By Joe Henricksen
The 2009-2010 season is complete. This year's juniors are now the ones set to be heavily courted throughout the spring and summer. Over the winter Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear picked up right where he left off when he was seen dominating and impressing in Las Vegas in late July. He surpassed his peers in Illinois last summer and remains the unquestioned top prospect in the Class of 2011. In fact, there is a pretty large gap between Blackshear and any number of players in the junior class who you could argue and realistically put at No. 2.
That's the next point to be made in 2011: Is there a true No. 2? In reality, there doesn't need to be. The rankings are fun and all to debate and dissect, but they really don't matter a whole lot. What matters is what level a player can play at and make a significant impact. There are a half dozen players you could argue and put in that No. 2 spot behind Blackshear depending on the eye of the beholder. This spring and summer may determine just who that player is.
A No. 2 ranked player in a class one year can be a completely different prospect than the No. 2 player in a past class or future class. The same between the No. 5 player, the No. 8 player, the No. 15 player or any other ranked player in a class. The rankings are certainly not always indicative of the level of prospect that player is or what type of impact that player can have at a particular level.
In the Class of 2005 most everyone had either Jerel McNeal of Hillcrest or Bobby Frasor of Brother Rice as the No. 2 player behind Homewood-Flossmoor's Julian Wright. In 2004 it was Peoria's Shaun Livingston at No. 1, with either West Aurora's Shaun Pruitt or Westinghouse's Jamarcus Ellis No. 2. Now compare those classes to the Class of 2007, which featured Evan Turner of St. Joseph at No. 2 behind Simeon's Derrick Rose. No comparison. Yes, it's easier to say this now in hindsight with Turner projected to be a top three pick in this June's NBA Draft and after a National Player of the Year season at Ohio State, but even at the conclusion of their respective high school careers Turner was much more highly thought of at the same stage than either McNeal or Frasor. And McNeal had one heck of a career at Marquette. And Turner vs. Pruitt or Ellis? Funny. The talent difference can sometimes be alarming between No. 2 players in certain classes.
Take the Class of 2010's No. 2 player, Meyers Leonard of Robinson. While an argument could be made that Leonard is arguably the best "prospect" in the class, according to most he fits in at No. 2 behind Waukegan's Jereme Richmond. Either way, whether you go with Richmond or Leonard, when it's all said and done the No. 2 player in the Class of 2010 is special, an uber-talent -- and will be a better prospect than whoever lands at No. 2 in the Class of 2011 and head and shoulders above the No. 2 in 2012.
The No. 2 player in 2007 (Evan Turner) and 2010 (Meyers Leonard) are the best No. 2 players we've seen in Illinois as prospects in the last 10-plus years. Both left high school and headed to college with big-time expectations and realistic pro potential.
Here is a quick look back at the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in each class over the past nine years, according to the City/Suburban Hoops Report's final rankings for that particular year. How do you compare them from player to player and from year to year?
1. Shannon Brown, 6-2, 2G, Maywood (Proviso East)
2. Dameon Mason, 6-5, WF, Aurora (West)
1. Shaun Livingston, 6-5, PG, Peoria (Central)
2. Shaun Pruitt, 6-8, PF, Aurora (West)
1. Julian Wright, 6-8, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor
2. Jerel McNeal, 6-2, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
1. Jon Scheyer, 6-5, 2G, Glenbrook North
2. Sherron Collins, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Crane)
1. Derrick Rose, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
2. Evan Turner, 6-6, 2G/WF, Westchester (St. Joseph)
1. Mike Dunigan, 6-9, C, Chicago (Farragut)
2. Iman Shumpert, 6-4, 2G, Oak Park-River Forest
1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Gurnee (Warren)
2. Drew Crawford, 6-5, 2G, Naperville (Central)
1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan
2. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Robinson
1. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
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