overlooked prospect.
6. Ben Brust, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein .... Right now remains the top uncommitted player in the state after getting his release from Iowa -- and a player the Hoops Report has always liked a little better than others have. A shooter with range and consistency. As he gets better off the bounce, Brust will become that much more of an efficient scorer. Plus, he has some toughness and confidence to him you love.
7. James Siakam, 6-5, PF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) .... Makes his debut in the 2010 rankings after being reclassified and committing to Vanderbilt. Love the makeup of Siakam, who brings energy, relentlessness, length and athleticism as an undersized 4-man. High-energy rebounder with super long arms and the always-needed intangibles. He's a player who must overcome being the undersized 4-man.
8. Duje Dukan, 6-8, WF, Deerfield .... A year ago right now many people questioned whether he could play at a high level in college. He proved the doubters wrong with a terrific summer and an even better senior year. This Wisconsin recruit is blessed with great skill and upside, while possessing the shooting range, size and perimeter skills that make him so intriguing. Physically it will take Dukan some time, and he's going to have to prove his toughness.
9. Ahmad Starks, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Oregon State's future point guard showed he has the ability to play big in key moments. He's simply not afraid. He will knock down shots and score. Starks plays with confidence and isn't going to back down from anything.
10. Rayvonte Rice, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial) .... He put together a monster postseason run. A big, strong, physical wing is more athletic and a better shooter than people give him credit for, but he must stay in physical shape. He gets things done in a lot of different ways. Terrific recruit and steal for Drake in the MVC.
11. Alex Dragicevich, 6-6, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) .... Big, rugged scorer at the high school level who can put points on the board in a variety of ways, whether it's drawing contact and getting to the line or knocking down shots with range. While limited athletically and on the defensive end, Dragicevich is a scorer.
12. Jay Harris, 6-1, PG/2G, Oswego (East) .... A shooter who fills it up with a soft, smooth, clean release and shoots it with range. Possesses big-time scoring ability without forcing shots. A huge recruiting steal for Valparaiso.
13. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... The Purdue-bound guard still will knock down shots from the perimeter and has added to his game a bit in terms of being more aggressive. Little bit of a loose handle, consistency and strength will be the difference in determining what impact he has at the next level.
14. Brandon Spearman, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) .... Really came into his own down the stretch and showed why he had so much hype throughout his career. Played huge for state champion Simeon in March. Big-bodied wing who can finish at the rim and defend on the perimeter. A perfect fit for Dayton.
15. Patrick Miller, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) .... Another player who goes in the category of recruiting steal for Tennessee State. Vastly overlooked last summer and fall, Miller is a strong, compact guard who uses his burst and strength in attacking the basket. Plays with some recklessness that is difficult for opponents to deal with.
17. 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 did not help. However, he's active and runs the floor well for his size. How will he develop at the junior college level?
18. Jordan Threloff, 6-9, C, DeKalb .... As a prospect he's that coveted true, legit big man that is so difficult to find at any level of college basketball. His offensive game has developed over his career. Plus, the Illinois State signee is all of 6-9, huge base and will be tough to move out of the lane in college.
19. Walter Lemon, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Julian) .... There aren't many better finishers on the break than Lemon, who is a force in the open court and getting to the rim. Explosive first step. Still in the process of refining his overall game and shooting stroke, but he will bring speed and athleticism to Bradley.
20. Fabyon Harris, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hyde Park) .... He's been hyped as much as anyone by the Hoops Report and remains a favorite. Despite the diminutive size there is a whole lot to like about Harris, who is as tough as any player in the class. Utilizes his greatest strength -- jitter-bug quickness -- anyway he can as a pesky defender and an attack-mode point guard.
21. Reggie Smith, 5-11, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) .... Competitive athlete who still wows you with his hops and eye-popping athletic finishes at the rim. The skill areas still need refinement to evolve into an impact Big East player at Marquette.
22. Karl Madison, 5-9, PG, Springfield (Lanphier) .... Lefty guard can handle the role of point guard as he can do a number of things offensively. While not an outstanding shooter, he will knock a shot down, can get to the foul line and score. Just needs to gain consistency and get stronger, but Drake will be a nice fit.
23. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman) .... Matured early and was once a top 10 prospect in the class. Dority's playmaking ability and shooting stroke have made improvements. He's still at his best using his strength in getting in the lane and to the basket, but will that translate at the Big East level while playing for South Florida?
24. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier) .... A bounce-back year for both Rossi who is headed to Cal and a system that fits his strengths. Rossi will come off screens and knock down perimeter shots. He also showed an ability to get out and defend this past season. But the Hoops Report believes the Pac-10 may be a stretch.
25. Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, PF, Wheaton (Academy) .... Another pilfered prospect as William & Mary sneaks into Illinois and nabs a crafty but skilled 4-man. Rusthoven can step out and knock down a shot while also getting things done around the basket. Another recruiting steal in this class at this level.
26. Dave Dudzinski, 6-8, PF, Maple Park (Kaneland) .... Always felt this skilled and agile big man was a fall-between-the-cracks recruit. In this day where colleges are constantly on the lookout for a player with size and skill, Dudzinski was not given his due by college coaches. He can run the floor with coordination and step out as a face-up 4-man and knock down shots. Holy Cross is glad to have kept him.
27. Eric Gaines, 6-4, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) .... If the perimeter jumper ever develops, look out for this very versatile perimeter player with size. He brings plenty of intangibles to the floor, including an ability to be a difference-maker on the defensive end with his length, instincts, athleticism and ability to guard multiple positions.
28. Sean McGonagill, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield .... Yet another prospect who was ignored by too many Midwest college programs, including ones here in Illinois. He sees the floor, handles it and shoots it. Will enjoy a heck of an Ivy League career at Brown.
29. Alfonzo McKinnie, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Marshall) .... A real stock raiser over the course of his senior year, going from an unknown to a low-Division I prospect. A super athlete with a little more skill than people give him credit for and who clearly is getting better by the month. Has the potential to be one ofd the real surprises in this class.
30. Tommy Woolridge, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Foreman) .... This Eastern Illinois signee always seemed to be the overlooked player on a talented, big-named Foreman team. Just has a knack for coming up with big baskets and making key plays for the Hornets. Plays hard and is willing to get after it and defend.
31. Anthony Shoemaker, 6-5, WF, Joliet .... Long and springy athlete who has the ability to make some plays around the rim, on the boards and defensively. He remains a little on the raw and unpolished side but a couple of years of junior college ball could do wonders for this developing athletic wing.
32. Rico Richardson, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Bogan) .... Hoops Report just didn't quite buy into all the hype surrounding Richardson, but he's still a solid point guard who will help a college program win games. He's not flashy, stays in control and is a distributor.
33. Jeff Johnson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial) .... Big body who has toned up somewhat, yet is still at his best roaming the perimeter, bringing opposing big man away from the basket and knocking down shots with range. His inside game will come over his career at Eastern Kentucky.
34. Jon Gac, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Mount Carmel) .... Rapidly improving big man whose best basketball is clearly down the road. He's long, runs the floor, has some bounce and has became a much more productive player over the second half of the season. Gac will be a factor at Loyola before it's all said and done.
35. Alex Brown, 6-8, PF, Herrin .... Hoops Report saw very little of Brown during his career but truly liked his potential and upside as a prospect when it did. He runs the floor, long and is so active in blocking shots and keeping balls alive around the basket.
36. Adonis Bailey, 6-4, WF, Oak Lawn (Richards) .... Still a raw, developing player who has had little experience. However, his physical abilities, athleticism and upside make him an intriguing JUCO prospect. If Bailey is committed to the game and learning how to play, he can play himself up over the next two years.
37. Chris Olivier, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton) .... As his motor improves, his production and consistency will as well. He's become a better finisher around the basket and has that big body college programs covet.
38. Jarod Oldham, 6-3, 2G, Decatur (Eisenhower) .... A player a lot of people were high on early in his career that the Hoops Report just wasn't that enamored with. But he fits the role of a slasher on the wing who does some things well but not spectacular. Heading to play at Buffalo next year.
39. Wayne Simon, 5-10, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... He's just a basketball player. A crafty guard who finds ways to make plays and get to the basket despite his slight frame and size. He will knock down that mid-range jumper.
40. Hollis Hill, 5-11, PG/2G, Chicago (Vocational) .... He's a quick, undersized 2-guard who can shoot it and shoot it with range. Hill helped revitalize the CVS program over the past couple of years.