By Joe Henricksen
Illinois fans have been waiting for a pure shooter to enter the program for a number of years, one that can not only knock down shots but rise up and get his own. Well, one is on its way.
Orr's Mycheal Henry, one of the best shooters in the state of Illinois regardless of class, gave a verbal commitment to coach Bruce Weber and Illinois on Monday. No disrespect to the likes of Trent Meacham and Richard McBride, the program's best three-point shooters over the past four years, but Henry is in a completely different class as a player and shooter.
"I just really connected with the coaching staff," said Henry, who enjoyed a terrific visit to Illinois this past weekend. "I like the facilities, the school, the environment and the players. I feel relieved and comfortable with this. It's like a monkey is off my back."
A lot of credit again must go out to assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who was on a mission this winter and throughout the spring in trying to land the coveted Henry. He quickly built a relationship with Henry that went a long way in landing the sharpshooter from Chicago. Bruce Weber was also involved early on, taking in Henry action late this season.
Henry, who vaulted into the Hoops Report top 10 in the Class of 2011 as the calender turned to 2010 and was soon offered by both Wisconsin and Illinois, finally gives Weber and the Illini that player who can consistently stretch a defense. Henry's elevation on his shot and high release point are of high-major caliber as he's capable of getting his shot off, whether it's spotting up on the perimeter, coming off screens or step-back threes. He's a shooter.
Aside from Henry's shooting, his most attractive quality of a player may be his willingness to improve and get better. He is a revelation in this day of prima-donna prep stars. This kid has no ego, wants to be coached and is humble. He knows he has work to do with his overall handle and is in the process of polishing up those skills. Henry, though, has the body, athleticism, size and shooting ability to be an impact player.
After transferring from Morgan Park to Orr following his freshman season, the progression began. I remember my first real glance at the upside and potential in January of his sophomore year, watching an Orr-Whitney Young game and thinking once this kid figures it all out he's got a real chance. He was raw, a slasher and finisher around the basket with a developing mid-range game.
Last summer, following his sophomore year at Orr, Henry was an intriguing prospect, a player mid-major programs coveted and were just hoping would stay at their level. And for some time it appeared that may just happen. There was certainly a process in putting it all together for Henry. Last summer, despite the vast potential, the results were inconclusive as his game had some holes and the production was very inconsistent. However, throughout the summer and fall Henry made it a point to make a huge jump in one area: shooting the basketball.
The season started in November and he took off in December. The production became the norm, with 20 and 12 in a win over Crete-Monee and 21 and 12 in a win over Gary Westside. He was special in the Public League Holiday Tournament in a pair of games the Hoops Report took in, including 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 block shots and seven three-pointers against Foreman in the quarterfinals. When Jan. 1 rolled around the Hoops Report, with no reservations, moved Henry into the No. 2 spot in the Hoops Report player rankings in the Class of 2011.
The commitment of Henry now gives Illinois three players already locked up in the Class of 2011, joining Mount Carmel guard Tracy Abrams and St. Ignatius big man Nnanna Egwu. Illinois, which has now tapped into the Chicago Public League with the Henry commitment, continues to do a terrific job of locking up top in-state talent. The staff made Henry feel comfortable, something prospects have repetitively stated as being a key part in offering up early verbal commitments to Illinois.
Bruce Weber is on the verge of putting together three straight banner recruiting classes, with the likes of Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey, Meyers Leonard, Jereme Richmond, Crandall Head and the soon-to-be class of Abrams, Egwu and Henry.