By Joe Henricksen
Maybe it's just unfair the Class of 2012 has to follow up the Class of 2011, which features a potential dozen-plus high-major players. Maybe it's unfair the much ballyhooed Class of 2013 is right on their heels, a class that is a year younger but hyped to the 10th degree. The Class of 2012 has taken some hits from local and national evaluators and college coaches, who have been a little slow in throwing around scholarship offers to this group of juniors-to-be.
While there will certainly be fewer high-major players in this class, there is some intriguing talent that maybe is just beginning to blossom. A lot more eyes will be on the Class of 2012 this summer as the class looks to establish itself on the recruiting landscape.
When it comes to the recruiting cycle, the clock will start ticking this summer for many of the top prospects in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings. Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top 15.
1. Jay Simpson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Central) ... There were many who questioned Purdue for the early offer to Simpson (including the Hoops Report), but make no mistake about it: Simpson is a high-major big man. No, he's not your typical "top player" typer in the state of Illinois, but he's progressed very nicely. While conditioning has been an issue in the past, he is playing harder, more consistent and remains a big-bodied 4-man with a jumper and skill level college coaches covet.
2. Derrick Randolph, 5-7, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Aside from the physical dimensions (i.e. limitations), there may not be a more complete player in the class. He's tough, competes, has the best handle in the class, will annoy anyone on defense, runs a team and will knock down shots with his much-improved jumper.
3. Aaron Simpson, 5-10, PG/2G, North Chicago ... Although a bit on the small side for a 2-guard, here is arguably the best scorer in the class. He's capable of scoring in bunches, both with his shot and off the bounce. Still trying to progress in becoming a legitimate combo guard with point guard traits.
4. Curtis "C.J." Jones, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Orr) ... He's just a player who brings tenacity, energy and a fire to the floor every time he steps on it. Another guard in the class who is trying to show he's capable of running a team from the point guard position. While the mid-range game and attacking the basket are strengths, extending his range is a work in progress.
5. Charles Harris, 6-3, WF, Lake Forest (Academy) ... Blessed with the physical traits (size, length, athleticism) and the upside that will open college coach's eyes. While still developing and a bit raw, he continues to make strides in all facets of his game and show he's more than just a slasher. Has the potential to be a big-time, disruptive perimeter defender.
6. Antonio "Bobo" Drummond, 5-10, PG, Peoria (Central) ... May not have the true upside of a lot of young players, but Bobo is the prototype point guard who handles it, creates and makes good decisions. His perimeter shot is getting better. Just has a knack for making plays.
7. Tim Williams, 6-7, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor ... Passes the look test. Still looking to develop the offensive skill set and to grow into his body to be a true difference-maker, but he has the make-up to blossom over the next 12 months. Has the frame to pack on weight and become a physical specimen in time.
8. Jerron Wilbut, 6-2, 2G, Downers Grove (South) ... This tantalizing prospect has grown as a player in a short period of time. Possesses the shooting stroke, range and athletic gifts to become a big-time scorer on the wing. Still learning how to play and understand the game.
9. Steve Taylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Simeon) ... For a player with his size he has the unique combination of power and quickness. He's becoming a better finisher as he devotes more time to the game, but he is far from refined.
10. Anthony Beane, Jr., 6-1, PG, Normal ... In a class filled with small guards, Beane offers some size, athleticism and a mature game at the point guard position. A versatile lead guard who can distribute, score and shoot it with some consistency. Maybe the best-kept secret in the class who is poised for a breakout summer.
11. Keith Carter, 6-0, PG, Maywood (Proviso East) ... A point guard who has scoring and playmaking ability. He's more shifty with a change of pace dribble than a blow-by explosive guard. High character prospect and the next star out of the Maywood school.
12. Aaric Armstead, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... Has plenty of appealing aspects to his game that translates nicely to the next level, including size on the perimeter and range on his jumper, which has improved. He has the body and skill set to be more than just trigger happy perimeter jump shooter.
13. Jelani Neely, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Simeon) ... When he's content with running a team and being the point guard, Neely is awfully sound and a solid distributor. Though his size and slender build is a concern projecting forward, he has the vision and ability to deliver passes and run an offense.
14. Jermaine Morgan, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Big man with a long, lean frame who can get up and down the floor. While he has developed as a player and made strides on both ends of the floor, he's still raw on the offensive end.
15. Austin Angel, 6-4, 2G/WF, Rockford (Boylan) ... A big, strong wing with size and the ability to knock down shots and shoot with range. His feel for the game is an asset that will help him overcome some of his physical limitations. How much quicker and athletic he can become will determine how high a level he can play.
Ready to rise
These prospects are quickly climbing the Hoops Report's player rankings.
• Tyrone Sherman, 5-10, PG, Homewood-Flossmoor
• Brian Bennett, 6-8, PF, Plainfield (East)
• Anthony "A.J." Avery, 6-6, WF, Chicago (St. Rita)
• Treyshawn Jones, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hyde Park)
• Rashaun Stimage, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Farragut)